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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Friday, February 29, 2008

Spanked into freakiness

A new study from the University of New Hampshire on corporal punishment says that kids who get spanked are more likely than go-sit-in-the-corner kids to have sexual problems when they get older.

Once again, an academic study that doesn't fully make sense to me.

You don't have to like spanking or apply it to your kids.

But I'll bet if you're over 30, when you were a kid you got spanked. Tell me you didn't catch the occasional swat on the behind from your parents. Maybe it was more than occasionally. Maybe it was frequently. And maybe that swat was a full-on smack, but you get my drift.

In case you don't want to follow the link, the study says its authors surveyed 14,000 students at 68 universities in 32 countries, asking the students how many were spanked and how many of the spankees had forced or coerced a partner into sexual activity in the 12 months prior to the survey.

According to the study, four times as many male former spankees said they'd coerced sex than did guys who weren't spanked very much or at all.

Hmmm. Still seems like a stretch to me.

If spanking made you more likely to do crazy sex stuff, I'd be on some offender's list right now, or I'd have grown up and become a porn star 'cause my parents spanked me like God himself was tellin' them to do it.

And look, I'm not that crazy....he writes as one eye twitches.

I think these study authors have too much time on their hands.

I want a study on what kind of freak I should be from all those back hands to the jaw I got from my mother.

Kidding mom. Hee hee hee!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Twofer

  • Bobby Cutts Jr: I'll be damned, I'm shocked. If you don't know, this guy is the former cop in Ohio who was recently convicted of murdering his lover/girlfriend and their unborn child, which she had been set to deliver within days of her death. Cutts appeared to act out some crying-like histrionics on the witness stand during his defense. Definitely not an Oscar-worthy performance. More like Razzies-worthy. He repeated that performance with a smidgen more sincerity during the sentencing phase of the trial earlier this week, begging the jury to spare his life. And they did it. He'll be eligible for parole when he's 80-something. If I was a gambling man, I'd have sworn they were gonna juice him up or send him to the deep fryer. The man killed a late-term-pregnant woman and her viable baby, and they didn't even give him life without parole? Hmmmm. I know some of you don't like it when I talk death penalty, but if ever there was a textbook case for it, this is it. While I don't like capital punishment 'cause of how it is applied in this country - often to innocent people, as proven most recently in Illinois in the 1990s, and often with uneven standards for criminals of different ethnic backgrounds - I am all for the concept. Some crimes are just that bad. Still, this is our system. So Cutts was done justice. I just hope they give him a 7-foot tall 400-pound cellmate whose nickname is Sausage Grinder, or something like that.
  • Everybody's down with the swirl: As some of you may also know, I live the Neapolitan life. I am ebony. Mrs. B is ivory. We just don't sing together. Anyway, I went to get a coffee before I really got into my work this morning, and an elderly woman complimented me on just how pretty I am. Those weren't her words. I'm enhancing. I think she said she liked my hat and sweater (which I'm wearing 'cause it was cold in Miami this morning). Anyway, we chatted briefly, and she told me I was a nice young man. She concluded her portion of the conversation by saying she should hook me up with her granddaughter and that she'd be proud to welcome a man of color into the family. Um, OK. Of course I told her I was flattered, but I was married. But this was the third time in like a week this has happened. It happened to Mrs. B and me at Costco. We were looking for a bottle of wine, and the wine lady came over and recommended a bottle. Mrs. B managed to escape to the next aisle. But before I could walk away, the wine lady and I were discussing menopause, and how it used to keep her up at night, and how the meds she took awakened her and helped her realize that she needed to be single again, 'cause miserable marriage is for the birds, and how I'm a reporter, and how I love my job and my bosses are the best ever. What? They're not reading this. And then she asked about Mrs B. "Your girlfriend?" "No, my wife." "Well, I'm going to tell my brother-in-law about you. He's a tall, handsome (or pretty; you can use pretty if you want to) man of color too! I'd marry him, but he's unavailable!" Then there was the woman bagging our groceries the other day. She insisted on walking out to the car with us. She asked Mr. B "your boyfriend?" Mrs. B answered "No, my husband." Grocery lady: "Well, that's perfectly alright. I don't see what the big deal is about black, white....." OK, so what is going on? Who's making a big deal about it? Not us. And why are all these folk feeling the need to tell us it's OK? I know it's OK. We're living in perfect harmony...side by side on my piano keyboard.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You might be nuts!

In all seriousness, let's be clear that "nuts" is not a technical medical term. And mental disorders aren't funny...unless they're in the movies.

Still, are you at work right now? Maybe you're on vacation, or in an airport gate area waiting to board your plane.

Look around you. Are there three other people besides yourself?

If you do not have a diagnosable mental illness, according to the National Institutes for Health, one of the other three probably does.

That's right, the NIH says that one in four adult Americans has head problems.

I don't think mental illness is funny or anything, but I have to wonder how much of these are mental diseases that have always plagued Americans, but just weren't diagnosable before. Or are these mental illnesses that are fashionable to have, the way it's fashionable these days for celebrities to go to rehab seeking cures for everything from saying stupid things to lacking publicity?

No doubt there is abundant mental illness in the U.S. But one-in-four people? That's an awful lot, my layman's brain tells me.

Anyway, I'm sane as the Phantom of the Opera. I hope all you one-in-fours get the help you need, especially since I sit in a cubicle quad with three other lovely, perfectly together people, whom I'd be completely comfortable turning my back on while they happen to hold kitchen knives.

***Editor's Note: Yeah, I'm "editor" in this case. Don't skip the prior post. I'm curious to get your take(s) on the headlines.***

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Ripped from the headlines

There's the news, and there's what we think of the news. I'm curious to get your take on the following. I've provided links too, in case you'd like to read the original stories in their entirety.

  • A 28-year-old Pennsylvania man is in jail, and his 41-year-old brother-in-law is in the hospital, after they argued over Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and the younger man, a Clinton supporter, stabbed the older man. There is no punchline. Except maybe that Stabby McStabber may not make it to the polls to vote for Clinton in Penn's upcoming primary.
  • That first one leads me right back to Obama. The Associated Press ran an interesting story over the weekend about how black Americans - the story would suggest lots, even though I'm certain they only interviewed four or five - fear Obama's life is increasingly in danger the better he does in this presidential race. Some of the people in the story flashed back to Martin Luther King Jr. and how he was killed, and he wasn't even trying to run the country. For me, this story presents an interesting contrast. On the one hand it examines this man who has seemingly overcome the skin color millstone hanging around his neck and made himself attractive to people of multiple races and ethnicities. On the other hand it examines a place and time where people still fear his skin color could get him killed if he does too well. Which place and what time do we live in? Setting aside his politics, I think that fear might be rational. I mean there was a time I thought the only black person who could be president was Morgan Freeman, and even then he was usually cast as president in a movie when the earth was about to be destroyed in a day or two. Even comedians have always said that if we got a mixed presidential ticket - black pres. candidate and white VP candidate, or the other way around - some extremist from one race or the other would try to do harm to whomever the top dog was. I wonder.
  • In my old stomping grounds in Milwaukee, Wis., a woman has filed a discrimination suit against a nursing home she used to work for - she quit; she wasn't fired, because she feels like she was hassled and menaced while working there for speaking Spanish on the phone to her mother, and with another co-worker. In case you don't follow the link, the woman's mother doesn't speak English. And she says she and the co-worker only spoke Spanish to one another in private, personal conversations while at work. She didn't speak Spanish to any of the patients or other staff, since apparently none of them spoke the language. Also, she spoke Spanish at work for more than six years. It was only more recently, when a new supervisor was hired, did the home present (or start enforcing) a "dominant language" policy: that you can speak whatever you want - even on the job - in a private setting and a personal conversation, but around patients you speak the language they're comfortable with and accustomed to. The home's management, after the arrival of the new supervisor, warned the woman in question about speaking Spanish around the patients, and even disciplined her. Their logic was it made some of the patients uncomfortable since they didn't know what was being said, and it took some of the patients' dignity away since they were in the dark. I don't know about this one. I've sat in restaurants where everyone around me spoke a different language. Did it make me uncomfortable? A little, I guess. I'm human. But it wasn't about me trying to mold people in my image. It was about a comfort zone, a lack of familiarity, especially when I was ordering and sometimes eating food whose description I already didn't understand. Living in an area like Miami, I hear all sorts of conversations going on around me that I don't understand. It doesn't bother me. It is what it is. I can't expect everyone to speak what I'm speaking, unless they're speaking to me. On the other hand, who knows? Maybe the nursing home really meant well and just intended to make their patients comfortable. It might not matter though, since an EEOC spokesman says the home's policy may already violate federal anti-discrimination law.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

It was a good day

I don't have any jokes, knocks on politicos, or "That's outrageous!" moments for you.

But I can report this weekend was good, exactly as it was meant to be. As Ice Cube would say "Today was like one of those fly dreams..."

Friday marked the day that Mrs. B and I would have welcomed our child to this side of the world had a sudden ailment not taken our baby from us prematurely in late fall. So we spent this weekend in quiet reflection, enjoying life and each other's company and letting faith, good sense, and even a little science and logic guide us to the conclusion that things are happening in the proper order and we'll be parents when we're supposed to be.

Even so, the past several months have been an emotional roller coaster. Family and friends - and I'm including you all who weighed in through this blog - said all the right things. Co-workers and friendly acquaintances said all the right things.

We asked why, 'cause we wouldn't be human or normal if we didn't ask why. We got bitter. I suspect before all is said and done we will again...and again...and again. We laughed. We cried.

I could wrap this up right now with some sort of ism, some borrowed line from a poem like "Footprints in the Sand," or some figure of speech like "what doesn't kill you..."

But the fact is what doesn't kill you is still likely to really piss you off, at least temporarily.

I'm gonna compare this battle with the struggles of a one-time drunk: Twenty years after you've gone dry, you still ID yourself to new people as a "recovering" alcoholic. Less than five months after our loss, we're not healed. We're healing. We're good but still getting better.

Everyday it gets a little easier. Everyday something falls in place to let us know that God or the cosmos or Fred Claus or whatever/whomever you believe in gets us and gets that we're determined to have kids and raise 'em right and teach 'em how to feel ways about stuff. I believe in Karma and fate and so on. So, I don't believe it's any coincidence that just before the weekend Mrs. B's doctor gave her a super clean bill of health and finally, finally gave us the two-thumbs-up go-ahead to try again.

So with every bit of hippietude I can muster, I'm offering a toast to the architect(s) right now:

It's all good.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Catchin' You Up

Sorry about my absence the past few days. I have been working on a few articles. Gotta pay the bills.

But I have a lot to fill you in on.

  • First, I have an article running next week (no worries, it'll be online also, with video) that will make any of you who are car lovers drool. I mean those of you who appreciate power and beautiful, precise, automotive engineering. I'm not kidding. I don't want to give it all away, 'cause it'll take away some of the fun and surprise. But here are four huge hints of how my Wednesday unfolded: Homestead Miami Speedway, 110 - 130 MPH, yours truly, Ferrari F430. There's more to it. But you'll have to wait and see.
  • Second, I think I may have changed my mind about health care costs. You all convinced me with your comments on my last post about insurance company billing practices. That and the fact that United Health Care is still trying to bend my employer and me over from a mistake they (UHC) made. Plus my podiatrist, who pays $1,500 a month to Aetna for his family's insurance and rarely files a claim for care, just learned they rejected a $300 respiratory medicine he needs. Here's the abbreviated version of UHC's mistake: I went to an urgent care clinic for treatment of a severe ankle sprain last fall, 'cause those clinics are cheaper on insurance than traditional emergency rooms. Fast-forward to today, UHC is still trying to milk money out of my employer, because, as they explained, they gave the clinic the option of billing the insurance company for an urgent care visit or for an ER visit. Hmmmm. I'm the clinic, and I'm told I can bill more or less - my choice. Which do you think I'm gonna choose? Of course, they chose to bill UHC the larger amount. If they had that option, what was the point of me going to them to save money? I may as well have paid more and just gone to a traditional emergency room that was cleaner, and where the air didn't taste of stale plague. Health insurance companies are the collective Devil, and they all deserve rusty pipes in the you-know-where.
  • Third, I have hope that mankind can learn to get along. Mrs. B and I were sitting outside a Starbucks the other evening, when another patron left, climbed into his car and started to drive away. He made it maybe 40 feet, when a different customer began to back his car out of its parking space, blocking the path of the first guy. The first guy, an older gent in a BMW leaned on his horn but didn't back up. The second guy, a younger man in a Firebird, must not've heard the horn, 'cause he backed right into BMW guy's bumper. BMW guy jumped out of the car and began yelling at the younger guy, calling him a stupid S.O.B. The younger guy replied "Eff you, you stupid (piece of male reproductive anatomy)! I didn't see you." So for the next two minutes they called each other names, with the younger guy looking like he wanted to flee, and the older guy taunting him by waving a wad of cash and threatening to call the cops. They both walked away then, like boxers going to their respective corners. Miraculously, about five minutes later they climbed out of their cars, approached one another, shook hands, traded info...just in case that invisible scratch later materialized on the BMW, apologized sheepishly for how they'd spoken to one another, and they both drove off. Amazing. This is Miami. Under "normal" circumstances, I might have ducked under my sidewalk table in anticipation of one of them whipping out a gun.
  • Fourth, I've been meaning to say something for a couple of weeks about our useless Congress. But they need to leave this baseball steroids thing alone. I was listening to a sports talk radio show earlier and it reminded me of this. We have hungry people, mentally unstable military vets who need care, police who are outgunned by crooks, average folks who can't pay for decent medical care, and Congress is spending time on hearings about which millionaire jock got a shot of super juice in his butt cheeks and how many times he did it. This is almost as bad as when Congress held hearings on just how naughty rap lyrics are. Did you ever see that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine sneaked nto Mr. Peterman's office and ate is $20,000 slice of cake - a decades old slice he'd bought at auction, 'cause it had been preserved from a member of the British royal family's ascension to the throne? When Peterman found out what Elaine had done, he barely reacted. He smiled and asked Elaine if she knew what 40- or 50-year-old oil-based cake icing would do to her stomach. She didn't. He laughed and told her he had a feeling that when she found out first hand, she'd be punished enough. This is a Seinfeld moment. Those steroid-using jocks are morons. But when their coin purses start to glow in the dark and their junk starts to shrink soon, they'll get all the punishment they deserve for cheating.
  • Fifth, I'll believe all the tough talk in presidential debates about whether or not to talk to Cuba's next leader with or without pre-conditions, when the tough talkers drop the double standard and insist on pre-conditions from China's leaders too. Remember China's leaders, The guys who ship tons of lead-filled toys, and crappy TVs to the U.S., and who run over government protesters with tanks?

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Monday, February 18, 2008

My Health Insurance Epiphany

I saw the light last week, though some of you may think I'm in total darkness by the time you finish reading this.

So I was sitting in a hospital waiting room for Mrs. B's doctor to come and tell me she was out of surgery - outpatient procedure from which she's recovered fine - and in the recovery room, and it struck me that I'm finally falling off the fence. I don't like the idea of universal healthcare.

Now, before anyone on the right of the political spectrum jumps for joy, let me explain: It' s not a political or partisan thing with me. If it was, I'd point out that the first close-to-universal healthcare system ever proposed in this country came from the late Richard Nixon, 37th president of the United States.

I believe many - maybe most - doctors do what they do because they care and want to contribute to healing folks. But human nature being what it is, I'm sure plenty of them also enter the medical field 'cause there are potential big bucks to be made. And when the average person thinks his enterprising spirit is going to be taken for granted or ignored he loses some incentive and some motive to try to outdo his peers. Trust me, if my bosses said tomorrow that the market size-plus experience-plus merit pay scale was being dropped, and that my salary would become the same as that of some guy who writes his condo association newsletter for $15 per week, I'd lose the fire in my belly. Sure, I'm in this business because I believe in what I do. But I'm human. I also want a good salary for good work. And I promise you a part of me would ask "what's the point" if that distinction in pay was dropped. The last group of people we want to stop trying to be the best is doctors. I like the idea of fixed rates being set for certain services, but we have to factor in quality. Better doctors with better skills and better facilities should be able to charge more than their weaker colleagues, I think. But the scale for medical services needs to be lowered all around, in order to make things more accessible.

So my problem is not so much with the costs of health insurance as it is with all costs associated with healthcare. I have a problem with medical suppliers and equipment suppliers overcharging hospitals and clinics and private doctor's offices, because those hospitals and clinics and private doctor's offices pass those costs on to the few patients who can pay for everything. And for those of us who can pay a portion, those hospitals and clinics and private doctor's offices, simply pass the high costs on to our insurance companies. So yes, I have a problem with $3 hospital bandaids, when they take five seconds to apply, and you can buy them 20 to a box for less than $5. I have a problem with $200 charges for a saline solution drip in an IV. I have a problem with $1,000 injections of anesthesia, $20 3-foot-long strips of ace bandage, $500 a night for "room and board" when you have to stay overnight in a hospital, $10,000 for 20-minute-long, barely invasive, non-life-threatening surgery.

Simply put, "things" like bandages and "relatively" minor services in hospitals and clinics just shouldn't cost so much. If I can buy those "things" in the civilian world for pennies their cost in a hospital, something is wrong, 'cause you know the hospital is buying those "things" in bulk. The cost of a strip of ace bandage in a hospital should be less than a buck. The cost of that salt water drip should be a few bucks. The cost of that bandaid should be a quarter.

What should be left to the free market is the actual cost of a specialist doctor's services. Doctors who are the best at what they do should get paid more than Dr. Nick from The Simpsons and other colleagues who graduated last in their class at the Tijuana Mail Order Medical College. That's only fair. Mrs. B's doctor? I've done my homework. He's been described by colleagues as a star among his peers. His work on Mrs. B has not led us to think otherwise. So I have no problem with him getting the big bucks. He's earned it.

Here's the rub: Everything associated with Mrs. B's procedure last week was covered. One hundred percent of the tab was picked up by our insurance company. Good, right? Maybe, unless you consider we pay the equivalent to a Volvo payment - a Volvo for which you put zero down - for our health coverage each month.

No, the way to make healthcare affordable for everyone is not to nix traditional insurance and give health coverage away. Let people continue to pay. But have them pay what's reasonable. And the truly poor among us? Well, what they can't pay in $$$ can be supplemented. Why not? That's essentially what Medicaid and Medicare do. Let's just expand those platforms to make sure that folks who can't pay for all their care get access to doctors.

That's my generic plan. And if you think I'm all wet, consider this: If those "things" and those simple services about which I wrote were actually more reasonably priced, then the health insurance companies MIGHT quit passing on to consumers the screwing they're receiving from hospitals and clinics and private doctor's offices, who are in turn being screwed by medical equipment suppliers and suppliers. And if that happened, my and Mrs. B's health insurance would probably only cost about as much as a bicycle payment each month.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Elevator Courtesy

This isn't gonna win me any friends on the second, third, or fourth floors of the Miami Herald building, but one of my major pet peeves got plucked this afternoon.

Who the heck rides a frickin' elevator up or down one floor, when there is a perfectly healthy, working escalator a few steps away? Who?

I boarded the elevator at ground level at lunch time so I could ride up to five, where our newsroom is located. I was wet from having just run through the rain with my lunch, and I was anxious to get back to my desk and dry off and sit down.

A woman who works on the second floor got on with me. She hit the button for two. She does this often. I have bad luck, 'cause I often get caught on the elevator with her. I usually grin and bear it. Today I ground my teeth.

Why do I have a problem with her taking the elevator from one to two? We have a frickin' escalator. A giant escalator that is impossible to miss when you walk into our lobby.

So what possesses you to walk into the lobby, walk past the giant escalator that stops right at the double doors to the second floor biz operation, and get on the elevator and ride up one lousy floor?

You don't even have to break a sweat on the escalator. You just stand on it and it carries you up or down like a metal toothy version of Aladdin's magic frickin' carpet. I'll bet if you stood in just the right way on the escalator it would probably sing to you and massage your calves and whisper to you that you're the handsomest or prettiest person in your cubicle city.

If you didn't attend the elevator courtesy academy, or ECA, as we used to call it when we sang the old school song in harmony while wearing lettermen's jackets and highwater jeans and white short-sleeved t-shirts and Chuck Taylors, then here's the deal:
  • If you're only traveling one floor in either direction, ride the escalator, not the damned elevator. It's just as quick a trip for you and doesn't slow down people who have to go several floors.
  • If you're only traveling two floors, and you're not in a major hurry to exit the building or get to your work space, ride the damned escalator.
  • There are only four reasonable exceptions to this rule. If you are physically disabled ride the elevator as much as you want and if anyone challenges you, feel free to poke 'em in the eye with your cane or crutches or run over their feet with your wheelchair, or have your guide dog bite 'em or defile their leg. If you are carrying a heavy or fragile load, and you could potentially lose your balance and drop it or fall over the side of the escalator, then take the elevator. No need to kill yourself in the name of efficiency. If you are in a genuine hurry - late for work or late for an appointment outside of the building - and the elevator is the faster option, then take it. But I'd still argue the escalator would be faster, 'cause there's no chance of it stopping at every floor to pick up new passengers. And if you are next to the elevator heading up and no one else who works on a higher (or lower floor than yours) is waiting to board then take the elevator if you want. No harm, no foul.

Learn these rules and you too can be a guardian of the elevator.

*One more exception, from Hammer: If you have a diagnosable mental condition that makes you fearful of escalators then fine, ride the elevator. But you'd better have a doctor's note.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

From the Weekend

  • Political correctness goes awry my humble opinion: I realize that the minor children of prominent politicians should never be the targets of political opponents or media pundits. But grown people are fair game. That being said, I thought NBC reporter David Schuster was stupid and stuck his foot in his mouth late last week when he speculated on the air that Chelsea Clinton was being "pimped out," presumably by her parents, on behalf of Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign. My impression, all things considered, was that Schuster felt like Chelsea was being aggressively used to make her mother seem more attractive to the younger, hipper registered voters. And the truth is, she is being used for that purpose, and there's nothing wrong with that. If I had a powerhouse spouse who once held the job that I want, and an attractive young, hip, child, I'd have them both in front of as many crowds as possible cheerleading for me. Was Schuster suggesting that someone in the Clinton campaign is an actual pimp and Chelsea is that person's employee? No. Was his choice of words to describe Chelsea's role dumb? Yes. Should he have been suspended over those words? I don't think so. At the time he stuck both feet in his mouth he wasn't reporting a straight, plain, news story. He was participating in a broadcast segment in which he was expected to share his opinion. He tried to do it in a hip, snarky way. And it backfired on him.
  • The new face of irony: British singer Amy Winehouse. Winehouse, who won five Grammy Awards last night, got one trophy for her record "Rehab," a song whose chorus goes "They tried to make me to go to rehab and I said no, no, no!" But Winehouse did not attend the Grammys. She performed via satellite from the UK, where she is Seriously. But all kidding aside, good for her. Crack kills.

  • Absent bears: I watched "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" the other night for like the 15th time. And it finally clicked with me what about that movie has always bugged me. No pandas. During those fight scenes in the bamboo forests, I wanted to see pandas come darting out of the woods, putting the bear smack down on unsuspecting hikers and travelers, sort of the way grizzlies do in the wild in the U.S. Don't ask me why. I just wanted pandas in that film and never got 'em, and it bummed me out.

  • Karma sleeping on the job: I wish I had a photograph for you, but all I had on me was a cell phone camera with no flash when I encountered the following scenario on Saturday: Mrs. B, Cheko the Dog, and I were walking around the neighborhood and found ourselves next to a very well kept house several blocks from our own. We always compliment this place on our walks, 'cause the owners/residents make such an effort. Anyway, on their side fence the residents had posted a new sign to the effect of "You are responsible for your dog's waste....If he goes right here, please pick it up." So what do you think was lying in a tightly coiled pile right under the sign?

  • Being sympathetic vs. being a pushover: Mrs. B and I attended a very productive meeting of homeowners, landlords, neighborhood activists, and city officials the other night. At issue was the gentrification of the neighborhood. We live on the south end of the 'hood. Some of the residents on the north end of our neighborhood are located just blocks from what amounts to a giant soup kitchen. So at all times of the day and night they have homeless rifling through their trash cans, sleeping and relieveing themselves on lawns, leaving their empty food containers on lawns, and generally hanging around on lawns. Thankfully absent was the recent-former police chief who at a similar meeting a few months back suggested I was a mean person and accused me of trying to legislate homelessness into illegality, because I asked him if there was anything the police could do to help move people along. I'm glad the old chief was absent, because I didn't have to explain again that his argument was apples vs. oranges, sympathy vs. sucker-hood. Homelessness can't be legislated anymore than we can mandate that every human is required to keep a roof over his head. What can be legislated, however, is behavior to some extent. If you spend hours at a time hanging out in front of someone else's house, dropping trash everywhere, relieving yourself, and hollering at passing cars, you're not a problem because at the end of the day you don't have a roof over your head. You're a problem because you're loitering and being a nuisance - mostly on private property, and you need to move on. If the former chief really believed that nonsense about a cop crackdown being tantamount to treating homelessness like a crime then he's a pushover, 'cause if you're being a nuisance on other people's property and you have nowhere to go, then the the government agencies that snatch taxes need to move you somewhere where you can get appropriate help and care.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

And Mother of the Year goes to...

This woman, who has successfully redefined "Buckle up for safety!"

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Till death do you part

So the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research just released a study that confirmed what some of you have hinted at in the past: the longer you're married the more your spouse irritates you.

While I am certain I hardly ever irritate Mrs. B, and Lord knows I can't even say the word "irritate" in the same sentence as her name - he he he! - I wonder if it really took an academic study to reach this conclusion.

From the time I first heard reruns of The Bickersons, to the staged spats between Alice Faye and Phil Harris, to watching George and Weezy and Al and Peggy Bundy, to hearing my folks behind a closed bedroom door whisper sharply at one another so as to perpetuate the delusion to my sister and I that they never argued, it became clear to me that the longer you're around a significant other the more they pluck your nerves.

I'm only 2.5 years into this marriage thing, but even before I got hitched I always assumed that the irritation arose 'cause you are constantly around one another. She or he is there when you go to sleep - or at least they should be, unless they're working a night shift. She or he is there when you wake up. Irritation is inevitable.

Hell, I'm irritated right now with the people sitting on either side of me in my newsroom, just 'cause they're here and I see 'em every damn day. No other reason. And I'm not even married to them.

I'm kidding! Really. I love them all. And I'd be beside myself if I had to say do all my writing from home, from my front porch, with a glass of lemonade, some smooth jazz playing quietly, my dog laying at my feet, and no co-workers also chasing stories on the phones around me.

But seriously, I always admire elderly married couples, 'cause frankly I don't know how they've gone so long without stabbing one another with ice picks or poisoning one another's food or something.

When I was covering crime in Milwaukee, I had a case in which a wife was arrested and faced possible charges ranging from major battery to attempted murder, after she nearly beat the brains out of her husband with a frozen fish, 'cause he came home from work, saw what she'd made for dinner...again, and criticized her cooking. She was irritated.

Anyway, if you read the entire synopsis of that Michigan study you'll see that getting irritated with your spouse isn't necessarily a bad thing. The study says that couples over 60 seemed to report fewer problems with their spouses - the suggestion being that after a while they simply grew more comfortable with and less critical of their spouses' irritating habits.

Does that mean they simply wore down and gave up complaining, or they became more accepting over time?

Who knows? But maybe one day Mrs. B will stop leaving her boxers and shoes and yesterday's newspaper laying all over the house.

Wait a minute. I do that. Nevermind.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Monday Quick Hits

Greetings sports fans. Long weekend, but good weekend. I'm sad it's over. But I did have fun, gain a few insights and stumble across a few life mysteries.

  • First, Mardis Gras -After a day of grueling yard work and koi pond rehab on Saturday, Mrs. B and I strolled a few blocks to our fair city's downtown for the Mardis Gras parade and festival. It was a lot of fun. It wasn't New Orleans or Bourbon St. But I've done Mardis Gras in New Orleans and frankly Saturday I did not miss the stank smell of presumably human urine and vomit, or the sight of awkward, equally smelly back alley sex. If you have a younger teenage child or a sense of humor or you're cooler than the other side of the pillow like me, or all of the above, you'll appreciate this next point. Best moment of the night for me was when the South Broward High School marching band in full band uniforms on a warm evening, stopped in the middle of their stellar performance to do an abbreviated version of the Superman dance. Hilarious.
  • Moving right along to colored eyeball contacts - You know how I quoted the coach from Teen Wolf the other day saying never play cards with a man whose first name is the same as a city? Well, I've always had a similar distrust for anyone who wears colored contacts on any day of the year that isn't Halloween. Over the past couple of weeks I've made several short runs to a supply store near my house to get repair materials. One of the employees was especially helpful, but a little too eager, even offering to come over to our house to help, since he lived nearby. Mrs. B thought that was weird. I did too, but I guess Iwasn't completely alarmed. And then we went to the supply store Saturday morning and this dude had translucent blue eyes....He didn't have them before. I know this makes me nuts. But only after seeing the eyeball change did I deem this guy completely untrustworthy. If I can't even look you in the eyes and see your eyes, what else about you am I not seeing? The only reason for a guy to wear colored contacts on any night that isn't Halloween is that he's moonlighting as a stripper or a Man-Ho.
  • Super Bowl - I'd say I'm sad for the Patriots, but I'm not. Sure, the New York Giants defense beat Tom Brady like he stole something. But if I was a New England Patriot just waking up feeling bummed out this morning, I'd immediately stroll to my wall safe, remove a few dozen $1,000 bills, microwave them to make them soft and warm and then dry my tears with them and bathe in them. And then I'd create a new sports-related award like the Pimpin' Ain't Easy trophy and give it to myself and declare that the trophy ceremony has to take place in a beach-side villa in Tahiti.
  • Super Bowl ads - Hands down, in my humble opinion, the funniest ad was the Doritos commercial where a guy in a fancy suit slices off the corner of a dorito with a knife, places the slice on a mouse trap, places the trap in front of a mouse hole, turns on some opera, grabs the bag of Doritos, pulls up a chair in front of the mouse hole, and sits and waits for the bait to be taken. Except a mouse doesn't come out of the hole. A giant mouse crashes through the wall and starts wailing on the suit guy.