Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, April 18, 2015

If you're keeping up with my Christmas list, I have now removed "drone" from the wish list and wish to add "gyrocopter."  I mean, because being 6' 5" doesn't quite get me high enough to see everything.  And it would be so handy for those quick trips to Washington, D.C.
I would like to decorate my entire hallway with old concert posters like this one for the greatest performer in country music history...even better than Lady Antipasto or whatever.
Speaking of country music, this reminded me of the line in the song "You're From Texas": "You've got a smile like an acre of sunflowers, and your eyes are bluebonnet blue..." It also reminds me, I would like a nice steak.
This could be the Lincoln Memorial, photographed in maybe 1953, or a recreation of it in Havana, photographed last week.  The old American cars still on the road in Cuba fascinate me, and I'm sure with trade being opened with "our neighbors just 90 miles off the coast of Florida", they will soon be able to purchase Chevrolets and Fords.  How nice for the Cubans.
That's the title of the picture - "Tea Time on the Yamal Peninsula." I love tea.  It really is the perfect afternoon pick-me-the-hell-up-before I fall asleep drink, and I was about the same age as these kids when I found that out!
And then, they found a way to take pictures of New York at two different times around the clock.  I think you'll agree, it's as different as night and day.
This young man in Burma gets light to read by when the sun is at the right angle.
Here's the thing to say when you return from your trip to England and your friends ask if you saw the Whitecliffs of Dover.  You go, "See them?  We had dinner with them on Wednesday!"

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hunter? I don't even know her!

Want to spend the rest of the month in a back-and-forth debate about hunting?  Just post this link to the article about a wild game hunter by the name of Rebecca Francis, who found it necessary to go to Africa to kill...a giraffe.

Ms Francis is from Utah and has eight - count 'em, 8! - children and still finds time to traipse around the world slaying wildlife:
“I prefer bowhunting, and the animals I have taken with a bow include: a 10 1/2 ft. brown bear, black bear, shiras moose, alaskan moose, dall sheep, stone sheep, desert bighorn ram, rocky mountain bighorn ram, mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, mountain goat, antelope, arapawa ram, kudu, zebra, black wildebeest, giraffe, springbuck, blesbuck, lynx, badger, and squirrel. I have also taken many of the same species and more with a rifle.”

I would assume that any spider or housefly that ventures into her home does not stand much of a chance.

Ricky Gervais, that saucy British comedian, took to Twitter to call her out:

And the debate was on.  As a confirmed meat eater and leather jacket owner, I cannot take a moral high ground here.  Cows, pigs and chickens are diet staples here at the Lazy 'C' Ranch, and very few of them have been known to report to the butcher and commit suicide, so someone is bumping them off.

But a giraffe?  The only kind of longneck I want to see on my dinner table contains 12 oz of ice cold beer.

Gervais's tweet generated lots of heat, and it quickly progressed, or more properly, regressed into a back-and-forth that included threats from animal lovers to do bodily harm to Ms Francis, who pointed out in her own defense that this was an older giraffe who had been shunned from his pack and would soon have perished naturally anyway, so, “I chose to honor his life by providing others with his uses and I do not regret it for one second,” she insisted. “Once he was down there were people waiting to take his meat. They also took his tail to make jewelry, his bones to make other things, and did not waste a single part of him,” Francis continued. “I am grateful to be a part of something so good.”

I think Ms Francis is overdoing it a bit, but I also think that those of who so energetically defend the rights of animals while tossing a 16-oz T-bone on the grill might have to look a little more inwardly also.

A giraffe.  Really?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

They really are the vital link

The other night, I had occasion to call 911.  It was just that a car alarm on a sedan down the street kept honking, and that might have meant that the pesty junior delinquents around here had been up to their nonsense again, trying car doors to find one unlocked.

The calltaker handled the call, probably one of almost 100 she would receive in her 8-hour shift, just perfectly, and she entered the information into a computer, and by the time I sat back down to search the internet for some more home remedies for hay fever (best answer: wait for July to arrive) I heard the police car cruising up our street, having been dispatched by another person at 911.  All well handled, and the officer found out whose car it was, had them check the vehicle and turn off the alarm, and it was back to normal beeswax.

Yes, I used to work there, so I'm a little proud of the place, but 911 Centers - and there's one in each of Maryland's 23 counties, plus the city of Baltimore - don't get enough love to suit me.  This is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (April 13 - 19) and if you know a 911 operator, or police or fire/EMS radio dispatcher, this would be a good week to thank them for doing a great job under tough circumstances.  Indeed, any week would be a good day for doing that.

To begin with, the job is 24-7-365, and that means working snow days, birthdays, weekends, nights, holidays, Uncle Norm's crabfeast day...every day and night.  That's all part of the deal going in, and understood.  The job requires a lot of skills and the ability to stay calm, no matter what.  Calltakers live by the knowledge that no one ever calls 911 because things are going great in their lives. There's a fire in the kitchen, an accident out front, an intruder breaking a window..

Just keep an eye on 3 screens at once
The person who answers the 911 line has probably heard it all, although it's still possible to make them shake their head as they type information into the computer that sends the call details to the radio dispatchers for either police, or fire/EMS, or both. Those are the voices you hear on the scanner, people who are typing, talking and thinking about the needs of up to a dozen field units at once....all of whom might need something at once.

The job pays fairly well, not Range Rover money, but decent bucks for the demands it places on people.  Simply put, their job is to connect the people in a county with 826,000 people living, working and playing within 600 square miles with emergency services as needed, while keeping track of, and providing needed information for, about 2,000 police officers and the equipment housed in 58 fire stations.

While missing Uncle Norm's crabfeast.

Thank a 911 telecommunicator today, please!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It Gets Better; It Always Has

Major League Baseball teams have fantasy camps in the wintertime, where people who lacked the talent to be big-leaguers can pay a pretty penny to pretend that they didn't.  And that's fine.  Some 73-year-old insurance exec wants to pay money to get a uniform and take a few swings with others in the Senior Grapefruit League, no one gets hurt.

But in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a 73-year-old insurance bigshot can donate police cars and police guns and police equipment to the police department, and take some training, and boom!  He's a police officer ("Advanced Reserve Deputy") with no business running around armed and dangerous, and yet it happened, and now a man is dead because this pretend police doesn't know his pistol from his Taser.

And in Baltimore, a young mother left her child in a parked car at the gambling casino for several hours while she was inside gambling to make money.

And in Philadelphia, a mother to a quadriplegic person with cerebral palsy who lives in a wheelchair dumped her son in a woods with a blanket and a Bible so that she could travel down here to Maryland to enjoy some quality time alone with her boyfriend.

And there is war and pestilence and famine and weeping and wailing and too much gnashing of too many teeth, but pick up any newspaper or magazine from long ago, and you will see there has always been plenty of all of these things.

We tend to look at the children of today and shake our heads at how pampered and misbehaved they are, forgetting that plenty of hinky stuff went on in "our day."  That's always been true.

We see crime as being out of control, drug use as rampant, cynicism as a replacement for faith, and evil everywhere.  But reading history helps us put today's enormities in context.

Remember Hitler? Hirohito? Robespierre? Nero?  Caligula? Genghis Khan?  Attila The Hun? Idi Amin?  Pol Pot? Vlad The Impaler?

Mankind has survived all of them and plenty of others. With faith and good humor, our little boats form a mighty armada against the current of doom and sorrow.

And while we're referencing The Great Gatsby, remember: "Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . ."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

California Style

"If Britney Spears could survive 2007, you can get through this." - -                                     American motto of online encouragement

It's hard to believe there was a time when we had no Britney Spears, the pop princess from Louisiana, whose smile enchants us as her 55-hour marriage confuses us and her music puzzles us.

But, from all reports, Britney-biz is a lot better than mine and yours (most of you).  She's big in Las Vegas now, where you pay hundreds of dollars for a seat in a giant theater to watch her perform before you head to the gambling tables. So she's making a handsome dollar, and has enough income to buy a nice car.

Back here in Realtown, we're happy when we go the extra few dollars for a sliding moonroof, backup camera and built-in GPS, bringing the price of a new Isuzu to just a dollar less than grandpa spent for a whole house back in the day. But people in Britney's income neighborhood can shoot $150,000 for a new Mercedes G-Class and not even worry about the free car wash tickets.

By the way, "G-Class" to me will always mean "Geometry Class," and I would pay you $150,000 not to have to sit through that again.

But Britney, rich as she is, is still the girl next door, or at least down the block and around the corner, because over the weekend, she and her mom went down to the local soccer field in Calabasas, California to watch one of her sons play soccer...and parked their calabasses right on the hood of her expensive Mercedes Benz.

It's kind of like when Peggy and I used to ride out on a warm summer eve and sit on the tailgate of my old Toyota Tacoma pick-'em-up, swatting mosquitoes and sipping Egg Custard snowballs. I guess Britney and her mom, having spent all their money on this high-tone ride, had no money left over for snowballs. Or folding chairs.

Yes.  I'm sticking with that.

Monday, April 13, 2015

There are people without much money, and people without much sense

The problem of hunger in this country is a serious matter, and not to be joked about.  On the other hand, people like Gwyneth Paltrow should think twice before resorting to silly stunts like she is up to currently.

Hearing that food stamp recipients have to get by on $29 a week per person, the skinny actress (I guess that's what she puts for "occupation" on her 1040 form, although if you asked me for the name of a movie she's ever been in, all you'd get is a shrug, and another one if you asked if I had ever paid a nickel to see her "act") ran down to the BuySumMor and spent 29 of her 280 million dollars on brown rice, black beans, peas, eggs, tortillas, cilantro, limes and fresh vegetables.

I can just see people all across America, people who are trying so hard to feed their families on very skimpy resources, looking at this and saying,"Cilantro!  That's the answer! Cilantro for dinner, limes and black beans for lunch!"

It's really hard to imagine how people such as she function in everyday life. I remember a certain president, up for reelection, whose handlers took him to WalMart to buy tube socks, and he walked up to the cashier, did not know what the UPC price scanner was, and then, when the cashier wanted money for the socks, he had to admit that he did not carry money or a wallet, and had to mooch the money off a Secret Service agent, who had to take time off from his busy drunken driving and prostitute patronizing schedule to hand the leader of the free world (in 1991) a fiver.

Ms Paltrow - who came to attention a couple of years ago for breaking up with the husband and calling that "our decision to consciously uncouple" - does deserve credit for bringing to public attention the sad fact that a country that can spend trillions for bombs can't do any better than 29 bucks for a starving child, but then she trivializes the matter by proposing that cilantro is the answer for hunger.

And nutritionally speaking, her chow would give a person less than 1,000 calories a day, and food stamp recipients seldom have a lifestyle that involves sitting around a mansion chomping on brown rice.  Better to spend that money on things like peanut butter, oatmeal, potatoes, and frozen chicken breasts - much better sources of sustenance.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday rerun: My first, my lasts, my everythings (written in August 2010)

I can remember lots of firsts. First day of first grade, I remember seeing Ed Olson walking around the classroom on stilts made of tall juice cans.  We were six years old.  Twelve years later, Ed and I and several dozen others of our grade 1- thru- 12 bunch were graduated from high school and Ed was driving an Olds.

I remember my first day of working in a "real" job - at the A&P Food Store in my town.  I had always liked hanging around the supermarket anyway, so getting a job there was sort of natural.  I used to round up some buddies and say, "It's Saturday! Let's go down to the A&P watch 'em bag orders!"  When I got the job, I proudly donned the red apron and name tag, and went to work unloading endless truckloads of ginger ale, fig newtons and Vienna sausages. Another thing about that job I fondly recall: there I was in high school, making $2.15 an hour to start.  A pittance, today, I know.  But my friends who were slinging burgers at Gino's and McDonald's were being paid 50 cents an hour, and I was making over four times that much and I did not have to slave over a french fryer.  A coffee grinder, yeah, but no hot oil.  But the top scale for my exalted job class - "clerk" - was 3 dollars an hour.  And guys I worked with there, the full-timers, the guys who knew the Land O'Lakes butter package trick and were only too glad to teach an eager young acolyte such as I, were making 3 dollars an hour, times 40 = $120 before taxes! And they were buying houses and cars and raising children on that.  Just 41 years ago.

LOL Butter!
I remember the first time I was on the radio, and how great it felt to achieve a childhood goal of a) playing records  b) talking about records and c) being paid for a) and b).  There I was, 20 years of age, and being paid at the rate of $75,000...for every thousand weeks of work.

I remember the first time I encountered cheese grits, and the first time I shaved with a razor, and the first time I drove a car, and also the first time I drove a car that anyone knew about (two separate events, mind you!) and the first real fire I fought as a young volunteer firefighter and the first cigarette I ever smoked (and the last one!) and the first time I ever saw my Peggy.  The greatest memory of all, that one.

But I have an operation coming up soon and I am glad that my doctor, the eminent neurosurgeon Neal Naff, M.D., has done this kind of thing before.  Can you imagine what it must be like when your surgeon tells you this is the first time he or she has ever done this kind of thing before?