(Originally published August-21-09 in the Free Ads Weekly, Florence, AL)

I’m always on the lookout for unusual and interesting studies, and was not disappointed upon reading some professors’ finding explaining why we humans swing our arms when we walk.  Now why didn’t I think of that first?  Perhaps I was too busy trying to get a grant to determine the percentage of peacock feathers being used as ceremonial headpiece accessories in lower New Guinea to catch that one.  In case the reading public had any doubts about the importance of this study, the author says that arm-swinging has ‘long piqued scientific curiosity’.  This means somewhere in the Netherlands an egg head was going nuts trying to figure out why his arms seemed to have a life of their own when he walked.  I know how he feels.  My arms are always trying to force my hands to pick up things I can’t afford, or scratch myself in public, or constantly checking to make sure I haven’t forgotten my wallet or key or socks.

I knew something was fishy when I read that ‘some experts’ (the definition of an expert is someone who acts like they possess knowledge about something the rest of us aren’t supposed to know, as if we cared) contend that arm-swinging is a left over trait from when we walked on all fours.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember ever walking with my hands, unless you count the times I played horsey when the kids were just kids.  Well, there were those college parties, but that’s a different story.  Even if we pretend our ancestors used to run around on all fours, why in the world did we hang on to this behavior?  I mean, we managed to get rid of our tails and fur, but for some reason the whole arm-swinging thing stuck around.  Puleeze.

The swinging study even built a mechanical model! Imagine a pile of engineers trying to make a robot that swings its arms.  “Tighten that elbow a little bit.  It’s slapping its own face.”  “No, let the shoulders rotate freely.  We don’t want it to look too much like a helicopter.”  “Hey, who put a robotic finger in my egg salad sandwich?”  “Man, that’s the third pelvis we’ve broken this week.”  Evidently the robot didn’t meet their expectations, or they ran out of AA batteries, or one of them got smacked in the head and came to their senses, because the scientists decided to turn their attention to real life arm-swinging people.

What a concept.  I’m so relieved universities hire the most competent and cost efficient help.  Now I know why it costs roughly half a million dollars a semester to attend college. Somewhere a swinging robot is sitting in the corner gathering dust, hoping it gets picked for Herbie Hancock’s next music video.  So these scientists go out into the real world and pick out test subjects for their study. I’m curious how they predetermined who their guinea pigs would be.  Ok, first they should have arms.  Next, they have to be swinging them.  Then . . .ok, they should have arms.  That must have been a grueling selection process.  Hope they paced themselves.

Now here’s where it gets sticky.  These scientists somehow figured out on their abacus that there must be a metabolic cost to arm-swinging.  This is a no-brainer, as nothing is free in today’s economy.  They had a third of the subjects walk normally, a third had to walk what they called an ‘opposite-to-normal’ swing (such genius!) and a third were to walk with their arms straight down without swinging.  This must have loked like a scene from either ‘Night of the Living Dead’ or ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’.  Too bad they didn’t get the Bushwackers to participate.  Now, those guys knew how to swing!

If there’s a question to beg, this is it: how in name of sweet Aunt Julia did those scientists determine the metabolic cost to all this sauntering?  The study says they measured the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide the different groups used, but what is that other than breathing?  “Ok, Joe, you watch the backward swingers, and if they stop inhaling, make a note.”  Please tell me the scientists made a video.

After watching people walk for awhile, the scientists determined that our natural way of walking is best in the long run. Thank goodness!  I was starting to get worried that we might have to start sticking our hands in our shirt pockets when we get around.  These big brains said, “The arm’s pendulum swing helps dampen the bobbly up-and-down motion of walking.”  These guys insult our intelligence and then call us bobble-heads. Where’s that robot?  I want to study how far it can boot a

(originally published in the 7-24-09 edition of Free Ads Weekly, Florence, Alabama)

      There was an article in the news recently that said a study was done which proved that cats are in control of their owners. This causes me to wonder if there’s a gaggle of scientists somewhere who sit around all day thinking of ways to spend money on obvious things.  I could speculate on a wide variety of subjects that would make for easy studies, such as finding out if the sun really does rise in the east, but my cat wants me to stay on topic.

     The study says felines have a particular way of mixing a purr with a cry when they want something like food or your favorite shoes, and this somehow reminds their owner of a hungry baby, causing the human to stop whatever they’re doing and look for a bottle and diaper.  I’m not smart enough to make this stuff up.  My cat, Jack, makes this precise sound whenever I get up in the morning, and it works like a charm.  I toss him one of my favorite shoes so he’ll shut up and let me have a peaceful cup of coffee.  I think he’s got me trained well, because I know what will happen if I don’t give into his demands: he waits for me to get comfortable and then pounces out of thin air to use my leg as a scratching post.  I’ve tried tricking Jack by putting scratching posts where my legs should be, but it’s hard to get comfortable when you’re hiding your legs behind your back, all the while trying to cross your scratching posts.  In times like this Jack looks at me as if I’m brain damaged then sneaks around behind and shreds my bent, folded and spindled legs.

     Have you ever tried to get a cat to do anything? They know who rules the roost. Jack will toy with me by standing in front of any closed door and making that hungry baby sound, but when I run over to open it, he just stares at me as if he has no idea why I opened the door that he’s refusing to go through.  Whenever I call him by name he acts like I must be talking to the doorknob, so I have to resort to inhaling helium and yell “Here kitty kitty kitty!”  Usually by the time he saunters over to me, I’ve forgotten what I wanted him for.  It’s no fun getting old, especially if you’re slave to a cat.

     My son told me about this cartoon he saw once where this dog and cat were laying side by side and thinking.  First of all, I know it must be a cartoon, as any respectable cat will tell you that dogs don’t have the capacity to think because all they have in their cranial cavity is a huge drool gland.  Secondly, it is highly unlikely that a dog and cat would lay side by side.  The cat demands top billing and must be at least two feet in front of the dog in the event the dog’s drool gland activates.  Anyway, my son said that in the cartoon, the dog was thinking, “My human feeds me, brushes me, bathes me, plays with me.  He must be a god!”  The cat has similar thoughts.  “My human feeds me, brushes me, bathes me, plays with me.  I must be a god!”  Even though the cartoonist’s fundamental message is sound – that dogs looks up to us and cats look down on us – I would never have imagined a cat thinking such things. Instead of thinking “my human”, the typical cat regards us more like minions created to serve.  Finally, I’m not going to mention the obvious logical flaw that a cat would think his minion bathes him.  I’ve got permanent scars on my arms from the only time I attempted to bathe Jack.  A co-worker asked me once what was up with my arms, and instead of humiliating myself with the truth, I said I had been involved with an industrial paper shredder accident.  I still haven’t figured out what to say about my legs, though.  There’s no way a paper shredder could attack both my arms and legs, unless a couple of them ganged up on me.  Now that’s a disturbing image.

     The study quotes a Karen McComb of the University of Sussex who says, “Solicitation purring is probably more acceptable to humans than overt meowing, which is likely to get cats ejected from the bedroom.” That’ a funny phrase, “solicitation purring”.  I can just imagine getting a knock on my front door and finding a cat there trying to sell me a magazine subscription.  I probably would but a subscription to Cat Fancy just to make the cat stop that sound.

     Any respectable cat slave will tell you that cats are just too smart to go around soliciting in public.  They get the humans to do that for them.  I bet behind any successful salesman sits a cat on his or her throne, pulling the strings.  Home is another matter altogether, though.  Jack does not hesitate doing his cry-purr thing whenever he wants the refrigerator door opened, for instance, or when he wants the toilet seat left up.  That reminds me of the time I found him squatting over my can of Mountain Dew one day, and when I confronted him about it, he answered with, “Well, you do that in my drink bowl.”  Since then I’ve switched to bottles.  I hope he doesn’t know how to unscrew a bottle cap.  On the other hand, any creature that can manipulate a human as much as cats do would find a bottle cap child’s play.

     Time to go.  Jack’s making that purr-cry sound again, and if I know what’s good for my legs, I’d better to attend to him quickly.

You've heard of the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it".  I used to scoff at that saying.  Seriously scoff, not that half-assed sighing scoff you see from the talking heads on TV.  I would say, "I've been wishing for a boatload of money for years, and where the hell is it?"  Little did I know I actually had to go where the boats were, you know, like, in the water?  I used to . . . no, I confess, I still do wish for the winning lottery numbers, but whenever I'm at that counter, stubby little pencil in hand, poised over the lottery ticket, the magic numbers that my brain sends up like flares turn out to be anything BUT the winning numbers.  Oh, yeah, I got the winning numbers all right.  In my sleep,  As soon as I wake up - poof! - the numbers fade away like an aging rock star.  Now, you can substitute the word "pray" for "wish", although the end result is the same.  Praying for something invokes a sort of Divine version of "Punk'd".  I've learned that God has an incredible sense of humor.  I can imagine what He was saying to the angels when He made Man.  "Let's start him out without any hair or teeth, make him completely ignorant of the world around him, give him poor eyesight and let him be unable to control his bladder and bowels.  Oh!  Almost forgot.  Instead of a brain, give him a big drool gland up there.  Now, after Man goes through his life and nears the end of it, let's grace him with all the same problems he had when he was a newborn.  Yes! Exactly the same, all the way down to putting his toes in his mouth.  Oh, Man will LOVE this!  Oh!  Oh!  I just thought of something brilliant, angels! (of course, He IS God - how much smarter can a guy get?)  Let's make a woman!  Man will never know what hit him.  Me!  I love my job!"  So, you see what you're up against with prayer.  Just forget about asking for anything.  After all, God does provide, doesn't He?  Personally, I just stick with either the Lord's Prayer or a simple Thank You when I can remember to.  I'd even be careful of the Serenity Prayer.  You don't want too much wisdom.  You'll end up naked in a cave somewhere contemplating the hair on your gonads.  Believe me.  I've been there.

Its enough to push someone already on the edge over it.  So as I fall to my doom here, I thought I'd lay a little wisdom on you.  Learn how to make a proper wish or prayer.

Be Specific!  This is where most people screw up.  Some schmuck (Pardon my Yiddish) will pray for patience, and then wonder why he always finds himself in the longest lines wherever he goes.  Even if he thinks he's going to get lucky sliding behind a woman with only one purchase, until he discovers she's got twelve different credit cards, all of which don't or won't work, and then tries to write a check using her last check and the pen breaks all over it, the customer and the clerk, who is just about to commit homicide, and then fumbles around her purse to collect twenty five dollars and fifteen cents in pennies.  By then the schmuck has gained a full beard, lost sixty pounds by just standing there, and will soon discover his wife left him for a race car driver, and he has eight grandchildren.  So, if you want to become a more patient person, you have to know exactly what you want.  Have others told you you're impatient?  Ignore them unless they are paid professional patiencologists.  Do you fidget and become irritable when a process like the microwave isn't happening fast enough?  That's why God made Taco Bell.  Do you hate grocery shopping because the check out experience is maddeningly slow?  What the hell are you doing in a grocery store anyway?  That's why God made Taco Bell!  Oh, so you think you need soap and shampoo?  They've got bathrooms in Taco Bell, and the soap they've got can do both head and body.  You'll find out sooner or later there is no need to worry about patience.  Yep.  FAST FOOD.  Since I started hanging out at Burger King my life has been wonderful.  I can't wear any of my old clothes any more, but who needs clothes when you can use napkins?
I must say from the onset that I normally do not read romance stories, but felt compelled to pick up Remembering Zane and read it. I immediately became captivated by the author's writing style: airy, sensual and detail oriented. I love details, and Remembering Zane did not disappoint. It is extremely difficult to write using an omniscient point-of-view (the writer getting into the thoughts and motivations of each character instead of the usual one person point-of-view), but Jamie Wilsoncroft pulled it off with flying colors, seamlessly moving through the minds of each of the story's characters and leaving you with a rich perspective of the entire plot, and masterfully spoon-feeding the sexual tension until it is as taut as a violin string. I was carried along by the heart and was completely unable to put the book down until it was finished, and was not wanting for more. Remembering Zane is a perfectly balanced tale, not too intricate or trite. I wholeheartedly recommend Remembering Zane. It will bring your blood to a feisty simmer and deliver you ready for dessert. If you read this story, you will be Remembering Zane for years to come!

You can find Remembering Zane at Goodreads!