Saturday, November 28, 2009

Top 10 Rules for Good Guests

During the course of your life; you realize living at home that you only long for one thing: To live away from home. This becomes the driving force behind making money and working and pretty much everything to do with adult life. Once you have your own place. Then YOU make the rules. It's a glorious thing to live on your own. Unfortunately, there is something that happens when you get your own place. You will get visitors. Sometimes these visitors will stay for a few hours or so, but sometimes, these visitors will stay for days and days. Many times, we call the latter form of visitor RELATIVES. I am of course speaking for others whose story has touched my heart and not my own family.

While talking to my son one day I told him that one of our responsibilities as parents is to help him become a good house guest. I figure this list is probably good for anyone to have since I find it is a pretty scarce skill set.

1. Just because we SAY make yourself at home doesn't mean we actually mean it - You are a guest. Not part owner. When the host says this, the host really means 'I hope you are comfortable, and I want you to accept my hospitality; I do not in any way want you to treat my house the same way you treat yours.' There is no reason for you to go wandering around the house like you own the place. In fact, it's a good idea if you keep yourself to your sleeping quarters, guest bathroom, and the living room. Everywhere else is OFF LIMITS. There are few things more annoying than snoopy house guests.

2. If there is only one left of any food item. Don't touch it. - As a house guest you will many times be offered food. This is the food you can have. Asking for other food in offhanded ways like 'oh what's this for?' and 'Say, that's a good looking cake' among other things is just an obnoxious way of saying you want that food. Hey, Bonehead! If we WANTED you to have that food, we would have offered it to you. As it is, you should be grateful we are feeding you at all. In fact, in a reversal of imposition, you could actually take the host out to dinner one night of your stay, or go to the local McKingburger and buy the dinner there. It would be a good way to show your appreciation.

3. Assume that the Remote is not for general use. - Unless you are the only person in the room, you should understand that the entertainment of the house happens at the discretion of the owners and the children of the owners. This means that if there are kids in the house and you are watching TV, you probably should be watching spongebob. Don't ask to watch YOUR program. We really aren't interested in it because if we were, we would be watching it. It goes without saying that you shouldn't be fiddling with the remote, or for that matter any other gadget or device that resides in the hosts dwelling. Assume that this rule is particularly strong for any computer usage. It doesn't matter if your host has things 'set up wrong' it is not your place to correct those things unless he expressly gives the ok to do so. It's nice of you to offer, but the last thing you want to be is the last guy that touched the computer before it broke.

4. Unless it is by prior arrangement, you get up and shower AFTER we do - If you are staying with family for the express purpose of getting to the airport early the next day (which is an imposition by itself) then it's understood that you will need to use facilities before us. If you are here on a cheap vacation, understand that when you get up at whatever hour you are used to and burn all the hot water, you are not only waking us up, but then you are adding insult to injury by making us take luke warm showers. We still probably have to go to work and go about our daily lives so don't mess up our routine.

5. When you are eating, clean up your place to the sink - Anything more than this is too much and anything less than this is slovenly. By placing your dirty dishes in the sink, you are moving them to the best stage for the manager of the kitchen to position the dishware in the dishwasher. If you put them in the dishwasher yourself, that's lovely, but probably wrong. The owner of the kitchen knows exactly how and where to put each dish and utensil. If the host isn't that picky, you can ask them where they want the dishes. Watch them carefully as they put the dirty dishes away for you and follow suit afterward. If there is no dishwasher? Assume you are the dishwasher. It is a small price to pay for free room and board.

6. Men, if you are a guest, keep the seat down - I'm not sure how men invented peeing standing up, but I think at best it's a mess. It's adding an extra level of skill that you simply don't need when voiding your bladder. Not only that, but if you decide that more business needs to be done, you have positioned yourself in the wrong pose for that action. Yes, yes, you are a man's man and men are supposed to pee standing up. Why? Well because you can that's why. Quit asking so many questions! Be that as it may, the most neutral position for the toilet seat is DOWN, and while you are a guest, it's best to keep it that way.

7. The host's kids are the host's responsibility - you have no business correcting or dispensing advice to the children of your host. None. If you see activities that you think are out of line to the point that something needs to be done then you should probably talk to the host about it. The circumstances for such a conversation must be dire indeed. something along the lines of this: 'Um, hey, I just noticed that your son was dealing drugs out of the window of his bedroom, and the deal went bad and he had to kill some homies. none of my business, I just thought you should know'. Otherwise, you are probably best advised to leave the situation alone because it could be that the Host is ignoring that behavior on purpose. The converse to this rule would be your own progeny. If you have kids at your hosts house it is not the hosts responsibility to correct your kids, but it IS their prerogative to do so if the kids are not obeying house rules. If the host has to correct behavior of your kids, you should graciously apologize and keep your kids in line. They can act like animals in YOUR house.

8. As a guest, you should take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints - This old wilderness camping motto applies to you as a guest. Except of course that you shouldn't be taking pictures either. The point is, you need to be as unobtrusive as possible. It should appear as though you don't even really exist in the house. Provide whatever assistance you can and cause as little disruption as you can. You need to be the person you are not at home. You need to clean up after yourself and maybe even after others as well. They are worse slobs than you? Doesn't matter. Be a good guest!!!

9. Good guests don't have gas or political opinions - If you are in your own house, you can be as stinky as you want. It's your house, your castle. But like a dog leaving his scent in another dogs neighborhood, there is NO reason for you to feel THAT at home as a guest. I don't think I need to say anything more on the subject. As far as the subject of gas goes, the same applies to politics. Don't bring them up and don't display an opinion unless pressed and you agree with the hosts viewpoint. You should never find yourself being in the position of bringing discord into anyone's home. I'm sure you would love to set your host straight on night killing issues like the environment, or abortion or the current or past administrations, but instead, how about everyone goes to bed without bad feelings ruining their sleep?

10. The hosts business is his own, period. - It is faintly rude to be asking about the comings and goings of the host as the guest of the house. As a guest, you have no right to even be curious. If you are asking about the schedule of your host so that you can impose on them to run an errand for you, don't. Unless you need medicine for the orphanage you are running in their basement, just stop right there. Run your own errands. In fact, offer to the host to take care of any errands they might need doing.

This is just a small series of guidelines. Really small. There are several other rules, but I only have 10 spots to take up. If you are offended by this list, I'm sorry. Sorry that someone didn't tell you before this, but your hosts were probably just too nice to mention it. The fact that they had this blog up as their homepage when you got on their computer might be more than mere coincidence.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Top 10 Candy Bars

This weeks top Ten takes me to a place that is close to my heart. Candy Bars. It must be an easy blog subject, because if you Google top 10 candy, you will find myriad blogs (probably better than mine) but I'm writing it anyway. I love candy for several reasons. First candy is sweet and tasty. Like so many things we deal with in life, It's usually bad for you, but not in a really bad way. Candy usually has some of the most creative advertising/marketing of any product you can think of. The reason is, they sell candy to kids, and kids like all candy equally. Sure they have their favorites, but the truth is, unless they really hate it, they will eat it.

There are two kinds of candy. Chocolate and Plastic. Chocolate is fairly obvious. Plastic is any sugar based candy that doesn't have chocolate in it. This would include licorice, jaw breakers, jelly beans etc. It all seems like plastic. This doesn't mean it's not tasty, it's just different.

I'm basing this top 10 list on nearly 6 years of experience in running my own candy store in the Company I was working for. They were kind enough to allow me to continue on with that activity right up until I was let go. Now before you say 'well that will show you for running a candy store in a company' That really wasn't very close to the reason I was let go, but I'm sure it didn't help ;). And if that company had me back for some reason (like all the other people on the planet suddenly died) I would not resume my candy store activities.

So without further blather, I give you MY top 10 Candies.

1. Snickers - Numero Uno, The big daddy in the candy, vending business. This juggernaut of chocolate confectionary outsells all other candy bars. Is it the nuts? is it the chocolate? is it the caramel and creamy nougat? Who knows. The fact is, I'm not a huge fan of snickers myself. It's just too busy and I like my flavors more simple. On the other hand, if you are at a convenience store and can't find anything hearty to eat. Sinckers...satisfies. Say, that should be a jingle of some sort.

2. Marathon/Curly Whirly - Long ago, there was a magical candy bar that sat in a 1 foot wrapper, yes, 1 foot. Most other candy bars are about 5-6 inches long with a couple of notable exceptions in the Butterfinger/3 musketteers range at roughly 7 inches and the Big Hunk/Charleston Chew could give the Marathon a run for the money, but only the Marathon had a ruler printed on the back of the wrapper. In order to make other candies feel more confident, the Marathon bar had several different lengths down to a 7 inch model. On the other end of the spectrum you find the lowly Chunky ringing in at a nearly laughable 3 inches, but it's a cube, so you can't blame it. After all, it's how you taste, not how long you are right? right? Anyway, the Marathon bar was a lovely bit of braided caramel wrapped around by a coat of chocolate. One of my personal favorites. Sadly, they don't make the Marathon bar anymore. Imagine that normal store shelves are built to house the marathons lesser endowed brothers, not this candy freakshow. On top of that, most people found that a marathon bar was more candy than they wanted in one sitting. This deadly combination took the marathon bar out of our candy lexicon. But wait! the Cadbury company has a eeriliy similar candy bar called the Curly Whirly. If you are aware of the marathon bars magnificent visage, you will see it mimicked in the Curly Whirly. Look it up on the web, you can get em for about a buck a bar plus shipping etc.

3. Big Hunk - When you are tired of complicated candybars and strange milk chocolate that gets all over the place and ruins your diet, you can turn to your good friend the Big Hunk. This slab of corn syrup infused with peanuts is a dieters lifeline. You can dump about 1/4 of the calories if you just pick out the nuts. No, this definitely does not make this a 'diet' candy bar. There really is no such thing. If it's diet, it sucks and is not candy. The big hunk is perfect if you smack it while it's in it's wrapper and then open it and pick out the pieces. If you want a comparison, think of a Large oversized Bit-o-Honey. Just the Bit-o-Honey contains crushed nuts and more of a honey flavor than it's behemoth brother. This candy will give your jaw such a workout, you will know you've had one after you are done.

4. Twizzlers - While these fall under the licorice category, Twizzlers and their rather odd cousin Red Vines have very little to do with licorice as far as flavor. In fact, the closest thing to it would be the black NIBS that also bear the Twizzler name. All licorice types of candies are much closer related to a cookie than a candy bar. they have a lot of flour in them. The new Twizzlers have a rainbow of flavors in tube form. Chewy and fun, the Twizzler is among few candies that rate TV commercials. Apparently they make mouths happy. That's good. Because not brushing off the red stain from off of your pearly whites will make your mouth sad.

5-Twix - Otherwise knows as the Raider in Europe. The TWIX bar is awesome. two thin cookies with a layer of caramel surrounded by a very good milk chocolate. Twix are terrific for many reasons, the least of which is that you can easily split a twix with a friend because there are 2 separate candy bars in the package. Cool! The candy suffers one problem. If you happen to get a twix and store it anywhere that's even remotely warm, you will find that all of the caramely goodness on top of the twix will find itself on the downhill side of the candybar. A big lump of caramel on one side, and a rather thin essence of caramel on the other surrounded by a chocolate shell. Usually when this happens, you will also find the caramel has escaped it's chocolate bonds and flows freely in the candy wrapper. The Twix came in many flavors for a while, but the standard caramel remains a popular favorite. My own favorite was the cookies and cream. yum.

6. Almond Joy / Mounds - Coconut is among candy lovers deal breakers in candy. It ranks with raisins and nuts as potential detour signs pointing to other less controversial candies. The Almond Joy has a bed of sugared coconut surrounded by milk chocolate and has 2 lovely almonds in each bar section. While the mounds has dark chocolate and no nuts. They often will be advertised together. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. The problem with this candy bar is once you have had one, you don't really crave another for a long time. So it sits on the shelf for a while and as a result the candy isn't as fresh and good. If you can get a really fresh Almond Joy, it's a pretty darn good candy bar.

7. Milky Way - Another personal favorite. The Milky way took a snickers and traded the nuts for more caramel. It's a very rich very creamy kind of candy bar. It's also very consistent. Since it doesn't contain any nuts or dried fruits in it, it has a good shelf life and doesn't change in flavor much from fresh to less than fresh. In a true testament to advertising, when they started making ads with people craving that last little whirl of caramel even if it was found on a tabletop I noticed a definite increase in Milky Way sales.

8. Mars / Snickers Almonds - The mars bar. another favorite. Built much like a snickers but instead of peanuts, it had almonds and a much fluffier nougat. Very sweet and light, the Mars Bar was very popular in it's own right. Only recently did Snickers create a candy bar called the Snickers Almond. It's a Mars Bar. I'm not sure if the Mars folks decided that they would benefit from calling their candy bar Snickers, or if Snickers decided they wanted to rub out some competition by creating a 3rd party candidate in the Candy bar elections. hmmm...It TASES like a Mars bar, but it's wrapped like a Snickers...It's the best of both worlds!

9. Skittles - The king of the plastic candies. Skittles spawned many a different flavor combination. These little buttons of fruity flavor fall out of the package like a rainbow. Wow, that would be a good idea for an ad. Regular came in the default flavors to colors, while the Berry Skittles were only in the berry category of candy. There were also the less popular Tropical Skittles and the now discontinued (sniff! and my favorite) creamy Skittles. The Sour Skittles on the other hand are a favorite with the kids. The great thing about skittles was they tasted great no matter how you ate them. A handful was just a chaotic bunch of flavors, but they all worked together. I tend to categorize mine by color and eat them in order so I can maximize my flavor enjoyment across the candy spectrum. I know this is very OCD, but the truth is, I don't want to be left with a big handful of lemon ones at the end, I would much rather have a couple of each. so I will line them up in their colors and then plan a 2 skittles from the longest rows until they match the length of the next longest row. then I will include that row in the selection process until I have 2 of each color to enjoy at the end. That was probably too much Information.

10 M&Ms - These little chocolate gems were a favorite of the GI's in the War. Back when the world was a much bigger place and everyone didn't have everything available. Chocolate bars were kind of a big deal. You could curry a lot of favor from the locals if you had Chocolate bars (and nylons as well, but that's a different Top 10 list entirely). The problem was. If you carried Chocolate bars in your pack all over the place, they would tend to break and melt. So they developed the M&M. Little tiny chocolate pieces that wouldn't melt in your pack even if they got a little warm. While M&M's have many colors, they all are just sugar flavored. There are certain colors in the M&M world that are rumored to impart an interesting behavior and it's not envy as the color would suggest. That's all I'll say on the matter. M&M's also came up with some rather interesting flavored experiments including the Dark M&M's and the peanut Butter M&M's along with almond and cherry flavors. Of course the regulars are just chocolate, or chocolate with a peanut in it. This most versatile of the candy universe often finds itself in cooking and desert decorating. Try putting them in the microwave for about 8 seconds. It warms them up just enough that the chocolate is a little bit liquid. Longer than that and they turn into little chocolate grenades, so stick with 8 seconds.

I know, your favorite candy bar isn't there. The peanut butter cups didn't show up, not for any other reason but because I think they are too rich so I'm not as big a fan. For the record I had a fairly politically charged blog that I wanted to write, and while I'm not squeamish about printing it, I do think that my top 10 lists lend themselves to lighter subject matter. I may on the other hand begin another blog just for my philosophical musings. I don't know. I'll have to think about it. It's already boring me and I haven't written it yet.