Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Think! Or who will think for you?

I just got back from a meeting and the guy next to me made it known that he thinks that Maryland Governor O'Malley "is a jerk". He also said that President Obama "is a jerk". He had no reason for this feeling that he could express. All through the meeting, he kept kibitzing and turning to me for a laugh and approval. I'm afraid that I thought that he was the "jerk".

I recently got a call from a friend wanting me to buy Glen Beck's latest book. I glanced through it at WalMart today and it did not impress me. I have always thought that Beck was a bully. Of course, this is my opinion, and it could be a misconception. But, just listen to how he talks. He does sound to me like a bully. Recent statistics that I have heard about Beck from Ed Schultz indicate that Beck could be losing his sponsors and his audience because of what he says. In fact, Schultz says that his show now has more listeners than Beck's has.

Of course, Rush Limbaugh's audience is very large. I tried to listen to him a few times, but got disgusted with the way he was talking. Even though I felt that George W. was the worse President that we ever had, I did not want to see him fail. What good would that have done for the country? Our Presidents should be encouraged to succeed. Rush doesn't want Obama to succeed in his Presidency and apparently says that on his radio show, or so it sounds in the radio clips I've heard.

Some of the emails that I am getting are once again filled with inaccuracies. As I have said in earlier blog entries, I will no longer open messages that are "forwarded" to me, because they are usually out and out lies.

What I have written above bothers me.

Abraham Lincoln once said:

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."

And that is the crux of the matter. Once again, the right wing is spreading lies and inuendos about the President, the Democratic Congress, Health Care Reform, and the world situation. Well-meaning people are passing this information on without checking it for accuracy. (If it comes to me over the Internet, it must be true." is what I hear a lot. ) I once again ask everyone who reads those words to check the facts of the information that they receive, and not pass on such information unless you know that it is true.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Martha's Vineyard

The Obama family's vacation in Martha's Vineyard triggered some memories for me. I grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, about 10 miles over the ocean from Martha's Vineyard. I remember when that island was not the fashionable (read: expensive) place it is today.

When I was a kid, it was a whole lot of fun to pack a lunch basket and take the ferry to Oak Bluffs, one of the little towns on Martha's Vineyard. On the ferry, there would always be a Portuguese band blasting away marvelous tunes, in between slugs of Madiera wine. We would all sing and dance for the hour-long trip. When we got to Oak Bluffs we would find a spot on the beach to eat our lunch and then swim or ride the famous Merry-Go-Round until time to get back on the ferry.

Oak Bluffs is now a small African-American enclave on the island. Most of the homes are brightly colored small cottages which were built in the early 1900's, when camp meetings were the rage. People would come over on the ferry, rent one of the cottages for the week, and listen to the hell-fire preachers. I'm not sure if the preachers are still around, but the houses look as good today as they did on the day that they were built. It is well worth the trip just to see these cottages.

Once, I think it was in 1951, my girlfriend, Elaine, and I took the ferry to the island as a treat for my eleven-year-old future brother-in-law. When we got to Oak Bluffs, we rented a car for the day and drove all over the island, from Edgartown to the Gay Head cliffs. We stopped here and there and bought stuffed quahogs, fried chicken, and fried clams from vendors. We played on the beaches and jumped into the ocean. We had a ball! The eleven-year-old said that it was the most fun he ever had. (He still talks about the fun he had back then. It was a much gentler time, guys.)

During that 1951 trip, we noticed a lot of land for sale at very cheap prices. For $1,000. one could buy a very large plot of land with a nice clapboard house and outbuildings, and get change back. At the time, I was only 17 and earned $1. an hour at the YMCA, so I was not able to become a land speculator. Some people apparently were though, and now that same plot of land would probably go for ten million dollars!

The estate that the Obamas are renting goes for $35,000. per week, I believe. There are some bed and breakfast businesses on the island for a bit less.. probably still too rich for me to afford. However, you can still take the ferry out of New Bedford for not too much money and spend a day exploring the many quaint locations on the island. Try it.. enjoy the boat trip, listen to the Portuguese band, get windburn, drink some Madiera wine, try stuffed quahogs, eat fried clams, look at the little painted houses, ride the old Merry-Go-Round, pick grapes along the road, dive into the ocean surf, enjoy the bracing sea air, get away from the cares of your may never want to leave.

Just don't get arrested for wearing clothes at the nude beach. You know, the one that is near where the Obamas are staying.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Secret Service, Presidents, and Me

CSPAN aired an interview this morning with Ronald Kessler about his recent book: In The President's Secret Service. I will give you a few "bites" from the interview.

1. The Secret Service.

It sounded as though Mr Kessler feels that the management of the Secret Service is too old fashioned to run such an important function.

The first female agents appeared in 1971 and there now are over 300. The public doesn't see many of them, because it might be too distracting to see women hovering around the President as he speaks. Female agents watched over President Bush' daughters and wore jeans so they would look like teenagers.

Secret Service agents know that they must protect the President and his family at all times and even take assassins' bullets aimed at their charges.

I was interviewed for a job with the Secret Service. I'll mention that in part 3 of this entry.

2. The Presidents (and the Secret Service)

These are some items that the author mentioned about the Presidents and their interaction with their protectors that I found interesting:

George W. Bush' first Secret Service name was "Tumbler"... however, he had it changed to "Trailblazer" instead, because he thought that "Tumbler" was too related to drinking.

Dick Cheney had his name changed to "Angler" because he liked to fish. (I think it is more appropriate because of the word's other meaning.)

President Carter refused to even say "Hello" to his protectors. In fact, it sounded to me that he was rather "nasty" to them. Supposedly, to look more Presidential, he carried an empty brief case when he went on trips.

Presidents Reagan, Bush (x2), Clinton and Obama have all been friendly to their protectors and sometimes Secret Service guys have been invited to private functions at the White House.

Jenna Bush often raced her car off at high speeds to escape her protectors.

Threats to President Obama are up 400% since he took office and most of them are based on race.

President Johnson liked to parade around naked in front of family, friends and protectors. He also was known to urinate in front of female interviewers.

President Kennedy opted not to use a bubble top car in Dallas because the bubble was not completely bullet-proof. However, it could have at least deflected a bullet.

President Lincoln wanted no protection at all, even though the Civil War was raging. What would have happened if he had allowed agents to watch over him?

3. My Connection to the Secret Service

After my graduation from Boston University, a job with the National Security Agency fell through and I applied for a job with the Secret Service. I passed a test and was later interviewed by two guys from that Office. They spent a long time with me, and at what I thought was the end, they welcomed me into the Government. However, just as I was about to leave, one of them told me to wait and said that they had forgotten to ask me one question.

The question was: Have you ever done anything you are ashamed of?

One of my many jobs while I went to Boston University was with a telemarketing firm, where a group of us went through the Boston phone book calling people with offers of special coupons. After we talked on the phone, we would visit the people and sell them coupon booklets. Some of the people I visited were disabled and could not take advantage of the coupons, which, for the most part were "come ons". I became disgusted with the job and quit.

I told the Secret Service guys this and they left the room for thirty minutes to discuss my answer. When they came back, they said that based on my answer they could not offer me the job. I have always wondered what kind of career I would have had if I had become one of their agents.

My only other interface with the Secret Service was a couple of years ago when Elaine and I went on a visit to the White House. Because of a knee operation, Elaine had to use a White House wheel chair. Since the wheel chair could not manage the high stairs, and because the main elevator was loaded, an agent allowed us to go to the next floor by using an elevator in the kitchen... this was not normally allowed. It was quite an experience to see how the chefs worked and I'm sure they thought that we were visiting dignitaries.

Later in the tour, I happened to glance out one of the windows to see a group of nattily dressed Secret Service guys wrestling a scruffy looking interloper to the ground. Very interesting.

Once, when President Johnson visited the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn, the whole staff relocated to the outside where we sat in wooden chairs in the middle of dirt lanes that had been quickly painted green to look like grass. When the President arrived, he was surrounded by what seemed to be hundreds of Secret Service guys. They all appeared to be six feet nine and 300 pounds and all (every single one of them) wore grouchy looks and as a disguise each had a big bright yellow flower sticking through the lapel of their black suit. (How the hell would I have ever fit into that group?)


Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21st.. news of the day...ughh!

I searched through the first section of the Baltimore Sun this morning looking for good news, and guess what... even though I found my efforts extremely depressing.. I actually found three items that made me feel a little better.

1. The market went up.

2. Bill Cosby will receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on October 26th. What a wonderful honor for a great comedian!

3. The Edwardian style ladies' bathroom in the Tremont Grand Hotel (N. Charles St. in downtown Baltimore) has been voted the second-best facility in the America's Best Restroom contest. First place was given to the Shoji Tabuchi men's room in Branson, Missouri. (If you haven't seen this one, guys, you are in for a big pleasant surprize.)

Now for the depressing stuff that I feel I must comment on.

01. The big story: Convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was given a hero's welcome in Tripoli. Scottish authorities released him after only 8 years of a life sentence, supposedly because he has terminal cancer.

Some people think that he is innocent, but from what I have read, the evidence was strong that he was the guy responsible for the deaths of 270 people.

I'm sure that the grieving relatives are hoping that he will leave this earth soon and spend an eternity in the heat of hell fire. I know that I would be very upset with the Scots at this point.

02. In a welcome to Charm City (Baltimore), a woman suffered a carjacking and had her puppy taken away. At the moment, the car is still missing, but Jojo, her puppy, has been found and returned to her. She had rolled down her window and was asking for directions. People who live in Baltimore know that you can't roll down your window when driving downtown, because even if you don't get carjacked, you still might get your pocketbook or cell phone ripped off by arms that quickly enter through your open window.

03. Recent judgements:

a. A man who killed his girlfriend's dog because she paid more attention to it than to him, received a 3 year sentence.

b. An 18 year old Ocean City lady was sentenced to probation and a $300. fine for "making a statement" by burning an American flag as she walked down the middle of a road.

c. A man was given 6 months in jail for loudly yawning in court.

d. Nothing will be done to a man carrying an AR-15 assault rifle during an anti-Obama rally in Phoenix, Arizona.

e. Nothing will be done to a man wearing a 9mm pistol strapped to his leg at a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

04. There is a full-page ad by a major bank for an "introductory rate money market savings" rate of 1.50% for high balances. This rate will last through the end of the year. (WOW! Sign me up!.... Give me a break.. I would rather put my spare money... if I had any.. under my matress.) They must expect big things from this ad because it costs a "bundle" for a full-page ad like that.

05. Suspected Taliban militants fired rockets at polling places in Afghanistan to keep voters away. Earlier, they had threatened to cut off the fingers of voters. What a nice group of people.

06. One of my heroes, David Copperfield, the famous magician, is being sued for sexual assault. Say it ain't so, David! And if you get mad at her, please don't saw her in half.

07. The "Cash for Clunkers" program will end next Monday. Look for a big sales weekend. I hope the dealers get their money soon... so far, 1.9 billion dollars has been requested by them from the program.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another Famous Person from New Bedford, Massachusetts

Let me tell you about a "small world" experience. When I was 7 years old, my Aunt Marjorie enrolled me in a tap dance studio in New Bedford, Massachusetts, my home town. The studio was run by a man named Al Sanger.

I don't know how many boys were in the tap dancing class, but there sure were a lot of girls. I took a strong liking to one of the girls and during a recital, instead of going off to the side for a tap solo, I followed this girl off the stage and screwed the whole bit up. Everybody teased me about this for years.

Now.. fast forward to when I was 23 years old and just married. My wife and I rented the second floor of one of those three story tenements so popular in New Bedford. On the day that we moved in, we spent a long time talking to the landlady who lived on the first floor.

I don't know how the subject of dancing came up, but I mentioned that I had studied tap when I was 7 years old at Al Sanger's. When my new bride heard that, she said that she had also studied there when she was 4 years old. Suddenly, the landlady said that she had been an instructor at the studio at that time.. and guess what.. she remembered the names of the boy who screwed up and the girl he followed off the stage. Yes.. that boy was me.. and the girl was my bride!

She also mentioned that her fellow dance instructor was Carol Haney, who later went on to Broadway and a Tony award in 1955. I knew Carol because she lived one block from me, on the corner of Palmer and Court Street. I had been her family's paperboy for a few years.

I remember when she came back to New Bedford to see her family. She brought along her husband, Larry Blyden, who spent the day reading scripts on the front porch of his father-in-law's house. I thought that he was a funny looking guy because he wore great big horn-rimmed glasses, which were not popular yet at that time. Larry did a few movies but I don't think he ever made the big time. He and Carol were married from 1955 to 1962 and had 2 children together.

Carol went to Hollywood in the 1940's and became a protege of Gene Kelly. She was in the dancing chorus of lots of films, but made it big in the Broadway production of the Pajama Game. She also starred in the film and was the sexy babe in the Steam Heat number.

She hurt her leg one night on Broadway and her understudy took her part. Unfortunately for Carol, a casting director picked that night to watch the show and immediately hired the understudy instead of her... Shirley MacLean, who went on the great success in movies. Carol and Shirley were kind of look-alikes.. both with "gamin" faces and bodies.

However, as I said, Carol was able to do the film version of the Broadway musical in 1957, and is still remembered fondly for the role. (Order it from NETFLIX and check it out!) Around this time, she found out that she had diabetes and her health began to deteriorate. She died of pneumonia in 1964, probably somehow related to the diabetes. She was only 39 years old.

Barney, Lyndon and other news

Thanks to CSPAN, I was able to hear the whole of Barney Frank's town hall meeting in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, my old "stomping ground."

I think that Barney's question to ignorant remarks by one of the heckling questioners was "right on." He said, in effect: "What planet have you been living on?" I was pleased to hear that this remark got a lot of applause from the audience.

As each "questioner" got up, they told where they were from, and I was glad to hear that most were not persons who lived in the south coast of Massachusetts. Most were from the Boston area, and several were supporters of Lyndon Larouche.

Yes, Lyndon is still around and agitating, even though he is in his upper 80's. You remember Lyndon... he ran for President a couple of times and he does have a following. Lyndon began as a Marxist a long time ago, and later became a supporter of American capitalism. I always thought that he was extremely intelligent, and some of his views appeared to me to be very rational and well thought out.

However, he does have, what I consider, strange views on some subjects. For instance: he recognizes global warming.. but says that it is caused by emanations from the Crab Nebula.

He also believes that the Beatles were created by the British Government as psychological warfare. His views that the Queen of England and the Prince of Wales are conspirators in the takeover of the world have gotten him in trouble with the British Government.

Lyndon is very good at getting young people to buy into his ideas. Some say that he has fascist views and thinks that some of Hitler's advisors had good ideas. I don't know about that, and I also don't understand why some of his followers at the Frank town meeting carried signs showing President Obama with a Hitler moustache. Anyway, Barney was marvelous at putting down the ignorant folks who were attempting to disrupt his meeting. However, they will probably claim victory, and those who did not attend the meeting will no doubt praise them and call them "heroes".. Oh what we put up with for our freedom of speech, but thank God we have it.

Some other news:

01. DC Metrorail train riders will have a jerky ride for some time.. until the management feels that automation works perfectly again. This may take years.

02. A news photographer was wounded in Afghanistan and is being treated at the Maryland Shock Trauma site. Shock Trauma personnel saved both of my daughters' lives and I'm glad they are helping this guy. It just astounds me that they could get him from Afghanistan to Baltimore quickly enough to do their wonderful job.

03. Elaine saw a lot of Want Ads in the Yard Sales section of the local newspaper today. Does that mean something?

04. A cat named "CHEWY" is being held at a local vet's office. Since she was found, nobody has claimed her, I wonder why.

05. A Baltimore white supremacist and convicted child molester seriously beat a 76 year old black man. He is 28 years old and has a picture of Hitler tatooed on his stomach. He told police that he "did not like people who were different from him."

06. Robert Novack, political commentator, died last week at age 78. I don't think that I ever agreed with any of his views and I have always wondered why he didn't get "zapped" for outing Valerie Plame in a 2003 column.

07. Les Paul, guitar legend died last week at age 94. Besides guitar virtuosity, he implemented multiple-track recordings and teamed up with Mary Ford.

08. The Social Security Administration office in Baltimore, at Metro West is going to be replaced by a larger and more easily secured facility near Reisterstown Road Plaza. The Metro West building was ideally placed for people who liked to shop at the famous Lexington Market. From time to time, I have given presentations at that building and it is like "old home week" when I see people I was acquainted with years ago before they relocated "downtown."

09. A guy laid down in the road in Glen Burnie, Maryland and guess what? He got run over. There is no indication that he was drunk.. I guess he was just tired.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sports Page

I usually don't read the sports page now that I am in my dotage, but Elaine pointed out two stories to me today that were interesting to me.

In one, a nine-year-old boy is quoted as saying: "Motocross is pretty much my life and I want to continue it as long as I can, I just need to keep training..." I commend any young person for wanting to become expert at something. I just hope that motocross really isn't the thing that takes up most of his life, because there is so much more out there in the world than "race, race" or "zoom zoom."

When we lived in the High Ridge development, almost every home contained children. One day, one of the parents bought their child a motor bike. The child loved it. He would get up two hours before school each morning and "zoom, zoom" around the neighborhood until the school bus came. Then, around 3 pm, when he came home from school, he started again, and went until dark. We wondered if we would ever be able to hear properly again. We wondered if the kid ever had time to eat. Well, come to think of it, he was kind of skinny.

Being friendly neighbors, we did not complain. We grinned and bore it. However, some of the other neighbors began to not enjoy the almost constant "zoom zoom" and began to complain. The parents told their son to just "zoom zoom" in their own yard, instead of going through the yards of their neighbors.

Now, other kids in the neighborhood began to bug their parents for motorbikes so they could also "zoom zoom" and many of the parents gave in. The noise became absolutely unbearable, especially on weekends. Protestations to the parents did no good. "These are my kids, and this is a free country and on my prperty they can do whatever they want to."

Unfortunately for these parents, there were some lawyers in the development who were not happy about the noise. They searched the covenants and found a "nuisance" clause and threatened to take the parents to court. (This was after many fruitless calls to police and other organizations about the noise.)

Faced with the possibility of costly litigation, the parents gave in and made the kids stop the bike riding in the neighborhood. (Sometimes I could still hear motorbikes in the distance and I wondered if the parents just took their kids across the street to the next development.)

(Hopefully, the 9-year-old kid that I started talking about lives on a multi-acre farm so his daily practice sessions do not bother his neighbors.)

The other article that Elaine showed me was about a 16-year-old girl who wants to sail alone around the world. Right now, her 17-year-old brother is the youngest person to ever sail around the world alone. I don't know how I missed the story of her brother.

(When I lived in New Bedford, just across the Acushnet River was where Joshua Slocum cast off for his "around the world alone" sail many long years ago. Google his name and read his book about the experience. His voyage was kind of primitive.. no Global Positioning, Radar, or Internet.)

Somehow I can't imagine how a young girl would manage alone on such a voyage (am I being sexist?), but her parents don't seem worried, and are trying to raise the $350,000 that they feel is necessary. What about pirates?

Back to the 9 year old again, when I was 9 years old, I had a lot of interests, as did all of my friends. School, reading comic books, collecting paper for the War Effort, shop-lifting, raising the devil, playing horseshoes, diving for dimes thrown by sailors, sneaking into the movies, riding in go-carts made of orange crates and skate rollers, playing dodge ball, being lowered into sewer drains to retrieve rubber balls, cutting clothes lines, hanging upside down, riding on wobbly bicycles, fixing wobbly bicycles, mowing grass for money, sweeping up a soda shop for money, delivering packages for money, sneaking into the pool at the YMCA, playing basketball, playing baseball, playing football, beating up bullies, getting beaten up by bigger bullies, swimming at the beach, climbing up tall pine trees, playing soldier at house building sites, rolling in the mud, bringing home tadpoles and putting them in the bathtub, feeding the monkeys at the zoo, hitching rides on the backs of trolley cars, traveling overnight with the circus, selling popcorn at the circus, selling popcorn at the ball games, running the ring toss booth at the carnival, delivering newspapers, selling "extras", playing marbles, "tearing down" the circus tent, standing guard over the iron lung at the circus, watching movies at the Salvation Army, playing at the Portuguese fests, playing at the Polish fests, collecting returnable bottles to make money, going to clambakes, going to summer camp, swinging at the playground, going camping, going fishing, etc, etc.

I just hope that the parents of the young boy let him do other things besides motocross... let him be a boy.. life is too full of adventures to have a kid restrict himself to just one interest (and a dangerous one at that).

Regarding the 16 year old.. more power to her. I just hope she has some safeguards in her vessel to ward off bad weather and pirates.

When I was 16, I also had a sailing adventure. I "borrowed" a rowboat and got chased by angry policemen along the shore as I paddled the boat by hand across Clark's Cove in New Bedford. I just made it out of the boat on the other side as the cops were coming around the corner. Luckily for me (and a great lesson) I escaped through back alleys.

I hope my grandchildren are not reading this. They probably think that their "Prepop" has led a quiet and lawful life. Well... yes.. but it was only when I was in my late teen years, after my medula oblongata had finally matured...


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Farewell, Rev

I was startled to read of the recent death of the Reverand Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, better known to us old-timers as Reverend Ike. During the 1970's, I never went to bed on a Sunday night without watching his television show.

Rev Ike was a refreshing breath of fresh air in a country filled with religious TV hypocrits. Ike admitted that he loved wealth. One of his favorite sayings was: "I got what it takes, to take what you got." He sold special coins that were like "money magnets", guaranteed to help you "get some dough."

His TV show was extremely entertaining, with a marvelous choir that rivaled the Motown groups. On these shows, he loved to bring people out of the audience who had monetary success because of his coins. At the time, The Jeffersons was a "hot" TV show, and some of the words of the theme song were: "And we're movin' on up.. to a deluxe apartment on the East Side..."

On one of his shows, he brought up a couple who said they had success with his "money magnet" coin.. in fact, they had gotten "a lot" of money and this was their conversation with Rev Ike:

Ike: So you got a lot of money?

Couple: Yes. A lot.

Ike: What happened because of the money?

Couple: We bought a condo on the East Side.

Ike: Was this better than what you had before?

Couple: Yes, we moved on up.

Ike: Do you mean... you were movin' on up?

Couple: Yes, Rev, we're movin' on up.

Ike: To the East Side?

Couple: Yes, Rev, we're movin' on up to the East Side. We've finally got a "piece of the pie."

Ike: You mean, you're movin' on up to the East Side and you've finally got a "piece of the pie?"

Chorus: We're movin' on up.. to a deluxe apartment on the East Side, we've finally got a piece of the pie!

This was a wonderful moment.. perfect theater and so much fun. This is what I loved about Rev Ike's show. (And I'm not going to tell you if I sent him any money for his coin.)

Reverend Ike was only 74 years old.. he should have had another 10 or so years to go. I wonder what happened to his fleet of Cadillacs, Bentleys and Rolls Royces. At one time he said: "My garages runneth over."

..... Many years ago, I came upon a full page cartoon in a German satirical magazine called Symplicismus. It showed a poorly clad beggar (looked a lot like representations of Jesus)... this person was peering through the open doors of a massive cathedral with gold covered images and marvelously attired priests... the beggar was asking one of the worshippers: "Excuse me, but what religion is practiced here?" I think that this cartoon illustrates how far religion has gotten away from the original concept of Christianity that "Saint" Paul tried to broadcast.

Reverend Ike recognized this hypocricy and played on it.. and had some fun with it. But mainly, he gave some hope to people who needed it. He will be sorely missed.


Lots of stuff

Wow! Lots of great news today. (Well, maybe not so great.)

01. Manson clan member, Squeaky Fromme, was released from prison. Now, let's see if she moves in with her buddy, Baltimore's own, John Waters.

02. Slovakia has outlawed the speaking of anything but Slovak in Government offices and businesses. Hungarian can be spoken at cultural events, but all jokes must be repeated in Slovak.

03. An Afghan bill just became law and allows a man to starve his wife if she refuses to have sex. In addition, a woman must get a husband's permission to work and fathers and grandfathers are given exclusive custody of children. (sounds like the Taliban is back in power)

04. Somebody asked Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi (72) if it wasn't dangerous for him to be messing around with his 17 year old girlfriend. Silvio supposedly said: "Well, if she dies, she dies." (I know, it's an old joke.)

05. A Spanish study found that women who drink moderate amounts of beer are strengthening their bones because of the plant homones in that drink. (What about men? My bones must be nice and strong.)

06. A Joliet, Illinois spectator gave a boisterous yawn in court and the insulted judge sentenced him to 6 months in jail! (Come on, Judge, a $50 fine maybe... but 6 months? Who elected this judge?)

07. Is a rooster an "alarm cluck?"

08. Chinese astronauts will no longer be allowed to have bad breath.

09. A bank fired an employee for tackling a robber and holding him for police!

10. The Wisconsin State Fair initiated a couple of new treats:

Chocolate covered bacon on a stick.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches dipped in pancake batter and deep fried.

Ummmm... Yummy!

11. The "birthers" who tried to bash Obama about his birth certificate, showed a picture of what they said was his certificate that showed his birthplace as "Republic of Kenya." As we would have guessed, the Republic of Kenya was not yet in existence when Obama was born. (Some of these "birthers" profess to be "born again" Christians, yet continue to "bear false witness.")

12. A Washington, DC lobbying firm admitted sending forged letters urging oposition to climate change legislation.

13. Elkridge, Maryland police found 28 cats and a guinea pig during a house investigation. They also found two dead cats in the refrigerator freezer.

Now... let's talk about Westminster, Maryland.

Jamison Hensley, writing in the Baltimore Sun, mentioned that football teams, like the Ravens, go to "out-of-the-way" locations, like Westminster, to practice. In fact, he said that the lure of these places is that nothing is happening there to distract them.

Maybe so, but I take this as an insult. There are lots of things going on in Westminster, Maryland. However, most of the activity is not the kind of stuff that would interest so-called sophisticated ball players or sportscasters. For instance:

01. Sixth graders at Northwest Middle School have created a website on the history of Robert Moton High School, a segregated black high school from not so long ago.

02. After a public rebellion a while ago, Senior citizen gamblers could once again play for small stakes money at Carroll County Senior Activity Centers. Jay Leno talked about this a couple of years ago. Obviously, managers of a New York town had their TV sets off when Leno aired this. Last week, they banned daily card games at their Senior Centers because of the money stakes. These poor city fathers will have to learn the hard way, just as they did in Westminster, that the power of the elderly is mighty.

03. Carroll County, Maryland has always been a very safe place to live, in fact, hardly anybody ever locked their car doors, until now. Last week, 15 cars were broken into and items removed. All but one of the car doors were unlocked. The perpetrators will probably be found to be 20-year old males, whose medula oblongatas have not yet matured, and who are heavily into drugs.. that they buy on the street corners of Baltimore City.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

News of the Day August 15, 2009

Yesterday, I read the Baltimore Sun from beginning to end and could not find a pleasant story. The main reason I get that paper now is to see if me or any of my friends are included in the obituaries. I do like the Carroll County Times for their local news and Elaine likes to spend lots of time checking out their classified ads.

For instance: Today, Elaine was intrigued by four ads:

For sale: Nick nacks and Tubberware. (Somehow that makes sense.)

For sale: Building supplies, antquies and toys.

Free: A puggle. 7 months old.

Free: 1986 model toilet, you haul.
I was intrigued by a few stories in the Sun:

01. Michael Phelps (you know, the swimming ace) was hit by a woman running a red light. His Cadillac Escalade (what else?) was damaged extensively, but Michael and his passengers were unharmed. What bothers me about this story, was that he was treated like a criminal by the policeman, and questioned as though it was a DUI case and he was the perpetrator.

02. Let me quote the Sun on this: "A 52-year old Howard County woman, whose mother was sentenced to six months in jail for abusing cats, must serve a day in jail for each of the 74 cats that died."

Nese Icgoren, a former equestrian champion in Turkey, said that she couldn't get her 81 year old mother to properly care for a small family of cats, then failed to do anything when that family swelled to over 100.

Huh? Can a daughter be penalized for not being able to force her mother to do something? Am I missing something? The judge, in passing sentence said: Those lives matter.. every one of them.

74 cats times 9 is 666 .. so should that have been the number of days served?

03. A prisoner from Jessup, Maryland choked the sheriff that was transporting him and disappeared. Somewhere in Howard County is a 20 year old with leg irons and handcuffs who outran groups of police officers, tracking dogs and helicopters, through a rural area. This sounds like a movie script.

04. An abused kitten is nearly ready to be adopted. Kids began by throwing rocks at the kitten and then poured a liquid on her and set her afire. The kitten was able to extinguish the flames, but the kids then set her on fire a second time. The doctor treating her says in spite of all she has been through, whenever anyone goes by her cage, she stands up and purrs.

I've seen a lot of evil acts in my life, mostly by children. I knew one child who made a point of punching every 4 or 5 year old within arms reach when he was around 11 years old. Of course, he had to have a course adjustment by that famous "bully beater".. namely me (but that is the subject of another blog.)

05. Headline: Defense tries to exclude DNA evidence in Harris murder. (No comment!)

06. Headline: 40 year sentence for shooter in killing of court witness. (Not enough time!)

07. The infamous "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest run by a Sacramento radio station in 2007 is still causing trouble for that station. One woman died and another now has a psychological fear of drinking water. (The ladies were given massive amounts of water to drink, and the one who did not pee in a three hour period won the contest.)

08. Jerry Seinfeld will be Jay Leno's first guest on his new show. One of my elderly friends was lamenting the fact that Conan O'Brien had taken Leno's place; she thinks that Conan's humor is juvenile. When I reminded her that Leno will be back, and at 10 pm instead of 11 pm, so she would be able to get to bed earlier, she seemed relieved. (She did say, as I have said many times, Johnny Carson was the best of the best on the Tonight Show.)

Elaine and I watched Leno when he did "Headlines" and when he interviewed the dumb college students. Other than those two segments, we would rather watch a Netflix movie or a DVR movie or go to bed (except that we are nightowls and like to stay up to 2 am.)


Friday, August 14, 2009

Rudeness, Lies and EMAIL

Recently, I've read more and more about how future Presidential elections will be determined by Independent voters. As one Independent who is disgusted with the current rude tactics of some very vocal and visible loudmouths, I will remember these tactics the next time I am in a voting booth. This is not what is meant by "free speech."

I have also been surprised and discouraged by some of the scurrilous emails forwarded to me in the past few weeks. Some of this garbage mimics that which was forwarded during the last election; however, it seems even more evil to me. I have tried to notify all of my correspondents, including relatives and friends, that I will no longer open "forwarded" messages, and I have asked them to think about what they are passing on to others.

Most of the emails are on the subject of Health-Care Reform. A columnist for the Carroll County (Maryland) Times talked about some of what he calls "health-care myths" in an article on August 13, 2009. John Culleton writes out of Eldersburg, Maryland.

I don't always agree with John's analysis on some issues, but I think that he hits health-care issues "right on the nose." I hope he does not mind my commenting on his article. I do suggest that you read the full article.. I think you can do that at

Myth No. 1: Democrats want to kill your grandmother.
Myth No. 2: The government will pay for abortions with tax money.
Myth No. 3: Obama will ban all private health insurance.
Myth No. 4: The government can't possibly run a health-care system.
Myth No. 5: Unlike private insurance, government insurance will ration care.

Just a little research will convince you that these 5 "myths" are indeed myths, concocted by those who want the current Administration to fail. Read John's article and I'm sure you will appreciate that his analysis is correct.

I am once again reminded of the Arab saying that I often paraphrase:

The dogs bark and the caravan continues on.

True universal health-care is coming. We can't continue to be one of the few so-called civilized nations in the world not to provide it to our citizens. No matter how the nagging nay-sayers bark and bite at the heels of the reformers, it will come about.. as it did with slave emancipation and female voting rights.

I truly believe that whoever is encouraging rudeness, lies and false statistics, is only hurting their own cause, because, to paraphrase some more, from a very wise man: you may fool some of the people, some of the time..just remember, you can't fool all of the people all of the time. The only problem is that some of the fooled people can be dangerous... witness John Wilkes Booth.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More Frustrating Fun

Today, after having my right eyeball poked and sprayed and subjected to lights as bright as the sun, I thought that I might treat myself to a doughnut for being such a good boy. I have had an Exxon gift card in my wallet for a while, a gift from one of my kids, so I decided to try it.

At the local Exxon station, I asked the clerk what I could spend the card on. The clerk, an old geezer (O.G.) like me, responded, and this is our dialogue:

O.G.:- "Gas... next!"

Me: "Could I also use it for things like doughnuts?"

O.G.: "Maybe, but get gas... next!"

(There is no way that I would buy his gas at 15 cents higher than any other station nearby.)

Me: "Can you tell me how much money is available on the card?"

O.G.: "No.. next!"

Me: "How can I find out how much money is on the card?"

O.G.: "Next!"

Me: "Thank you for your help, sir."

O.G.: "Next!"

(Now his responses might make a little more sense if there was anyone in line in back of me.)

EXXON.. I am a stockholder and would expect a little bit of help from an Exxon franchise station clerk. As far as the company is concerned, I'm still upset about the Alaskan oil spill, which incidentally is still in litigation, and I doubt that anything has been paid to anybody yet.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Prescription Call Fun

This morning I had a bit of frustrating fun with an automated telephone system. I was trying to find out if my doctor had ordered some needed medication from my mail order prescription provider:

Machine: Good Morning. This is the prescription filling section of ..........................................
Are you calling about a prescription order? Say "yes" or "no".

Joe: Yes.

Machine: Are you calling about a prescription order? Say "yes" or "no".

Joe: Yes.

Machine: Are you calling about a prescription order? Say "yes" or "no".

Joe: Yes

Machine: Did you say Yes?

Joe: Yes.

Machine: Buzz Buzz Buzz (phony computer sounds to make you think that a computer is working on your order.)

Machine: (after 3 minutes of buzzes) Please say your first name.

Joe: Joe.

Machine: Was that Joel?

Joe: No. It was Joe.

Machine: I do not understand. Please say your first name.

Joe: Joe.

Machine: You have said "Joe", if that is correct, please say "yes".

Joe: Yes.

Machine: Please say your last name.

Joe: Vaughan.

Machine: You have said Flom. If that is correct, please say "yes'.

Joe: No

Machine: Please spell your last name.

Joe: V A U G H A N

Machine: Was that B A U C A A M ?

Joe: No.

Machine: Please say your ID code. If you need time to find the code we will wait for you. (BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ... for 3 or 4 minutes.)

Machine: Please say your ID code.

Joe: 1 3 6 8 5 5 3 7 1

Machine: Was that A R R Y?

Joe: No (with much cursing under his breath, but apparently loud enough for the machine to hear.)

Machine: I do not recognize your entry, please say your ID code.

Joe: 1 3 6 8 5 5 3 7 1

Machine: I am very sorry but I do not understand your entry and I will have to transfer you to one of our customer representatives.

Joe: Thank God!

Machine: BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ.... for 3 or 4 minutes.

Recording: All of our representatives are busy helping customers. Please stay on the line because your call is very important to us.

Recording: All of our representatives are busy helping customers. Please stay on the line because your call is very important to us.

Recording: All of our representatives are busy helping customers. Please stay on the line because your call is very important to us.

Human: (at last) Good morning. Se habla Espanol. What is your name please?

(After a half hour with machines, all it took was one minute with a human to get the situation all cleared up.)

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Quick Stuff

I only have a little time to squeeze in some weird blog stuff. Let's see how much I can do in a half hour.

01. If "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," why is a dog man's best friend? Doesn't sound equal to me.

02. Did I hear this right? A small town installed a traffic camera and took in over one million dollars during just the first month. (If true, there must be some kind of riot going on in that town.)

03. I heard that a 93 year old man died and his son found that he had many many magazine subscriptions that extended all the way to the year 2024. (One of our friends could never say "no" to the young folks who came to her door selling subscriptions.. when she died, she probably had lots of these long subscriptions as well.)

04. I saw mentioned in an article in the Nation magazine: Joseph Schumpeter paraphrased Lincoln: "Even if you cannot fool all of the people all of the time, you can fool enough people long enough to do irreversible damage."

05. Mark Twain said: "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

(Burning question: During a nude wedding, where does the "best man" carry the ring? Also, at a nude wedding, is he really the "best man"? Sorry.)

06. A recent British study revealed that eating chocolate makes you smarter.

07. Moe Berg, famous baseball player was a linguist, speaking several languages, including Japanese. He led a very interesting life and when I have enough time, I'll write a blog entry about him.

08. American Profile magazine says that Joanne Brunet is famous for her collection of 4,000 packs of gum that she has saved over the last 68 years. The gum is stored in 112 cases. The oldest piece of gum was from 1932, Wrigley's Doublemint.

09. The Carroll Eagle magazine reports that the Hampstead, Maryland highway bypass has now been built. Local residents have waited 40 years for this day. Before the bypass, commuters had a driving nightmare. To satisfy environmentalists, the State Highway Agency had tunnels installed underneath the highway for bog turtles to use to cross, and are using goats to trim the grass, instead of taking a chance on mower blades striking the turtles. The bog turtles are an Endangered Species.


End of week news.

Looking at the Baltimore Sun for Friday, August 7th, 2009:

01. I learned that Justice Sotomayor has had diabetes since childhood. This is an insidious disease and she has had to overcome its terrible effects and still become a success. I also learned that she was a recipient of affirmative action who then graduated with highest honors. There is a lesson there.

02. There was a picture of Snoop Dogg at the Raven's Camp, with the legend: Westminster Dogg Show.

03. A related article was about nicknames used by gang members. It said that some of the toughest guys have silly-sounding monikers. They mentioned that one guy was known as "Brazy" instead of "Crazy" because as a "Blood" he can't use the letter "C" in his name.

04. I was interested in this statement: "Even in a region with nearly double-digit unemployment, the crab companies remain reliant on migrant labor from abroad because so few local residennts are willing to take the messy, repetitive (crab-picking) jobs."

05. A drug suspect tried to swallow a bag of drugs and choked to death. Now his buddies are saying he really died of a police beating.

06. A technically knowledgable teen-ager made more than 80 credit cards with a machine in his home. He was arrested after he used some woman's debit card to pay for a vehicle emissions test and a $650 tab at a nightclub.

07. Senator Mikulski says that her rehab for ankle surgery at Mercy Hospital was like "boot camp". Nice play on words.

08. Flu shots later this year will probably consist of three shots: one for regular flu and two for Swine flu. (My shingles shot is still hurting my arm.)

09. China is investigating the death of a teen-ager who was allegedly beaten to death in (get this) a camp designed to treat Internet addiction.

10. Ronnie Biggs was released from jail.. look up: The Great Train Robbery!

11. Twitter suffered a "distributed denial of service (DDOS)" which is a disruptive tactic where outsiders attempt to overload a web site with huge numbers of computer-generated requests. They will have to learn how to handle these like Facebook has.

12. There was a nice long letter by two ladies who have lived together for 30 years, 5 of those as a married couple... although the marriage is not recognised by Maryland. It should be read by everyone.

13. There was a notice of the passing of family friend, Evelyn. Also a notice of the passing of the father of Mike, who graduated from high school with Elaine.

14. The Iraqi parliament is trying to ban smoking in government buildings and public indoor area.

(Watch out... remember the man who opened fire in a restaurant when he was asked to put out his cigarette.. I wonder if this has occured in the U.S......yet.)


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Uncle Allen, Emily and Mat's house and other miscellaneous stuff

Some Saturday evening stuff:

01. I talked to Uncle Allen's son today and he said that Allen is being his old feisty self with the nurses. Unfortunately, this is not letting him leave the hospital.

02. Emily called to say that they were able to buy the house that they wanted.

03. I went out to and plugged in what I might like to have in a RAV4 automobile. Within minutes a saleman called me.

04. Elaine and I are having crabs and shrimp for supper. Very nice and tasty. Yes, we have now reverted to proper Baltimoreans.

05. I decided today, after reading some stuff from my correspondents, that most of my friends are either radical right wingers or radical left wingers.

06. By the way.. just for your information: friend, John, the guy who jumped out of a plane and landed on a cow... became infatuated with a lady who worked at Social Security, but in a different building. She was very nice looking, except for a small mustache. What John didn't know was that the lady had had a sex change.. although ....there is nothing wrong with that.

I haven't kept up with them, but I hope their life has been pleasant.

07. This reminds me of the woman who told me that my beard was ugly and I should shave it off. I told her that I would shave it off when she shaved her mustache off.

08. Yesterday, we were entertained by a group that has a lead singer with a low voice. For several years now I have tried to tell if this person is a trans-gender person. (And there is nothing wrong with that.) I don't know why I want to know.

Tom Sawyer in drag was found out when someone threw a ball at his lap and he closed his knees; whereas, normally, a woman would stretch her skirt between her knees.

09. I remember a movie about the Office of Secret Service (OSS) and one of the observations to find out if someone was a German spy was to watch them cutting and eating their meat. An American would cut their meat by having the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right. After cutting the meat, the American would shift the fork to the right hand and use it to bring food to the mouth.

The German, however, after cutting the meat, would keep the fork in the right hand and use it to bring food to the mouth. A number of spies were caught this way and executed.

Hey... wait a minute! That's the way I eat! Good thing I didn't meet up with the OSS at lunch during WWII.

10. Yesterday, at BJ's, I noticed a line of five guys in a row, all speaking on their cell phones. I guess they were checking in with their wives. I wanted to tell them: don't buy the milk, it's price is much higher than Giant and Shoppers. I wanted to tell them: don't buy the eggs, their price is skyhigh, even compared to Giant, which is high. However, their price for Brie is phenomenal. Very cheap.

I dread going to BJ's.. I can't get out of there for less than $130! Who said they were a cheap discount store?


Saturday Musings

Thoughts from an August Saturday in 2009.

01. Justice Sotomayor was sworn in this morning. A big win for Mr. Obama.

02. A New York newspaper headline read: Bill Can Still Get Women!

03. Former Westminster, Maryland mayor, Kevin Dayhoff, has a very interesting piece about President Warren G. Harding, in the Carroll Eagle for Sunday August 9, 2009. I enjoyed the article, but I would have liked to have also read something about the "money pit."

According to some accounts, members of Warren's White House team purchased a DC row house and dug a big hole in the yard. People wanting favors from Washington would stop by the house and drop money into the hole. Of course, that was back in the "old days".. money is now placed in less obvious places, such as refrigerator freezers.

Take a look at Kevin's pieces, you will like them, and I think you can access them at his website:, or I don't think he would mind me mentioning these sites.

04. I've been wondering how Government statistics handle those kids who have been working all Summer, and will now leave to go back to school.

05. DC lawyers are suing to allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons. This may work in Texas, but in DC? One of my uncles carried a concealed weapon in Massachusetts because he had been robbed a couple of times. He told me that he was very glad that he never had to use it. He did practice target shooting.

In my own thinking, carrying a weapon, concealed or not, can cause some macho guys to become more macho and arrogant. However, as I may have mentioned in a blog entry before, I had a run-in with a guy during an accident and was restrained from hitting him by a State Trooper. The Trooper saved my life, because the man I was aiming at carried a shotgun in the cab of his truck, just at arm reach level. Since then, I have been overly polite in driving situations, and have even taken the blame for problems to avoid confrontation.

06. Why are light bulbs in the Florida Edison museum still burning after 80 years, when mine burn out in a few weeks?

07. Good news for texters in Iowa: Now, if you text while driving and have an accident, you can text the accident information to 911 by texting, rather than by telephone.

08. Some people believe that alien reptiles are ruling our world.. a couple of rulers mentioned as being alien reptiles in disguise are Queen Elizabeth and George W. Bush.

09. Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me (WWDTM) suggests a "cash for chunkers" program. Set a goal for yourself to love weight and get paid if you reach it. I wonder if they could detect people who use liposuction.

10. WWDTM reports that the most hated word in English is "moist" .. apparently there are Facebook sites for people who don't like it. I wonder why? I like that "oi" sound... I especially think that the phrase ""Oy Weh!" is a perfect way to comment on bodily aches and pains.. and when one hears a particular lousy joke, "OY!" seems to me to be a very appropriate response.

11. Hurry and sign up for the caravan leaving for the Gobi Desert to track down the elusive acid-spitting Mongolian worm.

12. The word "caravan" reminds me of an Arab saying that is appropriate for the current situation of rude hecklers at Town Meetings.. "The dogs bark, but the caravan travels on." That could also pertain to the negative activity following the Sotomayor nomination.

13. WWDTM also reports that a thong tied to many helium balloons got tangled in electrical lines in England and caused a large power outage. (Larry the Cable Guy calls thongs worn by women: Hiney Floss.)

14. Vladimir Putin continues to be a daredevil and exert his manhood. Recently he dove one mile down in a submersible to the bottom of Lake Baikal. Hey, that is a long way down. I wonder what he did about the "bends"? Now.. think about that, and also think about the fact that Russian atomic subs have been spotted patroling the Atlantic near the US. What is going on? Where is Jules Verne when we need him??

15. Finally... The two Austrian towns that bear names that are naughty words in English have decided not to change their names, even though they hate all those crazy "Englishers" coming to town to have their pictures taken under town signs.


Friday, August 07, 2009

Interesting Headlines and a Lesson

The Carroll County Times (Westminster, Maryland) had the following headline today:

Rapper pays visit to Ravens Camp.. (players giddy as Snoop Dogg stops by to watch team practice). This was on page one.

On page A5, Sotomayor confirmed.

On page B5, Senate fills up 'clunkers'

Yes, we know what our priorities are, here in downtown Westminster, Maryland.
Other headlines of note:

Page A3, City offers rebates for old toilets

Page A6, Name (Hampstead) bypass after (ex-governor) Ehrlich

Page A7, Regulators to OK new (underground) coal mine

Page C3, Woodstock's 40th rocks art center

Page C4, See L.A. on horseback

Page C7, Fox, Abdul talks over, guest judges set

Page D3, Surfing through the scriptures

A lesson (or a joke?)

When his elderly friend became ill, a nice guy began to make a soup that his old friend liked. He made it every morning, and took it to his friend, who downed it with great pleasure.

This went on for a couple of years. Every day, the soup was made and taken to his friend, who loved the taste. But, one day, the old man died.

The soup maker made a batch of soup and took it to the funeral parlor, where his friend was in a beautiful coffin, surrounded by lots and lots of fresh flowers. He put the soup down near the coffin.

One of the relatives came up, laughing at him, and said. "Why did you bring that soup? He is dead and cannot taste it." The soup-maker said.."Yes, and he also can't smell your beautiful flowers."

Dear Evelyn

Another one of my friends passed away this week. Evelyn was a wonderful person, full of good will and also a bit of mischief. Even though we were not Jewish, she and her sister-in-law, Joan, invited my family to bar- and bat- mitzvahs, bris ceremonies and other family get-togethers.

Many years ago, my late wife felt that she had to lose weight, and decided that it should be done in a reasonable way. There was an organization that recognised that fad diets do not result in permanent weight loss, and that counting calories, exercising, and eating sensibly was the only way to go. The organization was called TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). The closest TOPS group was in Pikesville, Maryland. She joined it and met some nice people, all trying to lose weight.

Most of the members were huge... but some, like Joan and Evelyn needed to just lose a few pounds. All of the ladies got along very well together. For years they met once every week at a school and after the meeting would go to a local restaurant for sustenance. These ladies wanted to lose weight and had starved themselves for almost a week before their meeting and were famished by the time the meeting was over. The waitresses at the restaurant would see these big ladies rushing in and they would quickly stand aside so they didn't get trampled.

The TOPS members would order tons of fattening food and have a wonderful time laughing and singing and telling stories for hours. Friends were made there that lasted for years. My late wife's friendship with Joan and Evelyn lasted for over thirty years.

Evelyn and her husband, Willie, were blessed with amazing children, and later, with beautiful grandchildren. Evelyn taught her children to be respectful of their elders and to be polite. She believed in the "bop" treatment. If one of her kids was acting up and needed some discipline she would "bop" them on the head. It worked. They all turned out as model citizens.

My kids always called Evelyn "Miss Evelyn" and thought of her as a beloved aunt. When Evelyn and Joan had a swimming pool between their houses, they would often invite my kids to come for a swim. The kids had a great time and still talk about the fun they had.

Evelyn once told me about something that affected her deeply. She said that my late wife mentioned at a meeting that she had fasted all week so that she would show a weight loss. That weight loss was very important to her because of her diabetes. When she got on the scale, it showed that she had not lost weight, but had gained two pounds. Evelyn said that my wife broke down and cried like a baby, and Evelyn had to comfort her.

Speaking of babies, the TOPS ladies sometimes had costume parties. I have pictures of my wife in diapers, acting like a baby, with Evelyn holding a pipe and acting as her proud daddy.

At one time, Evelyn worked at a storage facility. Sometimes, when a renter of space skipped town or went broke, the items in storage were taken over for payment. Once, a bank had plastic bags made for a promotion. When the promotion went "bust" there were thousands and thousands of bags left in storage. Evelyn made sure that these bags were not wasted. After twenty or more years, I still have plenty of these very well made bags.

Evelyn had lots of great stories to tell about her childhood in Baltimore. She was a very entertaining speaker.

My late wife died long before Evelyn had her eightieth birthday, but my new Elaine and I were able to attend and celebrate Evelyn's long life. Evelyn was a good friend and she will be sorely missed.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


When I was in Toastmasters, we were told that there were three subjects we should avoid. Sex, religion and politics. Of course, these are the most interesting topics for adults in the United States, and the most discussed. Today I want to talk about religion.

My first religious experience was attending a quaker church in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. If my memory serves me, the women and men were separated within a square around the central part of the church room. The children were segregated and watched over by an old man with a long stick. If the children started to fidget during the two hour "service", the old guy would tap the miscreants on the head with the stick to quiet them down.

Quaker meeting was very quiet. Everyone mediated upon their life and when the spirit moved them they would speak up. For instance, after 35 minutes of utter silence, Elder Smith might stand and up and say: "On Saturday, John Jones sold me a mule. The mule died the next day, and the Lord moved John and he refunded my money. Amen." And the congregation would respond: AMEN. Those meetings were tough times for young children.

My next religious experience occured when we street kids visited the downtown Salvation Army meeting hall. Once a week, we would listen to a sermon about morality, and then we could see movies, usually cartoons. We would watch them frontwards and then backwards.. we liked backwards the best. Between movies, we were expected to deposit ten cents into a collection plate that was passed around. Very few of us had ten cents, so, instead of depositing a dime, we would withdraw a dime.

A little time later, my cousin Charlie began to attend the First Baptist Church. His parents invited me to go along. When I entered the church, I noticed that they had a library! They had all of the copies of the Hardy Boys mysteries. I had been reading comic books up to this point, and now I just dropped them and began to read real books. I devoured them. Every day, I would read a Hardy Boy book to conclusion. I loved those stories.

Along the way, in addition to reading all the books in the library, I began to attend Sunday School. We were often given homework assignments. One was: memorize the books of the bible. At the time, I had unbelievable stage fright. I could not read two paragraphs in my schoolbooks without almost fainting. So, even though I had actually memorized the books of the Bible, and even though I could recite them backwards, I did not speak up, I was too scared.

Also, in the neighborhood I lived in at the time, it was not wise to be too smart.. so I played dumb a lot. After a while though, and because I bonded to a Sunday School teacher, I submitted to religious study and was baptised. This is a big thing in the Baptist religion, and those who have experienced it would probably never be afraid of waterboarding..

However, after Baptism I got a bit discouraged because the preacher unashamedly sat in his rocking chair each Sunday leering at my Aunt Mary. He really liked her, even though he was married, and at one point got her a spot with him on Sunday religious radio. He was supposed to answer questions phoned in by listeners. Actually, all of the questions were provided to my aunt Mary by him, to be phoned in to the show. She was supposed to disguise her voice each time. Somehow, this did not seem to me to be ethical.

In addition, the assistant Pastor at the time kept his window open in the early morning, as I delivered milk to his house. Some of the things he was saying to his wife were not what I expected a Pastor to say. However, to make up for it, every week he came forward when the word went out for sinners to repent.

Around this time, the men's club paid my way to a few weeks at a Baptist place in Maine called Royal Ambassador Camp. This was a nice place filled with the smell of pine trees. At this camp, the life of Paul was studied very closely and I still remember lots of the teachings. However, every night a couple of us would steal out after night fell and go to Old Orchard Beach and view whatever the equivalent of naughty videos were in those days. We never got caught.

The next preacher at the Baptist Church was more ethical than the former one, but he had some businesses in New Hampshire and spent most of his time up there instead of at the church. I lost track of him for four years while I was in the service in Germany. When I came back, I looked him up. He didn't remember me, but pretended to. He handed me an autographed bible and told me to get down on my knees and pray. I did so, but kept my eyes slightly open. As he quickly spoke a loud prayer, I saw him repeatedly glance at his watch and shake his head. As soon as he could, he grabbed my arm and hustled me out so that he could make his schedule for a trip to his holdings up north.

When I got married, since I wasn't Catholic like my wife, I agreed to bring my kids up in that religion, and I did so. When my son was born, my wife asked me to go to the Catholic Church and arrange for his baptism. I went to the Church that my wife went to and knocked on the door of a residence. A nun came to the door and told me that I needed to go to the rectory, which was three miles up the road.

I arrived at the rectory and knocked on the door. It was immediately opened and a German Shepherd suddenly grabbed my wrist in his mouth. I dared not move. Just then, a lady came out laughing and said: "You ain't Catholic are you?" She was right.

The young Priest that owned the dog came out and rescued me from his dog. We had a nice talk and he agreed to baptise my son.

I later found out that the Shephard was given to the priest by some friends of ours. (It's a small world. ) The priest went on a lot of Freedom Marches, and took the dog along for protection.

We were able to hire a wonderful young babysitter for my son. A beautiful girl who was part of a family with eleven children. She sat for us many times. One nite she didn't show up. We couldn't believe it because she was so conscientious. Later, we found out that the reason she didn't show up was because she had eloped with the young priest and his German Shephard. They spent a lot of time after that on protest trips down south.

So, this is probably the extent of my religious experience.. except for the fact that I am an ordained minister in the Church of the Modern Apostles. But that is another story.


Well, I did it. I got a Shingles Shot today at the Health Department. It was a little expensive, and insurance will not cover it, but it is well worth the expense to avoid that very painful disease called Shingles.

I decided to get the shot when I learned that a good friend of mine had been suffering the pain of Shingles for a couple of months. She has become reclusive, not able to go out because of the pain. She can't get to sleep without taking a strong pain medication. And, this pain could last for the rest of her life.

Everyone who ever had Chicken Pox in their life is susceptible to the Shingles. Apparently the virus stays in your body and waits until your immune system is compromised because of illness or old age, and then, breaks you out in excruciating pain. Of course, some people never will get the Shingles, but why take a chance that you are one of them.

Hospital personnel ask you to describe your pain to them by means of a 10-level score. When I had wounds on my legs that would not heal, the pain level was almost a constant 10, except when I used pain-deadening ointment and prescription pain-killers. So, I do not want to go through that again because of Shingles.

As a child, I lived with my grandfather and watched as he writhed in pain because of Shingles. It was on his stomach and he believed that when the rash met around his body, he would die. However, some times the pain was so bad that he wished he would die. About 5 inches before the rash met around him, the pain stopped. He was very happy to get his life back.

So, my message to you is, when you go for a flu shot (and I hope you d0 that) ask them about getting a Shingles shot. Don't ever think that such a disgusting disease with such a disgusting name could never grab you.. because it can.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The 100th Blog.. actually.

This is actually my 100th blog entry. Four of them were duds, so even though it says 104, it really is 100. And there is something magical about the 100th blog. Google suddenly thinks that now the blog is serious. So I guess I have to be serious today.

Earlier tonight, I heard Elaine remarking about the letters to the editor for a couple of the latest Carroll County Times (Westminster, Maryland). She couldn't believe that the newspaper would print some of these letters. I read the letters and agreed with her. It must have been a slow day for letters.

However, we did think that not everything on the "Opinion" pages was like the letters. So, if you don't mind, I will comment on everything that is printed there, and you can decide if you like any of the material.

For August 4th, 2009:

01. The editor remarked that according to a recent poll, two-thirds of Americans don't know what the three branches of Government are. This is a startling statistic. Don't all American children learn about the three branches in school? New citizens all know that. Most foreigners know that.

I would have thought that only the college kids on the Leno Show didn't know that.

The editor does see a change in the statistic, at least in Carroll County, because of a recent increase in Town Meetings.

02. Some people don't believe that Global Warming is happening, so Tom Harbold, a columnist, asks some excellent penetrating questions about it.

a. Why has the Northwest Passage opened for the first time since the Vikings?
b. Why has the polar ice cap shrunk by 2 million square miles?
c. Why are Alpine nations having to spread reflective sheeting on their ski slopes to limit snow melt.
d. Why have glaciers in Glacier National Park dropped from 150 in 1850 to 26 now?

Something seems to be happening, guys.

03. A letter writer is mad that President Obama apologized for some dumb things the U.S. has done in the past. He accuses the President of bringing Socialism to the U.S. (It sounds to me as though he has no idea even what Socialism is.) He hopes that the President is voted out of office. (Wouldn't it be better to hope that the President succeeds in office? Why all this negativity? I'm sure it is not a racial thing.. at least I hope not.)

04. A letter writer is mad because the President was never a governor or an executive.. and never served in the House of Representatives or served in the military. (Perhaps the writer should read his history about other Presidents.) However, he does say that we should all pray for the President. I'm not sure, but I think he also doesn't like homosexuals.. but he has read something called the "Gay Manifesto".. I've never heard of it. Sounds like a phony document.

05. Another letter writer feels that America, like Nineveh, has severely violated God's law. Abortion, sexual immorality, same-sex marriage, sinful behavior being taught in school, violence in the streets... all of these things would normally cause God to destroy us.. but maybe, if we play our cards right, we will be redeemed by faith.

For August 5th, 2009:

01. Tom Zirpoli, columnist, feels that Americans should be watching the upcoming Afghan election because the outcome will have a significant impact on American foreign policy in the region. This is a well thought-out piece of analysis in my opinion. (The last election had a turnout similar to that of the U. S.; however, U.S. voters did not have to worry about bombs along the way to the polls like the Afghan people did. Think about that!)

02. The editor of the paper wrote that "Cash for Clunkers" money should be increased, and lambasts the Republicans who are fighting it. He takes a great chance of subscription cancelations in this Republican County. We'll see.

03. A letter writer laments the fact that Insurance Companies are using scare tactics to fight against Health Care Reform. He makes the main good points: "We are the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't have universal health care," and "there are...47 million Americans who have no insurance at all because they can't afford it."

04. Another letter writer was grossed out by the anti-abortion protesters who were showing giant colored posters of aborted fetuses on the sides of Route 27. She did not feel good that her child had seen the pictures.

05. There was agreat cartoon of an elderly couple at a dating service. The wife is saying to the receptionist: "I'd like to trade him in under the "cash for clunkers" program.

There... we've got it all out of our systems.

Happy 100th.. and the CC

News and a Plea

Today is another of those August news days.. some good stuff, some bad stuff, some ridiculous stuff.. but all of it interesting, at least to me. Let's see:

01. Bill Clinton brokered some kind of deal to get the two lady journalists released in North Korea. I never thought that I would ever see "five foot nothing" Kim Jong-Il in the same picture with "six foot five" Bill Clinton. Regardless of his short stature, Kim has made himself a very tall pain in the butt to the whole world. Whether or not he set the Clinton visit in motion, I am very glad that the ladies have been released and are at home with their families again.

02. That snake, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has just been sworn in as Iran's President for a second 4-year term. He will now have to form an acceptable government. The opposition candidates, Mir Hossein Mousave and Mehdi Karroubi, continue to contest the results. Unfortunately, this reminds me of the Arab saying: The dogs bark, but the caravan continues on.

03. Brazilians are being urged to conserve water by urinating in their showers.

04. A U-tube video of a seven year old driving a car at speeds from 25 to 40 mph is causing a stir in Canadian police circles. The main problem seems to be that the child is not wearing his seat belt! A short time ago another seven year old drove off in his father's car to avoid having to go to church.

05. Al Franken is about to give his "maiden" Senate speech. I hope he does "schtick".

06. A waddling Eastern European man was found to be trying to smuggle 22 pairs of pants by customs. He was wearing them.

07. The Postal Service is losing money again.. even after raising the price of stamps. So, it is about to close a lot of Post Offices, including possibly five in the Baltimore, Maryland area. Online bill paying is a problem now. Also, advertisers have cut down on junk mail because of the expense. (That is sad for me, because I love junk mail, and look forward to it each day. Recently, very little enters my home mail box, and the junk mail entering my Post Office Box has dwindled to a trickle.)

Can anyone remember when we had twice a day delivery? I do.

08. Listen to this one: A drunken 36-year old New York mother, smoking marijuana, caused a wrong-way crash that killed her, her 2-year old daughter and six others. Her blood-alcohol level was .17 at the time of the crash.

09. The "cash for clunkers" program will probably get another boost this week. My 2002 Toyota Camry is about to fall apart, but I could not qualify because it doesn't technically fit the description of a "clunker".. that is, if I want to spend two grand, I could proabably get it fixed like new.

In a few weeks, we leave for three weeks at the ocean and Elaine, being a woman, needs to take half of the household items, plus food and clothes for six months. To say that it does not fit easily into my Camry, is a great understatement. And yet, somehow, we manage to squeeze it all in.

The problem comes when it's time to come home. Somehow, we always manage to accumulate new items. Once again, it all gets squeezed in.. but it sure is not fun driving a car as though you are in an army tank with a very small opening for the eyes... also, it is not as safe as it should be. So, this is the problem.. to get a car that is not an SUV, yet is big enough to carry all this stuff with room left over, and still maintain the low gas usage that my Toyota enjoys.

10. The Senate is about to vote on Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. Some of the "big hitter" lobbyists are pushing for a "no" vote and most of the Republicans say they will not vote for her because "empathy is not wanted in a Supreme Court Justice"... huh? I realize that the main function of a Supreme Court Justice is to interpret the case in terms of the Constitution, and I am convinced that she would do what she has to do. Her record shows that.

As an Independent voter, I get to pick on Senators on both sides of the aisle. Today I am picking on a Republican. I was amazed to read that Arizona Senator John McCain said that he would not vote for her. Doesn't his state have lots of people whose mothers were "Latinas"? Doesn't he want to get reelected?

I expect that Judge Sotomayor will be easily confirmed and then it should be a lot of fun watching the Court in action during their next term.

And now, my plea to any of my EMAIL senders who might be reading this. I've said this many times before: Because much of the email messages that are forwarded to me recently have not been subjected to the "truth test".. I am no longer going to open any email message that has "fwd" in the subject line.

I love you all, but it causes me to have a knot in my stomach to read the garbage that is being forwarded all over the Internet by people who think that a lie, if told over and over and spread about, will become the truth. Look at what happened during the Nazi regime. Herr Hitler and Herr Goebbles believed that if you tell a big enough lie, most people will believe it. Amazingly, in spite of the usual intelligence of the German people, that worked for a few years.. and look at what happened to the Nazi regime.

I like to think that such a situation would not happen in the U.S., but these messages worry me.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A good friend of mine died on July 30, 2009, and I went to his funeral service today. I went because I wanted to eulogize an amazing person. John B. (Jack) Gray. He worked at the Social Security Administration for over 40 years and I worked for and with him for 25 of those years.

I began working for Jack in 1962 and today I met his grandson, Steven, who is starting out at Social Security in the same job I had 47 years ago, trainee computer programer in Title-II Systems! Ain't life great?

Jack Gray was born in Philadelphia and enlisted in the navy as soon as he was eligible in World War II. He was stationed on a battleship in the Pacific at the same time that the Japanese Kamikaze pilots were bombarding our ships. The Kamikaze planes did not have landing gears so they had no way to get out of crashing into their targets.

These planes terrorized Jack's destroyer and Jack was wounded with shrapnel from one of their raids. Jack did not feel that his wound was serious enough and declined to receive a purple heart medal.

After the war, Jack joined one of the Phillies farm teams and made a name for himself (as a catcher, I learned today.) Even though he didn't go through to the big leagues, he retained his love for baseball for the rest of his life. I think that he might even have gotten to like the Baltimore Orioles.

Jack went to work for the Philadelphia Payment Center. This was the office that paid out Social Security benefits for the East Coast. The information to pay those checks was entered into IBM punch cards, and thousands of those cards were manipulated each month to pay the checks.

On those cards was recorded all kinds of personal data about the recipients. This data was passed from "EAM" machine to "EAM" machine, and sorted and compiled and printed every which way. Jack became an expert and a supervisor of these machines.

In the late 1950's the Social Security Administration (SSA) was taxed with the start of paying Disability benefits, increasing the retirement rolls, and many law changes. This meant that the punch card system was about to become obsolete. SSA needed to automate.

A group of experts from around the country was assembled in Baltimore. Jack Gray was one of those experts. These guys worked very hard to get the automation job done. I was hired to help them. This involved lots of travel and long overtime hours.

One day, Jack asked me to get something from his desk drawer. Upon pulling it open, I saw what looked like dozens of green Government checks. I asked him about it and he said that because of going on all those trips, he didn't have time to cash the checks. By the way, trips were categorized by the number of beers that could be consumed on a train ride to the city. For instance, a trip to Philadelphia was only a "one beer" trip. A trip to New York was a "two beer" trip. A trip to Kansas city required "six beers". (Since Jack did not drink beer, I had to drink mine and his both.)

Jack taught me a lot about being an analyst as well as a programer. My first job for him was "taping the FRC cards." FRC meant Federal Records Center. Instructions for SSA personnel was to make up an FRC punchcard whenever the last person who could be paid on an account died. The folder for that account was forwarded to the Federal Records Center in Boyers, Pennsylvania. (This is a massive cave where Government records are stored. The punchcard was kept just in case the folder needed to be recalled.)

Jack sent me to Philadelphia and told me to find the FRC cards and arrange putting the information from them on tape. No problem. I took the "one beer" train to Philadelphia (actually, I had two beers). I asked to see the FRC punchcard file. Nobody had heard of it. Finally, an old guy with a beard said that he thought he knew where it was. He took me into the depths of the building where we found an old storeroom with a hole in the door. Whenever an FRC card was made, it was sent down to that room and stuffed into the hole.

After jimmying the door open, we found a pyramid of ripped, squashed, and mashed punchcards. Utilizing a massive programming effort by Dexter Rasmussen and Dick Eckert, the cards were finally manipulated into readable format and delivered to a taping operation utilizing an RCA 301 computer. Jack was very happy.

Before I wrap up, I want to acknowledge some other people who helped automate all of the punchcard operations formerly done in the six payment centers. John Wachter: Branch Chief; Sid Nibali: the other Branch Chief; Bob Schnick: Section Chief and still today an active member of the SSA Alumni; Paul Deba: EAM equipment supervisor in Baltimore; Hugh Forbes: Genius programmer and creator of the UB code (in honor of Baltimore's Eubie Blake); Bert Mellinger: who became a movie star after he retired and starred as background in the important Porky's movies; and some others whose names I can't recall right now.

But mainly, it was Jack Gray who got all of us working towards the goal of automating the previous punchcard systems. Without that automation, the whole Social Security system would have collapsed.

Lastly, I want to tell the joke that Jack loved: Jack: Did you know that the Bible is all about baseball? Me: No, I can't believe that. Jack: Well, it's true. Look at the first line of the Bible, in Genesis. It says: "In the big inning...".

This was just part of his life at SSA. Jack had other lives: raising a family, helping the disabled, coaching high school teams, being President of civic clubs, etc. Jack was another of those rare beings: someone that nobody could ever say anything bad about, and someone who never said anything bad about anyone else. We need more Jack Gray's in the world.

Farewell, old boss and friend.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Life is tough.

I'm worried about my uncle Allen. He is currently in the St. Luke's Hospital emergency room in New Bedford, Massachusetts with chest pains.

Also, a couple of days ago, my family was once again subjected to the tornado's wrath. This makes four times in about 15 years. How do those odds stack up?

Tornado #1: It hit Westminster and went up my son-in-law Bob Clark's driveway, twisting metal into circular knots.

Tornado #2: As we drove up Interstate 795 from Baltimore, we were passed by numerous emergency vehicles. We tuned into the news and found out that a tornado was right now tearing up Reisterstown. We were worried, because son, Christopher, and his two young daughters were supposed to move into a townhouse today. They had rented a very expensive truck and were obligated to return it early in the evening.

As we dreaded, the tornado did, indeed, affect Chris' move-in plans. It hit the townhouses and apartments in the area. Damage to Chris' townhouse was restricted to broken glass.. but the glass was from every window and door in the house. Glass shards were all over the floors.

When we arrived on the scene, I went to the management office and said that two little girls could not move into a house that had floors filled with sharp pieces of glass. The manager told me to "get lost". I did not "get lost", but stayed there in the office, making a pest of myself.

Finally, at the shift change, a different manager came on duty and immediately arranged for a married couple to come up and clean up the glass and install new glass. They did so in a short period of time and Chris and his little girls were able to move in late that night.

Tornado #3: A tornado hit Gamber and destroyed lots of homes. At one of the homes, the wind moved children from the second floor out into the yard. The children, miraculously, were not hurt.

Our Gamber house was at the tail end of the tornado and an apple tree at the end of our property was knocked completely over. In addition, everyone whose house was destroyed had their personal possessions lifted into the air and deposited in our back yard. My son gathered up as much as possible and took it to the Gamber fire hall for pick up by the owners.

Tornado #4: Another tornado tore through Gamber the other day and destroyed a few houses. Our house, which had now been bought by my daughter, did not escape this wind. A massive limb was broken off one of the maple trees and is spread across all of the front lawn. Luckily, the limb missed the house.

So.. there it is.. four tornados for our family.. what are the odds of that happening? How come I can't hit the lottery?


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Tough Friday Crossword

Friday's (July 31, 2009) crossword puzzle in the Baltimore Sun (actually a syndicated L.A. Times puzzle) was a tough one. I had a lot of fun solving it. And I learned a lot of things in looking up (yes, I had to google some answers) things I had no idea about before.

Along the way, I came across a recipe for frittata (one of the answers). Frittata is an Italian omelet. So, for breakfast I used the recipe and Elaine and I "feasted", if I do say so myself.
The only thing missing was garlic. Elaine doesn't like it, but I love it.

The puzzle had a strange type of theme. X's replaced SK's in some of the answers and made for nice wordplay. This reminded me of my Concordance of X, my weird "work" that I tried to palm off on a con man. But, he was smarter than I was, and my opus remains unpublished. (I talked about this in an earlier blog.)

I also was reminded of a speech by Mercutio about "Queen Mab." (Shakespearean scholars take note.).

I found out that "Laugh-in" was campy instead of corny.

A place to unwind is a tub? I guess so.

There is a river in the Carolinas named PeeDee.

A hockey team lineup makes a hexad.

A Borneo swinger is an orang.

A Beatle wig was popular in the '60's. I don't remember that.

King Xerxes was a tough son of a gun.

Fellow Mensan Jean Auel wrote The Clan of the Cave Bear. I didn't remember that the heroine's name was Ayla.

I forgot that "a sitcom set in a garage" had to be Taxi. (One of my favorite TV shows, probably because I drove a cab for a couple of years in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The least paying of any of the many jobs I have had in my lifetime, but one of the most interesting.)

I was reminded of a folk singer named Nanci Griffith.

After I solved the puzzle, I went out to one of the sites that write about each day's puzzles and their solutions. Very interesting. If you ask me to, I will supply the website addresses. There is a whole Crossword Puzzle sub-culture out there. I love it and my brain does to.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Listening to my favorite radio show: Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, (WWDTM) I learned that it is a very important day.. the 30th anniversary of McDonald's Happy Meal. If you ever have to eat at Mickie D's, I would suggest you try it. It is cheap! And, if you really have to eat French Fries and a Cheeseburger, you may as well eat a small sized portion.. also... you get a toy! Recently, Elaine and I each had one of those meals and got some long tusked creature as a toy. We will be asking Elaine's daughter if these creatures would be a safe toy for her daughter, Lily.

Besides, you just might find other things included with the meals. For instance, according to the radio show, the following items have been part of the packages:

CDs with music containing what sounded like a naughty word. Angry parents demanded a stop to the distribution. They did not want their 4-year olds hearing such stuff (except, perhaps, at home.)

Figurines wearing upside-down flower pots. Apparently, this was part of the uniform of the Divo band, which sued McD.

A bag of marijuana, with a pipe. (As someone on the show said: That was a really happy meal!)

Also on the show today (August 1st, 2009) Chuck Barris was a contestant. Chuck was the creator of TV shows such as The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and the Gong Show.

For those of you too young to remember the Gong Show... just think of the worst contestants on American Idol.. but, instead of being buzzed and X's, these people were Gonged. I loved that show. I kind of liked the early in the season Idol shows as well, for the same reason. Some of these people's acts are so bad, they are wonderful.

Peter, the leader of Wait Wait had a slip of the tongue and mentioned the Dong Show. (That reminded me of something, and with a nod to a comment made by my son in one of his blogs, I apologize for the next paragraph.)

A kind of flakey female co-worker called her boy friend King Dong. Those of us who had seen him in a locker room knew that she was quite wrong in her estimation.

Sorry for that.

Chuck Barris mentioned that one of the contestants on the Gong Show sang a garbled version of Hava Nagila and dropped dead on stage. As Chuck tried to console her husband, he said not to be sad about it because that is exactly the way she would have wanted to go.

In other WWDTM information:

Going topless in France is no longer considered fashionable.

A Florida company is selling marriage insurance.

Blue M+M dye can help patients with spinal problems. The only drawback is that the dye causes you to turn blue. (Star Trek fans would probably not mind that.)

I love WWDTM and enjoy how well it makes me feel to have so many belly laughs. (Groucho sez: yeah, and you've got the belly to prove it!)