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Easter Peeps experiment: How long do marshmallow chicks last in Arizona summer?

Easter season would not be complete without Peeps, the sickly sweet marshmallow treats that have been rotting kids’ teeth for more than 50 years.

Although the sugary snacks have several claims to fame – such as their astounding array of colors that now include bright blue and shapes that go way beyond Easter chicks – their main claim to fame is their shelf life.

Peeps supposedly stay fresh, sweet and edible for an incredible two years. That is, of course, if you keep them wrapped in their plastic, far from greedy little fingers – and out of the Arizona sun.

We wanted to test Peeps longevity through a Tucson summer so we stuck them on a stick in a tree last March, right before Easter 2010.

You’ll be amazed and perhaps even surprised at what we found.

First off, Peeps do not melt in the Arizona sun. They instead become hard and dense, not unlike those sugar roses on wedding cakes you’re not supposed to eat but still try to every time.

Although we did not take a bite of the hardened Peeps, and placed them high enough in the tree to avoid the dogs’ gaping maws, we did poke them repeatedly with a stick. Even the thorns of a mesquite branch could not penetrate the hardened marshmallow rocks.

Despite not melting in the sun, the harmful ultraviolet rays did, however, do a number on their color. By early April, the Peeps’ bright blue was already becoming a somber cornflower color.

Continue reading Easter Peeps experiment: How long do marshmallow chicks last in Arizona summer?

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6 kooky reasons to be a glad American this Thanksgiving and holiday season

Now that the turkey’s down the hatch with the Stove Top stuffing and green bean casserole, it’s time to sit back, relax and recall the real reason for Thanksgiving.

McDonald's and Wal-Mart - combined! - make for some heavy gratitude/Thinkstock

Gratitude.

We can start by remembering there will be no more green bean casserole for at least another year.

We can continue by counting other myriad blessings America continues to offer.

Sure, our nation has been in tumult these past several years, but there is still ample reason to cheer. After all, we’re not being indefinitely locked up in a Turkish prison for smuggling antiquities we thought were cheap souvenirs.

And we’re not buried up to our waist being stoned to death somewhere in Iran.

We’re in America, dang it, and there is so much for which to be thankful. We’ll keep it brief with a total of six kooky reasons, including the green bean thing, to be glad we’re here in America.

Our Wal-Marts sometimes house a McDonald’s. This fine coupling exists right here in Tucson with the Wal-Mart-McDonald’s combination at 7150 E. Speedway Blvd. The two entities nestle like lovebirds in a single building, waiting for us to buy cheap furniture and fatty fries in one fell swoop.

Can’t make a large percentage of large Americans much happier than that.

Freedom of speech is aloud and well. From nasty anonymous Internet comments to angry slurs and signs, Americans are free to speak their minds. Well, most of the time.

Just don’t tick off the President. Velma Hart, a chief financial officer for the Maryland veterans’ organization AM Vets, found that out when she told Mr. President she was fed up with the state of the nation with him at the helm.

“Quite frankly, I’m exhausted,” she told President Barack Obama at a September town hall meeting that was broadcast on CNBC. “Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the man for change I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.”

Guess what? She got fired.

Of course, her employer blames budgetary reasons, but what a coincidence.

Creative money earning is another benefit in this Land of Opportunity. Once we speak out, like Hart, and get fired, we can always turn to creative outlets to rake in some cash. We can babysit poodles, do a McDonald’s run for rich folks, sell creepy artwork or, if we’re really in a money crunch, we can always sue someone.

Frivolous lawsuits continue to pile up like dirty dishes. Americans thoroughly enjoy the practice of suing the pants off each other. Here in the Land of the Freely suing, nothing is sacred.

One man sued Providence Hospital in 2002 for $2 million, saying the hospital was negligent because he was able to get away with raping one of its patients.

A woman sued Universal Studios in 2000 for $15,000, saying she suffered mental anguish, emotional distress and extreme fear after paying a visit to its Halloween Horror Nights haunted house.

And then there’s the McDonald’s manager, although he was in Brazil, not America, who sued the Illinois-based restaurant chain for making him fat over his 12 years of service there. He was awarded $17,500.

No word on if he was also suing Wal-Mart for perhaps being too heavy for its cheap furniture after habitually feasting at his job.

At least President Obama is at the helm, which gives us one more reason to be grateful. Even though the country has not magically turned around and even though people like Hart get fired for speaking their minds about the state of the nation, Obama is still a blessing. At least he’s not George W. Bush.

Happy holidays.

[tnipoll]


Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who is most grateful for her dogs, family and Beezel, not necessarily in that order. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com and Rynski.Etsy.com. E-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

P.S. Ryn is also grateful to have Friday and Monday off and will return Tuesday.

What do you think?

Do you ever make a gratitude list? What’s on it?

What’s your favorite thing about being an American?

What’s your least favorite?

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Legal and illegal aliens keep on coming: Massive job loss in U.S. does not slow immigration, study says

Woe is America. In the past 10 years we’ve experienced two recessions, an overall loss of 1 million jobs – and an influx of 13.1 million legal and illegal aliens streaming across the borders.

File photo from illegal alien bust with 97 packed in a truck

Somehow the math is not working here.

Take the United States back to the 1990s, which came with an overall growth of 21 million new jobs – yet an influx of fewer immigrants, at 12.1 million.

The verdict? Just because the country dries up, sours up and seems to have lost that shimmying sheen of the American Dream, people keep on coming.

These fun facts – and more – are in a report from the Center for Immigration Studies, which analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s March Current Population Survey.

Yes, we know. Pro-immigration folks are none too fond of the Center for Immigration Studies, calling it slanted and anti-human rights for illegal aliens.

Let’s continue anyway.

Census results are not yet available, but the Current Population Survey, also known as the Annual Social and Economic Supplement, gives us a glimpse into population trends.

The big immigration trend continues, the Center argues, because immigration is not based solely on job availability.

This does not mean the economy is irrelevant to immigration levels, the report notes. Rather it means that many factors in addition to the economy impact the flow new immigrants into the country.

Such factors as the desire to be with relatives, political freedom, lower levels of official corruption, and the generosity of American taxpayer-funded public services are all among the reasons people come to the United States.

These things do not change during a recession or even during a prolonged period of relatively weak economic growth, like the decade just completed.

Other fascinating findings from the study include:

– Among the states with the largest proportional increase in their immigrant populations over the last decade are Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Alaska, Mississippi, Arkansas, Washington, North Carolina, Maryland, and Nebraska.

– In 2008 and 2009, 2.4 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the United States, even though 8.2 million jobs were lost over the same period.

– The new data indicate that, without a change in U.S. immigration policy, the level of new immigration can remain high even in the face of massive job losses.

Not looking good for the math ever working here.

Some may immediately go on the defense, saying the numbers are all wrong and to look at 43 other studies from 62 other agencies that go and prove immigration is down or job loss never reached an overall 1 million or that Tennessee really did not experience a large proportional increase in immigrants.

Others may continue the crusade that immigration to America is a basic human right, regardless if its done through the proper channels or not and regardless of its impact on current U.S. citizens.

But no matter how much arguing is done until we’re all blue in the face, one solid observation remains the same – Woe is America.

Note on terminology: In its report, the Center for Immigration Studies uses the term “immigrant” to mean all persons living in this country who were not U.S. citizens at birth.


[tnipoll]

What do you think?

Has the past decade been woeful or joyful for you?

Have you lost a job due to the recession?

Have you found yourself in the process?

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Tucson police cuts? You bet. No layoffs but plenty of frustration, reductions in wake of Prop. 400 failure

The Tucson Police Department will be tightening its already overloaded belt in the wake of the of the recent election results.

Tucson police/Ryn Gargulinski

But we saw that coming.

A majority 62 percent voted no to Proposition 400, which would have led to a one-half cent increase in Tucson city sales tax to help fund “core” services – things like firefighters and cops.

Please try not to start any blazes or create any mayhem or traffic crashes during these tough times.

While Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor promised no layoffs of commissioned personnel in his Nov. 3 memo to City Manager Mike Letcher, he did note other reductions in service that will kick in Dec. 5.

These reductions are hitting when the Tucson police force is already at nearly the lowest it has been in the past 10 years – with 145 fewer sworn members than a mere two years ago.

Welcome to the new Tucson.

On the flipside, frustration is through the roof.

“There has been a palpable increase in the use of psychological services by all members of the department, both sworn and non-sworn,” Villaseñor wrote in the memo.

“Feedback from a wide cross-section of employees over the past several months through our internal audit process has increasingly pointed toward frustration of being asked to do more with less, and simply being unable to meet the expectations of the public due to decreased staffing.”

Welcome to the new America.

Emergency calls, of course, will remain a top priority, as will follow-up investigations that serve to put the bad guys – or gals – behind bars.

That means some other stuff has got to go.

The number of traffic division cops will go down, moving 20 officers from traffic duties to patrol squads.

“Only collisions with injury, those with suspected impaired drivers, or those blocking the roadway will generate a police response, with the remainder being directed to Internet or callback reporting,” the memo said. Additionally, the Arizona Department of Public Safety will once again be overseeing enforcement of commercial vehicle codes within city limits.

A number of bicycle officers will bite the dust, with 26 of them moved to patrol squads.

“This will restrict the current proactive response capability of field divisions to address neighborhood nuisance issues.”

Seven officers assigned to recruiting and academy functions are moving from their current functions into the field, “reducing the department’s training and future hiring capabilities.”

Five detectives are going from their current assignments with the Office of Internal Affairs to vacant detective positions with the Property Crimes and the Crimes Against Persons divisions. Internal Affairs will be reorganized “to ensure the continued vigorous investigation of both internal and external complaints.”

When all the dust is settled from the changes, coupled with the inability to fill vacant positions that arise, the Tucson police force is expected to be at 200 fewer members than it was in 2008.

“At best, the department can add as many as 50 new positions in addition to attrition each budget year if fully funded to do so,” Villaseñor writes. “A concerted effort to return to staffing levels of November 2008 would take a minimum of five to six fully funded years from the beginning of such an effort.”

Ouch.

“As the department moves forward with these changes I expect that there will be considerable frustration from our community. While I intend to remain as responsive as possible to the needs of the community the department simply cannot meet all of the commitments we have met in the past because of the financial reductions we have already experienced, and more importantly, that we will experience now that we know the result of the elections,” Villaseñor’s memo concludes.

“It is with a heavy heart that I must make these changes, particularly because I fully expect that further, more devastating cuts will need to be implemented in the coming months to address the financial constraints facing the City overall.”

Welcome to the new world.

[tnipoll]

What do you think?

Did you vote yes or no on Proposition 400?

Do these changes sound horribly drastic and ineffective or do they make sense?

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Elephant poop makes money in Topeka – Could Tucson follow suit with coyote and javelina waste?

Scooping up elephant dung – or any poop – may not be the most glamorous job. Unless you happen to have some kind of fetish.

This baby's a money making machine/Ryn Gargulinski

But it can be an endeavor that leads to piles of money if we take a lesson from the Topeka Zoo.

This Kansas animal haven has started a project called My Pet Poo, which turns pachyderm poop into festive little dolls, geegaws and other brightly-painted gift items.

Some come affixed with beads and baubles while all of them come with a certificate of authenticity to insure what you’re getting is the real scoop.

Don’t worry – the poopy little gifts won’t leave nasty rings on your tables or shelving units. The elephant dung is first dried out for about 10 days then coated with an airtight acrylic paint, carefully layered on the poop by dedicated zoo volunteers, AOL News notes.

While volunteers paint the poo, they seemed to have drawn the line at molding the feces as one would mold Play Doh or clay. All figures are left in their natural state, usually roundish or dome-shaped.

A final layer of shellac tops off the process to insure the knickknack doesn’t crumble apart or stink.

These gorgeous gifties sell from $10 to $25 each at the zoo’s Leopard Spot Gift Shop or $35 online with shipping thrown in. Custom orders are welcome.

We bet these fine treasures are selling like hotcakes, or at least meadow muffins.

Wish someone would have mentioned this idea when I had a New Mexico yard full of five goats.

Since Tucson and so many other cities are in such dire budget straits, perhaps the same type of waste-to-riches theory could work in a variety of areas around the nation.

Fast cash for javelina scat?/File photo Tucson Citizen

The Topeka Zoo already debuted the elephant waste, so it would be best if each region had its own unique take on the recycled money machines.

Tucson’s coyote and javelina scat would be quite fetching as artwork, although the former is often littered with small bone chunks and the latter could be tough – or downright dangerous – to collect.

Javelinas have a bad reputation ever since a cornered one went after a Dutch tourist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, ripping open the man’s arm, leg and causing permanent numbness, nerve and muscle damage.

Maybe we’ll stick to the coyotes.

New Mexico could have a heyday with the goats, as long as the artisans tend toward art that works well with pellet shapes. And imagine the very large possibilities from those grizzly bears in Colorado.

Turning dog doo into art could work anywhere. It would also give some dog owners the boost they need to properly clean up after their pets and instantly provide all those pooper scooper services with an automatic dual income.

Who’d a thunk a hunk of elephant dung in Topeka could spark such a grand idea – and maybe even a way to get the American economy out of the toilet once and for all.

[tnipoll]


Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who has made art out of fur and garbage, but never out of dryer lint or poo. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com and Rynski.Etsy.com. E-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

What do you think?

Is the My Pet Poo hilarious or disgusting – or both?

Did you ever have a pet rock?

What other strange things have you seen made into art or done with poo?

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