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March 23, 2005


I have a so-called “ergonomic” desk chair, but I thwart its good intentions by sitting with one leg tucked under me most of the time. As you can imagine, that posture can lead to some problems. Being in the throes of middle age, I'm not as flxible as I used to be, and my knees have actually been giving me problems.


Typing that last sentence derailed my train of thought, and it's a good thing, too, since I don't have much more to say about my knee pain. Perhaps you noticed that I misspelled the word “flexible.” Every time I see the word flexible, I am reminded of a mystery that has haunted me since childhood. As a child, I noticed that the city transit buses were all made by a company called, no, it can't be, yes, it is, Flxible. (OK, that's hardly a haunting mystery, is it? Hey, I was a kid. And a good speller, too.)

I stared at the marque on countless buses over the years in an effort to see the missing “e” in the logo, but I finally gave up and had to admit the name was spelled without it. To get some closure, I just googled the word and learned all I needed to know about this company. I will share. The company started in 1913 making a sidecar for motorcycles connected by a flexible joint. Imagine going around corners with a rigid sidecar attached, and you can see the value of this invention. Henry Ford's inexpensive automobiles made sidecars obsolete overnight, and the company switched to making buses. The name changed from Flexible to Flxible in 1919, although I was unable to discover why the name was changed. Flxible went out of business in 1995. Mystery solved.

Well, my knee is starting to hurt again. Time to switch, uh, legs.


To WHOME it may concern,

The brand name FLXIBLE is nod to the copywrite laws of the US. That law says that no word in common use can be copywrite protected. The owners of the company wanted to coin the name as a discription of their unique product (the flexible joint side car) so they, Mssrs. Young and Dudte) dropped the "E" from the name and submitted it for copywrite protection and it has been known by that moniker ever since.

Now you know.


March 22, 2005

Only Suckers Play Powerball

Today I read in the Metro that Powerball odds might be lowered, because people are winning too often, and this is hurting sales. I don't get it. People are winning too often and this is hurting sales!? If I heard that a lottery was getting easier to win, I'd buy more tickets, not fewer. I guess people feel that it's just not worth playing when the jackpot is under a $100 million. I wouldn't sneeze at winning even a thousand dollars when my initial investment was a measly buck. If the odds are somehow better, then that's all the more reason to take a chance.

This news was all academic for me anyway, because I don't play Powerball. Don't get me wrong. I do play the lottery, but not Powerball. Why not? Because I know my lotteries. I have to. That's because the cornerstone, the linchpin, yea the quintessential nub of my retirement plan depends on winning the lottery, so I play early and I play often.

Since I'm playing for keeps, as it were, I don't waste my money on Powerball. No sir, I'm too smart for that. The odds on Powerball are way too low as it is. Even for a $5,000 prize, the odds are pretty long at 1 in 502,194, and for the big jackpot, the odds are an astronomical 1 in 120,526,770. Instead of Powerball, we play Pennsylvania's Cash 5. The big jackpot odds are pretty good at 1:575,757, similar to the $5,000 Powerball odds, but with typical jackpots far larger than that. With my golden years at stake, I can't afford to take any chances with my hard-earned money. Plus, you have the added entertainment value of a daily drawing as well. How can you lose?



I agree. I worked at a gas station when I was in college, and sold thousands of tickets. Guess what, nobody ever won anything. That game is a joke.

March 21, 2005

Crab Helper

We don't eat much food that comes in boxes (except for Annie's Shells & White Cheddar), but just for fun, we made a box of Tuna Helper®. The sauce wasn't bad, and egg noodles are probably my number-one comfort food. I thought that maybe something other than tuna could gussy it up a bit. Naturally for me, lobster was a choice, but for this sauce, I thought crabmeat would be perfect. A few weeks later, Anne got another box and a can of crabmeat. Because the canned crab was chopped, it didn't make as much of a contribution as I had hoped. Next time we'll try it with jumbo lump crabmeat. We served it with a crisp and fruity Gewürztraminer.

Now let's all sing “Shells & White Cheddar” to the tune of “Nights in White Satin.” Aw, I'm just being silly; it's the Gewürztraminer talking.

March 17, 2005

Smushed Boxen

Even though Anne and I are both mostly Irish, neither of us makes a big deal out of St. Patrick's Day. About all we did to commemorate the day was drink some decaf green tea. Do we know how to party or what! (I had my drinking binge last night at the Independence Brew Pub in the stimulating company of the Philadelphia Webloggers Meetup group. I had two brown ales for dinner and came home stinking of beer and cigarette smoke, but I had a great time.)

Anyway, smushed boxen. We were making dinner (pasta with bacon and peas tossed in ricotta), and Anne mentioned that she got the “smushed box” of pasta just for me. I usually make a point of buying the smushed box or the dented can on the theory that nobody will buy them, and they will just be thrown out. I mean, the items are always perfectly fine (except maybe things like potato chips). In a similar vein, I've also lost my taste for shiny and new and now often opt for something used. Maybe this is how antique collecting starts. Hmm.

Back to St. Patrick's Day, fine pictures of Philadelphia's parade here and here by Albert Yee.

March 10, 2005

Philadelphia Flower Show 2005

A number of years ago I found myself at the preview party for the New York Flower Show at one of the piers on the West Side. I regarded the proceedings with some disdain, because compared to Philadelphia's Flower Show, the Big Apple's Spring festival was a wan and pitiful thing that needed water and fertilizer stat. I swelled with hometown pride with the knowledge that at least one thing was better in Philadelphia than New York. If we here in the Quaker City take the Flower Show for granted, we shouldn't—it is special.

We went on a Monday morning this year in a continuing quest to find a time when crowds would be at a minimum. The show seemed just as crowded then as any other time. Maybe next year we'll try going in the afternoon. Except for the crowds, it was a perfect day. For one thing, the weather was glorious; the high was 70 degrees! (It snowed the next day. Go figure.)

The theme this year was “America the Beautiful,” but I didn't see as much evidence of exhibitors sticking to the theme as usual. We gawked for a while, paying special attention to window boxes and porch treatments, and then headed out to lunch. I suggested a cozy pub I glimpsed when we were looking for parking, but it turned out to be just another entrance to the Independence Brew Pub where we've eaten many times, so we ventured into Reading Terminal Market. The Market, which is always busy, becomes a seething mass of humanity at lunch time. We edged our way through the throng and queued up at DiNic's for sandwiches; I love their stuff. Anne had roast beef with cheese, and I had Italian sausage wrapped in collards. Scrumptious!

We finished up the day back at the show with some selective shopping, picking up a beautiful dried wreath for the guest room. Before leaving, I took a quick tour of an exhibit of photographs of national parks presented by the Department of the Interior. It was a well-edited collection of large (20 x 30) digital prints, and included some of my favorite landscape photographers, among them Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell. The exhibit introduced me to beautiful work by Pat O'Hara and David Meunch as well, and there were a number of others.

This year's show wasn't the most inspired one in memory, but it was certainly inspiring with its abundant and tantalizing visions of a Spring only a few weeks away.

March 1, 2005

You Expect Me to Pay for That?

My new laptop has a wireless card built in so if I can find a “hotspot,” I can “surf.” All the cool kids are doing it, I hear. We went to a nearby Starbucks to try it out.

Denied! I was bitterly disappointed to learn that I would have to pay to use the T-Mobile hotspot, six bucks minimum. I was under the delusion that hotspots were there to entice people to the store, so they could feel better about going out of their way to pay $3 for a cup of coffee, but apparently not. Wireless connectivity is just another profit center. Come to think of it, that seems fair.

After checking out the nearby Barnes & Noble, which has the same deal, but with a different provider, I was really confused. To surf in either location, I would need to have accounts with both providers. That doesn't seem practical. Since you're so restricted, I wonder if anybody uses these hotspots.

So my wireless days are over. I should mention, however, that I can connect to the wireless network of one of my neighbors any time I want. I'll bet he makes a mean cup of coffee, too.

Singer Songwriter Summit

About ten years ago, the late Bill Ivey, then director of the Country Music Foundation, suggested that Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Guy Clark, and Joe Ely team up for a concert. The result was so successful and enjoyable for the participants that they've been getting together almost every year since. We went to hear them at McCarter Theater in Princeton recently.

I didn't know quite what to expect. I liked Lyle Lovett the first time I saw him (on the Tonight Show of all places, performing “Here I Am” aka “The Cheeseburger Song”), and I even saw him live once years ago with his Large Band. I was vaguely aware of John Hiatt, but had never heard of Guy Clark or Joe Ely. Even though I didn't know most of these guys, I recognized them as peers of Lyle Lovett, so I was sure they would be good.

This concert was more about the songs than the singers. There was no band, just four guys with acoustic guitars, and hence no place for a lame song to hide. There weren't any lame songs, that's for sure! The loose format of the evening had all four songwriters on stage the whole time; they basically took turns singing solo, although from time to time another would join in. It was evident that they enjoying listening to each other as much as performing.

Lyle was great, of course, but the big “discovery” for me was John Hiatt. Right from the first tune, the propulsive “Tennessee Plates” I was taken in by his musicianship and energy. Guy Clark was also a favorite with his disarmingly casual, folksy delivery. One of his many memorable tunes from the evening was the amusing ditty “Homegrown Tomatoes.” From the refrain: “Only two things money can't buy: and that's true love and homegrown tomatoes.” The four performed “This Land Is My Land” together as an encore. What an enjoyable evening.