Friday, July 31, 2009

News I missed from June 2009

I just discovered that I had missed commenting on some vital news from June 2009. I wouldn't be concerned except that most of these items must be addressed because of the monumental effect that these situations will have on my fellow Mensa members everywhere.

I came upon most of these items when I finally got around to reading my favorite news magazine: The Week (for June 19, 2009.)

01. A European Airline is starting to charge passengers $1.60 for each trip to the restroom. Will this important cost-cutting action catch on in the U.S.?

02. An eleven year old genius graduated from college with an A+ average. His degree is in astrophysics. (When I was 11, I was still trying to learn how to add over ten without taking off my shoes.)

03. Overfishing for twenty or more years may result in jellyfish taking over life in the ocean. (One might relate this somehow to our political parties.)

04. A little boy in England found a seven-leaf clover. Lucky, lucky kid. ("I'm looking over, a seven-leaf clover.")

05. A disabled Minnesota man who could not make his mortgage, was boarded up inside his house when he refused to leave. A 911 call was needed to get him released.

06. At last, my blushing has been vindicated. As an empath, I have always suffered a red face. According to Dacher Kelmer, blushing signals to others that you have a heart and are sensitive to what other people think of you, and it says to them: "I care."

07. A Washington State high school junior made an oral presentation for the legalization of marijuana, and for effect, he lit up a joint. He was arrested and expelled from school.

Finally, a quote by the late George Carlin: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

I thought about that this morning while I listened to CSPAN radio. Some of the people who called in sounded very intelligent and some sounded like they had not thought at all about what they were saying. This is the way my email is running right now: some of it is very well thought out.. but, more and more, I am receiving email that sounds very familiar to the mass-mailed lies and exaggerations of the recent Presidential election.

I can visualize a recognisable chubby man with horns sitting at a giant computer, creating nasty stuff to send to people who are agreeable to forwarding the garbage to everyone on their address lists, without checking any of it to see if it might be true.

My solution to all this: I just delete all messages that have the word "fwd" shown in the title. Good riddence!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kindles and Bits (Ships and Cats)

Do you like gadgets? What red-blooded American doesn't? One of the newest gives us a way to read an e-book wherever and whenever we want to. I'm talking of course about the Kindle. Actually the Kindle-1, the Kindle-2, or the Kindle-DX (which sells for $489) I'd like to get in on this "reading revolution", but that's way too pricey for an old man like me.

If you are thinking of buying one of these reading devices, you might want to first check out Nicholson Baker's analysis piece in the August 3rd, 2009 New Yorker magazine. (Baker is usually a novelist: next one: The Anthologist to be published in September)

I don't think Baker was impressed with the Kindles and suggested that if you want to read an e-book, you might just want to buy an iPhone and upload the free "Kindle for iPod" application onto it. Much easier to manipulate and read book pages. Sounds good to me... however, at the moment, the iPhone is also a bit too pricey for me. Maybe when my income tax return comes in.... or when "my ship comes in"....

Speaking of ships coming in.. over many many years, my Massachusetts Vaughan family has been serenaded with lawyer promises of great wealth when Spain settles with the owners of ships that it sunk during the Spanish American War in 1898. One of the ships had cargo that was the property of my great, great grandfather, who had a few bucks. I don't know how much money in lawyers' fees has been extracted from my relatives over this promise of a fortune. Luckily, I have never been contacted. Would I have gotten hooked?

War reparations take a long time to resolve.. some are still going on from the war in the Balkans. But over a hundred years? Doesn't sound good to me. Since I am involved in warning people about scams, if my relatives get contacted again, I will have to let them know that I believe it is a cruel scam.

I'm missing my cat, Lucky, who is spending the night at the vets. He is suffering from hyperthyroidism and had been pulling out his fur. He had lots of bald spots for a while. However, recently he stopped that and has instead been biting his rear end. Also, he has been having a hard time eating. Today, the vet said that he had a hole in his tongue that had become infected.. and that was causing the horrible stink that he was wafting throughout the house.

So, Lucky gets a night away from us.. a nice bath.. some special medication and shots.. and he gets to come home tomorrow afternoon. I hope he realizes that this treatment was done to make him feel better. He is a very intelligent cat you know.

There were two appointments at 4 pm.. my Lucky and a Siamese cat also named Lucky. The Siamese Lucky was not happy to be there at all and was growling as only a Siamese can growl. I hope that our little Su-Zee never learns how to make those sounds. I read somewhere that a Siamese has a repertoire of 150 different sounds. So far, Su-Zee only knows a few of them. ......................................................................................

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brain Fitness

Massachusetts General Hospital is in the forefront of research in Mental Fitness. In their latest newsletter: Mind, Mood and Memory they discuss ways to keep your mind sharp as you grow older.

Until recently, scientists thought that the adult mind was unchangeable... now, it is known that the brain can make new cells through a process called neurogenesis.. growing additional branches and connections.. in a process called synaptic placisticity. It's those darned synapses again! The more synapses you grow, the more your brain stays young.

In addition:

Aerobic exercise can reverse symptoms of age-related brain decline. (Get off your dead butt and start moving!)

Regular intellectual stimulation may even reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
(I would strongly recommend cryptic crossword puzzles.)

Social activity promotes the formation and survival of brain cells. (Make some new friends!)

Constant stress can cause atrophy of brain connections.. so, reducing stress is very important.
(Meditation might be one way.. omm ni paa ti suuum.) (Massage is also good.)

Diet is important. Excessive caffeine and alcohol should be avoided. (How much is too much? How much is too little? What about chocolate?)

Folic acid is an important supplement. (Take a trip to a health food store and look around. Lots of good stuff there.)

Sleep is important... They suggest 6 to 8 hours a night. This gives time for your "sleepy-time" brain to sort and categorize what you have experienced during the day and get ready for tomorrow.

(Ben Franklin may have said: 6 hours of sleep a night for a man; 7 hours of sleep a night for a woman; 8 hours of sleep a night for an idiot.)

He also said: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

He also said: The early bird catches the worm.... but look what happened to the worm when it got up so early!

Watch out for the effects of diabetes. And smoking. And excessive drinking. (You know what you are supposed to do and not do.. and shame on you for being bad.)

Speaking of brains, I received a weird brain honor last week... I received a certificate honoring me for being a member of Mensa for 40 years!.. This required little effort on my part.. just opening the yearly membership letter, writing a check, sealing the envelope and mailing it off so that I could be a member for yet another year.

I must admit that my Mensa membership has opened lots of intellectual vistas for me. I hope that I can make it to 50 years and another certificate.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Slum-dog Millionaire

Elaine and I watched the Slum-dog Millionaire movie last night. I enjoyed it immensely; Elaine thought it was "so-so". Because the area of my right ear is still numb from my carotid surgery, I am not able to wear my high-tech hearing aid. Because of the numbness, if it fell off of my ear I would not notice it.. and I can't afford to lose a $2,000 device. So, because I felt that there would be Indian accents that I couldn't hear properly, I put on the English sub-titles.

I needn't have bothered. Mysteriously, the main characters had hardly any Indian accents at all. Some Hindi words were used, but these were translated as said on the edge of the screen.

Were the speaking parts dubbed? I assume they were, since 20th Century Fox was the producer. They know how to entertain.. (and manipulate) and they definitely did not want any viewer to not understand what was being said.

The slum-dogs of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) were a lot like the street kids of New Bedford, where I grew up. The slums, of course, were different.. at the worst, our slums were castles compared to those in Mumbai. We would never have allowed the garbage mountains to accumulate like those shown in the movie. But, we kids in New Bedford were Urchins and knew how to survive by "hook or by crook", just as those did in Mumbai.

Instead of begging from the general public, we kids begged from the thousands of sailors that filled New Bedford during WWII. These young service men were suckers for a kid's lament. We got lots of dimes from them. Enough to pay for plenty of movie tickets and junk candy.

Also, we were chased a lot by store owners and the police. Luckily, I was never caught. I can't say the same for some of my friends.

The movie was supposed to be "true to life" and seemed to be that way until the end.. when the Bollywood stuff took over. The cast all began to sing and dance in an unrealistic manner.. but one that I like. Of course, this meant that realism was no longer in effect.

The views of Mumbai were spectacular. It is a city of 19 million people. Slums are disappearing as new high-rises sprout up. But what has happened to the people who cannot afford the high-rises?

Years ago, I read a Look magazine article about the future of big cities. They projected that eventually there would be massive mile-high apartment buildings, each holding up to 300,000 people. In between these buildings would be extensive gardens and parks. However, whenever I think about the future of cities, thoughts of "Soylent Green" come to mind. and scare the hell out of me.


Stuff to do

Auntie Mame sez: "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death."

How true. How many people do you know work all day at dull jobs and then sit themselves in front of a TV set and eat and drink themselves into oblivion as they watch stupid stuff.? Come on! Lots of exciting things are going on... lots of things to do.. get with it ... get up off your dead butts and get moving.. bend your mind.

Instead of TV:

Read a book.

Make love to your spouse.

Draw a picture.

Do a crossword puzzle.

Surf the Internet.

Send an email to a friend.

Text, if you know how.

Print a picture from your PC.

Call up a relative.

Plan your day tomorrow.

Pay a bill.

Sign up for a day trip.

Look out the window at the stars.

Pet your dog or cat.

Check on the genealogy of your family.

Get on Facebook and look for a friend from High School.

Put an entry on TWITTER.

Connect with a relative you haven't heard from for years.

Write a blog.

Write a book.

Play checkers.

Play solitaire.

Play blackjack.

Play poker.

Take a nap.

Learn to cook.

Cook a steak.

Bake brownies.

Check your blood pressure.

Check your blood sugar.

Try on old clothes and throw away stuff that doesn't fit anymore.

Wash the kitchen floor.

Clean the garage.

Pump iron.

Walk around the block.

Stand on your head.

Shine your shoes.

Say "Hi" to your neighbor.

Take brownies to your neighbor.

Read the bible.

Join a club.

Go shopping.

Read the classics.

Memorize a poem.

Hang a picture.

Hang a wind sock.

Water your plants.

Plant some flowers.

Plant some vegetables.

Eat a little chocolate.

Drink 2 glasses of red wine.

Take your pills.

Vacuum the rug.

Wash the floor.

Do you see? There are so many things to do.. as Robert Louis Stevenson or maybe Lewis Carol said: " The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."

Fortune Telling

Do you believe in fortune tellers? I'm not sure if I do or not. If you have a few minutes, let me tell you some of my experiences .. one of them I think is amazing.

My beloved Aunt Marjorie once worked as a waitress in a tea shop in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Marjorie usually took me to work with her and the shop owner and customers didn't mind because I was such a cute little rascal...!!! (I was 4 years old.)

The shop owner also employed a fortune teller to read the tea leaves left in the cups. One day, the fortune teller told Marjorie that she saw something about me in the dregs of my aunt's tea cup.. she wouldn't tell her what that was and Marjorie was worried. A couple of days later, the teen-aged son of the owner, who was extremely jealous of the attention I was being given at the shop, told Marjorie that he was going to shoot me with his rifle. He warned her that he would kill her too if she told his mother. (I overheard this and was very scared.)

Of course, Marjorie related this to the fortune teller's reluctance to tell her my fortune, so she believed that this kid meant to do me deadly harm. Marjorie did not tell the boy's mother what he had said, but she did quit the job. For a couple of years after that she was very wary when she went out and was overly-protective of me. And then, one day, she got word that the boy had used his rifle to blow his own brains out. I can remember the feeling of relief I felt, as young as I was. Marjorie must have been relieved as well, because when I started Kindergarten, I was allowed to walk the 8 or 9 blocks to school without a chaperone. (At this point, my son should ask: "Was that 5 miles uphill to school and back, during raging blizzards?")

My son's mother was brought up in a French-speaking community in the north end of New Bedford and was also allowed to walk to school alone and play outside without fear. (It was a different time then.) At one time, her mother (my future mother-in-law) enrolled her in piano class. Twice a week, she would go to a local music store for lessons. However, she never learned to play more than a few basic tunes because the teacher didn't speak French and would rather let her sit at the store window with her and watch the gypsies who also had a store across the street.

She found the gypsy fortune tellers very interesting and as soon as she learned English she and a friend would have their fortunes told on a regular basis. This continued for many years. She never told me what the fortune tellers told her. Her mother, who spoke fluent English as well as French, was a life-long customer of the gypsies, and once told me and her daughter what had been recently foretold. See if you think this is amazing... it is perfectly true.

Just before my late wife and my wedding in 1957, my future mother-in-law told my fiance and me what a fortune teller had just told her.

"I see that you will be taking a long trip in the future to visit your daughter and her new baby in Baltimore, Maryland."

When we heard that we laughed and laughed. That fortune teller must be crazy.. Baltimore? We lived in Massachusetts and we knew that somewhere down south there was a place called Baltimore. I had read Mencken's classic American Language books and I knew about his involvement in the Scope's "Monkey Trial", and I knew that he lived in Baltimore. I had also, of course, heard about the famous Johns Hopkins Hospital (after all, Johns Hopkins was born in Massachusetts.) But.. having a baby in Baltimore in the future.. this was laughable.

However... four years later, in October 1961, my mother-in-law did take a trip to visit her daughter and her new baby in Baltimore, Maryland! Now.. isn't that amazing?

Over the years, I have read and studied fortune telling and recognise that there are tricks that "oracles" utilize to make people think that they can foretell the future. I have tried some of those tricks for fun with my friends. Part of the act is paying attention to the little things that people say and convey with body language. Besides, being an empath as I am, is helpful.

Once, at the Social Security Administration, my Branch Chief talked to me about a problem he was happening. We had a lot of weird people "working" in our Branch and he was having trouble relating to them. He had noticed that I seemed to get along well with all of them and he wanted to know the secret. I found him a book titled "People Reading" and I could see him studying it at his desk. (People reading is an art practiced by fortune tellers.)

He did achieve a modicum of success through his efforts and most of his charges shaped up for him. However, one of his test cases could not take the new close chummy scrutiny and one day disappeared. The Branch Chief did not want this to be a failure and kept the guy "on the books" for months, hoping that he would reappear. (Those of you who worked in SSA when I did will know who we are talking about.) The miscreant was spotted once on a New York subway, but ran away when approached.

So, what I am trying to convey is that fortune telling is mostly scam.. when you visit them, you are being "read" by your body language and casual utterances. Some predictions will also be made far into the future, because the fortune teller will have gone on to other venues by that time. Don't be scammed.. save your money. Unless you don't mind and want to have some fun in a drab life. Just be aware that fortune telling is "buncombe" as Mencken would say.

However... how the hell do you explain the Baltimore prediction?!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

/Burning Questions for July 25th 2009

While listening to a few NPR Saturday morning shows, some questions popped into my head:

01. Does the newly-developed EATR robot really fuel up on human flesh?.. and wouldn't that be one way to get rid of excess body fat?

02. Will "pole-dancing" (some call "lateral dancing") become a valid Olympic sport?

03. Where would a chicken hide under the hood of a car? One recently took such a ride.

(A number of years ago, my kids and I stopped at a gas station 3 miles away from our house. As I lifted the hood to check the oil, a white cat popped out and began to purr. I guess that was to tell us that she had had a nice ride. The cat belonged to a neighbor who was pleased to get her back, even though she needed a scrubbing to get the grease out.)

04. What happened to the original video of the Apollo-11 flight?

For those that think that it never happened, I would refer you to our friend, Al Lister, who examined all the specs for the rockets and made sure that they were followed exactly. He knew these astronauts personally and was a great source of flight information. I believe that he also was presented with a moon rock.

05. What is the purpose of the little ball on top of a flagpole?

06. What ever happened to Moe Berg, the baseball player who spoke 7 languages?

07. Why do "free" burials for veterans cost $16?

08. Why did Governor "Big Arnie" Schwartzenegger open a video to Californians by examining a giant knife?

(When my son and I were deep into weightlifting and bodybuilding, Big Arnie was our hero. Nobody... before or after.. has ever had such massively well-developed muscles. The "Austrian Oak" was handled by Canadian Joe Wieder and won every major body-building award .. most of them several times. )

There is a popular story about Arnold. He had bought a new red convertible and stopped at an outside phone booth to make a call.. he left the motor running and some guy jumped in and was about to drive it away.. however, the guy apparently wasn't too knowledgable about stick-shift cars and this delayed him enough that Arnie was able to bound out of the booth, reach into the car, pick the guy up, and crush his head... I wonder if this really happened.. I know that I would not want to get Arnold mad at me, even today.

09. What does the biblical phrase "The Visitation" refer to?

Of course, I should know this. My religious friends might help me out here. There is a wonderful painting by Peter Paul Rubens named "The Visitation". He painted it in 1613.

10. Will the "bark-to-Japanese" translation device be marketed in the US?

Some dogs in Japan are now "bow-lingual".

11. What ads will be shown on the moon? (I guess they will only appear when there is a full moon.)

12. When will Nora, the piano-playing cat make an appearance at Baltimore's Lyric Theatre?

13. Why did undercover cops for two different North Carolina police units arrest each other for drug possession?

14. Why did Kelly Hildebrand marry Kelly Hildebrand? How will they name their kids?

15. Why didn't anyone bid on the Watergate complex in a recent auction?

16. Was the Taco Bell dog assassinated?

Well, now I have given you and me lots of stuff to look up with Wikipedia and Google.


Friday, July 24, 2009

A Spectacular Day!

It's a little cool after some big thunderstorms passed through. Elaine is watching World War II on TV.. lots of blood and guts being splattered around. The movie is about the Navajo code-talkers who did great work in the war, by communicating in their native language, which I've read is only decipherable by one caucasion. One of my friends in the Air Force was called "chief" and was a code-talker. I saw this man, with a chest full of medals, get busted by a young second lieutenant because he was one minute late arriving at a troop ship in New York. I have lots of stories about Chief, which I will write either as a book or as a blog.

Today, I finished my Income Tax!!!!!!! I probably could have squeezed out a few more deductions, but enough is enough.... ! Now it's time to work on Elaine's tax, which is also very complicated.

Yesterday, I began to see a darkening in my right eye, and Elaine saw a bubble in my left eye. Oh, Man! What the devil is aging doing to our bodies? I immediately thought that I was going blind and pushed to get an eye exam moved up to today. The Opthalmologist said that the bubble is caused by my allergies and the darkening is just macular degeneration increasing. Overall, my eyesight is 20-20... with both eyes open, that is. Nothing to worry about, but he did ask me to see a retinologist (sp?) to make sure that my macular degeneration is "dry" and not "wet".. if it is wet, I would have to have immediate laser surgery to stop the leak from my macular. Like I said... kind of.. the devil is attacking our bodies as we get older, especially those of us who have not lived an exactly pure life.

After the exam, I got to wear sun-glasses and pretend I was a movie star. I wonder if I still have the sun glasses that I won in a black jack game in the service from a Baltimorean who was cheating. I probably told the story before, but here goes again. I was watching this guy (let's call him Willy) winning constantly at blackjack. One day I noticed that some of the cards I held had half moons carved in them... just in the low cards.. 2's and 3's and 4's.

Then I noticed that Willy was making the marks with his long fingernails. Armed with this information, I got into the game and eventually took all of his money. All he had left to play was his pair of designer sun-glasses. I won them too, and I know I've told this before.. but Willy was so mad at me that he discharged his 45 at the crypto van where I worked until he got it all out of his system. Then we became friends again.

I don't want to gross you out, but let me tell you about the evenings when Willy wasn't gambling. Willy had the ability to break wind at will and a local German taxi driver liked that and would ferry Willy the 20 miles to Nuernberg and back whenever Willy wanted him to. At Nuernberg, Willy had some girls and men who would pay him for his services in a different manner. So, Willy really did not need any money to go out on the town, drink and carouse. Quite a character. (Oh, did I tell you that Willy was an Air Policeman?)

Well, the Code-talkers are helping to recapture Saigon from the Japanese and some medals are being handed out, so the movie should be over soon. I don't like to watch WWII movies because what is depicted is not the way it happened, or so I've been told by friends of mine who were in it. Most of the time it was pure boredom.. with periodic total chaos. Just like everyday life.

When will human beings learn to be human beings? Last nite I listened to a presentation about Marylanders in the Civil War. There were Marylanders on both sides and they even fought against each other at Gettysburg. However, there was one time when humanity showed itself. After the fighting, both groups met and helped take care of their wounded.

I'm still reading Carl Sandberg's books about Abraham Lincoln. I still find his writing disjointed, but very interesting. It is strange to me, but not surprising, to find that the politicians then were a lot like the politicians today... backstabbing, lying, stealing.. etc. It's a wonder that our country survives. President Lincoln stands out as a beacon of humanity compared to those around him, like Salmon Chase, who praised Lincoln to his face and then wrote to everybody who would listen about how dumb and bad for the country he was. But, Salmon wanted in the worst way to be President. He did not make it, but he did get some distinction.. by appearing on the $1,000 bill (I think.. I haven't seen many of those babies.)

Well, to top off the day, I cooked up salmon pinwheels... salmon and crab. With baked potato and corn on the cob. It was delicious if I do say so myself. Perhaps I should try for a slot on Iron Chef. Of course, it would not have been as delicious as it was if it wasn't for the India Pale Ale that accompanied it.

Many years ago, the British invented India Pale Ale so that beer would not spoil by the time it reached India from Britain. The taste, in my estimation, is sublime.. and far far far different than the watered-down light beer that brewers think we dumb Americans drink. I see people in liquor stores loading up on light beer and I feel like telling them to try "real beer" instead.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

A great day! My Dell laptop is back and even though Dell said they had to fix four problems, they retained my files and a cd-rom stuck in the drive. Also, the Dow is headed back up to 9,000!

Today I go to get a Shingles shot. Quite expensive, but those of us who had Chicken Pox as kids are susceptible to Shingles as we get older. This is an extremely painful disease. I can still remember my Grandfather suffering with the pain for almost a year. Sometimes the pain can last for the rest of one's life. (One of my friends is suffering from Shingles right now and as an empath I can feel her excrutiating pain whenever I talk to her.) I am the Shingles Shot Guinea Pig.. if I don't have side-effects from the shot, maybe Elaine will get it.

For years I have toyed with the idea of writing a book about some of my experiences. (yes.. I have had some experiences, you disbelievers) At the moment, the plan is to just write about my experiences in the Baltimore area.. from arrival in the city, to entry into Carroll Lutheran Village.. with emphasis on my time at the Social Security Administration. Also, lots of family stuff to help future Vaughan genealogists. It will probably be the most boring book ever written, but what the hell!

In the "Genealogy Gang" that meets in the Village, each of us has made a presentation about their life. We had about 45 minutes to an hour to do so. My time ran to over an hour, and I never did get past the years before I entered the Air Force. So you see, I have a lot to talk about.. now, whether it is interesting or not.. that is another story. If I get another chance to talk to the group, I will cover my time in the service, then my time in Boston, at the University and in the 38 jobs that I held while in school, and then the Baltimore part. (I may have to supply pillows for nodding heads.)

With my laptop back, I once again have access to a Dell home page, which I like because I can set up views of the titles of email from 8 of my email addresses and also have instant access to my MSN account. Now I have a universe of about 900 messages to look at. I do notice that the old "bugaboo" is back... that is, some of my dear and trusted friends and relatives are starting to forward to me erroneous and vicious "garbage" messages. (I thought that this all ended when 2009 started.) I wish that the people who forward this stuff would analyse what the messages say. Is it showing an underlying prejudice against some group or race or type of person? I now do not open forwarded messages unless the title clearly states that it is not "dumb" stuff. I just ask that those who want to forward such dribble, THINK first.

I have a subscription to what is now XM/SERIUS (sp?) and I listen to it when I am driving. Usually I just listen to XM 151 (Laugh USA) which is a "clean joke" station, and as I have said many times before, if you have to stick some scatalogical thought or phrase into your joke to try to get a laugh from a person with an 11 year old mentality, you are not a real comedian. Yesterday, I switched to some of the talk shows and was completely grossed out by some of the lies being spewed by a couple of these guys. Come on! Do you really think that Americans are so dumb as to believe any of this crap? .... But... sadly, as evidenced by the comments of some of the people who called in to CSPAN this morning... some Americans do believe these lies, when just a small amount of checking, even on the Internet, would show them the truth.

Good news for readers. Barnes and Noble has announced that they have 700,000 books that can now be downloaded to iPHONES or iPOD Touch, and next year they will be coming out with an e-reader. Amazon's Kindle has access to only 300,000. Now, if only we could download some of those books directly to our brains so that it will not be necessary to take all that time to read them. ;0)

I have always thought that I would much rather have a nice paper book to hold and read rather than a computer screen to look at. But recently I went out to the site where you can read Moby Dick online. In my library, because I am a cetology cukoo, I have five different editions of Moby Dick, probably one of my favorite reads. I was able to read all of Chapter One again, but on my PC screen and it was wonderful. The print was large and easy on the eyes and I enjoyed traveling back to New Bedford again with my "brother" Ishmael.

Speaking of Ishmael.. my brother Joe and I are email pals again and I am enjoying his stories of youthful activity. He's an interesting guy, if I do say so myself.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Quick News for a July 2009 Day

Some news to wake up to on a sunny hot July day.

01. Some English folks have complained that school children at recess are laughing too loudly!!

02. Head-to-toe burka-clad male Afghan terrorists are killing innocent people. (If caught, perhaps they should be helped physically to become the women they are imitating.)

03. A plumber in Pennsylvania rescued 7 ducklings from a drain they were stuck in. (Good news for a change.)

04. Somebody got hit by lightning and it cured their heart arhythmia.

05. A 15 year old was hit and killed on the side of a road by a drunken driver.

06. A couple of Republicans are in agreement on a plan to develop a health plan for the Country.

The two have never really agreed on anything before. (Maybe that it is just my understanding)

07. Counterfeit $20 bills are showing up in Carroll County.. this happens usually after carnivals take place.

BTW.. if you get a chance, watch the movie The Counterfeiter. Amazing movie that will remind you of how beastly the German SS was in WWII. It is a great story of survival in a time that allowed very little survival by brutalized people.

08. A friend of mine was named Lion of the Year. A nice organization. I like the titles of their officers: "Lion Tamer" "Tail Twister" Cute.

09. The market is up to above 8900! Keep it up!

10. GM's Camaro is beginning to get big press. I haven't seen it, but I'm told it looks like no other car today and looks more like 1950's cars.

11. F-22 funding may pass today and earn a veto from President Obama.

That's enough, got to go to Social Security. I need to get a new pass before the current one expires at the end of the month.

I just cut up a cantalope that a new neighbor presented us with yesterday. She was returning the favor.. last week I brought them a bunch of my "famous" brownies with walnuts. Let me know if you want me to make some for you. I unabashedly say that they are the best I have ever tasted.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Vaughansday Two Hour Adventure

10:00 am My Vaughansday adventure for July 20, 2009, began when I met Ray Hartland at the Westminster Senior Activity where he had art works on display. In my estimation, Ray is a fantastic artist, especially in oils. He has also been the President of the Carroll County (Maryland) Artists Guild for three years. I was a member for a couple of the years but had never met Ray.

SEGUE: I joined the Guild because I had seen a display of cartoons among the oils and prints on display at the Carroll Theater. The cartoons were the work of a guy who had worked for me some years before at Social Security. He had not been very happy working with computers so I arranged with Personnel to offer him a job in my home town's SS District Office. He eagerly accepted the job, I wished him well, and I haven't seen him since.

A couple of years later, I went back to my home town and visited the District Office to see how he was making out there. The office manager said: "Who?" "Nobody by that name works here." Apparently, he never showed up and disappeared somewhere in the massive Social Security beaurocracy.

When I saw his display, I decided to join the Guild and get to see him again and learn how his "career" has progressed.. and besides, I thought his cartoons were very well done. In addition, being a kind of caricaturist, I felt that I might fit into the Guild, as he did. However, before I could get to see him, he disappeared again. After joining the Guild and viewing some of their art work, I decided that my work did not rise to their level, so I did not renew my membership.

10:15 am After boring Ray with my stories, I bought a beautiful giclee print of an oil painting of a still-life with red apples and dark tea pot.

SEGUE: Giclee is pronounced GEE'CLAY and is a print of an original prepared in a special printer that holds true to the original and supposedly lasts for 25 years. The print can be put on canvas and it is extremely hard to tell the print from the original.

Elaine and I have been arguing about furniture and art work for the house for three years now, which is why our house is a "work in progress". I hope she will like this print and we can hang it on the wall. (It has the color to match the furniture.) If not, I will take it down to my basement cave and hang it where I can look at it every day. It is good!!

10:30 am I arrived at the Toyota service office in Westminster. On the third of July I received a summons from a Policeman to have a light fixed. The summons told me to have it done.. not for me to replace the light bulb myself. When I had had this situation in the past, the dealerships have soaked me for a service charge, so I expected it now. However, the service manager had a guy come out and stick a bulb in while I waited and only charged me for the bulb ($3)! That's another great thing about living in Westminster.

Also, while I waited for the ten minutes in the new shiny waiting room in the new shiny Toyota dealership, I speed read a Time magazine with an interesting article about Michael Jackson' s life and plastic surgery. Lots of things I had never realized before, if we can trust Time.

10:40 am I walked into the new shiny Toyota new car display area and was immediately accosted by a new shiny saleslady. She seemed disappointed when I was that I just wanted some brochures. But I did ask her about the roominess of a new shiny Toyota Venza. Not as much as I would like to have. I took away brochures for the Highlander, the Avalon, the Sequoia, and the Sienna. My 2002 Camry is still running fairly well, but lots of funny noises and rattles and mysterious dents are telling me that I may need to spend a bunch of money soon. Maybe its time to go in debt for a new car again.. Hmmm.

10:50 am Entrance into one of the local department stores looking for some new clothes. They advertise 30% off just for walking in, 30 to 50 % if you use the mailer coupon, and an additional 30 % off if you use their credit card. Figuring all that in.. if I buy something from the clearance rack, they will have to give me some money.

Unfortunately, they don't carry dress slacks (we call them pants) that fit me unless I want to get the kind that has an expandable waist (made in Pakistan). I have some of those and they keep falling apart. My waist of 46" (gasp!) is too large for any of their lines of clothes. Besides, they don't alter leg lengths, so if I want the pants to fit my short little legs I have to pay an extra $7 a pair to a tailor.

So, I gave up on pants and tried shirts.

Why do dress shirts (made in Thailand) cost so much? Is this inflation? No shirt should cost more than $1.98, just like I paid for my shirts in 1952. You can tell that I haven't bought any shirts for a while. I'll be damned if I'll pay $38 for a shirt! I'll stick to my old stuff, thank you.

11:15 am Time for WalMart. Why is it that you have such a hard time finding a parking spot at this store while hardly anybody is parked at the other department stores. Elaine says their prices are better, but I don't see it that way. Then again, I am a man.

I bought a small stapler. (made in China) I am tired of using staplers that don't completely connect at the back of a document. I also bought a 12" wooden ruler (made in China) to complement my other one, so I don't have to keep track of just one.

In the parking lot, an old man (almost as old as me!) in a giant SUV was eating and drinking and throwing his wrappings out the window. Being disgusted, but not being as civic-minded or brave as Elaine's daughter who accosted a lady throwing a "used" magazine out of her car window, I gave him a dirty look and moved on as he took a big slug of some kind of alcoholic drink.

11:45 am I deposited two Netflix returns in the drive-by mail box. The two movies were:

Desparaux. About some kind of cartoon mouse with big ears. Elaine loved it.. I escaped to the basement.

Inherit the Wind. A Classic! About the Scopes "Monkey Trial". Gene Kelley was ok as an obnoxious H. L. Mencken, but didn't have the Baltimore Bard's style or wit. Spencer Tracy was excellent as was Frederick March. However, the movie can never show how truly crazy the world was in 1927. (and probably still is)

11:55 am Dell computers called me and said that my laptop has been fixed and will be delivered shortly by Fed-EX. Yay!

So.. this was my two hour adventure for today. I had a lot of fun and look forward to the next time my "keepers" take off my chains and let me roam.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Twitter Posts 07/17/09

A TWITTER visit can bend your mind. Here are some of the things I encountered on a visit there tonight:

01. A Kansas City auto dealer is offering an AK-47 with every truck purchase!

02. The Pope broke his wrist. (Now how will he write encyclicals?)

03. Judge Sotomayor got through her ordeal by being boring. This was a great strategy, in my opinion. (It has served some of us well for years).

04. Walter Chronhite died at age 92. Another American Icon is gone!

05. New Senator Al Franken asked Sotomayor if she remembered a Perry Mason mystery where Perry loses a case. She didn't remember. Neither did Al.

I seem to remember a case where Hamilton Berger won over Perry Mason. I think it might have been: The Case of the Deadly verdict. ........From season 7.

06. I thought that I was hearing things today.. I heard a Republican Congressman praising Massachusett's own, Barney Frank.

07. DC's former mayor and current councilman, Marion Berry, is back in the news. He swears that he did not give a plush job to his girl friend.

08. The famous Watergate Hotel will be auctioned off!

09. Starbuck says: "Looking into Ahab's eyes cons a fearful exercise. An abyss of fire ice, colder than an inferno, a frozen hell".. by TwitterFon (and probably not Melville). From_the_Pequod Twitter site.

10. Headline: Croc shoe company stumbles during recession. (Elaine won't like that.)

How about all that??!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vaughan's Day July 16, 2009

Those of you who have worked their way through James Joyce's Ulysses (I know, I know, you only read Molly's soliloquy) are acquainted with Bloom's Day. Although Leopold Bloom was basically a boring nobody, his day was filled with all kinds of activity. So was it today for Joe Vaughan. If you are easily bored, you may want to skip this blog... but if you do, you will miss a great insight at the end.

Early this morning I prepared three sets of brownies that I had baked before bed last night. One set for my TRIAD meeting today, one set for my son, Chris, who had complained that I never make him any, and one set for the people who have just moved in next to us. (With my luck, they will be diabetics.)

I prepared for my TRIAD meeting by gathering together all of the scam information that I had clipped or composed during the month since the last meeting. The meeting went very well in spite of the fact that I was 10 minutes late... so, to compensate, we went 10 minutes over. Actually, at these meetings, nobody wants to leave when they are over, because there is so much scam material to cover.

Today, one of the members showed me an official letter she had received, along with an official looking water-marked check for $3,751.22. The letter told her that based on her standing in the community, she had been chosen to receive the check. To earn the check, she was told to investigate WalMart. To go to that store and write down what she saw in a report format.

She was told to mail her report to a certain address along with her answers to a few questions, such as: Name, Address, Age, SSN (Social Security Number), Bank, Banking Number....etc... you get the picture. They didn't even want any of the check back when she cashed it.. why would they.. the check will bounce, and the scammers will have enough information to clean out her bank account and sell her SSN. I told her to take the letter and check to the States Attorney's Office.

Prior to the TRIAD meeting, a new wheelchair was delivered for Elaine. She will probably not have to use it for very long, but the old one is falling apart. This one is the same make as the old one, but lots of upgrades have been made in five years. The main thing is that it is much sturdier.. (but a bit heavier.. good exercise for Elaine's arms and my hernia.) I tried to get the deliverer to accept back the old one.. nope. We get to keep it.

The TRIAD meeting is held at the Westminster (Maryland) Senior Activity Center.. and today they were having an exhibit of local artists' works. (I used to belong to the Artists' Guild that put on the exhibit. I need to get back to "art"! I was extremely well impressed by one artist's still-lifes.. Raymond Hartland is his name and I'll bet that he will be honored because his work is GOOD!

After TRIAD, I networked a bit and then went to the Westminster Library to check out their "playaway" collection. Playaway is "books on tape" but in a much smaller media.. the "tape" is mini and has a built-in rechargable battery. One plugs earphones into the little package and listens to a complete book read by a melifluous voiced reader. Today they only had fiction available. I will visit them online and order some non-fiction books from them. (Not many libraries have gotten into "playaway" yet. Carroll County's library is the most used library in Maryland because they try to keep ahead of the curve in technology and service. My son spent a lot of time working there and getting them plugged into the computer age.)

At one pm I went to a so-called "Ice Cream Social" in my village, where I submitted a story for the literary magazine. It was about a trip that my son and I took a few years ago. Last night I spent some time getting the story down to 400 words from about 900. I think that was good exercise for me. The title of the story is Wake Up Time... or another title could be: The Perfect Squelch. I like the story, of course, and will publish it also as a blog entry.

After turning in my story, I was presented with a very delicious ice cream sundae. That's all the payment that I need.

Now for the Insight part:

When I left the house this morning, I had a schedule book, newspaper clippings, brownies, a story to submit and some note paper.

When I returned home this afternoon, I had accumulated the following items:

A copy of the Carroll County Times.. one headline: Students stitch Underground Railroad Quilts.

A "Playaway" how-to guide.

Farm Notes newsletter from the Maryland Cooperative Extension.

A schedule of Maryland Agricultural Fairs and Shows for 2009 thru Spring 2010.

An ad for the Maryland Wine Festival to be held in September at the Carroll County Farm Museum. The poster shown on the ad is a direct "steal" from Alphonse Mucha posters.. the ones with the beautiful zapftig ladies. Very well done!

A brochure about library facilities entitled: Read.

An online reference guide to the library.

Tips on managing a library account.

A how-to brochure on how to use a personal library card.

A schedule of July programs by the Carroll County Bureau of Aging.

The Carroll County government newsletter. Headline: Waste Options Considered.

The Carroll County government newsletter: Headline: Planning.. on Pathways Draft.

Brochure: Fish for Dinner?

Food stamp information.

Brochure: Use Common Sense to Spot a Con.

Brochure: Safer Seniors

Brochure on AARP's Driver Safety Program. (I was an instructor in this program for 8 years.)

Booklet: Outsmarting Crime.

GSA Consumer Information Catalog.

Calendar showing when Maryland grown fruit and vegetables are available.

Newsletter for the Maryland Homeowners' Association, Inc.

Baltimore City Paper "Big Music Issue".. (I'm hoping they will have something within its 104 pages about Emily and Mat's Mobtown Studio.)

Plus Junk Mail and bills for Elaine and me.

INSIGHT! Most of the stuff that we want to import into our lives each day is not that important and should not even be picked up or looked at. (We waste hours of our life trying to read it all.. and then we must make decisions on what we read.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Real Cool Grannie

Anne Arundel County (Maryland) has ruled that it is not illegal to put a dead body in a freezer. Recently, an 83 year old grandmother was found on top of the frozen broccoli in a family freezer. She had died a few weeks earlier and the family decided to keep her "on ice" until they worked out the details of her funeral. This reminds me of several things.

For years, during the Winter, Alaskan women have been putting their dead husbands into snow drifts in their back yards to keep them handy for when the Spring thaw comes and the Social Security Field Rep visits. This is the "Proof of Death" that is necessary for them to file for Survivor's Benefits. (Some of my fellow workers at the Social Security Administration told me that this is absolutely true.)

My son is always kidding me (I hope!) that when the time comes, he will pick out a nice big ice floe to put me on, just like the eskimos do.

What to do with old folks is becoming a massive problem as our aged population soars. There are several options (besides the ice floes and freezers).

The aged (with money to keep) can stay in their homes and apartments until they die. The problem is, before they die, they may become unable to care for themselves, at which time they may go to live with relatives (if they have any), become residents at Nursing Homes, or have helpers come into their homes to help them (and in many cases, help themselves.)

The aged (with some money to give away) can go to live in a 55 and older community without assisted living. When they can't manage, they will have to find an assisted living facility that will take them in (and many will "take them in.") (I've found that people in these types of communities believe that they will never need help.)

The aged (with extra money to give away) can go to live in a 55 and older community with assisted living. In which case, when they can't manage, they will be able to get help for all of their normal needs. However, when they need medical help, they will have to find a Nursing Home. (I've found that people in these types of communities believe that assisted living will be all the help that they will ever need.)

The aged (with a lot of money to give away) can go to live in a Continuing Care Facility where Independent Living is automatically followed by Assisted Living, followed by Nursing Care, followed by a pine box. Some of these facilities will keep you even if you run out of money.

The aged (without money) can become homeless and look for heat-emitting sidewalk grates to sleep on until they die and go to a pauper's grave.

Thank God for Social Security. Most Senior Citizens now have some form of income. Before Social Security the average old person had nothing, and had to rely on the goodness of relatives or churches. However, even today many old people have to be very frugal with their income, often cutting prescription pills in half to make them last longer.

I've written this mainly to draw your attention to the decisions that must be made in our rapidly aging society. Hopefully, I have made you reconsider your own decision to let old Uncle Charlie finish out his days on a melting mass of ice or as a cryogenic specimen in someone's basement.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Thoughts 01

As I sit here finishing my morning coffee, and before I must get ready for meetings, errands, and chores, I am thinking about a few things that please, sadden, confuse, or upset me; for instance:

There is another giant zucchini growing on our back porch.. also two tomatoes showing red. We have already harvested three zukes and four little cukes. This pleases me.. even though I must carry 5 gallons of water each day to offer to my green plants. But they are appreciative.

Tomorrow, Bastille Day, is the 9th anniversary of the death of Elaine Langlois Vaughan. She was 63 years old when she died and should have normally had 24 more years of life in which to watch her beloved grandchildren mature and have families of their own. This saddens me.

Conservative Senators are gearing up to try to discredit Ms. Sotomayor during the Confirmation process. This confuses me. In my mind, she is the ideal candidate to help make the Supreme Court more representative of the U. S. population because she is a woman and an Hispanic. How could any Senator be against this.. besides, if they are too mean to her, they would probably kiss their reelection plans goodbye.

Last night, I opened a can of expensive cat food and found that it was moldy inside. This upsets me. I will be taking it back to the store, together with all of the other cans by the same company. I will ask them to check their stock and notify the company. By "them" I mean the store manager. My tuxedo cat is suffering from hyperthyroidism and if I had not examined the food before feeding it too him, who knows what effect it might have had on him.

Yesterday, we hung a pink rose plaque on the front side of the house. On the bottom, we will be placing our house numbers. Pink is Elaine's favorite color and this plaque pleases her and me. At the same time, we hung her butterfly windsock from the gutter. Now we have a good weather instrument. If it is stretched out sideways, we know the wind is blowing; if it is hanging straight down, we know the wind is calm; if it looks wet, we know it is raining; if it is white, we know that it is snowing.

Our service men are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, this saddens me. Also, the "news" just anncounced that the CIA lied to Congress about a secret program. The news also says that the secrecy was requested (ordered?) by the Vice President. The Constitution was written in such a way that the Executive Branch's actions would be tempered by interaction with the Legislature and the Judiciary. Violations of that procedure should be dealt with sternly, in my opinion.

Man's inhumanity to man continues to confuse me. Why do some people continue to act like animals? Fathers murdering their families. Drive-by shooting. Five-year olds being hit with bullets fired by seventeen-year olds. etc etc Just pick up the paper for any day of the week. And the churches try to curb this inhumanity, but I don't think they succeed. I remember when I was working.. on Monday, those folks who had gone to church on Sunday were very pleasant and tolerant.. but as the week grew older, these same folks reverted back to their old grouchy and prejudicial ways.. but then, maybe it was because it was Government work, and maybe, just maybe, it was me who was the grouchy one.

Finally, there is something that really upsets me. I received word on Saturday that my Uncle Allen had a stroke that day and was being rushed 50 miles away to Boston. Allen is my last living Uncle and is 89 years old. He has survived heart attacks and open heart surgery and I expected him to live to be 105. When he was a lot younger, he was called Popeye, because he was one tough son of a gun. I grew up in the same household as he did and he treated me like a brother.. and I think of him as a brother and also as a kind of father image. So, I am waiting for word now and I hope that his stroke was a mild one. Something that he can overcome.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 11, 2009 Breaking News

News of vital interest from several Saturday sources:

01. British firefighters answered a call from a lady who excitedly said that her TV was on fire. She had just bought a new HD set and was watching a news picture of a burning building. Firemen put out the fire by changing the channel for her.

02. Church attendees are now being encouraged to text message their friends during church services if they like what is going on and the spirit moves them.

03. A recent study learned that pigeons can tell good art from bad. The birds were given examples of both types of art (in the studiers' opinions) and found that the birds pecked mainly on the "good" art. (Maybe the examiners were studying the wrong ends of the pigeons.)

04. Another study showed that cockroaches get fat from eating unhealthy food.

(Who pays for these studies?)

05. Afghanistan's only pig (see prior blog) has now been freed and allowed back in the Afghan zoo.

06. Methodist Bishops have agreed to cut their pay. (!)

07. Casey Kasem retired after 40 years. (Recently I turned on an XM music channel and the DJ sure sounded like the Kasem I remember from years ago. Guess what, it was him. So then I thought that it was a rebroadcast from long ago. Nope.. it was him today.. I think that his distinctive voice has not changed in 40 years.)

08. General Motors has exited from bankruptcy. Does this mean that my GM stock is worth something afterall? If so, I need to rescue my shreded certificates and glue them back together.

09. A New Jersey brewery is naming its beers after exits on the New Jersey Turnpike. "Exit 11" is coming out this month.

10. Iran's Achmmedenijahd (or whatever) tried to kill a fly like President Obama did during a video presentation.. he failed miserably, but Iranian press reports will probably say that he killed it, and did it much faster than Obama.

11. Scotland Yard installed mini-cams on police helmets. They have worked well, except that a few have caught fire. (Peter Sellers and Benny Hill would have loved this one.)

Finally.. for those who listen to Old Time Radio on WAMU-FM on Sunday evenings, Ed Walker, the host, has been nominated to the Radio Hall of Fame. If you are so inclined, you can vote for him at

Also, if you want to add fun to your day, you could add to your visits.


Friday, July 10, 2009

A True Comedian

This afternoon I finished a book that my son, Chris, had lent me. The title is: I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This! (and Other Things That Strike Me as Funny) by Bob Newhart. Bob is my age, and has been doing stand-up, TV Sit-Coms, movies and Voice-Overs since the 1960's.

Bob's first album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, became the first comedy album to go to #1 on the Bilboard charts. In all, he had a total of eight comedy albums.

I was surprised to learn that he hosted The Tonight Show 87 times!

My family watched every episode of The Bob Newhart Show on TV from 1972 to 1978 and then Newhart from 1982 to 1990. One of the most remarkable TV moments I've ever seen was the final show of Newhart, when Bob wakes up in bed with Emily from The Bob Newhart Show and says that he has had a dream (the Newhart show). I thought that was a classic touch. The idea came from Bob's real wife, Ginnie, in a moment of true genius.

Bob's routines are being resurrected on XM Radio Channel 151 (Laugh USA) and are wonderful to hear again. Especially the one about the discovery of tobacco. Bob says in his book that when he did that bit he was actually a chain smoker. A short time later he quit cold turkey.

Remember some of the characters on Bob's shows?

"Hi, my name is Larry. This is my brother, Darrell. And this is my other brother, Darrell."

Neurotic Mr. Carlin? "I only had one problem this week. Yesterday I was possessed by the devil." Dr. Hartley says: "Okay, go with that, Mr. Carlin."

Wife Emily, who was one of the most beautiful actresses in television, Suzanne Pleshette.

Bob has lots of stories to tell about his friend, Don Rickles. (I didn't know that Don Rickles had any friends. )

Bob talks about other comedians that I want to do more research on:

Joe Frisco, who did the "Jewish Charleston" and is famous for his comedic stutter.

Jimmy Edmundson, who was called Professor Backwards, who was supposed to be a famous tightwad.

W.C. Fields, one of my all-time favorites. His routine as a memory expert is a classic.

Laurel and Hardy, who I have followed for years. When I was in Cologne, Germany, I spent a lot of time in the movie theaters watching Dick und Duenne (Fat and Skinny) do their schtick. The Germans loved them and laughed and laughed at their antics, even though the dialogue was in English.

Peter Sellers.. you know, Doctor Strangelove and The Pink Panther. Nobody.. I mean nobody.. could take his place as Inspector Clouseau.. not even Steve Martin! XM Radio's Laugh USA is playing some of Sellers' routines from the Goon Show of many years ago. One routine that I like has him playing an Indian Doctor singing with his Nurse.. if you can hear it, you will love both the melody and the words.

All in all... Bob Newhart's book is a fast and pleasant read that will cause you to have many belly laughs and put a constant smile on your face.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Laptop, jokes, birds and other stuff..

I had a nice long 2 hour talk with some Indian guys working for Dell. They had me take my laptop apart a bit and do some tests. Unfortunately, nothing was determined, so they have arranged for FED EX to pick up my laptop and send it to DELL for fixing. At least I now know that the problem is not with the hard drive. Luckily, I am still within the warranty period.

This is the first PC that I have had that I could not fix myself.

Elaine and I were telling jokes this morning. I remembered my first joke: Question: Why does a cat walk across the street with its tail up in the air? Answer: So the cars can see its license plate.

(I know, its not great, but what do you expect from an eight-year old?)

Elaine made up a new joke: Question: "Why did the chicken cross the road?" Answer: " She forgot her cell phone."


Elaine and I like to watch the birds outside of our bowed window, here in Maryland. Once a week, I fill five bird feeders and one finch feeder, and a suet holder. Usually, it takes a complete week for the birds to empty the feeders. However, this week, everything has gone in four days! Why?

We like to watch yellow finches eat thistle seed. I had thought that yellow finches were only here for two weeks and then went on to Maine. Apparently I was wrong because they have lingered here for a couple of months. Beautiful birds that are a delight to watch.

Other birds we have seen this week: Red wing blackbirds.. which we thought only populated marsh lands. Well, here they are.

Also, mocking birds, sparrows, starlings, woodpeckers, crows, house finches, mourning doves, etc. Apparenty, next to the side of the house, under some bushes, baby sparrows have come into existence. It is fun to watch them take their first flights, prodded by their mama. If their flights are not as long as she feels necessary, she butts them in the rear end to get them to take off again.

The heavy rains of a month ago washed away the mulch along the sides of our house. In this environment, residents are not supposed to move mulch or do weeding. We are supposed to write up "pink slips" to trigger maintenance to work. However, in our bad economy, some maintenance activity has been curtailed. But.. since our monthly fee has gone up this month, I feel that we should not be losing out on our perks. The Village has a large surplus held for "a Rainy Day".. hey! Isn't this a rainy day??

The Market had been going up for a few weeks, but now it has taken a down-turn again. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. Let's hope that the recession has bottomed out.

It looks like medical problems will keep us from visiting New Bedford this year. It took years for my leg wounds to heal, and now Elaine has foot wounds that are not healing properly. We will be visiting doctors every day this week.

Our garden is going well.. in fact, one of the zucchinis seems to grow a few inches every day. We also have about 30 green tomatoes growing on the vines. Every morning I deliver 5 gallons of water to the plants!

Am I a great farmer or not?!

Sunday, July 05, 2009


Sarah Palin: The big news is that she has resigned as Governor of Alaska. The big question is WHY? I think that most politicians would say that if she had further political ambitions, she should have at least stayed until her current term was up, otherwise she could be accused of having a very small amount of political experience, and was a quitter.

I believe that we will hear about the real reason in a few days. As an Independent voter, I can pick on all candidates and I found her to be a "turn-off" and the wrong running mate for McCain. I'm sure she is a very nice person, but her "Caribou Barbie" characterization will probably live with her for some time to come. I hope that her reason for resigning is not a health problem.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Lucky and our first Zuke

My laptop stopped working and the only thing that is working quickly on my desktop is, so I will do another blog, Today I will talk about my Tuxedo Cat, Lucky (alias Luciano, Houdini, de Tuxedo) and also about our first Zuke.

I think that it is Larry the Cable Guy who tells about his dog that has only three legs, is blind and deaf. His name is "Lucky".

Well, my cat "Lucky" is also not so lucky right now. He has hyperthyroidism and is pulling out all of his fur. He looks like he has male pattern baldness. Some parts of his body have no fur and Lucky walks around with fur hanging out of his mouth.

When he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, the vet gave us a liquid to give to the cat. Lucky did not like that and after he chewed up my arm pretty badly we gave up on the liquid. The vet gave us some pills instead and Elaine found a wonderful thing in her effects.. its called a "pill popper". I grab Lucky and hold his paws while Elaine "pops" a pill down his gullet. It works.

Every morning I get out the vacuum cleaner and suck up the black fur deposited all over the house. Some of it embeds itself in the cheap wall-to-wall rug that we mis-ordered before we moved in.

Did I tell you about the derivation of Lucky's names? (All my cats have been named Lucky as far as I'm concerned even if other people in the house have given them other names. My late spouse called my prior cat "damn cat!" Elaine calls this cat "Kitty Kitty".)

I used "Luciano" because when I got him, his crying sounded like Pavarotti. I used "Houdini" because he learned to open locked doors. "De Tuxedo" is of course a name given to all black and white cats that look like they are preparing to go to a wedding.

Lucky has a companion: Su-Zee. I'm sure I have talked about this Siamese fireball before.

Yesterday, we picked our first zucchini from our balcony garden. It was about 5 inches long and we cut it up and mixed it into scrambled egg, as a mini-melange. Elaine ate some slices raw beforehand and said that it was the best she had ever tasted. The melange was delicious and we are looking forward to more zukes. There certainly are plenty of flowers on the plants. Elaine's daughter, Emily, says that you can fry up the blossoms. We'll have to try that.

Our tomato plants are all starting to burst forth with little tomatoes.. even our hanging tomato plant holder has a few flowers. For some reason, we are not having as good luck with the hanging holder as some of our neighbors. I look at their holders and I see large amounts of greenery hanging down. We have a few light green twiggs with brown leaves. Maybe I will pull the thing apart and put in a new plant, if I can find one now that tomato plants are being pulled because of the "blight."

Next year, Elaine wants to ask the Village for a small plot of land on which to plant some corn. So, in my old age I will become a farmer again. What about that "old rocking chair" time?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The State of Comedy Today

What has happened to comedy? I believe that the test of a comedian's worth is how he or she can tell a joke or a humorous story without resorting to off-color material. Anybody can be funny to an eleven year old audience with fart jokes. It takes a competent funny person to appeal to an audience of adults. with intelligent funny material.

I have a group of stand-up comedians that I admire and I always try to view or hear their routines whenever I can. Therefore, recently I heard an announcement for a "humor night" on one of the TV stations. The program would consist of five or six stand-up comedians doing their bits. Two of the comedians were to be my favorites, John Pinette and Kathleen Madigan. I immediately set up my DVR to tape the show, in case I missed it.

When I viewed the tape I was surprised at what I saw. First, there was a sophomoric routine by Martin Short.. extremely unfunny, unless you were ten years old. Then there were 5 minute skits by several comedians. Tom Papa tried to be funny... he failed miserably. Greg Geraldo, who I have heard on XM radio as a funny guy.. seriously bombed. A couple of other guys also bombed.

But, I had set up to tape the show because I would be able to see two of my favorites: Kathleen Madigan and John Pinette. Kathleen was a disappointment. Not like her routines that I look forward to on XM radio's Laugh USA. (But still, I will keep my link to her facebook and twitter accounts.)

John Pinette was kind of funny, but not at his best. Not one : I say "nay, nay" during the bit.

Martin Short was, how should I say this delicately, LOUSY!

I was very disappointed. But, I will not give up on my favorites, Madigan and Pinette. Surely, their routines were cut down to fit into the show's time frame. They had to be.. they are much funnier than they showed themselves on this show.

While we are on the subject, let me make a prediction... Conan will bomb. Sorry.. but I feel that Conan is not a funny man.. not as funny as Jay Leno and definitely nowhere as funny as Johnny Carson or Jack Paar or Steve Allen. The Tonite Show has survived for years because some of the writing was funny.. but (in my opinion) Conan's writers are "out to lunch".

Since the writers' strike, Leno's monologues suffered from a dearth of funny material. If he didn't have Paris or Michael or some Senator or other to make fun of, he would not have anything to say. We did like his "Headlines" schtick. If his show contained nothing but that, he would have been good. Unfortunately, he also had pretty young "airhead" stars to interview.. most of whom could not carry on an intelligent conversation.

Why can't the Tonight Show go back to the Jack Paar mode.. where everything was live and it was exciting to watch... you never knew what was going to be said next.. !!!

Oh well, perhaps we should just learn to be senior citizens and go to bed at 9 pm. Or, at least, watch our netflix movies instead of wasting our time with late network shows.

New Bedford

I've written a lot about New Bedford, but I don't think that I've included web addresses. So here goes:

The New Bedford Whaling Museum .. Without a doubt, the best museum in the world dealing with the whaling industry, the famous City of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the current preservation of cetaceans. Visit this site and take all of the tours and I am sure that you will want to visit New Bedford and the Museum on your next vacation.

Most people think about New Bedford (if they think about it at all) as the home of the famous "Big Dan" case. But that is only one part of New Bedford's history.

01. It was the richest city in the United States for many years.
02. It was where the Lizzie Borden trial was held.
03. It is the biggest fishing port on the East Coast and probably in the whole U.S.
04. Herman Melville worked there and was inspired to write Moby Dick there.
05. The famous painter Albert Pinkham Ryder lived there.
06. Frederick Douglass took the "Underground Railroad" to New Bedford and worked in the whaling industry there.
07. Major Roberts wrote his parliamentary procedures manual (Robert's Rules of Order) while stationed in N.B.
08. The richest woman in the world lived there and made her money from the whaling industry. Hettie Green, the so-called "Witch of Wall Street".
09. Joe Vaughan grew up there.
10. For many years it was the Textile capitol of the U.S., until cheap labor lured the industry to the southern part of the country.
11. etc etc etc

Visit the website for the museum and browse the features. You will like it.

If you do have an interest in the whaling industry, you might also like to visit
The Nantucket Massachusetts Whaling Museum ..

While in no way as large or inclusive as the New Bedford museum, it is very interesting to visit. Some people think that the whaling industry was centered in Nantucket.. not so. New Bedford deserves that honor. But.. it is a very interesting place to visit, and its also a wonderful place to live if your income tops one million dollars a year.

Now, if you have gotten this far, I'm sure you will love this site.. this is where you can read the whole novel Moby Dick online.

Finally, here is the address of the blog for a wonderful place in Melbourne, Australia.

I may as well sign this edition of my blog with one of my nom de plumes that seems appropriate.