Monday, June 29, 2009

I Need to Hurry before it's too Late!

I own this wonderful book: 2,001 Things to do Before You Die by Dane Sherwood. Its all about what the title says. I went through the whole book today to see if I have done any of the suggestions. I was surprised to find that I have done exactly 650 of the 2,001 suggestions.

However! There are still 1,351 things that I need to do before the Grim Reaper comes to take me off this "mortal coil".. I thought that I might jump randomly through the book and list some of the things that I might (or might not) try to do.

Ride a boxcar for a couple of days.... How the devil could you do this today? Times have changed since hoboes were able to slide open a boxcar door and sneak inside. I think the doors are all hydraulic now and controled by computer. Well.. I'll go down to the train siding and check it out. Even if I can sneak in, could I ride along for a couple of days? Probably not. Who would feed my cats and water my flowers and vegetables?

Bottle your own preserves... I think that I might be able to handle this one. Does preserves mean only fruit? If so, I'll have to buy some at the market. If zuchini counts, I will have some of those from my deck earthbox (tm). I have 4 growing so far at 4" and I hope they will at least grow to one foot each. I'll have to learn how to put zukes in bottles.

When my son was 6 years old he planted a garden and when the zukes were a little slow, I bought an 18" one at the produce stand and stuck it under the leaves for him to find the next morning. He seemed to be very surprised and happy; however, a few months ago he confessed that he knew I had tried to fool him, but he did not let on because he thought it might hurt my feelings.

Watch a drive-in movie naked.. This will be very hard to fulfill. There is only one drive-in movie left in the Baltimore area. I wonder if it counts that when I was a new (not nude) driver, I went to drive-in movies in just a bathing suit during the hot summer?

Sky dive... I almost did this a couple of years ago. As I may have mentioned, Elaine is a sky-diver. She has abandoned perfectly good planes on several occasions. Once, I accompanied her to the Maryland Eastern Shore so that she could jump and one of the other jumpers didn't show up.. I was asked and tempted (for about 2 minutes).. and I am glad I didn't give in.

These guys jump from at least 2 miles up in the air.. down to a circle in the middle of a farmer's field. At this location, the farmer is not too happy if they miss their mark and trample some of his crop. He has been known to point a shotgun menacingly at miscreants. This whole schtick is not for me. The guys (mainly) who do this seem to be inspired by the lady who runs the show "flashing" them as they take off. There is a whole weird sub-culture here that I do not want to get involved with. (Elaine gave it up when she had to have surgery after one of the "pushers" hurt her knees agressively pushing her out of the plane.)

Two of my friends had a sky-dive experience. Jim was a parachuter in some war or other. He is a little guy. His friend, John, had never been in a plane. John is a great big guy.

One day, while roaring drunk, Jim talked John into going sky-diving. The only place where they could get a plane to take them up was the Woodbine Airport. Well, this is a kind-of flat place in a large farm field, where contented cows graze. Jim and John got parachutes somewhere and took off in a piloted aircraft of dubious safety.

When Jim, in his drunken haze, thought that they were high enough to jump (a couple of hundred feet) he told John to jump. John instantly sobered up and refused. Undaunted, Jim pushed John out of the plane. John did not know how to open his chute.. but it was too low for it to open anyway.

John was very lucky. He landed on a cow! It broke his fall and he survived. The cow died. John was in body casts for months. John and Jim still managed to get drunk regularly and John never did get mad at Jim for pushing him out of the plane.

Take a Chinese cooking class... During the 8 years that I have known Elaine, she has taught me to cook many things and I am still learning. Today she gave me some tips that made my scrambled eggs plate into a work of art. Yesterday I was able to make a dinner of pork chops, baked potatoes and squash. It was outstanding if I do say so myself.

I have a disk with one million recipes on it and I will search for some Chinese recipes to make. I think that I can handle most any recipe now. For years I bought HooMe brand New Bedford style chop suey. You can only buy that in New Bedford or Fall River, Massachusetts. I had a lot of boxes of the mix in the pantry at my old house... but when I got ready to move I found that it had gotten rancid! I was quite upset. I'll have to stock up next time I get up to NB.

Race in the Iditarod... Unless the world turns upside down, I will never get to Alaska, and never race in the Iditarod with Sarah Palin's husband. (A couple of my friends are visiting in Fairbanks right now and they just experienced a 5.0 earthquake. Not much damage but scary as hell.)

Face everyone else in an elevator... What a great idea! I will definitely try this. My half-brother, Joe, told me that he likes to stare at the back of someone's head in an elevator. He swears that when he does that, the person turns around. (Yes, I have a brother named Joe)

Watch an autopsy... Sorry, gang.. this will never happen!

Wear a milk mustache in a "Got Milk" ad... I kind of did this one.. when my daughter worked for Cysco Foods, I helped out at a Food Fair. I got people to come to the booth to get their picture taken with a milk mustache. I had mine done too and if I can find it, I will post it to the blog.

Stand in as a double... As I have mentioned before, with my hairy face, I have been compared to Earnest Hemingway, Wilfred Brimley, Captain Ahab and Santa Claus. So I could probably sit in as a double for any of those folks. ;0)>


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Has the News gotten Better or Worse?

As is often the case in 2009, the news is particularly depressing. Entertainment icons leaving us; Women being killed protesting in Iran; Governors messing around in South America; Parents of sextuplets divorcing; Swine flu cases increasing.... Was the world always this way? I have a collection of old newspapers and I like to look at them from time to time to see if the world has improved since then. (What do you think?)

The following items were included in the Sunday February 21, 1937 issue of the New York Times. This was the birthdate of the late Elaine Langlois Vaughan.

01. General Motors employees went back to work last week after a six-week sit-down strike.

Senator LaFollette reported that from 1934 to 1936, General motors spent 839 million dollars for detective services. He said that it was spent so the company could keep abreast of the labor situation.

02. President Roosevelt threw his "shock troops" into the campaign to drive through Congress his plan to change the Supreme Court by adding a justice for every present member past 70 who refused to retire.

03. In Great Britain, Neville Chamberlain called upon Europe to choose war or peace. He promised either a one and one-half billion pound rearmament budget for Britain or a move for a mutual assistance pact for the Nations of Western Europe.

04. Hitler ordered the election of a National Synod which would draft a new constitution for the German Evangelical Church. This was a victory for Nazi "German Christians" and creation of a church dictatorship by Hitler's religious advisor, Rev. Ludwig Mueller.

05. In Japan, Yukio Ozaki, a noted liberal, denounced the recent anti-Communist pact with Berlin and expressed amazement that Japan could "shake hands" with a country like Germany.

06. Clothes-horse German General Hermann Goering supposedly changes uniforms several times a day. It is rumored that a thief once stole 37 of his uniforms and he never even missed them.

07. Work progressed on the plan to bring the 200 separate Protestant sects in the United States under a central organization called "The Church of Christ in America."

08. The "handsomest Governor in America" Paul V. McNutt of Indianapolis, pushed by some to become a candidate for President, was appointed High Commissioner to the Philippines by Roosevelt. (To get him out of his way?)

09. Miss Jane M. Hoey of New York became head of the Bureau of Public Assistance.. this was the office charged with administering Federal funds for the aged, blind and dependent children.. some parts of which became the current SSI (assistance for the aged, blind and disabled ineligible for regular Social Security.) Miss Hoey said that her office helps provide assistance for one and one-half million persons and will ultimately cost 200 million dollars per year. (A little bit under estimated of course.)

10. Ten thousand youngsters were asked to give their movie preferences. The order was: 1: G-Men (read FBI or similar); 2: Mysteries (Charlie Chan?) ; 3: Child stars (Shirley Temple); 4: Musicals (New Faces of 1936; Fred and Ginger); 5: Gangsters (Dillinger; Bonnie and Clyde); 6: War. (It doesn't say if the survey was given to boys and girls, but if it had been given to all boys, War would have had a higher order I'm sure.)

11. New York State Senator McNaboe sponsored a bill to compel the display of American flags, three feet by four, in all classrooms; it was defeated.

When I first entered school back in the late 1930's and early 1940's, we saluted the flag that was on a pole in each classroom by giving a kind of Nazi gesture, with the arm pointed upward at an angle as though we were about to say: "Heil Hitler".. as we got into WWII, the arm salute was changed to a palm on the heart gesture.

12. Japan dropped it's minimum height restriction for a soldier from 5 feet 1/2 inch to 4 feet 10 1/2 inches. The American Army's standard is 5 feet 4 inches.. but it can be lowered 1/2 inch in "exceptional cases." Recently, a 6 feet 10 inch recruit showed up and caused supply officers to have to order an extra long bed.

13. The original manuscript of "Old Mother Hubbard" has been discovered in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. It dates from 1804 when it was invented by Sarah Catherine Martin. The names are now also known for the writers of "Mary had a little lamb" and "there was a little girl, who had a little curl..".. but people still want to know who wrote : "Hush-a-bye baby", "Twinkle, twinkle, little star", and "Little drops of water." (This was, of course, long before Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia.)

ok 13 is enough for now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Third Eye

I'm sure that everyone has now heard about the reconstructed Stonehenge in Georgia. It boggled my mind when I visited the Stonehenge in England. Lots to think about there. There is some tie-in with Rosicrucianism, in some people's minds. I belonged to the Rosicrucians when I was in my late teens and really "got into it" for a while.

I spent a lot of time trying to focus blood flow on my "third eye".. i.e., the pineal gland. I even bought a crystal on a chain to dangle and stare at for long periods of time. (I know.. you might say: "Get a life!" Well I did have a "life" then.. lots of it, but mysticism filled a bit of that time.) I did have some fun with my crystal when I was in the service in Germany.

At one time, at our mountain-top Air Force "retreat", a new guy showed up. A "wise guy" who thought that the world revolved around him and that he knew more about anything than anyone else. In a word.. he was OBNOXIOUS! He had to be taken down a peg.

My buddies and I decided on a plan. In our barracks we slept in double decker bunks. I slept on the bottom of one and the wise guy slept on the top bunk.

I hung my crystal from the springs of the top bunk. Wise guy asked some of the men, "What's that thing that Vaughan hung from my springs?" They told him it was my "gazing crystal".. which I used to increase my hypnotism prowess. WG said: "Ha Ha BS!" But the men told him that it was true.. Joe Vaughan had the power to gaze into that crystal and then hypnotise anyone to do anything he wanted them to do. WG laughed again, but not quite as loudly.

I made a point of gazing into my crystal whenever WG was in the vicinity. Meanwhile, the men told him that one of my powers was to hypnotise people in their sleep. WG was getting quite interested and a little scared by then. In fact, he began to sleep a lot less and became a lot less belligerent, especially when I was nearby. In time, he decided not to be quite as much of a pain and even began to be friendly towards me. When the group decided that he had somewhat reformed, I made a big show of giving up hypnotism and pretended to throw away my crystal.

WG and I did become friends, but I never let him know that the hypnotism bit was a gag.

For a while I did study hypnotism and also sleep learning. I hooked up earphones to my Grundig tape recorder every night and listened to language tapes while I slept. I don't know if it did any good, but I did reach a point where I could think in German and understand French a little better than before. (I did some of this sleep learning later at Boston University and I do think it helped me learn languages, especially spoken Russian.)

Speaking of extra eyes.. have you ever seen the movie: Reflections in a Golden Eye? I think that this is one of the best movies ever made. It's a psychological marvel.. starring Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando. I've seen it several times and each time I see things in it that I hadn't noticed before. Isn't that one of the characteristics of a classic? If you use Netflix, order the movie.. you will be glad you did.

Incidentally, speaking of Netflix.. we have a number of movies set up on Roku.. so we can watch whenever we want to.. and over and over if we want to. One of the movies is another phychological marvel.. a play that has been adapted to the screen and one that won lots of awards for Elizabeth Taylor... Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? I've watched the first ten minutes three times now.. Liz and her co-star, Richard Burton have a fantastic interplay of lines. I may finish watching the whole movie sometime soon.

I love to segue.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Musings

I love to learn interesting things from NPR Sunday shows: Such as:

01. A new search engine has been developed in Israel for the use of Orthodox Jews who want to input in Hebrew and also avoid pornographic sites. It's called KOOGLE!

02. Conservative Episcopal churchpeople, still angry about the ordination of a gay bishop, are on the verge of seceding and forming another "church". This is the history of Christianity, isn't it? As each "church" becomes older, people split off from it and form a new "church"... like Roger Williams did in Rhode Island. It is a "life cycle"..( I read a book about this phenomenon recently, but I'll be darned if I can recall it's title. ) This situation is a bit different I think.. usually the more liberal break off from the more conservative.

03. AARP had a Spelling Bee Contest! This was a little different than the one I mentioned yesterday, won by a 9 year old girl. This was won by a 64 year old man! Her winning word was LAODICEAN, his was WOAD. He also could be considered a "ringer" because 40 or more years ago he had been a runner-up in a Spelling Bee for younger folks.

I'm always amazed at the fact that AARP can get involved in things like Spelling Bees and has lost interest in much more important functions like supporting TRIAD, which is concerned with protecting senior citizens from criminal exploitation. I have devoted many years of my life to AARP, so I feel that I am eligible to criticise it when I feel like it.

04. This is the 50th anniversary of the visit to the U.S. by Nikita Kruschev. He finagled a tour from the State Department. To commemorate his visit... kind of... Peter Carlson has written a book about the visit. He includes some comic newspaper headlines of the times, including "K BLOWS TOP", which became the book's title.

I remember (since I'm one of those "old guys") when Nikita took his shoe off at the U.N. and banged it on the table. He famously yelled: "We will bury you!".. which he later qualified by saying that of course he didn't mean "with a shovel".

While in the U.S., everywhere he went he said that what he saw was not as good as it was in the USSR. However, he did find one thing that he was greatly interested in: Railroad Station lockers. Apparently, in the USSR, people have to check things with an attendant, and wait in long lines to do so. He liked the idea of being able to stick your things in a hole in the wall and keep it locked with a key that you control.

I'm told that Nikita was very upset that he did not get to see Disneyland!

Old Nikki must be rolling over in his grave, now that the U.S. has buried the USSR.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Miscellaneous Nonsense

Some bloggers are upset that President Obama karate-chopped a fly during a video'd session. Also, some animal-rights organization are sending him some traps so that in the future he can capture flies and put them outside alive. I thought about this as I crushed a mean-looking 2" long spider this morning.

I would rather not kill any living creature, which is one reason why I have never wanted to be a hunter. I was more of a gatherer. (See that new movie: Year One) When I was a teen-ager, I studied Hindu mysticism and was impressed with the fact that some holy men wear mouth masks in order not to breath in any insects and become the cause of their demise.

I've read that our skin is covered with layers of living creatures.. bacteria. Are we not killing them whenever we rub our aching knees or shoulders? Are we not killing ants and other small living creatures as we walk through a meadow? Don't our agents kill crabs, bulls, mackrel, shrimp, etc, etc.

Survival of the fittest. I guess at this point of time on earth, humans are the fittest predators. It certainly wasn't always that way. Although some people don't believe it, humans were not around for the millions of years that dinosaur-like creatures ruled the planet.

And what about the Golden Rule? Would we like to be crushed by a giant spider? I guess we have to maintain a reasonable middle-of-the-road approach to all of this. We should not knowingly kill if it can't be helped. And, yes, I will try to catch an insect in the house and try to let them loose outside.. or at least flush them unkilled down the toilet bowl where they at least have a fighting chance of survival if they can swim.

Segue: I learned today that some baby flaminos in a zoo are scared by pink hand-puppets that their keepers made for them to help them learn how to feed. By the way, baby flamingos are grey.

Another thing that I learned is that a nude soccer game was interrupted in New Zealand by a "streaker". Do you remember "streakers" from decades ago? You guessed it.. this "streaker" was fully clothed.

At this year's spelling bee championships, a young lady won by spelling the word: LAODICEAN.
Holy cow! When I heard this, I searched my memory for this word. I had heard it used in church years ago, I thought.

I looked the word up and found that it means: lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics.

The word comes from Paul's epistle to the Colossians. He wanted his buddies in the church there to let the Laodiceans know that they should be paying more attention to what he had been teaching about Christ. (Those damnable Laodiceans just were not interested. they would rather be paying more attention to acquiring worldly possessions and doing a lot of sinning.) The word was also used in Revelations. (If you are into Bible lore, you might have some fun tracing the origin of the Laodiceans and where they fit into the scheme of things during Paul's time. When I went to the Baptist summer camp and became a "Royal Ambassador" for two weeks, most of my time was spent inside a cabin studying the "Life of Paul." You might want to think about where Christianity would be today if it wasn't for his salesmanship.)

The newspaper articles that I read about the spelling bee started out: "The Indian-American girl, Kanya Shivashankar won..." Why do we have to use these hyphenated tags in the U.S.? Obama is called the first African-American President. Sotomayor is called a Spanish-American or a Puerto-Rican American.. etc. Aren't we all just-plain "Americans?" Right now, I am trying to find out who my biological father was. For most of my life, I thought that he was an Italian-American (his parents emigrated from Italy years ago.) Since my mother was a Mayflower descendant, should I have been labeled: Joe Vaughan, the Italian-Yankee-American? One of my cousins could be called then a Czech-Yankee-American.

And then, of course, there are Native-Americans. They were immigrants too... since their ancestors reportedly came here over the Bering Straight. We are a nation of "minorities". We are a "melting pot".. and isn't it great to be living in such a diversified country? When we lived in Randallstown, Maryland, our neighbors were of many derivations. Just in our small place called Sonya Court, there were people with Jewish, English, Italian, German, Scottish and Yankee backgrounds. We all got along real well and had fun together. The best part I thought was that we could take part in many of the ethnic celebrations that took place.

Ain't life great!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Yesterday was an interesting one for me. In the morning I traveled to Annapolis, Maryland for the quarterly TRIAD/SALT meeting. TRIAD is an organization consisting of three parts: Police Departments (Mainly Sheriff's Offices), AARP, and senior citizens doing things to ensure that our older citizens enjoy a scam-proof life. SALT stands for the "councils" under TRIAD (Seniors And Law-enforcement Together). I am the civilian coordinator for Carroll County TRIAD.

The main topic of this quarterly meeting was Elderly Abuse resulting from drug-related activity. We watched a film provided by the Office of the Vermont Attorney General. We saw surveillance footage of care-givers doing some unbelievable things.

For instance, a care-giver at a Hospice facility actually removed a pain patch from a dying patient, sucked on it to get a high, and then put it back on the patient.

A care-giver took pills from a bottle with drugs that were supposed to be given to a terminally ill person.

A nurse asked a patient if his pain was bearable... when he said "yes", she took the pills he was supposed to get.

There were other equally gross situations. These people were caught because a family member questioned why pain was not being relieved for their loved one. There must be other situations that have never been caught.

This film should be given wide distribution. Toni Katz of the Maryland Attorney General's Office is showing the film to Ombudsmen in all of the 27 Maryland Counties and I will be asking her to bring the film to the TRIAD Conference that Carroll County will be hosting in October 2009.

When Elaine had her first knee operation, she had to be in the hospital for a number of days, so her usual prescription pills had to be given to her by a nurse. On the first day, the nurse handed her all of her daily pills and told her that she had to take them all at the same time. This would have been very bad for Elaine because certain pills have to be given once in the morning and once in the evening. To take them at the same time could be extremely dangerous.

Elaine refused to take them at the same time and had to almost physically fight with the nurse to get her to give in and separate the pill taking time. The nurse was not happy about this.

About 8 years ago, a family friend went into the hospital for observation concerning a rather minor physical complaint. She, like Elaine, had to have several prescription drugs. As she lay there in bed, a so-called social worker came to see her and said that she had looked at the list of pills that our friend took and called her a "drug-addict" and said that she had to report her to the police. Our friend, who was not that ill, dropped dead the next day.

Ms Katz gave us a lot of information about the drug scene. She reminded us that we should not leave drugs around the house, in full view. Senior Citizens are probably all guilty of that. However, we should realize that visitors (and even Grandchildren) could possibly have a drug or money problem. An unguarded bottle of oxycontin might be an overwhelming temptation.

Also... what should one do with pills that are no longer needed? Ms Katz says: Don't flush! Crush! and mix them with kitty litter if you have it. Cover it and put it into the garbage can for pickup. (If people flush pills, we could end up with a Bay filled with "high" fish.)

While we are on the subject of drugs, remember that cattle ingest lots of drugs.. to make them grow bigger.. to make them mature earlier.. and when we eat the big hamburger, could we also be ingesting the drugs that they ingested.. just a little while later? Why do we have such big fat kids these days? Medical records indicate that some young teen-agers already have clogged arteries.

Are other meats any better?

I hope I haven't depressed you too much today.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How I Built my Classical Record Collection

Before CD's and other new-fangled musical media, there were long-playing record albums. I had a very large collection of classical records, and the collection did not cost me a cent. How did you do that, you might ask. I'll tell you.

There was a very talented family living near us in Massachusetts. Their main interest was in classical music and some of them played in symphony orchestras in the Boston area. At the time of this story, they were living in a massive Victorian mansion with a wide wrap-around porch. They moved there suddenly when creditors got too close to them at their old address.

(In the family were an uncle A, an aunt B, two nephews C and D, and one niece E, all very cultured, well-educated people of Portuguese descent.)

At the new house, they had one large front room that they reserved for music. In that room were only two things: a beautiful black grand piano (that they all played wonderfully well) and a monstrous record player.

One day at their new house they decided to get some classical record albums to play on the record player. A joined a classical record club that offered 10 free albums as an inducement to join. A then was eligible to nominate B to be a member. A got another 10 free albums when B joined, and B got his free 10 albums. B then nominated C.... etc etc. After a while they all were members and had started to amass a pretty sizable record collection without paying a cent, except for postage.... I don't think at the time that one had to pay for shipping... but that wouldn't have mattered because they would not have paid anyway.

After the family used up all normal possibilities for free albums they decided to try a clever gimmic. Some people of Portuguese descent have a couple of last names that they can use legally. For this story I will say that their usual last name was Lopes, and they sometimes used Freitas as another last name. So, once the family had used up all the possibilities for Lopes, they did the same thing for Freitas.

Before the family could receive more than the first few sets of records, they disappeared without a trace. Apparently, their creditors found out about their new home and were closing in on them. Even the grand piano and record player were gone from the front room.

My mother-in-law was good friends of the family and went to visit them a day or two after they disappeared and found on the front porch, stacks of classical record albums. She talked to the mailman and was told "Help yourself, they are non-returnable."

My mother-in-law was more of a Country Music fan than a classical fan but she knew of my love for the classics, so, she called me up and asked if I would help get all those albums off the porch. I thought she meant maybe two or three albums... it was more like 50. And the next day there were more albums.. and the next day... and the next day... Contact with the record company was unsuccessful, so I helped myself to a marvelous collection. Lots of duplicates were distributed around town.

You have to know, at this time, the late 1950's the music scene was still "different" in New England from that in other parts of the Country. For instance, when a teen-ager drove by with his car radio blasting away, the piece playing might be Beethoven's Fifth and not an Elvis song. So, it was not hard to get rid of the classical duplicates.

I still have a lot of those albums today and nobody has ever heard again of the family that I mentioned.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I Love Junk Mail.. the Secret is Out

I have had a Post Office Box for some years. It's set up to handle most of the junk mail that I love to get. Many years ago, my house mailbox was inundated with massive amounts of mail each day. When my wife threatened to leave me if I didn't get rid of it, I decided to start using a post offiice box. I began changing my address for the welcome junk mail to the post office box in 1980 or so, and since then it has worked out very well. Over the years, some junk has penetrated my system and comes to my current address, but in the main, only a small amount makes it through.

Most of my junk mail shows a code letter as my middle name.. I'll explain that in a minute.. And over the years mis-spellings and flat-out errors have contributed sometimes weird and unusual names. To illustrate this, let me give you a look at my post office box mail for today, June 9th, 2009:

Mail for J.R. Vaughan (The R normally shows mail offers for "adventures", trips, tours, etc)
01. A booklet from National Geographic about expeditions that they are trying to fill with people with a few dollars.
02. A survey from the Republican party. (I guess they think they know what the R stands for.)

Mail for J.T. Vaughan (The T was set up when I took a subscription to Time magazine.)
01. An offer for a subscription to AFAR magazine. (Travel)
02. An offer for Fast Company magazine.
03. An offer for Inc. magazine.
04. An offer for Fortune magazine.
05. An issue of Fortune magazine.

Do you see how the magazines stick together and pass on address information to each other? And note that these magazines are geared to upper income customers.

That is all of the coded items I got today, but let me tell you my secret: Many years ago, before I set up the post office box, I decided that I would like to learn how mailing lists are developed and passed around. At the time, I subscribed to Advertising Age (I can't afford it right now.. their subscription rates are obscene).. and learned a bit, but I decided to find out first hand. So, I began seeking junk mail.. Whenever I sent for something, I would give my name a middle initial (I was not given a middle initial at birth so I am free to make up my own.)

The first item I sent for, I gave the initial A; the second B; etc., you get the picture. Sometimes the letter was closely related to the item sent for, as in the case of T above. One of my most active mailing initial is M.. I had sent for something about Mozart. That was long ago, and I still get mail with that initial for all kinds of musical offers or information.

So now you know my secret. The rest of my mail today was rather mundane:

Mail to Joe Voughan: (Misspelled years ago and still people are using the address today): Information about the Cumberland County, Maryland Playhouse.

Mail to our Neighbors (at the PO Box).. Not much thought there : Money Mailer and of course, Bed, Bath and Beyond. How could your neighbors live squeezed into a little POBox?

All the rest of today's mail is sent to me either as Joe, Joseph, J.,.. with no initial. Somehow, the address providers must have cleaned up the files. This mail offers shoreline rentals in New Jersey, free vacations if you buy a certain hearing aid, opportunity to give a gift annuity to the Arthritis Foundation, group travel opportunities (it even mentions the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship that I played on as a kid), a free wallet and stick-up lights if I buy some clothing, a book about false diabetic information, and a bunch of other stuff of a similar nature.

Once, I gave a Toastmasters speech, the title of which was: I Love Junk Mail. I told everyone about my mail coding system and talked about mailing lists and gave them examples of the mail I get every day. On the next Toastmasters meeting day, I was greeted by my fellow members with bags of their junk mail, which they took great pleasure in giving to me. (I didn't let them know it, but they could not have given me a gift I enjoyed more.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday News June 7, 2009

Good news for avid book readers and reviewers like my son Chris (see his blog: ) .. Playaway audio books are now available in Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard county libraries in Maryland, according to Mary Gail Hare in the Baltimore Sun. Unfortunately, only the Perry Hall library branch in Baltimore County has them at the location, but they can be ordered through the other branches. I have often borrowed books on cassettes from libraries and I'm anxious to see how the Playaway system works.

I'm not sure if Playaway can compete with the XM radio in my car. I just found out that XM now has a Metropolitan Opera Station that plays "live" operas 24 hours a day! I tuned to it yesterday, but was almost put to sleep by a work of Charles Ives.. not my "cup of tea." However, they promise to have others that I do like. It will be a problem to decide if I want to hear a favorite opera or stay tuned to the standup comedy station, or now, listen to a Playaway.

I didn't see any reference or hear on the news about Prime Minister Brown's referal to "Obama Beach." Maybe I misheard Brown's words.

There are 16,400 abandoned houses in Baltimore according to Peter Hermann in the Baltimore Sun. A company called Creative Camouflage has been authorized to glue pictures of pretty windows, doors, curtains and blinds over the boards of abandoned rowhouses.

I spoke with a fellow AARP member who told me he canceled his Sunpaper subscription when one of their columnists criticised Sarah Palin. The paper has now offered him a year's free subscription to entice him back. He says he may resubscribe after the year is up because, and only because, he likes the TV schedule that is printed in the paper.

Another Bird won the Belmont Stakes. Elaine was hoping that Calvin Borel would get his triple win dream. Maybe next year.

NBC's Meet the Press will not air today because of NBC's coverage of the French Open. Well, we can now see which activity is more important: hitting a ball or talking about the events of the day that affect everyone. (However, I looked through today's Sun and did not find one word about the French Open, and there was a lot of sports information.)

A commentator writes to the Sun that the West Bank settlements are no threat to the Palestinians.. then why are the Palestinians upset? I wonder if President Obama can resolve this dispute. It's a big one.

For the second time in a week a photo appears on the front page of the Carroll County (Maryland) Times showing a bare female belly. For a while I was thinking of sending them a picture of my fat belly to publish next week. They already print lots of pictures of me in that paper.. in fact, my friends in NARFE decided not to include me in pictures any more because "enough of Joe Vaughan is enough!"

Mystery: Yesterday, I had to shop at a super market. As I was walking in, an extremely heavy (500 pounds?) came racing past me with a cane, almost running, on massive legs squeezed into little tennis shoes. She was followed by a very frail little older lady, her mother. In the store, she surrounded an electric scooter and began a fast expedition through the store, followed by her mama, who tried to keep up. "Hurry up, mama," said the chubby lady as she terrorized the slower shoppers.

I lost track of the dynamic duo, paid my bill, and put my goodies in the car, when I heard one of the super market clerks calling 911. She was telling them that someone had hit a light pole in the parking lot. When I looked around, I saw an SUV billowing smoke and a bunch of people trying to pull the lady out of her car. She had indeed hit (head-on) a light pole in the parking lot. How she did that is the mystery to me. The pole is nowhere near where anybody parks and there is at least a 50 foot circumference area around the pole that is completely empty. How in the world did she go out of control, travel way across a large parking lot and hit that pole?

Anyway, three ambulances showed up and I left when I knew that everything was under their control. I don't think that she or her mother were badly hurt, but that SUV will never be the same.

Elaine reads in the Carroll County Times that another high school graduate has gotten himself killed in a car accident. Every year it is the same, one or more teen-agers killed, usually because of alcohol abuse. Twenty years ago, most of the unfortunate kids came from the area in which we lived: Gamber, Maryland. It wasn't just automobile accidents; the kids also liked to see if they could walk a straight line down the center stripe of Route 32. Because most of them were drunk when they tried this, they got hit by cars and killed. We called it: The Gamber Death Wish.

One of the teens that was in an auto accident at this time last year survived a head on crash. The other driver was lucky as well. She was drunk and had to pay a penalty when she recovered, months later. She graduated this year from High School and her's is one of the pictures I mentioned before of female bare bellies.

I learned today that there are 46 miles of nerves in the average human body. I wish that the nerves that were severed in my recent carotid procedure would hurry and rejuvenate. So far, some numbness has disappeared from the top of my right ear, but the bottom of the ear and some of the neck area are still numb to the touch. I've been told that nerve regeneration takes a while. Anyway, its better than having a stroke.

To help with the drive to cure breast cancer, Elaine purchased ten pink shopping bags yesterday. Besides that, pink is Elaine's favorite color.

Good news... The Detroit Police Department has adjusted their crime statistics and Baltimore now ranks second, instead of first, in homicides. Well, that certainly makes me feel better.

My police friends tell me that gangs of white-shirted youths are attacking people at Harbor Place. The police have stepped up patrols, but one still must be careful downtown. This kind of news will kill Harbor Place, I'm sure. However, Baltimore is still a wonderful and safe place to live in or visit, as long as you know which neighborhoods to avoid.

Westminster is probably the safest place to live or visit in Maryland.. and it has an interesting downtown Main Street. And Carroll Lutheran Village, where we live, is probably the safest place to live or visit in Westminster. Here, you can walk wherever you want, in perfect safety and pleasure. (advertisement)

What a great name for mattress sellers: SLEEPY'S.

I looked through the obituaries in both the Baltimore Sun and the Carroll County Times this morning and I did not see my name, so now I can relax and enjoy this hot sunny day in the safest place in Maryland, and possibly in the USA.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

D Day

Sixty-five years ago, Allied forces landed on Omaha and other French beaches and began the last bloody phase of the war against Hitler and his followers. Can you imagine how it must have felt to be a teen-age American, Canadian, or British boy jumping off a landing craft into the direct line of massive German artilliary. Even though the attack was a surprise to the Germans, there was enough fire power in place by the enemy to kill over three thousand of the invaders as they waded through waist-high water, holding their weapons above their heads.

Even though a lot of horrible war was yet to take place, this invasion meant that Hitler and his forces were not invincible.

I spent years in Germany during the 1950's and lwas told that not all WWII German soldiers were excited about being soldiers, and, if it is to be believed, most hated Hitler and wished he would go away. And of course, most Germans that I met said that they knew nothing about what was going on in the concentration camps. I'm sure that some of them did not know about what went on in the camps, but I'm also sure that most Germans did know but were not sufficiently motivated to do anything about it.

When I first arrived in Germany early in 1953, the country was still in ruins. As my troop train rolled through Aachen, I could not believe what I saw. As far as I could tell, there was not even one building that was not seriously damaged in some way. I also saw people in rags trying to cook food over small fires amid the rubble.

When I left Germany late in 1956, it was a different Germany, with new modern buildings, clean streets and not much rubble left. At the time, an ad campaign was going on in Germany. Posters showed bombed out buildings and rubble, with the caption: :"Vergessen?" In effect: Have you forgotten what it was like? This reminder was necessary because as the economy grew and people now had food and lodging, they were not doing enough to ensure that the madness of WWII would not recur.

I was 7 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I remember the day. I was curiously watching out of the front window of 167 Ash Street in New Bedford, Massachusetts. There was a lot going out on the narrow street in front of the house on the sunny Sunday morning. Young boys were running through the neighborhood selling newspapers and yelling "EXTRA, EXTRA, Read all about it!"

During the next four war years, as a street kid, I had lots of opportunities to do my little bit for the war effort. With small wagons, my friends and I would collect bottles, cans, paper, metal, and other material needed by the government. I seem to recall that we brought most of this to the local U.S.O. where all of the material was bundled up in a hurry to ship to those companies making war material. The paper was brought to a large warehouse supplied by St. John's Catholic Church. The piles of newspaper and magazines towered over me. We were very proud of our little part in the war effort.

My uncle Allen served in the Army; Uncle Billy served in the 8th Air Force in England; Uncle Lincoln served in the Coast Guard; Aunt Laurana served in the WACS; my mother became a war-effort welder; Cousin Earl fought with the Army in the Battle of the Bulge; Uncle Malcolm was an air raid warden .... etc... We were all involved in some way, no matter how young or old.

We now live in a retirement community in which there are many residents who served actively in WWII and it is extremely interesting to listen to some of the stories that they tell.

Today, there is a ceremony going on in Normandy, France, at Omaha Beach. French Legion of Honor medals were just presented to former soldiers of Great Britain, the United States, Canada and France.

At the ceremony, President Obama and other dignitaries gave speeches. Something you will hear about in the news.. Prime Minister Brown made a gaffe when he mentioned that they were at "Obama Beach".. he caught and corrected what he said, but I'm sure that the press will pick up on it and since he is having troubles at home, they will probably tease him about it.

CSPAN had a program today in which it was stated that if it wasn't for New Orleans, we would not have been able to invade on D-Day. A gentleman (forgot his name) developed small-draft boats for use in the New Orleans area over the years, and he was able to modify such boats so that they could be used to convey all of those troops from ship to shore. No other type boats could have done so.

Commander in Chief Eisenhower delayed the invasion to make sure that there would be enough of these boats so that the landing would work. Otherwise, they would have had to try to invade through the existing Atlantic ports which were so fortified that there might be a posibility that such an invasion could not take place sucessfully.

Thank you, WWII veterans, for all you did for the world. Just imagine what it would have been like if the Axis had won the war!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Lucky in a Tuxedo

My Tuxedo cat, Lucky (alias: Luciano Houdini de Tuxedo) began to pull his fur out last week. We took him to the vet and found that he has hyperthyroidism, a rather common malady for middle age cats.. he's around ten years old.

Pulling fur out is one symptom of hyperthyroidism. Another symptom is weight loss, and he has lost five pounds since September.. this is quite a weight loss for a cat who weighed 16 pounds.

What do we do about this? We could remove part of his thyroid gland surgically, subject him to chemotherapy, or treat him with a prescription drug called methimazole. We decided, of course, to do the drug and since it might be impossible to get him to swallow a pill, the vet melted it down into a tuna-flavored liquid. We give it to him twice a day by means of a syringe. I hold him tight and Elaine opens his mouth and squirts the stuff in. He does not like this very much and kicks and scratches with all of his paws. Luckily, at least for now, we had the foresight to have his claws cut down while he was at the vets.

Unfortunately, after we started to get ready to begin the medication program, the vet let us know that he has a mild infection as well. We got an anti-biotic for him in liquid form and now we get to squirt him twice as much. The anti-biotic does not taste as good as the tuna flavored medicine and this adds to his discomfort. However, if all goes well, we may be able to discontinue the anti-biotic when the bottles get empty.

We have now been treating Lucky for two days and thought that we might see some quick results, but when we came home tonight we were greeted by a cat with a bald spot on the side of his stomach. Poor kitty.

My granddaughters Bridget and Kaitlin helped me pick Lucky out at the "pound". (I had recently lost my wife and was very lonely. The girls felt that having a pet would make me feel less lonely, and that became true.) He was the quietest cat in the whole building. While the kittens were running around raising the devil, he sat there like a New York Public Library lion surveying the chaos. At that time, he was a TV star.. his picture was being broadcast on Carroll County Maryland cable TV, during an ad for the Humane Society.

Lucky did not then, and not now, enjoy automobile rides. On the way home from the "pound" he made sure that he threw up all over the place. Once "home" he did not treat me as a friend. My arms and legs were a mass of scratches and bites for some time. However, by being very kind to him, even when I would have really wanted to strangle him, he came to tolerate me, and eventually become my good friend.

I named him Luciano Houdini de Tuxedo because of the following reasons: The sounds that he made at first, while he was being a bit uncooperative, sounded a lot like Luciano Pavarotti, and one night when I relegated him to a downstairs room so that I could sleep undisturbed, I was awakened at 3 am by his crying.. he was in my bedroom! How did he accomplish that when I had carefully closed the door tightly on the room he was in? This remained a mystery for some time until I saw him stretch himself up to the doorknob one day, turn the knob with his paws, and open the door! Hence his middle name of Houdini. His last name was given to him because he is indeed a black cat, with a white cravat and white shoes.

I call him Lucky for short.

A few years ago, he met Elaine's Siamese cat, Buf-fee. Besides a few hisses now and then and an occasional bop on the head when Buf-fee got on his nerves, they got along rather well. When Buf-fee passed away, I do believe he grieved for her.

One year ago, another Siamese cat came to live with us: Su-zee. This was (and still is) a wound-up energetic kitten/cat, probably related to a Meer-Cat.. from the way that she perches on her hind legs to survey the terrain. Su-Zee, at first, terrorized Lucky 25 hours a day. She would lay in wait for him to pass by and then jump on his back. I think he tolerated it because she was a kitten (whose mother had been killed in a barn by a "varmint" and therefore had not learned some basic cat politeness.)

However, after a few months, Lucky felt that it was time to let her know that he was the alpha cat in the household. Instead of letting her chase him and jump on him all the time, he now took the initiative once in a while to let her know who was the boss. She then gave in and they now have a kind of truce. Sometimes she jumps and teases him, and sometimes its the other way around.

Anyway, we want to make sure that Lucky recovers quickly because he is a vital member of our family and we love him.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Three Marine Painters

Checking over my 40 year old notes, I'm reminded that I have three connections to marine artists. First is John Popeye Arnold; second is Montague Dawson; third is someone I will not name. Coming from the former world famous whaling port of New Bedford, Massachusetts, I have always been interested in marine art, as you can tell if you manage to squeeze into my basement hide-away.

John Popeye Arnold, alias Jay Arnold, alias J. Arnold (as he signs his paintings) is (20th Century) a marvelous painter who likes to paint whale ships. I have one of his many paintings labeled "Yankee Whalers" that show the Charles W. Morgan and three other whalers cavorting in the Southern Seas.

When I was a child the Charles W. Morgan was berthed in New Bedford, and my Uncle Allen would often take me to play on the ship. That's probably where I got my feel for things connected with the whaling industry. (Of course, now I love the whales and do whatever I can to help them survive the Japanese, Norwegians and others who violate the no-whaling treaties.)

I love to reread and reread Moby Dick and those that know me in Puzzle organizations know that my "nom" is Ahab. For years, I had AHAB as my license tag, until the MVA would not let me renew it because I had had it too long! Now I believe someone else has it. When I had the
tag and we would visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the curator would ask me to park out front in a special spot so that tourists could see it.

The Charles W. Morgan was "stolen" (in my opinion) by Mystic seaport and can be seen there. The ship has historic significance because it was the last whaler sailing out of New Bedford to make any money. I believe that the richest woman in the world at one time, Hetty Green, was the recipient of wealth earned by the Morgan. (At one time, New Bedford was the richest city in America, and Hetty Green helped to make it so. She was known as the Witch of Wall Street and was reputed to be a mean old skin-flint. Read: The Day They Shook the Plum Tree by Arthur H. Lewis. )

Sylvia Ann Howland was the recipient of some of Hetty's money and was very charitable.. in fact, one of my friends, many generations removed from Hetty, received some of Sylvia's estate.

Back to Mr. Arnold. I'll be darned if I can find much information about him, but I do know that his paintings bring big bucks at auctions. I don't care.. I love my painting and would not give it up for any amount of money.

The second marine artist I have been very interested in for years is British painter Montague Dawson 1890-1973. He has a number of Baltimore connections and painted murals on the wall of one of the downtown banks. If the bank has survived urban renewal it is worth a visit. I went to the bank's lobby some years ago to look at a Mel Fisher display of salvaged gold and was pleasantly surprised to see the Dawson murals. I have some of his prints hidden in my "archives"; I'll try to resurrect them and frame them for my walls, if I can find room.

The third marine painter was a man who I thought for years was my father. I'm not going to give you his name, because DNA testing showed that I am not his son. For years, many people, including him I believe, thought that he was my father. At one time he had an artist's studio and painted lots of marine scenes. In my lifetime, Ive only seen one of his paintings, which was pointed out to me by my dentist.. it was hanging in his office.

Over the years I tried to find and buy his paintings, but someone told me that his brother bought up all of them to keep for the family. I have had the recent pleasure of seeing pictures of two paintings that were not related to the marine scene: A Blue-eyed Clown, and A Madonna and Child.. very well done, I must say. Although disappointed that he was not my father, I appreciate the fact that thinking he was affected my life in a possitive manner, especially by fostering my love of art.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Do you remember Ralph?

How many of you rcall the famous "wits" connected with the Baltimore Sun? Probably the most famous was H.L. Mencken, an amazing critic of almost everything and an amusing and exciting author. But who can remember another "wit" named Ralph Reppert? For years, Ralph wrote humorous columns for the Sunday sun.. they were like some blogs of today, observations on everyday life.

One Sunday, before I'm sure you were born... November 2, 1964 to be exact, I retrieved my Baltimore Sunpaper from the bushes on the side of my house, grabbed my cup of coffee and began to read. The National news was kind of depressing, as usual, and the local news had the following headlines: Three Boys held in Break-in Try; "Surfers" keep Hospitals busy; Campaign ends amid Charges; Baby, three Others hurt in Crash on Route 175; $7,600 Bail set in Assault; Train Crash kills 39; Man reported shot on Dare; Two Pikesville Homes looted; Burglers take $85 at Service Station; etc

As you see, things have not changed very much in 44 years, perhaps just the money amounts.

In spite of the depressing news, I knew that one could always get a chuckle from the column written by Ralph Reppert (probably an alias), so I left the bad stuff and turned to Ralph's "blog".

Ralph wrote about a trip in a cab where the driver asked him the way to go. Ralph felt like saying: "How the devil do I know.. this is your business, not mine!" But being kind of a "Caspar Milktoast" (sp?) he just asked to be let off and got to his destination another way.

When Ralph went to a barber, he was asked how he wanted it cut. Ralph felt like saying: "If I knew how to cut my own hair, I would do it myself!" But instead, he said: "The usual."

Ralph was upset that people you spend money with now make you do all the work. In the old days all a grocery store customer had to do for himself was "color his own margarine".. now, you have to pick out your own groceries, "fish your own pickle out of a barrel", ... and often, the check-out clerk picks up things from your order and asks you: "How much was this, Hon?"

Upset, but true to his nature as a "human marshmallow", Ralph would obediently trot to the shelf, get the price, and trot back to the checkout. Then, he would have to carry his groceries out to his car unassisted (not like the old days.) And then, he would have to push the cart back to the line in front of the store.

Ralph also bemoaned the fact that when you order something now, like a lawnmower or a piece of furniture, you get a box of unassembled pieces.

When Ralph called up a service man, like a plumber or an electrician, they would always ask: "What is the problem?" That's what I want to know, says Ralph.

Ralph also bemoaned the price that service people charge for "knowing what needs fixing." (Like in the old story: A service man comes out to fix a furnace, hits the furnace with a hammer and hands the owner a bill for $505. The owner asks why it costs so much just to hit a furnace with a hammer, and the service man says: "It costs $5 for the hit, and $500 for knowing where to hit.")

Ralph also: counted his own shirts at the laundry, located his own books in the library, carried his own cans of paint in the hardware store, dialed his own long-distance telephone calls, etc.

The last straw for Ralph was when he bought a parakeet and waited for it to speak. After two weeks he called the pet store and they told him that HE had to teach the bird how to talk.

Young people may wonder why we old-timers thought Ralph's musings were humorous, but those of us who had lived in both worlds knew Ralph's feelings, and identified with them. When we were young, service people provided "service", suddenly, we had to do a lot of this "service" for ourselves. We found that very frustrating, and needed to laugh at it all to keep sane.

I wonder whatever happened to old Ralph.