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.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

I went to my doctor last Thursday, and he said that I looked so good that I probably would live to be 70. I told him: "I'm already there." He replied: "See, I told you so."

Sorry, I made that up, but this was my skin doctor and he told me I didn't need to come back to see him for a whole year. Good news.

I had asked him about the white things growing on my arms and hands. They look like barnacles. (Remember the old song: "I'm Barnacle Bill, the sailor"?) He assured me that I was not turning into a humpback whale. He said that eventually everybody gets them, usually around the age of 60. See what you have to look forward to.

Enough about me, let's go on to more interesting things, I hope.

01. Mr. Mind? SHAZAM!: This week, Elaine and I came face to face with the dreaded tomato horn-worm. (Actually five of them.) These are large green caterpillars with thin white stripes and horns. They are very hard to see because they are the same color as the foliage they love to eat. They are voracious eaters. You can tell where they are by looking for devastated areas on your plants. If you don't get rid of them, they will completely devour your tomato plants.

We couldn't figure out how these worms could get to our plants, which are 15 feet off the ground on our deck. We later learned that they are propagated by a generous moth that lands on your plants and lays eggs which later turn into the worms.

The worms grow big and strong very quickly and sometimes get to be 6 inches long and very plump. At some point, they feel that their tummies are full enough for them to quit being a worm and weave themselves into cocoons and go to sleep until they wake as giant colorful moths, some as big as humming birds. Then the cycle continues.

To break the cycle, you must rid yourself of these worms when you find them. I threw some down a toilet and it got clogged up, so I don't recommend that. I put some through the disposal. That worked ok, but I then felt like a murderer. Finally, I followed some advice and cut them in half with a knife... yes, I didn't like doing it, but what was the alternative?

There is one humane way to handle them. A certain type of wasp climbs on the backs of these worms and deposits hundreds of eggs which become larvae that feeds on the worm. After a short time, these parasites kill the worm. So, if your tomato horm worm shows white things on its back, it will be going to worm heaven shortly and you can leave it alone.

02. The ultimate solution? I heard on the radio yesterday that a Southern Christian church is scheduling a "Koran Burning Day." Will they soon be recommending the rounding up of all Moslems for concentration camps?

03. Carat juice: Years ago, aristocrats liked to drink liquid gold; they thought that it was helpful. It probably killed them. Recently, gold residue has been found in dug-up ancient remains. You rich folks, don't try it.

Recently, one of my organizations that publishes a book with a gold-lettered title on the cover, received a bill for hundreds of dollars, just for the gold-lettering. When we opted for a silver-lettered title, the price went down considerably.

04. HUH? The Baltimore Sun reports that 15% of teens are going deaf because of the music coming through their ear buds. Music? I'm sorry, but the sounds that appeal to some of our teen-agers would make my poor old ears cry "Uncle!" But then, I am an old dude who would rather listen to Mozart... once in a while I like to hear works by Gustav Mahler which could be considered by some classical musical buffs to be a little loud at times. (By the way, give yourself a treat, teen-agers, plug into Mahler's Lied von der Erde.. both the music and the lyrics/poems.. I think you would like it.)

05. Writer's idea: Walk through a cemetery and find an interesting tombstone. Do some research on that person.. who they were.. who their ancestors were. Then, armed with those facts, build a story around them, perhaps change their names and write the story for publication.

I have always wanted to do this. In Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, near my family's gravesites, there are tombstones for the Snow family. The family intrigues me. There is a Captain Snow, with a carving of his ship on the stone. There are lots of other Snow's nearby, including one person named Ivory Snow. These were all people who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries and probably many of them were whalers out of New Bedford. I'll bet there are interesting stories there ...and I would like to get them down on paper someday when I have time. (Space here for an emoticon representing someone laughing their head off.)

I wonder if Captain Snow is the same guy whose house is now an inn on Cape Cod?

06. Even the rich have to: I just learned that Hetty Green, New Bedford born richest woman in the world at one time, was not quite the mean person she was made out to be. I'll talk more about her and a biography of her life in a later blog entry. For now, I want to mention something I think I heard on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me: her son, called Colonel Green, owned a diamond-encrusted chamber pot. Speaking of things scatalogic, his mother had an automobile that contained a working toilet. The car is now on display at an automobile museum in Princeton, Massachusetts.

07. Up, Up and Away: The Baltimore Sun mentions a theater in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, that shows old ugly movies. The audience is encouraged to boo, hiss and heckle. Sounds like a lot of fun. One of the old movies being shown is Gamera.. about a kind of ugly monster that flies through the air by farting fire.

08. Another writer's idea: Take a deceased person and develop a facebook style story with them and others of the same time frame. In other words, for instance, set up Thomas Jefferson on a dummy Facebook, with "friends" like John Adams, George Washington, etc. Plug in entries.. about events in their lives.. with pictures of oil paintings as "photo" spots.. but not like Twitter entries, although that might be worked out.

09. Girls night out: I read somewhere that people in Bogota, Colombia observed a "night without men".. and reported that crime for that night was down by 25%.

10. Exciting stuff: Folks can now canoe or kayak over the 18 foot high Ohiopyle Falls on Pennsylvania's Youghiogheny River. When I worked at the Social Security Administration in Baltimore, trips down the Youghiogheny River were fairly common. However, I can't imagine how any of these folks, in their reportedly drunken condition, could have made it over a waterfall without leaving this world.

11. Fish in disguise? Inside my facial cheeks, I have what seem to be vestigial gills. Nobody else I know has them. They never have helped me get oxygen through my cheeks and "what can be the use of them is more than I can see".. they do get kind of chewed up sometimes... haven't you ever bit the inside of your cheek? Can anybody out there.. and believe it or not, there are a few people out there .. help me in this regard? But please don't get me embroiled in the anti-evolution argument.

12. A Teenage Hero: In item 07 above, I mention that there is a theater where lousy movies are shown. One of those mentioned is Hercules, starring Steve Reeves. The movie came out in 1958, just after Steve had achieved a body-building status unmatched until "Big Arnie" appeared on the scene.

I was heavy into weight-lifting and body-building in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, and Steve was one of my "heroes". This was a guy that I could never look like.. he was about 7 feet tall, with massive, but well-formed muscles from his little toe to the top of his hairdo. He was "a man's man" who did not use steroids and liked women... who went crazy over him.

Unfortunately, he was not a very good actor. I believe he did a lot of Italian movies where his voice was dubbed in a perfect Roman accent.

At one time, I had a 5 minute movie of Steve flexing his muscles. I had that movie mixed in with other 8 mm movie film of family events. One of my co-workers combined all of these films into a long reel.. however, Steve's movie didn't get edited out.. so, as you looked at the family at Christmas in 1966, this was immediately followed by Steve flexing, followed immediately by the family in Easter 1967. Interesting.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Another Hot Week

Even though this was another hot and muggy week, with violent thunder storms, it was a "cool" week for the Social Security Alumni Association in Maryland.

A nice group met at Bullock's Rt 32 for the Carroll County Social Security Alumni Chapter on Monday.

A larger than usual group met at the Windsor Inn for the Baltimore Chapter on Tuesday.

On Thursday, I represented the Social Security Alumni Association as its President for the opening of the Social Security Museum and the festivities for the 75th Anniversary of the Social Security Act. I'll be writing about this in my SSAA Blog.

Meanwhile, let me mention a few "interesting" things that I heard or read about recently.

01. By the book: Efficient New York City traffic workers would not allow a King Tut's tomb artifact, namely, an ancient vehicle, to enter the city.. because.. it did not have a "vehicle identification number."

02. A lot to learn: Researchers say that we have 250,000 known species and another 1,000,000 unknown species in the world's oceans. (Not counting the one billion unknown bacteria species.) The richest areas to look for these unknown non-bacteria species are thought to be around Australia and Japan, and many species probably live in mud or on reefs.

A recently found "unknown" is called a "Dragon Fish" which has teeth on it's tongue.

03. That little squirt! A 28 year old Maryland resident has finally been caught after squirting sperm on several persons in Gaithersburg grocery stores and malls. Maybe he thinks he's an unknown species of fish.

04. Methuselah? A global warming expert stated this week: "...a rate of (animal) extinction that we haven't seen for millions and millions of years." Does he have a Hubble-type telescope with very close resolution?

05. Another opportunity for short people. The French Gendarmerie (police) have started to hire people under 5'3". Was this a change because they wanted to hire more females.. although in the US, females seem to be usually taller than that these days. Or, maybe it is another boon to short people that has been pushed by Sarkozy?

I've mentioned before.. researchers have determined that Napoleon might have been 5'6"... the same height of Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini.

By the way, new documents have been found in Scotland that indicate in 1919 a Scotsman saved a young Hitler from being stomped to death by a mob. !

06. Sarah quote: I hadn't heard about this one until I read it this week. "When are they going to ramp up drilling?" Did she really say that? Was it before the BP spill?

07. Mad man? The advertising guy who gave us "Don't squeeze the Charmin" is now pushing for "Meatless Mondays". He feels that it will be a healthful move for our obese society. I believe he has already gotten Johns Hopkins University interested in the concept, and some Baltimore schools are removing meat from their menus for Mondays.

08. Brains. Someone showed me an article from 2008 that mentioned that two pygmy sperm whales got caught up in a low water pool in New Zealand and couldn't figure out how to get out of it... before they could become beached, a local bottlenose dolphin, named Moko, found a deep water part of the pool and guided the whales through it and out into deep water.

09. Scandinavian criminals? JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association has an article about common sense sunbathing that tries to show that blonds and people from northern countries with minimal sun may develop criminal tendencies when they move to high sun areas. Since I am not an MD, I may have misread the article.

10. Self-mutilation: Some of you may have seen a picture of Elaine Davidson who is reputed to be "the most pierced woman in Scotland"... and from the looks of it, probably the world. Check it out.

11. Seinfeld? A piece of the Peterman Glacier broke off this week. It is four times the size of Manhattan. Doesn't that add any credence to the Global Warming theory? How many ice cubes would that make? Perhaps one of the Arab leaders could get it towed to their land.. wasn't that done once before? Or did I read that in a story by Mark Twain?

12. Not Here! The Museum of Tolerance has stated that they do not want the Ground Zero mosque to be built.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

From billionaires to shopping bags.

Here are some more things that you may or may not be thinking about.

01. Brain alarms: Many years ago, I realized that I could set my own brain alarm clock. If I told myself at bed time that I needed to get up at 6 am, I woke up at 6 am. If I told myself that I needed to get up at 8:55 am, that was when I would wake up. I did not need an alarm clock. I still can do that even at this advanced age; however, I don't trust myself like I did, and I do use an alarm clock.

Thinking about that, long ago I decided to find out if I could set a mental alarm for the future, not just for the next morning. So, as an experiment, on vacations, as I drove, I would set my mental alarm for 5, 10, 20, or more years in the future.. at which time I wanted me to see what I was seeing through the car window at the time I was setting my alarm. I did that a lot, and lived to regret it.

For years, as I was engaged in some activity, I would suddenly get a flash picture in my brain of a place we were driving through.. years ago. At first, I didn't realize what was happening.. when I did.. it amazed me, and I've always wondered if other people had the same experience. So far, nobody has owned up to it and I guess I am the only weird person around.

02. Watch out, bag people! Now we learn that reusable shopping bags may have bad bacteria. It makes sense, but who would have thought it? I have a wonderful bag that I bought in South Carolina. It is excellently made to handle the heaviest load that I can handle, reinforced in a southern textile mill with strong threads. It probably will never wear out. However, now I have to think about all the things that I have carried in it over the years... milk jugs, vegetables, meat, sloppy soup, fruit, candy, etc. The bacteria must have been there through many generations. I really hate to wash it out and weaken it, but I guess I will have to.

03. Is this real? Another Chinese man has gone into a Kindergarten class and slashed the children. This is the 7th time this has happened since last March. What is going on in that country?I thought that we had the monopoly on nut cases, apparently not.

04. Fight fire with fire? In Holland, alcoholics are being treated with beer. A half litre every little while keeps the patients happy with a slight buzz so that they can get the attention that they need.. instead of being bombed out of their minds all the time and therefore, basket cases. Damn clever, these Dutch.

05. Mine's bigger than yours! France's Nicolas Sarkozy is getting a new plane. And.. it has a wingspan 2 feet longer than Air Force One! (Air-Sarko-One) Yah yah yah yah yah yah!

06. What a nerve! A Florida burgler who had broken into a van, was caught and sat on by the owner and two friends while they waited for the police. Now, that burgler is suing the owner of the van for damages, because he sustained a permanent disability when those guys sat on him.

07. The U.S. crack case. A New York judge dismissed a case against a young guy for wearing his baggy pants low enough to show his underwear. ( I had mixed this case up with one in the U.K.) All Americans have the right to dress the way they want to dress.. right?

08. Watchit! If you get an email saying that you are suffering under a virus and need to purchase special anti-virus protection, be careful. That message may be "scareware"... and if you buy some phony anti-virus software, you may be getting "scamware." (Once, there was only "hardware" and "software."

09. Respect. At an Allentown, PA church carnival, a target on one of the games was what appeared to be a figure of President Obama. Although the owner said: "It wasn't meant to be him".. the figure wore a belt buckle with the Presidential seal and held a scroll labeled "Health Bill." How long will this country allow people to be disrespectable to the President of the United States? Regardless of how you feel about what he is doing in office, he is the President of the United States. Why would anyone want him to fail at what he is doing? And why should he be the object of ridicule by sub-cretans?

10. Freedom of Speech? Somewhat similar to #09 above, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration offices have been visited by persons who block the entrances and display tables with pictures of the President shown as Hitler. (!) always wonder why people like this waste their time and bother honest people in a cause that can never be fulfilled. At the Westminster MVA, the demonstrators took time to call people "Jerks".. surely that should have gotten them evicted.

If I had the time, and the inclination, I would have taken pictures of these guys at the Westminster MVA and had the pictures blown up to place on a table across from them. I would have had dunce caps shown on their heads. Would I have been able to do that?

11. Money. A lot of billionaires have pledged to give away half of their wealth to charity. They have been encouraged in this respect by fellow billionaires, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Great idea!
(Tevya asked God to make him a rich man.. what do most people think is "rich"? Being worth a million dollars? .. I am rich.. but not necessarily with money.. but with the love of family and friends. Although, like Tevya, would it hurt if I had a little bit of money?)

12. The other "bread". Good news. Whole grain bread is selling better than plain white refined bread. In the past twenty years or so, it has amazed me to see people buy tasteless white bread, when they could have nice healthful tasty whole wheat or whole grain bread at close to the same price. I'm glad that the message about healthful bread is finally getting through to folks.