Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, May 28, 2016

It's not hard to imagine that the guy in the sign shop can let his mind drift now and then.  What would be nice would be if the boss in the sign shop, wherever this took place, had assigned someone to do a little quality control.
I guess one of the unfulfilled dreams of many lives would be getting to ride in a motorcycle sidecar.  This one might be the coolest one in history!
Dawn over Dubai.  Every day begins with a promise and a clean slate.
Lest we forget, this is Memorial Day weekend, a time set aside to honor those who laid down their lives in defense of our nation. Please don't confuse it with Veterans' Day, thanks.
This is the New York Daily News front page from October 4, 1955, the day after the Brooklyn Dodgers, referred to as "Dem Bums" by disappointed locals for years, finally beat the Damn Yankees and won the World Series.
Picnicking this weekend?  Why not go cheap and try a hot dog with everything?  I see sauerkraut, relish and chili.  Ummmm!
This is the Red Pool in Thailand and no, the water is not red, but the tiles in the pool are.
Just to see what I'd get, I Googled "cute animals."  They are never wrong!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Cut me In

You would hate to think that the man who invented the Double Meat Whopper couldn't afford to have one for lunch, or that whoever came up with the Uber ride-hailing service had to walk everywhere for lack of dough.

But John Spinello, 77, of Bloomingdale, Illinois, invented that "Operation" game in the early 60s when he was an engineering student at the U of Illinois.  He came up with the idea when he recalled sticking a pin into an electrical outlet as a child and getting a shock.

So I guess he was shocked again when he saw millions of those games being sold at Toys "R" Costly, and he didn't see a nickel of it all, because he sold his invention to a guy for a quick $500.

Image result for john spinelloAnd that guy was a smooth operator, who took the whole shebang to Milton Bradley and made a bundle from it.  And as the years went by, Spinello (left) went into the warehouse business, but that went toes up during the recession.

And then he needed dental surgery - $25,000 worth of it.

Things looked bleak until Peggy Brown and Tim Walsh, who are both friends of Spinello and fellow game inventors as well, put on a fundraiser for him through a crowd funding site.  

"I think assumptions are made that inventors make a lot of money off these kinds of things and in this case, it's just really not so," said Brown, of Milwaukee.

Happy Ending Dep't: They raised more than enough to take care of Mr Spinello's choppers.

Prediction Dep't:  The man or woman who invented crowd funding websites will never need a fundraiser put on for him or her.

I mean, can you just imagine the irony?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I don't know

Unlike some people who are currently seeking political office, I just hate not knowing stuff.  Hate it.  

Like when the Orioles are on the West Coast and I can't hang long enough to see the end of a ballgame that might last until 1 in the yawning.  I could stay up that late, but the cats want breakfast at a quarter past five, and you know who runs this ship.

So I have to hit the sheets not knowing how the game will turn out.  Friday night, they were tied 4-4, and Saturday night, it was a scoreless tie when I gave myself over to sweet slumber.  And so on Saturday and Sunday mornings, unlike other days, the first thing I grabbed was my phone to Google the score...and both times, the O's had won, which meant the cats got an extra nuzzle on the way to breakfast.

ICYMI, here is the video of Matt Weiters slapping a homerun to win Saturday's game on his 30th birthday.

Image result for a prairie home companion
They don't do sports results
My delayed-information sports weekend had this other twist.  I was DVRing the Preakness, so we ran over to Bertucci's for our favorite Sporkie with added anchovies. The whole way over, I listened to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio, knowing that Mr Keillor would not break into his News From Lake Wobegon to give the results of the 13th at Pimlico.

I ran into the pizza pickup area and turned away from the television and told the young lady who brought me the delectables that I was deliberately not turning around to see the TV for fear of finding out who won.  She laughed and promised not to tell, and even offered to hold the door for me as I left for my car, where Peggy sat waiting in the pizza pickup parking area, mere feet from the front door.

And then a little red-haired demon youth running into the restaurant turned to his father and said, "Hey Dad!  Exaggerator won!"

I should have bet on that happening.  Not the horse. The kid. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I would know more about the planets if they had had school at night when I was a kid. What with all the time I spent staring outside through the windows and up at the sky, you have to figure I would have learned something about the planets that revolve around us, or we revolve around, however that works.  

I guarantee you, there are third graders who know more about the stars and planets than I do.  Which is fine by me.  As long as I know the moon is not made of green cheese and no cow can jump over it, I'm just fine.  (The way to figure what sort of arc a steer or bull would need to use to jump over the moon can be figured out by using Cowculus.)

But it was interesting to pick up the paper the other day and read that NASA says they have discovered an unprecedented number of planets beyond our solar system. There are 1,284 new little worlds out there orbiting around the stars.

And each of them has a cable company, a phone company, and two political parties vying for power.

One of these items is the space telescope
with a price of $225 million.  The other
is a air ionizer for your home...price is
$225.  Please choose wisely
They call these distant points "exoplanets" and they were discovered by peeping through NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which has been up there circling around since 2009...on your dime, I might add.

"When NASA decided to build and launch the Kepler Space Telescope, we did not know if exoplanets — especially small, rocky exoplanets — were common or rare in the galaxy," says Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. "We now know that exoplanets are common, that most stars in our galaxy have planetary systems, and that a reasonable fraction of the stars in our galaxy have potentially habitable planets."

If I ever go back on the radio, I might use the fake name "Rocky Exoplanet." 

All this stuff going on millions and millions of miles away, and all I want is to take a boat ride to Cuba to see a 1953 Plymouth in action.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It Happened in LA

Yes, friends, you are looking at evidence of the beginning of the total defraying of sense and civilization as we once knew it.

People in California (where they once elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor) are participating in The Freeway Challenge, in which contestants with an inadequate desire to stay alive take their skateboards and mountain bikes out onto the highway, whizzing past cars and trucks and other vehicles that belong there.

The California Highway Patrol - the CHiPs! - is condemning this stupid stunt. "I am hoping it's not a trend that picks up. We want to get ahead of it," said Sgt. Jose Nunez. Nunez points out that besides the horses asses performing this insanity being
at risk, other, sane, drivers are in danger from people trying to get out of the way.

On the other hand, a person named Nakel Smith, who self-identifies as a professional skater, has put a video of himself doing this online. Don't look for me to post a link; I don't want it on my conscience if someone were to see the video and be inspired to emulate this foolishness.

Smith's manager (can you imagine that being your job, the way you make a living? Putting "skateboarder manager" under "Occupation" on your tax form?) says Smith does not want to be seen as encouraging this sort of thing.

Meanwhile, those who do post their videos can count on having the police watching them in an effort to find out who they are and take them to the nearest mental health facility.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Back To School

I love my old high school more than any other high school in the world, which is why I call Towson High the Greatest High School in the universe.  I will admit that I was a stranger to the honor society selection committee during my years there, while on the other hand, I was no stranger to the vice principals in charge of attendance.  There is a connection between those two facts.

Image result for towson high
But as the years have passed, I have had many opportunities to visit the school in volunteer capacities...mentoring, conducting practice interviews for juniors, and for the past two years I have been part of Project Citizen, with the American Government Gifted & Talented and Law & Public Policy freshman classes. This program is under the aegis of Mr. Gil Stange, an excellent American Government teacher.   

In Project Citizen, the students get first-hand experience in solving a public policy issues that directly affects the people of Baltimore County.  For instance, in the three classes I heard present, the issues were how to stop people from swimming (and drowning!) in the Loch Raven Reservoir, how to address the problem of litter and trash on the streets of the county seat, and how to go about having a crosswalk installed for the safety of pedestrians on a certain busy street.  First, the students had to come up with their own problems in need of solutions, rather than having them assigned, and then they had to research how to address interviewing affected citizens, contacting public officials and private experts, and arriving at real facts and figures about how one would theoretically solve these and other problems. Then, they put together multi-media presentations showing every step of their work and outlining their findings, and did all this as a Public Hearing in front of their teachers and a panel consisting of people with some expertise in the topic.   

All sorts of people were represented - social studies leaders from the Public Schools, a police sergeant, a politician or two, and others who have dealt with public issues. That's my ticket to the festivities, my career in working with the county government through 3 decades that are still fondly recalled as the time "before Mark retired."

As the students presented their work, I was just thrilled at how well they did!  Instead of those beauty pageant-style, nebulous answers ("I think that people should not swim in the reservoir because of the risk of drowning, which can so tragically rob a person of their future before it even begins!") the students went out and found out how many had been caught swimming. They talked to the rangers who patrol the area.  They took pictures of the (currently inadequate) signage warning against jumping in, and they arrived at suggestions for public education and better signs and even a way to get some more rangers on the job.  And they even checked with a law professor to make sure their ideas were all on the beam.

I wish that everyone had the chance that I had to spend a day with these teachers and these students.  It's all too easy for people who don't get to see modern education in action to think that teachers still stand at a lectern and drone on about the Peloponnesian Wars as students take desultory notes and pass notes asking Jenni to the record hop Friday night.  Nope.  Teachers today are preparing students for a world that little cares that Sparta won the Pelopennesian War (although Athens lodged a complaint and several penalties were overturned.)  

Instead, what I see going on is students getting to practice interview skills, so that when they apply to college or jobs, it won't be the first time they have sat at a desk with someone asking them what is their best and worst quality.  And instead of lecture notes and abstract notions, the students I see now have an idea of how government works in the real world...not in the textbook, cartoon "How A Bill Becomes Law" sense but in the sense of calling the head of the highways division of the local government and asking him what it would take to get things done.

I couldn't be more impressed with the students or the teachers at Towson High, and I appreciate the invitation!


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Rerun: Finish Your Sentence!

Good Morning America had a story the other day about a man who broke into a house occupied by several female college students.  The hook on the story was that while he roamed the house, binding the women's hands, another of the U of Washington students was on the phone to 911, and the cops were sent to round the guy up and send him off to the bing for a long, long time.  No one was assaulted or injured during the invasion, a fact that is bound to be brought up by whichever member of the legal profession gets to defend the man in court.  His name is Robert Douglas Hitt.  

You can't blame the 5-0 for being a little tired of hauling this criminal into court.  After all, the guy just got out of the hoosegow in January after serving 10 years for first degree rape.

My question is, why was he out? 

Remember the kid down the street when you were growing up, the one whose mom said "All right, Larry: no more TV for one month for you!" right after he got caught jumping off the garage using a sheet of plywood to aid in his descent.  And then, next morning before homeroom, he'd be talking about how funny it was the night before on "Green Acres" when Eb and Lisa fooled Oliver into showing up for his surprise birthday party.

Obviously, his mother's punishment sure meant a lot.

Now, Hitt moved to the Big House in 2002 and was released, as we say, this past January.  I guess they figured that he was all rehabilitated and everything, so why keep him locked up when he clearly deserved to return to his place in society.  Why, only last Thursday, he finished a sex-offender treatment program! 

This makes me heterodox with - at odds with - my usual liberal outlook on things, but I can't understand the thought processes of the people who run the jails and prisons.   This Hitt raped a woman in 2001!  He should not be out on the streets in 2012, or 2032.  To me, you commit an unforgivable sin, you stay where the other unforgivables are: behind bars.

Not enough room in prison?  Close down the libraries and the gymnasia. Let them sleep in shifts, like on a World War II Navy ship, and while they're not sleeping, they can be making license tags or weaving blankets or picking up trash from the highway.

Call me old-fashioned, but someone should have told this guy a long time ago that we as a society do not approve of rape and breaking-and-entering and binding women at knifepoint.  He had his punishment and a second chance that I never would have let him have.  Should there be a third chance?