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.