Saturday, February 27, 2010

Boozehounds And Fatties Can Both Drop Dead

In America there are plenty of scare stories about the "obesity epidemic", which is caused by too many Yanks eating too much junk food, and does bad things to public- health statistics. Clearly this obesity problem needs solving, and here's how: poison the nation's sugar and fat supply so anyone who eats too much will immediately drop dead, and serve as a warning to children and other impressionables.

Why not? Last week, science writer Deborah Blum reported the US government pulled a similar stunt during prohibition, only with alcohol rather than sweets. Since bootleggers often stole industrial-grade alcohol to resell in drinkable form, the feds figured they'd dissuade potential customers by ordering industrial alcohol manufacturers to spike their wares with poison. Over Christmas 1926 the toxic hooch killed 31 partygoers in New York City alone; estimates for the poison programme's total death toll go as high as 10,000.

More details about our government's compassionate and completely non-psychopathic attempts to eliminate America's health problems once and for all can be found at the Guardian's America blog.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lindy Matsko Lost Her Mind

First, the good news: even in these troubled economic times, there exist American public schools – like those of the Lower Merion district in the suburbs of Philadelphia – prosperous enough to distribute laptop computers to every kid enrolled in the high school.

Now the bad news: school officials could also afford to install webcams on those computers, and remotely activate the cams to spy on students and their families at home.
The rest of this piece is over at the Guardian’s America blog, where I also mention the ongoing case of Avery Doninger. They’re both symptoms of the same illness infecting schools today: administrators with spectacularly inappropriate notions of how far their authority extends over their students’ lives.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Typically Romantic Weekend

So what did you do on Valentine's Day? I spent a gray afternoon sitting on the couch editing a novel for a vanity publisher, while my significant other spent the day at a science fiction convention in Boston.

This was NOT the least romantic V-Day we've shared; that honor goes to the first Valentine's Day we lived together, a Friday night, when I sat home alone while he took another woman out on a date. (Granted, the woman in question had my blessing; she was a friend of mine serving as Maid of Honor at another woman's wedding, and needed my boyfriend for the obligatory male escort on her arm. To thank me, she gave me a nice Swarovski crystal figurine for my collection, and when people ask about my romantic history I tell them "Oh, yeah, our first Valentine's Day together I pimped out my boyfriend for crystal crap.")

Dear Reader, I hope this year so far has been working out better for you than it has for me. Now if you'll excuse me, I have work to do; these amateurishly written novels won't edit themselves! (If they did, my bank account would be more abysmal than it already is.)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Teachable Moments

So I’m standing in line at the gas station waiting my turn to pre-pay for a tank of gas. This took awhile because the old lady in front of me was buying about fifty lottery tickets from ten different games. As I waited I let my mind wander over the checklist of things I must do by the end of the weekend – buy groceries, finish editing my latest vanity novel, polish up a pitch in hope of enticing an editor to publish it – when suddenly my train of thought was derailed by a man saying something to me.

“What? I’m sorry; I didn’t hear you,” I said.

“I said, SMILE! C’mon! Things can’t be that bad!”

Side note: I’m used to men trying to pick me up in public places, and so long as they’re polite about it I always let them down in a gentle, face-saving way; say, if a guy compliments my hat I’ll tell him, “Thank you. My boyfriend bought it for me last Christmas” (even though I actually bought it myself).

But that’s assuming the guy in question is being polite. Anyone with the gall to tell me what facial expression he thinks I should wear in a gas station doesn’t qualify. So I looked him in the eye, waited just long enough for him to get uncomfortable, then told him in my coldest tone of voice: “My father died.”

The man had the decency to look embarrassed, and started sputtering out an apology. I interrupted him to point out the obvious: “In the future, I suggest you avoid walking up to total strangers and telling them they don’t look happy enough to satisfy you.”

The embarrassed man left the store, followed soon after by the lady with the lottery tickets. When I walked up to the cashier, she said she was sorry to hear about my father. I flashed her my biggest and friendliest smile.

“No need for apologies,” I said cheerfully. “It happened many, many years ago, and I’ve long since got over it. But with any luck, next time the guy tries hitting on a woman, he won’t be such a bonehead about it.”

For some reason, the cashier found this very funny.
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