Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The stars at night are big and bright!

As Ernest Tubb said, "The thing about Texas isn't
that we have everything; it's that we have
so much of it!" 
Ah, it's the packing! Packing is what I hate. Really though,  pack we must, because our house has been sold to a really nice family from up in Carroll County, and as soon as the moving men are here to pack our clothes, furniture, old books, records and cookware, we'll be headed for our new home in Houston.

I am really looking forward to one thing down in the Lone Star State: the chance to enjoy hot, humid weather all year long.  Lord knows, here in Baltimore, we only had oppressive, sticky heat in June, July and August!  Fortunately for us, the people who hired us to move to Houston and serve as houseparents at a local university dormitory (can't mention the name; I'm sure you understand why) have assured us of a steady flow of Gulf moisture, accompanied by the heat that comes from a latitude closer to the equator (and Mexico!) and a sun that feels like it's about three feet above your sombrero from January through December.

Oh, right...we can leave all those winter hats, scarves, gloves and snowshovels right where they are!  Only thing is, the new owners of the house they have promised to take over to the GoodWill store whatever they can't use.

Long about June, we'll be all settled in, Deep In The Heart Of!

(We'd love to have you come visit!  For our new address and contact info, just look at the first letter of each sentence above!)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's the what?

Maybe it's because I am sort of slow on the uptake, but I am always the last to notice when someone I see all the time loses 67 pounds, or grows a beard, or has moved to Schenectady.  I guess I'm more thinking of the "now" than of the "then," but the point is, things can change a lot without me noticing.

True story - I saw a post on Facebook by a woman I worked with. I said I would have to stop by her office in the morning to show her something associated with her post, and she said, "Have you not noticed I left that job over a year ago?  I work for Johns Hopkins now."

There's no way to come back from that.

Misuse of apostrophes is also the pits.
So I guess I am the last American to notice that no one says,"It's the pits!" anymore. The expression dates back to the 1950s, and originally came from our overwhelming interest in armpit hygiene, when people started saying "It's the pits" to mean something stanky.

We used to say that about a crummy job, a broken bone, or an outbreak of nepotism. It was a standard punch line on sitcoms ("Junior, how was the first day of your senior year?" "It was the pits, Dad!") and a handy way of commiserating with the guy down the street whose car was ripped off and the only thing possible to say when your favorite TV show was cancelled for the all-new "CSI Indianapolis."

And then, suddenly, everyone stopped saying it, and I just realized that no one says it anymore the other night, when I went to say it, and stopped 1/2 way through, stopping just in time to avoid the embarrassment of saying something totally uncool.

That would REALLY have been the...pits.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Our Congress In Action

I realized a long time ago that I could never serve as a member of the US Congress. And no, it's not because my outlier politics make me as unelectable as Jim Irsay at a Baltimore Colts convention.

Congresswoman Norton
The problem is that the District of Columbia is ably represented (without a vote, but anyway) in Congress by the honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Ed Norton
And as a longtime "Honeymooners" watcher, I cannot hear her last name without hollering "NORTON!!!!" as Ralph Kramden did in every episode.

Final answer; TRIAL and ERROR
So picture this scene as Congress debates some stupid issue, such as whether one's devotion to one's religion gives one the right to discriminate against other children of the same God, and a distinguished congressman bellows, "I yield the floor to the representative from the District of Columbia, Ms Eleanor Holmes Norton..." I, in my seat working the Jumble ("That Scrambled Word Game!), would holler her surname as a reflex.  It can't be helped.

Well, last week Ms Norton made news without anyone screaming except for the other people on New Jersey Avenue Southeast in Washington DC.

Just another day at the Park
Rushing "to get to a television interview," she parked her grey sedan perpendicular to the sidewalk, in an area where the other cars park at a 45-degree angle, blocking the exit of a red truck, properly parked.

At age 77, Ms Norton remembers the good old days when every single second of every single life was not being recorded on video by surveillance cameras, law-enforcement agencies and people walking by with smart phones.  So of course, some eagle-eye caught the video of the parking job and her seeming nonchalance about it.

Contacted by the press later, Congresswoman Norton said, “Don’t worry! I have signed up for parking lessons, and I’m even thinking about upgrading to one of those self-parking cars.”

All right, join me now.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday rerun: Ralph Lauren's real name is Ralph Lifshitz

I'm the happiest guy in the world when I can find a bargain!  And now that wearing a polo shirt is about as dressed up as I'm going to be, barring someone being married or buried, the ubiquitous sport shirt is a menu staple for me.
I wear mine without the smirk

In fact, let's take the staples out, just so I don't get stuck, shall we?

I generally find my polos at JC Penney, or online at Eddie Bauer.  But there is a store up in Harford County called Gabriel Brothers  - one of those discount operations that buys up last year's styles and colors before the ritzy Marshall's and swanky TJ Maxx can get ahold of them - that I like to prowl through when we're up that way, and the other night, what did I find there but an entire rack of JC Penney polos.  Many were in my size, which happens to be a notch or two above "medium."  For fifteen semolians, I strutted out of there with three brand-new shirts - in the fashionable pistachioruby, and sea green colors.

Flour power
What's great about a $4.95 polo shirt is, you can feel all nice about wearing it, and even if you get barbecue sauce all over it or something, you're only out $4.95 if the stain remover doesn't work.  And if a fur protester tosses flour all over you, as just happened to Kim Kardashian, well, you just throw it in the laundry and away you go.

I have reached out to Kim in solidarity, but she demanded to know what solidarity was.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, March 28, 2015

This is a tourist spot in Spain called "Caminito del Rey" - "The King's Little Walkway."  It had been closed, but is set to reopen soon for reasons I can't figure.  No walkway should be this harrowing, but then again, it's a free world.  Don't look for me there!

Our friends at NOAA got this picture of a raincloud from above, for the benefit of those of us who are usually on the other end of one  - and that's all of us.
The person who shared this is an urban beekeeper with his apiary on the roof of a tall building.  They say that urban New York City honey can be quite tasty because the bees can graze on rooftop flower gardens all over the big town.
I will admit, my method of smuggling beer into ballgames was always to cover a six with peanuts in the shell, but this is a better way - make a beerito and carry it proudly right up to your seat!
Sometimes, the perfect thing for lunch is the good old Powerhouse sandwich.  Mayo, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and Muenster cheese on 117-grain bread!  You can't go wrong!
This is an ad from 1953, long before everyone woke up and realized that clowns are creepy. I think it's the tiny hats.
Time for Easter eggs and all the fun of springtime!
Mason Jars are so handy to drink from, to put up fruits and vegetables in, and to hold straws. The straws add a nice touch of color to this picture.

Friday, March 27, 2015

If someone accuses Taylor Swift of using poor grammar...

Remember taking the SAT exam?  That dreaded Saturday in the cafeteria, with your pencils all sharpened and your brain somewhat so, ready to tackle analogies (APPLE is to FRUIT as FLANK STEAK is to  a) GROCERIES  b) MEAT c) PUDDING  d) STEVE JOBS) and definitions of arcane vernacularisms, such as "arcane" and "vernacularism," and math graphs,  and I don't know what-all else.  

I also don't know how well this sort of test serves to predict one's ability to do well in college, but then again, we are living in a world in which a youngster, son of a friend of mine, "was dressed in double layered pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a heavyweight hooded sweatshirt today, but he wasn't allowed to go outside for recess because he didn't have a coat. He was made to sit in the office with nothing to do."  And that was on a day when the temperature in Baltimore was well above freezing.  So, really. It reminds me of people who get so upset if someone shivers. When did you ever hear of a child who suffered hypothermia while wearing a hoodie while playing while it was above freezing?  I say, please get real, educators!

And I read about this while reading that the Princeton Review, a company in business to help anxious high school juniors prepare for the test, mistakenly called out the virtually-perfect Taylor Swift for a grammatical error she did not make in lyrics to the song "Fifteen."

They have a section of their prep course called "Grammar In Real Life," (as opposed to???) in which the practice test says, "Pop lyrics are a great source of bad grammar. See if you can find the error in each of the following."

After quoting lyrics by Katy Perry, Whitney Houston, and Lady Gaga, they claim that "Fifteen" contains the line 

"Somebody tells you they love you, you got to believe 'em."

Not a worthy subject of any criticism
But the actual lyric goes:

"Somebody tells you they love you, you're gonna believe them."

One of Taylor's fans read this, pointed it out to her, and enjoyed the singer's response on Tumblr:

"Not the right lyrics at all pssshhhh. You had one job, test people. One job."


Princeton Review was swift to apologize: "I want to make sure that folks know that we're big Taylor Swift fans and that we apologize for the misrepresentation in the lyric," The Princeton Review's SVP-publisher Rob Franek told MTV News. "I appreciate her response, but the question on the grammar still holds true."

Translation: "Hey we're cool, even though we get the words wrong, and the wrong words we quoted used bad grammar. Remember, maybe we can't blame that on Taylor Swift, but we have 'Princeton' in our name, so aren't we cool?"

Other vocabulary words that might come in handy include bumptious, conceited, elitist, supercilious, snobby, snotty, arrogant, high-handed, imperious, overweening, pompous, smug, stuck-up, and swellheaded.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Where evil dwelled

The monster's house is gone.

The town of Newtown, Connecticut, has torn down the house where in 2012 Adam Lanza started his killing rampage when he killed his mother before heading to the elementary school for more unspeakable carnage (20 children and six educators killed).

Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra said this comes as a "big relief.  The house stood as a reminder to the neighbors and everyone in town of where that young man lived and grew up and did such horrible destruction to our community."

Hudson City Savings Bank turned the house and its 2.1-acre lot, appraised at $523,000, over to the town for free. The Lanza family sold the property to someone and the bank bought it up from that party.

The town also tore down the Sandy Hook Elementary School last year and a new school is being built on that same site.  There's no word on what the town plans for the now empty site of the Lanza home.

This reminds us, of course, of the Amish school shooting in Lancaster County, PA, in 2006. Charles Carl Roberts IV killed five young people at West Nickel Mines School, a one-room schoolhouse in the community of Nickel Mines. In that case, the West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse called the New Hope School was built elsewhere.

How eerie will it be for the future students of Newtown to be on that same ground, even though in a new building?  How off-putting would it be to live in a new house built on the lot where Adam Lanza's house stood?

There was a similar horror up the road from my boyhood house when a young mom, having lost her way, killed her children in a hideously gory manner.  For years afterwards, people would slow down driving past the house where '"it" happened.
Former Lanza home

Perhaps the atmosphere above ground at the Lanza house is fouled and ruined for decent humanity, but what if the ground was used to grow food for the hungry, flowers for the beautification of all, and grazing land for animals?  It could be a way to salvage flowers from the trashcan of life.