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I was out to dinner tonight at an Italian Restaurant (or should I say ristorante?) when I noticed this little bit of information at the bottom of the menu:

MeatballPrice

One meatball for $2.09?  $2.09?  Seriously???

It’s not that I have a problem with the restaurant charging extra for additional meatballs, or even the (meat) ball park price they have set.  They are large meatballs, truth be told.  But it’s the oddly specific amount that doesn’t make sense.

Why not just $2.00?  Our state sales tax is 6%, so it’s not two dollars plus tax.

Is the profit margin of this establishment so narrow that they need to charge an additional nine cents to keep the lights on and the staff paid?

Or did someone literally sit down and calculate the cost of adding one meatball to a meal for an arbitrary profit margin that yielded a result of $2.09?

The world may never know.

And I ordered the veal anyway.

Religion Meets Science

I’m sorry, but I thought this was just too funny not to share.  Apparently, the ad is so popular over in the UK and Ireland, that folks call in to find out when they are airing it.

Or, your could look it up on YouTube.  The tag line reads:

Science, flies people to the moon. Religion, flies people into buildings.  Volkswagen=Solution for terrorism.

This could be the title of a multi-million dollar government study (it probably has been done already), but it is not.  It is the alternative title to of this blog entry.  The other title is Dumb Criminals Gone Wild.MarcoPolo

You’ve probably read these stories before.  Crook breaks into a house.  Robs house.  Stops to check his Facebook status on the homeowner’s computer.  Doesn’t log-off.  Police track down the stupid thief.

Or the crook who wore the boots he stole to his own trial.   This link also includes the crook that shot himself at the scene of the crime and left a trail of blood for cops to follow to his home.  Or the man who took a check in lieu of cash and had the victim write it out to himself.  Or the crooks that tried to open a safe with welding equipment and accidentally sealed it tight instead of opening it.

The list goes on and on, but the places are Minnesota, Baltimore, Wichita, Kansas, Chichester, Sussex, and Petropolis, Brazil.

You never expect to find such stupidity in your own back yard.  Well, the stupid criminal mind proves that there is stupidity lurking everywhere.

Just down the road from me, in Loretto PA (home of the St. Francis Red Flash!) comes this police report gem:

According to state police at Ebensburg, the pair, believed to be two white men in their 60s, parked at the bank about 1 p.m. and got out of a silver Chrysler PT Cruiser . . .

Police said the bank workers saw the men were wearing “Halloween-style rubber masks” and gloves and locked the door before the two could enter the building.

Police said the men tried to enter the bank and failed, so they got back into the car and headed toward Cresson.

Police issued an alert for law enforcement to help identify the vehicle, and when a Saint Francis University police officer recognized the car, he followed it. When he was told to stop the vehicle and identify the driver and passenger, the officer turned on his lights and siren.

Police said the vehicle slowed down as if to pull over before taking off along Columbia Street toward Chest Springs, eluding police and throwing evidence out of the vehicle near Dutch Road.

Police said the team determined the items included a homemade pipe bomb, although it did not have an explosive charge.

Police said other evidence links the pair to a Sept. 18 bank robbery that occurred in Salisbury, Md.

In their 60’s????  What the . . .

When did bank robbing become an AARP member crime?  Aren’t bank robbers supposed to be young and energetic ne’er-do-wells?  Middle-aged entrepreneurs at least?  Don’t you think of Bonnie and Clyde?  Or at least Clyde?  Maybe a dashing Tom Cruise in his heyday.  I wonder if they soiled their depends when the cops chased them?

The bank employee locked the door.  Didn’t they wonder about that?  Couldn’t they look in the window and see all the staff?  Or did everyone hit the ground and pretend not to be at home?

BankClosed

“Hey, Moe!  The door’s locked!”

“What?  It’s only one.  They should still be open.  Try it again, Larry.”

“I’m telling you it’s locked.  Is it a holiday?”

“Um, no.  Halloween?”

“They don’t close on Halloween!  Maybe they went to lunch?”

“Do you hear someone laughing in there?”

“Let’s just get out of here and go to the Gallitzin branch like the sign says.”

I suppose they couldn’t just break into the bank, since their plan was obviously to have a teller hand them the money.  They probably didn’t have their safe cracking welding equipment with them to weld the bank vault shut!

And then with police chasing them–watching what they are doing–they throw evidence out of their car that links them to another bank robbery????

I guess they must not be too stupid, though, as I believe they did escape and are still at large, plotting to take over the world or knock off a convenience store near you.

The evidence of other crimes notwithstanding, it begs the issue:  Is it illegal to enter a bank with a Halloween mask on?  Even if it’s not Halloween?  I mean, if you don’t actually threaten with a gun or try to make an illegal withdrawal, is it against the law?  I know some women whose make-up is heavy enough to qualify as a mask?  Can they not enter?  Would I be arrested for wearing my Joe Paterno mask to collect my Penn State Bank Button???

Yahoo answers isn’t terribly helpful, with answers ranging from “only if you are a Muslim woman” to “it is illegal” to “it’s not illegal” but frowned upon in these establishments, to “charged with disorderly conduct” at the least.

So what have we learned from this?

It’s probably not wise to try and enter a bank wearing your Halloween costume.

There are stupid criminals everywhere.

And, if you see a PT Cruiser pull up at your house with geriatric trick-or-treaters inside, lock your doors and pretend you’re not at home!

I Want Some More!

Here’s the water dispenser at our surgery center . . .

icemachine1

But wait . . . what’s that????

icemachine2

 

The ice “cubes” are actually little cylinders that sort of look like that picture.  But the marshmallow thing would be a great idea!  Maybe one for S’Mores!

icemachine3

Pushing My Buttons

If you didn’t live in central Pennsylvania in the last forty years, you may not know what a “bank button” is, or more specifically, what a “Penn State Bank Button” is.GettheGoat

It all started in 1972, when Central Counties Bank issued buttons in support of Penn State football with a weekly slogan to match their opponent.  The first button was simple and said, Get the Goat.  (Penn State played Navy, whose mascot is a goat, in case you are not college football savvy.)

The style changed slightly over the years, so that this is what it looked like 10 years later, when Penn State beat Nebraska en route to Joe Paterno’s first national championship.

AmaizeNebraska

Over the years, things slowly changed.  Central Counties Bank became Mellon Bank.  Mellon Bank became Citizen’s Bank.

The slogans evolved from simple two and three word phrases to more creative slogans as Sleepless in Ann Arbor (Michigan 1994, playing off the movie title Sleepless in Seattle,) Driving Mich Crazy (again, Michigan in 1997, playing on Driving Miss Daisy,) and Don’t it Make Your Buckeyes Blue (Ohio State in 1999 off the song with brown eyes blue.)  You can see the entire list of buttons ever made here.

But I’m not here to critique the slogans.

If you don’t know already, I am a Penn State fan, bleeding blue and white.  When we returned to Pennsylvania in 1994 after graduating from my residency program, we were faced with having to choose a bank.

Sure, I could have researched who had the best interest rates.  Or who has the most convenient ATM locations.  Or used any number of other pertinent criteria to choose the right bank for my personal accounts.

In the end, I chose Mellon Bank . . . BECAUSE THEY PRODUCED THE PENN STATE GAME BUTTONS.  I kid you not.

Been a customer ever since, even though the name changed to Citizen’s Bank.  Not a problem for me.  They still make the buttons.

Since 1994, I have always had a good relationship with my bank.  I am a good customer.  They may not pay me as much interest on my savings account as someone else, but come August, I could always count on getting a stash of the season’s game buttons.  It was like Christmas in September!

Someone at the bank–and we have moved since 1994 to another city–and a couple of branch offices have closed over the years–but someone always set aside a quantity of buttons for each game and I would pick them up before the season.  Most years they gave me an entire plastic sleeve (20 some buttons) for each game before the season started.  During the season, I would distribute the appropriate button to friends, relatives, fans, and my co-workers and employees the Wednesday before each game.  I never gave them out early to spoil the surprise, and I never charged anyone for the service.  It was a wonderful system that worked well for all parties involved.

Until this year.

When I called to arrange picking up my buttons, I was told they couldn’t do that any more.  There was a “MEMO.”  From “Corporate.”  Apparently, access to game buttons is now being regulated by the NSA.  It is frowned upon in their establishment.

Now let me tell you how this whole thing works.

The Wednesday before a given game, someone at the bank puts the buttons in a basket on the counter for patrons to take.  The button has the Bank’s name on it, so it is essentially free advertising for the institution.  If you have ever been to a Penn State game, you can see a lot of people wearing these buttons.  A fair number of dedicated fans “collect” the buttons, displaying them in various ways.

1981buttons

 

ButtonCoat

You do not have to be a bank patron to take a button.  They are free.  You can take as many as you want.  They won’t give me the season ahead of time, but I could dump the whole basket in my pocket and walk out if I so chose.  (I haven’t, but I do take a sizable handful because a lot of people want these buttons and have become dependent on me for their fix.  I had to go back to the bank today because I was short and one of our techs in the office didn’t get a button.)

The bank informs me that I can get a complete set by mailing a check for $10.00 to the bank.

Ah, the plot thickens.

That’s a set of one button per game.  Let’s see, 20 sets?  $200?  And I give them away free?  I don’t think so.  They want my business AND they want to charge me for advertising for them!

Company policy.

Is it company policy, then, to alienate a dedicated customer like this?  Now I have to make 12 trips to the bank in 3 months (I usually go once a month, and that is only because my paycheck exceeds the amount that can be deposited by their mobile app, or I wouldn’t even go then.)  As a surgeon, it is not always convenient for me to drop by the bank during the week.  And since I’m still getting handfuls of buttons (which I don’t get paid to distribute) each week, what difference would it make if my bank helped me out a little.  I suppose I should be thankful they don’t limit the buttons to one per customer!

It’s not like a convenience store or grocery, where a free coupon might draw other business while I’m in there shopping.  I’m not likely going to stop by and pick up a button and say, “oooh, that is a great rate on a loan.  Can I get one today?  Or how about giving me two of those Certificates of Deposit over there.”  Forcing me to enter the bank doesn’t generate any more business.  But the advertising might.  Isn’t that why they are still doing it?

I see a lot of people during the day, and have frequently fielded questions about the button.  One of the most famous was Forrest Thump.  Think about it.  It’s a play on Forrest Gump.  Penn State played Indiana State.  Their mascot is a tree–the sycamores.  Trees=forest=Forrest.  Tree falls–thump.  Team falls–thump.  It’s probably a little too complicated for a fan button, but it generated a lot of questions.  And that’s a lot of eyes looking at the Citizen’s Bank logo.

I’d close my accounts and switch banks as a protest if it wasn’t so much trouble.  But I think about doing that every week when I grab my handfuls of buttons which should already be in my desk ready for distribution.  I’m starting to hate my bank.

But alas, I still wear the buttons, because at the heart of it all, I am a Penn State fan.

I want the buttons.

I need the buttons.

I just wish my bank would stop pushing my buttons!

Golf Balls From Heaven

The call came at 11:45 p.m., waking me from sleep.

“I think your dad had a stroke.”

I don’t live far away, but that was a long drive, despite breaking speed limits and running a couple of red lights.

It took all of about two seconds to confirm my mother’s diagnosis.  I called 9-1-1 and the paramedics arrived shortly thereafter.

By the time we got to the ER, he could not move the left side of his body, and his left eye was drooped closed.  His speech was slurred and difficult.

They gave him TPA, a clot busting drug.  Within 15 minutes, he could move his left leg and within half an hour, he could move his left arm.  The facial droop improved, but his speech never quite recovered.

As we left his hospital room Friday night, he gave us a thumbs up gesture.  Perhaps our prayers had been answered and he would recover from this.  He was in the hospital in May with congestive heart failure, but had done well after that and was back golfing and teaching the residents at the hospital.

But at 4 a.m. Saturday morning, he went unresponsive and had trouble breathing.  They put him on a ventilator and took him for a CT scan.  One of the side effects of TPA is that you can hemorrhage at the site of the stroke.  But the scan showed no hemorrhage.  An EEG did not show seizure activity, but was markedly abnormal on the right side where the stroke occurred.  An MRI eventually showed bilateral cerebellar strokes and a new brainstem stroke.  There would be no recovery.

On the day we stopped the ventilator, I brought him a golf ball to hold, because he loved to play golf and I bonded with him playing that game, and a cold bottle of Sam Adams beer for the other hand. My dad was far from an alcoholic, but he really enjoyed a cold beer once in a while—something he hadn’t been able to enjoy since suffering heart failure in April.

He jokingly asked almost every person who came to visit him in the ICU last Friday if they brought him a cold beer. I couldn’t let him leave this world without his cold beer. So I swabbed it on his lips, and we all shared a Sam Adams. I left the golf ball in his hand.

The next morning, I went jogging, as I usually do about 6 days a week. I always leave my house, go down the back road of our development, and then take a trail that connects the cul-de-sac to the local high school parking lot.  I’ve run that trail for 14 years.

The day after he died, there was a golf ball. Lying in the road. Right in front of the trail. There is no golf course nearby. I have never seen a golf ball down there before.

Golfball2

golfball

I think somehow, some way, he left that there for me.

He couldn’t have left me the beer! My wife says that’s because someone else would have taken the beer, so I have to settle for the golf ball.

Sure, it probably fell out of someone’s golf bag–then out of their car.  But I suspect the odds of that happening on THAT day at THAT time after THOSE circumstances are worse than my odds of winning the POWERBALL tonight.

And even if there is a physical explanation, whose to say his spirit didn’t have a hand in making that happen?

It might not have materialized from Heaven, but my dad brought it to me just the same.

I miss you already, dad.

While eating at Friendly’s Restaurant tonight, we noticed an advertisement for a new concoction called a Sour Patch Splash.

SourPatchSplash

My son looked at this and quipped . . .

“What are those things floating around?  It looks like a unicorn pooped in a glass.”

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