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Diatribe: A Tennis Ball Dangling On A Clothes Line Will Not Stop A Chrysler Cordoba And Old Men Shouldn’t Wear Flip-Flops When They Drive.

Car in PoolIn the late 1970s, my folks drove a black Chrysler Cordoba.  The car was enormous.  It was one of Chrysler’s first upscale luxury sedans and had all the “bells and whistles” of the day.  Thinking back, I remember the doors to be about four feet long and extremely heavy.  It was the first car I remember the family driving that had electric windows!  I remember that our garage had two doors, it was parked on the left and had to be situated perfectly so its doors could open without hitting the post that is found in the center of so many older attached garages and that the garage door would close properly as well.  Knowing exactly how far to pull the big car in to the garage was a challenge.

My father, always the clever inventor, created a device by which a tennis ball hung from the ceiling of the garage at the end of a long piece of clothes line at just the right elevation so as to be seen when it was bumped by the front bumper as the driver pulled the car into the garage.  Once you touched the tennis ball, you knew you had pulled in far enough for the garage door to safely close without hitting the back end of the car.  (Everyone does this now … surely as a result of his genius.)

Tennis BallOne day, while pulling the car into the garage, my mother didn’t stop when she was supposed to and ran into the wall in front of her.  My parents didn’t speak much of the incident, as I imagine a few cross words were exchanged, but I remember there were some gas pedal/brake pedal confusion that day.  The big car left quite an impression in the wall.

But she didn’t plow right on through like an 85-year-old Altadena, California man did last Saturday.  He crashed his car through a rear garage door and into a backyard swimming pool where it quickly ended up fully submerged.  No injuries resulted as no one was in the pool at the time and the driver was able to escape the white sedan unharmed.

Clearly, he didn’t have a tennis ball at the end of a length of clothes line suspended from the ceiling of his garage.

He told authorities that the flip-flops he was wearing got caught in the pedals and caused him to lose control of the car.

If I remember correctly, the wall in that old garage was eventually repaired in order for the house to be sold but not before the story of my mother trying to smash through it became a family legend.

What can we learn from these adventures?  1) A tennis ball dangling on a clothes line will not stop a Chrysler Cordoba and 2) old men shouldn’t wear flip flops when they drive.

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About these ads

Ovation: Scott Brand’s #TossTheTube For Good Campaign.

TossTheTubeIt’s probably safe to say that every child of the seventies either had or knew someone who had a Habitrail.  The Habitrail was a series of see-through plastic tubes and cages designed for housing small pets, like hamsters or mice.  It was a modular system with many accessories and that could be connected by any number of differently-shaped “tunnels” that were intended to replicate the animals’ natural habitat.  The Habitrail was advertised as easy to clean and fun for all because you could see through its walls to watch the antics of your little animal friends.

A Habitrail Starter Kit could be had for a nominal price.  Sometimes, they even came with a free hamster.  But in order to expand your animal’s living conditions, and consequently one’s own enjoyment, kids had to nag their parents for costly “accessories” like the Revolving Sky Restaurant, a cool race car or the old-fashioned hamster wheel.  The tubes alone to connect the different cages usually cost more than the animals living there.

So we improvised.

HabitrailMy neighbor, Linda Sue, and I would desperately watch for a cardboard paper towel or toilet tissue tube to be tossed into the trash.  We would scavenge as many tubes as possible and hoard them until we could create our own tube maze using our blunt-ended safety scissors and whatever adhesive tape we could find around the house.  We spent hours and hours shoving hamsters into those tubes and trying to make them go from one tunnel to the next before we’d eventually grow tired or play time would come to an end.

They still make Habitrails today.  Of course they’re more modern and look much different.  Some kids, however, might not enjoy the fun of connecting cardboard tubes for their pets to play in thanks to Scott Brands’ #TossTheTube For Good campaign.

They claim that, each year, billions of toilet paper tubes end up in landfills and the unnecessary tube accounts for millions of pounds of waste every year.  They’re offering a coupon to consumers who pledge to remove this unnecessary waste from their homes and our landfills once and for all.  I think this is a great idea … even if it means fewer kids will be making memories with pet rodents!

My memorize of hamster and cardboard tube play time aren’t all good ones.  I remember at least one occasion when my furry little friend chewed its way through a tube to never be seen again.  I really wished I had a Habitrail that day.

Will you pay a few cents more for tubeless toilet tissue?

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Diatribe: Sizzling Bacon Prices.

baconI’ve always been a big eater and my motto when dining out is I’ve only met one menu from which I could not order (Calypso Café … a story for another time), but there are a few foods I simply must avoid because they “repeat” on me.  One bit of watermelon at lunchtime, for example, will be burped up and re-enjoyed time and again throughout the rest of the day.  I also avoid cucumbers and licorice but the food that I find the most difficult to avoid has always been bacon.

As a non-bacon-eater, it seems that they put it on everythingEven hermits eat bacon.  It’s usually easy enough to pick off of sandwiches but when it’s served in “bits” as a garnish on soups or salads there’s no way to avoid it.  And sometimes its flavor is really very strong.  In recent years, its popularity has soared and, consequently, so has its price.

Credit: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The average price of a pound of bacon has steadily increased over the last 30 years. [Credit: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]

The price of the sliced American breakfast staple hit a new all-time high last June at $6.11 per pound.  The rising price is said to be the result of two major factors.

  1. The first is a virus that targets piglets yet does not affect humans or make pork products unsafe to eat but has, nonetheless, been a huge issue for the pork industry.
  2. The second factor leading to higher bacon prices is the cost of feed.  The price of grain continues to rise due to ongoing nationwide drought conditions and those costs are passed on to consumers.

Maybe my days of requesting “no bacon” on every salad or bowl of soup will eventually be a thing of the past.  Then I’ll be able to order lunch and know that I won’t be tasting it until bedtime.

Do foods “repeat” on you?

Are you a bacon-eater?

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Ovation: Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Robin WilliamsI told myself that I wasn’t going to write about the death of Robin Williams.  It’s terribly sad when someone so gifted becomes lost in a cloud of darkness from which he can see no way out.  But then I remembered these few seconds of his performance in 1996’s The Birdcage and the dozens of times that this little bit  of joy has made me smile and I thought maybe someone else could use one of those smiles today.

Sadly, sometimes the worst thing you can do is “keep it all inside”.  You don’t have to.

To honor Robin Williams, please share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number:

1-800-273-8255

Your call is free and confidential, and will be answered by a trained counselor at a local crisis center.

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Diatribe: Whatever Happened To “Thank You”.

untitledMy nieces are wonderful letter-writers.  From a very young age, their mother would insist that they send a hand-written Thank You note every time they received a gift.  Regardless of whether they’ve received a check or a toy, they always wrote a personalized note of gratitude acknowledging that the gift had been received and warmly appreciated.  I’ve kept some of their notes in my box of precious memories and they always bring a smile to my heart when I receive one.  I’m sure that writing those notes was a complete chore for them as youngsters … I imagine that quite a bit of supervision was required to get them completed … but writing those short notes and addressing those envelopes taught my nieces important lessons that far too many folks have apparently never learned.

An enormous pet peeve in my household stems from the fact that we rarely, if ever, receive an acknowledgement when we give a gift.  While we certainly don’t expect a hand-written note on embossed stationery every time we send a birthday gift to one of the children on our list, it would be nice to know that they child actually received our present.  A parent’s quick telephone call, email, text message or mention on social media would be sufficient to let us know that the package had arrived safely.

When I was younger, at graduation time, seniors would make Xerox copies of the checks that they received from well-wishers so that they would have accurate names and addresses for use in sending thank you notes.

Last summer, we sent what we thought were generous gifts to two lovely young couples whose out-of-town weddings we were unable to attend.  We know the gifts were received, as our cancelled checks quickly posted to our bank account, but almost fourteen months have passed without an acknowledgement.

Is rude to ask “Did you get the gift that we sent you?”

Or should follow-up be the giver’s responsibility?

I understand that traditions change and evolve over time and that proper etiquette itself has morphed to fit our modern, global community … some children today have never seen a postage stamp … but when did we stop saying “please” and “thank you”?  Are we really too busy to be grateful?

I’ll never have to ask my nieces if they received a gift.  And I’m confident that they will teach their children the same gracious habits that they’ve learned from their parents.  And they might get better gifts as a result.  After all, it’s more fun to give a gift to someone who appreciates it … right?

Do you think Thank You notes are a thing of the past?  Should givers simply assume that gifts arrive and are appreciated?

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Ovation: BOOMF.

BOOMFI can’t keep a secret.  Long ago I determined that the concepts of deceitfulness and lying required far too much energy.  Since it’s all I can do to remember the truth it’s simply not possible for me to keep up with a sequence of fibs necessary to maintain plausibility once a single lie is first told.

I once tried to host a surprise party.  It was a surprise right up until the moment that I asked the guest of honor who they would like to be invited to the party.  (Yes … I’m that bad at it.)  I was, however, able to keep one secret … the cake at the party was pretty cool.  Everyone was surprised and delighted to see that a portrait of the guest of honor, the same portrait that appeared on the party invitations, was printed in frosting on the top of the cake.  At the time, cutting-edge technology had just begun to allow bakeries to “print” photos on sheet cakes.

Last December, Boomf was a born.  A spin-out from London’s Mint Digital, Boomf’s ambition is to leverage similar technology to let customers create personalized gifts that are fun to give or receive and delicious to boot.  Known initially as “instagram marshmallows”, Boomf makes sharing even sweeter.  In its first six months the company has sold more than two tons of marshmallows, all in individually personalized 15g squares.

Confectionery for the digital age.  Ever wish the internet was more … lickable, pokeable, sniffable?  Boomf transform your photos into multi-sensory delicacies.  Tiny pillows of fluffy, gooey, vanilla-scented yumminess.” – via www.boomf.com

With success in Great Britain well under way, James Middleton, brother-in-law to Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, who owns forty-five percent of the company, is anxious to bring the sweets to the United States.

“We’re looking at anything from biscuits to fairy cakes, to macaroons and chocolate.  But I think marshmallows are … the most fun.  It’s a collaboration of technology and food … We wanted to experiment with how we could combine the two.  We’re taking confectionery into the modern era.” – James Middleton.

Middleton

James Middleton

It’s quite easy to send the personalized treats by simply uploading photos from Instagram, Facebook or a desktop.  The company offers free worldwide shipping, with a box of nine marshmallows costing about US$26 (£15).

Apparently, the company gets its name from the sound of marshmallows landing on a doormat.

I can see where it might be fun to send edible selfies or pictures of your cat to friends just for fun.  Shots of your kids might be fun Christmas gifts.  I can also see this as a great corporate gift-giving idea for companies that want to send a treat featuring their logo.

Of course, if I were to order from BOOMF, I’d probably tell my friends to expect the package … because I really can’t keep a secret.

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Copyright © 2014 www.DiatribesAndOvations.com

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