Monday, February 28, 2011

Exciting Stuff

Let me mention some really exciting stuff that has been going on.

01. Cell phones. A store in Mayaysia is selling paper copies of cell phones, so that the dead can make calls from Heaven to their loved ones without having to pay for an online connection. . I guess you just drop them into the coffins and then wait for a celestial connection to be made.

02. Cell phones. Toronto police respond to over 300 calls each day by people who accidently sit on their phones. These are called "Butt calls" and account for 10% of 911 calls.

03. Parents' dorms: Chinese universities are setting up separate dormitories for overprotective parents. As you know, China's one child policy means that the single child must be protected at all costs.

04. History: In my opinion, Texas textbooks do not necessarily follow the true story of History. As they stress America as a "Christian" land, ruled by "Christian" principles., they have dumped Deists like Thomas Jefferson and others from these books. However, one hopes that when students reach college level training, they can think and read for themselves and see if what they were taught was true.

05. Pancakes? The International House of Pancakes sued the International House of Prayer for the use of IHOP. It would not have been a problem, except that the prayer group started to serve food.

06. Sarah. Jim Stentzel of Key West, Florida, says that followers of Sarah Palin should be called "Palindromes". Draw your own conclusions about this.. especially considering that palindromes are the same backward from forward.

07. Birth questions continue: The Washington Spectator reports that Arizona Republican Senator Judy Burges filed a bill in an attempt to keep President Obama off the 2012 ballot. It would require an original long-form birth certificate that would include, the date and place of birth, the name of the hospital and the attending physician, and signatures of all of the witnesses in attendence. Unbelievably, forty legislators have signed on with the bill!

08. Gun control? Since 1968, over one million Americans have died of gunshots, in crimes, accidents and suicides.

09. Hubba! Hubba! A British survey indicates that American men remain attractive to women up to the age of 55. In the past, women no longer watched men when they reached the age of 45.

10. Donny: The Nation magazine printed the following poem by Calvin Trillin about Donald Rumsfeld's recent memoir:

The book is fat, the message slim:
Mistakes were made, but not by him.

(This has made me want to read it.)

11. La loi c'est la loi. As soon as the policeman could get into the hospital, he handed the mother of a 13-year-old girl a ticket for jaywalking. He couldn't give it to the girl herself, because she was in a coma after being hit by a car.

12. Snoring: Jenny Chapman, British subject, was found by a sleep clinic to be the loudest snorer on record... some of her snores reached to 111.6 decibels.. louder that the noise from a diesel truck. One commiserates with Mr. Chapman.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Big Wind (s)

Last year this time, Maryland got over 40 inches of snow. We marked the drift height with magic marker on the door to our deck and its still there.. over 6 feet high. This year, we were blessed with near hurricane winds at the same time. Could it be Groundhog Revenge.. for being disturbed during hibernation?

Yesterday, I spent an hour on my stomach, during 60 MPH winds, trying with all kinds of tools to rescue our storm door from flying off into the ether. I'm glad that the temperature was above freezing. I spoke with Massachusetts relatives who were having the same blast of air, but with wind chills of way below zero.

I spoke with one of my aunts who was celebrating her 91st birthday. She has decided to start counting backwards each year. She is in great shape, so she should be around for a long time.. I hope so. I don't want to hear about any more of my relatives passing on. Since December 8th, I have lost four cousins.. and last week I lost my brother-in-law, Moe. Moe has been like a younger brother to me for over 50 years. During his life, Moe was a pilot, a fisherman, a bear hunter, the owner of an oil business, the owner of an oil-burner repair company, a chef, etc. Besides that, he looked like Sean Connery. He was definitely not your everyday commonplace person.

Once, I asked Moe how he hunted bear. He said that he built a "blind" in a tall pine tree in Maine. Then, he put bait around the bottom of the tree every so often, to get bears used to coming to the tree. Next, early on a cold Maine morning, he would climb up into the blind with his rifle and wait for a bear to come by looking for food. Moe then had one shot to kill the bear. If he missed, the bear would quickly climb up to the blind and have Moe for food.

Now for the news:

01. Iraq. According to the Scripps Howard News Service, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi gave "secret information" about Saddam Hussein's biological weapons to the West.. such information is supposed to have been considered in our decision to attack Iraq. Rafid's codename of "Curveball"
was appropriate because he now says that he lied. I wonder how his confession sounds to the survivors of 100,000 dead Iraqis? You just cannot trust anybody these days, can you.

02. Mute? I'm told that this is the fifth year in a row when Justice Clarence Thomas has not said even one word of interrogation during Supreme Court pleadings. One hopes that he will recuse himself from the upcoming Health Care deliberations because of what I have read about his wife's supposed connections with insurance interests.

03. Phobia. I just learned that the word anthophobia is defined as the fear of roses. So, for all guys who forgot to get flowers for Valentines Day, they can tell their girl friends that they just didn't want them to get scared.

04. Another phobia: I also learned that the word pogonophobia is defined as the fear of beards. So, this must have been why I refused to take the Santa Claus job this Winter. I did not want to scare little kids.

I must admit that I am afraid to shave off my beard because there may be lots of wrinkles under there. A lady told me the other day that I certainly did not have many wrinkles for a man of my age.. am I to assume that she has x-ray vision when it comes to beards? If she saw me in my bathing suit, she might change her mind.

05. Swimmers. Speaking of bathing suits.. I wonder if I can make a citizen's arrest of a couple of guys who show up to swim in a pool where we exercise each week. These two guys are in their 50's or 60's and have massive beer bellies that completely hide their "speedo's". A ghastly sight! At least, I wear boxer swim trunks pulled up high over my belly so I don't shock the sensibilities of my fellow swimmers. (There oughta be a law!)

06. Freebie: The following classified ad was published in the Carroll County (Maryland) Times some time ago: Free: "Rooster: 6 month old Bantam, black with beautiful coloring throughout. Must be for pet only. Great for a horse farm. His name is Chase, because that is what is does."

07. Absolution App: Great news. I've heard that there is an IPHONE app that can be used to store your sins until the end of the week, when they can be downloaded to a priest of your choice. This should be a great time-saver.

When I first began courting my late wife, we frequented a Polish Catholic church for mass. The mass at her French-Canadian neighborhood church sometimes lasted for two hours on a Sunday morning. However, the Polish church mass was on Saturday night and lasted for just a half hour. Another great time saver.. we thought. Her parents didn't seem to care for the idea, but except for the announcements being in Polish instead of French, the Latin was the same.

08. Pew. Speaking of church, over the years, we became rather remiss in church attendance, in fact, once we lived very close to a Catholic church, but had never been inside. However, upon the birth of our first daughter, my wife's parents took a trip to Maryland to see the baby. Since they would be in Maryland on Sunday, they wanted to go to mass.

Not wanting to tell them the secret of our non-attendance, I lied to them and said that we went to the nearby church for mass. Since my wife had to stay with the baby, I escorted her parents to the church, which was filled with people. I did not see any available pews to sit in. However, there was a flight of stairs off to the side, so I guided my in-laws up the steps. My father-in-law, said: "Are you sure we are supposed to go up here?" I suavely lied: "Of course, we sit up there every Sunday."

As we left the steps, a loud voiced robed man informed us that nobody except the choir was allowed to be in the "choir loft." I was CAUGHT! However, taking into consideration that I wasn't really a catholic, they forgave me, but I'm sure they felt that a hypocritical liar like me would never make it to that "paradise" called Heaven.

09. Paradise: And with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, I herewith quote some lyrics by a musical group called Rush...

"To seek the sacred river Alph
To walk the caves of ice
To break my fast on honey dew
And drink the milk of Paradise."

10. Found: Another classified ad in the newspaper: "Found: Cat/Kitten, black female, medium hair, very friendly. Arrived at the landfill on the back of a trash truck."

11. Telly belly: I don't know if I read this or saw it on TV. Somebody has developed a mini speaker device that one can swallow and then play through the stomach.. at least for a little while. I wonder if the developer got the idea from the news item of a lady dropping her cell phone into the mouth of a crocodile?

12. Slightly naughty joke: A young couple made love in a cemetery, on a grave slab in the ground. The next day, the girl had a back ache and went to a doctor who examined her and asked: "How old are you?" The girl said: "Why do you ask?" The doctor replied: "Because on you butt it says: 'died in 1933'."


Sunday, February 06, 2011

February Musings

Before I get into my usual trivial matters, I want to talk about a giant in the world of Puzzledom:

Frank W. Lewis ..puzzler, cryptographer, musician, historian, etc., "a true Renaissance man" as the Nation magazine says. Frank died November 18, 2010, at the age of 98.. after providing that magazine with his special puzzles for 62 years!

Almost every morning of my life since the 1970's when I found his puzzles in the Nation, I have spent at least some of my waking up time on one or another of his puzzles.

Frank discovered British cryptic crosswords in England during World War II, and began to construct his own version, mainly with American idioms and literary references enclosed in various puzzle wordplay, like the pun, the rebus, the anagram, charades, etc.

Crossword dictionaries do not help solve his puzzles.. one must rely on one's knowledge of culture, literature, grammar, and sometimes other languages, such as Latin, French and German. (However, an advanced college degree is not needed to do these puzzles. A knowledge of the types of wordplay does help.)

Once you get over the shock of encountering what look like the uncomprehensible melding of seemingly unrelated words, and relax, ... you find the puzzles fun and mind bending.

The Nation is conducting a search for a replacement for Frank. Meanwhile, they are republishing some of his puzzles from the 1970's.

Until a few years ago, I found British cryptic crossword puzzles unsolvable. That still remains so usually for those published by the Times of London. However, I am able to do the ones published by the Manchester Guardian. (I'm sure this is a reflection of the class distinction still in existance in the U.K. and tells you where I fit into this scheme.) Unbelievably to me, the New York Post carries the Times cryptic each issue. I personally find it strange that such a paper would have readers who would enjoy taxing their "minds" .. as I said, that is only my personal opinion.

Now.. to the mundane.

Lots of stuff going on in Egypt.. you can see it and read about it... Also.. the Super Bowl is on tonight.. and you can see it and read about it too.. so.. let me write about other stuff that you may or may not have seen or read about.

01. States' stuff

Maine accepted the Whoopie Pie as it's State dessert. There even is a song about Whoopie Pies.. but I will spare you that.

Wisconsin accepted the lactococcus lactis as the official State microbe. It's the only State to have one. (The bacterium is used in the making of cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese.)

02. Pot throw:

Apparently, inventive Mexicans have begun to catapult bags of marijuana over the border and into the U.S. I'm surprised that nobody had thought of that before.

03. Euphemism:

Gina Bryant says that a famous story could be updated for the current epoch to:

Crime and Time Out.

04. Humor:

Dave Barry defines a sense of humor as "a measurement of the extent to which we realize that we are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason."

I'm looking for persons to speak on humor at our next meeting of the Carroll County Chapter of the Maryland Senior Citizen Hall of Fame. One of the Hall of Fame functions is to get senior citizens to get more involved in humorous things. Studies have shown that seniors who laugh a lot, live longer.

05. The devil you say..

A not too reputable report says that a people in China are sprouting horns on their heads. One grandmother 101 years old, named Zhang Ruifang and a man named Huang Yuanfan, 84 years old.. each have 4 inch long horns. So perhaps everybody gets horns later in life, but do not know it because they die off before it occurs. (Hey, maybe that statue of Moses is right after all.)

06. February 1st:

Some of you have noted that my birthday is February 1st.. one day before Groundhog Day.. lots of famous people besides me were born on that day.. DeAnn Johnson (Computer Analyst: SSA), Dan Hinsche (Computer Programmer: SSA), Harry Ballantyne (Chief SSA Actuary), Dr. Shaw's nurse, Clark Gable and Langston Hughes.

Let's see if I can get Langston Hughes' marvelous poem right:

"I could tell you, if I wanted to,
What makes me like I am,
But I don't really want to,
And you don't give a damn!"

07. Odorific:

Malawi has banned farting.

08. Search engines:

BING has been caught using GOOGLE.

09. New food guidelines:

"Don't eat so much!"

10. Bugs!

Bed bugs and stink bugs have made big inroads in Carroll County Maryland, according to the papers. It's the big news in our County. Stink bugs are resistant to poison sprays and are about to destroy all of our farmers' crops.

I have solutions: For stink bugs.. hire 10-year old boys to catch the bugs and pay them a penny a piece.. if the kids are any thing like my cohorts, they will get them all caught in no time flat.

I read that "officials" met in D.C. last week for the Second National Bed Bug Summit! One specialist at the local University of Maryland Extension service reported that he has had 8 calls about bed bugs in the last week, compared to his usual 2 per month in the past. Oh Oh! They have finally made their way to our County, bringing along their cousins, Stink Bugs.

Many years ago, I treated my family to a stay at a famous hotel/motel chain. It cost a bundle of money and yet I wrote down a dozen problems that we had.. one of which was, when I woke up in the morning, my legs were covered with bites and welts. Bed bugs? I didn't think about that possibility at the time.. I considered fleas instead. Anyway, I complained about that and the eleven other problems, but nobody seemed to care. That chain is still big today, especially in the Caribean.

11. Male and Female:

I read where a British security official had his wife placed on the "No Entry" list while she was in her Pakistan homeland.

12. More Winter?

I heard on NPR that on February 2nd, Punxatawny Phil saw his shadow and predicted more weeks of Wintery weather. How can that be? I read in a newspaper that Phil died last year and was being stuffed. Who can you believe?