Archive for the 'Wackaloonacy' category

Thoughts from the Front Lines

Feb 04 2016 Published by under Wackaloonacy

Clean-Up Guide

Remember, no matter what you must clean up, you have earned that drink or candy or other treat. Enjoy!

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My Privilege Triggered TSA Action

Nov 25 2015 Published by under Travel, Wackaloonacy

Drugmonkey has a series of vignettes he uses to launch a discussion of privilege and disparities in NIH funding. The first of these reminded me of a recent event in my own life. Briefly, it involves a guy with TSA PreCheck status who gets a secondary bag search and the dude is SO INCONVENIENCED.

If you fly more than occasionally, the TSA PreCheck rocks. You take your passport to a center where you get photographed and fingerprinted. After a background check, you are assigned a known traveler number that you enter when you book an airline ticket. The security line is generally shorter. You pass through a metal detector instead of the scanner. You still run your bags through the x-ray machine, but you can leave laptops and CPAP machines in your case, as well as your bag of tiny liquids. You still only carry on 3.1 oz bottles in a sandwich baggie, but you don't have to dig everything out and repack. You can also leave on your shoes, unless they set off a metal detector. I would like to thank Tory Burch for putting so much metal in the logo on my ballet flats that I still get to wander through barefoot. All things considered, my PreCheck status is well-worth the $85 I paid for 5 years of facilitated screening. For my travels, that works out to less than $1.50 per security screen.

This last return trip, my purse got a secondary search. They had looked at its x-ray for a long time, so I knew something had piqued their curiosity, but I had no idea what it might be. I had added nothing since my uneventful screening en route to Baltimore.

Here is the culprit:

Expensive but gorgeous; click to Sephora

Expensive but gorgeous; click to Sephora

Apparently they had not seen Louboutin's lovely lipstick before. It costs enough and it's new enough to make it scarce in the TSA world (it's clearly a symbol of my socioeconomic status and privilege). They handed it to me and had me show them how it worked.

I am glad that they take screening duties seriously, even though I am sure they felt a little silly making a fuss about a lipstick. The whole thing was pretty hilarious to me, and it barely slowed me down. Finally, I'm so grateful to not unpack laptop, liquids, and that damn CPAP machine that I can handle occasional nonsense like this event.

I hope the people Drugmonkey documents can learn a lesson from their experiences although I doubt that it happens. If you have not read his post yet, what are you waiting for? I'll even put the link here again, just in case scrolling up to the first paragraph is too inconvenient.

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Things That Make You Think

Apr 19 2015 Published by under Wackaloonacy

On my way to the hospital today, I heard the Top 40 Hits of this week in 1973. For you youngsters, the Top 40 involved the sales of small vinyl records with 1 song you wanted on one side and something completely random on the other. These small discs turned at 45 revolutions per minute and were often called 45's or singles. Based on sales, they ranked the top songs in the US.

Somewhere in the middle of the pack was the song, Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road :

This begs two questions:

  1. Why would anyone write this song?
  2. How did it make the Top 40?

Thanks to the power of the internet (and Wikipedia), we can answer question 1:

The lyrics describe a dead skunk in the middle of a busy road and the smell it produces for pedestrians. Wainwright said the song was an accident, written in 15 minutes

Question 2 may forever remain a mystery, although I feel it must be a testimony to the economic power of 12-15 year-old boys at the time.

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Christmas Lyrics That Make Me Giggle

Dec 24 2014 Published by under Wackaloonacy

The Carpenters, a 1970s sibling duo, are the only ones I know that covered this song, Merry Christmas Darling (full lyrics here). The following lines always crack me up:

Logs on the fire
Fill me with desire

Read more: The Carpenters - Merry Christmas Darling Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Yeah, wood can do that...

Here's the story of the song:

Richard Carpenter composed the music for this song in 1966 when he was 19 years old. Frank Pooler wrote the lyrics twenty years earlier, in 1946, when he also was only 19 years old. The song Pooler had written was to be a Christmas gift for his girlriend, whom he was missing while being away from her during a visit with his parents at Christmas time. However, their relationship ended before he could present it to her.

Twenty years later, Pooler was the choir director at California State University in Long Beach, when both Karen and Richard Carpenter were members of the choir. Richard and Karen were performing locally and had tired of playing the usual Christmas fare. Richard asked Pooler, their favorite professor, if he had any ideas for different Christmas songs.

Pooler remembered the Christmas song he had written many years before and mentioned it to Richard, adding that he didn't think much of the melody anymore. Richard said he would try his hand at writing new music for the lyrics. Within about 15 minutes he was finished creating a song, written by two teenagers who were a generation apart, that was destined to become a Christmas classic.

The song was first released as a single (yes, a 45) on November 20,1970, and earned gold record status. This song sparked the idea of a Christmas album by The Carpenters, and on October 13, 1978, "Christmas Portrait" was released with this newly recorded version of the song. Karen re-recorded her vocals for the album version as she felt that she could give the vocals a more mature treatment. This newly recorded version was presented on their TV Christmas special in 1978, as seen here, and became a hit all over again.

And here is Karen Carpenter performing it in their Christmas special:

Happy Holidays to everyone, and as many logs as you desire...

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Is This Right?

Sep 09 2014 Published by under Wackaloonacy

Today a new book from Dr. Seuss will hit the stores featuring stories from magazines 60 years ago.

Working in pediatrics, Dr. Seuss inspires a lot of stuff around me. Some of our junior artists based their work on his characters as shown below:



It took me a minute to realize that this is an articulated puppet; that string makes the arms and legs move when it's not mounted under glass.

I must admit my first thought was why on earth the Cat in the Hat needed a tampon...

I think I would have tucked the string behind the puppet before framing.

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When I Am Inaugurated: Poetry by @waitwait

Apr 25 2014 Published by under Wackaloonacy

Today, in honor of poetry month (who knew?), I listened to a number of poet interviews on Fresh Air. Many were poet laureates for various states, and a couple had read their work at presidential inaugurations.

I have no plans to run for office. My politics run too far left for a career in Oklahoma. But if it should miraculously come to pass, I would insist on limericks, the only non-Shakespearian poetry I really appreciate, at my ceremony*. I would hire the folks from Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me to write the verse and get Carl Kasell to read the lines.

That's my platform. By November 2016, I may look like a viable candidate based on this proposal alone...


*Of course, if someone figures out how to bring the Bard back to life, I would also feature Words by Will in iambic pentameter!

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Auditory Double Takes

Nov 22 2013 Published by under Wackaloonacy

This week, on a number of occasions, folks around me have talked about tweaking something:


 verb ˈtwēk

: to change (something) slightly in order to improve it : to make small adjustments to (something)

: to injure (a part of your body) slightly

: to pinch and pull (something) with a sudden movement

Yes, we do need to tweak the site.

Unfortunately, I keep hearing "twerk" instead. I guess there are those who would like to twerk the website, but it did give me pause.

Have a good weekend, and try not to twerk anything you really want to tweak!

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A Most Formal Thing

Oct 31 2013 Published by under Wackaloonacy

Yesterday a story in Jezebel about Queen Charlotte's Ball triggered some memories. I grew up in a city with two country clubs, and several of my friends were "presented" at 16. The country club dances always featured good bands. I believe Lisa Birnbach, in The Official Preppy Handbook, described the debutante ball as an excuse for a girl to dress like royalty without ending up married at the end of the day. Good times happened at these dances, and I always enjoyed attending.

When I worked at Saint Louis University, our internal grant mechanism was named for the Fleur-de-Lis Ball which generated the funds for it. One year, I attended at the table of the director of our research institute. It is the only white-tie event I have ever experienced.

Captain Von Trapp shows us White Tie.
Click for source

White tie? Remember the ball scene in The Sound of Music? Look to the right if you do not. White ties includes not just the tuxedo with tails, but also white gloves for the dudes! Women had to be in floor-length gowns with long sleeves or long gloves to cover the elbows. My husband went to the local rental place. All he had to say was the name of the ball and they had what he needed ready, including gloves. I headed to the mall and found a black and gold dress with long sleeves so I could forgo the gloves.

The night of the big event, we dressed and showed our children how well we cleaned up. My daughter loved the golden sparkles in my gown, and she asked what the party would be like. I explained the general concept of a debutante ball. Her take - "That's the silliest thing I've ever heard of."

Now, this ball had some rules. It was a good Roman Catholic party, so we literally  could wander no farther than 20 or 30 feet from a bar all night. They would also serve no food until after all the debutantes had been presented. We were lucky; only 16 young women debuted our year, so the first course came about 10 pm. A couple of years earlier more than 30 debs meant dinner started after midnight.

The balls I attended in high school involved proud fathers bringing a sweet-sixteen-year-old daughter down a runway, an announcement of the names of the girl and her parents, and then some photos while the rest of us relaxed before the band resumed. The Fleur-de-Lis Ball presented daughters during winter break of their first year of college. If the purpose of presenting the young women is to announce their availability for marriage, then I approve of the older age. Even in the Ozarks where I grew up, we were not rushing from high school graduation to the justice of the peace.

These young women were presented not just to society, but to the Bishop. Yup, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Saint Louis took to the stage with all the pomp involved in his presence. He gave a way-too-long talk about "the gift of femininity" and "feminine values".  Counting the number of times he used some variation of the word "feminine" provided a great deal of entertainment, especially among the patrons who had spent the most time close to the bar. Eyerolls flew around our table. The fathers walked their daughters down a runway where the women knelt before the Bishop and received a blessing. He did not say be fruitful and multiply, but that was the clear message. After all were presented, the band provided a fanfare, and the dates of the women ran onstage to rescue them from their fathers. The ball then proceeded like most dinner dances, other than all the men-folk wearing white gloves on the dance floor.

Yes, we literally watched the "virgins" being presented to the local head of the church and blessed for marriage or whatever.

Later I visited the facilities which included a large, luxurious lounge before you entered the actual bathroom. I giggled when I saw the debutantes lounging about with their shoes off, drinking Budweiser out of longneck bottles, and generally acting like college students.

That was my final debutante ball experience, and likely the only white tie event I will attend. Getting decked out for an evening can be fun, but the whole debutante concept seems quaint at best. Frankly, I think my daughter nailed it.

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Goodbye, Gummi King

Oct 16 2013 Published by under etc, Wackaloonacy

The headline says it all:


Click to read story in Forbes

See, Gummi bears lived in my home for years. My son named them as his favorite food for senior baseball trivia night. He even designed his AP Statistics project about the annoying little sugar sculptures. In honor of Herr Reigel's death, I am reposting the story of this project, originally told at my old blogspot place on May 26, 2009. Enjoy.

My son, Tim, plays many roles. The photo shows his debut at third base last Friday. He did field the ground ball and made the out at first.

I'm not going to tell a baseball story tonight. Unlikely as it seems, I'm going to share a story about AP Statistics. Tim is a sophomore, but has always done well at math. The final assignment this year in his stats class was to design a study and perform it. A fair amount of work went into this, and they worked in pairs. Tim and a buddy decided to test whether colors of gummi bears are equally distributed in packages.

Tim is a gummi connoisseur. Gummi bears, worms, fish, and fruit are all fair game, although the gummi bear has the best surface to interior ratio, in his opinion. He even managed to eat these with braces!


First, they had to assure a random sample. Thanks to the internet, they were able to find out that all gummi manufacturers fill their bags randomly. They did some sample size analysis, purchased a sufficient sample size, and then got together during study hall to count their bears. After covering a table in the library with a newspaper, they poured all 4 pounds into the middle in a giant mountain of gummi. As they were dividing it into same-colored piles, the librarian inquired about their project. I believe the exact quote was "No food in the library!"

They finally convinced her that this was a legitimate homework project, and she consented to let them take the table into the hallway outside the library door. They counted up the bears and have now turned in a paper documenting that red gummi bears outnumber the others, while yellow ones are less common. I'm hoping to get a copy of the paper to post because someone out there needs to know this factoid!

OK, so you've finished your research project. Each boy now has 2 pounds of gummi bears... which each proceeded to eat! In ONE DAY. Tim has decided he doesn't need to see a gummi bear anytime soon.

This story was the funniest thing I heard for several days, so I thought I would share. Remember, these are the rewards of having a kid in an AP class!

Gummi Bears Photo: copyright
And lest anyone think that I have gone soft, follow this link to learn to make alcoholic gummi bears!

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It Could Be Worse

Oct 04 2013 Published by under Wackaloonacy

I am off for a week or so to visit my daughter. While there we will pursue a number of offline, IRL activities, often including her boyfriend and his mother. His father will not be there because he is a civilian employee of the military. Right now he is in Afghanistan doing whatever he does for a big bucket of money.

Except he is not.

Click to enlarge

Seems that while the actual military can be considered "essential" and exempted from the shut-down, civilian employees are not. This begs the question of why they are needed in the first place, but I really have no idea what he does, let alone why our forces cannot do it themselves.

What I do know is there is little to do in Afghanistan except the job, and he is not doing that nor getting paid for that right now.

So remember, no matter what wackaloonacy this shut-down sends your way, it could be worse. You could be twiddling your thumbs in a war zone.

If you follow me on twitter, you will likely see some fun photos this week: @PHLane

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