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!