Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Three things I read about while waiting for my oil change.

While waiting for my car to finish having its oil changed tonight, I innocently thumbed through a copy of Rolling Stone magazine.  It was a rather ordinary issue, until I got to the back page.  There were a few ads that gave me some valuable insight into what people will spend money on.

The first interesting product was something called a Grow Box.  It was advertised as a hydroponic system for growing plants indoors.  If your mind works anywhere as oddly as mine (pity) then you will have immediately jumped to the necessity for an indoor plant-growing system.  Not only that, but the product is cleverly disguised to look like a cabinet, stereo speakers, a computer box or a small refrigerator.  Because you wouldn't want anyone to know you are growing tulips in your den.  Right.
It's a wonderful contraption, full of high-powered LED lights, hygrometers and technical growing materials for your ... um ... flowering plants.  OK.  A quick jump on their web site showed me that the small one, the My Grow Buddy, sells for $399.  For a more professional system, which they call the Mortgage Lifter (yep) sells for $2,495.  Maybe "Mortgage Payer" would have been a better name?

They'll sell you the lights, soil and all the equipment you'll need to start growing world-class plants in your very own home.  You can also buy a fan to remove those unwanted odors.  Right.  You don't want your house smelling like flowers.  That's what Airwick is for.
All you'll need to do is run down to your local garden center for some seeds.  Right.

Next, there was an ad for one of those male enhancement products.  They are getting bolder with their advertising.  You can buy things called Horny Goat Weed and Vein Erect at drug stores.   I'd need a back door and a secret knock to even attempt to buy something like that in public.  Pile the kids in the station wagon, dad is going down to the store to pick up some boner pills.
"Cool, can we stop for ice cream?"

The more interesting one, however, available online is called Ball Refill  That's right.  And no, it isn't helium or compressed air.  It's called a semen volumizer.  It is a pill that is designed to give men "mega orgasms."  It's for all of you who are concerned that you're not spewing enough of yourself on ... yourself and want to prolong the clean-up process.  From what I've read, women go crazy for a guy who can fill a soda can with ejaculate.  It's probably why I'm still single.
In the FAQ section (the F stands for Frequently) of the web site, it says that you should "consult your health care professional before using Ball Refill."  I don't know about you, but I would not want to be the guy going into my doctor's office, and when she says, "What brings you here today?" I reply with ...
"Well, I wanted to check with you to see if I could take this supplement that makes me spew like a horse."

Actually, I can't imagine how any of the questions are "frequently asked," but that's another matter.  "How much Ball Refill should I take?"  "Should I continue to take Ball Refill?"  "What kinds of medications react with Ball Refill?"

Here are some questions I would ask:  Can I over-fill my balls?  What if I take so much that my bladder fills too?  Can Ball Refill be used on my pets? 

A glimpse of the ingredients shows that it's niacin and some herbs.  It probably just jacks up (pun) your blood pressure to the point that you either ejaculate or pass out.

So, what was the third product I saw in the magazine?  Just some web site where you can order a quilt made of t-shirts.  What a ridiculous concept.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Putting baseball in perspective.

First, some background.  I am a Phillies season ticket holder and a fan since 1964.  I have seen the great, near great and horrible.  That's enough background.

If I can do nothing else (and perhaps I cannot) I think I can place things in perspective.  I was at last year's disappointing game 6 of the NLCS where Ryan Howard looked at a called third strike to end their season.  From my perch in section 204 I was devastated.  I left the ballpark feeling like I was punched in the stomach and I was bitter over it for several weeks.  After that, I vowed to never again allow sports to affect my life in a negative manner.  I didn't think it would be so soon that my resolution would be put to the test.

I went to the first game of the NLDS this year.  The Phillies fell behind early, 3-0 with their Ace Roy Halladay on the mound.  A couple of home runs later and they would go on to win the game.  Several of us in the stands were disappointed in the Phillies, but would wind up going home happy.

Almost one week later, that good feeling would turn sour as Ryan Howard once again made the last out of their season, this time with a weak ground ball in which injury was added to insult as he went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon.  I later found out that most fans had turned off the television before they found out that he didn't complete his trip to first base.

As I watched the game, I felt the looming doom that would eventually befell this team.  The 1-0 loss did, however, allow me the time to place baseball into a proper life perspective.  Baseball is different than other major sports because of the vagaries of the schedule and the players involved.

In football, basketball and hockey; teams go into playoff series with the same players that brought them there.  In baseball, the key player - the starting pitcher - is determined mostly by a draw of the schedule.  In a 5-game series (as the NLDS is) that draw has more to do with the outcome of the series than anything.  Not only that, but if a team goes into a hitting drought, the short series is magnified, because there is less time to work their way out of it than the overly long baseball season allows.  Sure, the Phillies won 102 games, but they were never faced with the prospect of having to win 3 out of 5.  All that mattered was that they won their division and advanced to the playoffs.

In olden times (before the NLDS or even divisions) a team could win its division and advance directly to a Championship series. Now, there is no benefit to winning the division.  Sure, you get what they call "home field advantage," but in a 5-game series, you get 3 home games.  True home field advantage would mean 4 home games.  In a 5-game series, having only one more home game is almost useless, as we saw.  First solution:  Give the team with the best record a true home field advantage and make the wild card team (the Cardinals) earn their victory by winning games on the opponent's field.  Otherwise, the 162 game season is pointless.  Why play all those games just to lose to a wild card team because you only got one more home game? Only in baseball.

Having the first series decided in only 5 games negates the entire (already too long) regular season.  Baseball was founded on a 154-game schedule.  That's because, after 154 games, the two best teams (the winners of the American and National League) would face off in the World Series.  Now, teams have to win 11 games after they go through an even longer 162-game season.  Does that make sense?  Why make the season longer and then add playoff games?  It doesn't make sense - unless you factor in television, which is the reason for almost everything in life - but that is a matter for another essay.

So, here's my solution:  Go back to two leagues with no divisions.  Play your 162 games if you must, but give some advantage to the team with the best record.  What's the point of playing the season otherwise?  Either a first round bye or some protracted home field advantage.  As it is now, it's more of a crap shoot than a pure talent competition.

So, fret not Phillies fans.  Your team was done in by television and modern thinking.  It had little to do with talent.  As we have seen, it doesn't matter what happens in the regular season. Baseball has become hockey and basketball.  Just enjoy the regular season like you would a movie - it's entertainment.  The real competition comes once TBS and Fox get involved and screw up your work day by putting playoff games on at 1:00pm and 4:00pm and players complain about shadows that they never see during the season.  That's where television has taken over the game and the fans and teams lose control.

You should not lose control over something over which you have no control.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Good and Good for You?

It's fortunate for me that I like foods that are supposed to be good for me.  Low-fat, low-calorie, sugar-free ... all the stuff that marketing people and doctors tell us we are supposed to eat.

Almost every day for lunch I eat a Veggie Sub, which I affectionately call a Condiment Sandwich.  Instead of lettuce, I use spinach, because it's supposed to be good for me. Besides, with all the peppers and onions on the thing, I can barely taste it anyway.

I eat high-fiber whole grain cereal with almond milk every day, oatmeal, yogurt, and I take enough Omega 3 fish oils to sprout gills.

I wander through the supermarket looking for things that I can eat and feel good about eating.  I have been drinking the Zico Chocolate Coconut Water for a while.  It's water from coconuts that has chocolate flavoring.  Can there be a more perfect beverage?  I submit that there cannot.  Today I found a couple of new things.

I had an ice cream craving.  I usually go for Ben and Jerry's or some chocolate peanut butter flavor, but today I saw Coconut Milk ice cream, with the added benefit of being both soy and dairy free.  Lo and behold, its first ingredient is organic coconut milk.  It tastes pretty good, and I no longer have a craving for ice cream, so it works on that level too.

The other new thing is something called Kona Deep "100% Deep Sea Mineral Water from 3,000'."  It says it comes from "pristine glaciers off the coast of Greenland that sank deep into the ocean thousands of years ago" from something called the "Global Conveyor Belt."  Ironically, I put it on the supermarket's conveyor belt when I purchased it.

It's full of electrolytes and nutrients, so I have that going for me - which is nice.  I have to admit to being skeptical of water coming from 3,000 feet below the sea, and I wonder if it isn't just purified water with added nutrients to make it the same as deep sea water.  I have the same doubts about the coconut water.  I guess I can no more imagine going to that extent for water or cracking open enough coconuts to get thousands of bottles of water.  I only hope that the coconut water people are hooked-up with the ice cream people so that they aren't throwing coconuts in the trash.  That would seem to defeat the purpose.

The reason I'm skeptical is that the chocolate water was $2.49.  The coconut milk ice cream was $5.99.  The Kona water was a paltry 64 cents, which would seem like a relative bargain, all things considered.  Nevertheless, normal ice cream is cheaper and regular water is free.  If this stuff isn't what I think it is, I'm wasting my money.

So, I'm either a sucker or I'm doing something good for myself.  Or both.