Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hot items for April 24, 2010

From Soup to Nuts.. or rather from Tweets to Microbes. Ain't life great!

01. Tweets to the Library?

Could this be true? Soon, ALL tweets will be preserved at the Library of Congress. What's next? Blogs? Text messages? Sext messages? Future generations will now have actual evidence of our madness. Can you envision researchers in 2510 reading: "I just got up and I am going to eat cereal for breakfast." or "My bowels are working well today."

02. Well, tan my hide!

It has now been determined that the use of tanning beds is addictive. So, even though the tax on using tanning beds is being increased, the tanning salons don't have to worry, the addicts will continue their usage.

03. Celebrity death.

Benjamin Hooks, NAACP leader for many years passed away this week at age 95. He became interested in Civil Rights when he served as a guard of Italian prisoners in WW2. These prisoners were able to eat with the white soldiers, while he had to eat in the segregated mess hall for soldiers of color. Unbelievable.

04. Winos.

While I was in the Air Force, a friend and I went on a pass to Liege, Belgium. Before we left, one of our friends warned us about the "winos". These are bar girls who talk American soldiers into buying high-priced bottles of watered-down wine, while making the soldiers think that they will be able to have some fun with them later.

My friend and I took a city tour and at the end we went into a bar for a drink. Immediately, a beautiful young lady sat down beside us. My friend, a country boy, was infatuated with her.. me, a city boy, suspected that she was one of the winos. The girl coaxed my friend into buying a bottle of overpriced wine, and with a practised line, hinted at the delights to come. As we finished the watery wine, she gave my friend an address. She said that she would be leaving now to go home and prepare for his visit and that he should wait ten minutes and then come to see her. He could hardly wait.

Of course, you know what happened. When he went out to get the cab to go to the address, the cab driver said that there was no such address. I wonder if she had latched on to me instead of him.. would I have been gullible? We'll never know.

So, a chord of memory played for me when I heard that beautiful young ladies in certain bars were asking gullible young nerds to key their telephone numbers into their Blackberry Pearls. This turned out to be only a trick to impress these guys with the features of the Pearl. I wonder if the marketing guys learned this trick from Liege's winos?

05. I'll trade you 25 years of National Geographics for a tonsilectomy.

The potential Republican rival for Harry Reid's job has offered a solution for the high cost of medical care. Bartering!

06. Two drunks in Britain.

A troublemaking female drunk has been banned from all bars in England.

A drunk driver in England was stopped while driving a pink Barbie car.

07. Computers on wheels?

Best Buy will soon be selling electric cars as well as computers. I recently attended an educational session about services for the blind. (I have macular degeneration in my right eye) and the leader mentioned that one big problem for blind people is the noiseless electric car. I've heard from electric car drivers that this is also a problem for them sometimes. Perhaps soon "they" will come up with a noisemaker add-on. (I'll bring this up with John Stahlin and the VME.. Volunteers for Medical Engineering folks.)

08. Tea, anyone?

The Week magazine quotes Andrew Sullivan of as follows:

"When Tea Party leaders propose cuts in Medicare, means-testing Social Security, a raising of the retirement age, and a cut in defense spending, I'll take them seriously."

I remember working on a case when I first was a Claims Authorizer at the Social Security Administration. The claimant was a famous literary American who had been knocking the whole "socialistic" Social Security program, stating that he would advise everyone not to take that "Government Handout." Well, he was now filing for Social Security disability benefits for himself and begging for the help.

09. Sit up straight!

The latest Hammacher Schlemmer catalog shows a Pet High Chair. "Satisfying a mutual desire for companionship, this high chair permits your dog or cat to accompany you at the dinner table."

10. "I cannot tell a lie."

Shame on George Washington for borrowing two books from the New York Library and never returning them. The overdue fine is now over $300,000!

I can't talk, while at Boston University (ages ago) I could not find a certain German book anywhere but at the New Bedford, Massachusetts Public Library. I borrowed it almost 50 years ago! I still have it. I mentioned it to my sister-in-law, Janine, who was working there and she advised me to wait for the fine forgiveness day. So far, I haven't been able to be in New Bedford at the right time. The fine is probably astronomical by now. Not returning this book is the worst thing I have ever done in my life. (believe that?)

11. Lactococcus lactis.

This has been named as the "official State microbe" for the State of Wisconsin.

12. Where did all the immigrants go?

By now, you have probably heard about the "Phoenix Immigration Bill." Will this lead to "profiling".. I would imagine so.

Also, Senator David Vitter has introduced legislation that would instruct the Census Bureau not to take into account illegal immigrants and other non-citizens in the 2010 Census.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Most Beautiful Flower of All

I was shocked and appalled by an ad I received in the mail today. It was from the Lawn Doctor, a lawn care company. The ad shows a fist with a green thumb pointing up. From the thumb there emerges a balloon with the following words within: "One, two, three, four, I declare a dandelion war."

Why do people want to destroy the most beautiful plant and flower in the world? Just look at it! Beautiful green dentate leaves reaching to the sky, with long slim stems topped by the most brilliant yellow flowers. And when the beautiful yellow flowers are used up, they transform into balls of light white fluffiness that send little angels out to sail on the breeze.

I was born near the end of the Great Depression and sometimes we did not have much to eat, so my job was to dig up as many dandelions as I could find so that my grandmother could cook the greens for us to eat. I liked the taste, and still do, especially when very hot and topped with melted butter.

The flower is also useful in the making of wine. In the 1970's I made a bunch of it.. (we had a lot of dandelions in our yard). Most people say that the wine comes out yellow.. mine came out white.. and sweet.. and delicious, if I do say so myself. For a vacation to Massachusetts one year, I mixed dandelion and port wine, sweetened with sugar.. and bottled it in small containers. When relatives and friends visited us in our vacation house, I fed them some of the wine, it tasted just like Portuguese wine (kind of like Madiera).. everybody loved it, especially one guy who told everyone within ear shot that I was the best winemaker in the world.

One of our next door neighbors here confronted me last week. He said that he noticed dandelions in my grass. He asked if I minded if he killed them so they would not multiply. I'm afraid I had to assume the Jack Benny pose while I decided how to answer him. In the interest of good neighborliness, I gave in and told him to go ahead, but my heart was not in it.

I believe that all beautiful flowers were once considered to be obnoxious weeds.. sooner or later the world will begin to let dandelions assume their rightful place in the pantheon of glorious offspring of this remarkable world we live in.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

News, etc on April 17, 2010

This has been an interesting week. Let me tell you about puzzledom, funeraldom, and weird newsdom. (In between times, I have to interupt to hear La Traviata from the Met on WBJC.)

01. Puzzles:

Yesterday, I got a chance to give a presentation on puzzling to the last class of folks who are trying to learn to increase their brain power in order to live a longer and more interesting life. I had an ulterior motive in giving this presentation; I wanted to start a puzzle club in the complex where I live. I spoke to them about:

The National Puzzlers League (NPL). As a puzzler, I am known as AHAB.. my brother, Joe, is known as Ishmael. Joe is an expert on the charade types of puzzles, among others. I kind of like crosswords and cryptograms the most.

The American Cryptogram Association (ACA). Codes and ciphers. As AHAB, I used to contribute to the monthly magazine.

American Crosswords.. where to find the first one, and how to follow them through to the current day. There have been a number of popular changes.

The crosswords in the Sunday Baltimore Sun, including the LA Times puzzle and the New York Times puzzle. I mentioned the difficulty of the NY Times puzzle which gets tougher as the week goes on.

I talked about the folks who produce these puzzles, especially Will Shortz, who is probably the United States premier puzzle-master.

I also covered French, German, Spanish, Dutch and British puzzles, including those difficult, for Americans, British cryptics.

I showed the group some reference material that helps professional puzzlers, including regular crossword dictionaries, backwards dictionaries, anagram dictionaries, non-pattern word lists, and lists for words of specific lengths.

At the end, I showed them one of the largest crossword puzzles ever created.

All in all, I enjoyed myself doing this presentation; however, I probably bombarded (bored) them with too much information. I do hope that a couple of them will sign up for the puzzle club.

02. Funeral stuff.

Yesterday, a monstrous and mysterious 90-foot long black van showed up at our complex. Inside was an extensive display of funeral information, including a model of the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln, a copy of Lincoln's coffin, and lots of information about deceased celebrities, such as Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, and others. One display stated that retired military folks at the Colonel Level or above, are entitled to have a saddled horse in a funeral procession with boots inserted backwards in the stirrups. Since my military equivalent rank for my job at Social Security was Colonel, I wonder if I should sign up for such an honor. ;0)

Of course, I would have to let my son put non-skid treads for the horse on the ice-floe that he is going to get for me.

03. Sarah:

I read where Sarah Palin is going to do an environmental program about Alaska for the Discovery Channel. I believe that she will be earning over a million dollars for this effort. Somehow, I did not know that Sarah had a friendly relationship with her environment, especially as it relates to wolves and forest reserves.

04. Blind porn?

A new Canadian magazine is being published for blind folks. It will have Braille articles and some kind of 3-D representations of naked folks. Now I will have something to look forward to as my Macular Degeneration gets worse.

05. In Sheep's Clothing?

A couple of South American prisoners escaped and were found hiding under sheep skin in a pasture. Someone mentioned that they were "on the lam" for a little while.

06. Mazel Tov.

A man in Connecticut wore a bright blue yarmulke as he robbed a bank.

07. Male Vanity:

The latest boon to male beauty: Nose Waxing.

Speaking of male vanity: In one episode of Star Trek, Captain Kirk changes into a woman, and even though he still looks like a man, every time he goes by a pane of glass, he checks himself out.

Yesterday, at WalMart, I spotted a young man with many piercings. As I was trying to count them, he passed by a glass case, checked himself out, and primpted a bit. He did it again when he passed another glass case. I wish that I had the nerve to tell him not to waste his time.. because he was kind of ugly, I'm sorry to say. But I'll bet his mother loves him anyway.

08. AIDS, Anyone?

A prisoner is about to be released in New York State who admits to infecting 2 women with AIDS. He says that when he gets out he plans to infect a lot more. (Throw away the key!)

09. The Devil's Tools:

Somalian leaders have told radio stations to stop playing music. They have already banned bras and movies. Years ago, Americans liked living in Mogadishu.. I'll bet there aren't any there any more.

10. Airline Charges:

Spirit Airlines is going to charge for carryon luggage. Ryan Air (Ireland) is planning to charge for rest room usage on their airlines. (Someone on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me said that they will probably have to install Guiness-proof locks.)

11. Harry?

The Week magazine says (maybe) some German women tried to smuggle a dead relative on a plane in sunglasses. They were trying to avoid a large repatriation fee on coffins. Deja vu?

12. Blood levels?

The famous Danish Carlsberg Brewery is going to stop brewery workers from drinking on the job, except for three pints at lunchtime. (Is that a quart and a half?) What about at cigarette breaks?

When I drove a cab in New Bedford, Massachusetts, I used to drive some of the Dawson Brewery workers and got a chance to see how they worked. Here and there they had sinks that poured beer out of the faucets. The workers could drink as much as they wanted to, all day long. I'm sure they had a few "for the road" each afternoon before they drove home.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Great News for April 10th or 11th, 2010

Today's issue of the Carroll County, Maryland, Times shows today's date on A-5 as Saturday, April 11, 2010.. and on page A-6 as Saturday, April 10, 2010. This allows the reader to feel as though he or she is going back in time as they turn the page. What a pleasant gimmick for such a beautiful sunny, windy, 50-ish Spring day!

A wonderful thing happened today (or yesterday, as the case may be).. I lifted up a pile of old newspapers and found a copy of the non-defunct Weekly World News from September 18, 2006. (I loved that sheet!) Just look at the news items that I missed!

01. Giant Crocs Attack! Monster reptiles attacked monster trucks at a racetrack.

02. Old Folks live in Daughter's Pool. These poor folks needed assistive living, but couldn't afford it, so their good-hearted daughter allowed them to spend their twilight years floating in her backyard pool. Because of the chlorine in the water, they didn"t even have to worry about toilet breaks.

03. Robin Goodfellow, British Pub owner has started to serve his patrons fairy wings. This has become a great draw for Barrie's Tavern.

04. An item about "Your Bottom Dollar" that perhaps I shouldn't mention.

Excuse me for a moment.. my favorite radio station is playing the Met broadcast of Die Zauberfloete, and I want to hear the Queen of the Night's famous aria. Herr Mozart may have been accused of using "too many notes" on this work, but I don't think that there is one wasted note in the whole opera. Why did Wolfie have to die so young? Who could imagine what other masterpieces still lurked within that massive brain in that little bitty body?

I'm back again.. let me jump to some Wait Wait items:

05. (Notice how I number everything.. its my excessive compulsion, sorry.) A gentleman from Georgia tried to eat a "double wicked" fast food sandwich and messed his jaws up so much that he had to have surgery. (Well, it had to happen sometime.)

06. Did you know that the first Bobby hired by the City of London was fired four hours later because of drunkenness? Do policemen have alcohol level tests in the US?

07. Another Georgian, a Congressman I believe, recently said that Guam will probably tip over if we send any more military people there.

08. Senator John McCain told reporters that he is not a maverick, in spite of the title of his book and his electioneering slogan. I guess he might be trying to become a true Conservative to get the future votes of the Tea Party guys.

09. Fewer NERDS are being produced in the US. Our technical future looks bleak. (Is there a song called: The Revenge of the Nerds?)

10. The guy who invented Wine in a Box has died. Wine snobs deride boxed wine. However, I see not much difference between boxed and bottled wine. In fact, based on wine that I have made over the years, I want to make this statement. Believe it or not, with a little care, and with a little equipment, and a little container of grapes, and a little sugar.. you can make wine in your kitchen that tastes just as good if not better than these bottles of French wine that are selling for astronomical prices. In fact, if you have a Mickey Mouse balloon to place over the top of a bottle, you can do as good a job as any of the California wine makers. This is of course my opinion.

This made me think of wine that I have been aging in the garage. I decided to try an old bottle. I uncorked and decanted a bottle of peach wine that I laid down in 1975. The cork had almost disintegrated but not quite. Opened and poured, there was not much bouquet.. in fact, Elaine took a sip and thought that it ranked (maybe a good word) among the worst wines she had ever tasted. But, for me, after a little unpleasant ropiness, I found it tasty.. perhaps more like a very sweet fortified wine. So, score one for me.

I still have some beet wine and peapodwine aging. Recently, I gave away my beer and wine making equipment to my son in law, John, an excellent brewer. So now, I will concentrate on kitchen wine, using my Mickey Mouse balloon. Don't knock it til you've tried it.

11. And of course you have heard of the crook who was chased by the cops until he climbed over a wall and found himself in a prison yard. What I didn't know until now was it was a woman's prison!

12. What about that guy who was discovered giving mouth to mouth rescusitation to a possum that may have been playing possum.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Thoughts for April 3, 2010

Some notes about the richest woman in the world, the census, and funeral stuff.

01. Rich Woman!

Who do you think has the distinction of being the richest woman in the world? Oprah? Queen Elizabeth? Cleopatra? Nefrertiti?

Nope, none of them.. the woman who has that distinction is/was Hetty Green of New Bedford, Massachusetts, my old home town.

Who do you think has the distinction of being the stingiest person in the world? Scrooge? ENRON executive? Your spouse? Your boss?

Nope, none of them.. that distinction also belongs to Hetty Green.

Hetty was part of the Quaker family that controled the whaling fleets out of New Bedford. She lived from 1834 to 1916. She parlayed a massive whale oil fortune into an even massive fortune by playing the post Civil War bond market and lending lots of money to the city of New York.

It has been written that she ate dry oatmeal for lunch to save money and did not change her underwear until it wore out. At one time, her son injured himself and she tried to get free medical care for him. When it was not forthcoming, she endevored to cure him himself. Unfortunately, gangrene set in and he lost one of his legs.

It has also been reported that she once spent 6 hours hunting for a lost 2 cent postage stamp.

Hetty was a remarkable woman, who was once called "The Witch of Wall Street".. if you want to read some amazing information about this amazing woman, try the following books:

The Day They Shook The Plum Tree by Arthur H. Lewis (1963)

Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon by Charles Slack (2004) .. I haven't read this one yet.

02. The U.S. Census

Government sources are complaining that people are slow in filling out and returning their 2010 census forms. Duh? Right there in the instructions it says that it wants to know who is in each dwelling on April first 2010 ! Not March 2010! It doesn't take a Mensa member to understand that the form should not be filled out until April first, 2010. Or is that an April Fool joke? So quit complaining!

03. Funeral stuff.

None of us want to think about it, but we are not immortal, even though some teen-agers think so. We should all make some kind of plans so that the poor people who survive us know what to do with us.

My son has always told me not to worry because he would find a real nice ice floe to put me on when my time grows near.

Seriously, you might want to think about it. And to help you, the Carroll County Maryland Chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) is having a funeral expert come and talk at our next meeting in Westminster, Maryland, on April 8th, 2010. Anyone may attend the meeting. It is at the Cactus Willie's restaurant. Come at 11:30 am, and enjoy their buffet. They have the second best fried chicken legs I have ever eaten! Fill your stomach and then fill your brain with new information.

The speaker guarantees that his talk is not depressing and he is even bringing appropriate door prizes. (Hope its not little pine box key chains.)

See you there!