Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fat News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Idiot Savant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This subject is intensely interesting to me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Piano Playing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009 Family Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on this subject, you can visit

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chinese Immigrants in New Bedford, Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 21, 2009

A Man's Castle.. and other Items

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

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

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

And here are some quick takes to make you think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thoughts for a Snowy Saturday in December

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Shopping #2 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Shopping 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Loss of a Friend

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

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

I gave him his names.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


News and Insights for a Sunday in December 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Portuguese Style Kale Soup Recipes

Recipe #1:

True Portuguese Kale Soup

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

Recipe #2:

Joe Vaughan's Famous Kale Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sweet Tweet?

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

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

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

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

Lobsters and crabs are growing larger because of it.

Whale voices are lowering because of it.

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

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

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


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Xmas Party Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 07, 2009

Oh say can you beep!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alarm clock: beeps continually to wake you up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now isn't that scary!


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Ten Things to think about.. plus a Bonus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

07. The Russians have invented a vodka pill.

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

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

10. Pigless pork has been created in a lab.


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


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Real Old News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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