Friday, February 25, 2005

Pit Bulls Do NOT Make Good Babysitters

Just read an article yesterday where scientists have discovered that Pit Bulls and other aggressive breeds of dogs are more likely to attack a baby in a rocking swing than, say, a baby in a crib, a baby held in the arms of a parent, or a baby NOT ANYWHERE NEAR A PIT BULL. Good study! And let me say up front my comments will be philosophical, not graphic, since a number of the babies who were the subject of this Ridiculous Study met an unfortunate end. Of course when I first heard about the study I wondered what they used: Crash Test Babies? Life-sized dolls that can cry, wet, and perhaps cuss out their parents on command? Because I have to wonder about a parent who would leave their infant alone in a swing with a pit bull in the room. I know, I know. "Your" pit bull is gentle and wouldn't hurt a fly. But remember, flies are very good at avoiding flyswatters and lunging pit bulls, whereas babies are not. These were not controlled studies run under experimental conditions. The scientists just took data from dog attacks against babies and discovered they were more likely to attack a Moving Baby than a Still Baby. The theory being that perhaps their primitive instincts told them that the baby was "prey" rather than a valuable member of the household. This is one of those Tragic But Avoidable Incidents. The implication was that you can increase your baby's safety by not using a swing, or by making sure they baby is attended by a parent or other responsible person while in the swing. Hahahahaha. Well aside from the fact that one mother returned home from the drugstore to find her husband rolling on the floor with the Family Pit Bull in a choke hold, maybe the responsible parent WOULD NOT OWN A PIT BULL. That was just an editorial comment with no scientific basis whatsoever. Because I know "your" pit bull has always been friendly to "you," and therefore can be trusted in a room with a Dangling Newborn. (Didn't you ever watch those Looney Toons Cartoons where Daffy suddenly looks like a roast duck? Extrapolate.) Now of course parental pit bull owners will be rushing out to buy special swings with a Pit Bull Guard so they can still answer the door or the phone and leave the baby and pit bull together. This is obvious. But you know, it doesn't take a pit bull or rottweiller to initiate an attack against a baby. Any breed can do it. And for those who take comfort in the fact that "your" pit bull is so gentle, in the majority of these cases the dog attacked with no previous history of such attacks. In other words, you're playing Pit Bull Roulette, and your baby is the prize we're competing for. Does that make sense? I remember when my youngest brother was born. We had a dog at the time who had always been good to the rest of us kids. Well he didn't take to the new baby. He would growl at him. Do you know how many minutes my parents spent warning the rest of us to "never leave the baby and the dog alone together?" NONE. Because they got rid of the dog. Sure, maybe it was only a small chance that our dog would go after the baby. But why take that chance? I'm sure my brother Andy is grateful to this day that he has no Dog Bite Marks on his face. Another thing to keep in mind. The average Pit Bull Mother would never allow a baby human alone in a room with HER puppies. Baby humans are too unpredictable! Just like, ahem, most of the Animal Kingdom. So I suggest that human parents should have as much sense as the Pit Bull Mother, which is to say you don't leave babies alone with Pitt Bulls and Rottweillers EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT IN A SWING. We see Baby. They see Chew Toy. As an aside, from a daily reading of the headlines there are plenty of mothers leaving babies and toddlers in the care of BOYFRIENDS. Frankly, unless the kid is old enough to tell you what is going on, I wouldn't do that either. A boyfriend is not much better than a pitt bull in that respect. In fact, the pit bulls may be safer. Please note although I have focused on pit bulls, my comments also apply to the Family Monkey, the Family Cheetah and the Family Boa Constrictor. We should really treat our babies for what they're really worth, which is Everything. And if you wouldn't leave your best pair of shoes alone with a pit bull, why leave your baby?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sneaky Things Lawyers Don't Mention

What, a sneaky lawyer? Hard to believe, I know. This profession is always getting a bad rap, and the list below gives you even more reasons why! Let's take a look at the sneaky things about lawyers that they often "fail to disclose": 1) Winning Your Lawsuit Might Be a Moral Victory. In other words, savor it, because by the time all is said, done, paid and paid out, you might have very little in your checking account to show for it. Why? Well obviously you have to do is PAY THE LAWYER. He or she is not going to be at the end of the line waiting for his or her check. They disburse the funds! Unless it's a contingency case you've probably been paying all along. Second problem is that your winnings are TAXED. Yes! Some evil company does you injustice which results in you losing a limb, or something, and the federal government feels you owe them a portion of your new artificial leg! As if you've just won the lotto! This is why the IRS is about as popular as lawyers. 2) Lawyers Are Specialists. This means they are great in the area of the law they are supposed to know about. However ask your divorce lawyer about your copyright infringement problem and you might get a blank stare. He doesn't know about copyrights. People with copyright problems don't have custody issues, so why should he know about that? If you're lucky they'll tell you they don't know. And NEVER ask your patent lawyer to defend you in a criminal case. You'll be "patent pending" for years in the slammer. 3) They Can Ask You Out. In some states it is legally okay for your lawyer to date you. Even while he is working on your case! This can be distracting at best and a conflict of interest at worst. Some unscrupulous attorneys prey on vulnerable women who are divorcing, suggesting they can get them a better settlement if they have sex with him first. (I don't know who falls for this line, but apparently some women do.) There was even a case here in Plantation, Florida, where the lawyer had sex with his client and then BILLED HER FOR THE TIME. Which would put him in the category of an even older profession than the one he started in. 4) There's Some Bad Apples Out There. But don't expect to find them. Records of lawyer misconduct are vague, and vary from state to state, so unless you hire a private investigator you are not likely to find out much about your lawyer's shady past. Even lawyers with lots of complaints against them are likely to be considered "in good standing" unless they've been disbarred. There was even one lawyer who videotaped himself getting intimate with a client in front of the woman's toddler-aged daughter. There is no record of disciplinary action against him, even though the incident was widely reported in newspapers. Wondering, though, who brought the incident to light. That woman deserves disciplinary action as a parent! 5) Some Lawyers Are Losers. No, not the ones with the bad pick-up lines. Some don't win cases. Ever! They may be one of these Constant Settlers, who find reasons to never go to court. Or they do go to court and never get a ruling in their favor. Tip: If you want a good defense lawyer, it's helpful to find one who has worked in a prosecutor's office. They know the ins and outs of getting you off. 6) Your Case is Too Piddly. Your neighbor has decided to unilaterally cut down your prized bushes in the backyard because it interfered with his view of a Distant Pond. Your case is airtight! You're going to sue the jerk for damages and erect a castle to block his view of the sun. But no lawyer is interested. Unless your case has the potential to yield significant damages, they might not view it as worth the effort. 7) They're Expensive. A lawyer is not a cheap date! (Remember the Billable Sex Lawyer.) They may charge you anywhere from $100 - $300 an hour on up, depending on area of specialization. Or if working on contingency, they take a whopping 30- 40 percent of the award. For relatively simple problems you are better off paying a flat fee if your lawyer will agree to it. They are far more efficient when they are not getting paid by the hour. You may even get that custody case settled in 10 minutes! Normally, though, flat fees are reserved for items like wills or settling estates where the amount of work is a known quantity. And you can always write your lawyer into the will. 8) You May Not Need A Lawyer. Well of course they're not going to tell you that. Not unless your Case is Piddly or it's something they're not interested in. You may be able to get through your bankruptcy using a paralegal instead of an actual lawyer. You may be better off in Small Claims Court instead of Real Court. If your divorce is uncontested and there are no kids involved, you may not need a lawyer at all. You can just settle it yourself with the help of some really great discount lawyer software from Staples! 9) You Can't Sue Me! Be careful what you sign. (haha. The lawyer will not tell you that. Anything he gives you must be safe, right?) But in some cases you may waive your right to sue your lawyer if he/she has you sign something that says you agree to arbitration in case of a dispute. Even if he forgets to file your malpractice case and the statute of limitations runs out. 10) Lawyer Malpractice. An Oxymoron? Less than half of lawyers carry malpractice insurance in case they mess up your case. Furthermore, only 6 percent of cases result in judgments of more than $50,000, so it's probably not worth the effort to sue your lawyer for ruining your life. Besides, we all know lawyers hate to get sued, right? Lawyers are like any other profession, with their share of superb professionals and Hucksters With a Degree. So don't be blinded by their aura of confidence. Check them out, and make sure your case is settled before you go out on that first date!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Parental Lies Come Home to Roost

I'm sure you've all done it, if you have kids. Haven't you? Yes. You've told them things that were convenient at the time but later turned out to be Not Entirely Accurate. And then have had to do some backtracking and explaining. Well it happened to me yesterday morning as we were driving the 5-year-old to school in the van. The kids know certain things about driving. One is they MUST be in their car seats and buckled up. Another is that they may not have the overhead lights on while we are driving. Why? Because (we told them) the police would stop our car if they saw those things. I probably should've just told them the police would come if they started arguing or hitting each other, too, but for some reason I've never pressed my luck in that direction. It was enough that they accepted the seatbelts without complaint. Yesterday morning, though, the 3-year-old chose an odd toy to bring with him. I usually allow him to bring the toy of his choice, since I have to wake him up and drag him off to school with the 5-year-old even though he doesn't get dropped off. It's his reward for being relatively cooperative about it. Normally he brings Rescue Heroes, or Ninja Turtles, or Power Rangers, or sometimes his foam letters and numbers. Today, though, he brought a tennis racket. Okay, you could make the argument that what parent in their right mind would allow a 3-year-old to bring a tennis racket on a car trip, even for recreational purposes not involving the French Open. He just wanted to peer at his brother through the strings. Or so he said. And I believed him! You see, I am NOT in my right mind at that hour, and this probably proves it. Anyway, about halfway into the trip he gets bored of making faces through the strings and decides to poke his brother in the leg. "No poking," I warned him. The poking ceased. The next thing I knew he was chuckling. Then I hear the 5-year-old say, "NOOOOoooooooo! You can't do that!" I look over my shoulder. The 3-year-old has the racket aimed directly overhead, handle side up. He is trying to flick the light on. He succeeds. "NOOOOOoooooo!" the 5-year-old wails. The 3-year-old giggles. He is omnipotent with a tennis racket. "Don't you know what will happen if you turn lights on while we're driving?" the 5-year-old said. "The POLICE will stop us and ARREST YOU. They'll take you away from our family FOREVER, and you'll have to go to JAIL and eat CRUNCHY BANANAS." The 3-year-old just laughed. I was forced to admit that the police would "not exactly" pull us over if the lights were on. They just frowned on the practice, and might take our license number for future reference. Egads. Elaborating on Lie #1 with Lie #2! Why didn't I just 'fess up and tell them the police have absolutely no interest in us unless we're violating an actual traffic law or careening into a commercial building? The 3-year-old then said he would like to fly to heaven on an airplane. He wondered if we could go soon. "Soon enough," I said. I'm working on my story about whether we'll be flying coach or first-class.

Friday, February 18, 2005

NHL = Nerds Having Layoffs

Well the NHL has shot itself right in the skate this time, announcing today there will be NO SEASON for 2004-2005. And it's a good thing they made the announcement, too, because not many of us were paying attention. The problem is that because the NHL has TV revenues, the players think they should be paid like all the big-name sports such as football, baseball, basketball and the World Wide Federation of Post-Thanksgiving Sales Wrestling. Well I have news for the NHL -- no one is really watching until the playoffs. Which really makes me wonder why they cancelled the season. Just wait a couple months and hold the playoffs anyway! They can flip coins (or better yet toss a bat and use scissor fingers) to determine the two teams who don't appear in the playoffs. Same as every year! Really the NHL is one long exhibition season, and everyone knows it. I've been to the games, and you can see the guys saving it all up for the playoffs. I don't blame them! Who would want to skate around at top speed every night when you know it has virtually no impact on whether you make the playoffs or not? The season didn't just Fall Through Thin Ice, as some newspapers are suggesting. It evaporated under the hot lights of economic scrutiny. The owners can't afford to pay the outrageous salaries when most of the teams are losing money. I'll be an NHL reality show would do better than the actual NHL product. Then all the fist-fighting would be strictly for entertainment and no penalties would be allowed. Maybe they'd get bonuses! It could be "The Amazing Skate" -- players start in the Ukraine and skate all the way to Siberia, stopping along the way to get clues from stragetically placed ex-KGB agents. Or we could have "My Big Fat Obnoxious Goalie," only the joke is he isn't really a goalie, he's just a big guy who stands around in front of the net and guzzles milkshakes out of his water bottle. Or "Who Wants to Hurry a Millionaire" -- women in skimpy outfits help the NHL stars don their equipment. or "NHL Survivor" -- both teams are turned loose on the ice WITHOUT a puck, and they crosscheck and bash each other with sticks until only one player is left standing. Or "Canadian Idol" -- the players take turns crooning the Candian national anthem while the American players vote to see who returns next week. Any of these ideas sounds more fun than watching a regular season game on TV or reading details of the labor negotiation in the papers. Things were better for the viewers (those of us who are women, anyway) back in the '70s when players skated around without helmets and you could see the cuties up close. True, they didn't always have teeth, but now they look practically interchangeable. Sort of like Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. (which happens to be their function, too, but nevermind) The best thing about the strike is that the Tampa Bay Lightning will be World Champs and Stanley Cup holders for two years instead of one. Or, if both sides get really stubborn, they may be Stanley Cup Champs in perpetuity! The last NHL champs ever! Bummer that it wasn't the Sabres ("No Goal? Whaddaya mean NO GOAL!") but from my current geographical perspective Tampa is the next best thing. And anyway Dave Andreychuck played for both the Sabres and the Lightning. He used to date my cousin, so he is the only celebrity we've ever had at the Reilly Family Christmas party. She is now happily married to someone else entirely, but the rest of us can always say we met a Stanley Cup champion in Grandma and Grandpa Reilly's basement. I know, it isn't like going to school with Paris Hilton, but it'll have to do. Meanwhile I hope the NHL players are brushing up on their Russian.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Libby Does Lakeland Prior to I-4 Indigestion

I had to take my friendLibby to the Orlando Airport. Libby had been down from Buffalo for her annual visit. Libby is like a human Swiss Army knife. She cooks! She cleans up! She sews buttons! She fixes toilets! She does loads of laundry! All while she is here vacationing. And she is no ordinary cook. She's a chef with experience from the Southtowns to the Northtowns, local eatery to the country club circuit, special events banquet to the Buffalo Bills training camp. If you need a sauce or something creative out of leftovers, well, she has the Golden Touch. Or the Tanned Touch, anyway, since she absorbs amazing amounts of rays while she's here, and why not, you don't get all that many in Buffalo! Seriously she has a better tan than George Hamilton or everyone in the South of France. Picture her in the kitchen: sandals, shorts, rock concert t-shirt, psychedelically-splashed apron, leather wrist things from exotic locations (bracelets? talismans? We don't know), and funky bandanna around her head. And of course the tan. She has these earthy sayings, too, like, "I'd kill a Cub Scout for a steak." Now before you Cub Scouts run out and obtain restraining orders or canisters of pepper spray, this is just a figure of speech. (I think.) Libby no longer eats steak for health reasons. However I do occasionally fear for the cows. Okay, bad digression when I'm trying to explain Florida's highways. We get these maddening slowdowns. No good reason for them. You have to build them into the travel schedule. Well I tried to explain this to Libby, but in spite of my best efforts we got out of the house with just enough time to reach the airport. Just one teeny slowdown, and we made the airport in about an hour. Off to Buffalo! Brrrr. On the way back things are going smoothly. The 5-year-old is watching Scooby Doo's Greatest Mysteries on the jerry-rigged TV/DVD player in our van. We are approaching the Disney Nebulae of theme parks. Traffic is starting to coagulate -- pretty normal for the Disney area. One fellow in a sportscar is racing madly among three lanes of slowing traffic, zipping in and out of the closing space like a trapped air bubble. By the time he came to a halt he was maybe eight cars further ahead of me, and had risked perhaps a dozen fender benders to achieve his position. That's okay, I'm sure everyone behind him had great brakes and normal blood pressure. The slowdown begins. Three lanes of traffic merging down to two. I blame Walt Disney, his offspring, all the employees and even the cast of cartoon characters. It is THEIR fault I am idling on a sunny Saturday. Inch. Creep. Sit. Watch cars from an on ramp test their suspensions driving over a bumpy medium to get to "our" slowdown two minutes sooner. It is Lent. I let them in. What the heck. It may make my drive two seconds longer, and theirs two seconds shorter. The slowdown stretches on. And on and on and on. Ten minutes. Twenty. Half an hour. I call home to say I'll be a little late. The 5-year-old announces he is bored. "Read the billboards," I tell him helpfully. He does! He's five, and just learning to read. I help him with the difficult words. Still idling. Waiting. I wonder what other drivers are doing in their cars. Some are scratching various body parts. Some are fiddling with their radios. Lots are jabbering on their cells. I have finished the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary and am starting on the Sorrowful. It's Lent! Praying is the perfect thing to do when you have time to kill on the I-4. I realize the type of slowdown I'm experiencing can be a typical commute for someone in a metropolis. I wonder what they do in their cars. You would think they'd all know foreign langauges by now, since there's plenty of time to learn one on tape. Ah, well, they're probably downloading new ring tones on their cells. Finally traffic begins to move a bit. The clot is starting to dissolve. Stupid Disney traffic! But then I notice something interesting. The traffic on the opposite side is now slowing. So something is affecting them as well. We inch closer. Finally we see a tow truck. A man is unwinching the winch. (I think.) And the vehicle. Well. First of all it's an SUV. And it is not in the preferred operating position. It is upside down. Yes. On its roof. Which is kind of smashed flat as a...not a pancake. Not quite that flat. I would say as flat as a full Grand Slam Denny's breakfast with a decent amount of bacon. In other words there is not as much headroom as advertised in the showroom model. Fortunately the passengers are long gone. (I mean that in the "probably transported by ambulance" sense. Not in the dearly departed sense. Although that could easily have been the result, based on the looks of this SUV.) So once we get to see this frightful sight, traffic of course immediately unclogs and we are on our merry way. For about 10 minutes. Until another slowdown occurs. Ack. This seems very unfair. Two big slowdowns in one trip. So more idling, inching. Got another Mystery of the Rosary finished. A small step toward world peace. The 5-year-old is begging me to go back the other way where there was less traffic. Haha. After another half hour of the Pokey Express we finally hit the cause of the next slowdown. It is ANOTHER upside down car with a partially pancaked roof. What the heck are these people doing? Rear-ending tractor trailers? Doughnuts in the median? Testing their rocket thrusters? Sheesh. It is always a bad sign when your car goes airborne. When I drive I try to pretend my van is a carton of eggs. Granted, sometimes it is a carton of eggs in a hurry, but generally I'm aware that I don't want even so much as a fender bender to harm the carton, and certainly nothing catastrophic that would scramble the eggs. Vans have a higher center of gravity than passenger cars, and so do SUVs. So puh-leeze. For the sake of everyone's driving sanity. Please keep the car ON the road. We don't need to be in such a hurry to get to an early grave.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

For a Feel Good Story Skip the Local News

I read the local news every day, and ordinarily it's a mishmosh of ordinary things. A car crash here, a school board debate there, a fundraiser over yonder, maybe a dog up on charges of stalking. Well this week we had a local news page that was unabated misery. Story after story. You couldn't get relief anywhere. I was tempted to turn to the business section and see how the Citrus Canker was doing. Okay here is what we were looking at on this dismal day: "Man Helps Woman Remove Son From Sinking Van." Now true, the kid lived. So in a way this was a happy story. But I was worried about parents who would put a 2-year-old into a van, then back it up to a lake for any kind of towing operation and leave him strapped in there by himself. But the good news of the day is that an alert bystander saved the kid before the van sank. "Driver Hits, Kills Elderly Woman." Now sometimes the elderly escape from various nursing and retirement places, or from their own homes and get into traffic scuffles on foot, which they usually lose. In this case, though, it sounds as if the 80-year-old had both presence of mind AND right of way. She was taken out by an 80-year-old man, probably driving a Cadillac the size of your living room. "Pair Accused of Killing Birds." First, the pair in question were two college students. How romantic. Let's go out on a date and kill birds! (Wasn't this one of the 17 Warning Signs of a Bad Boyfriend? Perhaps not. It was probably one of the 5,000 Signs of a Ghastly Human Being.) And the bird in question was no unsympathetic bird such as a pigeon, vulture or crow. No. They killed a SWAN. The actual symbol of the city of Lakeland. It would be like Arnold Schwarzenegger tearing the head off a bald eagle and eating at rock concert! Who kills swans, anyway? Don't they fall in the vampire/werewolf/Mr. Hyde/ class of human beings? They showed the ugly mugs of these sorry-looking college students, too. (I mean sorry-looking in the scum of humanity sense, not in the "sorry we did it" sense.) Sigh. "Trapped Man Dies After ATV Overturns." Well this dude, NOT a teenager, I might add (at age 54 you are only mentally a teenager, at most), died after his All Terrain Vehicle overturned at 12:30 a.m. Was this the best choice of transportation after midnight? Probably not, as he wasn't found until morning. These types of stories more commonly involve the ATV (or riding mower) trapping the rider upside down in a drainage ditch or small pond. "Utility to Raise Its Fuel Charge." Well, not horrifying. Just numbingly familiar. "Man Killed in Car Accident." No spectacular awful details, like the one from the other day that occurred on a day of dense fog. A 16-year-old (apparently parentless, or one whose Significant Olders failed to say, "Don't try to pass traffic in the fog, son.") pulls out to pass slower traffic. In the oncoming lane is a woman with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old strapped in their car seats. She tries to swerve to avoid Hasty Teen, and he strikes the car, killing the 2-year-old girl, and sending the mother, brother and himself to the hospital. Who lets 16-year-olds drive in dense fog? Or at least who does it without warning them that all the rules of the road change when you have no visibility, including the speed limit? E. Freaking. Gads. Okay, let us go on to our final story of the day: "Veterinarian Accused of Abusing Her Brother." What. What? A veterinarian? Apparently the headline writer found it as appalling as I did. It did not say, "Tax Accountant Accused of Abusing Her Brother." Nor did it say, "Customer Service Manager Accused of Abusing Her Brother." No. It said VETERINARIAN. You know, the people who are supposed to cure our sick puppies, kitties and hamsters. The ones who love dogs, kids and old people. The ones who go through the equivalent of medical school for the privilege of having patients with extremely bad breath. A Vet! Abusing someone! Her own brother! Who was disabled and happened to live with her. Whoever heard of such a thing? Wasn't Robin Williams playing a veterinarian in at least half his movies? The sappy half, anyway? Magpies on the Hudson. Good Morning, Veterinarians. Perch Adams. Mrs. Doberman. How could this woman besmirch the good name of veterinarians everywhere? What kind of person is nice to ferrets and mean to her own brother? It just makes no sense. But it was par for the course on this utterly depressing news day. So all I can say it that it's possible for an entire town or city to just be having "one of those days" when nothing goes right. Lakeland got up on the wrong side of the bed and rolled right into the Drainage Ditch of Depression. I believe even during the period of three major hurricanes in two months we did not have such an oddball day of badness in the local news. So cheer up. Tomorrow HAS to be a better day. Unless you're the veterinarian's brother.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Banke Supremacy

I have heard of attempts to create a One World Government and a One World Religion. I am beginning to wonder if the banks are trying to form a One World Bank. I only ask this question due to my recent banking experiences, which mostly seem to consist of larger banks gobbling up smaller ones at a rate that exceeds how fast I can write checks. For starters we were members of First Federal. A fine bank which was able to issue statements correctly each month, gave our kids lollipops (even going so far as to deliver them through the pneumatic tube in the drive through), and even prevented a scammer pretending to be me from completing her scam. Backstory: the clerk immediately noticed the physical discrepancy, not to mention the fact that The Two Cutest But Also Loudest Children on the Planet were nowhere to be seen. So they refused to cash it, confiscated the check and I believe took the woman under house arrest. And when I got to see a picture of this woman I was truly offended not to have a better-looking impersonator. End of America’s Most Wanted Digression. Anyway, this very lovely bank with friendly tellers got taken over by FloridaFirst. I felt there was still a connection, as some of the staff remained, and their was still that comforting “First” in the title somewhere. And we do live in Florida, so I couldn’t object to that part. So we changed checks again. Meanwhile the same thing was happening to my brother-in-law, who has a business here in Florida. He started out at First Union, only to be told that No, he was going to become a part of Wachovia, a institution that sounds like someone said, “Hey, let’s make our bank sound like a Slavic appliance!” Don’t ask me which one, but I’m sure it’s a labor-saving device in Europe. Anyway, First Union had no cause to complain, as it is itself the result of a merger of EIGHTY other financial institutions. No lie! I read this on the web site. So it isn’t really “a bank.” It’s more like the World Checking Account. So Wachovia it is (for him), and it’s got a really cool symbol that looks like an alien brain wave. Those are the best, the symbols that don’t look like anything but you wonder if they’ve got a device in them that could watch you somehow. Now over on the savings account side of the situation, we were very happy with our little local mom ‘n’ pop savings bank. The tellers knew us all personally, celebrated the kids’ birthdays with special treats, and I’m sure they would’ve done Financial House Calls if I was short of cash on any given day. They were that friendly! Well wouldn’t you know, they announce (and with very little notice, mind you) that THEY are being sucked into another financial institution, apparently, and against their will, so they were regretfully closing down our accounts and would have to transfer our assets. Hubby and I rescued our savings assets and deposited them with “FloridaFirst” even though our interest rate was .0000000000000001 percent. Compounded hourly, this resulted in a dollar’s worth of savings interest each year. Now for some reason mainly involving lack of decisiveness, we didn’t end up transferring our sons’ savings accounts. So THEIR savings account got sucked into the new institution, which was called The Israel Discount Bank of New York. Located in Miami! I can’t tell you how cosmopolitan this made me feel. Almost like I personally had a Swiss Bank Account. I could feel a badly pronounced foreign accent coming on. It seemed we were now part of a Robert Ludlum novel, and would be given completely new identities soon, along with clues to our past, if only we could remember where we put them! (first, check under the couch cushions…) So we had this sense of International cachet, and I believe at that time we were so enamored of our status as citizens of the world that we were considering ordering the Gevalia Coffees with the free coffemaker. (But we came to our sense there because we realized that the junk mail would escalate and the coffees would never stop.) However, the Israel Bank was not so happy with US. They soon discovered we were pretty much a comatose customer. We didn’t make transactions. Ever! No deposits. No withdrawals. No stopping in to get information on a home equity line of credit. Nothing. They started sending us letters intimating that if we didn’t begin utilizing our accounts soon, they were going to put a freeze on it and transfer our assets even FURTHER away. Maybe right to that hilltop where Julie Andrews sings in the Sound of Music. (Which appealed to me in a foreign location kind of way, but this is our sons’ money we’re talking about. Unless we were going to schedule a vacation to visit the funds, there was no point.) Well we had a good reason not to be doing a lot of banking. The nearest teller is a three-hour drive to Miami. Who has time for the round trip just to deposit some birthday money? So we said fine, send us the money and we’ll close the account. Ha. Not so fast. Even though these people had been communicating with monthly for almost two years, they suddenly decided they had no proof whatsoever that we were the Real Parents and the Custodians of the Account. (Because a real parent wouldn’t have let their kids’ money sit in a non-interest bearing account for almost two years. They would’ve demanded the .0000000000000000001 rate.) And all the things that we had to prove our identities were not “good enough” because we had recently moved, so our driver’s licenses had our old address. We were obviously scammers who enjoyed our little monthly bank statements and threats. Okay, not THREATS. Strongly worded letters. Banks don’t threaten. Finally after much telephone discussion and faxing of photo IDs and marriage licenses and inviting of Notary Publics to dinner we were able to extract our sons’ assets from the Israel Bank. We kept the money in a drawer because we still couldn’t decide which bank to deposit it in. More indecisiveness. Perhaps we should get it changed into gold bullion in the shape of little plastic army soldiers. So we think we’ve got our problems settled until we get word that our checking account situation is about to spin out of control again. FloridaFirst is now morphing into SouthTrust bank. So “First” is gone, and Florida has been replaced by “South” which is definitely a more general term than Florida. It is making me nervous. We order checks featuring animals mating on American flag backgrounds. Some kind of Environmental Patriotism theme, I guess. When you are ordering new checks all the time you can really experiment with the designs. The next thing you know, we get this letter explaining that FloridaFirst isn’t going to be SouthTrust for long. No. A better suitor is waiting in the wings. Actually more than one. FloridaFirst is going to become an amalgamation of Crown Bank and Wachovia. Yes, the aforementioned Slavic Appliance Group! Is taking us over. Ugly logo and all. There is some kind of complicated formula to determine whether your checks should say “Crown” or “Wachovia.” And to make matters worse, all these banks are on street corners facing each other, so it’s tough to determine which branch to approach as the transition goes on. And on and on. More new checks to order! With newer security features! (But the best security feature of all – the tellers knowing your face and the lollipop flavor preferences of your sons – is long gone.) Actually I think the confusing banking situation is just softening us up for the national ID card and implanted body chip with all your personal information. We will beg them to let us have these Big Brother items because at least we will know where our money is. But in my case I’m not worried. We still have our mattresses. And we NEVER flip them.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Try the Hermit Really Works!

Well I chuckled last month when I read in the paper that after an extensive study, scientists have discovered that Diets Don't Work. Like we couldn't have just looked at our butts in the mirror and determined the same thing without using either a survey or a scale. Oh, yes, plenty of diets work in the short term. In fact, I'm willing to bet that ALL of them do, except perhaps the Fast Food Diet pioneered by indie auteur Morgan Spurlock, who tested his theory in a cute documentary titled, "Super Size Me." He gained, like, 20 pounds in six weeks and was worried about having to go on blood pressure medication. But all of the top diets resulted in most of the people gaining back their weight and even more, within months or years of their initial weight loss. There WAS a caveat for the Weight Watchers plan, because people who did this program and continued it seemed to have a lot more success than people on the other diets. I will surmise a reason for this too...the reason is because Weight Watchers is more than a diet, it's a Way of Life. And if you change your eating habits from a lifestyle perspective, you will keep the weight off. Note: I have not been brainwashed by the Weight Watchers People to say that. I have no familiarity with them other than to look over the Point Counting Booklets that other people have shown me. But I can name a number of people that I know personally who have had great success with Weight Watchers, so I'm willing to be an advocate strictly on hearsay. If you tell me you're on Weight Watchers, and I'll even say go ahead and buy new outfits! Oh look, this isn't even my topic today. A total digression. I wanted to tell you about the latest Diet Craze that you yo-yo crash dieting people will REALLY like. It takes the weight off fast (so you can fit into that bridesmaid's dress or swimsuit) and you don't have to worry about putting the weight back on later because you KNOW you will. haha. So stop worrying already! I call this the Hermit Diet. I don't know what proponents are calling it, maybe the Fasting Diet. I guess we'll have to wait and see who comes out with a best-selling book on the topic, maybe in the OTHER Miami Dolphins color, "throw up" orange. It's so simple it's laughable. Here it is: Day 1: You are fasting. You can consume water, other calorie-free drinks and chew sugarless gum. That's it. Like John the Baptist, you are fasting in the desert. Except I think even he had honey and locusts to snack on. Day 2: You are eating. Go for it! Eat the way you normally do. Eat the way Kirstie Alley does! No, order the Rosie O'Donnell size portions. Take an IV while you're eating for added nutrition! There are no limits. Take your cell phone to a restuarant and conduct all your personal business from there. Bring a picnic basket into the bathroom with you. Don't talk to anyone all day because your mouth is full. Seriously! Day 3: (and every odd numbered day henceforth) Fasting again. Get used to it. Day 4: (and every even numbered day henceforth) Gorging again. However you are NOT allowed to purge like those bulimics do. That would be cheating, and it's very bad for your tooth enamel besides. That's it! No more complicated than that. You don't have to count calories, get on a scale, measure your stomach rolls with calipers...nothing. Scientists say this diet WILL work because the average person is not able to compensate for the calorie loss on the fasting days with the binge eating on the other days. There is (ahem) a slight drawback to this diet. Studies have shown that participants in the Diet Trials were persistently crabby on their fasting days. Even more crabby than they would be on a normal fad diet. So people on the Hermit Diet are advised to avoid humanity and not enter into any legal agreements on their fasting days. Jury duty would be totally out of the question. (Hey! Another excuse for you Jury Duty Avoiders!) The results were pretty good too. The diet took place over three weeks, and the people in the study lost an average of five pounds, and their body fat went down too. In addition, their insulin levels went down by an average of 57 percent, even though they ate sweets like crazy on their Feast Days. So if anyone is tired of Atkins, or Grapefruit, or the Zone, or South Beach, maybe this is just the diet for you. You might want to remove yourself to the actual desert in order to avoid temptation on those fasting days. And while you're at it, could you offer up a few prayers? The world could use it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Neat Freaks Endangering Family Health

There I was, doing my best to maintain order in the world while Martha Stewart remains incarcerated. I figured the least I could do is make most of the beds on most days. It gave a neat appearance to rooms that always look as though the toys are going to mutiny at any moment and just hurl themselves at me. So having developed this GOOD habit, what do I read? Unmade beds are good for you! A theory I would willingly embrace, but I could think of no biological, mental, scientific or sociological basis for. Well it turns out researchers with a lot of time on their hands have rushed to my rescue. Obviously a researcher was lying in bed one night, unable to sleep, trying to come up with an idea for a research project. He starts itching his ankle and, voila! The next day a massive study is begun. I assume that's how these things work. Apparently a neatly made bed is hospitable to the ordinary household Dust Mite. They take up residence there, breeding by the millions and having little insect orgies on your body all night. Fortunately they are too small to be seen by the naked eye, so this theoretical horror movie is something that can be visualized only by your insomniac brain. I have seen pictures of dust mites. They look like prehistoric carnivorous proto-reptiles. Although I suppose the "scientistics" can claim they look like just about anything. Would we be as fearful if they looked like microscopic Teletubbies, Booh-Bahs or SpongeBob SquarePants? Anyway, they LOVE neatly made beds which are nice and dark for the dust mite orgies, and also trap humidity that gives them the perfect dust mite climate. I've heard the dust mite travel agents refer to it as "Club Bed." The frolicking critters hate un-made beds because it just ruins the swinging singles atmosphere and looks messy besides. I KNEW there was a health-basis for my natural inclinations. I just couldn't figure out what it was. It is not just a matter of aesthetics, either. These dust mites chomp on your dead skin and then burp up "allergens," which are either annoying or fatal to your average household sleeper depending on the sensitivity of your system. (Okay, usually not fatal, but we must err on the side of caution here.) So if you have allergies or athsma, the dust mite problem is not insignificant. My solution to all this is to continue making the bed to the best of my ability. In the first place, my best efforts are not "all that" incredibly neat. We have the excess pillow problem, the Can't Quite Reach That Far problem and the hidden object with weird shape problem. (I once accidentally made the bed with a lump in it so large that I didn't figure out it was the 3-year-old until I noticed the lump was having respirations.) My other solution is to not dwell on what scientists are able to see with their high-powered equipment. Yes I know we are crawling with microscopic protozoa not to mention armies of gingivitis warriors battling our gums. I can't think about it! I want YOU to think about it so I can forget about it and regain my peace of mind. I don't care what's happening at a level I can't see as long as it doesn't cause any symptoms! But I am grateful for the scientific basis for that occasional unmade bed. Now if I could only get the scientists to agree that the best food for breakfast is chocolate.