Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fried Day

How about this? Yesterday was National Fried Chicken Day, and I didn't get one greeting card in the mail wishing me a happy NFC Day!

Chicken-fried steak
I don't know whose idea it was to salute America's Favorite Dinner with its own special day, but it was a good idea. Why do I say it's our favorite dinner? Because fried chicken is so good, it's even the best way to serve steak! It's sort of confusing, but if you take a hunk of cube steak and fry it up as if it were chicken, you've got something tasty right there.

There are several methods for having great fried chicken for dinner.  It all starts with pieces of chicken - breast, leg, thigh and wing - breaded or floured, and then cooked: in a pan with an inch or two of oil, in a deep fryer in which the pieces go for one last swim, or done up in a pressure cooker.

But the fastest and easiest, and probably tastiest way is to get into the Studebaker and ride over to see Colonel Sanders or Popeye or Baltimore County's own amazing Friendly Farm - all places to get fried chicken cooked by someone else, and quite well, too.

On his way to Popeye's
In the Olde Worlde, English people baked chicken, or boiled it, which is why you've never seen a chain called "Andy Capp's Boiled Chicken." It was the Scottish who heated up some cooking oil and tossed in some chicken. This revolutionized the world, especially after some clever Scot invented tongs to get the chicken out of the oil and onto his plate, thereby avoiding the dreaded "burned finger syndrome."  

Because of this, we are able to forgive Scotland for bagpipes and golf.

I hope your Fried Chicken Day was tasty and crispy and slathered in hot sauce!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Change for the better

At the time I'm writing this (Sunday evening, listening to an old Jean Shepherd radio show) Delmon Damarcus Young, former Baltimore Oriole, is sitting somewhere waiting to be told which team has traded which player in return for the right to employ Young as a pinch hitter, designated hitter, and outfielder.

Old #27
Young came to the Orioles last year, and helped lead them to the American League East championship (you can still hear the din down at the ballpark from when he doubled in the 8th inning of game 2 of the 2014 American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers, a hit that put the Orioles ahead for good in the game.)

This year, the club has more talented outfielders than they have seats on the bench, so Delmon has been "designated for assignment," which means he's off the team while the front office negotiates possible deals with other teams. It's for sure that he will bring the Orioles something good in return, and find a club where he can play every day.

But there were incidents in Delmon Young's past that no one mentioned while he played here, and for good reason. He was a prime example of a man who made mistakes as a younger man, and redeemed himself by changing his ways.

A Californian, Young was the #1 pick in the amateur baseball draft when he finished high school in 2003. By 2006, he had advanced through the minor league rungs in the Tampa Bay Rays organization to the Durham Bulls, where he reacted to a called third strike by throwing his bat at the umpire, for which he was suspended 50 games. He had been suspended for three games the year before for bumping an umpire, while a member of the Montgomery Biscuits.

You have to love the names of minor league ballclubs. The Modesto Nuts! The Akron Rubber Ducks! The Biloxi Shuckers! And by the way, since you asked, the team colors of the Montgomery Biscuits are "butter and blue."

Anyhow, Young made the big league team later in '06, and stayed in Tampa Bay for two years, and then wound up with the Minnesota Twins, and then the Detroit Tigers, and then the Philadelphia Phillies. The Tigers cut him loose after he got drunk one night in New York and hollered an anti-Semitic slur (it was not a pretty incident), and then he wound up back in the minors, and with the Philadelphia Phillies for a while, and finally the Orioles gave him the chance to resurrect his career, which he certainly did.

But Young did the right thing. He got counseling for his alcohol and anger management issues, and he met with a rabbi in Detroit to deal with his anti-Semitism. He was puzzled by that aspect of his life, saying that he grew up in a diverse area where everyone was accepted and there were no problems of that sort.  Between the rabbi and the counselors, his career (with its considerable earning power) was restored. He was by all measures a well-adjusted part of the team here with the Orioles, and takes our best wishes with him to whichever new team he suits up for.

It's a reminder that even those of us with issues that manifest themselves in many ways can always get help, and get life back on an even keel.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday rerun: Out of their league

I had no idea that bowling was this big of a deal!  There was a Johnny Unitas Colt Lanes bowling place down the road apiece when I was a kid, and we would hang around there, hoping to catch a glimpse of the greatest quarterback ever to play in the NFL while we tossed the ball down the alley.  Eventually, the manager would come out and holler at us, claiming that throwing the balls down the back alley was hurting his business, so we'd come in and actually roll the balls toward the pins.

And I know that tens of millions of Americans wear shirts that look a lot like they came from Charlie Sheen's wardrobe so they can go bowling in a league, one or two nights per week.  Looks like fun, if a little overly noisy.  But the camaraderie must be worth it!

Now comes news via my local Patch that a local guy is charged with embezzling 47 thousand semolians from his local bowling league.  This is stunning news, not least because you read that the bowling league started out in 1896, long before most of us were born, and because there is a bowling league that has   had   $47,000 in its bank acct.   

So you read on, and it turns out that all the bowlers chipped in between $200 and $1,000, and this is the prize money that is now missing.  The treasurer is the one on the "hook," if you will, and you can only hope that he doesn't wind up in the "gutter."  Unless he's being "frame"d, he will have to come up with a better story than "the family had a party at my house while I was away, and when I came back, the money was GONE!"

Hey, whaddya know?  We should see if we can "spare" him any extra cash, so this doesn't "strike" him too hard. 

I'm not saying anyone did anything; I don't know anything beyond what was in the Patch.  But I remember when a detective buddy of mine had to investigate a local clown organization for the same sort of thing: dues money missing.  His investigation in that case was hampered by the clowns' practice of only referring to each other by their clown name, so his notes on the case said things such as, "Mr Flopsy said that he saw Pee-Poe with a large stack of cash on the night that they all went to celebrate Baggy Britches's engagement to Miss Choo Choo."

The money was eventually recovered in that case, but still missing are one (1) six-foot Styrofoam hot dog and roll, and a pair of men's shoes, black, size 37.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show for the Fourth of July, 2015

Mexican piñata makers are working overtime to meet the demand for papier-mâché likenesses of an oafish American figure whose boorishness trumps anything I've ever seen.
 John Adams had it right - light up the sky with celebration!
 This is what we celebrate.  It makes nice reading, if you have time.
There is nothing that says "Baltimore" like a pile of steamed crabs, some corn, and a beer or two.
The classic album cover for this week is this unforgettable Springsteen collection from 1984.
 Tonight at 8 on PBS - the annual "A Capital Fourth" celebration.  Songs, prose and fireworks, right on the TV for you!
We recommend Ted 2 for those of you who like to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.
This is America: the annual Towson MD Fourth of July parade thunders past the County Courts Building where I worked for many a year, sometimes during the parade!

Friday, July 3, 2015

It takes a lot of thin mints

I should have paid more attention in the psychology classes through which I dozed on many a leafy autumn college afternoon. Let's be honest.  I should have paid more attention in all my classes, but it would have helped to learn more about the human psyche if I had asked Professor Freud (I had some really great teachers!), "Why would a person bestow a generous gift upon a worthy organization and then, like a person teasing a kitten, place an onerous qualification on that gift in order to pull it back intentionally?"

What I'm talking about happened in Washington State. An anonymous donor sent a check for $100,000 to the Girl Scouts. That is nice. A hundred thousand bucks is enough to send 500 girls to camp.

But then, apparently in the grip of an awful case of Caitlynphobia, the would-be benefactor sent a message that said, "Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls. If you can’t, please return the money."

So, it's like this: "Here is some money for a good cause, and it's sandwiches and camp for all, but nothing for any red-haired kids. Or kids with braces on their teeth, or girls who like to dance the polka."

To their credit, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington gave the money back to the churlish one.  Their CEO, Megan Ferland, said it wasn't even a tough decision at all: “Girl Scouts is for every girl,” she says. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

Scouting, for Boys and Girls, is supposed to be an inclusive activity, with room for all kids, as should be the case.  Ms Ferland sums it up nicely: “Every girl that is a Girl Scout is a Girl Scout because her parent or guardian brings her to us and says, ‘I want my child to participate,’ And I don’t question whether or not they’re a girl.” 

There will always be the fearful among us, people who love to develop stories in their minds.  And while they're worrying about little Buster McGaffigan, the tough boy from around the corner, dressing up as a girl for the sole purpose of annoying girls in the Girl Scouts, they should be worrying about living in a world in which there are people who would make a pretense of generosity as a setting for what they're really up to, which is fomenting fear and disharmony.

The happy wrapper to all this is that the good people of Washington have now given money that amounts to more than the $100 G that the original donor waved and withdrew. The best outcome would be if that person gave the money back, no strings attached, because a kid is a kid is a kid.

A $50,000 donation is cause for celebration at the Queen Anne offices of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. “We have these little clapper thingies, and the clappers go mad when we get that kind of gift,” says the council’s CEO, Megan Ferland. So when Ferland came back to the office earlier this spring and announced that she’d just landed a $100,000 donation, the place went mad. Not only did it represent nearly a quarter of the council’s annual fundraising goal, it would pay to send 500 girls to camp. “We were thrilled,” Ferland says.

Except there was a catch. In late May, as news of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition was blowing up your Facebook news feed, she received a letter from the donor with a brief request: 

Ferland chooses her words carefully when discussing the donor, whose identity she won’t reveal out of respect for their privacy. “The relationship is complex,” is all she’ll say. But she does admit to being “very sad” upon receiving the letter. Shortly after that, though, she made up her mind about how to respond: In a short letter, she informed the donor that she would, in fact, be returning the money. Her reasoning was simple. 

This is the second time in less than five years that a Girl Scouts council has taken a public stand to support transgender girls, and both times Ferland was at the center of the story. In 2012, when she headed the organization’s Colorado council, a 7-year-old transgender girl in Denver was denied entry to a troop. Although the council had never specifically said that it accepted transgender girls, the national organization had always made inclusivity the foundation of its mission. So after checking with the council’s attorney, Ferland issued a public statement welcoming transgender girls and explaining that the council was working to find a troop for the girl who’d been rejected. 

She’s not shying away from controversy this time, either. And an Indiegogo campaign that the Girl Scouts of Western Washington launched Monday morning makes that pretty clear: “Help us raise back the $100,000 a donor asked us to return because we welcome transgender girls,” reads the council’s statement on the site, front and center under a video proclaiming that “Girl Scouts is for every girl.”

The Gender Justice League, which supports the transgender community in Seattle, has pledged to spread the word about the campaign. “We’re so profoundly grateful that Girl Scouts of Western Washington are standing by their values to support all girls,” says executive director Danni Askini. “It’s also mortifying that the donor withdrew this funding. It’s a clear example of how much bias and prejudice against transgender people still exists in our society.”

The word inclusivity comes up a lot when talking to Ferland about Girl Scouts, and according to a psychology professor at the University of Washington, it’s a concept that’s even more important to transgender children. “It certainly is the case that for all people—transgender or otherwise—having people acknowledge the identity that you see yourself as having is very important,” says Kristina Olson. “And feeling supported in who you are—in any aspect of any kid’s life—is going to make them feel better about themselves, do better in the world. So we have a lot of evidence that what we call social support is associated with much better outcomes for kids. And that seems to be especially true among transgender kids.”

Yet while they may acknowledge their identity to themselves, being open about it with others can be much more difficult. “There’s a lot of violence and discrimination and prejudice against transgender people,” Askini says. “So even if people know they’re transgender, they don’t always transition because of that prejudice and bias and discrimination. So the thing about Girl Scouts that’s so vital to all girls is that it’s about creating community and ending isolation.”

Olson is currently conducting a long term study on gender identity among young children. Among the more than 100 trans children her research has focused on in the last two years, 97 percent identified themselves as being the opposite gender than their sex would suggest between one and a half and three and a half years of age. “And that’s the same age that we see other kids who aren’t transgender identify their gender for the first time,” she says.

The Girl Scouts of Colorado took heat from some parents for taking such a clear stand in support of transgender girls, but Ferland wasn’t worried about blowback then. And she isn’t now. “This is the right thing to do, so there was not anything else to do other than return the gift,” she says. “And we need the $100,000 back so we can serve more girls. So we’re going to do everything we can to raise that money. And if it raises a ruckus, it raises a ruckus.”

If the results of the campaign after one day are any indication, it already has. By 5pm—just nine hours after going live—the council had raised nearly $25,000.

UPDATE: As of 9:30am on June 30, the Girl Scouts had surpassed their $100,000 goa

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Warden threw a party at the county jail

I hate to keep bringing this up, but may I ask just what is going on in the American prison system?

And I'm not talking about people still being in jail since 1967 for having marijuana seeds in their pocket or something.  I know those inequities exist, but is there any doubt that David Sweat and the late Richard Matt should have been locked up with the key thrown into nearby Niagara Falls?

At 34, David Sweat was in stir for shooting Deputy Kevin Tarsia 15 times and running over him with his car. Sweat's mother, Pamela Sweat, said her son was a troubled child with a violent streak. "I don't want nothing to do with him," Ms Sweat told the Press & Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton, New York. "He has tormented me since he was nine years old, and now he's 34 and I feel like he's still doing it."

Richard Matt was shot to death by a border patrol SWAT team after almost three weeks on the run through rural New York State.  He was 48 and seemed to be just a little slice on Hell on earth, starting out by terrorizing other kids on the school bus, running away from home on a stolen horse as a teenager (what is this, "The Rifleman"?) and as a local thug in Towanda, NY, dismembering the body of his former employer.  At least he was kind enough to kill the man before sawing him into a million pieces, after which he fled to Mexico, where he killed another American and, for his sins, was incarcerated in the prison in Dannemora on a term that was to run until 2032 with no chance of parole.  Matt "is the most vicious, evil person I've ever come across in 38 years as a police officer," Gabriel DiBernardo, a retired captain with the North Tonawanda Police Department, told the New York Times.

So.  One guy is a longtime troublemaker, guilty of two murders, and the other saw a long string of crimes culminate in the murder of a police officer who was attempting to arrest him for possession of stolen guns.  The penal system of New York saw fit to place these two upstanding citizens in the "honor block," where they could apparently come and go as they pleased, dress in civilian clothes, and saw their way to freedom through cell walls and steam pipes, aided by tools brought to them by a prison worker who thought maybe she loved one or both of them and by a guard who allowed them onto the catwalks behind their cells so that they could wire their executive suites for electric outlets for their toaster oven.

They even made a practice run of their escape the night before they pulled off the real thing.  Any performer can tell you the value of a good dress rehearsal.  I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the warden, his top brass and most of the guards were in the audience with Playbills in their hands, enjoying the show.

There were supposed to be hourly bed checks of all 180 cells on the night shift at the lockup.  I guess that was overlooked.  And in the evening, while they were breaking that brick wall with a sledge hammer they found sitting there in the prison, no one heard the unmistakable sound of a wall being dismantled?

Here's what happened instead:  Sweat and Matt slipped through an opening they had cut in the back of his Sweat's cell.  They climbed down five flights of piping to the tunnels below the prison. Then, they crawled through the hole they had made in a brick wall. From there, it was an easy matter to slip into a steam pipe which they had cut holes in, walk down another tunnel, and pop out of a manhole cover two blocks from the prison.

That's where they were supposed to be met by their ride, fickle-hearted Joyce Mitchell, but that didn't work out so well.

Sawing through this wall probably violated their
lease, and they will forfeit their security deposit
Now, the three top officials at the Clinton Correctional Facility and nine other security employees are out on their assessments, on administrative leave. Among them are the two guards who regularly worked the night shift on the inmates’ cellblock and who were on duty the night of the escape. Guarding, but not guarding.

I've said this before, but I need someone to help me understand. It all seems so simple to me, but I'm just a guy without advanced degrees in penology and criminology and sociology.  Why do we even have prisons if the evil sons of witches we send there are treated like the cast of "Saved By The Bell: The College Years" and allowed to roam about at will, cooking in their cells, dressing like models in the LL Bean catalog, and sawing their way out as no one looks to see what they're up to?

I almost wonder why they'd want to get out, anyway.  Sounds like they had it pretty cushy in there already.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Things I Have Learned By Being Alive for 64 Years

1. Worrying about something never changes anything.
2. If I were being pursued by bad guys, I would want G. Gordon Liddy on my side.  If I were being pursued by good guys, I would want attorney Lenny Shapiro on my side.
3. Satchell Paige was right when he said, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."  I don't look back and regret things I did, but I do regret some things I didn't do.
4. Clothing and shoe salespeople don't mean it when they say a pair of pants or shoes will fit really nice once you take it home and wear it a few times.  If it doesn't fit in the store, it won't fit at home.
4. Same thing with people.  If they don't seem like they will be nice or be your friend, they won't be.
5. Everything a person needs to know has been written about in The New Yorker magazine or depicted in The Simpsons.
6. People who have passed on are doing wonderful things for us every day. My angels protect me, guide me, comfort me, hear me.
7. No matter how much I whine about it, people are still going to use the adjective "everyday" as an adverb. This happens every day.
8. I will never ever ever get to read all that I want to read.
9. As much as people ask you to be honest in assessing their new hairdid/car/jacket/significant other, they really want affirmation. And I want them to have it.
10. A lot of people have achieved fame, fortune and riches, and yet they can't even look at themselves in the mirror because they cheated, lied and hurt others on the way up the ladder. Success is hollow without a firm foundation.
11. A kindness to an animal is always repaid, sometimes by the animal itself.

12. No matter the level of hostility they display, every person has a need to feel loved, to fit in, to have a certain status.
13. I've seen this written and it is true: you can tell everything you need to know about a person by seeing how they interact with "service" personnel: housekeepers, servers, cashiers.
14. In 64 years, I have yet to learn to act, so there goes any dream of starring in romantic comedies with Mila Kunis.
15. I wouldn't trade one second of my life for anything.  I've had the love of the most wonderful woman alive, my Peggy, and friendship and adventure with the whole world.  I just don't know how to say enough thanks, but I thank you all!