Summa Cake Laude

Some stories are just too silly and delectable to ignore.

Take the story of the South Carolina family that wanted to celebrate their son’s graduation, summa cum laude, from a Christian-oriented home schooling program.  They ordered a cake from the local outlet of a large national grocery store chain to celebrate the feat, and wanted a sheet cake decorated with a mortarboard and faux diploma and icing to recognize that accomplishment.

publix-cakejpg-8caef864034a07fbAlas!  When the cake was retrieved and viewed at the party, the large national chain had edited out the Latin word variously translated as “with,” “along with,” or “together,” because it also is modern slang for a notorious bodily fluid.  So the cake came out saying “Congrats Jacob!  Summa — Laude Class of 2018” — even though the Mom who ordered the cake explained that the requested phrase was Latin and meant “with highest honors.”  Poor Jacob is quoted as saying, no doubt ruefully:  “The cake experience was kind of frustrating and humiliating because I had to explain to my friends and family like what that meant. And they were giggling uncontrollably. At least my friends were.”

Can it really be that a major grocery story chain that regularly bakes congratulatory cakes doesn’t know what “cum laude” means?  Maybe we all need to get our minds out of the gutter and onto a higher plane of baking.

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Nights Without Snoring

The other night we were driving home when Kish turned to me and said, with a real note of sadness in her voice:  “I miss Kasey.”

img_6225I knew exactly what she meant.  It’s been a month since our little beagle mix has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and it’s an ongoing adjustment.

We still regularly encounter little signs of our departed friend.  Take, for example, the nights without snoring.  Kasey was a big-time snorer who could saw logs with the best of them.  For a small dog, she produced considerable volume.  It took a while to get used to it when she first joined the family, but after we adjusted to Kasey’s sleep sounds they just became part of the expected background noise.  These days, the nights in our household seem awfully quiet.

There are other reminders, too.  We’ve kept one of Kasey’s dog bowls, so Russell’s dog Betty can use it when they visit.  Kasey’s winter coat still rests on one of the shelves of the pantry.  It’s too small for Betty, but it doesn’t feel quite right, yet, to throw it out or give it away.  When we go out into our tiny back yard, we still reflexively look before we step, even though we’ve long since removed every last one of Kasey’s tootsie rolls.  And, from time to time, we’ll still expect to hear that hoarse bark and thumping tail when we open the front door.

After Kasey’s passing, we’ve decided not to get a new dog for a lot of different reasons. I’m glad, though, that there are still these little, bittersweet reminders of our friend, which seem to be easing our transition into a pooch-free household.

The Melting Pot

One of the more interesting things about our brief visit to Las Vegas was how diverse the place seems to be.

web1_tourism_101116bh_497_7281632In my walks navigating through the throngs of people up and down the Strip — which is a pretty good place for both walking and people watching — I saw people of all colors, shapes, and sizes (and, frequently, degrees of inebriation) taking in the sights.  The shirts people wear tell you that the place is a magnet for bachelorette parties, family reunions, conventions, and other small-scale get-togethers for people from all over, and you’ll hear lots of people speaking other languages as you walk by.  Las Vegas is like a microcosm of the American “melting pot” idea, reduced to city size.

Which raises the question:  why are so many different people drawn to a place like Las Vegas?  I’m sure that a lot of people just like the prospect of gambling, drinking, and otherwise cutting loose in a place that is legendary for its consequence-free, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” mentality.  More broadly, though, I think many people are seeking a little spectacle and energy to break the routine and spice up their lives.  Las Vegas — with its neon, and fantastic buildings, and “anything goes” ‘tude — supplies it.

ABBA-Dabba-Don’t

I let out a heavy, appalled groan over the weekend when I read that ABBA was going to release its first new material in 35 years.  I suspect that I was not alone, and that elsewhere in the world husbands who have learned the disturbing news are bracing for the potentially devastating impact of new ABBA songs on their happy households.

Photo of Agnetha FALTSKOG and ABBA and Bjorn ULVAEUS and Anni Frid LYNGSTAD and Benny ANDERSSONIt’s fair to ask why, after 35 years of blessed, ABBA-free silence, the four musicians in ABBA would see fit to inflict another bouncy, saccharine song upon the unsuspecting world.  Don’t the carefully coiffed Swedes in their curious apparel realize that the world has enough troubles?  Don’t they appreciate that only now, years later, are the ears and cerebral cortexes of human beings across the globe recovering from the inhumane punishment of the Mamma Mia! Broadway musical and follow-on film, which itself was one of the most devilish developments in the sad and sordid history of our species?

And that production, at least, was limited to old, familiar ABBA material.  After years of hearing ultrapop songs like Dancing Queen and Fernando and Take a Chance on Me, the ABBA deniers have been able to erect mental defenses against those audio onslaughts and go to their own mental happy place to hear the strains of The Who’s Baba O’Riley or Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love instead.

But, alas, there won’t be any prepared mental defenses against new ABBA material.  We’ll be walking down the street, passing a Starbucks or bakery, and the next thing we know we’ll be exposed unexpectedly to the new material and the shrill tones will become embedded in our brains where they will lurk forever.

The only good news is that ABBA has apparently recorded only two new songs, so the damage will be limited.

Crossing The Parrot Line

Here’s a pretty good rule of thumb:  if you feel you need to have a parrot announce something to make it more interesting, the announcement is necessarily so intrinsically boring that even a squawking parrot won’t help.

470ff7460e14467f854bcb5bc442ac98So it is with the NFL draft, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have announced that their fourth-round pick will be delivered by a parrot — a Catalina Macaw named Zsa Zsa, to be precise — from the fake pirate ship in the Buccaneers’ stadium.

It’s just the latest effort to try to jazz up the draft, which is the single most boring televised event in the history of organized sports.  For most of the history of the NFL, the draft wasn’t televised, because the NFL Commissioner and team owners correctly concluded that there was nothing remotely telegenic about it.  They wisely recognized that watching men think about which college player they should select, and watching players fidget while they wonder when they’re going to be picked, falls distinctly into watching-paint-dry territory, and seeing the selections appear on stage to don ball caps, give a grip-and-grin with the Commissioner, and display fake jerseys isn’t really any better.  It’s hopelessly dull stuff.

But when the endless quest for more televised sports activities caused someone to decide that the NFL draft should be on TV, too, the seemingly endless quest for ways to make it more interesting to watch began.  After all, even the most diehard NFL fan, whose entire life revolves around his team, can’t bear to watch uninterrupted hours of a yammering Mel Kiper, Jr. and his curious coiffure.  So gimmicks were developed, like having picks announced by former players or fans, or remote cut-ins of player families reacting to the news that their family member was drafted.  The parrot is only the latest, and most pathetically desperate, cry for attention.  Next thing we know, the Browns’ selections will be announced by a guy dressed up like the Grim Reaper or read by the team’s garbage hauler.  One the Parrot Line is crossed, anything is possible

If somebody asks me on Monday whether I watched this weekend’s NFL draft, I’ll think of the parrot and say:  “No, because I have an actual life.”

What The Hell?

According to an aging Italian journalist — so take it with a grain of salt – Pope Francis has declared that there is no hell.  The Vatican has denied that he said that, exactly.  Apparently, the Vatican says he has been misquoted.  Hard to believe that any Italian would misquote the Pope, but there it is.

825150531185141541Not being a Catholic, or particularly religious, I must nevertheless admit that the Pope’s declaration is a bit of a relief.  I’ve been spending the evening listening to Beatles music, downing Lite beers, and trying to follow the Cavs game, and my understanding of Catholic theology is that my actions have probably involve a number of sins.  Like sloth, for example, or gluttony because I’ve downed a few brewskis, or maybe envy too because I’m a Cleveland sports fan and, well, envy is about all we’ve got to go on.

I’m not saying that I thought I was going to hell because I’ve downed a few beers, but it’s nice to have some reassurance from the Ultimate Authority on that front.  But having quaffed a few beers I wonder:  If you’re Catholic and you don’t have to worry about going to a fiery hell, doesn’t that cause you to revisit the very basic tenets of your faith?

Bad Towels

We bought some bath towels a while ago.  They look nice, I suppose, with their fancy raised pattern, but when you consider their essential purpose as towels . . . well, they suck.  Actually, now that I think of it, they don’t suck, and that’s the problem.  These towels have no apparent absorbency, and just kind of smear the water around.  We hoped that, with a few washings, the biers might loosen up somehow and they might actually function properly, but our hopes have been dashed.  These towels are a lost cause.

This is irksome.  Of course, you can’t test towels for absorbency when you buy them, but it’s only fair for a consumer to assume that a product that is supposed to sop up water will, in fact, have a reasonable amount of absorbency.  After all, that’s the whole point of a towel.  And how would you check out a towel, anyway?  It’s not like you can give it a test run to see whether it does the trick when you step out of the shower.

towel with crappy absorbency is like a raincoat that isn’t water-resistant.  And you don’t get to test raincoats before you buy them, either.  But be assured of one thing:  we will never again buy a towel made by this manufacturer.