Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mish-Mashed Hodgepodge

I couldn't decide on a single topic this week, so you're getting a mish-mashed hodgepodge.

* * *

The Machias Valley News Observer recently noted that the bee population is shrinking. The number of hives is down 35% since 2006.

Bees are sort of necessary for growing various crops. Growing crops is sort of necessary for human beings to continue eating.

Sure, we could freak out and start a huge “save the honeybee” campaign, but first let's look at the big picture.

Fewer bee stings = fewer life-threatening allergic reactions = lower health care costs for all Americans.

Besides, I prefer to see the glass as half full.

We still have a whopping 65% of the bee hives we had two years ago! That's more than enough, as far as I'm concerned, particularly since I haven't noticed my personal self starving recently.

* * *

Speaking of starvation, I learned on public radio that we have a “global food crisis” on our hands.

(Well, not technically OUR hands, since we have nothing to do with it and all our food supplies are 100% secure and infinite. But I have a certain quota of cliches to maintain, here, so please forgive the error in semantics.)

I guess more people in more places have, you know, nothing to eat. Like, there is literally no food. Can you imagine that?

It's gotten so bad that Sam's Club is rationing rice. They won't allow customers to buy more than four bags at a time.

As a responsible global citizen, the first thing I did upon hearing about this crisis was run out to Shop 'n Save and get 17 bags of rice and about $500 worth of other non-perishable groceries to store in a hidden underground vault in my backyard.

* * *

If your favorite meal is pizza and chips, I have great news: Your insurance will probably cover most of the quadruple bypass, even though you are an idiot.

Ha! Just joshing, of course. Obviously, your insurance, if you have any, covers nothing.

Anyway, the actual great news is that someone is circulating a petition online to bring back pizza flavored chips.

According to the author of the petition (some dude named Chris Talavera), the imbeciles at Poore Brothers®, displaying utter ignorance at what constitutes fine cuisine, stopped producing pizza chips four years ago.

More than 1,600 people have signed the petition, which is hosted at I urge you to join them, and help return the perfect junction of cherished cultural icons to their rightful place on the snack shelves at Wal-Mart.

* * *

With Mother's Day zipping toward us like Muhammad Ali's phantom punch, I don't know how to express my gratitude for everything that amazing woman has done for me.

She kissed my boo-boos, put up with my immature foolishness, and kept me clothed, fed, bathed, and sheltered even as I remained ignorant and ungrateful. She kept me in line and put up with all sorts of rambunctious immaturity during my formative years.

And that's just my WIFE. I can't even begin to describe how much my actual mother had to put up with.

So you can see why there's so much pressure to find the right gift.

Wish me luck.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Haven't We Been Over This Before?

The Christian Civic League of Maine is pursuing another anti-gay referendumb. Apparently they think if we vote every year on the same issue, eventually we'll get sick of it and give them what they want.

Before I continue, I should acknowledge that the Christian Civic League does not necessarily represent the views of all Christians, just as the National Organization for Women doesn't represent the views of all women, and people who wear Yankees caps don't represent those who know anything about baseball.

So what I'm about to say is not an attack on Christians or Christianity in general; it's merely an attempt to apply the soothing antibacterial cream of logic to a festering wound of utter foolishness.

From what I've been able to gather, people who oppose gay rights do so on one of two principles.

First, they consider homosexuality a sin. I'm not interested in disputing that, but I wonder why we don't take away the rights of other so-called sinners.

Why are adulterers allowed to get (re)married and have children?

If protecting the sanctity of marriage is the goal, where is the referendum that would prohibit people from getting divorced more than two times?

Should we let gluttons own property? Maybe we should deny slothful people the right to drive cars, or charge extra taxes to those who work on Sundays.

And people who do not honor their fathers and mothers should be executed without trial.

None of these things will ever happen, so clearly people's sinful behavior is not actually enough of a reason to deny them the same rights the rest of us pure folk enjoy.

Which brings me to the second basis I've discovered for anti-gay sentiment: it grosses people out.

Many of us simply have a unpleasant visceral reaction to the idea of homosexual behavior. It makes our skin crawl.

I can totally sympathize. I have the same feelings about obese people.

If I were in charge of this great country of ours, it would be illegal for people who weigh more than 325 pounds to engage in sexual activity of any sort.

As soon as we stop fat people from having sex, I won't have to think about it any more.

Are you grossed out by the idea of your parents having sex? Does the very mention of it make your face contort as if you'd just licked a lemon? No problem! Just remove any guarantee of equal housing or employment opportunities, then watch how fast they turn celibate.

Several people have told me homosexuality is wrong because it's unnatural – sex is meant to lead to reproduction, and homosexual acts do not lead to reproduction.

I could use up the rest of my space here listing off all the heterosexual behaviors that do not lead to reproduction, but I don't think it would be fit for a family-oriented newspaper.

But I can say that if we took rights away from people who engage in those behaviors, the only person left who would be able to do anything would be Barbara Bush, or perhaps Martha Stewart.

So there you have it. There is no logical, legal basis for denying people rights based on who or how they like to copulate.

If I missed one, email me at, and I'd be happy to share your insights next week.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hannaford, Shmannaford

It turns out the label on Hannaford's Butter Flavored Cooking Spray is full of lies. LIES, I tell you!

According to an article on, the spray claims to be “fat free,” but this is only because the serving size is so small that the caloric content per serving rounds to zero.

Most of us would agree that a ¼ second spray of imitation Pam is not sufficient to lubricate mosquito coitus, much less keep your french fries from sticking to the cookie sheet.

In truth, there are 148 grams of fat in this “fat free” cooking spray; it is “100% fat,” according to the article.

I'll stop there. Really, it's just a minor issue, nothing that would indicate any intentional deception. I'm sure company officials will correct it swiftly, if they haven't already.

I only felt the need to mention it because it's the only way to poke barbs at Hannaford without being too aggressive.

I can't, for example, write very much about the fact that Hannaford did not announce its recent credit/debit card security breach until two weeks after it was discovered.

You probably didn't notice or care about the delay, unless you were one of the unfortunate souls whose card was charged in the interim for 48 minutes on 1-900-GOAT-SEX.

The media didn't pay much attention, either, because they know how their bread gets buttered. Hannaford spends gazillions of dollars on TV and print ads in Maine.

One exception, Channel 13 in Portland, apparently kept pressing the company for some answers, apparently pursuing the insane notion that the chain should endure some level of accountability. The station is now paying the price.

According to the Associated Press, Hannaford has decided to stop advertising on Channel 13 in Portland because the station's news reporting of the recent credit/debit card security breach was “too aggressive.”

It would be one thing if Channel 13 got the facts wrong, or if they were biased, or if they said something maliciously untrue (i.e. “Hannaford CEO stomps baby squirrels for fun”).

But “too aggressive?” Come on.

Just to be clear, I'm not being “aggressive” here; I'm just pointing it out as a comparison to show that the whole cooking spray fiasco is not that big of a deal. You know, in case you were all wound up about it.

At any rate, Hannaford is free to spend it's advertising dollars wherever it wants, of course, just as I am free to spend my grocery money wherever I want.

When it comes to groceries, I am fortunate to have three options where I live.

I can go to Wal-Mart, which has lower prices because it is a retail juggernaut that subsists on absurdly-negotiated tax breaks and other forms of corporate welfare.

Or I can support the Hannaford, which is based in Maine and does not sell nearly as much random crap made or harvested by child slaves.

My third option is to forage for nuts and berries in the wilderness and occasionally gnaw bark off dying cedar trees. Or, even worse, go to the local Farmer's Market.

Until recently, I was happy to shop at Hannaford for everything, from dog food (pepperoni sticks and organic garlic) to personal hygiene items (pepperoni sticks and organic garlic).

I'll probably continue to do so, but I have a feeling some soup cans are going to get turned so the label no longer faces outward.

I hope that's not too “aggressive.”

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Swipe That Grin Off Your Face!

When I tell people I used to be a telemarketer, they treat me like I'm some kind of reformed convict, perhaps an ex-child pornographer or lawyer.

“How did you live with yourself?” is a typical question I'm asked.

More sympathetic types have been known to say, “It took a lot of courage to admit your shame.”

Sometimes I hear, “you appear to have moved on, but your soul remains tainted with the putrid blackness of unmitigated corporate greed. Be gone, vile monster!”

Truth be told, I do feel a slight pang of guilt from the two months I spent trying to sell little pieces of plastic to people who would most likely use them to financially ruin themselves.

So I'd like to redeem myself a little by offering come credit advice, particularly for young people.

When I walked on campus at the University of Maine for the first time as an 18-year old, the first thing that was handed to me was a credit card application.

I wasn't sure what to put under “household income,” so I added up my income with everyone else who was living with me at the time (five roommates), plus all their parents (since they were helping out with bills).

A couple of weeks later I received a Gold Card, which I thought was a pretty big deal. I went around suavely charging things to my Gold Card, giving cashiers a sophisticated nod every time I conspicuously pulled it from my wallet.

Sometimes I would proclaim, louder than necessary, “I think I will charge this to my... Gold Card.”

I found out later that the Gold Card is actually not very prestigious. I might as well have been carrying around a Dirt Card.

I didn't know about the Platinum Card, the Platinum Plus Card, the Premium Platinum-Titanium Card with Extreme Sheen, etc.

So my first bit of advice is to not look at your credit card as a symbol of prestige. It is merely a tool for borrowing money in a manner that could potentially crush your spirit.

I've been fortunate. I still have my Gold Card, and I use it all the time. Here are some other tips on how to maintain a credit card account in good standing (“good standing” is defined as “not many people with weapons torturing your relatives in order to learn your whereabouts”):

- Be sure to get a “fixed” interest rate. A lot of credit card companies will try to lure you in with a low interest rate, such as zero percent. Then, once you've had the card for a few hours, they jack up the rate to about 45 percent. Of course, if you...

- Pay off your full balance every month, you never have to worry about interest rates. In order to do this, you may need to occasionally sell limbs. But it will be easier if you...

- Keep your credit limit low, no matter how badly the bank wants to raise it for you because you are a “valued account holder.”

This will help you control your own spending, and limit any damage that could be done if someone else got hold of your card and tried to use it to fund a war or something.

If it's too late, and you already have an unmanageable balance on your credit card, don't worry. I would be happy to help you out with a balance transfer. I can offer you an introductory 0% APR for the first six months, and then...