Saturday, December 03, 2011

Joe's Annual Christmas Gift Helper

Well, it's Christmas time again, and we are once again tasked with finding gifts for our friends and neighbors who already have "everything."  What a dilemma!

But.. yesterday, Elaine and I went on a search for those special gifts most people miss.  Elaine's standards are a bit higher than mine.  I look for good cheap items that are are also weird enough to be appreciated by cheap, weird people (not necessarily my friends and relatives.)

Here are some items, available at Big Lots Stores anywhere.  I found them to be intriguing and I am seriously considering purchasing some of them.. meanwhile, I list them here for you to consider when you do your Christmas shopping this year.

01.  For the serious drinker.

A clear glass bottle shaped like a chic high heel, filled with a pink fluid labeled "Non-Alcoholic Martini Mix."  (I guess you can add the booze.)  You can purchase this gem for only $5.

02.  For the serious zaftig-girl watcher.

A "Wings" set, which includes a plate with the "Hooters" logo, a bottle of "the hottest" hot sauce, a basting brush, and tongs.  Everything except chicken parts and a pot to cook it all in.  What a bargain for just $12!

03.  For the serious "retro" lover.

A lava lamp party kit for just $10.  The box says: "Light up your party with LAVA barbecue!"  To make that happen, the kit includes:

a "color-phasing" bottle opener
2 "color-phasing" shot glasses
4 "light-up" plastic ice cubes

Perhaps you could combine this with the "Wings" set and have a retro blast!

04.  For the serious Elvis fan.

An authentic-looking street sign for "Elvis Presly Boulevard".  For just $10, you can replace your existing street sign and drive your mail deliverer and neighbors crazy.

05.  For the "child" in us all.

"Not just another flashlight.  It stands.  It crawls. It walks."  Yes, it's the ROBOT Transforming Flashlight.   When you don't need the bright beam to light your way to the LAVA wing party, you can twist it into all kinds of shapes.  And I think I read where it is only $3.  Now that is definitely a bargain.  Even I would like to get one of those for Christmas.

06.  For your favorite doggie.

Peanut-butter flavored cookies for your best friend.  These "Dog Cookies" sell for only $3, and I'll bet they are delicious.

07.  Also for  your favorite doggie.

A nice bright red Santa Claus suit for your best friend to wear in our upcoming frigid Winter.  A little pricey at $8, but well worth it.  You know... you could combine this with some Rudolph antlers and have a very photogenic opportunity.  Have Staples make your picture into Christmas cards and everyone will talk about you all year long.

08.  For your tone-deaf friends.

Speaking of Rudolph, for $5 you can buy a fluffy Rudolph doll that sings that obnoxious song over and over again when you press his hoof. 

09.  For your friends who have an anger problem.

A "Jack in the Box" type Alvin.  Alvin is one of the famous "Chipmonks".  When he pops up, he starts to sing, along with his squeaky buddies.  This is a great buy at $8.  Give it to a person who has that anger management problem and they can relieve the pressure by throwing Alvin against the  wall over and over.

10.  For your scatalogically inclined friends.

Picture this.  Santa Claus sitting on his recliner, with his cap off, smoking his pipe after his long Christmas Eve journey.  Press Santa's mitten, and he says something to the effect:  "I'm just sitting here resting, after shoveling reindeer poop all day."  Just think of the humorous effect you have caused with your thoughtful $8 gift!

11.  For your "fair weather" friends.

I've saved "the best" for last.  This is a kneeling Santa Claus, holding high an unrolled "naughty" list.  Santa is smiling broadly and when you press his knee, he gives out with repeated "Hee Hee's" while he shakes uncontrollably, and farts continually.  His title is "Farting Santa" and he also costs $8.

So.. there it is ..  my research is done for 2011.  I hope it has helped you decide on a gift for someone who had been difficult to match with something appropriate.

Merry Christmas.. and remember that the best gift you can give someone is "yourself."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Christmas Planning Already!

Last night, Elaine and I made our annual pilgrimage to Westminster, Maryland's Mistletoe Mart.  The local Episcopal Church presents a very successful juried arts and crafts show each year.  Let me tell you about some places we visited.

1.  Summerhaze Pottery

Elaine has a collection of a special type of pottery created only by the Summerhaze shop, hidden in a remote area of  Tidewater Virginia.  James Stewart might have written a poem about their place:

Summerhaze Pottery is a beautiful place,
Surrounded by green trees and grass,
But getting to Summerhaze Pottery,
Is a terrible pain in the ass.

But worth it.. Elaine and I visited there a few years ago and were given a royal tour of their kiln area and workshops.  I think I have written somewhere else in my blogs about their friendly dogs.

Summerhaze came up to the Mistletoe Mart just so Elaine could add another piece to her collection.  Here is a picture of a piece she already had, so you can see why she likes it.

Summerhaze has many other kinds of pottery that you might like.  Check them out at:

2.  Our Favorite Sculptor

John Sokolovich is a true artist who works in metal.  He sculpts and welds all kinds of creations from scrap metal, old tools, license plates and any other metalic thing he can find.  Elaine and I visited his enormous barn-studio in New Oxford, Pennsylvania, and were astounded and amazed at some of the beautiful items dreamed up by his ever-working brain.  

At this show, he had one item that would have made a Baltimore Ravens fan drool.  It was a Raven crafted out of a license plate, scissors, wire, bolts, and I don't know what else.  The only problem, he had forgotten to paint it purple.  Before we left the show, I noticed that a fan was buying the raven from him.. he will probably take it upon himself to paint it purple... or.. is the raven supposed to stay black?

We didn't buy anything from John this year, but take a look at what we bought a couple of years ago:

We bought a twin of this last year.  Now we have one on each wall framing our deck door.

John doesn't have a website, but if you are interested in seeing some of his work, send him an email at

3.  Smells good!

Another spot that we like at the Mistletoe Mart is where the folks from Willow Pond Farm are located.  Willow Pond Farm itself is located in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, near Gettysburg.  These folks specialize in herbs of all kinds and have on display samples of many dips made from their herbs and also homemade vinegars, jams and jellies, honey of all types, and homespun clothing.  Of course, Elaine and I sample almost everything; Elaine doesn't do garlic.

Every year, we end up buying flavored honey and a catnip-filled cloth fish on a string.  Usually, our cat (s) will tear those fish up in ten minutes flat;  this year, SuZee sniffed it a few times and ignored it.. I wonder why.

Each year the Pennsylvania Lavender Festival is held for three days in June at Willow Pond Farm.  There are workshops, lectures, and cut-your-own-lavender sessions.   The farm maintains three acres of lavendar plantings.  The lavender smell helps Elaine to sleep.

Interested in Willow Pond Farm?

Interested in the Lavender Festival?

4. I dare you not to laugh!

Another favorite spot at the Mistletoe Mart is the area where Bruce Garrabrandt shows his remarkable artwork.  Bruce does lots of things.  He is a professional artist, writer, motivational speaker, and inn-keeper (with his wife).  He resides at their Bed-and-Breakfast in Terre Hill, Pennsylvania, right in the middle of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  He creates FUNNY pictures!

I bought one of Bruce's books,   The Power of Having Desire, (the Key Secret to Accomplishing Anything You Really Want.)  (You might rightly ask: why does a guy at my age want with a motivational book?  I dunno.  Guess I'm still a little ambitious... and I want to get up the nerve to do some of the things I have always wanted to do before I shuffle off this ... well you know what I mean.)

In his book are words of praise by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Ben Carson MD, Tim Conway, and Bill Keane.  I admire all of these persons for their "worldliness"... i.e., their mature outlook on the world, even when it is hidden inside professionalism, comedy, and/or cartoons.  (For those of you who may not know, Bill Keane, the creator of The Family Circus, passed away yesterday.  I think that his son, Jeff, will be carrying on the "family" tradition.)

If these folks like Bruce's work, I can't wait to read his book.  In addition, I purchased a CD that he published called: Nature with a Twist (a Playful Look at Life, Art and Other Turmoil).  The cover shows a rabbit atop Bruce's head, shown in a twisted frame with the title: Hare Transplant. 

A couple of testimonials listed on the CD cover are worth pondering:  "Dating Bruce was pivotal in my decision to become a nun."  and "...and (he) once had his underwear sewn shut by an irate co-ed."   Get the picture?  This guy is my kind of loony-toons genius.  You gotta check his work out!

5. Sweet stuff

A choclatier had a site where she was selling a box of 18 chocolates for $35.  They can't be that good, can they?  Instead, while poking around the cookie/candy table, I found a bag of 50 milk-chocolate Trick-or-Treat candies for $1., a much better buy, in my opinion. Of course, as a pre-diabetic person, I violated my chocolate probation and devoured a large amount of these delicious candies before we left the building.   Please don't tell on me.. it's bad enough that my A1C test will squeal on me in a couple of months.

Basta! Enough!  In November 2012, barring disasters predicted by some kind of Aztec prophet, the Mistletoe Mart will be on again, and I invite you to come and visit with the nice folks I have mentioned.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Snowy October Day in 2011

Surprise!  For the fifth time in recorded Maryland history, we are experiencing snow on an October day.  This, for us senior citizens, cancels three functions  that we were planning to attend today.  So, that means that I have time to update this blog for October 2011.

01.  Good News for Inebriates Down Under!

On this morning's Wait, Wait, Dont Tell Me show, a news clip mentioned that rubber sidewalks are being installed somewhere in Australia.  Those great Aussies love to slug down their giant Foster's Beers each night, and this will help them avoid hurting themselves as they careen down the street towards home.

Take a look at some of Foster's great commercials.  Be may take a long time to load, and you may  have to submit proof of your age!  However, if you like beer, you will probably think that it is all worth it.

02.  Royal Perqs

Also mentioned on the WWDTM show today was a section about nice things that you can have if you are members of the UK royalty, such as:

Help with Pressing Matters

For instance, the Prince of Wales has a servant who irons his shoelaces.

Help to eliminate Encrouchments

For instance, the Earl of Mountbatten has a servant who lubricates the Earl's tight pants so that he can slip into them easily.

What about the Duke of Windsor?

03.  Seattle's Best

After I sent a nasty email to NETFLIX, they reactivated my ROKU and now, once again, I have access to both mailed-to-me movies and online NETFLIX selections.  To celebrate, I pulled up and watched the first two episodes of the Frasier TV show.  It started in 1993 and I loved to watch it then because it always made me laugh.  It still does.  (La Comedia e Stupenda!) 

Two segments on these early shows knocked me out.

Lupe Velez

Roz told Frasier the story about the supposed suicide of Lupe Velez, the hot-blooded vixen of 1940's movies.  When she was in her forties, she decided to commit suicide and stage it so she would always be remembered.  She put on her finest clothes and had her beautiful bed draped with the finest coverings, and prepared by drinking some of the finest champagne and exquisite food.  She planned to then take poison, drape herself over the bed provocatively,  and await notoriety.   However, she must have eaten too much of that good food, got nauseous and was instead found drowned with her head in her toilet bowl.   She did achieve her notoriety alright, but perhaps not the way she would have wanted.

Punxsatawney Phil?

Frasier comes out of his bedroom in a disheveled manner, wearing a loose bathrobe.  During an argument with Roz, his bathrobe opens by accident.  Roz then delivers the line that I think is the funniest line I have ever heard on a TV sitcom:  "Oh.. I see that we will be having six more weeks of Winter."

04.  Gangsters!

The Brits are upset.  English kids are betting money on the game of marbles!  What next!

The Americans are upset.  American kids are betting money in online poker!  Moral depravity!

Members of the U.S. Congress are upset.  People who play the slots are now being deceived into thinking they are on the verge of winning, because of interactive messages now appearing on the slot devices that say things like: "Wow!  You just missed winning $1,000 by 4 pulls.".. or words to that effect.  A Congressional Hearing was held last Tuesday.  I hope that I can pull up some of this session on CSPAN and learn what to avoid when I go to Nevada.

No.. I don't really gamble.. just like all senior citizens, when I go to a slot machine parlor, I take $20 and when I lose that, I quit.  Besides, the slots are no longer fun.. they have taken away the buckets and the coins that would flow out of the machines when you won.. some have even taken away the metallic sounds.  Damn spoilsports!  I think I'll stick with the Maryland Lottery; at least, with them, I can play by mail and once in a while get a $2 winning check in the mail.

By the way, statistics show that the top three "sports" watched on TV are:

   1: NFL; 2: NASCAR; 3: POKER

05.  Pass me the Bacon, please.

For many years, certain people have maintained that Shakespeare did not have the brains or education to write the plays that list him as the author.  Since he was "just an actor", he did not have the "smarts" to write something like Hamlet or MacBeth.   The real author obviously must have been a nobleman who didn't want anybody to know he wrote them.

In fact, some critics have even gone so far as to ascribe the works to Sir Francis Bacon, (most notably, a lady named Elizabeth Wells Gallup) and state that words in some of the plays are cryptograms.  Sir Francis had developed a "biliteral" alphabet that used multiple type fonts/faces for letters of the alphabet and she had determined, by using this code to lines in Shakespeare's folios, that messages appeared.  For example purposes:  By assigning coded letters to the type faces on one line of Hamlet, the decoded line might then read: I Bacon am the author of this play.  And, yes, that was shown to work out in many cases.

However, a husband and wife team of cryptographic geniuses  (William and Elizabeth Friedman) also showed that the following might also be read by using the same alphabetic scheme:  I Mark Twain wrote this damn play.

Check out this background information for the Friedman's.  I think that you will find it interesting.  There are also whole books covering the Bacon Theory and how the Friedman's debunked it.

Much other work over the years has been done to debunk the Bacon is Shakespeare theory.  For one thing, existing writing by Bacon does not come anywhere near the classiness of Will's work.

Anyway... what I am trying to show is that the theory of another (nobler) author of Shakespeare's works was long ago debunked.  So, why the sudden appearance of the movie Anonymous?

Roland Emmerich, the noted director of a lot of spectacular movies such as Godzilla, has a hit on his hand.. with remarkable photography and acting.  But, one must ask why he has to rationalize this work by coming up with ten reasons to defame the bard?  (Methinks thou may protest too much.)

I will order the movie from Netflix and probably will enjoy it.. however, I will still consider it a fictional story unless some other evidence comes up to convince me otherwise.

Goodby for now.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Facts and Factoids for the Start of Fall 2011

Today, I'm taking a break from my daily blog ( to bring vital information to the attention of those who have nothing better to do but read my blogs.  Believe it or not, there are a few of you out there who read these blurbs and some actually feel the need to needle me about stuff I publish.. and I love you for it.  And to those in China and Japan who send me comments.. thank you.. however, I am, as of yet, unable to read Chinese or Japanese, but I enjoy gazing at the written characters.

1.  Burning Question

Elaine and I were in the Elkton, Maryland area the other day, and we remembered that a few years ago, lots of "Northerners" took trips to Elkton to get a "quickie marriage."  The reason given was because Maryland did not require a blood test with a waiting period before getting a marriage license and Elkton was just over the Mason-Dixon line.. and a short hop for New Yorkers and other Yankees.

Question:  Why did some States require the results of a recent blood test before granting a marriage license?

My reading of information found on the Internet tells me this:

Blood tests were instituted to ensure that the parties did not have syphllis.  Only Mississippi and Montana still require blood tests.

In a Supreme Count case: Meister v. Moore (1877).. it was "ruled" (?) that it is illegal for any state to mandate any form of marriage license or ceremony, and (technically) all states must recognize "common law marriage."

Interesting.. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know if I'm interpreting this information correctly or not.

2.  It was a very good year..

Y'all know that I'm an old dude.  I was born in 1934.  Imagine that!

The famous movie star, Alan Ladd, graduated from Hollywood High School in 1934.

Mr. Ladd was 5'7" and when he played parts with tall leading ladies, he had to stand on an overturned box.  He was also blond. I related to Alan because I was also 5'7" and blond.  However, not being a movie star, I didn't have to stand on a box when kissing my tall girl friend.

One of my favorite Alan Ladd movies is: Shane!  If you haven't seen it.. see it!  It's great fun.

3.  More on 1934..

In a Public Auction Notice from 2009.. as part of a list of household items being auctioned off:

"1934 bedroom suit with chair, stool, night stand and dresser used about 50 times"

I'll bet there is an interesting story there.

4.  Don't forget hubby...

IKEA has announce a "Play Place for Men".. this is a location near the front of the store, where ladies can drop off their husbands or boyfriends, while they shop without distraction.  The ladies are outfitted with a buzzer system, which will go off if they try to exit the store without their male companions.

5.  The Great Satan!

Yesterday, Iran's (also short) President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his expected United Nations rant against the United States and it's allies.  Remember last year, he accused the U.S. of staging the 9/11 attacks to support Israel's survival in the Middle East.

I wonder if he mentioned Iran's latest wonderful accomplishment:  the banning of squirt guns.

6.  Dick Cheney's Book

I'm reading Dick Cheney's book In My Time.  I'll be giving my opinions about the book in a future blog entry.. but for now, just let me cite a 1970's quote by California Congresman Don Edwards, as reported in The Nation magazine:

"Congress...must be vigilant to the perils of the subversive notion that any public official, the president or a policeman, possesses a kind of inherent power to set the Constitution aside whenever he thinks the public interest or "national security" warrants it.  That notion is the essential postulate of tyranny."

7.  Not Torture?

The Week magazine reported in 2008 that a Utah salesman sued his former employer for waterboarding him during a team-building exercise.  The boss is alleged to have said to his salesmen:  "You saw how hard C... fought for air.  I want you to go back inside and fight that hard to make sales!"

8.  No more fat mice...

Georgetown University researcher Zofia Zukowska reported back in 2007 that by injecting an NPY-blocking agent into the fat bellies of mice, the mice started to become skinny again... she said:  "It just melts the fat!"  Apparently the stuff called NPY* increases fat deposits.. so anything that blocks NPY would be a good thing.

I've tried to read some of the voluminous current Internet entries for Zofia, but I'm still not sure yet how far she has gone with her work on fat mice, and how it applies to humans.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could just take our fat buns down to the Doctor's office, get our injections and not have to worry about diet anymore?

*(Internet sources say, kind of, that NPY  or Neuropeptide Y,  is a 36 amino acid peptide neurotransmitter found in the brain and the autonomic nervous system.  It causes increased food intake and  decreased physical activity, and it stores energy as fat.)

9.  Factoid #1.  Suicide

Over 300 people have jumped to death from the top of Notre Dame in Paris.  I guess these would be very religious people, otherwise they would be jumping off of the much higher Eiffel Tower.

10.  Factoid #2.  Make nice nice

That marvelous radio show Wait Wait Don't Tell Me reports that sharks can be taught to cuddle!

11.  Factoid #3.  Baby Blues.

Blue Whale babies get a ton of very rich milk every day which helps them grow at a rate of 90 pounds a  day.  The 3 tons of krill that they eat each day also helps in that growth.

BTW: the tongue of a full-grown blue whale weighs the same as an African elephant!

12.  GBS was right.

Just as speech purists deride the outrageous use of "like and "I mean"  and "you know" .. another unwanted phrase has entered into everyday American English. 

For years, when one said "Thank You!", the proper response was "You're Welcome!"

Now, you are just  as likely to hear "No Problem!"  What is this world coming to!  Call the speech police!   H.L. Mencken must be rolling over in his grave.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September Madness

Last week was very sad, as we relived the events of 9/11/2001.  In spite of that horrible memory, life goes on.  I wonder if the hi-jackers received their promised virgins.. if so, I hope that they experience continuous post-coital depression until the end of time.

What makes some "human beings" believe that good will come out of killing innocent persons? Could there actually be a Satan making them act that way?  But everything I've ever read about Satan tells me that "Old Nick" is only concerned with amassing souls, not killing little babies.  (Wait a minute!  That's not a picture of Satan; it's a picture of a satyr!  Do you remember that old magazine:  the Satyr Dairy View?)

Of course, these hi-jackers were only amateurs when compared to famous mass-murderers like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.  Does Dante mention a spot in Hell for people like these?

Basta!  Let's jump to other topics in the news.

01.  The Bruins lose.

NPR reports that a bear broke into an automobile, somehow got it into reverse, and crashed into a tree.  I'd like to read that insurance claim.

The Week reports that when a dog owner saw a bear trying to tear her dachshund into edible pieces, she got mad and punched the bear in the nose.  The bear knew that he had met his match, dropped the dog, and ran for the hills.

02. Why is Fluffy crying?

You've heard of the Reader's Digest?  Well, some cat food apparently contains something called ''Animal Digest".  Years ago, that great magazine, Consumer Reports  contacted a cat food company service rep who said that "Animal Digest" is just is a combination of treated pork and chicken livers in powdered form, regardless of what flavor the package wording might indicate. Check it out.. I'm going to start reading the ingredients listed on SuZee's food, because I want her to get all the fish and meat carnivores like her deserve.

I read somewhere that if your house cat was bigger than you are, she would sooner or later be hungry enough to eat you.  Look at what happened in the Sigfried and Roy show. 

Also, have you ever noticed little insect legs on your carpet in the morning?  Apparently, cats like to eat crickets, but not their legs that have sharp barbs.

Speaking of crickets.. during the recent flooding rains, some crickets sneaked into our garage to avoid the water.  For a few days, they kept up a symphony of sounds.  I didn't bother them.. I couldn't find them anyway.. until the symphony stopped.  Their bodies can be found now.. apparently, they died of starvation.  Sad.

03. Lee sez:

"It never rains but what it stops."

04.  Justice

A jailbird is suing the Guiness Book of Records for not listing him as the person who has initiated the most law suits.  (over 4,000)

05.  Ideas

I don't remember where I got these ideas from, but I think they are designed to make life easier for persons with disabilities.. or older folks.

a.  Cut button holes in napkins.  (a great idea for anybody who keeps losing their napkins)
b.  Glue a knob onto a ruler (to make it easier to work with)
c.  At a restaurant, ask the chef to cut up your food.
d.  Put hooks on high cabinets.
e.  Use bungee cords for belts.. or, cut down, for shoe laces.

06.  Thought for the day

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness... and just be happy.

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)

07.  Ho Hum!

Why do we yawn?  I had always heard of two theories:

a.  We are simply tired and our bodies need more oxygen to be able to function. But why is it contagious?

b.  It is a warning signal that some problem is near, and the warning must be passed on, which is why yawns are contagious.

Now there is a new theory that yawning keeps people alert by cooling their brains.  In a test, people who held an ice pack to their foreheads when observing others yawn, did not get the urge to yawn.

Also, people who breathe exclusively through their nasal passages are supposedly immune to yawning contagion because blood vessels in the nasal cavity carry cooled blood to the brain.

08.  Words to live by

I think I have mentioned that in my youth I attended Quaker meetings and Baptist services.  In fact, at the age of 13, I was baptised at the First Baptist Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  The Baptists were rather strict, as I have outlined earlier in one of my blogs.  Someone once gave me what they called The Baptist Moral Code:  "Don't drink, smoke, or chew; and don't go with girls who do."

I recall that as soon as the services were over at the First Baptist Church, the men could not get out of the building fast enough so they could light up their cigarettes.  Go  figure.

09.  Politicians

Today, as I waited for my car to be serviced, I watched their big screen TV.  They had it tuned to CNN and Governor Perry of Texas was giving a lively speech to the students at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Virginia.  You remember the Governor.. he seems to me to be trying to be a carbon copy of George W. Bush.  Sounds like him.  Also, he says some things that are questionable, at least to me.  For instance, he says that Social Security is just a big old Ponzi scheme. 

You know.. I would be willing to bet that when the Gov turns 62, he will file for his Social Security benefits just like everyone else.  And.. it will still be in existence.. and the big earners will still be getting a free ride on the taxes on most of their big salaries.

Do you really think that people believe what the current crop of politicians say?  I believe it would be a sad commentary on the intelligence of our population, if that were true.

10.  Caught

I don't know where I read it, but it was reported that 27 well-known unfaithful politicians since President Clinton have said:  "I'm sorry!"

11.  All the news...

I haven't heard about what happened to Maryland Senator Ben Cardin's newspaper revitalization legislation.  This law would have given  non-profit status to newspapers.. to save them financially.  Newspapers are having trouble surviving, and this would supposedly help them.  I must admit, I am having trouble understanding the rationale for this. Newspapers in France are subsidised by the Government, but  I can't see that ever happening in the U.S.

12. Dick Cheney

I am reading In My Time by Dick Cheney.  It's an easy read, and not too controversial just yet.  I am at the part where he is telling how he gained more and more influence in the White House over the years. It seems to me.. and this is, of course, my opinion.. that he and his boss at one time, Don Rumsfeld, were "Loose Canons".. lots of power and not much concern with how it would affect John Doe.. I could be wrong.  I like one part where a big shot (read the book and find out who) had an Air Force plane fly a long distance to deliver some magazines that he wanted to read.  Mr. Cheney, to his credit, thought that this was a bit much.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

The crazy world continues to spin

Here are a few of the things that take up a small number of the billions of neurons in my skinny brain:

01.   Wow!  That's smart!

Scientific American magazine for July 2011 includes the following article, that I highly recommend:
"The Physics of Intelligence..Evolution has packed 100 billion neurons into our three-pound brain. CAN WE GET ANY SMARTER?"

The author, Douglas Fox doesn't think we can get too much smarter.. but perhaps technology and culture may someday enable us to form a collective human entity (like bees)  that would be smarter than the sum of its parts.  Could this be where we are heading with Facebook and other social media?  Wikipedia?  Google?

What about other creatures?  It was interesting to hear this week that an elephant has now figured out how to use a tool to gain access to food normally out of his reach.  This puts Jumbo in the same brainpower category as dolphins, otters,  and chimpanzees.

And.. of course.. whales.  Think about a humpback..  it works with its siblings to round up schools of herring, mackrel, and krill for supper.. all the while singing popular whale songs as it glides effortlessly through its environment.. enjoying all of the activity going on in its enormous brain.

02.  Hay ride?

Well, the Iowa Straw Poll voting is over and results are in.  It is interesting to me that each voter has to have a $30 ticket, that is probably handed to a supporter by one of their candidate's staff..  so, the candidate whose staff is not agressive enough to get many tickets.. logically gets less of the vote.. at least it seems that way to me.  Check it all out on Wikipedia.  An explanation of the vote and a tabulation of the results by year is shown.  Very interesting.

03.  Papa Smurf

Last Thursday, I picked up a book at the Westminster Senior Activity Center, called Winters' Tale.  No, it wasn't written by Shakespeare.  It was a book of short stories by Jonathan Winters.   I have liked Mr. Winters for many years and his brand of crazy humor, so I couldn't wait to sit down quietly and read his book.  Unfortunately, even though he has been making people laugh for 60 years (He's almost 85 years old),  this book was the most unfunny book I have ever read.  I got almost all the way through before I threw the book in the recycling bin. 

I see by his website ( ) that some signed copies of that book are selling for hundreds of dollars.  I wonder why.

However, don't let what I say influence you.  If you like Mr. Winters' work, check out the book and form your own opinion.  And, by all means, listen to the NPR interview of him on his website.  Perhaps this will help you remember when Johnny Carson presented him with a stick and Jonathan did "stick schtick" with it for ten minutes.  I certainly have enjoyed all of Mr. Winters' "schtick" for many years, and I wish him many more years of humorous activity.

04.  Ow! That smarts!

It was mentioned today on NPR that Leon Trotsky was killed by someone thrusting an ice pick through his eye.  Yuk!  I know how that feels.  Every few weeks I have to have eyeball injections for macular degeneration in my right eye.  But it is doing me good.  When I started, I saw a round black ball through that eye.  Now, there is no black ball at all, but just a picture of reality that is kind of wavy.  Someday, I may even be able to read with that eye again.  Using both eyes together, my vision is extremely good.

Last month, at the preliminary examination (before the shot), the examiner said: "Even though your right eye ain't too good, your left eye is smokin'!"  Hey, man, that's good to hear.

05.  Save on savon

It was also mentioned on NPR today that "air baths" are just as good as soaking in a soap filled tub.. probably better, because you don't get all that "unsightly soap film" all over your body.  My cousin Charlie enlightened me a few years ago that perspiration per se does not smell.  Tell that to the deodorant sellers.   

06.   Dog-napping

I read where the thefts of dogs has increased in the past year.  The most common theft occurs in home invasions.. burglaries..  besides the giant TV, the dog is snatched as well. 

The second most common theft is from the car where the dog is sitting while the owner is in a store like WalMart.  Having the window cracked is probably  a help to the thief. 

The next most common theft occurs when the owner ties the dog up outside while they shop inside.

In all of these instances.. why didn't the dogs bite or scare away the thief? Was the dog napping?

Just be aware that these thefts are taking place, and make sure you have a micro chip implanted in Fido.

07.  Dog-pooping

The Week magazine mentions that a Taiwanese city has offered dog owners who clean up after their pets, a ticket to a lottery drawing for every bag of dog poop turned in.  The prize can go as high as $2,100.

08.  Anti-Social Media?

The Week magazine also mentions that a crime fugitive taunted police on his Facebook page.  "Catch me if you can.  I'm in Brooklyn."  Apparently, he didn't do his privacy setting properly, so police shortly popped in on him at his apartment, where he was still interacting with Facebook.

09.  Cell phones

I have mentioned this before.  One of the most glamorous movie stars of all time was named Hedy Lamarr.  However, most people do not know that she and a co-inventor developed "frequency hopping" which is now used in cell phone technology. Check out this website.. it even has a copy of the invention documents.

10.  Pope Joan

A new religious book has been published by Random House:  Absolute Monarchs:  A History of the Papacy by John Julius Norwich.   I haven't read the book yet, but I am intrigued by a review in The Week magazine.  May I quote:  "Legend has it that there was even a female pontiff.  Pope Joan, the story goes, briefly became the leader of the Catholic church during the ninth century by disguising herself.  She was purportedly discovered when she gave birth while attempting to mount a horse."

11.  Satan triumphs?

The West Memphis 3 were just released from prison.  Prosecutors decided not to retry them for the  1993 slaying of three cub scouts.  The slaying has been reported as part of a horrible Satanic ritual.
Many felt that they were wrongly convicted.  They were allowed to plead "guilty" in exchange for release; thereby, saving the prosecutor from retrying the case and losing because of the lack of original evidence.   We will probably now be able to revisit the documentary about the case on TV.

12.  Stinkbugs attack!

So far, we have lost our Zuchini and Squash plants to stinkbugs.  Now they are eyeing up our tomato plants.  Unfortuately, there is no way to get rid of them in a reliable way.  We can't use insecticides.  We are squirting them with soapy (savon) water.  They don't like that, but just fly away in disgust.  There are traps that use stinkbug sex hormone... but, as with Japanese Beetle lures, that is exactly what they do.. lure other stinkbugs to join them.  At least we have lots of tomatoes this year and can share them, albeit reluctantly, with the bugs.  I'm glad they don't like flowers.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Craziness Continues

Herman Melville said it:

"Heaven have mercy on us all -- Presbyterians and Pagans alike -- for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending."

Well, the Congressional bodies have finally agreed (kind of) on a way out of the debt ceiling mess.  My hat is off to the President for keeping an ace in his pocket.. the ability to discontinue the Bush-area tax breaks for the rich when it comes up for renewal.  This should be a great bargaining chip when this madness begins again shortly.

S+P (you know, the rating agency that some feel contributed to the depression we have been experiencing) has downgraded the US' credit rating, in spite of the "agreement" that Congress hammered out.  They want to stick to their decision, even though the Feds have pointed out a massive money error in the calculations used for that decision.

Anyway.. I hope that voters will look back on the madness that just went on in Congress.. and take that into consideration when they enter their polling booths next time.  In my personal opinion, the current crop of "freshmen" should be dumped as well as a lot of "old-timers."  This "my way or the highway" attitude is killing our Country.

Sorry to ramble on.  Let me get to some other crazy stuff:

01.  Pensions

I belong to the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), an Organization of persons who have given years of their life in service to the United States of America and an easy target for cost-cutting politicians.  One of the groups that have fought NARFE over the years because they felt that Government pensions, with cost-of-living adjustments was bankrupting the Country was called PEPS.   I can't find anything on the Internet about PEPS since 1996.  It probably was subsumed into some other like-minded organization.

A co-founder of PEPS was Hastings Keith, a former Republican Congressman from Massachusetts, who said that he was concerned about the "overly generous" Federal pensions.   He certainly had a point when it came to his own pensions.. he received a pension for his service in Congress, a pension for his military service as a Colonel,  regular Social Security benefits, as well as "Widower's" benefits. (If I recall correctly, to get "Widower's" benefits under Social Security, one would have to have been dependant on one's wife for several years).

Mr. Keith described himself as a "true double-dipper"..  perhaps he was a quattro-dipper? 

Even though I disagree with the concept of PEPS, I must confess that I liked Mr. Keith for many years and may even have voted for him when I lived in Massachusetts. 

02.  "You sexy thing!"

A Pennsylvania State University entomologist was exposed to disparlure, a gypsy moth sex pheromone in 1977.  For many years later, he still attracted male gypsy moths when outdoors during gypsy moth mating season.

When I had a house with an acre of greenery, one year,  I was bothered with Japanese beetles.  I bought a trap that consisted of a container with some kind of beetle pheromone ..  guaranteed to get those pesky beetles bottled up.  That worked.. however, I should have realized that the pheromone would also call out to beetles in other people's yards.  "Hey, sweetie.. come on over to the Vaughan's!"  Yes, I was inundated with Japanese beetles.. the bottles would fill up several times a day and the smell remains in my nostrils even today.  Let that be a lesson to you suburbanites.

03.  Quote from a friend:

"When I was a child, my father would sometimes let me sit on his lap and let me drive.  I enjoyed that.  However, some of the people on the bus didn't like it."

04.  Altruist of the Year Award

The Week magazine reports that  a school janitor sold his car, dug into his savings and spent $6,000 on 20 high-grade helmets for the football team where he worked!

05.  California Mistral?

A couple of years ago, while crowned Miss California USA,  a young lady said that semi-nude pictures of her appearing on the Internet were obviously the result of "Photoshopping", while others were taken "on a windy day" that blew her top open without her knowledge.

06.  A tip for you bookish types.

Yesterday, I spent a looong time in a "Dollar Store".  Everything there was one dollar or less.  (When you live on a fixed pension, you have to look for bargains these days.)   One section was devoted to "remainders".. books that have not sold in the regular book stores.  (Stand by for Borders!)

Hidden in the pile of books was one I had been debating about buying through Amazon, but didn't want to pay what they were asking.  Now I had it for the great price of $1! (This even beats Odd Lots books at $3 apiece.)

All in all, I bought ten $1 books.  All of them on subjects that perhaps would not appeal to the average reader, but are extremely attractive to odd-balls like me.

Question:  What happens if you drop your Kindle and break it?  My printed book can be picked up and used right away.. or put on a shelf, visible, to remind me that it is available at any time.

07.  Snore police!

The Week magazine reports that the Crowne Plaza Hotel chain has started testing "snore absorbtion rooms."  The rooms have soundproof walls and the hotel will hire "snore patrols" to knock on the doors of those who are snoring thunderously.  (Good idea to solve some of the jobs problem.)

08.  Happy Birthday Police.

The Week magazine also reports that Warner Brothers still collects about $2 million a year from public performances of "Happy Birthday".  They bought the rights to this song in 1988.  Whenever it is sung, a royalty payment is supposed to go to WB.  Are you guilty of violating these rights?

A few years ago, our local AARP Chapter got a letter from somewhere (probably WB) saying that because we were a non-profit group, we could get a cut rate on royalties whenever we sang the Birthday song at one of our meetings.  We ignored the letter and are probably now considered "scoff-laws."

Have you ever wondered why the wait-staff at certain restaurants sing their own versions of birthday greetings at your table?  The restaurant doesn't want to be turned in by the Happy Birthday police!

09. Saint Elmo?

I came upon this scrap of newsprint yesterday, but I can't find anything on the Internet to clarify it for me.

"This furry-red "Sesame Street" character (that giggles when you goose its tummy) was "instrumental" in securing the release of 225 hostages held in Peru."

I remember that the leftist group, MRTA, released 225 of 356 hostages held at a Japanese embassy as a "Christmas goodwill gesture."  But what part did Elmo play?

(I did find an article from 1996, telling how a father drove an earth mover over an Elmo doll, as a cheering crowd watched. I imagine they were sick and tired of hearing that damn giggle.)

Have you heard about St. Elmo's fire?  Check it out in Moby Dick (book and/or movie).

10.  Library of Congress

Well, at least one part of Congress is functioning as it should.  The great library in DC.  At one time, the library could boast over 108 million items on 532 miles of bookshelves.  16 million books. 2 million recordings. 12 million photographs. 4 million maps. 46 million manuscripts. 

About 460 languages plus Braille are represented in the collections.

Have some fun.  Type your name into the search field of the library's online catalog:

11.  Paper recycling in Afghanistan?

I read where our forces are meeting with representatives of the Taliban.  I wonder what would happen if the Taliban got another foothold in the governance of that country.  Check out this Reuter's report from the 1990's:

Taliban leaders in Afghanistan have banned paper bags in their effort to impose pure Islamic law on the country.  "We respect paper, whether it is written on or not," said the Taliban administration's information minister.  "We have announced that people should not use paper for bags or put paper on the garbage heap."  Shopkeepers in Kabul report that the decree has resulted in a run on toilet paper, as some Afghans are unsure how far the ban will be extended.

12.  Fountain of Youth in Maryland

I live in a part of Maryland that is a very healthful area.  In fact, check out this news blurb in a local paper:  "A 25-year old girl was flown to the Shock Trauma Center Friday evening, following an accident." 

I should have paid that damn "Happy Birthday" royalty!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yes, it's a wonderful world

While lots of folks are dividing their time wondering whether Fox News will survive the Murdoch "scandal" and getting angry over the Casey Anthony jury verdict,  amazing things are going on, some of which I want to mention here.

01.  Dawn over Vesta.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has entered orbit around the massive asteroid Vesta!  Think about that for a while.

02.  A Light has gone out!

Our good friend, Jack Kolb passed away recently, and a memorial service was held for him at Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster, Maryland.  I was priviledged to say a few words and read a touching letter from one of his daughters.

Jack had many talents.. he got his pilot's license when he turned 16;  he taught roller skating;  he had a photographic business;  he obtained two masters degrees;  he served in the Department of Defence for many years, in liaison with the U.S. Army and NSA;  he visited Greenland and the North Pole on twenty or so occasions;  he was listed in several Who's Who's of noted Americans;  he was an aide to Vice President Dan Quail; he was in contact with all of the American Nobel Laureates;  he was a frequent contributor to Reader's Digest;  he was a physics professor at American University;  etc, etc.

Jack was also a sponsor of a young lady who wants to be a pediatric nurse, as Jack's late wife, Rita, was.  Many of the great musicians and poets had "patrons" a few years ago.  Jack enjoyed being such a patron and ensuring that a gifted person would be able to study without financial care.

Jack was in his eighties and I thought that he would be around for at least another fifteen years.  I will miss his brilliant mind.  I  have been involved with Mensa and Intertel for over forty years, and have known some very smart folks.. however, none of them could match the breadth and depth of Jack's knowledge, in my opinion.

Rest In Peace, My Friend!

03.  Ah Choo!

Somebody sent me some "facts" that are supposed to be true..

One was:  when a person sneezes, their heart stops and brain functions cease.

If this is true.. there must be a lot of sneezing going on in Congress these days!

04.  Innie?  Outie? 

Another "fact" was:  Alfred Hitchcock did not have a belly button.

How could that be.. how did Lord Alfred get born.. I knew he was weird, but I didn't know it had something to do with parthenogenesis.  Is he a reincarnation of Adam? (Wait a minute... Michaelangelo showed Adam with a belly button... huh?)

I was taught in Sunday School that if one looked at a group of naked women, you would be able to tell which one was Eve by noting that she would be the only one without a belly button. (I always wondered why anyone would be interested in belly buttons in the company of naked women.)

Hey, Brother Joe.. help me out on this.

05.  Dear Anonymous:

This blog gets a lot of comments from someone named Anonymous.   Sometimes the comment is in Chinese or Japanese .. sometimes in Korean .. sometimes in French or German .. but most often in English.  I have tried to translate the Asian comments, but the results were usually unintelligible.. reading as though they were like "Headlines" on the Jay Leno show.  I can read the French, German and English ones, which are often advertisements, requests for help with computer issues, or requests for information on medical problems such as body odor, or similar.  

However, sometimes the comments relate to the blog entry and are very interesting, and I do try to respond with a related comment.  I would, however, ask that if you want an appropriate response, that you include your email address in your comment.

06.  Important Health Fact from an Almanac:

With proper care, the human body will last a lifetime.

07.  Now they tell me!

The Week magazine recently reported that  a Purdue University study shows that artificial sweeteners could be making you fat. 

The researchers found that "rats fed a steady diet of sugar substitutes were hungrier and gained more weight than rats that ate surgary food...  It appears that artificial sweeteners confuse the body, which is programmed to associate swet tastes with calories consumed, and when we repeatedly eat something sweet that provides little or no calories, we break that connection, and our confused bodies keep seeking more food."

"... the rats that frequently ate sugar substitutes, also didn't have the metabolic increase that usually follows eating a meal, so they burned fewer calories..." according to researcher Susan Swithers.

08.  Zukes

Our Earthbox gardens are overtaking our deck this Summer.  So far, we have enjoyed several red tomatoes, a number of yellow squashes, some green beans,  three cucumbers, and four giant zucchinis.
The other day, I found my Aunt Mary's Zucchini Bread recipe and I can't wait to make and taste some. However, before I can make it, I have to buy some things that we don't keep in our house:

sugar (see #07 above)
baking soda
baking powder

Whenever I would visit my Aunt Mary, she would always have zucchini bread for me to eat, Summer or Winter.. she started keeping some in her freezer, as soon as refridgerators began to have freezers connected to them. 

09.  The Iceman Cometh

What on earth  did we do before we had freezers?  I remember, as a kid, stealing ice shavings from the iceman as he went into houses to deliver giant blocks of ice for the icebox.  I remember my grandmother paying the iceman 35 cents for enough ice to fill our icebox, a big wooden cabinet, whose top opened up to reveal a metal container for the ice.

Once, on a tour of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia home, the tour guide showed us Mr. Jefferson's ice house.   In the Winter, his slaves would go out on the frozen ponds and cut out huge blocks of ice, which they would bring back to his estate and place in the ice house, which was dug out of the ground.  Then, they would cover the ice with straw and hay and hope that this would keep the ice more or less frozen for a long time.. perhaps even until the Summer months.

The tour guide reminded us of what a great equalizer ice was.  Everybody had ice..  the rich had it in the Summer, the poor had it in the Winter.

10.  Christmas in July

In New Windsor, Maryland..  about 25 miles northwest of Baltimore, and next to our Carroll Lutheran Village home in Westminster, Maryland.. is  an organization called SERRV.  This organization acts as a middleman for native people around the world who want to sell items that they produce.  The organization is church-affiliated and therefore is a non-profit organization. 

SERRV will be having a Christmas in July sale until July 23, 2011.  This year they will be featuring Christmas ornaments, tree skirts, nativity  scenes, Divine dark chocolate, baskets, specialty  coffee, and much more.  All items are at 60% of their usual price.

If you are looking for something to do, and you want to see some interesting and different merchandise, drop by.  And, if you purchase anything, you will be helping ordinary native craftsmen from around the world.

11.  Baby, Baby!

The Week magazine reports that a lady in Texas (of course.. everything in Texas is gigantic).. gave birth to a 2 foot long, 16 pound baby!  Ow! .. maybe not quite OW!.. because it was delivered by Caesarean Section.  ("Hey, doc, knock me out and wake me up when the hairdresser shows up.")

My late wife's French Canadian relatives talked about the 14 pound babies that were common back in Canada years ago.  Pregnant women were encouraged to eat 4 or more hefty meals each day during their nine months.  Of course, many women died in childbirth back in those days.  Pre-natal care? What was that?

12.  Handwriting!?

Indiana third-graders may no longer be taught cursive, because it is thought that they would never use it.. being so computer literate and such.. with texting much more useful...  Come on.. what kind of nonsense is this?  Are we supposed to allow a generation of people to grow up not knowing how to read a letter written by their grandmother?  (I would not be able to enjoy my Aunt Mary's zucchini recipe if I was not able to decipher her handwriting.)

When I was stationed in Germany, I taught myself basic German, including Gothic text and handwriting.. which at some point in time was not being taught to German school children.  Thus, I ended up in the strange situation where I, as an American,  could read letters written in the "old" handwriting, while some of my German-born and raised  acquaintances could not.   Will that be the case for cursive in the US? 

Should schools stop teaching math because we now rely mainly on calculators and computers?


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Life goes on.

As I have mentioned already on Facebook, our good friend for many years, Jack Kolb, passed away this week.  Even though we knew he had been ailing, this came as a great shock.  We will be honoring him in several ways, in the near future.

Jack would have wanted us to continue with the things we normally do, so I'll do some blog entries once again.  (Incidentally, I am beginning to get lots of comments from readers in the United States.  I still continue to get comments from Asia on a regular basis.)

Welcome to the world, Luka Nebraska!

01.  The Rapture.

We're still waiting.

02.  Priorities.

Children selling lemonade near the current Golf Extravaganza were about to be fined for operating an unlicensed business.  When someone pointed out that local homeowners in the same area were renting their driveways to contestants for up to $500, the "lemonade stand prosecutors" relented and let the children continue, but to save face, they insisted that the kids move their stand a bit farther from the action.   (The kids plan to donate their proceeds to charity.)

03.  Church and State?

A lady arranged to conduct a class at a local senior center with the title:  "The Study of Man."  It was advertised, I'm told, to be a history class.  It was actually a Bible study class and was shut down for a short time, because it was felt that a religious session was inappropriate at a Government-run facility.  However, upon a closer reading of rules and regulations, it was deemed to be ok for the group to continue.   To my surprise, I have not seen any letters to the local newspaper about this issue.

04.  Church and School?

A member of the North Carolina Church of Body Modification has won a legal battle to wear a nose stud to a local High School.  The school folks decided to give in to the demands to avoid wasting money on a legal fight. 

What is this desire to mutilate oneself?  Members of my family also engage in this practise, and I really can't complain, because they are all nice persons.  If they do this to make themselves look different, I would say that in so doing, they now look like lots and lots of other people. 

I'm guilty as well, since I have a tatoo.  But my excuse was that I was drunk when I had it put on. 

I started shaving when I was eleven years old, and as a Freshman in High School, I grew sideburns.  Very few other kids were able to grow them.  A couple of years later, as the other kids began to shave, more and more sideburns showed up.  So, I shaved mine off.  You can see that I kept trying to be different. 

Also, for a while, members of one of my gangs wore suit jackets on Sundays.. without any shirts underneath. Sometimes we would knot ties around our necks as well.  Older folks would shake their heads and predict dire futures for us all.

05.  Police are still combing the area...

A thief in Texas stole thousands of dollars worth of human hair from a wiggery.   He concentrated on Remy hair, which comes from the heads of Indian women.  Other thieves, in Michigan and California,  are also targeting hair salons and hair accessory stores..

06.  Ya gotta eat your veggies, baby...

An article in the Social Security Alumni Association newsletter cites the need for fiber in the American diet.  They mention a UCLA study that found that normal-weight people eat about 33% more diettary fiber and 43% more complex carbohydrates than overweight people.  Americans need 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day to remain healthy.  Keep count of your fiber intake for a couple of days and see if you are eating enough.  Fiber is mainly found in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts.

07.  Church and Military?

During a recent trip to the Gettysburg battlefield, we were directed to a large statue of a female figure with a long noisemaking trumpet pointed from the Confederate lines toward the Union lines.  The guide mentioned that this was supposed to represent Saint Barbara, who is the "saint of artillery"..   the statue was placed there by the State of  Louisiana. My  brother Joe probably knows about it, since he is a Civil War buff.

Check it out! Saint Barbara is blowing a vuvuzela at the Union troops!

08.  Happy Talk..

North Korea conducted a happiness study and concluded that North Korea was the second happiest country in the world.  China was first.  Cuba was third.  The United States was dead last. 

09.  Happy Tom:

Bragging time.  We have already eaten 4 red cherry tomatoes grown on our back deck, and we have twenty or so green ones about to turn red.   We get all-day sun on the deck and have lots of pots and four "earthboxes" set up.  I'm more of a successful farmer here on a small deck than I was on my acre and a half "farmstead".   However, I am glad to see the results my daughter, Diane, is having on that piece of land.  Her flowers, especially, are spectacular.   She posts pictures of her flowers on facebook. Now, I will try to post a picture of one of my tomatoes here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

"Rapture and Weiner and Such, Oh My!"

Well, we are still here... or maybe this is the "END TIME"...  just look at all the tornados and earthquakes  and tsumanis and heat waves.. and Congressmen and Candidates making fools of themselves... but people in the public eye have always done stupid things.. by anybody's standards.

This morning, I woke up in a mild depression when I encountered the following things:

o All of our lights and fans were on for some mysterious reason.
o Our cat had thrown up in 7 places on our main rug and once on the kitchen floor.
o The radio reported that the stock market has continued it's downward trend and I'll probably be poor  again soon, if not already.
o The US. credit rating is heading to "junk" and Congress is playing political games about it.

Besides that, I'm very worried about the health of two close relatives and a dear friend who is in the hospital.

However.. there are developments that are making me lose my depressive state:

o  It's kind of interesting to follow Congressman Weiner and his strange adventures.
o  Newt Gingrich's Presidential campaign staff has quit on him.
o  Sarah Palin is learning facts about the early days of our Nation.

And.. Elaine and I are anxiously awaiting a new addition to her family.   That will be a joyous occasion.

Here  are other items interesting me this morning:

01.  Losing Weight

I have now lost 24 pounds since last December.  My plan is to lose 1/2 pound each week and reach my target weight exactly one year from today (June 2012).  Hey.. I took a long time to put it on; so, if I take a long time taking it off.. maybe I'll keep it off.

I believe that the only diet that works is to reduce calories and increase exercise.  I was pointed to a marvelous free online program called   ..  by signing up for that program, one sets a target weight goal, and the program calculates a daily caloric limit to try for.  Each evening, one can enter all of the food that one has eaten during the day as well as any exercise taken.  The program provides the calorie counts for foods eaten and exercise taken.  At first, it may be amazing to see the amount of calories that one is unwittingly putting into one's body.  For most people, facing up to calorie reality is a great motivating force.

The program allows for "friends" to swap motivational information.  My son is now using the program, as well as a granddaughter and some acquaintances.   Try it.. you may be surprised at how well it works.

02.  Green Thumb?

Last week I finally was able to fill my 4 Earthboxes with soil, dolomite, fertilizer, water and vegetable plants.  I have planted squash, tomatoes, bush beans and cucumbers.  The plants have doubled in size in one week.  Hopefully, the stink bugs will not find their way to my deck.

I also planted specialty tomatoes given me by my daughter, Diane, a master gardener if there ever was one.  Each of these is in a pot by itself and we already have picked 4 red cherry tomatoes to eat.  Much more tasty than the cardboard Super Market ones.  There are 5 large green ones ready to turn red in this hot weather.   I still have 4 hanging baskets of flowers to put up. 

Last year, we grew some specialty lettuce and thought that they had died down with the frost.  But this year it is back again and as fast as we pick it, more grows.  I thought it was a cool weather plant.. but it seems to like the 100 degree days we are having.

03.  Global warming?

It's not even Summer yet and the temperature has been hitting in the high 90's for quite a few days.  Yesterday, it was 100 in some of the places that I visited.  Thank goodness for air conditioning.  We keep the house at 76 degrees and thereby are able to function almost normally.   I wonder if this weather is the cause of our cat's throwing up.  Or maybe she is just bulemic and trying to keep her kittenish figure?


Elaine's daughter just gave birth to a baby boy.  So, I have to sign off right now and switch to family activity. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Eat, Drink and be Merry

Now is the time to have some fun, because radio minister, Harold Camping, has announced that May 21, 2011 will definitely be the day of judgement and the Rapture!  Having missed the date before, he is absolutely sure that he is right this time.  It will be interesting to see if he is right.. and that billions of the world's population who have not accepted his version of belief will be assigned to the burning fires of hell.

I saw a television shot of a couple who have quit their jobs, taken their kids out of day care, and given away all of their belongings, to get ready for the Rapture.  I'm told that there are thousands more just like them.

Meanwhile, life goes on.. however short it may be for us infidels.

01.  Ecological Travel Discount

The Week magazine reports that a brothel in Germany is offering discounts to customers who arrive by bicycle.   (Yes, I know.. that could be fodder for a lot of off-color jokes.)

02.  Mispunctuation.

The entertaining and enlightening book Eats, Shoots and Leaves mentions a classic example of mispunctuation the comparison of two sentences:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Quite a difference, right?

03. Mispunctuation

Another example from Eats, Shoots and Leaves:

Leonora walked on her head, a little higher than usual.

Leonora walked on, her head a little higher than usual.

04. The Stock Market in Retrospect

From an article in 2007:

"The Dow is near 14,000 today, a fivefold increase from 20 years ago..(this) number seems high when you look backward. But we believe it's likely that number will seem quite low to investors in the future."

Well, today, four years later, after an almost unbelievable "hit" the Dow was "up" to 12,700.  At least it is going back up again.

05.  Fertile ancestors

From a New Yorker article: "In 1800, the firtility rate among American women was about seven, life expectancy was under forty, and the median age of the population was sixteen."

"Today (2011) the fertility rate is barely two, the average American can expect to live to nearly eighty, and the median age of the population is thirty-six and rising."

My Grandparents had 15 children; one of my great-grandfathers had eleven children; his father had eleven children; his brothers each had eleven or more children. Of course, they lived in the country and needed more farmhands.

06.  Mayflower Sports

Plymouth Colony's William Brewster  (one of my ancestors) named one of his sons Wrestling.  I always wondered why.  In the New Yorker article quoted above, it was mentioned that Wrestling Brewster's name was short for "wrestling with God."  I guess I'll have to search the Bible for that reference.

07.  Study Result.. 1

A Dutch study found that people with full bladders make better decisions.  (Better than what?)

08.  Study Result.. 2

An English study found that chimps laugh at things that are not funny.  (Just like humans who watch sitcoms?) 

09.  Whew!

Teunis Tenbrook (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) was ejected from his college because he had stinky feet.  He was a philosophy student and his fellow students and teachers said they could not concentrate on philosophical issues because of the stench.  Teunis filed suit and a judge ruled that he could return to school and the professors and other students would just have to hold their noses and bear the smell.

10.  Stick-em-up!

Arizona may have already have designated the Colt single-action Army revolver as the "State gun."
Utah may have already designated the Browning M1911, as it's "State gun."

Which State is about to name the "pop gun" as their "State gun?"

11.  EMAIL Sickness

In The Week Contest for 3/18/11, Morton Ginsberg suggested a new malady:

CEFS (Compulsive E-MAIL Forwarding Syndrome)

"In which people feel compelled to forward notes, jokes, or articles of miniscule importance to everyone on their mailing list."

12.  Nikita

Fifty years ago, Kruschev visited the United States and said: "We will bury you!"  Well, you see what happened.

While here, Mr. Kruschev was most impressed with Railroad Station lockers.. saying there was no such thing in Russia.

Mr. Kruschev became very upset when he wasn't allowed to visit Disneyland.  The Sun Paper in Baltimore had the headline:  K BLOWS TOP!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rainy Season Thoughts

Well, the wind stopped a bit.. but it still is sputtering rain.  Our yellow flowers with pink insides are blooming in spite of the lousy weather.  As is usual, regardless of the weather, I have a compulsion to share news, jokes and "Crankshaft" type observations with anyone nearby.  So, if you have anything else to do with your time, avoid this blog entry.  Remember.. you've been warned.

01.  Car Talk

At the opening of today's Car Talk show, the Massachusetts guys posed some scientific type questions.  I don't think they would mind if I mention them here. (By the way, if you have not listened to that NPR show, you are missing a great experience.)

Q. What do you call a really small bottle of mouthwash?  
A.  Microscope.

Q. What is the mathematical ratio used in constructing an igloo?
A. Eskimo pie.

Q.  What is the shortest distance between 2 jokes.
A.  A straight line.

Q.  What is the term for the time between the stepping on a banana peel and falling on the ground?
A.  A bananasecond.

02.  More names.

Every so often, I mention people's names that I have collected over the years.  I apologize to those who own these names, but I think they are humorous.  If you know these people, please don't tell them, because I don't want to get a punch in the nose.

Zula Z. Boozer
Martin I. Sober

Willie Huckleberry Finn
Mona Lisa Guess

Birdie Berryhill
Cola Chick
Russell Feathers
Canary Sires

Mr. Sizzleberger

Opal Galightly
Fairest Ruby Klepfer

Round Barnes
Bland Butts
Ether Boyant Horn
A. Reck
Rena Sweat
Sinus Wilzy

Mrs. Husband
William Sex Pattern

Other Bradshaw
Blueford Corsey
Mr. Richendollar

03.  What happened?

Last December, police in Ransom, Illinois, (population: 409) were looking for a woman who walked away from an automobile crash that left her husband dead.  The only clues were some footprints in the snow and a slipper. Dressed in a red party dress and one slipper, she should not have been that difficult to find.  Perhaps her bright dress in the white snow caught the attention of the pilot of an alien craft and she has been abducted and held for ransom.  I haven't seen any more news about this incident on the Internet.  I hope she was found in time for Christmas.

04.  What happened?

In August of 2009, it was reported that Michael Jackson's artificial nose had disappeared from his body in the morgue.  I'm not sure if that report was true or not.  Michael is supposed to have had a bottle full of fake noses.  I read where his real nose had collapsed after excessive plastic surgeries.  If someone had stolen the nose, it probably will show up years hence as a "holy relic."

05.  Survival equipment.

Transportation officials in one of China's provinces have outfitted buses with large orange bricks attached with long strings.  These are supposed to be used by passengers in  emergency situations, so they can break a window and escape.

06.  Negligence case.

A Chicago woman got drunk and fell through the window of a hair salon.  She later sued the owner because he should have had safety glass installed.. lots of drunks apparently walk by his shop, and he should have been prepared for one of them to fall through.   I wonder if she won her suit.

07.  No global warming?

The huge glacier on Mount Margherita in Uganda has cracked and is now blocking access by mountain climbers to the summit.  The glacier has reportedly ruptured because of excessive melting.  It is one of the very few places near the equator that has ice; the glacier has shrunk by 75% in the recent past and may completely disappear by 2030.

08.  Call my brother: ISHMAEL.  Call me: AHAB.*

Composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer have created the opera: Moby-Dick.  It is a three hour creation that I am anxious to see and hear.  There are lots of reviews out on the Internet.. I personally don't want to read any because I feel they might affect my own considerations when I finally see the opera. 

*(If you are a member of the National Puzzlers League, you will recognise me and my brother by these noms.)

09.  We know where you are!

For a long time, I have wondered why my DROID always knows exactly where I am.  Now the word is out. I wonder if Bin Laden has an IPHONE or a DROID?  I guess not.. so, let's send him one.

10.  Baltimore event.

The Wait Wait Don't Tell Me show was taped and broadcast this week at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore's own John Waters, was the celebrity guest. (John's book: Role Models comes out this week in paperback.)

11.  Shazam!

I just realized that there is a big problem now that phone booths have all but disappeared.  Where will Clark Kent change into his Superman suit?  Evildoers are rejoicing everywhere.  (When I was a small kid and owned Superman comic book number one.. I actually wondered what would happen if Clark couldn't find a phone booth that was unoccupied.) I don't think that Captain Marvel needed a phone booth.  Neither did the Green Hornet or Batman.

12.  Are you handy?

A Neurologist from Newton, Massachusetts says that right-handed people are mostly boring and left-handed people are mostly interesting.  I'm ambidextrous.. what about me?  (Don't answer that!)


Sunday, April 03, 2011


I need to take a break from the frustrating fun of preparing my 2010 Income Tax returns. At the moment, I haven't decided whether I need to get a tax date extension or not. By doing it last year, I had to pay a penalty.. not much, but irritating. Why does the tax law have to be so complex? I don't expect the present crop of politicians to revise it this year.

01. Taxpayers?

Who are the U.S. taxpayers anyway? I just read a letter to the Carroll County Times by David Iacono from Westminster, Maryland, who says that the Bank of America made $4.4 billion without paying any tax. He also says that they received a $45 billion taxpayer-funded bailout in 2008.

He also says that GE made $14.2 billion last year without paying any taxes, and that two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no taxes from 1998 to 2005.

I don't know if this information is accurate or not, but I'll bet it is. I'm too lazy to check.

For some time now, I have thought that now that some billionaires are promising to donate some of their money to good causes.. why don't they give all but one billion to the U.S. Treasury and get us out of our deficit situation? Or at least, partially out.

02. Be Nice!

Someone just sent me a poem written by "Anonymous". The first part reads:

Share a smile or a friendly greeting

To a stranger on the street

It will bring a ray of sunshine

To some person you may meet.

This is a great suggestion and I would recommend it to everybody, except, perhaps, those who live in the dense center of some mega-city, like Boston or New York, where you probably will be slugged, sweared at, or arrested if you do so. But in smaller communities, it should work ok. I've been trying to practice this for many years.. and I've only been rewarded with an obscene gesture a few times.

03. Opera for the Masses

Harper's Magazine mentions that New York's City Opera grew out of President Roosevelt's WPA Music Project, during the Great Depression. The Music Project created orchestras to help unemployed musicians have a place to work. Resulting concerts cost 25 cents to attend.

New York's Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was motivated to create what was called the People's Opera at the time. Even though it must compete with the Met, it has maintained popularity.

Incidentally, according to the Harper's article, LaGuardia's father came from Italy as part of an opera troupe.

04. More phobia.

Camophobia - Fear of marriage.

Cymnophobia - Fear of being naked.

Hierophobia - Fear of religious objects.

Ergasiophobia - Fear of work.

Ereuthophobia - Fear of blushing.

..and the most fearsome of all...

Pogonophobia - Fear of beards.

05. Phrases?

The following "phrases" seem to be in wide usage, but they are ones that make members of the Toastmasters organization very angry when they are heard.

"I was like..."

"I heart..."

"You know..."

"You can't tell me nothing."



Forty years ago, the phrase "I mean, you know..." was heard constantly for a couple of years. . Now it is gone. Let's hope that the phrase "I was like..." has a short life expectancy as well.

Some exclamatory phrases that have "bit the dust" (so to speak):

"Twenty-one skiddoo!"

"Oh, you kid!"


"Great Godfrey Daniels!"

06. Solved!

Many have wondered why phychiatrists have their patients lie on couches. I recently read that one of Sigmund Freud's colleagues, Dr. Willi Hofer said that Freud would put patients on a couch because he was shy and didn't want to look at them.

07. Phantom vibration syndrome.

A new problem for people who use cell phones a lot. It feels like you have a call, even when you don't.. so you are constantly grabbing at your pants pockets.

08. Cow talk.

In France, cows say, "Moi!"

In Poland, cows say, "Oom!"

In USA, cows say, "Moo!"

09. Death sentence.

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me: Sitting is very unhealthful and doctors suggest doing it as little as possible. It was suggested that a medication called Standagra be developed for the problem. (Just try not to stand for more than four hours at a time.)

10. Riddle:

My brother, Joe, probably gave me this one.

What is greater than God

It's more evil than the Devil,

The rich man doesn't have it

The poor man does,

If you eat it, you'll die.

11. A Motel from Hell.

A few years ago, my family spent a night at a Virginia motel, with the following results:

Bathroom fixtures were filthy.

Floor was dirty.

Bed sheets were dirty.

Faucet leaked heavily and steadily.

Toilet had to be flushed five times before it cleaned up and stopped coming close to overflowing.

Air conditioner was covered with dust, and only one knob worked, and not very well, so it was either very cold or very hot all night long. Window couldn't be opened.

The only trash can was full.

"No Pets," but our next door neighbor had a barking dog.

People outside of the window were talking to midnight.

People were playing some form of football outside of room from 3:30 AM to 5:00 AM.

Had to use a rolled up newspaper to kill 5 flies during the night and 2 in the morning.

I couldn't catch the fly on the mirror and the one on the ceiling.

When I opened the door in the morning, 50 more flies flew in.

Both the room clerk and the only maid were too busy to help us, and the next motel was too far away to reach the same day.

In addition, when I woke up in the morning, my right upper leg was a mass of ugly red bite marks.

I wonder if my kids remember that motel?

12. Speaking of Flies:

I read somewhere that Chinese officials once gave a mandate to the Chinese people to get rid of flies. Each city and county Communist cell was given a quota of flies to kill, and that was said to be quite successful. How could they have been successful at dump sites, the smell of which would tend to cause flies to spontaneously appear?

The Week magazine mentions that Beijing has installed 100 deodorant cannons at the city's massive Asuwei dumpsite. The cannons will periodically spray gallons of fragrance over the piles of stinky, putrifying, fly-loving garbage.