Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I hope this is the last hockey story of the summer....

By Dick Hirsch
Just to explore the other side of the issue, let me describe a few hypothetical situations:
First, let’s say you are a broker in the Buffalo office of Smith Barney, a mainstay of the operation for years, and you get a very attractive offer proposing you quit and move yourself and your business to Merrill Lynch. The offer is accompanied by the promise of more money and more potential.
Next, place yourself in the role of a television weatherman, a distinct on-camera personality, appearing on the local network outlet where the ratings indicate the lowest number of viewers tune in to the newscasts featuring your forecasts. You get an offer for more money and wider acclaim from a station with a reputation for stability.
Finally, pretend you are a seasoned marketing executive for a business that handles payroll preparation and provides other financial services for businesses, large and small. It’s a competitive world, and a competitor, determined to lure you to his company, proposes a situation you cannot resist: more money, an extended contract and other benefits.
(Bear in mind these are all hypothetic situations, and any resemblance to actual situations and real people, living or dead, is purely coincidental.)
Putting yourself in those settings, would you take the offer and move to a new job? Yes or no. Hey, the last time I looked, it was still a free market economy, where individuals had the basic right to make their own choices about where they work, live and play. I think most people would consider all the ramifications, consider the loyalty factor, and then take the job and move on to a new situation, still doing the same job, but with a better deal.
If my reasoning is correct, doesn’t freedom of choice apply to professional athletes, who are just like the rest of us, only younger and paid salaries that are ridiculously inflated? I say that the decisions made by Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, the co-captains of the 2006-2007 Buffalo Sabres, to move on to other teams should be viewed with understanding, not contempt.
It is an astonishing fact that the Buffalo media spent most of July devoting countless space and time, chewing over every aspect of the story, searching for someone to blame. Maybe it’s true that the writers and broadcasters are mostly cheerleaders, rather than observers. During the season there were predictions that Drury and Briere might depart, but when it happened, the reporters and editors seemed aghast, insulted, outraged, behaving like a bunch of sophomoric cry babies. Maybe we should mark that down as one more indication of the bankruptcy of the Buffalo media’s news judgment.
They want someone to blame. There is no blame. It’s business. It’s life. If you are good at what you do, eventually a competitor will decide to see whether he can’t get you to join his operation, thereby adding strength while damaging the opposition. There are adjustments Drury and Briere will have to make in New York and Philadelphia. They are sacrificing the adulation factor: they will merely be faces in the crowd in those cities, while here they were international celebrities, recognized and deified on both sides of the border. They will lose whatever that is worth.
As I was reflecting on all this useless rhetoric, I thought about a lesson learned years ago from a man named Bob McAdoo, probably the best basketball player to ever wear a jersey embroidered with a Buffalo logo. Playing for the NBA Buffalo Braves and later other teams in the 1970s, he was at one time Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and five times a member of the NBA All-Star Team. “That’s twoooooo for McAdoooooo,” echoed consistently through Memorial Auditorium. After four productive seasons in Buffalo, he was unhappy, wanting to play where the lights were brighter. He was traded to New York and later played in Los Angeles, but as he departed from Buffalo he uttered some words of wisdom that have resonated with me ever since:
“I don’t care where I play,” he said, “as long as they pay me.”
McAdoo was one of the greatest scorers of his era, but he was never regarded as an insightful philosopher. However, he surely summed it all up very neatly that day. Meanwhile, will I be the last columnist in Buffalo to spend time in July writing about the departure of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere? I sure hope so.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

How I discovered the escape of the toes

By Dick Hirsch
I have just seen more toes than a busy podiatrist sees in a year and I didn’t enjoy it but, on reflection, I marvel at how toes have escaped their traditional confines and migrated into the daylight. How did this happen?
There I was, spending four hours between planes in a faraway airport, wondering how I could possibly occupy my time. I did have a book, of course, but I was saving it for the long flight home. I had already read and discarded the daily newspaper, so I resorted to an established and usually satisfying pastime, people watching.
The airports are crowded because it is vacation time and because there are so few direct flights to wherever people are traveling. As a result, people will spend almost as much time in the terminals as they do aboard the planes.
I had a strategic seat on one of the main corridors within the secure area and I started watching. In case you have never tried it, I can tell you that an an airport is an ideal location for people watching because there is such diversity. It wasn’t always that way. In the old days, most passengers were “dressed,” the men with jackets and ties, the women suitably attired for what was considered to be an occasion. That changed years ago when informality became the preferred style.
So there I was, people watching, and I suddenly found myself looking at the passing feet rather than the passing heads. I cannot explain how it happened, but it was an enlightening experience.
I couldn’t believe the quantity of toes in the passing parade. I’ve occasionally read references to toe fetishists, but I’m happy to report I’ve never known one, and I have never understood the attraction. Toes, at their best, are the most unattractive of digits.
Flip-flops and sandals were seen in abundance, some with sequins, some with plastic flowers, some with rhinestones, all with protruding toes, most women with nails painted, some unvarnished. I’m relieved to report that male toenails were au natural, unadorned. I have always associated flip-flops with children and teenagers, but I soon discovered that is a faulty assumption. Flip-flops---which are best described as a basic rubber or plastic sole with a strap that is gripped between the big toe and its neighbor---have moved from the overstock section at the drugstore to become a major apparel item for both men and women.
I expected the sneakers. I am well aware that from early childhood to geezerhood, sneakers have become the shoe of choice for millions of people, not only in the US, but around the world. Sneakers used to be associated with the gym, the basketball court, or the running route, but they have expanded their reach and become walking or “casual” shoes.”
Yes, there were plenty of sneakers on the move in that airport on that day, but their supremacy was challenged by the flip-flops and the sandals.
I stopped counting when I suddenly realized that I may have been the only person in the airport with a pair of brown leather shoes with laces. I thought I was suitably clad for the flight---khakis, a polo shirt, socks and comfortable brushed leather shoes---but amid all the exposed feet I began to feel like I was, well, out of step. I’ve always been described as a contrarian by some and I don’t mind being different. And yet, with each passing minute, I couldn't find anybody with what could be called a traditional shoe...until... until...thank goodness for the pilots. They still wear shoes with laces.
As more time elapsed I became reassured that I wasn’t totally alone with my shoes. Do loafers count? I believe they qualify. They were visible, some with socks, some without. There were others, too; I spotted a solitary pair of wingtips, and a random assortment that could be classified as brogues. No, the wearers definitely did not all appear to be eligible for membership in AARP or recipients of Social Security. But they were the exceptions, a definite minority; or to put it more positively, it was an exclusive group, well shod, with toes encapsulated.
This is absurd, I know, for a person of my supposed experience to spend time studying passing feet. Yet at least I learned something I didn’t know before...and, furthermore, I’ve never been very successful at sleeping while sitting up in a public place.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Apple cider vinegar...again?

By Dick Hirsch
Just the other day a man who considers himself to be of above average intelligence bragged that he is now drinking a portion of apple cider vinegar every day.
“It’s very healthy. “I’m in good shape and the vinegar is helping me stay that way,” he said, slapping his abdomen with considerable energy. Then he noticed a quizzical expression on my face that I could not conceal.
“It has so many benefits,” he added. “You should try it.”
“It must taste like it could be used to remove rust from the bumper of your car,” I told him.
“That’s true,” he replied. “But it’s not so bad when you get used to it.”
“Nothing ever is,” I told him.
Then he proceeded to explain the benefits and they are impressive. For starters, the apple cider vinegar is expected to reduce cholesterol, prevent heart disease, reduce blood pressure, counteract arthritis and be helpful in the management of diabetes. That is a lot of positive action, considering the recommended dosage is one tablespoon each day in a glass of water.
Solely in the interest of preparing a comprehensive report for readers, I did drink several daily doses of the cider/water drink. I won’t say I “tried” it because I actually tried it several years ago, during another period when cider vinegar was rising to the top of the charts of popular alternative treatments that promised longevity. I remember how awful it tasted then and how I quit after a month or so. It doesn’t seem as pungent and repulsive now, but maybe my taste buds have grown less discerning.
Cider vinegar has had a long history of use in that manner but there is little evidence that it works. Of course, that won’t prevent anybody from trying it. It reached the apex of popularity following publication of the 1958 bestseller, Folk Medicine, by D. C. Jarvis, MD. At lest 40 years after its publication I received a copy as a gift from my dear friend, Benny, who explained that he had paid a quarter for it at a yard sale. Dr. Jarvis extols the virtues of vinegar, detailing how it has benefits for both humans and livestock. In Vermont, he wrote, cows that had trouble getting pregnant soon grew fecund when cider vinegar was added to their feed.
There is far more interest in diet, health and fitness now than there was when the book was published, and various advisors now are recycling the claims of cider vinegar. The Internet is filled with recommendations and anecdotal claims.
There is so much health advice on the Internet that a person can spend hours researching preventatives and treatments. Just as I was discussing the claims about vinegar, in came an e-mail from a friend in California who has spent a lifetime eating all the borderline bad things: chicken wings, pasta, rare beef and ice cream by the quart, for example.
He forwarded a list of over 40 fruits and vegetables that enumerated the health benefits of each. After studying the list, a person can only conclude that time would be better spent in the produce department rather than the pharmacy. Some of these items appear extremely versatile.
Take figs as an example. We don’t ever hear much about figs, but they are around and clearly deserve more visibility. According to the chart, figs accomplish the following: promote weight loss, help stop strokes, lower cholesterol, combat cancer and control blood pressure. Is there a single pill that can make those claims? Broccoli is another impressive entry, although it has had its share of favorable publicity in recent years. Of broccoli, the chart reports: strengthens bones, saves eyesight, combats cancer, protects your heart and controls blood pressure.
Cancer gets most of the attention on the list, and with good reason. Those fruits and vegetables cited as good for combatting cancer are: apricots, beans, beets, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, chestnuts, figs, fish, grapes, green tea, lemons, limes, mangoes, mushrooms, oats, olive oil, onion, oranges, peaches, peanuts, rice, tomatoes, walnuts, watermelon, wheat germ and wheat bran.
This report should not be considered to be medical advice. BfloTales makes no claims of benefits and endorses no treatment strategies. Consult your physician.
Will you live longer if you limit your food intake to those items on the chart, washed down with a glass of water with apple cider vinegar? I don’t know if you will live much longer, but it will seem much longer.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Garbage in....garbage out

By Dick Hirsch
Years ago, no proper person would dream of introducing the topic of garbage at a dinner party. That was among the subjects that were off limits. I won’t mention any of the others that were in that category, because some of them are still taboo.
Things have changed over the years, and none more than garbage. The change has been evolving over the years. Some people can remember when the trucks picked the stuff up and took it to one of two places, either the dump or the incinerator.
There are no more dumps or incinerators. The dump has transitioned into a landfill and the incinerator has been retired in most communities because of its output of noxious fumes.
The real experts don’t use garbage as an umbrella term. Garbage, the specific term, is usually reserved for the sloppiest stuff, the meanest, ugliest, gooiest, foulest detritus. We all are familiar with it, participate in creating it, yet nobody is eager to deal with it. The other materials that fit under the general heading of garbage but are regarded as more benign and less objectionable are referred to as trash, rubbish, litter, debris or some similar term.
Now that we’ve gotten the semantics of garbology out of the way, it’s important to consider how the topic emerged as an item that now is being so often discussed. It is because of the containers being promulgated as the method of choice with which to transport garbage from the yard to the curbside. It is not really a method, it is more like a vehicle, a burly, heavyweight plastic two-wheeled wagon with a hinged cover that is being adopted by many communities as a sanitary way of storage until pickup. They call it a “tote,” but not many people would choose to tote it because of its weight and bulk.
The totes are a major topic in my community, where they have recently been distributed to each home. The favored size is 95 gallons, although it is possible to trade in that standard size for a smaller one, about 65 gallons. The arrival of the totes will bring uniformity and regimentation to garbage day on every block. Each home will have an identical tote at curbside, rather than a ragtag mix of containers of various shapes and vintages. The other day I drove down a street on the west side and passed block after block of uniform garbage containers. Isn’t it comforting to know that household waste is being dealt with in such a manner?
Of course the distribution of the totes requires an immediate assessment of the existing containers. My largest container is currently 35 gallons and that has usually been sufficient, but how could I reject a 95 gallon behemoth? Have the authorities considered whether possession of such capacity will encourage users to generate even more garbage?
In my case, I realize I will have to abandon some of the containers that have been with me for many years. I have some experience in that area, and it has been revealing.
One of the most daunting objects to rid yourself of is an old garbage can. I know that sounds strange, but it is true. I still have some aging steel cans that I either purchased or inherited years ago, containers used exclusively for yard waste. These are specimens that are most notable for their dents and their rust, but they have utilitarian value.
I once tried to get rid of a can like that. I put it out empty on collection day, laying on its side. They didn’t take it. The following week I wrote a note on a yellow piece of paper in red ink and taped it to the rim of the can. The note said ”PLEASE TAKE.” Of course the can was empty, but upright, with the note visible. That time, they ignored both the note and the can. During the interval between collections, I jumped up and down on that can, at every opportunity, attempting to flatten it beyond recognition.
I only fell down twice during the exhausting process, but I did succeed in altering its appearance so it looked like a despicable piece of rusty metal; in other words, it looked like trash, rubbish, litter or debris. Out it went on the designated morning. Back it came that afternoon, rejected once again. I eventually had to recruit an undercover agent to rid myself of that can. The garbologists are even fussier and more selective these days.