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FIVE THINGS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN THE SENATE’S FOOD SAFETY BILL BUT WEREN’T

1. THE COSTCO AMENDMENT

What do you do with eight gallons of stewed tomatoes? A 4-pack of 120 oz. mustard jars? 50 lbs. of rice?

If you’re like most households, you stick them on a shelf in the back of the pantry and try to ignore the fact that the giddy joy you felt because you saved so much money can’t possibly last long enough to counteract the guilt you’ll feel when you end up throwing half of it out.

This amendment would have legally prohibited club stores from selling bulk items that:

(a) the average consumer can’t possibly consume before the expiration date
(b) the average consumer doesn’t need – i.e. cashew butter, creamed spinach, dried parsley, tapioca pudding, etc.
(c) or that taste so good when sampled in the store nobody can resist their multi-ounce siren call.

2. CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR FOOD HYPOCRISY

This amendment would have made it illegal for anyone to cop a militant attitude about food – holier-than-thou vegans, organic-only food-nazis, food processing plant owners and/or executives who roll their eyes (and mobilize their lawyers) if anyone questions their quality or commitment to cleanliness, etc.

3. SPECIAL PROVISION FOR SPOKESPEOPLE AND OTHER PUBLIC RELATIONS EXECUTIVES

When it comes to outbreaks of salmonella, E. coli, listeria or other types of foodborne illnesses, it takes a special kind of flak to stand at a podium in front of a bunch of reporters and claim the company’s products are “perfectly safe” and that the media is making the situation out to be a lot worse than it really is, or that it’s not really company’s fault but the work of disgruntled employees and/or unscrupulous food activists, and that in either case, the company is “cooperating fully” with authorities to resolve the situation in a safe and timely fashion.

Since spokespeople can’t be sued for lying, this amendment would have made it mandatory for them all to attend a special private banquet where the only food they got would have been the very food they claimed everyone could “trust and continue to consume without any health and safety concerns.”

4. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET – OR ELSE

Ever order anything online, or from the back of a magazine because the photos looked so good?

This amendment would have not only banned the use of Photoshop and other means of digital enhancement, but made it illegal for anyone selling direct-to-the-consumer food to hire a photo stylist to, for example, sort through 10,000 bushels of pears to find the one – and only one – in the lot that looked like you’d want to eat it.

It would also have made it illegal to embellish descriptions, meaning that if a wine-of-the-month club promised “world-class” bottles, they had better come from a part of the world that’s actually known for its vineyards and taste really, really good.

5. VEGETABLE JAIL

This amendment would have authorized the FDA to work with state and local law enforcement officials to create “vegetable jail,” so that instead of threatening kids who won’t eat their broccoli, carrots, green beans, etc. with no dessert or having to sit at the table until everything – “And I mean everything!” – is finished, parents could just say “Look… it’s either spinach or 18 months hard time.”

(Not that some kids wouldn’t choose jail over spinach, of course, but at least it would have helped.)

BAD WAYS TO SPEND THE EXTRA HOUR OF DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

5:45 am

KID: Mom? MOM!
MOM: What are you doing out of bed?
KID: I woke up.
MOM: Then go back to sleep.
KID: I’m not tired.
MOM: I don’t care if you’re not tired, it’s the middle of the night.
KID: It doesn’t feel like the middle of the night.
MOM: What time does the clock on my nightstand say?
KID: 12:01.
MOM: 12:01?!?!?!
KID: I accidentally tripped over the cord when I was coming over, sorry.
MOM: What does the clock on your father’s nightstand say?
KID: I don’t know. Dad? DAD!
MOM: No! Don’t wake him!
DAD: Too late, I’m already up.
KID: Do you know what time it is?
DAD: I can’t see the clock without my glasses.
MOM: It says 5:45.
DAD: It can’t be 5:45, it’s too dark outside.
MOM: It’s dark because the days are getting shorter.
DAD: But we just went on Daylight Saving Time last night!
KID: What’s Daylight Saving Time?
MOM: It’s when you change the clocks so you get more light during the day.
DAD: Yeah – “Spring forward” and “Fall back,” which means it’s not 5:45, it’s 6:45.
MOM: You mean it’s not 5:45, it’s 4:45.
DAD: That’s what I said.
MOM: No, you said it was 6:45 not 5:45.
DAD: Well… that’s what I meant.
MOM: Except that I remembered to change the clock, so it’s actually 5:45.
KID: Do I still have to go back to bed then?
DAD: No, because I remembered to change the clock, too, so that means it’s…
KID: 3:45?!?!?
MOM: No, because your father always gets Daylight Saving Time backwards, so even though I changed the clock back an hour your father probably changed the clock forward, which means if it says 5:45, it’s actually 4:45.
KID: I’m really confused.
DAD: Me, too – and I didn’t get Daylight Saving Time backwards this time, I totally forgot about it.
MOM: Then why did you say you changed the clock?
DAD: Because you always make such a big deal over the fact that you remember and I forget.
MOM: So rather than come clean, you lied?
DAD: No.
MOM: You didn’t lie?
DAD: Like you said… I have such a bad memory, I just forgot the truth.
MOM: Don’t get sarcastic.
DAD: You’re the one who started it.
MOM: Me?
DAD: I was asleep.
MOM: So everything is my fault?
DAD: Not everything.
KID: Excuse me – before you continue, can somebody just tell me what time it really is?
BOTH: 5:45.
KID: Good.
MOM: Why is that good?
KID: Because I think you’re both gonna need the extra hour you have before you need to get up to figure out what you’re really fighting about.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO WOULD-BE PARENTS?

“So… what’s it like having kids?” the would-be parent asks.

“It’s great,” you say, “Having kids is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. They’re a lot of work, but when you see the way they smile and laugh and take in the world, it’s definitely worth it.”

And then maybe you chuckle and offer to let them stay over and take your kids for a weekend “test drive,” knowing they probably won’t but hoping they will so you and your spouse can get away for that “romantic weekend” you’ve been talking about since pretty much your kids were born (with the term “romantic” being parent-code for “getting some sleep and being able to watch pay-per-view movies all the way through, in one sitting, without being interrupted a dozen times because ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘I had an accident’ or ‘I spilled jam on the carpet,’ etc.”).

You may suggest these would-be parents pick up a movie or two, too. But while many recommend something like “Parenthood”1 for its funny and touching insights into the ups and downs of, well, parenthood, there’s another movie that gives a fuller and more complete picture: 1970s horror classic “The Exorcist.” Here’s why:

Demonic possession is just another name for a weekday morning.

As every parent knows, at random and unpredictable intervals, your little angel will wake up snarling and nasty like a beast from Hell. Foul-mouthed? Before you even get through the door to say “Good morning, I made you breakfast,” you find yourself assaulted with “GET OUT! Can’t you see I’m sleeping? You always wake me up like this. I hate you. I hate you. I HATE YOU.”

And their appearance? Definitely something unholy (though, to be fair, not because they’re suddenly sporting horns, scales and some grotesque demon pig-nose, but because nobody looks good when they don’t shower for three days – why is personal hygiene such a difficult concept for kids to get, anyway?).

As for being able to crawl across the ceiling? Well… maybe not the ceiling, but when you consider the gravity-defying ways kids flip around in their beds while they sleep, it’s not such a stretch to think they might some- how end up on the ceiling.

Green puke? How about orange puke, yellow puke and blue puke, too?

It’s not called “The Technicolor Yawn” for nothing, something parents usually find out fast. Often, these multi-colored hues can be traced back to two types of foods: foods consumed in excess, like artificially-flavored fruit punch, Halloween candy and birthday cake; and foods consumed under protest such as salad, non-breaded fish, and brussels sprouts (with the eventual volume of puke increasing exponentially if you happen to say something like “I don’t care if you don’t like it. Nobody ever threw up eating brussels sprouts, so finish your plate!” first).

You know a child’s head can’t spin completely around… but a 5-year-old doesn’t.

And no matter how quickly the parent dashes into the other room to get the phone or answer the door or shut the oven off before dinner burns, it’s five seconds more than the 5-year-old needs to twist the 2-year-old’s head around to the point where it’s about to snap. “But we were just playing owl,” the child protests.

You don’t need an exorcist, but a child psychologist might be a good idea.

What parent hasn’t thrown up their hands at some point and said “I can’t do this anymore!” before turning to an expert for help?

Whether it’s the therapist, the math tutor, the reading coach, the college placement counselor or even the pitching specialist, all these experts are trying to do is exactly what Father Merrin was trying to do to Linda Blair’s Regan: make the kid “normal” again.

There can always be a sequel because evil – like parenting – goes on forever.

Which means the moment parents think they’re done and their kids are on their own, they move back home. Or go into therapy. Or just stop calling. This can happen at any time, for any reason (though it’s often financial), and it’s generally a lot worse than the original, just like “Exorcist 2 – The Heretic,” “The Exorcist 3,” and both versions of “Exorcist – The Beginning.”

And if that isn’t scary, nothing is.

From “Why Chicken Nuggets are Better Than Prozac.”

1Is the TV version of this movie a reasonable substitute? Clearly the show has plenty of fans –  here, here, here and here, for example – but what if it gets cancelled? Imagine devoting hour after hour to something, getting attached and becoming emotionally invested in its well-being, only to have it suddenly just grow up and move go away? On second thought… maybe that’s even more like parenthood than the movie “Parenthood.”

BBQ Tips

  • Beef + flame = BBQ.
  • Beef + flame + lots of beer = 2nd degree burns and a clip for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
  • A grill is the second best way to cook asparagus. But a blast furnace is the best way because it completely incinerates those terrible little stalks.
  • Don’t wear a “Kiss the cook” apron while you BBQ unless you want a drunken friend or neighbor to try to.
  • If a cup of hot coffee has to carry a warning label, why doesn’t a grill? And since it doesn’t, how long before somebody files a class action lawsuit claiming they were burned because they didn’t realize grills get so hot?
  • Not everything can be grilled — like pasta, for example. And although this may seem obvious, to 4-year-olds and drunken neighbors it’s not.
  • If a dog is man’s best friend, a grill runs a close second.
  • There is a difference between well-done and burnt, but only to people who like their steaks well-done. To everyone else — especially lovers of blood and pink — they are both the same: a waste of a perfectly good cut of meat.
  • If you’re cooking with gas, it’s important to the light the grill immediately after turning on the gas instead of running inside to get another drink first.
  • It’s also important not to use lighter fluid.
  • Anyone who says “everything tastes better when it’s grilled” clearly hasn’t eaten at my neighbors.
  • Men like to BBQ for the same reason they like to see stuff blow up.
  • There should be a mathematical formula for calculating the increase in LDL given a steak’s price per pound so that anyone with high cholesterol can ignore their doctor’s advice in an informed manner.
  • George Stephen, creator of the Weber Grill, should be sainted.
  • If there is ever another Civil War, it will most likely have something to do with Texas, Alabama and Missouri claiming to have the best BBQ in the America, and all the other states either taking sides or taking offense, except for Wisconsin, which will remain neutral because they have fish boils instead of BBQ.

BABIES IN BARS

Is there anything worse than bringing a baby to a bar?

Judging by all the anger that’s being vented online, this seems to be among the most grievous sins any parent can commit.

But why?

To begin with, it’s more than likely the lonely, bitter, child-hating singles who seem to be so put out by this are in the minority, and that the majority of bar-patrons either don’t care, or accept the fact that there’s really no getting around the situation because babies need to be with their parents and their parents need to relax and have a few drinks before they completely lose their minds.

(Though I might be more than a little biased about that.)

On the other hand, if the baby-haters are in the majority, then… well… at least they’re in a bar where they can just order another round to numb their senses, right?

But forget that for the moment.

It seems like the primary objection to babies in bars is that they do a lot of things that ruin it for everyone else.

Maybe that’s true, but is a suckling newborn any more off-putting or “obscene” than two semi-intoxicated singles groping each other in a back corner of the bar that’s not nearly as dim as they think it is?

If spit-up is the problem, it’s important to keep in mind that when babies do that — whether in the car, or in a bar, or in a country called Myanmar  (sorry, too much Dr. Seuss) — they usually do it on themselves, their mom or their mom’s childless, single friend who suggested they meet for a drink in the first place.

The same can’t be said for the just-turned-21 winner of the “Let’s see how many shots of Jack Daniels I can do” contest.

(Though he, too, may spit up on mom’s single, childless friend:

JUST-TURNED-21-YEAR-OLD: You ever watch “Cougar Town?”
MOM’S CHILDLESS, SINGLE FRIEND: I do, actually.
JUST-TURNED-21-YEAR-OLD: Me, too. I… I…
MOM’S CHILDLESS, SINGLE FRIEND: You want to come over and watch it with me some time?
JUST-TURNED-21-YEAR-OLD: No, I think I’m gonna be sick. BLA-AAAAA-A-A-TCH.

Think baby spit-up smells bad? It’s nothing compared to the stench of half-digested bar nuts and bourbon.)

So what about drool?

Any two geezers who’ve spent the entire day knocking back $2 PBRs produce a lot more than an infant.

Ditto for diapers, and the whole Huggies vs. Depends thing, too.

Which leaves what? Crying?

Sure, that can be loud, grating and unstoppable, but even a 5-month-old with a bad case of colic can’t compete with the sobs and wails that ring out when those same two semi-intoxicated singles run into each other a few nights later and one claims to have absolutely no memory of the other, let alone the passionate night they spent together where they pledged their mutual love and promised to be soul mates forever.

Conclusion: Baby-haters 0, Babies 1

In fact, maybe more than “1″ when you consider that to singles, a baby in a bar might not just be a reminder that they should enjoy themselves while they can still get out of the house without hiring a sitter, but that they should be careful, too, lest some intoxicated encounter take an intimate turn and they find themselves having to do that way too soon.

Now… if there’s anywhere babies should be banned, it’s coffee houses, because nothing makes every coo, burp, squeal, shriek or sob more irritating than a whole lot of caffeine.

(Note: to be fair, of course, if we ban babies from coffee houses, we should also ban loud talkers, people who yell into their cell phones like they’re stuck in a hurricane, anyone with an iPod who sings along to whatever’s playing through their earbuds, people who push three or four tables together to have a staff meeting, teenagers who spread their textbooks out across all the tables but then sit there and text their friends instead of studying, anyone trying to sell anything, promote anything, or affect any kind of social change, anyone coming from, or going to yoga, because who needs that kind of guilt, politicians, dog walkers who leave their dogs outside, nannies who leave their strollers outside, and, of course, anyone trying to write anything on a laptop — especially if it’s a post like this.)

Links to the many online articles and rants:

“Babies in Bars”/New York Times Blog

“Babies in Bars”/CNN

“Babies in Bars”/Luke Constantino

“Babies in Bars”/Brownstoner

“Babies in Bars”/New York Blips

“Babies in Bars”/The Nervous Breakdown

“Babies in Bars”/Parent Dish

“Babies in Bars”/Gothamist

“Babies in Bars”/New York Times

TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS? OH, PLEASE

As a parent, time is precious. So how do you make the most of it? Time management experts offer the following advice:

1. Prioritize.
2. Delegate/outsource.
3. Set time limits for tasks.
4. Establish routines and stick to them.
5. Don’t waste time waiting.

At first glance, these suggestions seem simple and straight-forward, but when you actually try to implement them you quickly realize they are better suited to some kind of parallel “self-help dimension” where the laws of time, space and sibling in-fighting don’t apply.

1. Prioritize.

In theory, yes. In practice – forget it.

Take, say, the tasks of treating an injury versus giving a toddler a bath. Typically, bleeding kids come first, unless they’re bleeding because they did the thing you told them not to do five times, in which case the toddler would get the bath. If the bleeding kid is bleeding on furniture, however, then the furniture needs immediate attention.

On the other hand, if there’s only a little bleeding and it’s not on any furniture, then that might not be as important as preventing the toddler from trying to bathe himself.

2. Delegate/outsource.

Which means what? Parents are supposed to ship their kids off to India to get help with their homework?

3. Set time limits for tasks.

Okay. But what is the appropriate time limit for a temper tantrum? And if getting everybody ready in the morning takes 15 minutes longer than whatever amount of time you set aside – whether it’s 40 minutes or two hours – how are you supposed to limit that? Or if you make reservations for that one night out a year you get a leisurely three hours to eat, what happens when the babysitter is 20 minutes late and the restaurant gives up your table?

4. Establish routines and stick to them.

Most parents already do this, but it doesn’t seem to help. For example, a typical morning routine would be telling the kids to get up, get in the shower, get dressed, get some breakfast and get in the car, then repeating this three or four times over the course of 20 minutes before threatening them with some kind of bodily harm if they don’t do all of the above RIGHT THIS MINUTE!

This is followed by the nagging suspicion that something that was supposed to have been done last night wasn’t, and the sudden realization that this “something” was making lunches for all the kids.

Oops.

As there is now not nearly enough time left to do everything and still get off on time, vows that “This will never happen again!” must be shouted so that all in the house can hear, spouses must be silently cursed for not helping, and God must be asked “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?”

5. Don’t waste time waiting.

Clearly this was not written by anyone living in a small house with kids. How else is a parent supposed to get into the bathroom?

From “Why Chicken Nuggets are Better Than Prozac.”

STATISTICS SAY FATHERS BETTER THAN MOTHERS

As this week’s New York Times points out, “Working parents perpetually agonize that they don’t see enough of their children. But a surprising new study finds that mothers and fathers alike are doing a better job than they think, spending far more time with their families than did parents of earlier generations.”

Take that, grandparents.

But if “time spent with kids” is an indicator of overall parenting success, it raises the question: who does a better job? Mothers ? Or fathers?

The answer: fathers.

Because when you compare the amount of time spent with kids today to pre-1995 amounts, fathers are up an impressive 102 percent, while mothers are only up 77 percent.

Sorry moms.

(As with all statistics, there is an alternate interpretation. Click here to see how the same statistics indicate mothers are better than fathers.)

WHAT DOES DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME ACTUALLY SAVE?

GET UP! GET UP! WE OVERSLEPT!

For most families, Daylight Saving Time turns what’s typically a frantic, time-crunched mess of morning activity into a domestic version of roller derby, with everyone throwing elbows and accusations as they scramble to get dressed and get out the door:

RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: You said you were gonna change the clock.
IDIOT: I did.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Then why does it still say 7:40 when it’s really 8:40?
IDIOT: I guess I forgot.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Right — you forgot, so I’m late.
IDIOT: You could have changed it, too.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: I changed all the other clocks!
IDIOT: That’s my point: why didn’t you remind me to change this one while you were changing all the others?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: I did!
IDIOT: Well… I guess I didn’t hear you.

According to wikipedia, Daylight Saving Time, which was standardized across most of the United States in 1967, was primarily intended to reduce energy consumption — the “extra” hour of daylight in the afternoon was supposed to mean fewer lights would have to be on at offices, retailers, restaurants etc.

But when you consider how most people react when the Daylight Saving Time-bomb goes off, it’s more likely that any energy savings will be more than off-set by the increased consumption caused by all the stupid things people do when their sleeping patterns get disrupted.

What’s the net-effect of having to make two extra trips to the grocery store — the first because you accidentally left your list at home, and the second because you accidentally left your kid there?

Or what about having to replace a freezer full of food because just after you opened the door to sneak some ice cream for breakfast, you realized the soccer game you thought was next weekend, wasn’t, but that if you left RIGHT NOW! you might still make it?

Or what about having to run an electric air pump off and on all night because otherwise the slightly-leaky inflatable mattress in the den you’ve been banished to because you said one-too-many mean things to your spouse will deflate?

IDIOT: If you reminded me to change the clock, then why didn’t I change it?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Because you’re an idiot!
IDIOT: Me? If anyone’s an idiot, you are — and not just because of the clock.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Oh, really?
IDIOT: Yes, really. Do you have any idea how many stupid things you do around here on a daily basis?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: No, but why don’t you tell me.

Net energy savings: probably zero

And what happens when you factor in the cost of dealing with all that stress, ill-will and negativity? Therapists — whether for marriage or anger-management — don’t make house calls (and if they do, they don’t make them on bikes).

There are bars for sulking/hiding/venting, of course, but they generally don’t have windows, meaning light (but not illumination) comes only from energy-sucking neon signs.

The gym? Maybe in the old days when free weights and stationary bikes were the norm, but now it seems like every piece of exercise equipment has to be plugged in or it won’t work.

Net energy savings: definitely zero

All of which raises the question: if Daylight Saving Time doesn’t actually save anything, what’s the point?

Perhaps the one good thing about Daylight Saving Time is that between all the extra caffeine it takes to get through the day and the fact that no matter how late the clock says it is, it’s impossible to sleep, everyone affected by it can spend half the night staring at the ceiling trying to figure that out.