The Politics of Chocolate

January 31, 2011

There maybe some very bad news on the horizon for chocolate eaters.

In case you have not heard of the political unrest in Africa’s Ivory Coast, because of the whole Egyptian protest event, I am here to inform you.

Several months ago, the Ivory Coast held elections and a new president was elected. The election has been supported by the international community and the president-elect stands ready to form a new government. So what is the problem? Well,  the old defeated president refuses to give up the keys and leave the palace.

This reluctance to let go of power and wealth happens frequently around the world in countries which  do not have a strong Constitution. Sometimes the street based overthrow leads to a result which we like, as in Berlin in 1989, sometimes it does not,  like in Iran. Who knows how the latest Egyptian eruption or  the Ivory Coast struggle will end.

Be thankful for our own founding fathers, who provided our Constitution and its election formula and process. I hope we will always protect and cherish it.

Fine you say, so what. What has this got to do with me? And what about my chocolate?

Well, the Ivory Coast region produces about 40 percent of the world’s cocoa beans— the basis for chocolate.  If  the supply of  cocoa drops because of this instability in Ivory Coast politics, the price of chocolate will rise.

News of  this possible shortage might have already leaked out, as I have seen evidence of hoarding by dedicated chocolate eaters.

 I think Trudy is buying a few extra tubs of  Haagen Dazs double dutch and Kate was seen stashing Hershey bars in her desk.

Wait, where did I see those Dove bars?


More distracted driving

January 28, 2011

We have all heard about the dangers and problems caused by distracted driving, in particular the problem of texting while at the wheel. Why just yesterday, I was passed by a young woman doing about 75 mph with her left palm on the wheel and a cell phone in her right hand. Her eyes were not on the road.  What could be so important?

But as many of us know, cell phone use is not the only source of distraction.

Traditionally, the classical distractions have been,  kids in the back to be yelled at,  a radio station to be listened to… and a spouse to be argued with.

There are also many more forms of distracted driving  you may not be aware of.  I have just finished a field survey of some of these and would like to share it with you as a service to readers of this space.  I will also  point out some distracted driver behavior to watch out for and avoid.

Dog in lap

This form of distracted driving  usually involves owners of small white miniature  french poodles with pink collers.The dog is in the lap of the driver and is demanding attention. The driver often is feeding the dog treats and adjusting the pink bow. Owners of St. Bernards, German Shepherds and Labs are rarely involved with this type of distracted driving..

Fried chicken eating.

This driver is usually seen leaving a fast food place with chicken leg in hand. Although anything attached to a bone (pork chop, spare rib, turkey wing etc.) qualifies as a distraction, it is usually a piece of chicken which causes greasy hands and steering wheel slippage.

 Eating chili with a spoon is also considered a distraction, however, sipping chili out of a coffee cup is safe and acceptable in most states.


 is definitely a serious form of distracted driving, especially when the car is small and the occupants are large and are eating fried chicken while dancing. You may doubt me here, but this has actually been observed.

Squinting and blinking

This is a Florida form of distraction and is observed most often in salt encrusted cars heading south with barely visible Michigan license plates. The car’s occupants having been deprived of  seeing the sun for several months and are now too engaged in squinting and blinking to be attentive to the road.


You no doubt have experienced this serious situation where the car’s occupant has strung beads around the rear view mirror. The beads could be Mari Gras beads, rosary beads, worry beads or even (and most probably) beads from Wal-Mart. Sometimes more beads are added so the driver has to peer around the ornamental creation to actually see out the window. Watch out for those mini disco dance glitter balls at the end of the beads. They can be blinding, especially when combined with bright sunlight and the dancing and fried chicken distractions. ( see above)

Political bumper stickers

These stickers on the back of a vehicle are a clear indication of driver distraction and obsession with politics. This is especially true if the sticker pertains to an election that has  taken place over two years ago. The driver is often animated in a political discussion with a passenger, the radio or himself.  Steer clear of this driver, especially if you notice him swerving sharply to the right or left.

Be careful out there, and don’t let anything distract you from having a great weekend.


Kristy and the Corndog

January 27, 2011


Last week we were having lunch with Tom and Kristy, and the subject of corn dogs came up. I don’t remember how that happened,  as we were having fish, but all of a sudden we were talking corn dogs–those battered, deep-fried hot dogs on a stick that you see at carnivals and state fairs.

Well, when both Donna and I told Kristy that neither of us had ever had a corn dog she was shocked.

 Her mouth dropped and her eyes blinked.

“Come on”,  she said, ” Everybody has had a corn dog.”

Nope, we assured her, neither of us ever had one.

Well, the next day, Kristy emailed to inform me that the birthplace and culinary Mecca of corn dogs was just a short ninety minutes from St. Louis in Springfield Illinois. Now, that struck me as strange. Not that I cared but, I would have thought the Mecca  was in Nebraska or Iowa because of all the pigs and corn.

Well, I was concerned enough that I might have become some kind of  foodie outcast by not having ever tasted the marriage of two of America’s most popular fun foods.  I have had them both individually on a plate of picnic food, but never joined together.

Yesterday, I asked Trudy, my go to person for many things gastronomic,  if she had ever enjoyed a corn dog.  She said she had never had one either. Neither did Barry.

So now I am thinking, more people have not had corn dogs than have had them.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a good dog now and then. I am a fan of the famous New York street cart “dirty water dogs” with mustard and the onions in that red sauce. (By the way, I know how to make those onions in the red sauce!)

I have also come to like the Chicago style hot dogs piled high with  salad and the neon green, glow in the dark relish. At first, I viewed them as an abomination, but after trying one, I can say they are quite tasty.

They are best enjoyed with a baseball game in front of them. They are however extraordinarily delicious when eaten while the Cardinals are kicking the snot out of the Cubbies.

I have also tried and enjoyed lots of different hotdogs,  from Hawaii’s  “Puka Dog” with pineapple relish to the best the Germans have to offer, that  street cart favorite, the Frankfurter ” Rindswurst”. It is  served naked on little paper plate with a shot of mustard and a little brochen on the side. Very nice.

But, I am afraid the fried  corn dog on a stick is just not my way to roll. I guess I will just keep my corn on its cob and my dogs in their buns.

It always happens

January 26, 2011

Why is it that whenever you plan on something or plan to go somewhere, a problem arises and puts a spanner in the works? Things then go awry and either you must change the plan and fix the problem  or go with it as originally intended and risk the domino effect.

The Domino Effect when attached to Murphy’s Law guarantees that small problems will cascade into big problems and big problems will beget catastrophes.

Just the other day, I had planned to take a trip which would  last a couple of weeks. Just before I was ready to get into the car, I decided to go to the bathroom one last time. Well, as I pulled the lever to flush the toilet,  nothing happened. Again a pull and again nothing.  I decide to take the tank lid off and use my extensive toilet training to get to the root of the problem. A faulty flapper.

Small matter.  I thought should I shut off the water and fix it when I return or wait until the hardware store opens get a new flapper, install it and be on my way.

I chose the latter.

So I made a cup of coffee and had a proper breakfast.

A little after 8 o’clock, I drove to the hardware store. Snow was beginning to fall. They did not have the exact flapper I was looking for, but I found one that looked similar so I bought it. Driving home, I noticed the snow was coming down heavier and beginning to cover the streets.

Arriving at home, I went to the disabled toilet and attempted to install the shiny new flapper. It did not fit. It had a piece of hard plastic in a strange place which prevented it from closing properly. I tried to remove it and the shiny new flapper became two pieces of a shiny new flapper. Off to the hardware store again. More snow coming down. I exchanged flappers and walked to the car to go home. Snow was really coming down now. But that was not the only problem. An elderly man in a Crown Victoria was stuck in the snow in front of me and I could not leave.

I got out of the car and together with Rick from the hardware store we pushed the man free. Getting back into my car, I four-wheeled it home. Big snow now.

I arrived home and was able to install the new, shiny new flapper and it worked as intended. I then looked out the window and the snow was really coming down. The weatherman on the TV said don’t go outside, this is a big one. So I turned out the lights and went back to bed.

Next time I want to go to the bathroom, I will stop at the Texaco station.

The following account appeared in a local eastern Connecticut newspaper:


Car hits pig in Voluntown

by Matt Collette

 A pet pig belonging to a local man escaped injury Saturday after it was struck by a car.
At about 5 p.m. Saturday, Bruce Macphail was trying to catch his pet pig, which had gotten loose and was running west down Route 138, according to a report from State Police in Montville.

At the same time, 20-year-old Jennifer Kehew of Portsmouth, R.I. was driving in the same direction when she struck the pig, damaging one of her headlights.
Kehew was not injured and there were “no apparent injuries to the animal,” wrote the state trooper who investigated the collision. No charges were filed.
I don’t know why this news item struck me so funny, but I laughed out loud as they say.
Maybe it was the remembrance of the local weekly paper I read as a young boy which contained stories with the same worldly impact as this one.
Or maybe it was because of the story’s  misplaced modifier that suggested the pig had headlights.
Anyway, it is good to know that no charges were filed and the pig was OK.
I think the world could use a few more stories like this to lighten up the day.
Late follow-up on the mink coat and the three days of the underwear story of last week.
It was reported by WCCO tv that the $6500 coat in question after being “process” for evidence by the police, was returned to the store.
The store manager said because of the “poor” condition of the coat it had to be disposed of.

The Blob

January 23, 2011

In 1958, there was a movie entitled, ” The Blob”.  As a Saturday afternoon  scare flick, it featured among other things,  Steve McQueen in his movie debut. It was low-budget teenage movie that included an oozy creature from outer space— The Blob. See the link for descriptive trailer.

Well now we have a real blob to see on the biggest screen of all. It is not located  in Pennsylvania like the movie, but several hundred million light years away from earth.

This real blob even has a name, it is called Hanny’s Voorwerp after its  discoverer, a dutch school teacher named Hanny van Arkel. Voorwerp is the dutch word for object.  

Recently, the Hubble Space Telescope got its first look  at the mysterious giant green blob in outer space and found that it’s strangely alive. Its ALIVE!

The weird glowing blob is producing new stars  in remote areas of the universe where stars don’t normally form. Parts of the green blob are collapsing and the resulting pressure from that is creating the stars.

According to NASA, the blob is  650 million light years away and is the size of our own galaxy.

Now in 1958, I saw the movie in the old Regent theater in Bayshore one saturday. The show cost 35 cents and I think it both scared and amused ten-year old me.   Being able to see  Hanny’s Voorwerk up close through Hubble has cost billions more and  it leaves me in awe and wonder.

So many questions.

Not nearly enough answers.

The Royals

January 21, 2011

After reading today’s edition, you may say to yourself,  why is he going on about this?  Has he become a subscriber to Bride magazine? Maybe he bought into the whole bridezilla thing.   OK, while  I have had the honor of attending two weddings in recent months, and  I am somewhat familiar with the process, I have not gone bridal.

No, the answer is simple.  As an egalatarian, I believe  the Royal Family’s position and lifestyle  is irrelevant to modern life. It  is unnecessary and is a burden maintained on the backs of  the british “subjects.”  To me “The Royals” are in the same overblown category as hollywood celebrities, pompous government officials and potentates.


I guess it is because I have lived in some British Commonwealth countries and occasionally listen to the BBC, that I seem to notice stories about the Royals with some decided yankee amusement. You could say I even was an audience for the Queen back in 1978 in Sydney, Australia.

She arrived in town on her round the world sail on the beautiful royal yacht, “Britannia.” It was on a saturday so we all went down to Circular Quay and watched her Rolls Royce being off loaded and then she rode past thousands of cheering Australians and me. I put Aimee on my shoulders so she could see the Queen, but she was more interested in the ice cream stand she saw across the street.

I have to say, along with Aimee,  I was more interested in the ice cream too.  I think the whole royal family setup is an anachronism and irrelevant in this 21st century world.

Anyway, lately, all this folderol about the upcoming wedding of the Queen’s grandson, Prince William to  Kate Middleton has been causing consternation at Buckingham Palace and mirth in me. It seems the Queen has very specific ideas about what she wants in a traditional royal wedding while the young and betrothed are a lot more casual about their nuptials.

So far there has been tension over the selection of the bride’s dress designer, and the method of transport Kate will take to the ceremony; the Queen wants an open horse-drawn carriage while Kate prefers a car. The arguments have gotten  downright silly with the Queen saying the carriage would be more “environmentally friendly.” As if the Royals lifestyle reflected concern for the environment.

Now the latest row is over how the traditional breakfast reception will be conducted. The Queen wants a lavish sitdown affair while Prince William likes the casual buffet idea. The Queen hates buffets. When Prince Edward organized a buffet reception after his own wedding in 1999, the Queen ordered a sitdown dinner be served to herself, Prince Philip and the Queen Mum (RIP).

Most royal watchers are betting that in the end, the Queen will have her way and William and Kate will bow to their Sovereign’s wishes.

After all, she is paying for the wedding with her own hard-earned money.

Have a good weekend.