Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas! I'm afraid of saying "Happy Holidays!" since I read some recent irate letters to the editor of the Carroll County (Maryland) Times and also some comments on Facebook. I thought that there were at least three holidays in December this year: Hanukah, Kwanza, and Christmas.... Perhaps one can avoid ill will with all believers and non-believers at this time of year by saying: "Happy New Year!"

01. Tantrum. Yesterday, Elaine and I spent 5 (!) hours shopping for Christmas gifts. At one store, a 4 year old girl was laying on the floor, kicking her feet while her mother tried, in a nice tone of voice, to get her to relinquish the expensive and breakable Christmas ornament that she was clutching with a "death grip."

Elaine, seeing that the mother did not know how to handle the situation, addressed the child and said that she should remember that Santa Claus is always watching and remembering bad behavior. This caused the child to at least stop screaming and look intently at Elaine.

Since I was pushing Elaine in her wheelchair and Elaine knew I was behind her, she thought that the child would see me as Santa and repent. However, Elaine forgot that during the afternoon, I had had my beard trimmed. I lost most of my fluffy white beard and no longer looked like that jolly old codger. So, after pausing to look our way, and not seeing Santa, the coast was clear for the child to continue to scream and carry on.

Over the years, I discovered that if you let a screaming child continue to act that way and you completely ignore them, suddenly they will look around, and finding no audience, stop their tantrum. Apparently, the exasperated mother did not want to do that and finally grabbed the ornament roughly out of the kid's grip, picked her up by the nape of her coat collar and hustled her out of the store, still kicking and screaming. (I will have to make sure I have a hunk of coal to leave in this kid's stocking on Christmas eve.)

02. Shoplifting? On the way out of our last store yesterday, Elaine noticed an elderly woman stuffing boxes of $10. "electronic coin counters" into a massive shopping bag. She wondered if the woman was shoplifting and should be reported. We discussed it a bit.

a. Did she look like a thief? (No, she looked like a kindly old lady.)
b. Was there anybody to tell? (Nobody in sight, it was close to 11pm and only one or two cashiers were working.)
c. Were there cameras recording floor activity? (Yes, all over the place. Recently, a TV show disclosed how viewers in hidden store offices watch all of the activity in the store and report suspicious activity to hired detectives. .. so, remember that when you scratch your butt and think nobody can see you.)

We decided not to get involved. What do you think we should have done?

03. Recession? Once again this year, we had to ride around and around to get a place to park. People were parked on grass, across the street, in the driveways, .. all over the place. And the stores were so crowded we had a hard time getting around. Also, we had to wait in line to get waited on. Kohl's Department Store even had numbers to give out ... like they have at deli counters in super markets.

04. Happy Valentine's Day! Now that most of the Christmas gifts have been bought and store shelves are fairly empty, the Valentine's Day stuff is making an appearance!

05. Decorations. Most of the houses where we live have lots of wreaths and lights as Christmas decorations. I try not to be ostentatious, so I decorate "lightly".. by that I mean that I usually put up one light, in the form of a Mennonite star. Since my old stars had gone nova, I bought a new one for this year. Have you ever tried to put one of those things together? It is a job.

I put most of it together and got very frustrated. Elaine felt sorry for me and finished the job. Yesterday I hung it outside with a long green (I couldn't get a white one) outdoor electrical cord. It is a bit bright. So bright that the three wise men would probably not have a very hard time following it.

That star, as well as three beat up old wreathes, a small Christmas flag, and a big shiny new wreath for the front door, are our Christmas decorations this year.

06. Uncalled for decorations. A certain Mr. Vogel of Towson, Maryland, woke up to find his formerly undecorated house, decorated with ornaments, animals, and lights.. all illuminated by long extension cords. Mr. Vogel called the police, who are investigating. Is this somebody's attempt at a 2010 version of A Christmas Carol?

07. Merry Christmas, Hon! I'll bet that the Cafe Hon in Hamden, Baltimore City, Maryland, is decorated with Christmas Flamingos. They will probably be the usual pink, but with green and red ornaments. Hamden goes in big for Christmas.

Unbelievably to me, some grinches are protesting the fact that Ms Whiting arranged to get a copyright on the term "HON". They have actually picketed her establishment. Get a life, guys!

08. Flash! I just heard that an anteater baby has been born at a local zoo. I don't know if this is the Baltimore Zoo or the DC National Zoo. But how are they going to get any ants for food at this cold time of year?

09. Statistics. As a computer programmer for the Social Security Administration, I supplied our research and statistics analysts with record selections and counts from every computer run. Most of this information was provided to a nice lady who wore famously outlandish hats. Her office was across the street from the main Social Security building and I always wondered what she did in her office that produced such marvelous statistics, used by all kinds of Government Agencies.

One day I got her permission to come and see how this statistical research was done. I expected to see a battery of giant computers whirring and spitting out beautifully typed reports based on the information provide by us to her. Instead, I found a pleasant little office with a gigantic round table in the middle, around which ten grandmotherly looking ladies were rapidly walking, chattering away amicably, as they extracted and inserted pages of printed material out of and into large stacks of other pages of printed material.

I asked her why she didn't automate this activity and she replied that this way there was no duplication of information and therefore no distorted statistics. O.K., I guess I kind of understood that... thirty years ago. But I'll bet this process is done differently today.

10. Special statistics. (As reported in This Week magazine.)

a. One blinks about 20,000 times each day.
b. The U.S. Government has 854,000 people with a Top Secret clearance.
c. 49% of U.S. voters think that President Obama doesn't deserve a second term.
d. 51% of U.S. voters think that President Obama does deserve a second term.

11. Haiku!

a. Crossword Haiku:

Bob Klahn wrote a clue for a recent crossword puzzle that I think is a classic:

"A poem like this, of 17 syllables, split 5-7-5."

b. T-Shirt Haiku:

"Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don't make sense

c. Cat Haiku:

"You never feed me
Pershaps I'll sleep on your face
That will sure show you."

12. Sex.

Actually, I have nothing to say about sex right now. I just put the label in to try to lure more people to this blog.

Merry Christmas to most and Happy Holidays to a few. And: Happy New Year to all!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas is a-comin..

It's time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope that their wishes come true during the holiday season.

01. Santa Claus: As you can see by my picture, I have played "Santa" again this year. I had been offered a "Santa" job.. for actual pay.. but I decided not to do so.. my main reason was not wanting little kids to throw up on me. So, I just go "HO HO HO" for free, and for adults who have no desire to sit on my lap..

I'm hoping that this year will be the last one in which I actually look like a jolly, fat old Santa. I am taking Physical Therapy sessions to regain use of some of the flexibility and muscle tone I have lost since I quit lifting weights about ten years ago. One of my problems is what is called "tissue approximation." (This can be translated to "beer belly.") One of my goals this year is to lose 20 pounds around my middle.

02. Alzheimers: This Week magazine reports that some study results show that people with beer bellies actually have shrunken brains.. making them more susceptible to developing Alzheimers disease. That's another incentive for losing weight.

03. XMAS Toy: Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me mentioned that a popular toy this year is somehow related to "roadkill". I need to look that up in the XMAS toy catalogs. If you travel throughout Carroll County Maryland, you see lots and lots of roadkill.. so why pay for it when you can get it free.

Yesterday, while turning through a highway cloverleaf, I came upon 238 enormous turkey buzzards having lunch on roadkill. As I mentioned a couple of years ago, turkey buzzards completely devoured a large deer that had wandered into my backyard to die. In a very short time, only bones were left of the 500 pound creature, and so I didn't have to drag the dead body to wherever you drag dead deer that have died on your property.

04. Fashion? The New York Times suggests that men should start using purses that reflect their manhood. Not dainty pink things; but rather, bags made out of camouflage cloth, or ammunition cases, or ... out of whatever would indicate manhood. Sounds good to me.. for years I have carried a wallet in one back pocket, a comb, handkerchief, pen, paper sheet, business card case in another back pocket.. plus a bunch of keys and cell phone attached to my belt. I think it might be better to carry all such things in a carrying case, such as women have.

However, the fear of being considered a "sissy" by other men has kept most of us guys from carrying purse-like containers over our shoulders. But.. suppose I owned a "purse" that somehow reflected just the things I am interested in as a man.. like whales.. or crossword puzzles.. or politics.. maybe that would work. I'll have to look into this. Of course, this could be dangerous since most men are just interested in naked women.

I carry a delicate red basket to our local Bistro to get carry-out supper on most nights. This gets me lots of gentle ribbing.. but so what, it works.. I can carry lots of food without dropping it on the ground. Now.. if the basket had pink ribbons on it.. that would be a different story.

05. Don't ask...: Some people might equate what I implied about "sissy" as meaning "gay".. That is not the case. Many of the gay people that I know are not "sissies" in any sense of the word. The House has just acted to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Senate is considering the issue right now. I served with several gay persons when I was in the Air Force and there was never any problem in any way. And that was the situation when I worked in the physical fitness department of the New Bedford, Mass. YMCA. These folks were not "sissies".. or delicate, tiptoeing folks.

06. Manufacturing: I heard that the Gap stores are selling a carrying bag with the words: "Made in the USA" printed on it. Close inspection reveals that it really was made in China.. just like everything else in the USA.

Before WWII, when Japanese products flooded our markets, they renamed a city Usa, so that they could print "Made in USA" on goods shipped to America.

07. Pickup line: I think it might have been Wait Wait that reported on the best pickup line: "You have beautiful lips." But do you think that lips are the most attractive feature on women for men, or are men just lying again.

08. Eyebrows: It might have been Wait Wait again that mentioned that the current month should be known as DECEMBROW.. the month when women avoid plucking their eyebrows, so to achieve the UNIBROW look.

Lots of men I know have just one eyebrow...straight over both eyes. Most men don't pluck their eyebrows.. and some men are just naturally extra hairy, even on their forehead. And then there are hairy men who have "dingleberries".. but that is a subect for a future blog (and maybe #9 that follows.)

09. Word: Bill Bryson in Made in America records a Pennsylvania Dutch word: aarschgnoddle: which translates to "the globules of dung found in the vicinity of the anus"... Bill wonders why the Pennsylvania Dutch need such a word.. so do I.

10. More of the same: Bryson also says that the word POPPYCOCK comes from the Dutch word PAPPEKAK (soft dung).

How did I get into this topic anyway? What do you think of that, Prince Poppycock?

11. New SCAM: I received an email from "Robert S. Mueller III, Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover Building, 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20535-0001, USA" saying "The Skye Bank Nigeria Plc informed us the FBI, that they are through with the first (1st) quarter transfer to beneficiaries, and .... (to) where your payment file belongs to now."

Mr Mueller advises me to get in touch with the Skye Bank Nigeria as soon as possible so I don't lose out on all the money ($2m) that I may be eligible for.. they give me an email address to contact.. IMMEDIATELY. They end it with "In God We Trust."

A clever twist on an old scam.

12. Risks: The Carroll Hospital Center (Maryland) sent me the following quote from Patrick Johnston. I like it.

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach out to another is to risk involvement.

To explore feelings is to risk exposing our true self.

To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To hope is to risk despair.

To try at all is to risk failure.

But risk we must, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The man, the woman, who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.

This reminds me of something a famous writer once said to would-be authors:

Don't sit down to write, until you have stood up to live.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Happy Holidays?

Holiday season 2010:

01. Baltimore's carol: I hope that you have heard "Crabs for Christmas". If you listen to WAMU (Washington, DC FM station) you know that the host of the "Old Time Radio" show was the first person to sing that great song. At the December meeting of the Carroll County AARP, the leader of the Senior Singers played the piano and sang a marvelous Baltimorese version of the words.. and he isn't even a native Marylander! Made me want to run right out and order me some nice spicy Balty More crabs.

02. HON trademark: I'm glad that Denise Whiting has now gotten "HON" trademarked. She was the originator of the HON madness that engulfs the Hamden area, as well as all of Baltimore. She doesn't want folks exploiting something that she thought up. However, she also doesn't want to exploit it herself. I've met Denise and she is a wonderful caring person.. a fine representative of what is good about Baltimore people.

03. Good lungs now: A Chicago songwriter has written a holiday song, some of the words of which are: "Santa doesn't smoke anymore." "He must have read the surgeon general's warning." "He took one last puff, and then said: I've had enough!"

I encourage you to find this song, as well as a copy of "Crabs for Christmas" and get into the spirit of the holidays.

04. Hanukah Rocks: We should all be ecomenical this year, so I encourage you to also get a copy of Walk on the Kosher Side, songs by rock band Gefilte Joe and the Fish.

05. How Bigotry celebrates the season: I understand that the scumbags from the Westboro Baptist Church will be picketing Elizabeth Edwards' funeral because they say she didn't ask God to cure her cancer.

06. Rudolph: I never could understand the worth of the message of this song. A group ostracises another creature for being different, and when the different being does something that the group approves of, that different being is now beloved by the group...? Shouldn't we be teaching our kids to love everyone, even the ones that are different, and not wait until they "earn" our love? I know, I know.. it's just a fun song for Christmas...

07. With charity to all? Thanks to Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and a couple of other guys who know how to make a buck, some billionaires are going to give money to charity while they are still alive. Kind of hard to be synical about that.

08. Wiki Leaks XMAS Cards? Some of my friends applaud the leaks. I don't. I was a cryptographer when I was in the Air Force, and I have some acquaintance with Top Secrets, and I believe that some degree of secrecy is necessary for a Nation to survive in these troubled times. Don't ask me to elaborate.. my lips are sealed.

09. Christmas in New York: NPR reports that one of the tunnels in and out of the city carries two versions of the same billboard picture. It is a manger scene... one billboard was paid for by the Catholic Church; one billboard was paid for by an Atheist group. Only the wording is different.

10. Cool heads: A man in Cumberland, Maryland, is charged with stealing over one thousand custom fitting hats. (Incidentally, his name is Wigger.) I like to think that he just wanted to give them to the poor and homeless as a gesture of friendship in the holiday spirit. (Elaine made me wear my Santa Claus hat all this week.)

11. Hot heads: Yesterday, crowds of protesters in London tried to paint Prince Charles' limousine for Christmas. Charles and Camilla showed typical British reserve by waving to the holiday host.

12. Winter Wonderland: Yesterday, a forecast of snow flurries came true.. about a quarter of an inch fell, at least in Carroll County, Maryland. It may sound strange to those who live in northern climes (like Massachusetts or Rhode Island).. but this minute amount of precip caused major havoc. One lady reported taking 3 hours to travel 6 miles on a major road. Schools closed early and businesses instituted a liberal leave policy.

Giant Grocery Store experienced a run on toilet paper, bread and milk, as folks stocked up for a long Winter's hibernation. Elaine and I slipped and slid to the Elk's Club for a luncheon. Safe at last, we sat and stuffed ourselves as we remembered those ancient days when we had to put chains on our tires in order to move in traffic.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New Stuff and Old Stuff

Now that I am an "old dude", I realize that "sometimes" I repeat myself (others might substitute the word "often" for "sometimes"). So, today, I found a copy of the famous and now defunct Weekly World News, and thought I might write some notes about this wonderful sheet.

However, just in time, I woke up and remembered that I had already done a blog entry about this very issue. But.. the date of the issue was September 18, 2006, and some things have changed since then. Let me tell you about some of them.

01. Magic! There is an article about what the paper calls "the world's worst magician". They claim that a guy named Victor Baum performed in the Boston area and people came to see him because he was so bad. Once, it took him 52 times before he got a "guess the playing card" trick right!

I hope you remember about the guy I have mentioned before who, in my opinion, is now "the world's best magician." Yes, I'm talking about "The Amazing Stanley". Check him out.. he is good!

02. Power Names. The paper also suggested that you give your children names that could help form their character and drive them to high achievement. They suggested names such as Google, Maxima, Java, or Excel.

I just heard on the radio that a gentleman named Douglas Smith was allowed to change his name to Captain Awesome. Well, I hope it does it for him.

I may have mentioned this before, but when I worked at Social Security, I had the authorization to change names on our records, if requested. A member of a religious order which had a common hyphenated surname for its members asked to have his "like John Doe" name changed. Seeing no reason to deny him this request, I did so.

Suddenly, droves of fellow religious persons descended on Social Security, asking for the same favor now that there was a precedent.. at the same time, a rival religious order found out and had their members petition for changes to names with their own hyphenated designation.

Someone thought that I had established a bad precedent (and the ensuing chaos) and somehow had it rescinded.

BTW: some of you already know that I have had several "names" over the years. The ones I like best are: AHAB (my nom in puzzledom); H.R. Pooner (my long lost brother gave me that one because of my love for whales.. no.. I never wanted to harm them); and S.P. Kerr (a name used when I did Toastmaster activity)....

03. Predictions coming true? The paper also listed some predictions for the future. I'll mention two of them:

Waco, TX 2010: The F.B.I. discovers the cult moviie house and, after a standoff with the audience, fires the projectionist.

Washington, DC 2011: As the political right gains greater influence in the country, many colleges change their curriculum to offer conservative arts programs.

04. Trivia from 2006:

There are more than 1,750 "O's" in a 15 ounce can of SpaghettiOs. (Guess what.. the cans still hold 15 ounces in 2010!)

Ovaltine was called Ovomaltine.. but it was a Swiss product, and when it got registered in the U.S., a clerical error gave it its current name. (I'm sure you were astounded to read that.)

Flamingo tongues were a common delicacy at Roman feasts. (In these austere days, the only persons who continue to be able to eat flamingo tongues are those "fat-cats" who will benefit the most from the continuing "tax cuts for the rich and famous.")

In Australia, the most popular topping for pizza is eggs. In China, it is mussels. In the US, it is pepperoni. (What about anchovies, my favorite?)

An apple, an onion, and a potato all taste alike. (I've heard this before.. if you pinch your nose and take a blindfolded bite of each, you would not know which you are eating. I haven't tried this yet. Let me know if you have.)

..... Well, that's enough for now.. I have to get to my physical therapy session so I can be pushed, prodded, and punched in order to get my muscles working better. They have been withering a bit in the past few years.


Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Latest News on December 4th 2010

..........01. Boring day! At last, scholars have determined that the most unevential day in recorded history was April 11, 1954! On that day, not one historical event took place.

I beg to differ! This was the date that I arrived by means of a back-breaking, death-defying ride up to the top of a mountain near the town of Pruem, Germany. (Americans must be careful how they pronounce the name of this town.) We were now in the Schnee Eiffel mountains. "Schnee" means "snow" and this is where I served as a "frozen airman" for 18 months. It was also the day when I bared my chest and donned my wartime gear to have my memorable "lean, mean, fighting machine" picture taken. (I had been a little fortified against the cold by some Bitburger Pils, a local beer that was quite a bit stronger than Budweiser and guaranteed to cause enormous amounts of pungent gas to be discharged.)
(Sorry that the picture is so small. My photo software refused to make it any bigger.)
..........02. New scam. A friend just received a fancy printed letter saying that he has won one quarter of a million dollars. All he has to do to receive the money is to send $20. to cover shipping costs and taxes. At the bottom is a form for checking how you are paying: Check ___ Cash ___ Money Order ___ The small amount of money required is a new twist to an old scam.
If you send cash or a money order, the scammer has at least gotten a little money from you. But, if you send a check, the scammer will use it to wipe out your bank account.
If you get a letter like this, report it to the Post Office or the local police station.. but, in no case, should you send any money.
..........03. Silvio.. shame on you. If the news reports are true, Italy's leader, Silvio Berlusconi has been active in other fun things beside "bunga bunga". It is reported that he recently spent lots of Government money to repair genitalia on an office statue. (Don't worry, if a Vatican envoy visits his office, I'm sure that a fig leaf will be in place in no time.)
..........04. Forbidden fruit. Somebody has figured out how to inject apples with botox so that they never turn brown. (My dentist now gives botox shots as a cosmetic aid! Why would anyone want to get stuck with the poison used to kill animals by Amazon natives?)
..........05. Got the time? The furniture company, BDDW has developed the Nixie desk clock. Each clock is made by hand, and the company makes two to three units at a time. These clocks cost from $2,500 to $12,400. The clock cases are guaranteed for 20,000 years, but the time is shown in little glass circles that require bulbs that only last 2 years.
..........06. Bieber fever? On a prominent wall in the home of an arrested notorious Brazilian drug dealer was found a giant poster of Justin Bieber.
..........07. What God has forgotten: Fast Company magazine reports that medical tourism is growing 35% each year.
Some of the locations and prices:
Lip Augmentation: China: $500.
Breast Augmentation: Costa Rica: $3,800.
Cheek Implant: Spain: $1,942.
Butt Lift: Brazil: $6,000.
..........08. Classy words. I just got through reading the book Reading the OED, One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea. For dictionary cookoos like me, the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) is the greatest dictionary every written. Its most intriguing feature is its quotations from famous people who have used or even created each word.
Ammon resolved to read all of the entries in this massive work, and he did. His book tells us about his effort and gives some examples of interesting words that he discovered among the pages.
Let me give you an example of some of the words he found in a little story:
A Trip on the Subway
In a matudinal state, I decided to ride to work on the subway. On the trip, a sansculottic, cimicine, xanthodontous grinagog sourged me and I became nauseant. However, I tried to remain in a state of nemesism like a true garbist.
Looking down, I gaumed a repertitious dollar. I retrieved it and made it a xenium for my subway neighbor. (This was a naturesse, if I do say so myself.)
Feeling good about the xenium, my subway neighbor made an act of redamancy by providing a miskissing.
Disgusted with this engouement and suddenly micturient, I departed the train at the next stop.
..........09. Palindromes. Famous Canadian puzzlers, Joaquin and Maura Kuhn published a puzzle book in 1980 with the title: Rats live on no evil stars. All of the puzzle words are palindromes.. which read the same frontwards as backward. You remember the old palindromes: Able was I ere I saw Elba. (related to Napoleon).. or A man, a plan, a canal, Panama (related to T.R.) ...
Some of their words:
Cain, a monomaniac
Drawn inward
Haiti, ah!
Mad Adam
Niagara, O roar again
Red robe border
Rise, Sir!
To do Godot
Wet stew
I'm a last salami
..........10. Punchlines. A German study of brain activity reports that brain disease of the right frontal lobe causes one to tell bad jokes. (So that's my reason.)
My greatest bomb as a standup comedian was when I decided to just tell the punchlines and not the jokes.
..........11. Satan is smiling?. The Catholic church has instituted exorcism training, to be given in Baltimore, Maryland. (Is the devil behind all of the senseless killings in the Baltimore area?
..........12. LOL! The Wakefield (Massachusetts) Track and Field team handed out shirts with the teams initials: WTF. They are contemplating a recall.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Revised List for Santa

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a list of fantastic things we might like Santa to bring. That post was not very creative, I'm sorry to say.. and a couple of people even said that it was uninspired.

I'll try to correct that a bit because a great yearly event has now occured, I have received my annual copy of Hammacher Schlemmer's famous catalog of "must have", "almost impossible to get" stuff. It comes to me under the "Joe M Vaughan" mailing list. For the few of you who follow these blog posts, you know that the M between my first and last name stands for MONEY, and the catalog sender probably thinks that I am rich, because I once subscribed to Forbes Magazines, using that name.

However, you don't have to be rich to buy many of the great things shown in this catalog. I highly recommend it to you, if you don't already get it. In our materialistic age, Christmas is the time to wish for stuff that we probably don't really need, but hope that someone will give us, and this catalog has lots of stuff to stimulate our hopefulness.

So, for now, I will make an upbeat list of Hammacher Schlemmer things I might like Santa to bring to this household, if he also has access to the catalog. (However, make no mistake, being naughty as usual, I don't think Santa would even consider climbing down our chimney, even if we had one.)

01. Barking Dog Deterrent. This Pablovian device emits sound that is irritable to dogs. One sets it to make the bad noise whenever Fido barks and disturbs your peace. (I wish they had this 20 years ago when the only way to get a dog to shut up at 3 am was to hit it with a big rock.)

02. Flying Car. This vehicle converts from a regular type automobile to a flyable aircraft. HS' price is $350,000, but is certainly well worth the price.

03. Gyroscopic Dumbbell. This is a tennis ball sized device that is used to almost effortlessly build up your wrist, biceps, triceps and deltoid muscles. (I wish I had also known about this 20 years ago, when I was spending hours lifting tons of weights, trying to look like Big Arnie Schwartzenegger.)

04. Finger Drum Mouspad. This device allows you to play all kinds of drum sounds by using your finger taps. For less than $40 you can be your own Gene Krupa.

05. A wall crawling arachnid. This is a remote controlled spider that can scurry up walls and across ceilings. (Wouldn't this be a great thing for High School boys with which to scare the girls!)

06. Aviator's hat. This is an exact replica of the ear-flap cap worn by my friend, Sid Simon, as he sat in his Flying Fortress and bombed the hell out of Aachen, Germany.

07. Marshmallow shooter. This is a pump action device that can shoot edible marshmallows up to 30 feet. You can also get a target to go with it that plays a sound whenever it is hit, even by those soft white things. (Parents should get this for their agressive children who are now engaged in hitting other kids with bruise-enducing rocks.)

08. Cell phone watchdog. A great idea. One puts the "watchdog" on your keychain and whenever the cell phone and you are more than 30 feet apart, it beeps. (Now, I have to dial a lost cell phone and hope that it is close enough for me to hear the ringtone.)

09. Turtle astronomer. This is a soft cuddly turtle that projects the image of 8 constellations upon the ceiling when you go to bed. The whole thing shuts off after 45 minutes so that you can fall asleep.

10. Bug vacuuming breakthrough. This is a light weight cordless vacuum tube that sucks up stinkbugs from almost 2 feet away and kills them humanely. Using this would probably be a lot easier than plugging in and lugging your 200 pound vacuum cleaner close to the bug and trying to get the little stinker sucked up before he scurries away.

11. Colorful snowman set. This is a set of paint that does not melt when it is squeezed onto Mr. Snowman. We should no longer need to find buttons for eyes, coal for teeth, or carrots for noses. They can now just be painted on. In fact, as a catalog picture of a painted snowman shows, one can paint the snowman's name right on the snow-white snow.

12. Yankee Stadium Seats. This is amazing and I can think of a guy who would pay a lot more than the asking price of $1,500 for these authentic Yankee Stadium seats. Two seats are attached and sold together.

Santa, if you can't bring us any of these items, we will understand. But would you please deliver Hammacher Schlemmer catalogs to each of the persons on our Christmas card list, so they can take a look at all the wonders contained within that good old American ingenuity has come up with for the 2010 Christmas season..


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cycle of life.

Today, I want to talk about the crazy news, but first I want to tell you about a great loss to the world of opera... the death of Joan Sutherland. Then, I want to tell you about Elaine's latest accomplishment. Then, the other stuff.

01 A Diva is gone. The cycle of life.

At the age of 83, and still a diva. Joan Sutherland passed away in October. "La Stupenda" was a wonderful "bel canto" singer. Two of her most famous roles were as Lucia and Norma. Dame Sutherland was a very tall (Julia Childs type) and dominated the stage with her presence at first and then when she began to sing.

02. The Miracle of Birth. (The cycle of life.) A few months ago, as I mentioned in a prior blog entry, Elaine was witness to the birth of three deer in our "backyard" here at Carroll Lutheran Village. She wrote about the experience for the "Creative Expressions" book, published annually by the Village. She has now been asked to read her story on a local radio station.

Elaine has a very well modulated speaking voice and has had some acting experience. She was an extra in the movie "Hannibal" and also in the Baltimore version of the Australian TV series, "Homicide, Life on the Street".

We think that only two of the deer survived, because every once in a while, we see two young deer jumping and running while their mama quietly observes. We have been told that a birth of three deer is an unusual occurence. Elaine noticed that the first two baby deer jumped right up and started moving about, but the third was kind of sluggish. Recently, we placed a salt block near where the deer congregate sometimes, hoping to get them into position so we can take a good photo of the family together.

03. Math. U.K. researchers have determined that giving a slight electrical shock over the right ear improves a person's math abilities for months. Some of my friends tell me that a good smack on a child's butt by a father improves scholastic ability as well.

04. Sarah. Golly! Gee whiz! Alaska is a dangerous but energizing place. How do you like her "reality show?"

05. Deficit cutting. Cut Social Security. - No way! Cut Medicare. - No way! Cut the Federal workforce. - Are you crazy? Cut earmarks. - Sure (but not really.. because how else can I produce for my constituents and get re-elected?) Raise gasoline tax. - Ouch!

The cure for it all.. 100% employment. (Or.. steal back the billions of dollars that the Iraqis and Afghanis have been stealing from us for years now.)

06. Jailhouse lawyer. A prisoner is suing the parents of a boy he killed while driving 80 miles an hour. He says that the parents not forcing the boy to wear a helmet has caused him great emotional pain and suffering. He has ten more years to endure this pain.. hopefully, he will be able to endure it for the full ten years and not be given an early release.

07. Hyper-texting. Hyper-texters send at least 120 text messages a day. Would somebody explain to me what these messages could possibly impart? I remember visiting a friend's home many years ago, before texting, but when online messaging was in its infancy. His son had an internet connection on his PC and was engaged in this kind of interplay of messages.

"Waddaya doin today?"
"Nothin. Waddaya doin today?"
"Nothin. Want to come over?"
"Nope.. We got company."
"Can I come over?"
"What can we do?"
"I dont know. What can we do?"

etc... more of the same.

At the time, everybody thought this was cute.. after all, the kids involved were 8 years old.

In the future, the world will be populated with people with giant thumbs and no speaking ability.

08. Hyper-networkers. These are people, not necessarily kids, who spend three or more hours on social network sites like Facebook. I wonder how much of this time is spent playing online games. Some people mix media.. for instance, some people seem to treat Facebook entries like Twitter entries. "I'm going to the grocery store now." "I''m back from the grocery store now."

Come on, give me a break! Luckily, one can block Facebook entries and not have to tell the blockee that they are blocked, so no feelings are hurt.

09. Come on, Dick! The Week magazine cites a tabloid entry that quotes Dick Van Dyke saying that once he fell asleep on his surfboard and when he woke up, porpoises pushed him all the way in to shore. Dick, did you bang your head when you tripped over the hassock?

10. By the beard of the prophet! Another qoted tabloid entry mentions that two guys confessed to forcing a man to eat his own beard.

I've decided not to be Santa Claus this year. I had a job offer back in Spring, and I said that I might try it. But now.. after reading some David Sidaris stories, I don't thing I want to have the experience of little kids climbing on my lap, pulling my beard, vomiting on my knees, .... you get the picture.

11. Carlin. Yesterday, I bought the book Last Words, a memoir by George Carlin, with an assist by Tony Hendra. In reading the introcuction by Tony, I realized that he was the guy who wrote about Father Joe, a great read.

I note that the seven words made famous by George Carlin are being used more and more often by people on Facebook. Even some of my grandchildren are using such words once in a while. I realize that these are only "words" and one should not get upset upon hearing them. However, the young person that uses these words should realize that some older people who might be helpful to them in the future may be placing them in a category of people that they do not care to help, based on their vocabulary.

I loved George Carlin, and I enjoyed his humor. I have reservations about so-called comedians who must rely on George's seven words to be funny. They have not understood George's genius as a humorist. To show that you can be funny even without using the seven words, visit my joke blog.

12. Devastating insight. Those ubiquitous U.K. researchers have now discovered that some dogs are pessimistic. How on earth did they discover that. Cats? Maybe. But, surely not dogs.
I think their research is in error. All the dogs I know seem to be happy go lucky and glad to see you.

Blogs rhyme with dogs, and my theory is that blogs, like dogs, should all be optimistic.

And I'm glad that you took time out of your busy day to visit my blog.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Random Ramblings as the Weather Cools

I'm going to do a lot of jumping around today.

01. Chan. Do you remember the Charlie Chan movies? They were the "B" movies that were shown in double feature shows. I always liked the Charlie Chan movies more than the "A" movies.

Charlie always had a saying to educate his "Number 1 son", and us kids would walk around after the movie, saying those clever aphorisms that we had heard.. usually not understanding them..

A few of these aphorisms:

Politeness golden key that opens many doors.

Long road sometimes shortest way to end of journey.

Action speak louder than French.

Can cut off monkey's tail, but he is still monkey.

Confucius says: A wise man questions himself; a fool others.

Cornered rat usually full of fight.

If befriend donkey, expect to be kicked.

Advice after mistake is like medicine after dead man's funeral.

Confucius says: No man is poor who has worthy son. (Charlie's number one son was usually Key Luke, who sometimes almost solved crimes by himself.)

One that I liked (but I'm sure Charlie never said) was "Confucius says: 'Many man smoke, but Fu Man Chu!'"

Over the years, several actors have portrayed Charlie Chan:

1936 Warner Oland
1946 Sidney Toler
1948 Roland Winters
1957 J. Carol Naish
1971 Ross Martin

Check out this great Chan site:

02. Chinese Fortune Cookies: Years ago, fortune cookies displayed Charlie Chan-like aphorisms. Now, they've been updated a bit. Here are the last three that I received when I broke open my cookies:

Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.

A lifetime of happiness lies ahead of you.

Anyone can memorize things, but the important thing is to understand it.

You have an important secret.. guard it well.. for at least one month.

It's time you asked that special someone out on a date. (Sorry, I'm spoken for.)

I have personally examined every detail of this garment to make sure it meets our high quality standards. Inspector 41. (Wait a minute! How did this get into a fortune cookie?)

These "fortunes" also contain language lessons now. Examples:

Boss: Lao-ban
Friendly: you-hao
Summer Camp: xia-ling-lying
Medical doctor: Hai-zi

But wait... That's not all.. they also have lucky numbers! Play them and you are sure to win loads of money.

03. Lucky numbers. My grandfather loved to play the numbers. He always played 437 (boxed). He couldn't afford to play much money.. so he usually played ten cents a bet. But when he was "flush", he would play numbers recommended by an out-of-town newspaper.. The Afro American.. out of Baltimore, Maryland. (I'm sure he wasn't quite sure where Baltimore was at the time.) He always told me that those numbers were the best you could get.

He would get his Afros delivered weekly by an ancient African-American, who would walk two miles uphill to get to our house (probably his only customer in the West End of New Bedford, Massachusetts.) Rain or shine, he would struggle up the hill just to deliver the 5 cent newspaper to my Grandfather.. and, perhaps, take a small numbers bet from him.

My grandfather "hit" the numbers quite often. Usually for around $7.00. Not much, but enough to buy 140 five cent beers at the Buttonwood Cafe, where my Grandfather "held court." He was called "Senator Vaughan", and he looked the part.

03. Alphabet soup at Spring training? Some time ago, one of the famous Baltimore Orioles pitchers was stopped at an early morning traffic check in Florida, and was asked to recite the alphabet. He tried vainly to do so, and afterwards told the policeman: "But I'm from Alabama, and they have a different alphabet." He was then arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

04. RIP Jack. Today, as I was "getting organized", an obituary fell out of some papers.

Jack S. Futterman passed away on March 22, 2000. I attended his funeral.

Jack was the Social Security Administration (SSA) manager responsible for the establishment of the Social Security Alumni Association, the organization which I have been president of, off and on, for 15 years. Jack had the vision of retirees being utilized by SSA for special projects, and also meeting regularly in social settings.

The Alumni Association has always volunteered to do SSA's bidding. A few years ago, they did use some retirees to pass out brochures in a shopping mall, and that worked very well. We are still available, but SSA apparently has enough staff to do all of their work without calling upon us. However, individuals with specialized experience have been rehired temporarily to help SSA when conditions warranted it.

Thanks to Jack, the SS Alumni Association has been a viable organization now for over 30 years.

Jack was quite an artist in his spare time and when he passed away, his son donated several of his father's paintings to the organization. A couple of them are hanging in our office. One is a rendition of a local church; the other is a still life with various artifacts.

05. Useful tip. Use empty toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls to store appliance cords. It keeps them nice and neat and you can write on the outside what appliances they belong to.

06. Hairspray. (Not the Baltimore movie) During the 1960's one of SSA's famous computer room operators had a marvelous hairdo. Normally tall, with the addition of a foot of hair on top of her head, she was a spectacularly tall lady. Very impressive!

To keep her "do" looking good and appropriately erect, she used lots and lots of hairspray. She spent a great deal of time in the ladies' room spraying.. much to the chagrin of the other ladies, who sometimes came running out coughing and wiping their eyes.

Well.. here is another tip: If flies or bees are bothering you, spray them with hair spray and they will take a quick nosedive.

I'll bet that famous computer room operator never had problems with flies and bees.

07. Bulbs. Another tip. Have you ever had a burned out light bulb break off in your hands. Then you have to shut off the circuit breaker, get out the pliers and wrestle with getting the bottom of the bulb pulled out of the socket.

To avoid this problem: whenever you need to insert a new bulb, rub some vaseline on the threads. Later, when the bulb dies, you can easily remove it. Saves a lot of cussing.

Speaking of bulbs.. when we visited Thomas Edison's home in Florida, we were shown light bulbs that were glowing brightly. We were told that these bulbs had been turned on by Edison himself and were still alive after decades of use. The secret ingredient was not revealed to us, and I'm sure that if we knew it, we all would get those kinds of bulbs and put the bulb manufacturers out of business. (My sister-in-law Linda worked in a bulb manufacturing plant, I wonder if she knew about these bulbs.)

08. Tip for winos. I can't believe this one, and I quote: "Don't throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces."

Does anyone have leftover wine? I'm a very cheap wino.. my doctor says that I should have two glasses of red wine each evening. I try to adhere to his prescription, but not with wine that costs a lot of money.

I have a hard time believing the prices that shops get for wine. Perhaps it was because I spent 4 years in Germany where a good bottle of Riesling cost 25 cents (yes, I know, it was a while ago). Even in Paris, I did not spend a lot for wine. Remember, European water was not usually nice enough to drink.. so people drank a lot of wine and beer. (Americans in Europe mainly drank coca cola at a Cafe Americain.)

My advice.. buy a box of good California wine for about $11 for 5 (count 'em) litres! In my opinion, that wine is just as tasty as any of these highly touted wines that cost over $30 a bottle. Try it, you'll like it.

09. Alka Seltzer. Some more tips that someone sent me via email:

Drop two Alka Seltzer tablets in your toilet. Wait 20 minutes. Brush and flush. Voila.. bright vitreous China toilet bowl!

Drop two Alka Seltzer tablets into a glass of water and immerse jewelry for two minutes. Should polish the jewelry.

Clear a sink drain by dropping three Alka Seltzer tablets down the drain followed by a cup of Heinz White Vinegar. Wait a few minutes, then run the hot water.. and presto! A clear drain.. or so they say.

10. Alka Seltzer. My addiction. I like Alka Seltzer and am probably not going to pour it down any old drain.. I'm going to drop one tablet into a glass of nice cool water, watch it fizz, and then drink it down in one gulp. I've been doing this for years... secretly... until, during a recent doctor's examination, I confessed. Amazingly, he thought it was a good idea.. this is a Cardiologist and he wants me to take an aspirin tablet every evening.. so, since aspirin is in Alka Seltzer, I can substitute.

I mentioned this to my General Practitioner, and he thought it was a good idea too. And I've been having a guilt feeling about this for years. Now I can relax.

One of my Elaines teased me about Alka Seltzer and told everyone that my kids used to stand close to me in the evenings to hear the fizz in my stomach.

My mother-in-law decided she wanted to try Alka Seltzer and asked me what to do. I told her to open the bottle, take out a tablet and drop it in water, wait for the fizz and drink it right down. Later that night, she poured a glass of water, opened the bottle, took out the top item and placed it in the water. After a long period of non-fizz, she tried to help it along by breaking it up with a spoon. Still no fizz. She called me up. I told her that she had taken the foam topping out of the bottle instead of a tablet. After she got over her embarassment, she was successful and became an Alka Seltzer junkie like me.

11. Venezuelan Cleanliness. Harper's Magazine's Index mentions that Hugo Chavez called upon Venezuelans to limit their morning showers to 3 minutes. (Assumes that everyone in Venezuela takes a shower?)

12. U.S. Obesity Problem. Harper's Index mentions that 40% of all food in the U.S. supply chain is wasted. (Waisted?)


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Our Christmas Wish List

Dear Santa, here is our wish list for Christmas 2010.

To make it easy for you, we have picked items from some of the voluminous catalogs we are receiving every day during this holiday season. If you want, we will leave a pile of these catalogs under our dryer vent (we don't have a chimney) so you can take them with you when you leave . They are a lot of fun to read, and we recommend them to everyone, including the Mrs and your busy elves.

Joe wants: A false hair "transplant" hat/visor. These come mostly in spiked hairdos and weird colors. He would rather have one with black/grey hair, so he can look a little younger, but not so young that he looks like a teen-ager.

The other day, at an AARP Diversity Workshop, many of the attendees said the most noticable thing about themselve was their "grey hair." Grey, hell! At our age, the hair is WHITE!

(Except for Elaine. Her hair will never get grey or white. OK?!)

Elaine wants: A sweatshirt that displays: "I don't do mornings!"

Joe wants: A pair of kilts. When we were in Scotland, Joe asked our kilted guide what is worn under kilts. He replied, "Nothing.. everything is in working order."

Elaine wants: A sweat-shirt with the letters NCIS. She likes this because it reminds her of the TV show. Neither Elaine nor Joe know what the letters mean.

Joe wants: A Therapeutic Dog Bed: Although the 42 x 52 inch bed is made of foam and is designed to be used by a dog, it looks so comfortable that Joe could use it when Elaine snores. (She says she doesn't snore. But she does, and she also talks Chinese in her sleep.)

Elaine wants: A Therapeutic Dog Bed: Although the 42 x 52 inch bed is made of foam and is designed to be used by a dog, it looks so comfortable that Elaine could use it when Joe snores. (He says "Nay, Nay!" ... but he lies a lot.)

Confusius says: "The one who snores always falls asleep first."

Elaine wants: A sign that says: "I'm so busy, I don't know if I found a rope or lost my horse."

Joe wants: A red and green sweat shirt that is imprinted with the words: "O Come Let Us Adore Me." That would be appropriate for the Joe Vaughan Fan Club.

Elaine wants: A pair of bright pink "Cuddl Duds" to keep her toasty warm during the La Nina Winter.

Joe wants: A toilet seat that looks just like a manhole cover.

It would remind him of when he was a kid and the street baseball would roll down the "sand catcher" and into the sewer. One of the kids would hang upside down close to the sewer water, held on the legs by another kid, and retrieve the (kind of smelly) ball, ... plus other floating balls as a bonus.

Elaine wants: Elvis Presley sneakers. They include Elvis' name spelled out in false jewels.

Joe wants: The Christmas classic Leg Lamp! You've all seen the TV story. What a wonderful holiday decoration that will make!

Elaine wants: A 3-piece synthetic Ghillie Suit, perfect for concealment while hunting. Elaine doesn't hunt, but likes the way the material drapes. It kind of looks like hanging moss or khudzu, and the color seems to go with most of the Alfred Dunner blouse designs she likes.

Santa, we think that this is enough. We don't want to appear greedy. Thanks in advance for the neat gifts. And don't believe what you read in the police log. We were not naughty. It was a "trumped-up charge."

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Can you believe it?

Auntie Mame said (paraphrasing): "Life is a banquet, and yet some poor chumps are starving to death!"

This seems especially true to me when I observe the election activity this year. Negativity seems to be a new way of life, and I don't like it at all. We have always had some negative ads, but this is ridiculous. Elaine and I took advantage of early voting and have done our duty, but we still have two weeks to be subjected to mail, telephone, email and tv messages telling us how bad each of the opposite candidates is. (I know that no amount of bad-mouthing will influence my vote and I hope it doesn't influence yours.) So, I would say to these negative people: "Relax! Begin to enjoy this wonderful banquet of a life. Look around you at all the beauty. It's there. When all you do and say is negative, you miss out on so much."

01. Cold feet? The Greenland marathon was run yesterday and won by a lady from Stockholm. I believe the temperature was a balmy 19 degrees, I could be wrong. I heard that one year the race was run in minus ten degree weather. The runners have to be very careful to avoid hidden cracks and crevices and some wear spiked running shoes so they don't slip on the ice.

02. Country Living. We live in a rural county in Maryland where there are many old churches that provide Saturday food fests. For instance, a couple of weeks ago we got carry-out crab cakes from one church. I'm not an expert on crab cakes, but Elaine said they were some of the best she had ever had.

Yesterday, we got carry-out fried oysters from another old country church. They were wonderful.

Soon, bazaar season will be upon us and we will be able to do the rounds of the churches and sample all the goodies here is the "land of pleasant living."

As a person involved with several senior citizen organizations, I get to attend lots of funerals. I make it a point to eulogize many of these persons if I feel that they are not being served well in that regard by clergy or relatives. After these services, there usually is a luncheon put on by the "church ladies". The food is always yummy, and helps to keep sweet memories of the deceased stay with us.

03. Commandments. Recently, I finished listening to a book on tape that I highly recommend. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. AJ is an editor at Esquire magazine and is the author of several books, including The Know-It-All, where he recounts his "humble quest to become the smartest person in the world" by reading the Encyclopedia Britanica from A to Z.

I will not try to give a review of AJ's book on tape. My son, Chris, is an author and does much better than I could ever do at book reviews. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the book on tape so much that I ordered a print copy of the book from Amazon so that I could get the full effect of AJ's scholarship.

Just imagine, finding all of the commandments and suggestions in both the new and old testaments of the Bible and trying to observe them for a whole year. Try the read.. you'll like it.

04. Goats? A book that I recently read was The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson and a helper that doesn't get mentioned in the copy of the book that I have. After some delay, the movie based on the book has finally been released. (Did it first have to get US Government approval?)

Since I was in a small way connected with Air Force people who acted similarly to those (real persons) mentioned in the book, I got completely absorbed in the book. Once again, I will not try to give a review of the book. I will tell you that I was able to use one of the techniques mentioned in the book to save my life when surrounded by drunken Army tank drivers in Nuremberg, Germany fifty years ago. Read my book about that one.

05. Happy seniors. Speaking of banquets.. last week, it was my privilege to help set up the induction ceremony for the 2010 members of the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. Fifty seniors were honored for doing years of volunteer service to their communities. These inductees had been involved in all kinds of activity that helped their fellow citizens of all ages. It was indeed a happy occasion. No negativity there.

I want to mention one of the inductees and I don't think he would mind. His last name is Vaughn (without the "a"). He brought a group of cheering supporters with him.. 6 tables of them.. 59 ladies! Since we have (almost) the same last name, I asked him to take some of whatever he has that makes him so attractive to women and bottle it for me. (Only kidding, Elaine...)

06. Amazing. Simon Cowell's "Got Talent" franchise now broadcasts in over 30 countries, including China. In Shanghai, the winner was a 23 year old man who plays the piano with his toes! Liiu Wei lives in Beijing and lost his legs at age 10. Parents.. tell this to your reluctant piano playing kids.

07. Parlez-vous? The Associated Press reports that a woman in England speaks English with a French accent even though she has never been in France or studied French. She has a condition known as Foreign Accent Syndrome. There are only a few cases of this around the world. Supposedly, the syndrome appeared suddenly after she had a severe migraine attack.

08. Old friends. Recently, coming back from three weeks at the ocean, I tried to catch up on three weeks of newspapers... including some online from my Massachusetts hometown. Of course, the first thing I checked was the obituaries.

Baltimore Sun: I saw a memorial to the lady who was my secretary for several years at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn, Maryland.

Letha Alston: a marvelous secretary and good friend who made a big impact on my life. She passed at the age of 66 in 2006..

Letha once gave me a birthday card that said: "You remind me of Chinese Food: Egg Foo Old!"

Letha also was a great supplier of jokes for my stand-up comedy routines: the one I remember best has the punchline: "that's nacho cheese!"

I miss Letha.

New Bedford Standard Times:

David Burr, who died on his 78th birthday.. September 30th, 2010. Dave was a friend at Rodman School in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was a comedian type kid who always had a joke or a funny tale to tell. He was another influence on my life. RIP

09. Resurrection? Last week in Baltimore, an 89 year old lady was found on the floor of her bathroom. The policemen assumed that she was dead and contacted her son, who made arrangements to donate her body to science.

When the college worker came to get the body, he noticed that the body's arm moved. He checked her pulse, and sure-enough, she was alive.

Baltimore police will get a refresher course in what to check for when an apparently dead body is found. (read Edgar Allen Poe)

10. Another resurrection? A Michigan dog was "put down" by its owner because of a painful spinal condition. The owner put the corpse in the garage to be buried later. The next morning, he found the dog standing up and giving him a dirty look.

11. Stink bugs. Well, the invasion has finally come to Maryland. We have always had some stink bugs, but this is ridiculous. Open the door, they fly in. Squash them, they give off a pungent odor. Some people like the odor. Most don't. SuZee won't eat them. Elaine wants them thrown down the toilet. I usually just pick them up on a paper and throw them out.

The local orchard folks are very upset. These bugs destroy the looks of apples and nobody will buy them, including canners. Farmers can't use the chemicals that could kill them because of environmental hazards. Some want to import Japanese stink-bug predators, but that may become a problem ecologically also. Its a problem that needs to be addressed before next year's crop season.

12. Humor. Those who have XM radio have a great resource for humor. There is a "clean joke" channel. As I've mentioned before.. a true humorist does not have to resort to dirty jokes or cuss words to get a laugh. I am developing a blog for clean jokes that I have accumulated for almost fifty years... visit:

((I apologize, George Carlin!))

Enjoy the banquet!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Mad 1960's

With all the excitement about the series MAD MEN and the 1960's decade, I have decided to record some of the items in a scrapbook I created in May 1963. Perhaps it might give you even more insight into that wonderful time to be alive, a half-century ago!

01. Murphy's Laws. Although probably listed first in the Scientific American magazine for 4/56, they were talked about extensively in the 1960's..

I. If something can go wrong, it will.
II. When left to themselves, things always go from bad to worse.
III. Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.

02. Figures: An "electronic computer" was used in Atlanta to come up with the following statistic: The average female figure measures 35-25-35. However, ladies on the West Coast are a wee bit larger.

03. Chewing Gum: An historian found out that chewing gum was being used by the Aztecs when the Spanish landed in the Yucatan. However, it didn't catch on with European types until 350 years later. General Santa Anna of Mexico was a fan and tried to get an example of it taken seriously by the Americans while he was exiled in Staten Island. Discouraged, he left the material when he returned to Mexico. But an enterprizing American named Thomas Adams used it to found a U. S. chewing gum industry.. his product: Adams Chiclets. Shortly thereafter, a guy named William Wrigley, Jr. gave the big push to make chewing gum an important American pastime.

The Germans call chewing gum Kaugummi. I suspect that is because people who chew gum kind of look like cows chewing their cud. Recently, in Ocean City, we were served by a medical doctor at an emergency center who was chewing gum. Somehow, this did not seem professional to me.

04. IBM. The computer giant was really "big" in the early '60's. Times were good for them, especially with Government contracts. Jobs were rather prevalent, in fact, around 1963, headhunters offered me three jobs with IBM. One of which was at their Poughkeepsie "Think Tank" where the employees (gasp!) were allowed to dress for work without a black suit or tie!

In my scrapbook, I have a cartoon by a cartoonist named Richard Taylor who had a distinctive manner of drawing which I tried to copy for years. The cartoon showed an older manager introducing a new employee to the existing black-suited staff of five men. The new recruit looks and is dressed exactly like the current staff. (This is a direct reference to IBM's cookie-cutter created staff.)

05. Ben sez: Quote from Ben Franklin: "Keep thy eyes wide open before marriage, and half-shut aft erwards."

06. Flower Mart: The Flower Mart in Mount Vernon Square, Baltimore, Maryland, was big in 1963. That is the first year that I attended. It took place in a circle around Baltimore's Washington Monument, and consisted of craft vendors, food vendors, flower vendors and generally crazy people. Crab cakes were a big hit and were a lot cheaper than they are today. But, the biggest hit of the Mart was the famous "peppermint sticks".. everybody bought them. These are candy peppermint sticks, stuck into lemons.. they are surprizingly refreshing.

One thing I noticed about the Flower Mart was that there were very few black people in attendance. Since half of the population of Baltimore at the time was of African-American descent, this seemed strange to me. Apparently there was some racial problem because a few years later, black protests shut the mart down for a few years. I haven't been down to check it out these days, but I haven't heard of any problems with it lately, so I guess everything worked out o.k.

07. Names: Those of you who have read Mencken's American Language, know a bit about American last names. If you haven't read it, you really should; it is a classic.

While I worked at the Social Security Administration, I kept a file of strange names (at least to me). I guess, since I have been retired for a while, it would be o.k. for me to list some of these names that intrigued me while I worked there. I hope noone takes offense.

Rose Pyles
Lucy Kluck
Fanny Paper
Park Bench
Work Bench
Only Teasdale
Ozelia Fontenont
Bunnie Blue
Wrestling Keith
Bonita Purkypile
Dink Pike
Joe Ooom
Parafine Puff
Feather Schwartz
Bren Gunn and Tommy Gunn (father was Pop Gunn)
Freeman A. Mason

When Elaine worked at SSA, she found the name: Pink Valentine.

08. More Ben sez: "A single man resembles the odd half of a pair of scissors."

09. City life: A 1963 study found that 400 snakes of three species were found living in peaceful anonymity on three acres within Chicago's city limits.

10. Car terms: A weekly magazine in 1963 listed some once common automobile terms that were no longer recognized:

SPRAG: A pointed iron rod beneath a car. It's pointed end could be released to dig into the road to prevent cars with poor brakes from rolling backwards down a hill.

TREMBLER: A buzzer-like device attached to the dashboard, which made the ignition sparks.

PILOT: A little gasoline-fed flame which ignited the fire under the boiler of a Stanley Steamer.

BANDAGE: Something that you buckled over a punctured tire to allow you to continue.

TILLER: What some people called the wagon-related steering device on early autos...which was thankfully replaced by the steering wheel.

11. Pre-Mensa Poetry:

Pyschologist, with Freudian craft,
Divide the dullards from the daft,
Say who's rigid, who's resilient,
Who's safe and who risks being brilliant.

The thing to be is well-adjusted
(Your reflex actions must be trusted)
That way you'll never be suspected
Of thinking something unexpected.

By Leonard Sharpe

(I'm not sure of the poet's name. Perhaps my brother Joe, who has a gift for solving mysteries, can find out who the poet is.)

12. Final Ben sez:

"There's a time to wink as well as to see."


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Geezers at the Beach

I thought that I might talk a bit about a recent trip that we took, because it might give you some insights about vacation matters. I'll just ramble on and cover topics as I think of them.

Who? Elaine and I.

What? Spent 3 weeks in an ocean-front condo on the beach.

Where? Ocean City, Maryland.

When? Just after Labor Day.

Preparation: As you probably know already, women pack differently than men. Elaine filled 19 containers of various sizes. I filled 3. I do have to admit that Elaine's fills were mainly things that were needed for the condo: such as sheets, pillow cases, and non-perishable food. And she did also pack necessary clothes items.

My stuff (that I didn't forget) consisted of a few shirts, socks, and underwear, as well as my laptop, books, magazines and binoculars for watching the gulls.... girls?

Over the years, I have developed a check-list for myself, to make sure that I don't forget anything. (Elaine doesn't use one and thinks that my list is "just something a man would do.")

Unfortunately, the only thing about a checklist is that you must remember to find it and use it. (Remember the key point of every memory course... whatever you are looking for, is under something.. so pick it up!) I'll bet that my checklist is right underneath my missing hearing aid.

Moving in: The condo is on the third floor and can be reached by a little elevator. To get our 22 containers into the elevator, I had to make 14 trips, pushing a wheeled holder up a long ramp to get to the elevator. This was done at 11 pm in gale winds. Once in, after a lot of heavy breathing and gasping.. a warm beer helped calm me down a bit.

Since Elaine is in a wheelchair right now, beds and furniture had to be moved to accomodate and in so doing, a heavy picture popped off the wall right over my bed. It's a good thing that it happened then, because if I had had a nightmare and bumped the wall, that damned picture could have injured me. How would I have explained that to the doctor: "A picture flew off the wall and landed on my head." It was a picture of the Titanic..

Provender: Of course, what we brought with us in the way of food was minimal. We would buy the bulk of our food at the local supermarkets where prices are a bit higher than at home; for instance, on the main drag, a dozen medium eggs cost $2.59! Later, I found eggs at $1.59 a dozen at a supermarket on a road going out of town.

Happy Hair: Elaine discovered a store she was not familiar with: HarrisTeeter. They had a clearance table that had Elaine's favorite shampoo at $.99 a bottle. That was a fraction of its price in Baltimore. Elaine bought up all they had.

Broooom!! Our arrival was during "Bike Week" when 100,000 Harley Davidson riders descend upon Ocean City. This made driving our mini SUV a challenge and sleeping kind of trying.

Most of the bikers have been coming to OC for years and a lot of them look like me: chubby, bearded and old. While they cavorted with their fellow bikesters, their wives and girlfriends made the Beach Scene and helped give OC a new name: Cellulite City.

Buzzzzzzz! Since it wasn't safe to be on the road with the bikers, we did not go out to eat this week. Instead, we cooked a lot of good food right in the condo. However, since I do the cooking, smoke detectors feel that they have to harrass me. Just as it was in our Weller Way home, the detector is right near the stove, it has a tendency to go off to let me know that our food is ready.

Yummy stuff: When we did get to go out to restaurants, we went to some favorites:

Outback: Coconut shrimp!
Panda Buffet: Raw oysters and crab legs!
Crackerbarrel: Down home food!
Red Lobster: Unending shrimp!

We brought in a lot of food too:

Waterman's: A couple of dozen crabs!
Market: Big bag of steamed blue crab claws!
Greek Colonels: Creamed chipped beef!

FunFest: One week was FunFest Week in OC. This is when they put up monstrous tents containing lots and lots of crafty stuff for Elaine to buy. She bought some gifts, including some nice things for SuZee, our cat. She also bought a fancy (eternally sharp) knife for a bunch of money. Since I bad-mouthed the deal, she probably won't let me use it. The knife has a 50 year warranty.. neither she nor I will live that long. When I mentioned that to the 20 year old sales lady, she said that we could just pass it on to our heirs.

The only bad thing about FunFest, in my opinion, is that because noone can smoke in any of the tents, they congregate at the entrances... hundreds of them.. and blow smoke.

Entertainment?: Next to these tents are amusement areas. A ferris wheel, shooting galleries, Dodg-em Cars, Merry Go Rounds, and a weird and very scary piece of equipment that shoots people in little gondolas way up in the sky as though they are being shot by a massive rubber band.

The Hubcaps: Our favorite group, Carroll County's own Hubcaps was there inside the big tent one night. Tickets were $5 and $10. (Blood, Sweat and Tears was in the big tent another night, but they charged $20 and $49.) Elaine didn't want to get a ticket; instead, she sat near the back entrance and could see and hear them very well. She said that they did not do their usual schtick. That is probably because they would have to pay royalties.. and maybe they can get away with not paying them in Carroll County.

Delish: The food tent held many delicacies. One night, Elaine had a crab fluff and I had little fries and fish. Another night, we both had crab soup in bread bowls. Yingling beer was $3 for 10 ounces; light beer was $3 for 16 ounces. (At one time, Yingling was garbage beer and unsellable outside of Pottsville, PA.. now they advertise Nationwide and charge a lot more for a six-pack.) I think that IPA (India Pale Ale) is far and away the best beer made today. Much better than the versions made by the Brits years ago.

WalMart? What's a trip to OC without a visit to their WalMart store? This year, instead of counting the number of people with massive tatoos, I decided to count only those who did not have them. I only counted 5.. but they probably had theirs covered by their shirts.

What other WalMart can you go to where everybody is yelling at the top of their lungs? Strange people down there.

Home away from Home: We rent the condo from a good friend of ours, and we have to care for it as though it were our own home. So, when I fell asleep at the table, tipped it over and saw the glass of tomato juice sail through the air and onto the carpet, I became a little excited. Immediate action allowed us to get the spill completely cleaned up and undetectable.

Pills: As an old dude, I take a lot of medication. One of my pills is minute. A little yellow pill that blends in perfectly with the weaves of the carpet. (Yes, I spilled my pills.) I never did find 3 of them and hope that the vacuum cleaner got them before our host steps on the little squishy things.

Anger: Early one Sunday morning, we heard a knock on our door. It was a maintenance man who said that the guy in the condo under us was getting water into his bathroom. The maintenance man found that the spigot and faucets in the bathtub were loose, perhaps allowing some water to get in and spread down to his appartment. He said that he would caulk the area.

Meanwhile, a man with a very angry red face barged in and started yelling about his ceiling and put his face right up against mine. The last time an angry face got that close to me, it became dented in a few places and it almost happened again this time. However, I restrained myself. After caulking, the guy was getting more water, so it probably wasn't from this apartment at all.

Anyway, after this, I was hoping that we wouldn't have any other problems that would upset this guy.. guess what.. on the last day, while we were packing to leave, the toilet overflowed. Elaine and I spent a long time with a lot of towels getting the water off the floor.. and then we spent hours trying to unclog the drain. I didn't see the guy's red face again so I guess he stayed dry.

Oil Spill? When I went down to the beach to get some shells for Elaine, as I do each year, there were none. Where were the shells? The sand was flecked with black, just as I remember from when I was a kid during WWII. Tankers were sunk in the Atlantic by German submarines and spilled oil created tar in action with the sand.. and it spread out lightly over all after a while. This was like that.. and where were the shells? What is going on?

When we first got to OC, the surf was monstrous. Could it have squashed the shells?

Weather: Later, while remnants of hurricanes were storming up the Atlantic in the form of torrential rains, the weather channel kept showing Doppler Radar pictures of all this wetness coming up the coast. At one time, we had a Flash Flood Alert, a Heavy Rain Alert, a Tornado Watch and something else I can't remember. Over and over we were alerted about and shown pictures of the 12 inches of rain that we definitely would get. It never showed up. Not a drop until the last day that we were in OC.

The Last Day: As we battled with a rogue toilet, torrential rains buffeted OC. I made the 16 trips (remember, we made purchases) down the elevator and out into the storm and into the car. Everything got soaked, especially me. (I'm paying for it now with a very painful back and wheezing lungs.)

But, all in all, as usual, we had a great time. We were especially glad that my beautiful granddaughter, Bridget, was able to look after our cat, SuZee for the time that we were gone. SuZee told us that Bridget treated her very well.


Monday, September 06, 2010

Bieber Fever, etc.

01. Bieber Fever: Mr. Bieber came to the Maryland State Fair yesterday and you would have though they were giving out free fifty dollar bills. This 16 year old guy has all the eleven year old girls yelling and screaming like the Bobby Soxers did for Frank Sinatra in the 1940's (yes, I was alive then!)

One interviewer asked a Bieber fan how she liked his singing. She said: "He's cute!"

Frank Sinatra's voice lasted almost to the day he died at age around 80, I think. Let's see what Bieber's voice does in the next few years. He seems like a nice clean-cut kid, and his popularity will probably just grow..

I hope everyone also gets a chance to listen to the 10 year old female finalist on America's Got Talent. This is a kid with a Diva's voice range. She should be a spectacular super star someday.

02. Car stuff: I'm typing some of this while waiting for Toyota mechanics to do the 10,000 mile maintenance on my Rav4. I love that car. I bought the 100 year maintenance offering, so I should not get charged anything for my 5,000 visits until the year 2109.... at least that what the fine print on my contract says.. maybe.. I guess I need to buy a magnifying glass to make sure.

03. Tolerance: In my last blog entry, I wrote about a Florida pastor scheduling a Koran burning session. I just read in Time magazine that this will take place on 9/11. The pastor argues that Jesus would burn the Koran because "it's not holy." Now, everybody in Afghanistan is cursing the US and Obama.. why do they think that our President is condoning the burning?

04. Jokes: As some of you know, I started a new blog that will contain jokes and puns and humorous items that I have been collecting for many many years. I've already had some comments on my first issuance. "Cheesy.", "Fun to read.", "Childish", "Funny." ,"Go for it."

So, I guess I will continue it. If interested and a glutton for punishment, visit

05. Species: Today, my SNAPPLE diet tea cap had the following message:

"Manhattan Island was once home to as many different species as Yellowstone National Park."

I showed the message to Elaine, and she had the very same response as I had, namely:

"It still is."

06. New Jersey Perps: Did I mention the one-legged thief who broke into a New Jersey shoe store and left some boxes on the floor with just right shoes? He was easy to catch.

Or the bicycle-riding crook who wore a Nixon mask? Another easy catch for Trenton cops.

07. Birther: By now, you must have heard of that "bright light" Army Officer who refused deployment to Afghanistan because he said that President Obama is not legally his Commanding Officer, because he wasn't born in the United States. He says he wants to see the "real" birth certificate. (A judge threw out his defence as idiotic.) I wonder how he got to be an officer?

08. Ugh! Disgusting sign seen in a men's rest room:

"Please do not drop paper towels in the urinals. They turn yellow when we dry them out, and some people do not like to use them."

09. Savage breast? An English headmaster punishes his students in detention by forcing them to listen to classical music!

Today, a radio announcer mentioned that there are people who die every day who have never heard the beautiful music of Beethoven. Or Mozart!!!!! I wonder if they teach classical music in school these days. My 7th grade teacher taught us how to read music and how to enjoy classical music. My mother had already instilled in me a love for the light classics, but listening to the masterworks opened my mind to a wonderful new world. So, I learned to like Bach and Beethoven. And then, later in life.. Mozart and Mahler!

10. Toot! We missed it! July was National Baked Beans Month.

11. SuZee TV: Did I mention that our cat watches TV with us. The other night, we watched two Netflix movies and she didn't move from her perch on a table between us and the TV. She watches TV very intently. She likes a lot of action and conversation. The news bores her and she doesn't like some of the cop shows that Elaine likes (even though they have lots of action).

12. Spice: Some of my Toastmasters friends sent me lists of things to do to make life more interesting. I thought that you might like to learn some of them.

Put your garbage can on your desk and label it "IN".

Everytime anybody asks you do do something, ask if they want fries with that.

In the memo field of all your checks, write "for sexual favors."

Instead of walking, skip.

Married men, everytime you see a broom, yell: "Honey, your mother is here."



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some new stuff.. at least to me.

I learned a lot of fantastic information this week. Some of which I will outline here.

01. What's in a name? I apologize to this beautiful person for picking on her name, but somehow it makes me giggle, I don't know why, but I believe that there once was a stripper on the Baltimore infamous "Block" with the same name.

The AARP Sex and Relationship Expert is named Pepper Schwartz.

02. It had to happen: A heavy-set woman was charged extra in one of those fingernail salons for being too fat and endangering their chairs that are tested for only 200 pounds.

Many years ago, fellow Mensan, Marvin Grosswirth established an organization called Fat Pride. based on a book he wrote with the same name. Other such organizations were established over the years, but I think his was the first. Marvin wrote lots of interesting books and unfortunately, died of cancer at the age of 53. A man of great intellect, as well as great girth... which rhymes with his last name.. which means a "great innkeeper".. at least in the German dialect I know.

Anyway, Marvin felt that one should not be ashamed of being overeweight. Why on earth would one want to be a skinny-bones? (However, personally, I would like to be a little bit thinner.)

(Marvin also was in favor of beards.. at least on men. He felt that if one wore a beard, one should wear a real man's beard, not one of those "sissy beards" worn by some rock stars.)

03. Caution! Kevin Dayhoff, former mayor of Westminster, Maryland, in one of his interesting newspaper articles, mentions that in the 1960's, some traffic lights did not flash yellow, only red and green. I was around then, but I don't remember such lights in the places I lived. This probably confused children who thought that the traffic lights were Christmas decorations.

Among lots of other things, Kevin Dayhoff writes a journal called the New Bedford Herald. (It's not about New Bedford, Massachusetts, where I was born and brought up.)

04. Deep fat! Vendors at the upcoming Maryland State Fair will be selling lots of deep fat fried items, including Oreo cookies, Snicker Bars, Twinkies, Buckeyes (peanut butter and chocolate mixed), and even ice cream bars... but they will have to go a lot further in their plans to clog up Marylanders' arteries to top the Canadians. At an exhibition in Toronto, vendors are selling deep fat fried butter!

05. It's a digital world all right. A street musician now has a card reader by his side. If you like his guitar music, you can give him a tip (donation) by swiping your credit card and keying in the amount you want to give him. (I wonder if he takes American Express.)

06. Mis-attribution. One of the few poems I ever learned was the one about a pelican:

A curious bird is the pelican,

His beak holds more than his belly can.

He can store in his beak,

Enough food for a week,

And I don't know how the devil he does it.

I have always attributed it to Ogden Nash.. it's the kind of stuff he wrote.

Well, I learned this week that I was wrong. The poem was written by newspaper humorist, Dixon Lanier Merritt, and goes like this:

A wonderful bird is the pelican,

His bill can hold more than his bellican.

He can hold in his beak,

Food enough for a week,

But I'm damned if I see how the hellican.

(Which one do you like?)

07. Ugh! A nutritionist who was interviewed on NPR said that shrimp imported from Thailand is "grown in dirty ponds." Think about that the next time you order scampi at your favorite restaurant.

08. Banana Bread: I love to bake banana bread! Sometimes I make it plain.. just bananas.. sometimes I add blueberries; sometimes I add walnuts; sometimes I add chocolate chips; sometimes I add butterscotch chips; sometimes I mix them all together.

A well-known local Carroll County humorist, with another interesting name, Cathy Drinkwater Better, writes a funny column in the Carroll Eagle. This week, she mentioned what goes on in her house when her husband finds real old bananas in the fridge. Of course, as anyone knows, you have to have real old bananas to make good banana bread. I'm probably one of the few men in the world who knows that the secret to delicious banana bread is old, black, mushy, gnat-infested bananas.

Elaine and I always laugh long and hard when we read her Sunday articles. She is a gifted story teller, and as I also learned this week, a well-known author, with a lot of books to her credit.

09. New word. The big-name dictionaries are adding a new word in their latest editions: bromance .. friendship between two men. I have a brother Joe, that I sometimes call BRO and a friend from early childhood named Bob, and we both often refer to each other as BRO. But of course, there is no "romance" there. There are lots of BRO- words, such as bromide, brocade, Bromo Seltzer, .... Broken = what Barbie's brother now calls Ken.. NBC's Tom Brokaw... etc etc

10. A Dog's Best Friend: I've mentioned this before, but some one of you may still never have heard of this great invention. It was dreamed up by the brother of Tony Shalhoub (you know... Mr. Monk!)

Yes, I'm talking a bout the Shapoopy.. better than a pooper-scooper.. it catches your dog's poop before it even hits the ground! Wow!

Have you heard the jingle?

11. What would Johnie Cash do? I learned today that those automatic faucets that are now ubiquitous, will not work if you are wearing black. Imagine that.

12. An amazing author! Over the years, Tom Robbins has written a lot of thoughtful (weird) books. His latest is a children's book called B is for Beer.

Tom says that he ate so much mayonaise as a kid that his parents threatened to send him to the Mayo Clinic. ! He is the inventor of the Gin-Greasy.. which is a combination of gin and mayonaise. I don't think I'm going to try it.

Quote from Tom: "I believe in nothing, everything is sacred. I believe in everything, nothing is sacred." Whatever that means... I think I will put it into my email messages.