Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Has the Golden Rule become tarnished?

You remember the Golden Rule, right?

No, not the Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Justin Timberlake, Andy Samberg, and Lady Gaga.

I'm talking about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Then again, Justin and Andy may have a point.)

Or maybe you don't remember the Golden Rule.

Or maybe you're a masochist -- or work in customer service at a health insurance company or at the department of motor vehicles. Which, I guess, is pretty much the same thing.

Whatever the case, despite what scientists say about gold not tarnishing, I can't help feeling that the Golden Rule has lost its luster.

And I'm not just talking about awful customer service. Though it always amazes me how clueless or unhelpful or uncaring people who are supposedly in the business of helping customers can be. And these are often the same people you hear complaining about being kept waiting or being given the run around. (Karma much?)

No, I'm talking about basic common courtesy -- like saying please and thank you, responding to phone calls and emails within 24 hours (unless you are on vacation or on a business trip and have no access to email), offering your seat on a bus or on the subway to an elderly or disabled person, giving compliments, praising a job done well or an accomplishment, not showing up late for stuff or texting someone that you'll be late when you are already 15 minutes late.

I get that some people are busy -- and in many cases email and social media and so-called "smart" phones have made things worse not better, bombarding the organizationally challenged with too many inputs. But how long does it take to say please and thank you? How long does it take to reply via email "Hey, got your email. Will respond at length later" -- or just send a quick response? How much effort does it take to say, "That dress looks great on you" or "Great job on that presentation" -- or to make sure you show up on time?

When did we forget or stop caring about the Golden Rule?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

President Obama, Standup Comedian in Chief

In case you missed President Barack Obama's set at last night's White House Correspondents Dinner (aka The Nerd Prom), here you go.

You may not agree with Obama's politics or policies, but the guy knows how to deliver -- a joke.

[Control yourselves Republican readers.]

Among my (and Newt Gingrich's) favorite lines (this totally cracked up the Newtster; Callista tried to laugh, but her face began to crack):
I know Republicans are still sorting out what happened in 2012, but one thing they all agree on is they need to do a better job reaching out to minorities.  And look, call me self-centered, but I can think of one minority they could start with.  (Laughter.)  Hello?  Think of me as a trial run, you know?  (Laughter.)  See how it goes.  (Laughter.)
I also liked his line about proposing a toast -- and it dying in committee.

Among the other big laugh lines, Obama remembering when "when BuzzFeed was just something I did in college around 2:00 a.m." And his response to people pestering him to have a drink with Congressman Mitch McConnell: "Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?" (That line slayed the crowd. Make that Politico Nerd Prom.)

You can read all of President Obama's remarks at the 2013 White House Correspondents Dinner here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tip-toeing thru the tulips

It's tulip time at the New York Botanical Garden! And I just love me some tulips.

There are just over 100 known species of tulip, many of which are currently on display at the Garden.

Here are some of my favorites.

(Place your mouse over the photo to see a brief description of the tulip. To enlarge a photo, click on it. Then use the "back" arrow to return to the post.)

Could it be that spring has come to the Northeast at last?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Keeping up with the Finches

When last we left Mr. and Mrs. Finch, our two little lovebirds, they were keeping watch over their as yet unhatched eggs.

Since that post (from April 12, which I link to above), several of you have asked if the eggs had hatched. So at lunchtime I decided to take a look.


I'm not exactly sure what we are looking at here. (I took the pictures on a step ladder, a few feet away from the nest, zooming in with my camera.) It looks like two or possibly three baby house finches and two or three as yet unhatched eggs.

And do you see how the nest is in the shape of a heart? How sweet is that?! All together now: AAAAW!

Here are the proud parents, Mr. and Mrs. Finch (taken using my Nikon D3100 and 55-200mm lens; the other photo I took with my little Canon PowerShot S95):

And here are our cats, Flora and Felix, who every morning rush to the front door to converse with the finches. (Felix, our black cat, has been trying to convince Mrs. Finch that he is really just a big black finch by hunkering down and doing his best house finch impression. So far Mrs. Finch ain't buyin' it, though she seems way more scared of me than Felix, sitting atop that bush just outside our front door and taunting Felix.)

I will attempt to get another shot in a few days. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's got a good beat and I can dance to it

I enjoy many types of music -- jazz, bluegrass, Brazilian, rock, new wave, country.... But if my iPod is the true judge of the kind of music I like best (at least to drive or exercise to), I love a pop song with a hard-driving beat that makes me want to get up and dance. (I am still broken up about LMFAO's breakup and disappointed with PSY's latest, "Gentlemen," which is no "Gangnam Style.")

My current fave dance tunes? I like the "Remix" by New Kids on the Block (now known as NKOTB, which makes me think of Hoda Kotb, but whatev -- those "kids" are probably closer to her age than the teenager's).

I am also still into "Thrift Shop" sung by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, even though I still cannot figure out what the f**k they are saying (or rapping), except for all the bad words. (WARNING: This video contains a lot of cuss words. But it is still freaking awesome. I also love the canine version.)

Also on our -- the teenager makes the spouse listen to this song all the time when they are driving together -- playlist, "Scream & Shout" by will.i.am featuring Britney Spears.

Now, now rockin' with J-TWO-O and Britney, bitch.

(Re "Scream & Shout," nothing cracks up me and the teenager more than hearing the spouse say "I want to scream and shout and let it out," a la Rex Harrison.)

So what are y'all listening to?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Watch the birdy!

Welcome to the Earth Day edition of Mutual of J-TWO-O's Wild Kingdom!

Today's episode features photographs of birds the teenager and I spotted while on Sanibel Island (I took all the photos), which is a bird- and shell-lovers' paradise.

And now may I direct your attention to --

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! it's a plane!

(Actually it was a bird, specifically a brown pelican. Although it looked amazingly like a pterodactyl.)

Meanwhile, back on the beach....

What you talkin' 'bout, Willets?

Now look at the sky. Now back to me. I'm under an osprey.

Question: So is a bird in the sand...

worth two in the bush?

(Okay, yes, technically, it was a tree. Work with me, people.)

My only egret?

That I could not stay longer on Sanibel Island.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder

Women are, by nature, hard on themselves -- about work, about parenting, and especially about how they look. I just never realized how hard we are on ourselves.

Indeed, I was somewhat shocked to learn that according to a survey sponsored by Dove, only 2 percent of women consider themselves beautiful. (Click on the link to see highlights from "The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report.")

But don't just read the survey highlights. Check out this new video from Dove, titled "Dove Real Beauty Sketches," which has been viewed nearly 9 million times in the last five days.

I just watched it, twice, and still have tears in my eyes.

It also made me angry, because I just knew that someone, or several someones, either directly or indirectly, had made these women feel un-beautiful. Granted, we shouldn't believe everything people tell us. But if your mother tells you you have a big jaw or offers to get you liposuction for your twenty-first birthday (hi Mom!), or a guy tells you you might look cute if you wore more makeup (hi Larry!) or lost 10 or 15 pounds (hi Michael!), and all the women you see on TV or in fashion magazines look nothing like you, you start to feel... un-beautiful. And even if, later in life, you do lose weight, or whatever, it is very hard to counteract years of being told or made to feel less than beautiful.

But I applaud Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty (in 2011 a whopping 4 percent of women surveyed said they considered themselves beautiful, though that was double the number surveyed in 2004) -- and I love their new tagline, "You are more beautiful than you think."

UPDATED 4/20/13: It was really only a matter of time until a parody emerged*. Herewith, "Dove Real Beauty Sketches -- Men."

"Don't forget, men: YOU aren't as beautiful as you think!"

*Though from personal experience, this video is dead on.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Holy ship!

If you needed more proof that the Mad Men days of advertising are long gone and that commercials are now being created by a bunch of adolescent-minded males, check out this new ad from Kmart titled "Ship My Pants."

In case you were distracted by all the ship that was going down, Kmart is advertising its new shipping service, which allows customers to ship their pants (or bed or nightgown) -- for free.

Many are calling the new ad silly or stupid. Others think it's funny bordering on brilliant.

What do you think?

(Frankly, I don't give a ship.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The beer your beer could taste like?

For those of you who have ever wondered what happened to beloved Old Spice pitch man Isaiah Mustafa, he is now shilling for Maccabee Beer. (Though sadly, fully dressed -- and not on a horse.)

["Look at your beer, now back to me."]

Never heard of Maccabee Beer? Me neither. Until now. But in addition to being tasty -- make that tasty tasty -- it is a pale, pilsner-style lager made and sold in Israel and also distributed in the United States.

Tasty as Maccabee Beer may be, though, the spouse and I are sticking with Newcastle Brown Ale... for now (even though it received lower marks from Beer Advocate than Maccabee Beer).

So what beers (or lagers or ales) do you find tasty?

Friday, April 12, 2013

The love birds are back!

Welcome to another edition of Mutual of J-TWO-O's Wild Kingdom!

In addition to the deer that regularly graze at our all-you-can-eat salad bar (also known as our backyard), we have a pair of little birds that every spring decide to make their nest on top of our front porch light. I don't know if it is the same two birds or not, but every year there is a new nest in the exact same spot, just outside our front door, on top of our porch light.

This fall, we replaced the light -- but that did not deter our feathered friends. Sure enough, sometime in March, they returned.

I have been watching the pair for weeks now (as have our two cats), and yesterday after lunch I could not resist taking a peak inside the nest, making sure not to get too close.

And here is what I spied.

Eggs! At least three of them. And such a pretty blue-green color! (Though they seemed awfully large to be made by such a little bird.)

I also did a little research and am 99% certain that our nesting pair (pictured below) are House Finches. (Which would make sense as they are nesting on our house.)

[I tried to get a photograph of the two love birds together, but they were most uncooperative.]

Could it be that spring has finally come to the Northeast? (Though it is rainy and in the 40s here today. Ugh.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why I'm rooting for Tiger at the Masters

What a difference two years makes in our celebrity-and-infidelity-obsessed world.

At the 2010 Masters Tournament, a lot of people were hoping serial adulterer Tiger Woods would fail -- as punishment for his off-the-golf-course sins.

Now, two years later, many folks -- and not just the folks at CBS and ESPN, which is airing the Masters in 3D* -- are rooting for Tiger to win the Masters, or at least make things interesting. And I am one of them, just as I was two years ago.

Why am I rooting for Tiger Woods to make the cut -- and make a run for the green jacket? Because I like to watch Tiger Woods play golf. Golf tournaments are just more fun to watch when Tiger is in the hunt. Just as basketball was more fun to watch when Michael Jordan played. Because it is human nature to admire those who can do things we can only dream of doing.

Did Tiger Woods screw up in his personal life? Absolutely.

Did he disappoint fans? You bet.

Does winning take care of everything**?  Pretty much. At least when it comes to sports. (Though it depends on what you mean by everything.)

So does that mean that if Woods wins the Masters people should once again treat him like some kind of hero? Hell no! (Unless he starts rescuing people from burning buildings or getting adorable kittens out of trees.)

Indeed, if anything, we need to stop treating athletes -- and actors and musicians and rich people -- like gods or heroes to be blindly worshiped and just admire them for their accomplishments and skills. And realize that despite their great gift(s), they are still human -- and bound to make mistakes.

Now go get 'em, Tiger!

*3D coverage? Really? How is that going to work? You sending people 3D glasses? Cause I didn't get mine.

** That's the controversial quote that appeared on a Nike ad featuring Tiger Woods, just after Woods reclaimed his World #1 ranking in golf a couple of weeks ago.

UPDATED 6:53 P.M. ET: Tiger finished the first round two under par (-2) at 70 and is six strokes behind the leaders, Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman. Phil Mickelson finished one under (-1) and Rory McIlroy at even par (72). (You can check out the Masters Tournament Leaderboard here.)  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Journalists get hard-on over new penis study

[Alternate title: Note to scientists: It's not about the penis.]

So on Monday, news outlets everywhere got a hard-on about a new Australian study that seemingly confirmed that women find a bigger penis more attractive. (I particularly liked this piece from Science titled "The Final Word on Penis Size?" because, you know, it made it sound all scientific.)

But what the study, titled "Penis size interacts with body shape and height to influence male attractiveness," really revealed is that women, when faced with images of three faceless, computer-generated naked guys, one of whom was short and paunchy with man boobs, another of whom was average size, had a paunch and looked out of shape, and a third who looked like an Olympic athlete and, oh yes, happened to have a longer penis, the chicks rated the third guy more attractive. I know! SHOCKING.

[Australian tax dollars hard at work.]

Indeed, per the Science article (and the study)
...penis size isn't the only thing that matters. It interacts with other traits [like wallet size*], and its effect depends on whether those other traits are already attractive to begin with. If one of the model men was tall and had a masculine, V-shaped torso with broad shoulders and narrower hips, for example, he was considered more attractive than his shorter, stockier counterparts, regardless of penis size.
No, really? Again, let me say, thanks scientists for figuring that out for us. Geez.

What I did find surprising (and amusing) was that the four male scientists who conducted this study (for their own personal edification?) found it, and I quote, "surprising" that if a guy was tall and well built, penis size didn't really make a difference (unless he had a cocktail-size weenie.)

You know what I find attractive? A guy with a big... smile, a big heart, and a big brain.

*Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

You really think we're that shallow?

I like those amusing Progressive Insurance ads featuring Flo just as much as the next person. But I found this ad, titled "Choices," which I've been seeing a lot of lately (mainly during ball games and on The Weather Channel), sexist -- and offensive.

Do you really think we forty-something women are that shallow, guys, that when given the choice, we'll just automatically go for whatever it is the (preferably shirtless) cute, hunky guy is selling? (Also, why do we always look like frazzled housewives or else naughty librarians in these types of ads?)

Apparently, the answer is "YES!"


Memo to Sauza Tequila: No, I have never wanted to make it with a lifeguard -- or without one. (That Sauza-Rita sounds DISGUSTING. Ew. Also, that lifeguard? He's also -- DUM DUM DUM -- the Kraft Zesty Italian Guy. Double ew. You want to pander to my baser desires, Sauza? Bring back the intelligent fireman -- and don't forget the kitten.)

I know I asked this the other day, but what is with Madison Avenue and all the chick porn ads the last year?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Looking for something yummy for dinner?

This month, the teenager started her own food blog. The blog is called Yes to Yummy, and it chronicles her adventures in cooking healthy gourmet meals -- that are sugar- and wheat/gluten-free, as well as free of processed foodstuffs*, but full of flavor.

Here's a screenshot of one of her recent blog posts, titled "Baaad to the Boneless":

You can find out why and how she decided to change her diet, lost 30 pounds in six months, and became a gourmet chef (she cooks all of our dinners, which I'd put up against almost any restaurant chef's** -- and sometimes other meals, too) on her About Me page. (Spoiler: She didn't have any food allergies or gastrointestinal issues. She was overweight, though not fat, but we never told her to go on a diet -- just to eat in moderation, i.e., measure out what a portion or a single serving really was. Changing her diet, mainly kicking out sugar, wheat, and processed food, was all her idea -- and had to do with wanting to feel and look better.)

She also has a Yes to Yummy Facebook page, which the spouse and I have already "Liked" -- and the teenager would appreciate other people liking too. (Hint.)

So, if you are looking for delicious and nutritious dinner menus -- that happen to be wheat/gluten- and sugar-free -- check out Yes to Yummy!

Note: She plans on posting a different healthy meal every day -- and will also feature sweet (healthy) treats in the coming weeks. So be sure to follow her!

*All of our meat and poultry comes from a wonderful local butcher that only sells organic, free-range, grass-fed meat raised less than 150 miles away. We also buy our milk, eggs, and cheese from a local environmentally responsible farm. And most of the vegetables we eat are locally grown -- and/or are organic, not because organic food is better for you but because we don't want to ingest pesticides.

**And I'm not just saying that because I'm a proud Jewish mother. Though your son should be so lucky to find a nice girl like my daughter who can cook him nice, healthy meals -- and smart too. And would it kill you to click on her blog? You look like you could lose a few pounds. Not that you heard it from me. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Take the time to smell the orchids

This past weekend, the spouse, the teenager, and I went to The Orchid Show at the the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, which runs through April 22.

What a great way to spend a spring day!

Here are some of my favorite photographs from our outing.

(Note: If any of you know what species of orchid each of these are -- maybe some nice person at the New York Botanical Garden? -- please let me know! I know the third shot is some kind of Lady Slipper Orchid, and I think the ones with the spotted "tongues" are Cymbidiums. But with over 20,000 species of Orchidaceae, and surrounded by a crowd of fellow orchid lovers, all trying to take pictures, it was kind of hard to see or remember all the names.)

And the elusive Felis catus, spotted on Arthur Avenue. (The teenager wanted an espresso.)

For those of you who live in or near New York City, or will be visiting in the next few weeks, I highly recommend you go to The Orchid Show.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Would you buy this ____ from this sexy shirtless guy?

There seems to be a trend of sexy guys selling food (and booze) -- without a shirt on. Not that I'm complaining mind you. I could watch this ad for Sauza Tequila, titled "Make it with a fireman," over and over and over...

And it's not just booze I'm talking about. Companies -- and bloggers -- are using half-naked dudes to promote all sorts of stuff, like how to ice (or frost) a cake....

(The top demographic for that video? Men aged 45 to 54.)

While to a certain extent I get the whole using-cute-guy-without-a-shirt-to-sell-booze-and-sweet-treats thing, I'm a little at a loss to explain the thinking behind this commercial from Kraft Dressing, which features a hunky guy selling Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing -- without a shirt on.

[H/T to friend of the blog VB, aka Anonymous, for sending me that.]

So, ladies, you feeling all... zesty? (Personally, I'd rather make it with the fireman. Also, I just can't get that excited about salad dressing, even if you can use it on anything.)

Can one of you people who works in Marketing or Advertising enlighten me? Does seeing a good-looking guy, especially one without a shirt, promoting a product really get people to buy that product? How many horny housewives (and freelance writers) and gay guys are there? (And for the record, that bottle of Sauza Tequila was a gift.)

UPDATED 4/8/13: OMG, I do not believe it! Mr. Zesty Italian Dressing is cheating on Kraft with Sauza Tequila! (And is it me, or did Mr. Zesty Italian get a whole lot nakeder and beefier?)

Sigh. Keep your shirt on, buddy. I'd rather make it with that fireman.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Thoughts on Opening Day (Baseball Haiku)

In honor of Opening Day 2013, I have composed the following baseball haiku. I invite all of you to submit your own baseball haiku (or thoughts on the 2013 season), in the Comments section.

On opening day
Every team has a chance
Even the Astros

That's a lot of games to play
Six months of baseball

Ya gotta believe
That's what they tell us Mets fans
Maybe next year, sigh

So long Santana
It was fun watching you pitch
Mets lose another

Will the Nationals
Get to the playoffs again?
Nats fans sure think so

The Los Angeles
Angels of Anaheim, yikes
That is a mouthful

So, how's that A-Rod
contract working out for
all you Yankees fans?

Hey Red Sox Nation,
Think you stand a chance this year?
AL East is tough

American League
Time to retire the DH
Not going to happen

Who do you root for?
Yankees, Red Sox, Nats?
May the best team win

Play ball!