the on-line diary of
ralph robert moore


the official website for the writings of
ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Robert Moore.

Print in HTML format.

Return to lately 2002.

"they're sending a 28,000 pound burger to the international space station!"
april 13, 2002

Mary and I both had colds this week, and in fact, most of the previous week.

It started with me clearing my throat late Saturday night, March 30, while we were in bed eating dinner, watching something mindless on TV. A short while later, getting sleepy-eyed, I started coughing, not the lung-deep cough that hurts, just a mild, irritated throat cough.

We did a lot of work Saturday, so Sunday we decided to be lazy, lying in bed all day, eating fast food (Taco Bell), watching new video releases. My cough grew slightly worse. When I rolled over in bed for the fifteenth time, while Jet Li used his foot to bat a pool ball at a scoundrel, stretching my hand off the side of the bed, down to my box of white Kleenex, I knew I had a cold.

Whenever I get something infectious, one of the first things I do is walk backwards through my memory to discover who the villain was who passed their germs to me. In this case, I realized I must have caught the cold that Friday, at lunch, when Mary and I went to Central Market in Plano to buy some seafood for the weekend, because in my flickering playback, Mary and me pushing our cart through the crowds, laughing to each other, I see a woman in the dimness of the scene suddenly rear her head back, propel it forward, right next to me, in a sneeze. (In my life, I've passed lots of sneezing people, with no consequences. But I work full-time at home now, and have for the past year. I'm hoping this isolation from the daily mix of my elbowing, coughing fellow man doesn't mean I've turned into a boy in a bubble. We'll see.)

By the middle of the week, I was dragging myself around the house, blowing my nose, pushing my hair out of my eyes, little or no energy. My weakness reminded me of when I was a child, lying in bed with one or another of the famous childhood illnesses, like mumps and measles, and would be served a slice of bread soaked in milk, and be able to boss my parents around.

Last weekend, Mary started coughing, then sneezing. We sounded like two tired frogs.

Right now, and for the past several days, I've felt myself starting to come out the other side of the cold (We rarely get sick, but when we do, it seems to hit us harder).

Mary's cold went more into her chest, giving her some breathing difficulties.

She stopped at a local Tom Thumb supermarket on the way home this past Wednesday, April 10, to buy some cold medicine for us. She wanted to get two bottles of Robitussin and two of Nyquil, both of which are over the counter medicines that alleviate some of the symptoms of colds. The clerk at the checkout register apologized. "I'm sorry, but I can only sell you three cold or cough syrups."

"What are you talking about?"

"I'm sorry, but our registers will only allow us to ring up three syrups. It's coded that way. It's not just Tom Thumb. It's all the supermarkets."

Why on earth couldn't someone buy as many cough syrups as they wanted?

"It's because some people misuse cough syrups? They drink them to try to get high? I'm sorry."

The policy regarding cough syrups is part of America's continuing Zero Intelligence war on drugs, I suppose in this case to prevent people like Mary and myself from driving from Tom Thumb over to the nearest schoolyard, coughing and wheezing, trying to sell five-dollar bottles of Robitussin for twenty-five dollars to innocent schoolchildren. Here in America, there's a whole new series of anti-drug TV commercials. The gist of them is that every time you smoke a joint, snort cocaine, or shoot heroin, you're aiding the terrorist movement. How? Well, because heroin, for example, comes from places like Afghanistan, where supposedly Al Queda is involved in the smuggling trade, raising money from the sale of illegal drugs to purchase weapons. (I'm still waiting for the commercial that says the United States government, by banning these drugs, thereby skyrocketing their price and profitability, is in fact the biggest terrorist-aider of them all.)

As if we weren't miserable enough from our colds, we also decided this week to start a diet.

Neither of us is heavy, but we do have our ideal weights, and we had gone over those weights the past few months, what with the holidays, vacations, and so forth.

We decided right off our diets would not consist of frozen low-calorie foods. You get this pale mini-slab of meat, according to the container a boneless, skinless chicken breast, a smear of tomato sauce across its nude top, the whole obscenity ringed with a garland of sad, mushy sprigs of broccoli that clearly gave up all hope of retaining any degree of their integrity somewhere during the long night of mass-production.

Plus it irks me to read the nutritional information now required on most American food products. The idea behind the required information is to tell you, in addition to other scores, the number of calories in what you're buying. It's a great idea. But the calories can be expressed in terms of 'serving size'. So for instance, if you lift up a huge, cold box of lasagna, you'll find something like, 'Number of calories per serving size, 360 calories. Number of servings in container, 5 servings.' That's great. But the food manufacturers have used this 'serving size' information as a loophole. You pick up a small square box of frozen ravioli, about six ounces, and the side of the box reads, '120 calories per serving'. Not bad. But then it says, 'Two servings per container.' There's not even enough in this little box for one serving, and they're claiming it's two servings? But it allows them to understate the calorie count of what you'll actually be eating, displaying '120 calories' instead of the true '240 calories'. The reporting is often absurd. There was one manufacturer of frozen food who sold individual pieces of deep-fried chicken. A chicken leg, according to the small print, was two servings. You start at one end, I'll start at the other? Then there's the extraordinary 'two and one-third servings' refinement. What is the implication? Should we freeze the extra one-third serving, adding to it each time we buy another box of the shit, until we have enough to constitute a two-person meal?

I'm just trying to eat a light dinner after a long day of work, and they've got me multiplying fractions.

So we decided we'd prepare our own meals, using a couple of books that list caloric counts for different foods.

You can eat delicious food, at very little calories, if you're careful about what you eat, and how you prepare it.

Wednesday night, Mary and I had a quarter pound each of shrimp, nine large shrimp each, sautéed in two tablespoons of butter into which I crushed several garlic cloves. We served it with rice pilaf with toasted almonds, and fresh asparagus. Guess how many calories it came to.

379 (120 for the shrimp, 102 for the butter, 12 for the garlic, 100 for the rice, 45 for the asparagus).

In other words, about as many calories as one of those small, boxed, frozen meals.

The meal filled our plates. It was almost too much to eat. Mary fed two of her shrimp to the cats. (The last time we went on a diet, in 1991, we only ate frozen diet foods, not knowing any better. I was hungry all the time. I remember one day opening a can of catfood for Elf and Rudo, my stomach doing its constant rumble, and being overwhelmed by how good their food smelled.) (I love feeding our cats, especially in the morning. I get the coffee started first, and then, the hot black smell of the brewing beginning to fill the kitchen, open a can of food while the three of them, Rudo, Chirper, Sheba, rub the sides of their faces against my ankles. Once the food is in the bowls, the combined wet mastication of three cats eating always sounds, in the kitchen at that early hour, like an early morning drizzle.)

Thursday, we sautéed two pork chops with garlic, sliced mushrooms and sliced onions, and used half a can of Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup to complicate the pan sauce. We ate it with penne pasta, counting out the tubes of pasta as if they were money, fourteen each, but enough, and a salad.

Last night, we had lobster, one and a half pounds each (136 calories. With two tablespoons of melted butter, 340 calories).

Tonight, we're having fresh red snapper. Sunday, we're barbequing chicken.

The trick is to include some fat, preferably butter, for the mouth feel, stick to foods that are naturally low in calories (seafood is unusually low), and add flavorings that have almost no caloric count at all, such as herbs, spices, lemon juice, and garlic.

Cigarettes, fortunately, don't have any calories.

Even eating good food though, there's still the psychological effect of going on a diet. You do tend to think about food even more than you used to.

The other morning, I came out of the bathroom after brushing my teeth, realizing for the first time in my life the varying vibrations of the electric toothbrush over my teeth sounds exactly like an aborigine didgeridoo pipe, when Mary, sitting up in bed, pointed at the television. "They're sending a 28,000 pound burger to the international space station."


"They just announced it. It doesn't make sense, but they're sending a 28,000 pound burger into outer space, to the space station!"

I put my hand over my mouth. "Why would they do that? It doesn't make sense."

We both sat on the bed, staring at the TV, waiting for the commercials to end. Finally, the announcer came back. "In space news, astronauts aboard the international space station are gearing up for the delivery later this day of a 28,000 pound girder."

Mary's mishearing of what was on the payload going to the space station reminds me of Kiss This Guy, which is the Site of the Week.

The site, named after a mishearing of Jimi Hendrix's lyric, "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" as "Excuse me while I kiss this guy", is a compilation of almost 3,000 misheard song lyrics sent in by site visitors. For example, one visitor thought for years Elvis Costello was singing "Miami's True", rather than, "My Aim Is True." I went for a long time myself thinking Creedence Clearwater Revival was singing "There's a bathroom on the right", and was shocked when I finally bought the album and found out what they were really singing was, "There's a bad moon on the rise." (I like my version better). An entry on the site gives a mishearing of the same lyric as "There's a baboon on the right". In another entry for the same song, for the lyric "Looks like we're in for stormy weather", a visitor confesses they thought the singer was saying, "Looks like we're in for mashed potatoes." You can search the mishearings by song or artist. Each entry includes information on the embarrassing circumstances when the listener first realized they got the lyric wrong, how old they were, and whether they think their misheard version is better than the original. The site appears to work better with Internet Explorer, rather than Netscape Navigator.

Friday afternoon, we went to a Calloways Nursery, and bought 14 impatiens, 8 petunias, 3 geraniums, for our Spring garden. These are the geraniums. As each blossom spends, you reach down with your thumb and index finger and pinch off its brown droop, to encourage the rise of the next celery-green stalk, the next bright spread of color. There's this wonderful, exotic smell with each pinch-off, like middle-eastern spices. After going to Calloways, we stopped on the way home at Blockbuster, renting 13 Ghosts and Mullholland Drive. It's forecasted to be a stormy weekend, lots of drumming rain and darkness outside the curtained windows, thunder and lightening, the perfect backdrop for us in bed, in our darkened room, watching.