Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fat News

Good News! Get a shot, lose your fat! (maybe) I just came upon an article from 2004 by Peter Jaret. He writes how Nikhil V. Dhurandhar, a nutritional biochemist, thinks that a virus may cause obesity in some people. The human adenovirus-36 (or AD-36), when injected in monkeys causes significant weight gain.

When fat cells are exposed to AD-36m they begin to multiply. A check of overweight people found that those with AD-36 antibodies (indicating that they have at sometime been infected with AD-36) are more likely to be overweight than those people who were never so infected. So, maybe a vaccine could be developed that would counteract this infection (like the Flu virus) and make us all thin again.

Ah... to be thin again.. maybe I could start to wear all of those clothes that I have been saving for a thinner day. For instance.. I have 42" waist pants that I could wear.. also 40" waist pants.. and 38" waist pants. I can remember when my waist was in the 30" waist range... my step was more lively, I seemed to float when I walked. Now.. I plod..

I even bought some Haggar pants that have a waist mechanism that allows a 42" waist set of pants to fit a 46" waist. Imagine that!

But, why is that a problem? It's like elevator shoes. The best of them can only add 3" to your height. This is the same as I can get from my boots. Over the years, I have lost about 4" in height. This usually happens to people as they age. So, I probably should wear my boots all the time if I want to be like I was before.

Now, all of my children and grandchildren are taller than I am. Some of them ask "Prepop, when did you join the 'little people' club?" As I have mentioned before in this blog, at one time I was above average in height, later I was average height, now I am a short person. So what. People expect old folks to be short.

However, I know some eighty year old friends who are still taller than six feet and have no indication that they will ever be shorter. I also know some old friends who are so short they are about to disappear from view. Ain't genetics funny.

The best thing to do is accept what nature has done to you. You can't change it.. right? As Popeye says: "I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam." So, relax, take life easy.. you're a long time dead.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Idiot Savant

Kim Peek died on December 19th, at his home in Salt Lake City. He was an Idiot Savant and the inspiration for the movie Rain Man. He was 58 years old. is the place to go for more information. However, in the meantime, one might remember this about Kim.

During his lifetime, he learned 9,000 books by heart.

He read a page in 8 to 10 seconds and never forgot it.

He could identify hundreds of classical compositions, with all of the information about them and about their composers. In recent years, he learned to play many of these compositions on the piano.

Yet.......he could not button his coat.

MRI's showed that he lacked a corpus callosum, the nerve tissue that normally connects the left and right halves of the brain. Maybe this allowed the two hemispheres to function like one giant hemisphere.

He had a recorded IQ of 87.. far below normal.. but IQ was probably not a good test of his kind of intelligence.

He was not autistic.. but rather he was outgoing and likable.. especially since the debut of the Rain Man movie. Before that time, he was rather reclusive.

Kim liked Shakespeare and Mozart, and who could fault him on that.

Check out the writings of Darold A. Treffert and Daniel D. Christensen, who studied Kim for years.

His large head has been compared to that of Mozart's, and who knows, perhaps if he had tried, he could have composed music.

It seems to me that Kim was a pilot for the next evolutionary step by man. It's a shame he didn't live a longer life so he could be studied more. I wonder if his brain will be preserved, as was Einstein's.

My grandfather always said that I was an Idiot Savant when I was a young child. I do remember relatives giving me complex mathematical problems and then applauding the answers I gave them.. and which I'm sure I just pulled out of the air. I'm certain that they were just "pulling my leg". But.. if I did have this talent, it went away a long time ago.

This subject is intensely interesting to me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Piano Playing

Can you play the piano? Whenever I ask anyone that question, they say, "I took piano lessons as a child, but I can't play anything." Let me tell you about some of my piano playing relatives who never took a lesson, but could play quite well.

My mother, my Aunt Hattie, and my Aunt Mary all played the piano "by ear". As teen-agers, they took turns playing the piano for silent movies at one of the local theaters. In their twenties, they played and sang on a local radio station.

I grew up hearing my aunts play piano and sing whenever there was a "get-together" at my Aunt Hattie's house. Later in life, all of the neighbors in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts were very fortunate to be able to hear my Aunt Mary, in her eighties and nineties play her organ at the highest decibel level at three in the morning, her favorite time.

But the aunts were not the only ones who could play the piano "by ear". My Uncle Allen had a very expensive Yamaha instrument that he played very professionally. He especially liked to play and sing the old hymns as well as songs like "I'm 'enery the Eighth, I am, I am"..

Now.. here is the problem... My Aunt Hattie passed on a number of years ago and my mother died just a few years ago. These passings left my Aunt Mary as Matriarch of the Vaughan clan. Unfortunately, Aunt Mary passed away earlier this year.

This meant that my Uncle Allen was now the Patriarch of the Vaughan Clan.. and the last remaining "piano player." Sadly, Allen died in September of this year and I am now the Patriarch of the Vaughan Clan. But... I don't play the piano. What to do?

Well, apparently thinking way ahead, I purchased a piano keyboard in the 1990's. Today I found it.. still in its original package.. in pristine shape. I opened the package, followed the setup instructions and now I can become a piano player.

Don't get me wrong.. I do have some musical ability.. I used to be able to play "chopsticks" and "Clare de la Lune" with one finger (kind of).. and I can do a pretty good harmonica rendition of "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do." I tried to learn to play a Jew's Harp once, but split my lip, and when I was a teenager, I was part of a "Spike Jones" type of band. Our only "gigs" were in my buddy Howard's basement.

Now I have a great obligation to learn to play decent enough piano to follow in my relatives' footsteps. I hope that I can live long enough so that I can play hymns at three am when I am in my nineties. (Meanwhile, I will have to make sure that when I leave this "vale of tears" the new patriarch or matriarch will also be able to keep up the Vaughan "by ear" piano playing tradition.)


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009 Family Stuff

This blog is all about family stuff, so why don't you just skip by it.

We had a great Christmas at my daughter Diane and son-in-law John's house. Last year they purchased my house in Gamber, Maryland and I am pleased to see all the nice things they have done with it. It was also very pleasant to visit with my kids, grandkids and great-grandchild, Cameron. And, of course, it is always nice to see Elaine's daughter Emily, her son-in-law Mat, and her delightful granddaughter Lily.

Someone gave Lily a pink digital camera for Christmas and she has learned how to use it (she's only 2 1/2 years old!) I tried to figure it out but couldn't. If you want to see what Lily looks like, you might want to check out her website: That's right, she has her own website.

I was also pleased to learn that my Grandson Dylan has chosen Computer Science for a major in college. For years, individuals in the Vaughan lineage have taught in school or in other places. My brother Leon is teaching right now and several of my cousins are retired teachers. I taught safe driving for eight years, although I was able to get into the computer field, so I am glad that members of the family are considering computer careers for a change. My granddaughter Bridget is studying graphic design in college, and all of my grandchildren are computer literate.

The Baltimore County (Maryland) Beacon newspaper says that surfing the Web may boost brain functions. Research suggests that searching the Internet triggers the centers of the brain that control decision making and complex reasoning. But Dr. Gary Small (UCLA) cautions that its debatable whether or not surfing actually makes you smarter or not. Dr. Small says that Internet searching appears to engage more neural circuitry than is engaged in reading.

For more information on this subject, you can visit

My great-grandson Cameron is a good artist at age 6 and made a charicature of himself and had it framed as a gift to me. In the picture, he looks a lot like Charlie Brown. I'll scan it in and post it to a blog.

We did a Yankee Swap at the party.. a video named The Hangover was bid on over and over. It must be a good movie.. or very sexy.

My daughter Elizabeth made the greatest Maryland cream of crab soup that I have ever had. We brought some home and had it for lunch today. Yummmm! Diane had made two delicious turkeys and two delicious hams and lots of people had brought dishes of food and great desserts.

I made snow globes for everyone and put each person's picture (s) inside. I'm not sure how that went over.. maybe it didn't, but I had fun doing it.

Thanks for listening, family members. I love you all. Joe (alias Prepop)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chinese Immigrants in New Bedford, Massachusetts

The Nation magazine for January 4, 2010 has an article about Chinese illegal aliens. They mention a Sister Ping who arranged shipments out of a mom and Pop store in New York City.

In 1992, she had a boat off the coast of Boston holding more than 100 illegal migrants who needed to find an off-loading point. For the payment of close to a million dollars, the immigrants were deposited without notice on a wharf in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Apparently, for an average of $30,000, Chinese citizens could arrange for a trip to The Golden Mountain, which the United States was known as in China. The 100 illegals had probably paid a total of 3 Million dollars.. so Sister Ping could afford the one million.

The main ship that ferried illegals was named The Golden Venture.In 1993, the ship went aground at New York's Rockaway Peninsula and 286 illegals escaped the ship.. ten drowned. U.S. marshals took posession of the ship and it was repainted and renamed the United Caribbean. After carrying cargo for a while, it was abandoned in Miami. Currently, it has been turned into an artificial reef in Boca Raton, Florida.

As far as I'm concerned, Chinese immigrants are welcome to the US, legal or illegal. These are intelligent, motivated workers.

For years, I have wanted to study the Chinese language at the local Community College. Just imagine.. 5 year old Chinese kids can read and understand those characters so confusing to us European types. Our friend, Rose Marie, has a nice red sign tacked to her apartment door that she assures us says: "Welcome." She also has a dangling brass set of characters that say: "Good Luck." I would like to be able to read such characters.

You heard me talk about the brothel sign in a recent blog. Let me repeat another Chinese story: My late wife and I used to go to a nice Chinese restaurant in Catonsville, Maryland. On one wall was a picture of lots and lots of horses. I decided, while waiting for supper, to count the horses. Each time I counted, I got a different number. 99 92 102 98 105, etc.

Frustrated, I finally gave up. Seeing some Chinese characters on the picture, I decided to ask the waitress what the characters meant. She said: "100 Horses."

Now, if you will forgive me, I will confess to an indiscretion which I perpetrated as a child of ten years. Remember, I was a street kid, with not much adult supervision. In the downtown of New Bedford, there was a wonderful walk-up Chinese Restaurant called: Charlie Wong's. We kids would sneak up to the back door and yell: "Charlie Wong plays with his ding dong!" Immediately, a large Chinese man would come out of the door, wielding a large meat cleaver and chattering in Chinese.. we would get a great workout running away from him. (I wonder if he really would chop us up if he caught us.)

I'm in awe with the advancements that China has made since they dropped Communisim. But have they really? If one looks further into Communistic Theory, one sees that the next step after communism has equalized everything, is to jump into a form of Capitalism. So, was it the death of Communism, or the birth of the next step? For instance, China has now passed the U. S. in the number of new automobiles purchased. Amazing!


Monday, December 21, 2009

A Man's Castle.. and other Items

A young gentleman in Virginia thought that it was ok to walk around inside his own home in the nude. Apparently, a judge thought differently and convicted him of indecent exposure. Two women spied him through his picture window and had him arrested. I thought that one could do what one wanted to in one's own home.. apparently not in Virginia.

I'm reminded of a case from a few years ago. A woman complained that a man was walking around his yard in the nude. The man told that judge that he had a 10 foot privacy fence around his yard.. so how could she have seen him. When the judge asked her this question.. she said that he was directly in view when she climbed the six foot ladder she had placed next to his fence.

Once, my late wife and I carried a message to a brother of one of her friends, who was a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. At the time, he was visiting one of the other musicians at a cottage near Clarks Cove in New Bedford, Massachusetts. When we knocked at the door, we were escorted in by a nude person and observed several persons in their birthday suits playing a Mozart symphony. This cottage also had a ten foot high fence for privacy. Being New Englanders, we were, of course, shocked.. but this was a private matter and we never would have thought about reporting to the police...besides, we liked the music.

And here are some quick takes to make you think.

01. Singer Andy Williams, beloved by us old-timers, once dubbed a movie song for Lauren Bacall when he was 14 years old. (He has written a new book that is highly recommended, especially for one part that concerns a trip to Oslo. The title is: Moonriver and Me.)

02. A cross-dresser was recently arrested for stealing a $2,000 Chanel dress.

03. North Koreans are being ordered to keep their hair neat and short. No mullets! (But just look at the leader Kim's hairdo!)

04. A study reports that broccoli sprouts may protect against stomach cancer.

05. A German study says that staring at female breasts increases longevity. Oglers in the study had lower blood pressure.

06. Another study showed that women can remember their first pair of shoes, but maybe not their first kiss.

07. Regardless of the extent to which one zooms in on a Mandelbrot Set there is always additional detail to see. (Check it out on the Internet.)

08. Oral Roberts died last week. He was 91. (No comment, except to say Rest in Peace.)

09. Prince Phillip insulted a blind soldier about his necktie. (Apparently, the Prince often speaks without thinking, or so I've heard.)

10. Australian news says that turtle farts are causing an overflow condition in a tank in a public aquarium.

11. During recent pie-eating championships, the contestants were tested for gravy, cough syrup and doping in general. ( Gravy and cough syrup make the gullet greasy and one can then eat more pie.)


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thoughts for a Snowy Saturday in December

I'm sitting at a bay window, watching a junco on our porch and lots of sparrows at our bird feeders. The birds seem to be enjoying the blizzard.

I see by the Sunpaper that the greatest recorded snowfall in the Baltimore area was 28.2 inches right after Valentine's Day in 2003. Elaine and I were in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at that time and when we got back to Reisterstown, we got stuck and couldn't get close to Elaine's home. I remember trudging through what seemed like a million miles of snow drifts to her house, so I could feed her cat.

I'm surprised to see that the Sunpaper did not list any large snowfalls in the 1960s. Once, during that time, there was a large snowstorm and I felt that I could get in to work even though the authorities in the Baltimore area had downsized by selling off most of their snowplows.

I was one of two persons responsible for preparing everybody's monthly Social Security checks, and I felt duty-bound to walk through unplowed Randallstown streets, through the unplowed country roads, to the unplowed Woodlawn Social Security Headquarters building.... Nobody was there except one guard.

It was nice working there all alone.. the only smoke was from my pipe.. but.. I was a little upset that my fellow worker did not even try to make it in. That night, instead of spending another few hours trudging home through snowdrifts, I stayed overnight at the home of a friend who lived nearby.

I vowed at that time to never again do such a stupid thing as walk miles through snowdrifts to a workplace where I was only one of a couple of people there, when the usual workforce was over 5,000.

But guess what... in that same year, we had another big snow storm.. and once again I felt that I could walk in.. at the time, we had what was considered an immovable deadline.. so, duty called once more. Luckily for me, a little way into the walk, a snow plow driver felt sorry for me and drove me in to work. Again, only a few workers made it in.

What did I get for these two "duty calls" efforts? My boss said: "You damn fool, why didn't you stay home?" I felt like saying to him: "Would my hero, Abraham Lincoln have stayed home?" I didn't.. but, the next time we had a big snowstorm, I stayed home just like everybody else. (However, my efforts did gain a kind of notoriety for me at Social Security.. I became the subject of a legend.)

I grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts and big snow is not unusual there. That city is on the edge of Cape Cod and it catches every storm that comes up the coast, and also those that come across the northern part of the U.S. In 1959, while attending college, I drove a taxi sometimes, and a little snow would never deter me from trying to make a few dollars. Lots of people took cabs in snow storms.

One weekend it snowed 48 inches.. yes, I said 48 inches (probably not a record for New Bedford).. Armed with a shovel, I dug myself out of my house and walked (yes, you guessed it, through snowdrifts) the two miles to the cabstand, dug out my cab, put on chains and went to work. In Massachusetts, streets are usually all fairly clear shortly after any kind of snowfall, but I still made a lot of money that day.)

So, you see a little 22 inch snowfall in Maryland was not about to keep me from going to work, at least until I wised up.

Let me tell you one more story about snowfall in New Bedford. I love to tell this story.

One night in Winter, I had taken a trolley to visit my future bride and her family, who lived three miles away. This was in the early days of television and my fiance's family had one of the first sets in the neighborhood. We all lost ourselves watching some of the old popular shows, like Uncle Milty, What's My Line, The Ed Sullivan Show, or somesuch. When the test pattern came on at 11 pm, I got ready to go and catch the late trolley.

That was when we noticed that we were having a blizzard. The snow was already quite high. My fiance's family insisted that I stay the night. I sacked out on a couch in their front parlor. The next morning was Sunday, and everyone but me rose at 6 am. As usual, all the streets had been cleared already.

My future father-in-law said "You need to wake Joe up because he has to get ready to go to mass with us." My fiance said: "He doesn't need to get up this early, he's not Catholic."

"HE'S NOT CATHOLIC!" bellowed my future father-in-law.

Well, I survived that crisis and we did get married, in a Catholiic church, and at the altar to boot.

If you live on the East Coast, stay home today, look out the window and enjoy the beauty of the pure white snow. Throw some bread out to the birds, they look happy, but they are probably very hungry.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Shopping #2 2009

Well, since we never did get any Christmas shopping done last night, we (Elaine) decided that we would set out again at 5 pm today. Our destinations were: The Factory Card Outlet, Boscov's, and Lowes. And, guess what.. we did get to each of them.

At the Factory Card Outlet, we bought a nice card for our friend who is turning 80 tomorrow. We also bought some more XMAS cards. (I don't know how we are going to get all of our cards mailed before Christmas.. but so what, it won't be the first time our cards were late.)

Those who read my blogs know how I feel about clerks asking for your telephone number which they can then sell to brokers for lots of money. At our TRIAD meeting today, we talked about that.. one person said when they are asked for their number, they make one up.. others said that they say: "My number is unlisted." For years, I gave them telephone numbers of elected public officials. Probably, under the Patriot Act, that would be illegal today.

When the clerk asked for my number, I said: "I'll tell you mine, if you tell me yours." She actually started to give me her number until Elaine gave her a dirty look.
At the Outlet, they had what is probably today's top Tasteless Gift: A pig made out of white candy, with a pile of chocolate malt balls at his rear end. I wonder who buys stuff like that.. no.. I know who buys stuff like that. They drive giant pickups and blast their horns at you to get out of their way.. and when they pass you, you get a good view of the testicles hanging from their trailer hitch.
White Christmas and I Wish You a Merry Christmas were playing as we shopped.

Next, we went to Boscov's Department Store. Crowded with people.. spending their "stimulus" money? Like Belks, Boscov's has a central perfume section. Like Belks, I have to keep a close watch on Elaine to make sure she doesn't soak up on scent. She smells good without it, but, like all women, she likes perfume.

We bought a nice jade necklace for our friend's birthday. It has Chinese characters embedded in it.. that reminds me of a true story.. one of New York's famous socialites always wore a brass Chinese token around her throat. It looked like one of those coins with a square hole in the middle.

One day, at a party, a Chinese man was a guest and took an interest in her charm. She noticed and asked him to translate.. she had always wondered with the characters meant. He declined politely, but she insisted.. so he translated:

"Admit One to the Hong Kong Brothel."
Now, I don't know what the characters on the necklace we bought mean.. but there was a clue.. a note said that there were six wishes connected with the jade piece. It didn't say what the wishes were.

One has to be careful with Chinese translations. I have a Chinese scroll that shows a beautiful and scary tiger surveying his jungle area. Very realistic. At one time, I had an employee who grew up in China. I decided to ask her to translate the characters shown below the tiger. She said that she would rather not say what it meant. When I insisted (I was her boss afterall), she finally said: "China is a tiger, waiting to devour the world."
Well, this seems to be coming true.. It amazes me that in a very short period of time, a poor communist country has turned into one of the outstanding capitalistic countries in the world. Once, only Commisars could afford an automobile.. now, China buys more new cars each year than the United States!
Elaine and I picked up some small cheap items in Boscov's auditorium.. just as we went to pay for them, the clerk got up, put on her coat and walked out. So, we went outside to another sales station.. nobody was there.. so we went to another, and another, and another.. where were the clerks? It was 6:30 PM and we figured that maybe this was their break time.

I finally spotted a lady who looked like management.. she agreed to check us out and take our money.. but not before looking around and not finding any clerks. Strange.

Next, we went to the (guess what) Alfred Dunner petite section.. just like we did at Belks.. however, at Boscov's they treat the boyfriends and husbands better than at Belks and provide a chair near the fitting room. There I sat for what seemed like hours (but for only 30 minutes), holding Elaine's selections and looking like Musetta's sugar-daddy in LaBoheme.

White Christmas and I Wish You a Merry Christmas were playing over the loud speaker.

(Incidentally, at Boscov's they have a section named after a guy named Clarence.. the prices there are a lot lower than in other sections... it's funny, they put an extra "e" in the word and spell it a little differently.. they spell it: Clearance.)

(Also, from where I was sitting, it seemed as though every piece labeled "Alfred Dunner" was priced as $36. But when Elaine checked out.. each piece rang up at a different price. This is very difficult for a man to understand.)

(I noticed that next to the Alfred Dunner section is a section labeled: Sag Harbor. Now, honestly, is any woman going to wear clothing that has the word SAG in it?)

As we came out of Boscov's a gentleman was blowing his nose into his handkerchief and made a perfect "honk!" In all of the years I have been alive, I have never been able to "honk". This must be a specialty of some men.. I have never heard a woman "honk". It must take a lot of practice to be able to "honk".

Although we were now starving and grumpy.. we made our way to Lowe's and purchased some special light bulbs for our kitchen light. The bulbs seem to last just 2 weeks each before they burn out. We also bought two green extension cords so that we can get our outside wreath lights to glow. Our outlets were dead a couple of days ago. My son-in-law, John, told us what was probably wrong. When the village fixit man came to look into our problem, I told him what my son had said.. and the fixit man found that what John said was true. He reset something or other and then we had power. Power! Power! And don't we all long to have power?

Senator Joe Lieberman has power and he is using it to thwart the wishes of the Democratic Party. There are a number of petitions going around requesting his removal from the Senate. As Disraeli said: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Witness: Adolph Hitler; Benito Mussolini; Tojo; Stalin; George W. Bush.

Some of you may not agree with what I have just said.. but remember, this is my opinion.. you can have your own opinion.. this is still a free and wonderful country.
While in Lowe's, the loudspeaker was blaring: White Christmas and I Wish You a Merry Christmas..............

Well, once again.. we managed not to get any Christmas shopping done.. but we had a lot of fun.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Shopping 2009

The recession must be over.. the stores are crowded with customers.. at least in Westminster, Maryland. Elaine and I set out tonight about 5 pm for Christmas shopping. We started at Belk's Department Store.. after that, we would be going to Boscov's and then Lowe's.

Belk's is a funny store. It is shaped like a pentagon.. with three outside entrances. About eight years ago, I went to Belk's to buy something or other. Afterwards, I came outside and my car was gone. I was very upset and about to call the police when a guy came over to help me. He asked me "What entrance did you come in?" "Huh! Is there more than one entrance?" Needless to say, I came in one entrance, and went out a different entrance.. so naturally, my car was not near where I came out. When I got my brain in gear, I found my car.

Belk's has a central core, where stinky perfume is sold. I have to steer Elaine away from that spot or she douses herself with scent samples.

Tonight, as we entered the store, Elaine busied herself in trying to find tree ornaments with relative's names. I figured (correctly) that this would take some time, so I wandered off and found some sweaters that I had been looking for. I was proud of myself. XL is now my sweater size, and I picked two good looking ones. When I showed them to Elaine, she said that I should look some more.

I found some very nice looking dark jackets. Years ago, when I lifted weights, I tried to bulk up to a 50 inch chest. I never made it. One of the jackets here was size 48... but when I tried it on... it was too tight!!

So, I tried on a 50... It fit my chest, but my arms looked like a gorilla's as he walks on his knuckles. So, I forgot the jacket. However, there was a size 48 vest that seemed to fit. I tried a nice blue sweater, but it looked like I was about to give birth. I did settle on a black and a dark blue one, because when the light is dim, nobody should be able to see my pot belly. The labels on these sweaters were obviously mis-labeled as XXL.

Meanwhile, Elaine saw some slippers she liked. A black pair was listed as SMALL and they fit perfectly. Out of the remaining 200 pairs of slippers, not another one was listed as SMALL. Because she felt she needed two pair, she settled on a beige (see, men know some colors) MEDIUM Pair. These slippers look like sharpei dogs.. all wrinkled up. But, they will be nice and warm for her this Winter.

Nearby was the Alfred Dunner petite section, and Elaine loves Alfred, so she had to take a little time to check out the new stuff. Normally, where Alfred Dunner stuff is placed, a chair is also placed for tired husbands and boyfriends. Belk's did not have a chair this evening. My thigh and leg were already asleep and I was in agony for what felt like ten hours, but was probably 30 minutes. Elaine bought a nice pair of slacks and now we were ready to check out and go on to our next store.

At the checkout counter, we met a lady who did African hedgehog rescue. Apparently, people buy these exotic pets and then dump them when they get tired of caring for them. So, this lady rescues them.. and keeps them. Right now she has eleven and is looking for more.

These creatures live for 5 years and one gets very much attached to them. They are very cuddly. At night, this lady lays on a couch to watch TV and the hedgehogs climb onto her body and watch TV too. When she nods off, some of them get loose and wander through the house, getting in trouble.

We talked with this lady for a long time and eventually paid our bill and left the building. It was 7 pm and it was COLD. So, since we were worn out, cold, and tired, we decided to see the Colonel, get some grilled chicken and head for our warm little house. We didn't get any Christmas shopping done tonight, but we had a lot of fun.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Loss of a Friend

Today was a very sad day. I lost a dear friend to cancer. He was a comfort to me when I was grieving the loss of my wife, who passed away in 2000. His first name was Luciano, but I called him Lucky, some folks called him Lou.

There was a story about his full name. It was given to him because each part of it told something about him. His full name was Luciano Houdini Tuxedo Vaughan.

I gave him his names.

Luciano - because his voice sounded like that of the famous tenor.

Houdini - because if I closed a door on him and he was lonely, he was able to stretch high up, grab the doorknob and turn it to open the door.

Tuxedo - because he looked like he was wearing one. He had a nice black suit on, with a full white cravat, and white spats. He was a good looking "dude".

Vaughan - because he quickly became a member of my family.

I was very sad and lonely in the months after my wife died. We had been married for 43 years. My granddaughters, Kaitlin and Bridget felt sorry for me and thought that a feline companion would cheer me up a little. They accompanied me to the Carroll County Humane Society and helped select a cat for me.

We knew about Lucky already because his picture had been in newspaper ads and on TV. When we watched all the cats in the "cat picking" area, the kittens and older cats were running around, playing and getting in trouble. Only one was laid back, kind of looking on paternally to all that was going on. That was the black and white cat we later called Lucky. We decided to pick him because he looked distinguished.

Lucky was of uncertain age. He was found living in a sewer in a Westminster cul-de-sac. We guessed that he was about two years old. He probably was a lot older.

Someone must have abused him earlier because for a few months he showed displeasure at being picked up or petted by scratching and biting me. My arms were a mass of bloody scratches. But after a while he realized that he had a good home with me and decided to cool it and be good. We became good friends and later he learned to like Elaine.

Everything went well until a few months ago. He began to lose weight and the vet said that he had hyperthyroidism. We began to give him medication and that was going fairly well until he bit his tongue and suddenly could not eat or drink properly. He would try to eat and slobber it all over.. then he would shake his head and spatter the walls and people nearby with food.

We put him into the vet hospital for two months, hoping that they would be able to get his tongue to heal. When we picked him up, the vet told us that his tongue was cancerous and was not curable.

In spite of medication and special diets, he continued to lose weight until he looked like a concentration camp inmate. Yet, there was still a spring to his step and he could still jump up on a chair if he wanted to.

However, two days ago, he stopped eating and drinking. I got him to take a few drops of water, but that was all. Yesterday, he could hardly get up from his little bed and today I had to carry him around.

He passed away today early in the afternoon and my daughter, Diane and I buried him in the backyard of my former home in Gamber, Maryland. This was the yard where I would walk around under the trees and in the meadow and he would follow at my heels. This was the yard where he would spend every night prowling.

Farewell, my little friend.. thank you for being such a comfort to me for so many years.


News and Insights for a Sunday in December 2009

Some things to think about from this week's news, The Week magazine, and experiences in this land of the free and the brave:

01. There now are more independent voters than democrats and republicans. (As an Independent, I have received surveys from both parties.)

02. It costs $55. to take a cab from downtown Baltimore to Owings Mills, Maryland. Only $1.50 on the subway. (Ask my son-in-law John for a story.)

03. It finally happened, a ten year old Idaho boy got his tongue stuck to a metal fence pole.

04. A guy interupted his wedding ceremony to send a Tweet and a Facebook update about what he was doing.

05. A lawyer is suing to close down a soup kitchen because it is a nuisance and encourages people to stay bums.

06. Viagra is being considered as a performance enhancing medium.. in sports.

07. A gay Baltimore Episcopal priest has become a bishop in Los Angeles. She has been in a relationship since 1988, a lot longer than many male-female relationships.

08. Chinese drivers have become the largest group of car buyers in the world.

09. Gold is selling at over $1,200 per ounce. (How much do you think you can get for your old class ring?)

10. Most stout beers have an alcohol content of 4%, which is a little less than some light beers. (I find that very hard to believe.)

11. Baltimore's Bel-Loc Diner on Joppa Road has been named as one of the "South's" best diners. (Is it in the "South"? Well, we are below the Mason-Dixon Line.)

12. Red wine can help prevent tooth decay, besides being good for your heart. (So, now stop bugging me.)

13. The Pakistani Taliban has destroyed over 400 girl's and coed schools.

14. In Uganda, if you don't report homosexual activity that you observe or suspect, you can be sentenced to three years in jail. (What would Edie Amin do?)

15. Although he tried for a whole month, a Swedish man was unable to produce milk from his breasts.

16. Republican conservatives are demanding that future candidates agree to a ten-point conservative agenda. (Moderates need not apply.)


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Portuguese Style Kale Soup Recipes

Recipe #1:

True Portuguese Kale Soup

Give a bunch of kale to a Portuguese housewife and get the hell out of her kitchen.

Recipe #2:

Joe Vaughan's Famous Kale Soup

___ A large bunch of kale
___ 1 large yellow onion
___ 3 potatoes, cut up
___ 1 whole linguica, sliced (or kielbasa, if you are Polish)
___ 11 cups of chicken broth (use bullion cubes and water if necessary)
___ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
___ 1/4 tspn garlic powder (or garlic clove(s) as desired)
___ 1 bay leave, if you have one
___ 1/3 tspn paprika
___ 2 cups of favas (butter beans and their liquid, if any)
___ salt and pepper to taste

Saute linguica sausage in the olive oil, along with the onion and garlic powder (or, if your spouse isn't paying attention, some garlic cloves). Add 4 ounces of the broth and let it all simmer for ten minutes or so.

Meanwhile, rinse the kale, cut off and throw away the stems. Tear the green kale leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Put the rest of the broth in a large pot, add the potatoes, kale, seasoning, beans, and the stuff you have been sauteing. Let it all simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring quite often so it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pot.

Tips: Turn up the fan so that the smoke detector doesn't go off and so that your spouse doesn't smell the garlic.

Taste the concoction from time to time. It will taste so good that you will want to eat it right away. Try to control yourself.

This recipe makes about 6 tupperware containers of soup. Freeze the ones you don't empty right away.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sweet Tweet?

Great news! Babies can now tweet using a new device called a "Twaddler", according to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Roy Blount says that mothers can now proudly tell their friends: "He did his first Tweet today!"

In other news, I learned that house licking by cows is not covered by some Home Owner's Insurance policies.

And the State of Wisconsin has named a State Microbe: Lactococcus Lactis. This is the microbe that helps make, of course, cheese.

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me is a great show and one can increase one's knowledge about many subjects by listening to it. There was even some info about global warming:

Lobsters and crabs are growing larger because of it.

Whale voices are lowering because of it.

... And I'm not just "hanging noodles on your ears." (That's Russian for "pulling your leg.")

Those of you who accidently bump into some of my blogs know about the famous outlaw who changed his name to Joe Vaughan and moved to Arkansas to found a big family. Well, one of my policemen friends sent me an article about another Joe Vaughan, an ironmonger who founded the Deep Creek Furnace and the Nanticoke Forge in Delaware. As a Colonel during the Revolutionary War, he had his troops hold their ground and avoid defeat by the British, for which he was named the "Iron Man".

By the way, there are still some openings in the Joe Vaughan Fan Club. Let me know if you want to join. I haven't been actively recruiting for a few years now, but my original members are still involved. (For those who don't know about the Joe Vaughan Fan Club.. it is a club in which I, Joe Vaughan, am your fan, not necessarily the other way around.)


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Xmas Party Stuff

Elaine and I just got back from a Christmas party. It was the second for me today and one of many that we have scheduled for December. At this evening's party, we had the misfortune to be seated next to an extremely obnoxious, rather stout gentleman.. I will call him B.M. (for Big Mouth).

His first words when he surrounded his chair were directed to J.P., a nice guy I know from another organization. The words were: "Did you go to college? I have a PhD."

He was surprised to learn that J.P. also has a PhD. His next question to J.P. was: "How long was your disertation?" J.P. said that it ran to 89 pages. B.M. said: "Mine was 125 pages, counting footnotes."

Since J.P. did not seem impressed, B.M. turned to me and asked: "Did you go to college?" I pretended not to hear him, so he raised his voice a bit and asked: "Were you in the service?" I could not avoid him and said: "Yes."

B.M.'s next question was: "When were you in?" I told him: "From 1953 to 1956." B.M. replied: "I walked into the Army office in 1954 and stayed in the Army until 1994." I said: "Wow.."

Food came and shut him up for a while. When he was through and no longer wanted the piece of garlic bread that came with his meal, he shoved it nonchalantly over until it was partly on my plate.

Now it was time for him to announce that last year he had gained weight until he was over 400 pounds. Then he had a stomach bypass operation and lost 130 pounds. It looked to me as though he still tipped the scales at his original weight.

As part of the party, we played the "swap" game, and his wife chose his gift which happened to be something that did not please him, but which he "decided to keep" even though the game rules said he had to anyway. And when it came time for me to pick a gift, he announced that I should not get one because I already had picked one, even though I had not.

I wonder where this guy came from and how he got mixed up with this nice group of people. I feel very bad for his wife who was kept from speaking the whole night. I wonder if he ever lets her talk.

You know... he did say he owned a big dog. He probably is a great dog owner. I wonder if that is his only redeeming characteristic. But I'll bet his wife has to walk the dog.

I try to learn something from everybody.. and I am trying real hard to find out what I learned from B.M. I'm trying.. I'm trying.

When I was in a college English composition course, I wrote a short story about "the most obnoxious person I have ever met." I wrote about a guy named Walter... the first line of my story was: "Walter is discovered picking his nose." I would have liked to have written about B.M. in kind of the same way: "B.M. is discovered grossing out everybody within ten feet."

Well I have it.. what I learned from B.M. is: Watch out... gastric bypass operations don't always work.


Monday, December 07, 2009

Oh say can you beep!

Do you know how much our lives are controlled by beeps? No wonder I am salivating so much! Just look at the beeps in my home:

Dishwasher: beeps when it is through running.. and continues a few times to get our attention.

Clothes washer: beeps when it is through running.. and continues for about 15 minutes until we move the clothes to the dryer.

Clothes dryer: beeps when it is through running.. and continues for about 10 minutes.

Microwave: beeps when it is through running.. and continues until somebody empties it.

Stove: beeps one minute before it is finished and then when it is finished, beeps continually, until taken care of.

Oven: beeps one minute before it is finished and then when it is finished, beeps continually until taken care of.

Kitchen timer: beeps one minute before it is finished and then when it is finished, beeps continually, until taken care of.

Alarm clock: beeps continually to wake you up.

Telephone: call waiting.. beeps at you to let you know you have another call.

Telephone: messages pending.. beeps until you listen to the messages.

Cell phone: beeps to let you know you have a message.

Cell phone: beeps to let you know somebody is trying to call you while you are talking to someone else.

Smoke detectors: beep at midnight or 2 AM to let you know that the battery has less than 50% power.

Car: beeps to let you know that it is backing up.

Now isn't that scary!


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Ten Things to think about.. plus a Bonus

On this snowy day in Westminster, Maryland, I am very happy because I just learned ten new things from Wait Wait Don't Tell Me that will enrich my life by feeding my imagination. And for your edification as well, I will list them below, plus something that I learned yesterday that I probably should have known before this time.

01. A study has shown that crying babies always wake up women, but seldom men, although men might just be faking sleep.

02. There is a scandal in China related to cricket fighting.

03. There is a hotel in Dubai that has put refrigeration under the sand on their beach so that it would be more comfortable for their guests to walk or lay on.

04. A building is planned for Dubai, the location of which will be a "surprise." (It will be 80 floors high and each floor will rotate.)

05. There is a bar in Dubai that advertises that they only cater to the "filthy rich."

06. There are new combination plurals for bad financial guys.

A felon of bankers. ..or.. more seasonal: A scrooge of bankers.

07. The Russians have invented a vodka pill.

08. A baker in Britain has instituted "divorce cakes." The figures on top of each cake can show kick-boxers or wrestlers or such. (Why not?)

09. The Department of Defence has purchased 2,000 play stations.

10. Pigless pork has been created in a lab.


One should always make sure there is no DVD already in the player before you insert another one.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Real Old News

Just like Melville's Ishmael, when the everyday worries become overwhelming, I long for the sea. However, since the sea is over one hundred miles away from Westminster, Maryland, I must settle for some other diversion. Sometimes it is escape to news from "yesteryear."

I'm looking at a copy of The Literary Digest dated October 31, 1908 (101 years ago!) Some items that were of interest to me:

01. An ad showing a young lady with a bow tie sitting at a vintage Remington typewriter. Model 10 has a column selector, and model 11 has a built-in tabulator. (My grandkids may not know what a typewriter is... they probably don't even need to know what a word-processor is, as long as their agile fingers can "text".)

02. An ad for a two month's summer tour of Europe for $250.

03. An ad for GRAFT.."The game of the hour; the game for Election days. More fascinating than Bridge or Eucre... 50 cents."

04. Ad for 1,000 acres in West Virginia for $9,000.

05. Ad for Miss Hess' French School for Young Ladies.

06. Ad for "The 1909 Fad!" This device projects any sort of "Post Card, Sketch, Photograph, or Clipping in all the brilliant coloring" on the wall as a six-foot reproduction. Cost for this machine in its fully assembled form: $5.

07. News about the William J. Bryan and William H. Taft strategic struggle to gain sufficient electoral votes to win the Presidency. Teddy Roosevelt puts in his two cents. (It all sounds so familiar.)

08. News that the United States Battle-ship fleet sailed around the world and in Sydney Australia the fleet was welcomed by 9,000 school-kids grouped to form the words "Hail Columbia" and to trace the pattern in colors of the American and Australian flags.

And then... get this.. in Yokohama, to quote the New York Post: "Toward the close of the reception, at a collation on the after deck of the battle-ship, Captain Okada drank the health of Ambassador O'Brien. Then followed a demonstration that will be long remembered by the Americans. The Japanese admirals and captains raised Ambassador O'Brien on their shoulders and marched around the deck with him, everybody on board wildly cheering. The same performance was repeated with Rear-Admiral Sperry and each of the other American admirals present."

And then, the New York Tribune said "Japan and America are, and are likely to remain for a long time, the chief, we might say the only important, naval Powers in the Pacific" and indicated that this friendly reception should put to rest any suggestion of friction between these two countries.

09. Lots of news about the Balkans and Austria .. sounds like the problems that led up to WWI.

10. News that unemployment in England has reached "painful proportions." Mr. Stewart Gray, the leader of "Hunger Marchers" clashed with the police at Trafalgar Square. About 150,000 men in London are out of work.

11. Sir Hiram Maxim analyzed a "sure fire system" for beating the bank at Monte Carlo, and found that the player would probably win.. "one dollar in 21,474 years."

12. Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Buchanan, of the British Army in India says: "The best way to put a stop to the plague where it is epidemic is to keep cats."

13. Professor Gaston Bonnier of Paris says that "a beehive is a perfect example of the equalitarian product of state socialism."

14. "A system by which a wireless-telegraphic apparatus may control from a central station the clocks of a whole city is now in use in Vienna."

15. Joseph Ruau, French Minister of Agriculture says that "fraud is common in food manufacture, and reminds us that absolute purity is not practicable or necessary."

16. There is now a simple test for distinguishing between butter and "oleomargarin". (Sounds like a time-consuming process utilizing fresh milk and a "stick.")

17. Mr. Israel Zangwill caused a commotion with his play "The Melting Pot", where he implies that Jews will be best off in America by being "absorbed" through marriage. The Jewish Comment (Baltimore) likes his play and agrees with his thesis.

18. Mr. Marc Debrol, French writer, was asked if people in the US are religious in the "real sense of the word".. He replied: "No. The American is too taken up with the practical side of life, too preoccupied with conquests and gain, to be meditative. There is no introspection... in this race for the dollar, the finer sensibilities dry up..." (!) Debrol says that America is a charitable country, but "Charity does not spring from private initiative; it is carefully organised, and in many cases by the churches... The poor must be fed and clothed, not out of pity, but out of prudence; they must not become discontented and revolt, disturbers of the national peace."

19. An ad for the Flexible Flyer, the Sled that Steers. "Send for a free cardboard model showing how it steers."

20. An ad for Whitelaw's Paper Blankets. Sanitary. Healthful. Warm. $3.00 a dozen.

21. An ad for Postum (coffee substitute still sold next to coffees in supermarkets.. I drank it for years. "There are still some well-informed persons who do not know that coffee contains a drug -- caffeine."

22. Ad for Harderfold Hygienic Underwear with the Inter-Air-Space System... "... affording protection against the vicissitudes of our variable climate..."

23. Ad for The Keeley Cure for liquor and drug using.

24. Finally...!! A joke from the Washington Star:

The Crank. "You say there is nearly always something broke about your automobile?"
"Yes," answered Mr. Chuggins, nervously.
"What is it, as a rule?"

... so, not much has changed in 101 years.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Juice

I don't usually write about items in our local Westminster, Maryland newspaper (The Carroll County Times) but a few things in today's Sunday edition got my juices moving. (Some good juices and some bad juices.)

First, the bad juices:

01. The Associated Press reports that thousands of African albinos have gone into hiding after 58 have recently been killed and dismembered under the belief that albino body parts have magical powers. Up to $75,000 can be made by selling a complete dismembered set of parts.

Albinos normally have normal children. Albinism is hereditary, but only when both parents have albinism genes.

(Would it be feasible for the U.S. to offer refuge to albinos? They probably are not safe anywhere in Africa.)

02. The AP also reports that protesters are rioting in Geneva, Switzerland (of all places!). They are protesting the seventh WTO (World Trade Organization) Ministerial Conference, opening tomorrow. (I would like to know who is protesting, who is supporting them, why they are protesting, and what their demands are, if any.)

03. It was a homemade bomb that terrorists used to destroy a high-speed Russian train and the lives of 26 people. (What kind of mentality allows innocent people to be killed for any cause?)

04. Dwight Dingle passed away on November 26th, just a few days after the honorary Dwight Dingle Day in Carroll County. He ran the Maryland radio station devoted to the County and was instrumental in making it a communications device followed closely by almost everyone in the County. Dwight had a long and varied career in his 63 years of life.. it is a shame that he could not have at least another 20 years to do his good works.

A few years ago, I was privileged to meet Dwight and do a series of radio spots at his station. Dwight helped bring the details of Carroll County service agencies, like the ones I represented, to his listeners. (I was honored with induction into the Maryland Senior Citizen Hall of Fame last year, but I think that Dwight was far more qualified than I was and I'm sure that he would have been given that honor eventually, except for his very untimely death.)

05. Deer hunting season began yesterday. Last year over 100,000 deer were killed as well as several hunters. Please, hunters, find a way to freeze the meat (not human) you don't need so that poor people, at home, in institutions and in hospitals can get some protein.

06. A letter to the editor by a "religious" woman says: "God is not anti-sex. He is the one who initiated and blessed human sexuality. Yet, in my years of study, I have found no biblical support for the homosexual lifestyle...doesn't it seem odd that he (God) and his son Jesus are silent on the subject?... what the Bible does not tell me is so, is, well, not so."

Does the Bible say it is ok for priests to engage in "gang bangs" with children? It isn't mentioned in the Bible, yet even a Bishop's Group said this occurred, they are sorry for it, and will pay massive retribution.

This also begs the question: Where will the money come from to pay the claims? From the Priests or from the people? (As one of the richest organizations in the world, probably the sale of one bejeweled crown would handle the payment.)

Incidentally, at the time of Jesus' life, homosexual activity with boys was not frowned upon in the Roman/Helene world. I've read that Women were only used as "vessels for child bearing, a necessary function." Has the writer ever studied the writing and life of Saul/Paul/St. Paul? A Roman citizen in a Greek style world. Wasn't it Paul who wrote that spreaders of the Gospel should be celibate?

What I am trying to say with all of this is that "It ain't necessarily so. The things that you're liable, to read in the Bible. It ain't necessarily so."

The part of that song that I like the best is:

" Methuselah lived 900 years.
Yeah, old Methuselah lived 900 years.
But, what use is livin',
When no woman will give in,
To no man what's 900 years."

We know many gay couples and some are even bringing up beautiful, well-adjusted children. What the hell is wrong with that?

Well, I'll save my good juices for another blog. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Just Say "NO!"

Do you receive a lot of irritating telemarketing calls and wonder why?

How many times have you been asked by a store clerk for your telephone number? How many times have you given it to them? Have you asked why they want it? Usually they say it is because they need it to "send you some coupons". HUH?! Think about that for a moment.

When a company has your telephone number, they have a valuable asset. Your telephone number is a wonderful piece of information for telemarketers. It is worth a LOT OF MONEY! (EXPECT SOME CALLS!)

The company that obtained your telephone number can sell that item to telemarketers because the telemarketers will then know that you have actually purchased a product at the store that obtained the number. This is fantastic information for them.. you are a known purchaser of a type of product they can probably get you to purchase again.. (EXPECT SOME CALLS!)

But.. you will say.. "they can't call me because I signed on to the "do not call" list." Well, if you have ever done business with the telemarketer .. or with the company that they bought your telephone number from.. the "do not call" list does not apply. (EXPECT SOME CALLS!)

So.. unless you like to get those irritating telemarketer calls.... my advice to you would be.. whenever a clerk asks you for your telephone number.... JUST SAY: NO!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ponder on this!

Yesterday, at the Doctor's office, I reaquainted myself with Harper's Magazine. I had forgotten what a great communications document it is. One of the features of the magazine is Harper's Index. Two items in that index "grabbed" me:

01. The estimated number of cars that it takes to produce as much co2 as a single cargo ship = 10,000! This estimate was attributed to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in Juneau, Alaska.

Some time ago, I heard on National Public Radio that if all of the containers on just one cargo ship were placed on multi-wheeled trucks, and the trucks were lined up from the unloading dock in a line.. that line would extend (in Baltimore, Maryland's case) all the way to the start of the New Jersey turnpike!

I tried to calculate this myself.. I figured that the average container is 50 feet long and the front of the truck is 10 feet long. That means a length of 60 feet for each unit and if there were 1,000 units on the container ship... the total length would be 60,000 feet or only about 11 miles. The turnpike is a lot farther away than that. (40 miles?)

Maybe the length of the front of a truck is longer? Maybe the size of containers is greater than 50 feet? Maybe the number of containers on a ship is greater than 1,000? Maybe NPR made a
mistake? Maybe Joe Vaughan mis-heard? Could someone set me straight on this?

02. The Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, Scotland has estimated that there are 37,964 planets in the galaxy that are hospitable enough to support life as intelligent as human beings.

Who said that human beings are intelligent? (And don't put too much stock in IQ tests and LSAT scores. As a Mensa member for 30 years, I feel qualified to say that.)

I read that Catholic Bishops have been meeting lately to figure out what to do if life is found on other planets. I'm sure that they are reasoning that if God is all-powerful, He (or She) could place intelligent creatures anywhere he wants to in the universe.

(Did you hear the one about the Priest, the Minister and the Rabbi who set out in a space ship?)


Sunday, November 22, 2009

That's funny...

Listening to the Sunday radio news, I noticed that Oprah's plan to quit her popular show in 2011 was mentioned earlier than the Senate news on Health Care Reform.... Some of us remember her when she was on Baltimore TV.. she has indeed "come a long way, baby!" She is, of course, . a multi-billionaire, and stands to increase her wealth with her new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

I think that it would be wonderful for the people of the world if she and Bill Gates would each donate one billion dollars of their wealth to stem cell research. Perhaps they could fund some million dollar prizes to be given to the first scientists to make breakthroughs in that area. (Although maybe that would be duplicating a Nobel prize... Well then, how about a billion dollar prize to the scientist who shows the first practical application of stem cell methodology to breast cancer?)

Oprah has a dignified manner of speaking, and does not "trash talk" like some other communicators.

Sometimes, while listening to XM radio, I accidently switch to the channel that bills itself as a "laugh" channel, but which has "comedians" who think that every other word should be a vulgarism. What has that to do with humor? XM Channel 151 is my choice for a true "laugh" channel. The real comedians, who don' t have to rely on vulgarisms to be funny, are heard on that channel.

A little risque humor is fine, and "double entendres" are fun, and ordinary, old fashioned cuss words don't seem to detract from intelligent jokes. But "jokes" that rely on the use of "naughty" words that the "jokester" thinks will get a laugh, fall flat, in my opinion. The only comedian who got away with the use of vulgarisms in his routine was Redd Foxx.. but when you listened to him, you knew that he was being satiric in his usage.. and, as those of us who loved his TV show, he could be hilarious without the vulgarity.

I've told this story before somewhere in my blogs, but here I go again. Tony, a high school buddy of one of our friends here in Baltimore (Jim) was a comedian who performed in night clubs. Tony was performing in a downtown bar and called Jim to invite him to come down and watch the show. What Tony did not realize was that Jim would bring his wife and me and my wife along with him.

The bar was a sleezy joint that was probably the last place for strippers before they applied for Social Security. Our table was next to the door from which the strippers would emerge and it was a good vantage point to observe the appendix scars, c-section scars and hairy moles of these senior citizens.

Each table was in an alcove so that patrons (and the police) could not observe what was transpiring within. The 3-piece band kept up a sufficiently noisy "bump and grind" sound so that one could also not hear what was transpiring within the alcoves.

Tony was surprised and extremely nervous when he found out that Jim had brought his wife and friends. When his time came to tell his jokes, he decided to clean them up in order not to shock Jim's wife and guests. The audience did not like that.. and the manager began to yell at him from the wings: "Tell the dirty jokes or you're out of here!" We decided that by us being there, we were going to get him fired, so we left.

Jim lost touch with Tony and always wondered what became of him. Maybe he is one of the "performers" on the raunchy XM laugh channel.

Now, I am not a prude.. I think that "damn" and "hell" and mild curse words are great when used for emphasis.. but I do think that the constant use of very strong vulgarisms governs how ordinary people think about you and how you get placed within society and your community. It can also control the kinds of jobs you will be able to have in your life. .So.. save the vulgarisms for when you hit your thumb with a hammer.. or for when you are alone in your car in irritating traffic with the windows rolled up. (Meanwhile, did you hear the one about the two naked ladies and the yard sale?)


Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Weird Problem for a .-- . .. .-. -.. Person

I wonder if anyone else has the curse (-.-- ..- .-. ... .) that I have. It's a problem I have had since I learned Morse Code in the Air Force. Ever since then, my mind is always sending or receiving code in the background of my mind. For example, while doing a crossword puzzle today, the clue was: 7 letter word for "chains". Immediately, my mind began coding .-.. . - - . .-. ... (fetters). That code was being generated and transmitted by my brain subconsciously.. and I only realized it when I made an effort to concentrate on what was being transmitted in my head at the time.

When I was going to radio operators school, I had trouble with the Morse Code for "p" and "c", so I began to repeat the code for "percent" in my mind, over and over... (.--. . .-. -.-. . -. -) because of the presence of code for "c" and "p". It worked, I learned those code letters; the repetition caused the code for those letters to no longer be unlearnable... however, this learning aid never stopped generating and continues to generate in my mind when I am not thinking of other things.. even today.. over 50 (!) years later.

Let's see what is generating right now. Based on what I am involved it, it is not generating the usual "percent", but rather -... .-.. --- --. (blog) Let me make this clear.. this generation of Morse Code in my brain is continuous. Something is being coded every minute. Sometimes I even wake up with a "code in my head" ... Although this is a pun...(.--. ..- -.) I am serious about this.

This is a problem for me, but not a big problem. I guess it is like when I was stationed in Germany for almost 4 years.. at the end of that time, I was thinking in German and translating into English in my head. (Yes.. the Morse Code then spelled out German and English words.) So, I guess that Morse Code is like a language that lies in the background of your brain. However, after I got back to the US, in a few weeks I was thinking in English and German was shoved out of sight for a while.

But Morse Code seems to go on forever, generating in the background.

Another language I was a fluent in was French, but it never took over my brain and lies dormant.

So, why does Morse Code refuse to lie dormant, but continues to generate in the background.

Anyway.. if anybody is reading this who has (or had) "the Morse Code in the background" situation, could you let me know how you got rid of it.. if you did.

--. --- --- -.. -... -.-- . (Goodbye)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

More Wait Wait Info from Nov 7, 2009

One learns so much from NPR's great show: Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! For instance, today I was amazed to learn this information:

01. The 7-11 stores will be selling their own brand of wine shortly. (As this was mentioned, the music in the background had what sounded like these lyrics: "I've got cheap wine, and free time...")

02. The hard hat was invented by Franz Kafka. (I find this utterly fantastic, but one should not be too surprised by anything that Mr. Kafka created.)

03. Someone somewhere has combined an MP3 player with a tazer.

04. Coco Krispies boxes boasted that the cereal could boost children's immunity. (But probably not to diabetes, someone said.) According to a television report last night, the company may have agreed to take the boast off the box.

05. According to a study, 22% of male texters are ending their messages with "hugs and kisses" symbols. (Cute!)

06. It was reported that a judge somewhere visited x-rated adult book stores hundreds of times recently. The judge said that he went to the store because they had such delicious chicken soup in their vending machine.

07. A Canadian study found that pregnant women who have a lot of morning sickness end up with babies with high IQ's. (Ok, fellow Mensa members, what do you think of that?)

08. Another study found that bad drivers are not to blame for their problems.. they inherited the traits from genes passed on from their parents.

09. In Germany, some inventive advertising person placed banners on flies legs and they displayed his messages as they flew about the audience.

10. South Korean cab drivers are now allowed to watch TV while they drive.

11. A woman called 911 to report that she was driving drunk. (or maybe to report all those cars that were driving on the wrong side of the freeway.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

More "Stuff" from a 1962 Scrapbook

I need to take a break from all of the things I have to do today, so I will get back to some items in a 1962 scrapbook. I think it's fun to see if anything has changed in 47 years.

01. In Kobe, Japanese farmers are fattening their cattle with sake and beer, and then massaging them to marble the meat, making some of the best beef in the world. (I wonder if aliens invented beer so they could enjoy marbled human beef when they come back to earth at harvest time? Sorry.)

02. One should try a Hong Kong delicacy, duck eggs that have been buried in lime for 60 days, or immersed for months in salted water. (Don't knock it until you've tried it.. or so
I've been told...)

03. Saigon swallow's nests are reported to be the best in the world.

04. In Hong Kong, one can buy cobra gall mixed with rice wine. Its supposed to be a good medicine for arthritis.

05. Hong Kong menu items: Lotus seed buns, shrimp and bean cakes, pig's tongue, shark fin buns, and dried macaroni and egg. (Yum!)

06. Another Hong Kong delicacy: Beggar's chicken wrapped in lotus leaves and cooked in clay. It is brought to the table with a hammer and is bashed open right at your elbow.

07. Albert Camus at age 43 writes: "The theater is the greatest of literary forms because it is the most difficult. The difficulty consists in putting lofty ideas to a wide audience where imbeciles sit side by side with intelligent people. It demands great art."

08. Camus has always held that life is an absurdity, but he has somewhat modified that view by the 1960's.

09. A guy with an amazing name: Townsend Hoen, has built a patio outside of his home on St. Georges Road (Baltimore?). It consists of lithographic stones used in the family business to print maps, labels and diplomas. (If you get tired of gazing at the sunset, you can check out the bricks to see who got an MD from Hopkins in the 1930's.)

10. Dr. Daniel Torrance of Ruxton (Baltimore) grows bonsai and some of them are over 75 years old. Most bonsai range from 12 to 24 inches, but there are some that are smaller than an inch!

11. There is a picture of a baby born in Philadelphia weighing 13 pounds 8 ounces. Nearby is the proud father, blowing cigar smoke into the air space around his fat baby. (I've heard that babies with such a weight are not that uncommon for French-Canadian families in Quebec.)

12. At Cincinnati's Good Samaritan Hospital, a waiting room for expectant fathers has opened. It is called the "Heirport."

13. A spurned girlfriend tried to get back at her ex-boyfriend by attacking his firehouse with her car. She broke doors, smashed an ambulance, dented a fire engine and a hook-and-ladder. Her tactic didn't work as well as she expected because her boyfriend worked at a different firehouse.

14. Two Baltimore 16-year olds were arrested for beating a tired old cart horse with a sledge hammer. (Not much has changed in this regard.)

15. Psychiatrist Peter Ostwald is trying to find out why people hum. (Save your money, Pete, it's because they don't know the words!)

16. A New York import firm is offering cigarette boxes with lids made of real rock with lichen growing over it.. guaranteed to live for 1,000 years.

17. Douglas Bottom painted his name on the lid of his garbage cans as is customary. Guess how the garbage men place his empty cans in his driveway.

18. J. Paul Getty gave some reasons why he should not be tossed from a balloon to keep it aloft.
a. I am probably lighter than the others in the balloon.
b. At 68, I'm probably younger than the other millionaires in the balloon. Oldsters should go first.
c. I pay more taxes than anyone else in the US.

19. Strickland Gililan wrote a literary work whose title was longer than the work itself.

Title: Lines Upon the Antiquity of Fleas

Body: Adam had 'em.

20. While idling in her driveway, the 1955-model car of Mrs. Doris Heddgepath of Glen Burnie (Maryland) blew up. Suspected cause: pressure build-up in the transmission.

21. Sun paper news item: "The two suspects were held at police headquarters and are to be enraged tomorrow with narcotics violations, police said."

22. A Xenia, Ohio town ordinance says that three days leave of absence with pay will be granted any city employee who submits proof of death.

23. High winds in Memphis, Tennessee, blew Harry Howard's $220. over a parking lot. With the help of friends, he recovered $221.

24. Typical Baltimore headline: Scheffing Thinks Sept Losses to Birds Hurts Tigers.

25. Finally, a cartoon from the Chicago Tribune: A man in a suit is taking off his coat and saying to his wife: The boss is beginning to notice my work.. he fired me today."


Monday, November 02, 2009

Catching up on the news.

I've been tied up for some time planning a conference. Now that it is over, I can concentrate on other things and maybe catch up on the news. Reading my favorite magazine The Week for November 6, 2009, and watching a little TV, I found the following news items to be quite interesting:

01. GOLF. There now is an 850 mile long golf course in Australia. Par 71. (Golfers have to be wary of wombat holes.)

02. SPY. Who would have thought that Fidel Castro's sister would have been a spy for the CIA? (Mr. Cheney may not know that she "outed" herself.)

03. RATINGS. FOX News is apparently enjoying being called "a wing of the Republican Party.

04. SEX. The "US Federales" have captured 700 bad people across the country in three days. This included a lot of alleged pimps engaged in child prostitution. Some child prostitutes are as young as ten!

05. SWINE FLU. I read that some "shock" radio persons are spreading rumors that the H1N1 vaccine "is tainted with antifreeze" as part of a plot by the Government to kill Americans.

This is extremely ridiculous and irresponsible. Some people who should get the vaccine, may not get it because of this misinformation. People need to take this situation seriously and make rational decisions about the vaccine. During the Flu Pandemic of many years ago, my Grandfather served his community as a volunteer nurse. In that community, nearly every family lost a member. There was no vaccine against the flu then. (Luckily, none of his 15 children got the flu bad enough to die from it.)

06. RODENT. Once again, a small animal has panicked lots of great big humans. Three hundred people were delayed for three hours while their airplane to London was "de-miced".

07. SUICIDE Epidemic. Palo Alto, California, is having a problem with teen suicides. Four students from the same high school have stepped in front of commuter trains on purpose. Eight more have been prevented from doing so. Is this the result of "ennui" for living in such a wealthy town?

08. FLY-PAPER?. A Florida man wore a "defective" pair of underwear for two weeks and claimed that the fly flap rubbed his genitals like sand-paper. He sued for compensation. Thank goodness the judge threw this one out.

09. WATCH OUT FOR STRANGE VEHICLES. If you travel in Minnesota, watch out for a drunk guy driving a motorized recliner with a built-in stereo set.

10. BRUSH UP YOUR SHAKESPEARE: If you travel in Dallas, be careful, police are ticketing motorists for being "non-English-speaking drivers." George Bernard Shaw was fond of saying that Americans haven't spoken the English language for years.

11. WHERE'S THE BEEF? The owner of the three McDonald restaurants in Iceland is closing them down because the current cost of importing ingredients would cause him to have to charge the equivalent of $7 for a Big Mac, apparently too many KRONA for folks to pay.

12. ARE YOU A NONE? A study found that 14 million Americans have no religious affiliation.. they are called "nones". Some of them believe in God, some are atheists, some agnostics, and some find labels unimportant.

13. ENDANGERED SPECIES. Several Canadian provinces have banned smoking in both public and private places, even in cars and apartment buildings! However, crackheads, who have a disease called addiction, are exempted and will have medical places where they can legally "inhale"!

14. PIE IN THE FACE. Soupy Sales died last week. He was 83. His claim to fame was that he had had 20,000 shaving cream filled pies hit him in the face over the years. If that is funny, he was a very funny man.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Best "Wait, Wait" Halloween Show Yet?

Some of the topics for the October 31, 2009 "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" show were interesting. Zombies, beer, Barbie, toplessness in Disney film, hoaxes, Colonel Sanders, homelessness, golf, Halloween.

01. Beer: Officials at DC's FedEx Field admitted that they were selling beer in the men's restroom. (Is this is what is known as "The Cycle of Life".. ? It seems ecologically sound to me; however, it probably could be considered discrimination to women.)

02. Avoiding Discrimination to women: In response to a claim that women are left out of the President's athletic endeavors, President Obama played golf with a woman. (A number of other Presidents have also enjoyed sports with women.. although of a more intimate nature.)

03. Zombies: I learned that Zombies do not run, because they would snap their legs off at the ankle. Also, I learned that they may be organizing.. like Italian Americans, and Afro-Americans, they would be called Zombie-Americans.

04. Halloween: A man dressed himself as Colonel Sanders (KFC) and invaded the UN offices in New York. He even got so far as to meet the Secretary General before he got caught. Apparently, everyone thought that he probably was the head of some country that had had a military take-over.

(I remember great times when I was in elementary school when my Aunt Marjorie would get us kids together on Halloween and lead us into a dark cellar where she would pass around grapes and say they were eyes, licorice sticks and say they were ghost's hair.. you get the idea.. she would scare the daylights out of us.. and we loved it!)

(The first time that I went to a Halloween Party where grownups were, (First Baptist Church) I dressed as a clown magician. I had some simple pocket tricks and a deck of playing cards. As I was doing one of the card tricks I had practiced for hours, one of the "'church ladies" grabbed my cards, chewed me out, and made me leave. It took me a while to figure out that I was ousted because I had violated one of the Ten Commandments, in the view of the Church.)

05. Barbie: I hear that Barbie has a new boy friend... supposedly, he is called: "Palm Beach Sugar Daddy Ken."

06. Disney movies and Sex: It was mentioned that in one 1977 Disney movie, as some cute little animals are cavorting in a building, if you looked closely through one of the windows, you would see a topless woman.

Disney once made a movie called: "The Story of Menstruation", sponsored by Kotex.

07. Bed Clothes: It was reported that some bedding clothing company is making bedding that looks like the nighttime coverings of homeless people. You know, cardboard and newspapers and that sort of thing.

08. Surprise!: I learned that ex-President George W. Bush has started a new job as a motivational speaker! (His mother has been one for a while. I'm not sure about his father, who likes to spend his spare time jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.)

09. Thieves: A one-legged man stole one shoe... and was quickly caught.

And remember the dumbest burglers of the year: They disguised themselves by marking their faces using black markers. What these guys didn't realize was that these were "permanent" markers.. and they were also quickly caught.

... If you have never listened to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me", do yourself a favor. It has to be the funniest program on the radio. If the broadcast time is bad for you, "google" the title and plug into their easy to find website where you can easily listen to the show whenever you want.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

More Old News

Things are a bit hectic right now, so, to relax, I'm looking through my 1962 scrapbook again. Take a look over my shoulder, read the articles and enjoy the pictures.. let your mind wander back to that year.

01. A nice aerial view of Ocean City at the height of its flooding by a terrific northeaster in March. It was termed worse than the famous 1933 hurricane. The city is completely covered by the ocean; however, it looks like there is not much damage, except to a luxury apartment hotel on the beach at 39th street.

An expensive, at the time, $80,000 home survived the storm by being on steel pilings.

02. The Russians claim to be planning a 160 mile tunnel under the Caspian Sea, linking Baku with Krasnovodsk. They want to use atomic blasts to dig it out... but Western countries think that this is just a ploy for the USSR to get moving on secret weapons testing.

03. Frank Lloyd Wright made some sketches for a planetarium to be built on Sugarloaf Mountain south of Frederick, Maryland. The planetarium was never built.

04. University of California scientists have discovered that the chloroplast, like the gene and the virus, contains genetic material and controls its own reproduction within the living cell.

05. J. Robert Moskin, Look Magazine Senior Editor wrote: "In the next 25 years (1987!) it is likely that man will create life in a test tube. He will transform chemicals into living material that can grow and reproduce itself. He will perform an act of God."

Linus Pauling, Nobel laureate, foresees the day when scientists will be able to make artificial genes and put them into living bodies.

06. A cartoon of JFK sitting in an ambulance labeled Old Age Health. Running after him, hoping for a ride are three men, labeled: Health Insurance Companies, GOP Plan, and Rep Miller. (So, you see, even back in 1962 people were fighting over Health Insurance.. at that time it was for the elderly and was pushed through Congress as Medicare by Lyndon Johnson.. if Obama studies what Johnson did and he uses the resources that he already has, he should be able to push through universal health insurance.)

07. Mrs Leila Mae Simhof writes the Baltimore Sun that after paying their monthly rents, old people are left with the magnificent balance of from six to ten dollars for their month's food, clothing and insurance. (The time is right for Medicare.)

08. The Social Security Administration building in Woodlawn, Maryland, receives hundred of foreign visitors each week. It also sends out major press releases in 22 languages. They also publish pamphlets in Spanish, for distribution in New York City and in areas along the Mexican border and in southern California.

09. A woman in a coma delivers a baby. She had been injured in an automobile accident.

10. Robert M. Ball becomes Commissioner of Social Security and its 34,661 employees.

11. Maurice, the book man of Greenwich Village is having a problem with the subway locker people. Even though he stores hundreds of books in 49 lockers, and even though he pays for them with dimes every time he thinks of it.. the "Locker Nazi" wants him to get his books out of the lockers so people can use them for personal items. Maurice says that each subway station has lots of unused lockers and he really is a good customer for the company.

12. The Smith College Club of Baltimore is getting ready for their 4th annual used book sale. (As my daughter, Elizabeth, was being born in 1961, I was not allowed anywhere near the Delivery Room, so I went outside on the street to wait. Next to the hospital was an empty store and inside the 3rd annual Smith College Book Sale was going on. I bought a lot of books before I went back in to see my new daughter. To celebrate Elizabeth's birth, I visited all of the Smith College Book Sales for the next 40 years! Changes in location and prices has made the sale quite different than it was.. but it still is fun... if you want to get that book that you always wanted to read.. you will find it there.

13. Arthur C. Clarke quotes K. E. Tsiolkovski (1857-1935) : "Earth is the cradle of the mind: but one cannot live in the cradle forever." Clarke says: "... as we reach out into space, sooner or later we will discover that we are not alone. It may well be that our civilization is one of the most primitive now existing..."

14. A review of African Genesis by Robert Ardrey. "This book is presented as a personal investigation into the animal origins and nature of man." Ardrey's basic argument is that man is instinctively an aggressive and ruthless animal .. an innate killer. This is a very provocative and controversial book.

15. A Long Island supermarket has worked out a plan whereby customers turn cash register slips in to any local church. The store pledges to pay churches one percent of amounts shown on slips.

16. A beautiful picture of snow-capped Mount Fujiyama in Japan.

17. Some beautiful prints by Japanese artist Harunobu from around 1720.

18. An interesting article about Tokyo, titled: On Ginza, Glitter, Gastronomy and Girlie Shows.. and Geishas.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Just a couple of things.

Think about these few things for a while:

01. The McDonald's bun plant in Bomporto, Italy, has made 1.5 billion buns since it opened. How do they get them to the stores before they get stale?

02. Mensan Gary Sitwell, Ph.D, has written Where was God? .. Evil, Theodicy, and Modern Science in an attempt to address the age-old syllogism: "If God is all-powerful and all-good, He would have created a universe with no suffering and no evil. But evil and suffering exist. Therefore, there is no God." Gary has proposed a new theodicy based on modern science.. quantum physics, relativity and chaos theory, that he feels may counter that atheist argument.

03. Mensan Elizabeth Amarante visited former President John Tyler's Virginia plantation in 1998. She found that a grandson of Tyler's was still living. Now, Tyler was born in 1790 and was six Presidents before Abraham Lincoln. How could he have a living grandson over two hundred years later?

President Tyler had 15 children by two different wives. In 1853, at age 63, he fathered a son, who, in turn, fathered the current Tyler grandson in 1928 at the age of 75. The grandson, Harrison Tyler lives at the plantation with his family.

04. Mayo Shattuck III received $15.7 million dollars in compensation from the Constellation Energy Group, Inc. Nolan D. Archibald received $13.7 million dollars in compensation from the Black and Decker Corporation. Bill Smith received $48,500. in compensation from one of these companies for a job which required him to put his life in danger 40 hours a week.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Portuguese Treat

My daughter, Diane, received about one thousand pounds of kale from a friend. She offered it to me and I quickly took it off her hand. I found an authentic New Bedford, Massachusetts, recipe for Portuguese Kale Soup and I spent a couple of hours today making the best smelling kale soup I have ever had the experience of smelling.

I had to change the recipe a bit because Elaine doesn't do garlic. I love garlic, so I sneaked in some garlic powder. Also, I couldn't get linguica, so I got a similar sausage to use. The great thing about Kale Soup is that you only have to cook it for 30 to 40 minutes, after sauteing the meat and onions.

We usually have fun on a Sunday night making special food that we can't get at the restaurant we use on other days, so we will now enjoy our kale soup with some nice red wine.. Elaine will probably have milk instead of wine. Perhaps, as we eat, I will regale Elaine with some Portuguese phrases that I learned as a child in New Bedford.

New Bedford is a great place for people who like good food. Some of the food: Quahog chowder! Twin lobsters! Lobster rolls (even McDonald's serves them)! Portuguese wine.. Madeira, Port, etc; Portuguese rolls; Linguica/curica (sp?); mussels; clams, scallops, etc etc.

I talked to my daughter, Elizabeth, and she reminded me that my late wife made kale soup quite a bit. The first time that Elizabeth ate some, her mother asked her if she liked it... Elizabeth said.. "Oh yes! Except for the green stuff!"

My daughter, Diane, accompanied me to New Bedford for my uncle Allen's funeral recently. After the service, we had supper at Davy Jones' Locker... we had New Bedford seafood and Diane loved it. I would highly recommend a trip to New Bedford, and a sampling of the great food.

New Bedford is a great place for tourism. However, the Fisherman's Union for years has downplayed the tourism issue because they want the city to be known more for scallops and fish instead. I always wanted to offer my services to advertise the city around the world. At least the city finally was able to get the cobblestoned area declared a National Park.

There are still scores of beautiful homes in the city.. most were the homes of Whaling Captains. I lived in one of them for a couple of years. It was a beautiful building.

After the demise of whaling, because of the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania, the textile industry took over in the City. However, when the union movement bothered the mill owners, they moved down to the South and New Bedford became a poor place (after being the richest US city during the whaling era).. until fishing took over .. I think that New Bedford is now the largest fishing port in the US.

If you get a chance to visit New Bedford and/or try kale soup... bon appetit!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Just some weird news again.

These are some of the stories in the news that interest me this week.

01. Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Joe Arpaio.. you remember, the guy who makes jail inmates wear pink underwear.. and who has been called America's toughest sheriff .. has been stripped of his federal authority to make on the street arrests of suspected illegal immigrants by using racial profiling. (Maybe he should quit his police job and go to work for Victoria's Secret.)

02. David M. Rubenstein celebrated his 60th birthday by donating $10 million to the Lincoln Center. I guess this is small change for a guy worth almost $3 billion. When he turned 54, he said: "I have 27 years to go. I could be like the pharaohs and say 'bury me with my money'. Or, I could start giving it away." (Hey, Dave, how about giving one of your billions to cancer research!)

03. WQXR is the only classical music station in New York City. New York and it's surrounding suburbs has a population of 16 million people. Surely the city could support a few more classical music stations. Anyway, WQXR will now become a public radio station.. I wonder how that will affect the amount of music to be played. (I'll bet there are hundreds of rock stations in NYC.)

04. A flock of sheep in Jordan suffered spontaneous combustion because of methane in the soil and a stray spark. (I wonder if that could be the cause of some of the many spontaneous combustion human cases over the years.)

05. A mile of manatee poop has washed ashore in Vero Beach, Florida. (How did they determine that it came from manatees?)

06. The Wall Street Journal reports that 1.8 million bags checked at airlines last year did not arrive at their destinations at the same time as their owners.

07. Former Vice President Cheney will be bashing his former boss in a new book he is writing. The Washington Post reports that Cheney accuses Former President Bush of "going soft," and becoming just "an ordinary politician."

08. Aesop tells about the crow who drops stones in a pitcher to get to the water. Now, researchers have found that this intelligent action is indeed something that crow-like birds can do. The only other creature (outside of man) who would be able to do that is an orangutan.

09. Stray dogs in Moscow have taught themselves to use the subway, or so it is reported in the tabloids. Every morning they take the train into central Moscow, where food is easier to obtain.. and at night they take the train back home to sleep.

10. New Justice Sotomayor has asked more questions in her few days on the court than Clarence Thomas has asked in all the years he has been a Justice.

11. Rubik's Cube has gone high tech. For $150, you can get a cute little cube that flips colors when you swipe your finger against its sides. There are no moving parts.. a "kachunk" sound is broadcast when the flip occurs. (I struggled for many hours with an old-fashioned Rubik's Cube years ago, got frustrated, and gave it up. My son did not have to struggle at all. He just picked it up and solved it in a few seconds!)

12. I haven''t looked recently, but sunsets are supposed to be more colorful than usual, because of the eruption of Russia's Sarychev Peak in June. A lot of sulfur dioxide was thrown into the stratosphere and its tiny particles are scattering blue light and mixing it with the normal red, to produce some weird purple colors.