Thoughts On 500


S & P 500: This stands for the Standard & Poor’s 500, which is an index based on the common stock of 500 large, American companies listed on the NYSE.   I check this index often because I dabble in the stock market myself. I use a method financiers call “market timing.” This involves studying other market indices, factoring in “bear” and “bull” signs, and extrapolating your position vis a vis “puts” and “calls.” You invest your life savings at the exact moment the market reaches the tippy-toppy height of its climb, and then you watch it take a swan dive off a cliff.


12 step program for hat hoarders.

500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins: This early Dr. Seuss book was a favorite of mine as a child. Our hero, Bartholomew Cubbins, had 500 hats and they all looked the same, except for their increasingly fancy feathers. This book addressed the crucial issue of hat hoarding. If you have this problem, be sure to buy all different kinds of hats. Otherwise you’ll donate your old ones to the Goodwill and, because you also like to shop there, you’ll be browsing, see one, say; “Hmm, I like that hat,” and you’ll end up buying back your own stuff.

International 500: This is the longest, fastest snowmobile race in the world and it’s held every winter in Sault Ste Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Racers circle a 1-mile track 500 times at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. Most of us would call it “death-defying” to drive through miles of such icy, snowy, and treacherous conditions. Yoopers, as those in the UP are known, just call it “getting to work.”

500 Nations:  This is a website that provides resources for Native Americans to celebrate their rich, cultural heritage of raking in $30 billion per year on bingo and craps.

Tek-Care 500:  This is a wireless nurse-call system which alerts staff when nursing home residents try to make a break for it. The company is hard at work on an even more desperately needed alarm system to alert staff when residents have been lying around in their own filth for more than 36 hours.

Route 500:   Route 500 is a bus route in the city of Tacoma, Washington which is not to be confused with the iconic Route 66 that spans the western half of America. While many artists have covered the Route 66 theme song, “Get Your Kicks On Route 66,” Route 500’s theme is a little less well known; “Get Your Butt Sores From Waiting Around On Hard Benches For Buses That Never Come On Route 500.”

500 yard Freestyle: This is a swimming race. It’s called the freestyle because swimmers can do whatever the hell they want to, except:

  • No breaststroke, butterfly, or backstroke
  • Cannot push off the bottom or hang on the wall or pull on the lane lines during the course of the race
  • No false starts
  • Swimmers must stay in their lanes
  • Some part of the swimmer must touch the wall upon completion of each length and at the finish
  • Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except it shall be permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15 meters after the start and each turn. By that point the head must have broken the surface.

The freestyle is anarchy in a Speedo!

Legacy 500:  This is an executive jet known for its state-of-the-art elegance, sleek styling and super speed. It is a favorite of politicians and celebrities who constantly need to jet around the world to raise awareness about the evils of carbon dioxide. This jet is so popular with climate changers, in fact, that the latest model has been dubbed the Al Gore 500 and will only serve a special, green Dom Perignon to show solidarity with environmental issues.

McElroy Trac Star 500:  This is a fusion machine – kind of like a welder – that the manufacturer says, “will butt fuse pipe sizes from 6” IPS to 20” OD.”  I wouldn’t touch that line with a 20-inch butt-fused pipe.

500 Million: Number of thank yous I extend to you, my readers, who have put up with me through the 499 posts that preceded this one. Whether the topic originated in my brain, my funny bone or my heart, a little piece of me went into every post.

I couldn’t have timed it any better than wrapping up 2015 with my 500th post.   I hope you’ll stick around so we can unwrap a fresh, shiny 2016 together.

Happy New Year!


Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Last Minute Gift Ideas So You’re Not Ebenezer Screwed Again This Year

Christmas is the season for celebrating old traditions.  Around this blog, that means dusting off posts of Christmas past, posts that are staler than re-gifted fruitcake.  Enjoy. 

Bah humbug!

Bah humbug!

Christmas is only a couple of days away.  The cards are written, the presents are bought, wrapped and under the tree, and now everyone can sit back and enjoy the season.

Everyone except you.

You haven’t done anything to get ready.  You have no presents, no ideas and no money again this year.   You’re basically screwed, right?


Don’t despair!  You don’t have have to spend Christmas in the doghouse, just because you’re lazy and broke.  Borrow some of these last minute gift ideas:

1)      For the book lover:  Does someone on your gift list always have his or her nose in a book?  Have you priced hardcovers lately?  They can be $30 and up – ridiculous!  Trot down to the local library, check out the newest bestseller and wrap it up.  When the recipient opens your gift and looks bewildered, start on a long-winded diatribe about what an outrageous assault on the environment it is to cut down defenseless trees for books, and the importance of sharing resources.  Add a bit about the great history of Carnegie libraries in America and by the end of your presentation the book lover will be feeling vaguely guilty for ever having bought one.  Be a Christmas angel and remind the recipient they’ll incur overdue fines after 2 weeks, so they should read fast!

2)      For the wine lover:  With your Annie Green Springs tastes, you have neither the budget nor the knowledge to please a true wine connoisseur.  Don’t even try.  Take a card and write, “Here’s a little something to toast the season”.  Wrap up a box containing …2 pieces of dry toast.  I suggest using whole wheat bread since wine snobs also tend to be health food snobs.  They’ll look like poor sports if they even hint that they would prefer a real gift to your clever gag. (Thrifty suggestion: Cut a square of wrapping paper, fold in half and use this as a card.  You can write on the inside and it matches the package for an expensive, coordinated look.)

3)      For that special woman:  Is there anything a woman loves more than a truly spectacular piece of expensive jewelry?  Since THAT’s not going to happen this Christmas, you can still score points by hitting her other hot button: a love of schmaltzy romance.  Just write in a card, “You own the key to my heart.”  Wrap up a small, jewelry-sized box in which you’ve placed…a key.  Any old key will do –could be the key to your locker at the gym.   Make sure it’s not your car key, though, as it might be awkward to have to ask for it back at the end of the evening.

4)      For your kid:  Every parent has experienced this.  You get your kid a Suzy Homemaker kitchen, or Little Tykes workbench and they run right by the big, expensive toy to play with the box.  Encourage their creative spirit with an Imagination Kit: an assortment of cardboard boxes, rolling paper and toilet paper tubes, rubber bands and other stuff that you have around the house.  Pontificate about the importance of creative play, developing building and imagination skills and getting back to basics.  This will confuse the in-laws so they can’t be sure if you really believe all that stuff, or you’re just a cheap Scrooge.

5)      For the kid’s teacher:  Teachers get so much lame junk: ornaments, bubble bath and candles, they could open a gift store.  What do they really, really want?  Some relief from the unrelenting torment of having little monsters like your kid in their class.  Make up several coupons “Good for one day without Johnny”.  On days when your offspring has been acting even more like the spawn of Satan than usual, Teacher can send one of the coupons home with the kid.  You promise to keep him home “sick” the next day, thereby giving Teacher a much-needed break.  Be careful not to give so many coupons that all his days off catch the attention of the health department or truancy officer.

6)      For the brother-in-law:  Your lush of a brother-in-law is always getting in trouble with the po-lice.  What a hoot when he opens your gift in front of the whole family to reveal a stack of “get out of jail free” cards, taken from a Monopoly game.  Even funnier if you could be be there when he tries to use one when he gets stopped, weaving down the road on the way home from the family party.

7)      For your pets:  What dog doesn’t love a rousing game of “fetch”?  Simply gather up a couple of sticks (not too fat), about 1-1/2 feet long, and tie them up with a jaunty, red ribbon.   For the cat, smush a page from the Sunday funnies into a ball, wrap in twine or rubber bands, and you’re ready for hours of pouncing play.  (These also make thoughtful gifts for the dog or cat lover on your list.)

With my helpful hints, a little bit of cleverness can take the place of true thoughtfulness, money and any real effort on your part.

Merry Christmas, and good luck!

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , | 37 Comments

Walmart: A Holiday Pageant

Christmas time is here again.  Tis the season for celebrating old traditions.  Around this blog, that means dusting off posts of Christmas past, posts that are staler than re-gifted fruitcake.  Enjoy. 

I wrote this post soon after I started this blog, and it’s still one of my favorites.  I’m  looking for producers to take it to Broadway.  Anyone?  Anyone?

The Walmart Christmas Musical

Thanks to People of Wal-Mart for the raw footage.

The entire play takes place in a Super Walmart on a Sunday afternoon during the busy, holiday shopping season.  Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Our heroine is a young ingenue who looks almost exactly like me.    She has been sprinkled with holiday cheer fairy-dust and sent on a quest in the Land of Walmart.  She must find another strand of the same brand of lights she bought last year, to finish the string dangling 1 foot short of the bottom of her half-finished Christmas tree.  Then she must get through the checkout and back to her car before the fairy dust wears off and she turns into a mean, bitchy old crone.

The show opened with Miley Cyrus’ spiritual performance of “I’d Rather Be Naughty, So $&%# You, Santa!”  In honor of the season, she updated her usual bra-and-panty costume with a sprig of mistletoe, strategically placed.  As for Miley’s dance routine, let’s just say I will never look at a humble candy-cane the same way again.

Next up, a mother softly crooned a simple ballad to the 5 ragged children gathered around her cart.  She was imaginatively costumed in skin-tight black stretch pants and a leopard-print shirt cut low enough to reveal a pair of angels tattooed on the upper slopes of her absolutely ginormous, er, charms.  The song was ” I TOLD You 20 Times!”  and the chorus went something like this:

“I TOLD you 20 times you gotta be at least 8 years old before Santa will bring you “Call of Duty, Black Ops.”  I’m going to have your daddy (Rodney, that guy who’s staying with us and kinda like your daddy) WHUP YOUR A** if you ask me ONE more time!”

I wasn’t the only one who left the show humming THAT moving tune.

The children’s choir almost stole the show with their rousing hit, “I Want THAT!”   The lyric was not complicated – only “I Want THAT”, over and over – but the performance elevated the words to art.  The volume of their childish cries built and built to a mighty crescendo.  The number ended with the whole choir falling to the floor in the aisles, kicking its collective heels.  Unforgettable.

The Greeter’s Gospel Choir’s  a-Capella rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain (The Holidays Are Here)” had everyone clapping along.   The reworked lyrics explained in an uplifting, catchy way how if the store employees said “Merry Christmas” at the door, it would be the same as forcing shoppers to join a Christian church and submit to full-immersion baptism just to get in the store.  Entertaining and really thought provoking.

But the showstopper was the big production number finale.

I took a couple of dance classes as a kid, so I’m familiar with steps like the flap-ball-change.  But I’ve never seen the moves the Walmart Shoppers Dance Troupe perfected for this extravaganza, a routine they call the Oblivious Shuffle.

Each shopper/dancer leaned on his or her cart and pushed it slowly, oh so slowly, back and forth across the stage.  Their shuffling steps kept one shoe (or house slipper, as the case may be) on the floor at all times.  The shuffling feet made a “shush, shush” sound that underscored the “squeak, squeak” of their unoiled cart wheels.  The occasional crash of colliding carts played like cymbals in the composition.

About half of the dancers had cell phones pressed to their ears.  One at a time, each burst into song with lyrics like “…so that witch my baby-daddy is with now said they couldn’t take the kids on Christmas Eve because they had to get her kids from her ex-baby-daddy’s, but we gotta go to my new baby-daddy’s grandmas then, so I told HER if you think I’m going to pick them up on HIS weekend, you can just tell that &%$#…” Their solos were incomprehensible, one-sided conversations when taken by themselves.  Together, they wove a timeless Christmas story.

The dancers went through their movements with vacant, glassy stares that gave the illusion that they were totally unaware of everyone else around them.

Think of Night of the Living Dead as a ballet.

Meanwhile, the young ingenue wove her cart skillfully in and out of the shuffling throng, trying to get to the checkout.   As she approached each register, the checker there turned her light to flash and shut down, crying “price check on 10″, “change needed on 5”, “register frozen on 8“ in a surprisingly harmonious medley.  The audience held their breath when a determined shopper with 2 carts piled high cut in front of our heroine in the “15 items or less” lane, but there was no crash – it was all part of the show.

I don’t want to give away the ending in case you decide to see the show.  Suffice it to say that as our ingenue trudged through the slushy parking lot trying to find her car at the end of the show, she looked a lot like the apple-wielding hag in Snow White.

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

Holiday Greeting Cards: What’s the Real Message?

Have you mailed out your Christmas cards yet?

If your response was a slack-jawed, “huh?” you’re part of the modern trend away from sending traditional, snail-mailed greeting cards.  Nonetheless, most of us still find quite a few in our mailboxes.  These cards provide much-needed job security for postal workers who have little else to do nowadays.  They also send a message, but that can be hard to find beneath all the foil, glitter and mushy sentiments.

Here’s a handy guide to help you unlock the REAL message of  holiday cards.

christmascardkardashians Family Photo:

1)      The look: Family photo of cute kids in holiday attire says, “I started getting ready 3 months ago.  I bought matching outfits, got the kids dressed, took the photo, then had the cards printed, stamped and in the mail a month before Christmas.  Now I’m off to bake 20 dozen cookies for the school bake sale and alphabetize my pantry.”
2)      The message:  One of 5 available canned message/border combos says, “I got a discount coupon from Shutterfly”
3)      Who sends it:  Uber-organized Super Moms who are one step away from a nervous breakdown.


1)   The look: Glossy finishes, foil embellishment and heavy card stock all contribute to a rich, elegant look that says, “This is a tax write-off.”
2)   The message: Generic wishes for “the season” are as neutral as possible to avoid incurring the wrath of easily offended religious or anti-religious groups.  Businesses would just say Happy Winter if they didn’t think that would seem to favor pagans over other denominations.
The stamped signature (either foil embossed or simulated signature font) sends the joyous holiday message, “I’m too busy and important to bother to sign this myself.”
3)   Who sends it: Your accountant, lawyer or investment adviser.  More accurately, their secretaries, since that is who handles the whole process from ordering cards, through separating the wheat from the chaff on the client list, to printing mailing labels.


1)      The look: Tri-fold, single sheet with narrative interspersed with pictures of the family schussing in Vail says, “My Publisher program came with several newsletter templates.”
2)      The message: Braggy McBraggart list of kids awards, job promotions and exotic trips taken that year says, “My life is better than yours.”
3)      Who sends it: Old classmates, kids friends’ moms, exes, your sister-in-law or anyone else who wants to rub your nose in the fact that you and your family are total losers by comparison.christmascardpegGenuine card:

1)      The look: Elegant scene says, “Let’s celebrate the reason for the season,” without bashing your head in about it all.
2)      The message: Handwritten note starting with an anecdote about the dog barfing on the Christmas tree skirt and ending with good wishes and blessings says, “I’m a genuine person who truly cares about you.”
3)      Who sends it:  Me.  If you didn’t get your card yet, blame the post office.  They probably stashed my cards under a viaduct in Chicago again.  Those bastards.

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , | 46 Comments

My Sister-In-Law Is Ruining The Economy

Christmas is all about traditions.  Every year we unpack our favorite ornaments, unearth the Bing Crosby CDs and watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

Around this blog, tradition means dusting off the ghosts of Christmas blog posts past, some of which are staler than re-gifted fruitcake.

This was my first Freshly Pressed post.


Support your local eggnog farmer!
Support your local eggnog farmer!

My sister-in-law, Lisa, just announced she is starting a diet.  With 3 weeks to go until Christmas.

This is wrong on so many levels.  Besides the masochistic overtones, we have to consider how such a move might affect the nation’s economic recovery.

Lisa just wants to look hot for New Years Eve.   But she may be starting a dangerous trend.  Perhaps I can help her to see the bigger picture – what economists call the unintended consequences.

Seasonal industries have just a small window of opportunity to make sales.  (i.e. yellow marshmallow chickees that can only be sold for 1 week before Easter.)  In December, fattening Christmas food companies are scrambling to make their budget goals.

Take eggnog.   Its rich, creamy goodness is almost synonymous with Christmas.  But where does it come from?  Family farms in the heartland keep herds of  special, eggnog-producing cows just for the Christmas season.  No eggnog, no eggnog farms.

All the farms will be sold for shopping malls, the farm children will have to leave the land for New York to become actor/model/waiters and the cows will be processed into McBurgers.  Do you want to be responsible for the end of the family farm in America, Lisa?

And what about that company that makes those chocolate-covered cherries that you can get for $1 at Big Lots and other fine emporiums?  They do all their sales this month.  Does it occur to you, Lisa, that the firm that makes those has employees?  If health-conscious, get-in-shape people don’t buy those candies, all the chocolate-covered cherry employees and their families, some of whom might have lame children who use crutches, will be out on the streets. Just in time for Christmas, you Scrooge!

These are just a few of the businesses that would be affected. There are anise-flavored cookies, monastery-made bourbon fudge and whisky fruitcake, and candy canes.   I’m sure we could come up with lots of examples.

Sure, tofu sales will go up. But that won’t increase jobs.  There is such a huge surplus of tofu just sitting around on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator case in the grocery store produce section (often right under the Bleu Cheese crumbles, ironically), we could go years without making any more.

And what about after Christmas?  In the natural order of things, you sign up for diet and exercise programs in January.  If nobody is overindulging in December, no one will be repentant and resolved to change in January.

80% of the YMCA’s income is derived from initial membership fees garnered in January.  They can’t rely on the monthly fees, because those dry up in March.  That’s when the new members cancel, although they actually stop working out after only 2 weeks.  (The Y does get residual income from all the new members who forget they signed up to have the dues automatically deducted from their bank account.  They can end up paying for years after their actual 2-week attendance is over.)

Eat, Papa, eat!

Do you want to be responsible for closing the doors on a fine, old institution like the Young Men’s Christian Association?  And then what?  Our nation’s young men will be out on the streets, joining gangs, becoming hooligans, and not being Christian.

Nutrisystems will go back to using their food as industrial lubricants, Jenny Craig will have to get a job as a brownie taster and South Beach will be deserted. Dr. Atkins will turn over in his grave!

(“America the Beautiful” starts softly in the background).

We are trying to climb out of a terrible recession right now, Lisa.  Our president, and our congressmen and women, are working hard to get this economy back on track

(for amber waves of grain…)

It is the duty of every American to help in this struggle.  If you think your hot-ness is more important than your country, Lisa, keep up the pre-Christmas diet.  Help put thousands, nay millions of our fellow Americans out of work.

But as for me and mine, we love the U.S. of A., and we will support her!

(music builds to a crescendo, “from sea to shining sea!”, I get up and walk out like that scene in Animal House where Dean Wormer revokes the Delta’s charter because they have been on double-secret probation ).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy some peppermint stick ice cream!


Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , | 36 Comments

All Glory And Honor To the Ho-Ho Holiday Caption Contest Winner!

We have a winner!  Congratulations to Carrie Rubin at The Write Transition for her masterful captioning of this picture of poor Santa.  She took a mysteriously sleuthy route for her caption, which shouldn’t be surprising as this blogger and author just had her second thriller published.

Thanks to all who played.  Let’s do this again sometime, shall we?

 “Stay tuned for ‘Santa Slayed,’ tonight’s episode of CSI: North Pole”

“Stay tuned for ‘Santa Slayed,’ tonight’s episode of CSI: North Pole”

“Stay tuned for ‘Santa Slayed,’ tonight’s episode of CSI: North Pole”

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Vote In The Ho-Ho Holiday Caption Contest

IMG_20151115_122957_736-1I asked and you delivered.  Time to vote for your favorite in my first, annual Ho-Ho Holiday Caption Contest.   Or my one-and-only contest ever, depending on future levels of motivation.

It was hard to pick just a handful but, after a couple of cups of spiked egg nog, our distinguished panel of judges selected the following.  The second one is a comment more than a caption, but it made me giggle so I had to have it in.

You are only allowed to vote once, but you may try to stuff the ballot box by driving bus-loads of people over to vote.  That’s a rich, Chicago tradition.  So is having dead people vote, which you can do if you can figure out how.  Voting ends on Thursday, Dec 10th at 5pm Central time.

Good luck!


Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments