Follow by Email

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Is It About Brit Pubs?

That V is for Victory, folks!

Inside the Churchill Arms

Gimme that old time brewski....

Outside, the world goes merrily by...

They say English pubs are an institution.  I say, lock me up!

But, when it comes right down to it, what are the things one finds so appealing about sitting in a quaint pub, probably dating back several hundred years, quaffing a pint of delicious brew, ignoring the problems of the misinformed, and feeling manly in a world that has expunged leather and tobacco in favor of girly pursuits?

Is it the knaughtly gulls – I’m not sure of the English spelling – who like to sit in your lap and run their fingers through your wallet?  No.  It’s not that.  Money is only important because it keeps the beer flowing.  When you’ve got the comfort of a really good, nutty ale, women are superfluous.

Maybe it’s the feeling of power, knowing you can have another beer anytime you want one, or the knightly feeling of being powerful, when at home you’re a whimpering sycophant, tied like a slave to your wife’s impetuous whims.

By jove, I think I’ve got it!  You’re able to rise above yourself!  Be the man your mother wanted you to be. As you sit in quiet comfort, amid the soulful murmurs of other manly men, possibilities fold over you like waves of the sea, crashing from idea to idea.  Your body’s at rest, but your brain brandishes lightening strokes of daring do.  You find yourself pondering a new Rolls, a week at the seaside, remaking yourself into the forceful, demanding creature of legend.  I’ve no doubt James Bond was conceived at such a moment, that Hadrian had such a flash before he built his wall, that Humpty Dumpty could have picked himself up if he’d only been in an English pub.

The aura flows from you.  The bar maid knows when she catches your eye that she’s in the presence of a man of power and destiny.  She pulls the pump handle like a woman possessed and slides another pint your way.

To your companion you whisper, “I say, old bean, do you fancy another cup of cheer, or shall we retire to the fields and tame the peasantry?”  His noisy sip says it all.  He’s warm.  Comfortable.  At ease with himself.  Cares dissipate like yesterday’s mist.  Time for another round.

More photos follow....

Here's to it!

Steak and Ale Pie

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Of Mice and Men and Fasting

Dr. Mercola promotes fasting as a way to stay lean. No kidding? Don't eat and you lose weight? I know what you're saying: Golly, never thought of that. Ah, but there is more and here are the important details:

New research suggests that 'when' you eat could be just as important as what you eat … and possibly even more so.

Mice (and men apparently) that fasted for 16 hours a day (and slept fo
r the other 8?) stayed lean and healthy even when fed a high-calorie, (intravenous?) diet; their mouse (husband) counterparts that had access to food day and night became obese, hid the remote, and showed blood sugar and liver problems despite eating the same number of calories and griping about it.

Other research suggests fasting triggers a variety of health-promoting hormonal and metabolic changes similar to those that occur when you exercise, offering protection against chronic disease. Also your breasts may enlarge and you may find yourself attracted to wearing skirts.

Fasting does not mean starving yourself (or as we say in the medical profession, maintaining a food free lifestyle); options for intermittent fasting include skipping breakfast, arguing with your spouse until you lose the desire for food, cutting off your food intake in the early evening or late afternoon, or even simply delaying meals, such as breakfast, until after you exercise and pass out.

Other options include leg and arm amputation, along with jogging while being lashed to the bumper of a car. Given the alternatives, I think I'll give this rearrangement of eating hours a shot. Speaking of shots, if you get really, really hungry, try alcohol consumption until you no longer care.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stuff You Know For Sure, Maybe, I Guess

Commonsense is often based on nonsense.   Think I’m wrong?  Oh, please, don’t make me hurt you.

          Commonsense or nonsense?  Fat people are more at risk for early death than thin people. 
            Nonsense.  According to a recent study at the UC Davis School of Medicine, which I gleaned through a thorough reading of the November issue of Details Magazine, people of below average weight are 2.2 times more likely to suffer an early demise than people with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI), while the greatly obese are only 1.3 times as likely.  Hey, fat can be healthy!  So now let’s climb on the ‘Get-fat-train’ and constantly badger thin people about bulking up for their health.  Tell Mayor Bloomberg to pass a law.

Commonsense or nonsense?  Breast cancer is the number one killer of women?  Looking at all the pink flashing around, you’d certainly think so.
Nonsense.  Stats for the U.S. from the Center For Disease Control, say that heart problems are the number one woman killers.  Cancer is second.  But, let’s get a second opinion.  According to the World Health Organization, for women in high-income countries, heart problems and strokes lead the way by a wide margin.  Breast cancer comes in at number 5.  But according to Heath Resources and Service Administration, cancer deaths (22.4%) are much closer to heart problems (25.5%).
Want to break those cancer deaths down for me?  Ok.  Here are the numbers of women’s deaths for 2010, from the American Cancer Society:

    Lung and Bronchus: 71,080
    Breast: 39,840
    Colon and Rectum: 24,790
    Pancreas: 18,030
    Ovary: 13,850
    Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: 9,500
    Leukemia: 9,180
    Uterus: 7,950
    Liver and Intrahepatic Bile Duct: 6,190
    Brain and Other Nervous System: 5,720

There are caveats.  Stats vary by age and race.

Commonsense or nonsense?  Anti-abortion and Law & Order go hand in hand.
Nonsense:  If you’re a strong supporter of law and order and also firmly against abortion, you’d better reconsider your positions.  In 2001, Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and John Donohue of Yale University published a paper titled, “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime.”  Their data showed that as abortion rates went up in the U.S., crime went down at the same rate.  As you can imagine, this caused a stir, and a flurry of rebuttals.  However, Levitt and Donahue stood by their data, took all the objections into account and reran the numbers in 2005.  Same results.  Abortions lower the crime rate.

Commonsense or Nonsense?  Poor people remain poor.
Nonsense, at least in high-income countries.  Here’s a look at a Canadian study, appearing in the Financial Post, in an article by Jason Clemens, “Income mobility blurs the picture painted by Occupiers”

“Specifically, Statistics Canada’s Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) follow 17,000 households over rotating six-year periods. Such data provides researchers and policymakers with powerful information about how Canadians’ income and labour market participation varies over time.
There are a number of ways to analyze mobility. A recent study by Statistics Canada divided the population into five equal groups (quintiles) based on income. Statistics Canada then followed these individuals over time to assess how their incomes changed relative to the initial income thresholds used to divide the population.
To get a sense of the income levels for these five groups, the average income (after tax) for individuals in 2005 was: $14,100, $25,400, $34,700, $46,100, and $76,600.
The latest one-year data, 2008-09, shows quite a bit of mobility, despite the marked economic slowdown of the period. For example, 25% of those who started in the bottom 20% had moved up at least one group within a year. Similar upward movement is observed for the second quintile (26%) and the third quintile (24%). Put differently, for each of the bottom three income groups (each composing 20% of the population), roughly one in four people moved up at least one group in just one year.
The rates of mobility increase when the period is extended to five years, covering 2005 to 2009. Forty-three percent of those who started in the bottom 20% moved up at least one grouping over five years. Rates of upward mobility were again strongest for the bottom 60% of earners over this period. These results are also remarkably similar to analyses completed in the 1990s.”

Commonsense or nonsense?  If you’re going to get wealthy, the only way is to inherit money.
Nonsense.  In “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy,” By Thomas J. Stanley, Ph. D. and William D. Danko, Ph. D., there are piles of interesting stats, but one of the most telling is: About 80 percent of America’s millionaires are first-generation affluent.

Commonsense or nonsense?  The more money spent on education, the better the schools.
Nonsense. As reported by By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN:  Spending a lot of money doesn't mean a kid is getting a good education, and spending less doesn't mean it's bad. Per-pupil spending comes up often because it's among the few easy-to-compare measurements  that crosses school, district and state lines, said Matthew Chingos, a researcher with Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy.
“Per-pupil funding is a pretty terrible measure of quality of education,” Chingos said. “In some case, it matters, but sometimes it’s hard to find evidence it matters.”
The dichotomy may come about because of the various ways money can be spent.  School facilities can eat money, yet tell you nothing about what’s going on in the classroom.  Here’s a list of the highest amounts spent per pupil:

Highest per-pupil spending

Washington, D.C. - $18,667
New York - $18,618
New Jersey - $16,841
Alaska - $15,783
Vermont - $15,274
Wyoming - $15,169
Connecticut - $14,906
Massachusetts - $14,350
Maryland - $13,738
Rhode Island - $13,699

         Posted by Jamie Gumbrecht -- CNN        

Here are the top ten states for science and math:

         1         Massachusetts
         2         Minnesota   
         3       New Jersey
         4       New Hampshire
         5       New York 
         6         Virginia
         7         Maryland   
         8         Connecticut 
         9         Indiana       
         10      Maine

         Examine what you know and how you found out.  I suggest that may best  be done in a quiet tavern, while you face a pint of beer.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jock Überreacher - Cracking the Case

I arrived in the small, dusty town of Bootyville wearing only my white Jockey shorts.  I travel light.  It’s better and easier that way.  Comfortable too.  I like to remain anonymous and what kind of description can anyone give about a man wearing only Jockey shorts besides “He was only wearing Jockey shorts?”

No particular reason I stopped in Bootyville, but I was about to find out just what kind of nasty, nefarious, really, really bad burg it was.  The bus door slid open with the whoosh of air you’d expect from a bus door.  The driver didn’t give me a glance, but I noticed his eyes blink and his toe tap on the accelerator pedal located right below his foot, right next to the brake pedal, which he didn’t tap. That told me everything I needed to know.

I got off the bus at the school bus stop right on the edge of a dusty cornfield and across the street from a dusty school.  School was out.  I could tell school was out because nobody was in the school. As a shower attendant in the YMCA, I learned to be observant and quick. A couple of teachers hung around outside the building which was a school, chewing toothpicks and waiting for their boyfriends or husbands to come back from the mill and pick them up.  The two I saw could have been thirty, or thirty-one…maybe thirty-two, or thirty-three.  Although I was some 300 yards away, I could see their beady eyes because their eyes were open, but not wide.

I knew whomever was coming to pick them up….one of them may have been thirty-four…would be coming from the mill. I’d seen a sign coming into town.  “We love our Mill.  You’re darn tootin!’  The”darn” was in red and crisscrossed with two black knitting needles.  Underneath, in smaller black letters was printed, “Trespassers will be shot.”

The cop car, its long antenna making little thin circles in a sky strewn with dusty clouds, like a mosquito searching for cow in heat, stopped beside me.  The deputy had a three-day growth of beard and a year’s worth of tartar on her teeth.  A long, thin coffee stain ran down the front of her greasy shirt.

“We don’t like your kind in Bootyville,” she snarled, staring down at my freshly painted, cheery red toenails.  “Best you chase down another bus and high tail it.”

It’s an old trick I learned while serving as a Tennessee Oyster Investigator.  A man paints his toes a bright red and nobody notices his face.

I guess I should introduce myself.  The name’s Jock.  Jock Überreacher.  I’m a professional drifter and problem solver, if you catch my drift.  I’ve lived all over the country, but only a day or two at a time.  I was born that way.  My pappy was a very strict drifter and he taught me all he knew about drifting.  My mother didn’t seem to mind the drifting life, but then she was seldom there, being a First Sergeant in the Army and an expert with a pistol, knife and extended, electronic mouth organ.  Although I didn’t see much of her in my early years, she taught me a lot about unnamed combat in her letters.  It was what you might call urban jungle survival by correspondence.  She left me with one very important lesson.  There’s a time to fight, using very special unnamed combat techniques only a mother can teach, and a time to act innocent and play your mouth organ.  Nowadays, I never went anywhere without my mouth organ strapped to my leg, just above my ankle.  You just never know.

The deputy hadn’t gone away.  She just sat there, the car idling, while she stared at my toenails and snickered while I answered her.  “What if I decide I like Bootyville, and want to make it my semi-permanent home?”

“What if I decide to pull out my pistola and make them cute little tootsies dance?” she asked.  It could have been rhetorical, but I couldn’t take the chance.

It looked to me like she was reaching for her gun.  I took a step forward and before she could even say Texas Two Step, or Alabama Circumstantial Mambo, I’d reached inside the cop car and disarmed her.  They don’t call me Überreacher for nothing.

Distracting the subject and grabbing the weapon from inside a car with the window down was a practiced skill I’d acquired during my undercover time as a street-side window washer in Detroit.  Obviously this deputy had never been to the big, mean streets of a city where crime never sleeps.

“What’s your name, darlin’?” I purred, showing her the barrel end of a 357 Super Sport Cranium Adjuster.

She spit out a thin stream of tebacci juice, but missed me by a mile.  “Betsey Bullhockey don’t give out her name to strangers.”  Then she smiled, like that was going to make me go all warm and cuddly inside.  “You’d best give me back the gun,” she said.  “It ain’t loaded, anyhoo.”

I should have known that.  The weight was different, lighter.  A shell weighs….wait a sec.  You have to add in the weight of the grains of the powder.  Then you have to consider the bullet itself.  Anyway, it was lighter.

“Since Sheriff Willie T Tyler took over, the town ain’t been the same.  He don’t abide no fuss or mess and that includes bullets for our guns.”

“I don’t follow.”

“Restaurants can’t use stoves to cook nothing and no lattes neither.  Makes too much of a mess.  Sheriff Willie T keeps a clean town.  Especially when it comes to food.  He’s all for Raw and Order.”

I handed the weapon back and Betsey gave me a ride into town.  “I spec you can use something to eat.  The Camptown Race Treat’s right over there.  Best peanut butter this side of ….”  The words drifted away as Betsey spied a tall, lanky man come out of Camptown, look around nervously, shiver, wink, tap the top of his head twice, and amble down the street.

“Something’s fishy around here,” she mumbled.  “I’ve seen that same man come out of the restaurant before.”

“Maybe he lives around here.”

“Maybe so, but the last time he walked in the other direction.  That just don’t make sense.”

“Going for a haircut?”  I could see the barber pole twisting in its red, white, and blue way.

“Nobody goes for a haircut around here.”

“Why not?”

“Sheriff Willie T don’t like it.  Hair all over the floor.  He’s talked the town council into paying the barbers not to cut hair.  Pays ‘em a thousand dollars a week and that don’t include tips.”

“Wow, not exactly razor thin profits.”

“But, if that tall, lanky stranger walked that way, he must’ve had a reason.”

I went through a few more possibilities with Betsey.   Public toilet?  Dishwasher repair shop?  Gas station?  Pet shop?

She had an answer for everything.  No public toilets without a prescription.  Dishwashers repair not open on days of the week.  Gas station by invitation only.  And, he didn’t look like one of the Pet Shop Boys.

“There’s only one thing it could be,” I surmised.  “Egg counterfeiting.”

Betsey looked confused.  “I’ve heard of all sorts of things.   Fixing chicken races.  Eye socket enlargement schemes.  Fresh butter sold as filler dirt.  But egg counterfeiting?”  She had a look of disgust on her face and let me know she was willing to do whatever it took to get to the bottom of this.  Shave her face. Comb her legs.  Brush her teeth.  Give up chewing tobacco until after breakfast.

We waited until nightfall.  I’d asked more questions about egg operations.  “Well, she said, “There’s only one place any kind of egg counterfeiting could happen and that’s at the old Whiffer place near the county line.”

“You’re talking about That County?”

“I’m sure as hell not talking about This County.”  I was warming to her cheery sense of humor.  I chuckled.  Then I belly laughed.  That’s not just an expression.  My navel gapped and made a whistling sound.

Before we headed out to the old Whiffer place, I had Betsey make a stop at the Dis-arm Surplus and Pituitary Gland store.  If this was going to mean night work, I’d better be dressed for it.  I picked up a pair of jungle camouflaged briefs, a genuine flashlight, and a sap, which must have weighed a bunch because my underwear sagged when I stuck it in back.

It was getting dark by the time I got changed and got back to the cop car.  Betsey evidently approved, but she had something to add.  “Just stand there a sec.”  She pulled out a can of black spray paint and sprayed over my red toes.  I started to object, but she was right.  Nobody would recognize me now.

The old Whiffer place looked pretty much as you would expect.  It was old, with an old barn, where they used to keep old cows.  You could still sit in the car and catch a whiff.  Hence the name.

We waited a long time.  It was dark, then it was light, then dark again.  Let’s see.  We started on Monday.  That meant tomorrow was Wednesday and yesterday was Tuesday.  That would make day after tomorrow Thursday.  Who knows what would come next?  Could be Monday started again.  When you’re on a dangerous stakeout, you can’t worry about trivia.

Evidently, sitting in a dark car, at night, outside town, brought back the same memories for Betsey it did for me.  “Kiss me, you formerly red-toed devil,” she whispered.  And with a slight belch, she puckered up and slid my way.  But, before my lips could find hers, the bright sweep of a truck’s headlights brought us to our gnarly senses.

“I knew it,” she said under her tobacco breath.  “The tall, lanky guy was the driver of that truck and he’s headed to the Whiffer place.  He was already at the Whiffer place but I didn’t correct her.  “I’d be willing to bet,” she continued, “that truck is loaded with counterfeit cackleberries.”

“Well, the yolks on them,” I said, stepping out of the cop car.

“Where are you going?” she wheezed.
“This nefarious racket is over.  Right now.  Right here.  And, I’m just the man to finish it.”

I could tell she loved the masculine growl in my voice.  Most women do.  Until they see the white underpants and red toes.  That’s why I usually stick to phone sex, but, Betsey was different and I don’t mean just in grooming and personal hygiene.   She had the savoir-faire of a woman who knew what she wanted and what she wanted right now was justice for all the chickens and farmers who worked tirelessly to produce the finest eggs in the world. She was with me.  There was no way she was going to let their pride, sacrifice, and occupational stench be diminished by cheap, plastic eggs, filled with sugary chocolate, and sold as the real McCoy.

Four men, dressed in black, stepped out of the truck.  Then another man stepped out.  That was five.  I recounted just to make sure.  Yep.  One, two, three….”Jock, look out!” Betsey called, “There are four men stepping out of that truck!”

She’d messed up my count, but that didn’t stop me.  I recounted.  She was not correct.  There were five of those vicious, egg-counterfeiting hombres. Unless I’d miscounted.

I pulled the sap out of my underpants and tugged the waistband back up to my waist.  Then I tugged the Jockeys higher to give my legs more freedom.  With stealth, I crept up to the old Whiffer place.  I’d learned creeping when I got my Salamander Merit Badge.

Inside I could hear voices.  It sounded like a barbershop quartet, but the harmony didn’t fool me.  These harmonious punks were up to no good.

There were a dozen ways I could approach this operation.  I could use stealth to sap them one at a time and hope the others didn’t notice.  I could scream real loud and run like hell.  I could scream real loud and get Betsey to run like hell.

Instead, I decided on something they’d never expect.  I pulled out my mouth organ, which had been strapped to my leg, on the side, below the knee, but above the ankle, and played my version of Moon River as I sauntered casually into the barn.  They barely noticed and kept on singing and stacking crates of counterfeit eggs.  At least I thought they hadn’t noticed until I felt a barrel of cold steel being jammed down the back of my jungle camouflaged Jockeys.

“Blow one more note, son and I’ll blow your nosey ass away,” a deep voice growled.  The fifth man!  It was Betsey’s fault.  She’d messed me up while I was counting.  But, there was no time for recriminations now, not while my ass was in a jam.

“You’re Wilbur Crankside,” I said confidently.  “But, you’re known hereabouts as Eggshell Whitey.”  There was a gasp.  They were no doubt asking themselves the same question I was asking myself.  How could I possibly know that?

Now I remembered.  I’d seen a sign outside the school that said, “Today is Wilbur Crankside Day, or as we all know him….Eggshell Whitey!”

It was starting to all make sense.  What better place to store crates and crates of counterfeit eggs than the local schoolhouse?  The old Whiffer place was only the distribution point.  God only knew where all these choco-malted-eggs would wind up.  Chances are the streets of the big cities of America would be strewn with them.  Kids everywhere would end up as sugar-addicted derelicts.  

Crankside had started with one school and built a business based on corruption.  No wonder the whole town could be paid not to barber and cook and clean and shave and brush their teeth.  A huge operation.  That could only mean the sheriff had to be in on it.

“That guy over there is the Sheriff and he’s in on it,” I said, bringing another gasp from the men who had stopped unloading and were paying full attention.

“Yep, I’m Sheriff Willie T Tyler,” he said proudly. “And, you’re a dead man, you Jockey wearing, black-footed stalker!”

“Not so fast, Sheriff,” came Betsey’s melodious baritone.  She held her own gun, pointing at the Sheriff’s chest.  “Now, all you vicious hombres git down and eat dirt.”

“Thanks, Betsey,” I said, “but you forgot there aren’t any bullets in your gun.”  I probably shouldn’t have said that.  357 hindsight.

All hell broke loose.  First thing I did was use an unnamed combat move to un-jam the pistol from my Jockeys and turn it on its owner.

“Jokes on you,” he smiled.  “My gun’s not loaded either.”

I looked at the Sheriff.

“Mine neither.”

Even the smartest criminals make simple mistakes. These boys hadn’t been messy enough.  I dove for the closest guy, while two of them climbed on my back and tried to garrote my privates with my own underwear.  My high pitched squeal told everybody they’d found their target.  Then, two of the others started to sweet-talk Betsey.  I saw the look on her face which said, “Oh help!  Oh, help, help!”  It gave me the burst of adrenalin I needed to leap to my feet, free my swollen, non-detachable parts, and start to really hurt some vicious hombre hiney.

Betsey and I took the whole gang out with unnamed combat moves, busting some heads, removing false teeth, tickling them ‘til their fat jiggled like jelly, giving haircuts with broken beer bottles, getting phone numbers so we could contact their next of kin.  When it was over and the last vicious hombre had gone to meet the real egg maker in heaven, Betsey and I saddled up and rode back to town.  The inside of the old Whiffer place looked like there’d been a choco-egg fight in a phone booth.  We’d leave it to the CIA, FBI, and others who knew the alphabet, to figure out how so much damage could be done without a trace of DNA left behind.

My work was done.  It was time for me to move on, so I decided to drift.  It’s what my daddy taught me and it’s what I do best. 

That night Betsey and I had a long heart-to-heart.  We discussed whether eye gouging or splitting infinitives was the best form of submission. Then we talked about us. Even before I’d unsaddled her and taken the bridle off, we agreed that what we had was too good to last, or even to mention to normal people.  Still, parting with Betsey was bittersweet.  She gave me an empty can of chew as a reminder of the wonderful, unmentionable times we’d shared.  I gave her the somewhat stained, camouflaged Jockeys.

When the bus was well out of town, I tossed the chew can out the window.  I like to travel light.  The mournful, drifting sound of my mouth organ was the only reminder that Jock Überreacher been anywhere near Bootyville.