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Friday, August 26, 2016



     National Doughnut Day was June third this year, and if you missed it there is probably a hole in your life. I assumed that this holiday was created by doughnut makers, or by greeting-card companies to tug on the heartstrings of people who wish to send a loving sentiment to their favorite doughnut. But actually, it commemorates Salvation Army volunteers who went to France during World War I to pass out doughnuts to American troops serving there.

     It was first recognized in 1938 in Chicago as a fundraiser during the Depression. Doughnuts can temporarily cure depression, in case you haven't noticed. These days many franchises offer free doughnuts to celebrate.

     My wife is so addicted to Dunkin' Donuts coffee that she can sense the location of any franchise in any town, and drive to it automatically. When I tell her that we just had coffee already, she looks at me with disdain and suspicion, as if I just turned state's evidence against her.

      Some people observed this holiday by taking selfies with their doughnuts. Cuties on the internet were snapped gleefully holding up their little friends, with a bite missing. There are those who will take a picture of themselves just about anywhere, but you look a little lonely if your companion is a doughnut. It kind of looks like you went on a trip together. "Here I am at the Grand Canyon with my new doughnut! After this we're heading to Vegas!"

     I don't eat a whole lot of doughnuts, but I like them even though they contain so many "empty" calories. By empty calories I mean any calories that aren't filled by chocolate candy. You could probably lose weight on a diet of doughnuts because of the hole in the middle- how many dessert foods are half full of air?

     I have seen swim floats shaped like doughnuts, and who knows- they have probably averted drownings. Every National Doughnut Day, people are browbeaten into telling the story about how their life was saved by a giant doughnut. Those are the ones who hide in the closet the first Friday of every June.

     Why do some people call them donuts instead of doughnuts? I'm not sure, since they actually contain dough, and rarely do they contain nuts. It might be a misguided effort to save time, like writing "thanx" instead of "thanks," which only saves you one letter. If you want to save me time, don't make me wait behind you while you pay for doughnuts using a credit card.

     I'm suspicious about the invention of doughnuts, the same way I'm suspicious of just about everything. For instance, I sometimes believe that Mother Teresa was in it for the publicity. I think that holes were probably put into doughnuts as a way to save manufacturers money. Companies are always playing this cat-and-mouse game with us: They figure out a way to save themselves a few billion dollars, and then try to pass it off as a product improvement. Take my underwear, for example, and I realize that's asking a lot. They used to have a tag in the back, so even if it was dark or
during an earthquake I could figure out where the front was by the process of elimination. Now some underpants genius figured out that Hanes could save money by leaving off the tag, and they launched an expensive ad campaign to convince us that those labels were a HUGE inconvenience. And now half the time I'm walking around with my underwear on backwards and inside-out, especially during an earthquake.

Friday, August 19, 2016



     In case you didn't notice because you were stuck in traffic, last week was Memorial Day. Many people seem to forget that long before Memorial Day was all about barbecueing and weekend travel, the holiday was about something much more important: opening your pool. But before THAT, it was about remembering those we lost while they were serving our country in the armed forces. This is a good time to take a silent moment to remember those people and what they stood for.

     It's also a good time to make a contribution to a veteran-related organization, to remember those who actually remember those who have fallen. I did it myself, so I'm not always a cheapskate, just usually.

     Those same veterans and their families have kept America safe for people like us to barbecue on Memorial Day weekend. I'm not in any way suggesting that barbecuing is safe. On the contrary, I don't have any hard data on this, but I'm guessing that during the long weekend, whatever injuries are not caused by people pulling their hair out in traffic are caused by people who mistakenly think they know how to barbecue without harming themselves or innocent people.

     So I'm offering some tips to help start your barbecue season off with a bang that is not caused by a propane tank exploding. I actually prefer an "old-school" fire. You start with a bag of charcoal briquettes, which are made from female briqs. Most people douse the grill and surrounding patio area with lighter fluid, causing a conflagration that can be seen by satellite. My dad had this thing that looked like a cattle branding iron that plugged into the wall and sometimes lit the charcoal if you started it a couple days in advance. It also eventually branded all of us kids. Instead, get yourself a "charcoal chimney," it's safer and odorless, unless you left it near the catbox.

     Avoid serving an undercooked hamburger. You should have a meat thermometer handy to take its temperature. You don't have to take it in the same place my Mom did when I was a kid, but the meat should be heated to at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything much hotter than that and your burger is probably running a fever, and should stay in bed with the TV on.

     By the way, overcooking your burger can result in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the chemical symbol of which looks like a map of downtown Singapore, and can be carcinogenic. Singapore I mean, not the hydrocarbons. Me doing anything well done is rare, so I won't worry about it.

     I know that vegetarians will put up a fuss about how you shouldn't eat red meat, blah, blah, blah. Well that's why you cook it until it's brown. You can clear a small space on the grill for vegetarians to cook their little burgers made from mushrooms or hummus or old Volkswagen parts or whatever they make them out of.

     To show you how dangerous the holiday is in the first place, I was once at a Memorial Day party where fire, parents and children were all in attendance. This is a recipe for disaster, which is something I have several different recipes for. We were all toasting marshmallows, and I noticed this kid wasting a whole lot of time trying to achieve perfection, and I figured I would show him how it should be done. So I grabbed a stick, skewered one of the spongy devils and immediately immolated it.

     After I blew out the flames I presented it to him with such a flourish that it vaulted off the stick and onto his arm, causing probably a second-degree burn. I hope that this kid doesn't go through life with a permanent scar on his arm. And I further hope that if anyone asks him what the scar was from, that he comes up with a better story than that some idiot attacked him with a marshmallow.


Friday, August 12, 2016



     There is a nasty little medical procedure out there, and it's got your name on it. It involves a doctor, and anesthesiologist and a nurse, all conspiring to stick a camera in an inappropriate place and make a reality show out of it. You can try to avoid it for a while, and tell the doctor how busy you are, and that there's a ping-pong tournament coming up, and your sister is going to be in town next month, not necessarily YOUR town, but the doctor is probably not checking on it or anything. And then your wife will chime in helpfully with some available dates, because she is concerned about your health, and because she is always telling you to store things where the sun don't shine anyway.

     We're not talking about an operation or anything, let me stress that. This is a procedure. Anything doctors don't want you to get nervous about they call a procedure, and if you're still nervous, they go ahead and proceed with the procedure anyway.

     My friend refuses to go in for this test. He considers the whole area a one-way traffic zone. He may have even put up a sign. I keep telling him you have to at least consider a yield sign, or maybe a four-way stop sign. And by the way, how come I have to do it if HE doesn't? I would ask my Mom if she were still here, but I'm sure she would come up with some dumb reason like "he doesn't know any better." My Mom always knew better than to not do something I didn't want to do.

     The admitting process at the surgery center has been updated since the last time I was there. They fit you with a paper bracelet- I have my own hashtag! Then they take great delight in scanning you with a bar-code reader at every opportunity. I felt like a bag of potato chips, only with worse cholesterol numbers.

     The nurse subjects you to a battery of questions, like your name, your birthday, nothing involving math. She asks you if you have any allergies, and more questions relating to your medical history. They asked if I had diabetes, and I scored big here- not even ONE diabete.

     Then the anesthesiologist waltzes in and asks the exact same questions, and just for fun, I mix up the answers. He doesn’t even notice. But I feel like he knows a lot of personal information about me, and I know nothing about him. So I ask him some questions: Who was the 27th president? (Taft) What is the capital of North Dakota (Bismarck). He got them both right so it was time to begin.

     I don't remember anything about the transaction since I was out like a light. They told me that as an option, I could remain awake and watch it on the monitor, but I figured I would Tivo it. I woke up 20 minutes later feeling like a new man.

     The things I was saying as I was coming out of anesthesia caused them to want to keep me under observation for a little while longer, but my wife convinced them that I was making more sense than usual.

     Afterwards they tell you not to operate any heavy machinery or make any important decisions. The nurse implied that I personally should NEVER do either of those two things. She said I could make any important decisions that my wife normally lets me make, limited to buttons on the remote control, but nothing involving clothing.

     Strangely, they present you with a contact sheet with color photos of your colon. Even weirder, the photos are wallet-sized. I imagine the ladies at the bridge club comparing them to see who wins the Miss Photogenic award.