Friday, April 30, 2010


First of all let me state that the inordinate focus on youth in this culture is completely insane. The average amount spent on beauty products annually is around $7 billion, and in 2007 women spent over $11 billion on surgery and products to look younger and more beautiful. That’s billion dollars, with a B. Do you have any idea how much money that is? It’s a lot. A whole lot. It’s a lot when you talk about the money spent by the average consumer in this supposedly bad economy. It’s not so much when you talk about the money spent by the federal government, in this same supposedly bad economy.

I’m not certain exactly why youth is so venerated especially since most of us in our younger days were complete idiots. Maybe we just yearn to look like we once did and have the wisdom and experience we do now. Perhaps, that’s the case, but I for one was not particularly attractive prior to my 28th birthday, and although I would hardly consider myself over the hill, I would definitely say that the older I get, the better looking I become. There are a few caveats to that one, but I would have to say that overall, with age truly does come beauty. Nonetheless, we strive for a youthful look at the cost of exorbitant amounts of money annually. And no matter how disappointed we are in the results, we just keep trying different things hoping that something may actually work. In fact in 2009 a Chinese woman sued her salon because the beauty products she bought there didn’t work. Although it’s a brave move to sue over something that absurd, all I can ask is what did she really expect? People age, that’s just the way it is. If you have lived a healthy life, stayed out of the sun, eaten well and have really great genes, you may have a chance, but otherwise, you will get crows feet and laugh lines, and other miscellaneous wrinkles just like everyone else. There is no miracle product to fix that no matter what the advertisements say.

But since we all try despite the facts right in front of us, I can only blame myself for being nothing more than a lemur, and of course in my attempt to have pimple-less skin I tried something that probably was not the right product for the issue, but was entertaining nonetheless. Susan Lucci spoke to me one Sunday morning and told me that her Youthful Essence microdermabrasion system was the be-all, end-all of the universe. I didn’t believe her, but I bought it anyway.

Susan Lucci, is 63 years old. And no one will deny that she looks fantastic. That said, Susan Lucci is also a star. Stars don’t have lives like the rest of us do. Although I would never say that the life of a star is not stressful, I’m quite sure it is, with having to be perfect all the time and being followed everywhere you go, but I have a hard time believing that the stress is the same as the average American. (In the unlikely event that I ever become famous, I may have to recant on this one, but I promise you that should that time ever come, I will be honest about it. I can tell you almost 100% certainty that my issues at that point will differ greatly from my current issues.). In addition to the stress differences, famous people have resources that non-famous people don’t usually have. They have “people” and access and an entourage who’s job it is to make sure they look awesome – all the time. Makes you wonder what is real and what is fabricated doesn’t it? Although I believe that Ms. Lucci uses her Youthful Essence microdermabrasion system, I also believe that is not her only secret. I think there are probably other things that have helped Ms. Lucci along in her quest for perfect, youthful skin.

All skepticism aside, I still ordered the product believing that it couldn’t’ really hurt and maybe it would be fun to use. The system makes really large and completely unrealistic promises about skin miracles and revealing natural beauty. First of all there are no miracles unless you are Walt Disney or Dorothy Gale and natural beauty is just that. Natural. If you have natural beauty, you don’t need help bringing it out, it’s already there because, oh, it’s natural.

The claims of “state-of-the art cosmetic technology” made me start to question the integrity of the advertising right away, because although I was supposed to start seeing results after the first application, I didn’t see any results, ever. I’m still a little unclear as to what “state-of-the art cosmetic technology” is. It might be the little buffer thing that vibrates back and forth and is supposed to exfoliate to the point of miraculous-ness, but really it looked like the same technology my 15 year old vibrator used. Maybe it was “state-of-the art” in 1990, but not anymore.

The only positive from the whole experience is that the introductory 30 day supply of resurfacing cream actually lasted longer than 30 days. This would have been fantastic if the company hadn’t automatically sent me more product. The part that they don’t tell you when you are ordering this “miracle” system is that once they get your credit card information, they will continue to send replacements of the resurfacing cream until you take time out of your life to cancel the orders you never really made in the first place. Then they will try to convince you not to cancel, as any good sales/customer service representative will. I know everyone wants to make money, but automatic reordering, that just seems a little wrong to me. Especially for a product that doesn’t really work.

I would have to give the product itself a bad report because it doesn’t work. I did not become naturally beautiful, and no miracles occurred in my bathroom. I will say that it was fun to use the little vibraty-thing, which conveniently enough is waterproof, so I could even use it in the shower. Sort of like that 15 years old vibrator.

Friday, April 23, 2010


When one is married and has two dogs and three cats, sleeping quarters become very cramped. Yes, it is so, that both dogs and all three cats (two now deceased) used to sleep with us no matter where we were. This included the full bed at my in-laws house which caused serious consternation, since if you have every slept in a full sized bed with another person, you know that it is more than a little cramped. Add to that 130 lbs of four-legged animals all with night-time gastro-intestinal-air-release and you have nothing short of a potential natural disaster. Couple that with either no sleep or disturbed sleep with very unpleasant dreams and you have a downright crisis on your hands.

The sleeping arrangements were also a little tight in our queen sized bed at home. The slightly larger size of that bed made it a little easier to sleep, but there was still the fighting over prime feline real estate, and Zac’s tendency to expand to fill whatever space he is in. I think some days that he is part goldfish, since when he is sleeping in his own bed he takes up scarcely more space than his little, tightly curled body, however put him in a queen sized bed and all of a sudden his 60 lbs seems large enough to span the grand canyon. We are still trying to name this most irritating of phenomenons.

We decided that the only way to remedy this situation was to up the ante and get a king sized bed. Now mind you, neither of us are very big people, and when we have slept in king sized beds in hotel rooms we don’t see each other and certainly don’t touch over the expanse of bed available to us. We, as we have been trained by the pets to do, claim our own side and don’t stray from the 6” at either the right or left edge. Nonetheless, after weighing the options and realizing the pain of contorting around the fur-people, we decided a king size was the way to go. Even if we did continue to stick to our requisite 6”, the remaining 60” in the center of the bed was sure to be enough for the two dogs, remaining cat and replacement kitten, We figured then we could bring the old queen size to my in-laws house thus increasing the likelihood of getting any sleep at all.

Since we had come to the conclusion that we were going to buy a new bed anyway, we decided that it should be the most comfortable bed on the planet. I had, in the past spent no shortage of dollars on mattresses that I was sure would be the answer to my back problems. Several moves later, it occurred to me that the $1500 mattress would probably have been better for my back had I not had to lug it from home to home. Seems the liabilities of toting that thing around outweighed the benefits of using it in the first place. Live and learn. Se after much consideration, we opted for a Sleep Number. You know the Sleep Number. The Bionic Woman’s choice. I mean if it’s good enough for her, it’s definitely good enough for us.

We actually went to a store and had the nice lady test our number. Ironically we were both 35s. Who knew? It also seems to be the favored number of our goldfish-dog, Zac. The bed came in pieces and was rapidly assembled by two guys who looked like they would have had trouble constructing a Lego set. In the, highly likely event that I would have to move the bed, “some assembly required” was not going to cause the meltdown so often resulting from such things. Additionally, because the Sleep Number bed is basically an industrial strength air mattress, aside from the inconvenience of wrestling with a 76” x 80” rectangle, the weight wouldn’t be anywhere near that of the old double pillow top queen (you knew that joke was going to come out eventually).

The Sleep Number is, as I mentioned, an air mattress covered with, and surrounded by, foam. The reason you can adjust it is because you can add or remove air as desired by using a remote control attached to a pump which is cleverly hidden under the lego-frame. The reason that you can adjust your side separately from your sleeping partner’s side is because the queen and king beds actually consist of two different beds. You can inflate, deflate and jump up and down on your side all you want, and it won’t bother your sleeping partner because they aren’t on your bed. Your side is really your own bed. You don’t, however, have to worry about falling into the crack between the two sides because the crack is filled with foam and the two “sides” get zipped into what amounts to a giant pillowcase which leaves no room for shifting, but is surprisingly easy to zip up.

Sleep Number beds come in different grades, or “series”. Like everything else in this world, the beds increase in cost as the features increase. Our bed is the right-in-the-middle king. We also purchased a memory foam mattress pad because our model didn’t come with that extra layer of squishy, that we so enjoyed with the double pillow top of our last bed. It makes an already amazingly comfortable bed absolutely stellar. The great part about the memory foam mattress pad is that it’s removable and we have been known to travel across the country with it when we know we will be sleeping on a less-than comfortable bed for an extended period of time (which is painfully often).

Our Sleep Number bed is quite possibly the best purchase we’ve ever made. It was a little pricey, but it was worth every penny, and because there are no springs to sag, it lasts longer than a regular mattress making the extra up front cost actually cost less over your lifetime because you don’t have to replace it every 5 years. I’m actually hoping to die an old woman in this one. So unless you sleep with a machete, point side down, you don’t have to worry much about damaging or wearing your Sleep Number out.

All those claims they make about sleeping better and falling asleep faster, are actually true. I’m definitely not one to believe the advertisements, but there is no doubt that the bed has made a difference. We absolutely love it. The only reason we wake up in the middle of night now is because of the toxic fumes emanating from the pet’s nether regions.

Unfortunately, however, the goldfish-dog seems to have expanded even more, as predicted. We’re closer to having enough room for the whole fur-family, but if only we had just a few more inches. Maybe we need to buy another twin to increase the width of the bed another 50%. Maybe a triple king will give us the space we need. Or at least get us far enough away from the farts to not dream of outhouses. Maybe, but probably not.

Friday, April 16, 2010


You’ve got to love any product that Chuck Norris promotes. I mean how could you possibly go wrong with a product that the man who can do anything uses to prepare to be able to do anything? It sells itself don’t you think? And Christie Brinkley, well what is there to say about Christie Brinkley and her promotions. After all she has so many. Clearly people buy what she sells or Coke, Anheuser-Busch, ConAgra Foods, MasterCard Worldwide, Revlon, the Got Milk? people and multiple others wouldn’t have all jumped on the Brinkley-wagon. People love her, people want to be her or be near her and as a result will buy what she sells just because well, it’s Christie Brinkley. I’m sure both Christie and Chuck have a Total Gym® at home. And I’m sure they use it daily…

The Total Gym® ( is a strength training system which uses your own body weight for resistance. You have some flexibility with the resistance by adjusting the angle of the moving platform on which you are sitting to perform the exercises, but the maximum amount of weight you can lift with the Total Gym® is always a percentage of your body weight. The moving platform is adjusted by changing the angle to the support pole. Unless you can figure out a way to keep another person on the moving platform with you while you are working out, there is no way to lift more than you weigh. For some people this is probably a good thing, for others, perhaps not. Clearly depending on the exercise and your fitness and strength level it would take some time to build up to lifting your own body weight, but there are people who actually can do that and then some. I don’t really recommend the Total Gym® for those individuals because the resistance is just too limited. For those of us however that are not Adonis, this is a great product.

We purchased our Total Gym® when we were on the road for work, living in a small apartment and lacking both our home gym setup and a local gym membership. We figured that for a few hundred dollars we could get the workouts and bring the Total Gym® home to add to the other home gym products we have collected over the years. A good plan, and one that we were pleasantly surprised by.

Truthfully, we were not expecting anything fantastic from the Total Gym®. Even though the celebrity promoters are awesome in their awesomeness, one cannot assume that the product they are promoting is as well. After all, promotions are all about money, not about effectiveness. But with a Sears nearby and a desperate need for some resistance training, we gave it a go. We bought the last Total Gym® in the store and ended up with a discount because it was the floor model. If you go to the Total Gym® website you will see home models ranging in price from $599 to $1499. I think ours was $199 with the discount which brought the grand total to somewhere around $150. Our plan was already coming together brilliantly. We knew of the small footprint and the ability of the Total Gym® to slide easily under the bed for safe keeping so even if it was completely useless, we could at least hide it from ourselves and any future guests.

Some assembly is required, and first of all let me say that it is not quite as easy to assemble and disassemble as it appears on television. Not that this fact should surprise you in any way, but I thought I’d share it nonetheless. Once assembled however, the Total Gym® is extremely easy to use. You can work out every muscle group including abdominals and increase resistance as your strength increases. The resistance increments are dictated by the incline of the moving platform so for some muscle groups (example: shoulders, triceps) the jump can be very large. For other muscle groups (example: legs) the jump may not be enough and the likelihood of maxing out the weight increases.

For the most part the Total Gym® is easy to manipulate and use, however there are a few exercises that require some amount of contortion to get yourself into the proper position. Of course there is a distinct possibility that I’m the only one that has that problem, since my wife used to look at me like I had intentionally grown a second head very time I was unable to position myself properly. With that questioning look of “how could I have married such an idiot” lovingly expressed in her eyes, I often found myself with my left arm just millimeters from dislocation. Actually, now that I’m writing this, I’m sure that was just a personal problem related somehow to either my inability to tell my right from my left or maybe my overwhelming lack of efficiency of movement.

All in all, for an average person, and by this I mean not a bodybuilder or a powerlifer or someone with extra-super strength requirements, the Total Gym® is a great piece of equipment. We very much enjoy the versatility and convenience of such a small piece of fitness equipment. The disassembly part is still a little cumbersome, but with practice, you can get your time down to only a few minutes. If you live in a small space you really could set it up, work out and break it down all in the time it would take you to drive to the gym and shower. In this time-constrained world that we currently live in, convenience and speed are critically important, as is the ability to multitask. The Total Gym® is perfect for the lifestyle of most of today’s urban professionals. It’s easy to use, fits anywhere, allows for enough variety that you won’t get bored, allows you the ability to workout in private, and of course is promoted by Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley. How can you go wrong?

Friday, April 9, 2010


I know I write a lot about Bobo (aka Lady Shirlington aka Paddles Pendleton aka “the crazy dog”) but this week it’s all about Zac (aka Lord Shirlington aka Bunny aka Benedict Bunny McFadden Von Pantz the 3rd). Zac is older and much more distinguished than Bobo could ever hope to be. He is gray around the muzzle, is beginning to get “old man bumps” on his eyelids and body, and is (often) the fun police at the dog park, assuring that no other canines have any sort of romping, joyous entertainment without eliciting at least a single series of barks.

Zac is a very attractive gentleman, rather tall for his breed and somehow manages to catch the eye of many passers by. Children love him, adults love him, other dogs sometimes love him and we really love him. He deserves respect and he demands it every chance he gets. He’s completely spoiled but he is also 11 so that in itself gives him permission to be a little more demanding. He spends most of the day sleeping on our Sleep Number Bed and unfortunately most of the night as well. We even know which number he likes. (He will always pick the 35 side.) And this is where the story really starts.

We bought a king sized bed because it was a little tight in a queen sized with 2 large dogs and 3 cats. We figured that if we had a larger bed, there would be plenty of room for all of us. We didn’t consider the fact that animals are like sponges. They reliably expand when given the opportunity to do so. Our king sized bed rapidly became too small and we now joke that we’ll buy another twin to put next to it to make it just that much bigger. We haven’t done that yet, but we did go the next best route.

Zac is older, we don’t say he’s old, but he is definitely older. He’s not quite as spry as he was in his youth, he doesn’t bounce back quite as quickly when he overdoes it, and he’s a little creaky when moves from lying down to standing. We don’t begrudge him loving the Sleep Number, we completely understand why. The problem is that he lies in the middle of the bed and sticks his legs out to assure that he possesses the greatest amount of space possible. This is a very interesting phenomenon considering when he sleeps on the couch or a chair or even in his own bed (which he will only occupy between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm), he takes up about as much real estate as one of the cats. That is, not a lot. So it’s interesting really that he expands so much in our bed.

In his defense, his bed is a little beat up, so it’s understandable that it’s not his first choice of sleeping locations. His sister Bobo (aka Lady Shirlington) had in the past made it her personal mission to remove all of the stuffing from it. We are therefore forever restuffing it, so it’s a little lumpy. We knew we were going to have to buy him a new bed eventually, but which one to choose…

We figured since he was getting older and liked our bed so much, we would do what we could to replicate it. Since they don’t make Sleep Numbers for dogs (yet), that wasn’t an option. What we do have however, is a Tempur-Pedic, memory foam mattress pad, and they do make memory foam dog beds. There are several companies that make these illustrious beds, but we decided to go with the Buddy Beds because they seem to be the most popular and received rave reviews.

Buddy Beds are made of 2” of 5 lb memory foam with 3” of supporting foam underneath. They are waterproof and anti-bacterial and anti-dust mite. They are not however chew proof, and they are rather expensive. $299 for a large one. So this was a pretty major decision as we did not want to spend $300 + dollars (don’t forget the shipping costs), only to have Bobo annihilate it within minutes. We decided to take the chance because Bobo has aged a bit and gotten much better about not eating things that don’t belong to her. She still has her moments with socks every now and again, but she doesn’t go for anything larger than that anymore.

All the reviews written by satisfied customers claimed that their dog slept through the night in their new bed immediately or almost immediately. We figured Zac need some time to acclimate to his new digs, but that he’d realize eventually that his Buddy Bed was a good thing. He took to it immediately and spent his days between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm happily sleeping in it. But come bedtime, there he was back with us. We thought our biggest problem with getting Zac to sleep in his own bed was the quality of the bed. But we soon learned otherwise. Zac likes having a back edge on his beds so he can lean against it. Buddy Beds don’t have those. To remedy that situation, we stuffed pillows between his bed and the night stand so he would have something to lean against. It didn’t work. Apparently Buddy Beds can’t beat our Sleep Number.

But then we had to move temporarily for work and live in an apartment with a queen sized bed. Since all of the animal accompaniments at night can really disrupt sleep patterns, in a smaller bed, this certainly would not do. Disrupted sleep would definitely not be good when we needed to be smart. So when we moved, we insisted that Zac sleep in his own bed and kicked him off of ours when he ventured up before 5 am. Unbelievably, he took to it like a Zac to Sleep Number. He now sleeps happily though the night on his very own large memory foam tuffet. He still comes into the big bed in the mornings, but that’s part of the fun of having a dog isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Weak stomachs beware, this one is pretty gross.

We were having a little bit of an issue with our bathroom sink, which isn’t altogether surprising since we rented our house out a few years back to people who left it looking like they spent their free time frying chicken in the bedroom. Even after moving back into the house, gutting the bedroom, repainting the bathroom and bleaching every possible surface, we are still finding odd remnants of their inability to live in a modern, industrialized society, with all the trimmings of the good life. Now, I’m not blaming them completely for the clogged drain, after all, drains clog, but I am blaming them for the massive quantity of grunge that was clogging up the drain.

We try to be politically correct and since we have both a well (uphill in the back) and a septic system (downhill in the front) which leaches into our yard (as most septic systems do). As such, we try hard not to put bad things down the sink or onto the lawn (such as it is). We don’t use fertilizers that aren’t 100% manure, we don’t pour paint thinner onto the grass, we don’t use bleach in our laundry and we don’t use toxic chemicals to clear clogged drains. Usually we just ignore them.

We decided that ignoring the problem would not, in fact, make it go away, as is often believed, and thought for a mere $10, it may be worth our while to try out the Turbo Snake. After all, the infomercial makes use look so easy and effective.

The Turbo Snake arrived on what was to become a very irritating day. Nothing seemed to be working quite right and even the beers at 3 pm didn’t raise our spirits. The only thing that seemed to have any effect on the dark cloud, was the anticipation of trying the Turbo Snake, and the possibility that it might work.

The Turbo Snake is an industrious tool designed to clear out your drains without having to deal with the ever-so-intimidating plumber’s snake or ever-so-impertinent toxins. The Turbo Snake comes in two sizes, one for the sink and one for the shower, along with a little sticky hook used to hang them after use. All these items come nicely packaged in a neat little plastic baggie, and you get two sets per order. The Turbo Snake is a thick plastic-coated wire with what appears to be velco’s cousin on the end. This Velcro-type element is designed to catch and remove the nastiness clogging your drain with a simple twist. It’s clever, simple and certain could work.

Fast forward to black-cloud day in the great North East, the neat little plastic baggie sitting on the counter unopened, the anticipation mounting…We enter the bathroom with camera in hand prepared for whatever will follow. We fill up the sink with bubbly water so you, good reader, can see the clog at it’s finest and insert the smaller of the Turbo Snakes.

With just a brief twist and pull that anyone capable of tying their own shoes can do, out came the most disgusting, rotting organic matter known to man. It smelled worse than the septic tank which had recently been pumped. Interestingly enough, with the help of a paper towel, it was easily removed from the Velcro-like substance at the business end of the Turbo Snake. Once the large chunks were gone, after a quick rinse the Turbo Snake was clean enough to wrap up and hang from the little, included sticky hook. Since once wasn’t enough to be believed we had to try again with the tub-sized Turbo Snake. The tub size Turbo Snake is longer and thicker and the Velcro-type item is a little larger, but it worked just as easily.

The Turbo Snake comes wrapped very nicely in its original package and after use is a little difficult to get back into the nice tight little curly-cue. Although this is purely aesthetic in nature, I did try to get the cleaned, used Turbo Snakes back into their original curly form. I was unsuccessful. Despite my utmost attempt, I just couldn’t do it. They ended up both fitting on the hook, albeit, a little askew.

Nonetheless, I would definitely not poo-poo this item based solely on its inability to be returned to its perfect curled state after use. An inexpensive, effective tool that lifted that black cloud and made us both not only smile, but actually laugh out loud. It’s functional and entertaining all in one. Really, what more could you ask for out of a $10 item (with $7 shipping and handling)?