Monday, February 27, 2012

Gopher Basketball ~ Maroon and Galled

I had planned to write about this great Minnesota v. Indiana basketball game, but if you want to know the truth, my long awaited trip to Williams Arena, better known as The Barn, was a great disappointment. As cousin Laurie said early on in the game, "Looks like they've already flipped on the suck-switch." You know something is seriously wrong when the highlight of the game is the baton twirler.

What I saw on the court Sunday afternoon was worthy of first graders the first week of the JCC Sunday morning basketball program. Players overshot the rim as if they didn't have a clue where the net was attached to the hoop. Others wandered aimlessly around while their opponents made basket after basket. All that was missing was a kid sitting down to check out the floor boards up close. 

Un-engaged playing is merely symptom; the disease is far deeper than what happens on the court. We (and I mean us folk in Minnesota) are paying Tubby Smith something in the neighborhood of $2 million (reputed to be the highest salary for any state worker in Minnesota)  to coach this team, yet the lack of team was stunningly apparent on the court. There was no cohesion, no sense of working together. Excuse Pollyanna here, but I thought a really big part of coaching was in the creation of a single minded team unit. 

Walking back to the car, we strolled through homage to the NCAA. Across the street from The Barn is the relatively new Mariucci Arena for men's hockey and next to that, Ridder Arena for women's hockey. Kitty-corner is the Gibson-Nagurski Football Center and the spanking brand new TCF Stadium... which may end up also housing the Vikings for a year then there will be two teams in there who can't manage to win a game. Down the block is the Baseline Tennis Center, and near that, Jane Sage Stadium for women's softball, Siebert Stadium for men's baseball, and Bierman Track and Field complex. The University Aquatic Center is in the cluster as well as. And yes, there is a campus rec center tucked behind some other buildings along with the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Soccer Stadium. Every one of these has been either built since 1990, or seriously refurbished.  That's a lotta money for use by a select few people who aren't exactly working toward the betterment of all humankind.  (For the record, away from the cluster, there's also a boat house down on the Mississippi for crew, a golf course over in Falcon Heights that's used for golf, cross country running, and Nordic Skiing.... but those are just some of the little, belittled sports.)

At the same time tuition goes up and up and up.

If the ultimate purpose of the university is to educate, what education do students get in return for hosting the behemoth sports on campus? Do they get in to see the games for free? No. Are student tickets still expensive? Yes. Do athletic scholarships actually produce scholars, or do they merely give pro teams a free farm league system? 

Let me go on the record as saying I am not anti-college athletics. I am all for participation in all kinds of sports that allow lots of students the opportunity to play for fun as well as competitively. I am for college intramural sports where everyone who wants to can play, and in an ideal world the inter-school teams would develop from that pool. There's a lot to be gained from playing sports: good exercise, healthy eating habits, focus, responsibility, and yes, teamwork. 

Big sports do not bring money into the U; they bring big money into the sports program. They marginally support academia and to be honest, I find that inappropriate. The personnel it takes to run the sports behemoth do not contribute to academic excellence of this land grant university. Football, hockey, and basketball teams do not inspire great minds to come to the here to do research or teach. 

I gave serious thought as to whether winning the game would've softened my stand, but if you want to know the truth, the answer is no. And this is from the mother of a former NCAA athlete. I really do believe that the BIG sports programs are out of control and should be reigned in. I believe they ultimately do more harm than good to both the school and the kids, and in the end, they hamper the academic development of both. Yes, have a football team; yes, have a basketball team...but let's put it in perspective: they are not the reasons universities exist.

For those of you who did not see the game or read about it in your local paper, the Gophers lost, 50-69. 

Need I say more?

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Good sportsmanship begins with the spinner on the Candyland board;
teach kids early how to take turns and play fair. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

When All Else Fails....Call The Plumber

For about a year now, closing the kitchen at night included shoving the faucet all the way to the left, then strategically placing sponges so when it dripped, it didn't flood the counter. I'd gotten so used to this nightly ritual that I didn't even have to think about it; my hands knew exactly where the sponge dams had to be stuffed. And in the morning, I would come down and wring out all the sponges, then place them in their daytime slots.

The father-in-law was casually mentioning things like, "When are you going to get around to replacing that faucet?" and "How about I spring for the plumber because I don't want you doing this yourself."  Then the other morning, I stumbled down stairs and despite my best efforts, the sponge dams had overflowed. No big whoop. I just wrung them out, wiped up the mess....and took a look hard look at my 22 year old faucet. It had seen better days. I think Steve replaced the piston at least once, possibly twice. The spray nozzle he added for sinus streaming was well past its expiry date, and the side sprayer had long stopped working efficiently. There was no way around it. I needed a new kitchen faucet. 

If you know me at all, you know I am a "do yer homework" kinda shopper. I knew I was going to have to move fast on this one, so back in August,  I started researching faucets. Last week, I broke down, selected the Kohler Forte and went over to Home Depot to buy the damn thing….for $200 which was a good price.  The name of our plumber I found amongst Steve's household notes. I figured I was on borrowed time with that thing; sooner was better than a flood plain later.  I made the appointment for Thursday. 

Wednesday night was clean-out-under-the-sink night. I was ready for this. The father-in-law was pretty impressed with the speed of the operation, but he looked askance at the collection of Windex gallon jugs. "Your son," I explained with knowing nod. [Note to family: this is our version of Richard and ketchup in the trunk.] 

Thursday morning, a kid shows up at the door and says, "Hi, I'm Nate the plumber." He was a cute kid, but I had my doubts. I mean, he was skinny and his pants fit. What kind of plumber is that? I stayed just long enough to discuss whether or not I wanted a soap dispenser where the old sprayer went, and to bid "adieu" to the old faucet before heading off to work. 

I wasn't at my desk more than 15 minutes when the cell phone rang. It seems that after he installed the new faucet it was leaking all over the place. Nate took it apart...and it was clear someone had already been there…the new innards had been replaced with old, broken ones. I immediately called Home Depot, had another faucet brought to the service desk.  Nate the plumber was dispatched.

Now I don't know what plumbers cost other places, but here, they get more than psychiatrists. And my bill was going up by the minute. I was torqued.  No, I was beyond torqued, I was pissed. At lunch, I ran over to Home Depot. I asked to see a manager, and a  guy named Ryan showed up. I was the picture of calm. I explained what happened. Lucky for me, the story was immediately corroborated by the lady with whom I initially spoke. "My biggest issue," I told him, "is that this will add a hundred bucks to the plumber’s bill. When you pay two hundred bucks for a faucet, this shouldn't happen." He agreed. He made all the appropriate noises. By the end of the discussion, I had the matching soap dispenser and a $50 adjustment to the price of the faucet....and that added up to about a hundred bucks.
Installing the soap pump took all of ten minutes (I reversed the washer and the flange and had to redo it) and boy! What a regular mechaya having that soap pump! No more knocked over Dawn bottles! And now, the sponges are gone, too! It’s so tidy! And dry! It’s a miracle!

And when it was all done and everything was back neatly under the sink and I was admiring my beautiful new faucet, my father-in-law strolls in and says, “So, you think you should do something about that driveway?"

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
When the landscape guy presents you with the driveway estimate
try not to drop from the shock. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

When the ads are more interesting than the show.....

One of the stranger rituals associated wth Superbowl Sunday is the postgame ad analysis. There have been, over the years, some spectacular spots, ads that have become iconic, like the 1984 Apple “We Shall Prevail” ad or Joe Nameth’s  1973 “Cream Your Face” campaign for Noxema.  The Mean Joe Green jersey ad remains one of my favorites, even if Joe Mauer did a parody in which he pulled off his sideburns and gave 'em to a kid. Whatever the reason, the ads of late January are always a little funnier, a little edgier, and occasionally a bit risqué. And by association, all the other corporations debut their slickest ads, making this time of year a veritable cacophony of jingles.

Chagall's Jongleur
Generally, I’m a fan of Target ads. They’re slick, colorful, sometimes a tongue-in-cheek, but always clever. This week, I happened to catch one of their new spring ads, and I have to admit, it stopped me in my tracks.  A troop of brightly dressed jongleurs tumbled from the basket of a hot air balloon and began prancing and dancing through streets and houses and shops, all to the tune of that old children’s song,  Alouette, the one everyone knows …even if they don’t speak a lick of French!

Uh, did anyone bother to read the translation of the lyrics? I had to stop and go look up them up online just to make sure I wasn’t remembering some dark childhood parody of the song. I mean, I remembered the lyrics as a little creepy…and I wanted to be sure I was getting this right. The ad is supposed to be  happy and charming.

Here are the lyrics in question:
           Alouette, gentille Alouette          Little skylark, lovely little skylark 
           Alouette, je te plumerai             Little lark, I'll pluck your feathers off
          Je te plumerai la tête                 I’ll pluck the feathers off your head
          (Je te plumerai la tête)              (I’ll pluck the feathers off your head)  
           Et la tête                                  Off your head - off your head 
           (Et la tête)                               (Off your head - off your head)
           Alouette, Alouette…                   Little lark, little lark…
           O-o-o-oh                                   Oh-oh-oh-oh

Common Horned Lark
From there, the song goes on to pluck the rest of those little feathers. This is about eating a defenseless little bird! Even Romeo (yes, that Romeo) speaks of her, “…the lark, the herald of the morn.” How can you prance around singing about plucking a poor, sweet, little lark?

Of course, there is always that remote possibility that they’re singing about buying treyf chicken in the meat department, but the ad seems more about the advent of spring and its resplendent colors. Regardless, the tune, a voyageurs’ paddling song, is catchy, and the action is certainly arresting, but.... I just think it’s really weird.

And while we’re on the subject of weird, this week’s round of primary straw polls have got to take the cake, the Pulitzer, and the Oscar for weird. The rhetoric is getting more extreme, more absurd, and, increasingly violent toward those of us equipped with a uterus. I don’t know a single woman, liberal and conservative alike who is comfortable with the direction the rhetoric is going. There is something hateful about the way those men are talking about our bodies. Thanks to MEET THE PRESS, at least now we know what make Rick Sanctimonious tick. It seems his mother made more than his father during most of her working years. Yep. That's it. His mother cut off his dad's economic manhood. 

Puh-leeze. Give me a break.

And y'know what? I think I shall take one.  So for the next four weeks, barring some national emergency….like getting involved in yet another land war in Asia (does anyone ever listen to Vizzini?) I am going to attempt NOT to write about politics. I promise I will find other, infinitely more amusing things to write about. 

Wish me luck, folks.

The Wifely Person's Tip O'the Week
People don't hire people because they think the new guy can't do the job.
That's what elections are for.

The Wifely Person's Bonus Tip O'the Week
Planning a sojourn in The Kingdom?
Have a safe journey, a grand adventure, and spectacular success.

Monday, February 6, 2012

To Give....Or Not To Give, That Is the Question

Before the great Susan G. Komen debacle fades into the sunset, I have a few things to say about charities and foundations. I’m sure not all of it will be popular, but this is my blog so I don’t care one way or the other.

People with agendas start charities. 

Charities are made up of people with like minds donating time and money to that cause. For example, I am a member of Hadassah. There are lots of reasons why I am a Hadassah member, but the overwhelming reason is because I strongly support their advocacy for women, women's and children's heath,  and women’s socioeconomic issues.  I also happen to be an active supporter of Planned Parenthood. 

Susan Komen's sister, Nancy Brinker, started her foundation as a way to raise money for breast cancer research after her sister succumbed to the disease. She started with a fine premise, and grew it into one very large organization whose popularity is reflected by the huge pink ribbon movement. Somewhere along the line, I started having concerns about some of their policies and actions. When the Susan G. Komen Foundation board withdrew funding for Planned Parenthood breast cancer screenings, I was not in the least surprised.

Nor was I surprised by the decibel level of the uproar. It was remarkably loud….and incredibly bright. It shone a long overdue light on the make-up of that foundation’s board and its less than well-known leanings on specific women’s health issues. To be very honest, I was relieved that some of this stuff was coming into the public view. I will not denigrate the significant fundraising for cancer that Komen et al has done. It has raised a lot of money and funded a lot of stuff. But there is more to a woman's life than her breasts.

The SGK board’s conservative bent in the area of women’s reproductive health is at odds with many women’s organizations who take the position that breasts are a part of the reproductive system, and reproductive rights are, for better or worse, part of the package.  The addition of Karen Handel, an anti-reproductive rights advocate, as a major player on the board raised eyebrows. Her own political agenda preceded her and many questioned the wisdom of her appointment as senior VP for public policy. Her long time commitment of a total de-funding of Planned Parenthood was of particular concern to many Komen supporters.

Donors, unless they are serving on the board, are actively involved, or are throwing pot-loads of money at an organization, rarely get a significant voice in how a charity operates. You certainly get to have an opinion, but there’s no guarantee your opinion will be even be discussed, much less implemented. Participating in their events, by wearing their pink ribbons, by putting your name on their petitions is an endorsement of the Komen Foundation and its policies. You’ve made a conscious choice to support their cause and you are donating your hard earned dollars to do that. You own that choice, and if it works for you, it’s a good one.

That said, I stopped giving Susan G. Komen Foundation money a while ago. For me, the disconnect came when I heard about a friend being harassed by the foundation because a pink ribbon was handed out at a non-Komen organized breast cancer fundraising event. Komen Foundation insisted that if they were to use pink ribbons there needed to be an agreement signed, lest it be trademark infringement. I was outraged. I asked if Tony Orlando and Dawn had agreements for all those POW yellow ribbons that grew out of the song written for them by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown. 

50 cents for each pink bucket sold.
[KFC web site]
But what really put me over the edge were the tie-ins for stuff that was clearly NOT healthy. Was this just about the money, or was there a moral imperative that needed to be considered?

The SGK Foundation seems to have lost its way. It has become is a corporation with a direction and agenda set by the board…as well it should. They pay their CEO and CFO handsomely for running this megalith. That is their choice. I've heard lots of statistics on how much money is spent on overhead, programs, research and the like, but nothing conclusive. Honestly, it doesn't matter. It's a private foundation and what they do with their money is their business.

So here's the bottom line: giving to charity is a choice; you get to vote with your chequebook. If you support their total agenda, support Race for the Cure and the other Komen events. If you feel women's health issues encompass more than breasts, find another foundation, like Planned Parenthood or Hadassah, who treat the whole of a woman's body. 

It's your dollar. 

It's your choice. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Keep a moist towelette handy whilst dog walking.
It comes in handy if a doody gets stuck under her tail.