Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Carrying charge

Wow.  Just wow is about all I can say about Sandy.  The hurricane (HAIR-i-kin in Baltimorese) that became a post-tropical cyclone after it left our area and went up and just pounded the living hell out of New York and New Jersey is something like we will never see again.  The other night, I mentioned something about it being a once-in-a-lifetime event, and someone was quick to pooh-pooh me. 

I get pooh-poohed on all the time, but for once, I was right.  I'm not one for meteorological data, but I am fairly certain that no one currently alive will ever see a storm of this magnitude again. 

So, after seeing what happened here in Baltimore and points north and south, many people are going to be thinking about being prepared for the next time the ship hits the Sandy.  I catch a lot of grief for the amount of things I make sure to have on hand at all times, but I also see a lot of people asking me to lend them a flashlight or a multitool when they're trying to cut into something in the dark.

So, next time you're stuffing your pockets or your manpurse or ladypurse, try picking out a few ideas from this list: (ideas from the Code Name Insight blog)
    • A good cell phone with internet and GPS service.
    • Some extra cash and coins
    • Pocket knife or multitool - e.g a Leatherman
    • Thumb drive with back-up files and medical info on it.
    • List of phone numbers for emergency contacts (you'll want the printout should your cell die)
    • List of medical info (kept in my wallet and includes allergies, medications, doctor's name, brief health history, etc).
    • A small flashlight (spend a few bucks on a Mini Maglite and you can count on it working in the dark)
    • Pens (2), pencil, Moleskin-style agenda book with extra pages for jotting notes and what-have-you
    • Aspirin (the kind that comes two to a foil pack which makes them easy to carry).
    • Floss for both flossing your teeth or for tying a string around a bundle
    • A bandana or handkerchief
    I just noticed, when I wrote about the agenda book, I used the expression "what-have-you."  If the past few days have taught us anything about being prepared for all Hades breaking loose, it would be that we can't say for sure when we leave the house that we won't encounter a little bit of Hades or Heaven before we get home again.  Might as well be ready.

    Tuesday, October 30, 2012

    A Hunker Hunker Burnin' Love

    Sitting here at the old pc just as the hurricane named Sandy drags herself up the Atlantic Coast, and the next 24 hours are supposed to be a test for all of us like hell by water.  Our neighboring state of Delaware has shut down, their governor saying that the only people who are to be on the roads are essential personnel.  Our governor has asked everyone to hunker down, so here I am, a-hunkerin'. 

    The radio is full of dire predictions and advice.  It's always interesting to hear them tell people to have an old-fashioned plug-in-the-wall phone to use, since when the power goes out, cordless phones are as useful as a sundial in a snowstorm, so you need the old technology after all.

    Got this tip from old pal Jamie Costello at Channel 2 News here in town...fill sandwich baggies with water and freeze them for later use in the cooler.  If you look in either of our Kelvinators right now, you'll see oddly-shaped icebags keeping company with Marie Callender's turkey pot pies.  They're eying each other warily, just as we're eying Sandy, unwelcome visitor from another planet.

    Monday, October 29, 2012


    Gee whiz.  Justin Timberlake marries Jessica Biel, and you'd think those two crazy kids could go off and have a happy honeymoon before beginning their days of man and wifetime.  But noooo!

    As if JT wasn't busy enough denying that he spent 6-and-a-half million semolians on this shindig, along comes a story about his buddyboy Justin Huchel, whose name we should know because he's a big real estate hotshot in Los Angeles, Cal. Well, we know the name "Justin" ok.  Huchel, I'll have to look around.

    So Huchel made an eight-minute "gag" video featuring edentulous Hollywood street people wishing the newlyweds the best, promising to send along gifts, and saying they were sorry they couldn't make it to the vow-saying.  In case you missed it, the "funny" part of this is that these are poor people who do not fit in the high-level social stratum that Huchel, Timberlake and Biel occupy.  One man was shown saying, "Justin and Jessica, I haven't seen you for a long time. I hope the wedding goes fine for you. My gift is in the mail."  But the joke's on him.  He wasn't even invited!

    Isn't that the funniest damn thing you ever read?

    Well, the worst thing that could have happened, happened.  Some goofball lost a copy of the DVD and they showed a clip of it on that pesky internets thing, and here's Happy Honeymooner about breaking his neck to a) apologize and b) throw his friend under the closest bus.

    Justin says his friends who were involved are all real good people - most real estate magnates are - and they suffer from lapses in judgements just like everybody so we're all guilty and should stop being so smug.

    Read what he wrote: the video "was clearly a lapse in judgment which I'm sure no one who is reading this is exempt from. But, I don't believe it was made to be insensitive."  In other words, we'd have all done the same, given the chance to humiliate other human beings and rob them of some more of their dignity, and you're being a prude if you found it insensitive.

    The truth is, I find Timberlake to be an engaging performer.  His bits on Saturday Night Live are generally funny, and he shows talent in music and acting as well.  We can't blame him and his friends if they get a little puffed about him marrying rebellious Mary from 7th Heaven and cavorting around like fools.  And although he hasn't checked in with my free advice website ( I still pass along this advice to him and anyone else who finds themselves in with bad companions:

    If you can't change the people around you, change the people around you.

    Sunday, October 28, 2012

    Sandy Davis, Jr

    Six o'clock on Sunday morning usually finds our town sleepy.  Not today though; with Hurricane Sandy on her way, we find ourselves awash in storm preparation.

    It was not supposed to be this way.  Hurricane season is coming to an end this coming Thursday, but old Sandy just couldn't refrain from hanging back and making her last-minute appearance.  She is due to arrive tomorrow evening and depart by Tuesday night.  Her opening act, "Wind and Rain," should be onstage later today, then Sandy takes the main stage for her solo.

    Wednesday is Halloween, and the storm is said to be a real son of a witch.  As always, Baltimore is of two minds about how to get ready.  Some worker bees have been replenishing supplies of water, batteries, flashlights and transistor radios in which to put the batteries, lashing down patio furniture and filling the Biscayne with gasoline.  Others, less worried, cling to the hopeful belief that Sandy will just blow out to sea and leave us alone.

    One thing's for certain, as they always say at the end of TV news reports.  There may be coastal flooding, many people might be without electricity for quite a while, and we may or may not go through a couple of tough days...but November will be here on Thursday and if we stay safe and make wise choices, we'll be here to enjoy it.

    May you have courage and be safe!

    Saturday, October 27, 2012

    Saturday rerun: In heaven, there is no beer bread

    Not so long ago I got involved in one of those modern versions of a chain letter: an email recipe exchange.  So far, I have gotten quite a few recipes back, and one was for something I used to make all the time, but haven't of late, and I pass it on to you today.

    It's that rarest of recipes that does two things well: first, it makes a delicious loaf of bread, and second, you can forget about lighting all those Yankee Candles® on the day you make this recipe.  Your entire house will have that yeasty smell so common in bakeries.

    It's Beer Bread.  And it's about as simple to make as it can be. Three simple ingredients:
    cups self rising flour
    3/4 cup  of sugar
    1 can or bottle of beer - it can't be light beer and it needs to be at room temperature

    Mix in loaf pan (spray sides and bottom with Pam)  and let sit 1/2 hr
    Bake 40 mins @ 350

    And there you have it. Let that loaf cool a while, slather with olive oil or butter or some cheddar spread and go to town, all the while enjoying the sweet smell of Kwik 'n' E-Z home baking!

    Happy Saturday!

    Friday, October 26, 2012

    Singing a classic ballot

    Early voting starts tomorrow in Maryland, and you can avoid the commotion of lining up on Election Day by going to this site and finding out how to vote early.  We go this way every time and it's easy in, easy out, and back on with your life.  Try it!

    Don't fall for the foolishness in this story from Virginia and Florida, where unwary voters might be fooled by robocalls telling them they can now vote by phone.  They can't, and while it's still a mystery why anyone would believe anything they hear in a robocall from some anonymous entity...just don't believe it!

    My favorite election memory involves a woman who lives right up the road from us.  Somehow she got elected to the Maryland House of Delegates twenty-some odd years ago, and served without great distinction for one term.  I went to the post office one morning and there she was, climbing into her car in front of the dry cleaner, a pile of hangered suits in her hand.

    She even had her special "Maryland House of Delegates" license tag on her car, which was parked in front of the dry cleaner's establishment.  Right by the yellow-painted curb, meaning that she was parked in a fire lane.

    Never one to be shy in the face of misdemeanors, I spoke right up, saying, "So!  You go to Annapolis to make the laws and you come home to break them?"

    It wasn't her most statespersonlike moment when she looked back at me, hand all full of recently cleaned garments, and said, "But I'm in a HURRY!"

    Well, sir, that November, before the days of early voting, we went over to the elementary school to vote, and guess who was standing on the parking lot, handing out fliers, asking for our vote?

    "How could I vote for someone who violates traffic laws with impunity?" I asked, rhetorically.

    "Oh, it's YOU!" she said, emphatically.

    She lost the election, justifiably.

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    Free Speech and all that

    You may read this without any thought of who supports whom in the upcoming presidential election, because no matter where you stand on the issues and the candidates, if you don't understand that a basic tenet of this country is freedom of speech, we might as well call England and ask to come home.

    Mike O'Meara, former co-host of the late, lamented Don and Mike Show on radio, and currently the host of his own show on internet radio, lives in Virginia.  Apparently, he supports President Obama's re-election, so he put up some yard signs to that effect.

    That's still legal, isn't it?

    So, anyway, a few days later, Mike gets an anonymous letter from Harrisburg PA from someone who opposes the president's re-election.  And the letter is nasty and slanted in tone - referring to Mr Obama's “socialist, communist, anti-semetic and generally anti-American” family members, friends, and political backers.

    And it's signed "Concerned Citizen."  Typical lack of guts.

    The great Mike O'Meara
    Why would someone, as Mike says, "reach into his home" and try to bully him into removing his signs?  Have we reached the point in this country where bullying, bombastic verbal shoving have replaced any level of respect for the views of others? 

    Mike says he will now not work as hard to be moderate about his opinions.  So this sort of harassment does no good, incurs wrath and ill-feeling, and contributes nothing to our national discussion.

    47% of the people will never understand that this is a participatory government and they need to take responsibility for expressing themselves and allowing others to do the same.  

    Gosh, I thought everyone knew that.

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012

    Blame the son

    I used to work in radio, and I can attest that it's a business that often times attracts the sort of people who are not quite nailed down tightly enough.

    Not speaking about you, Ann Coulter!  You're doing just fine, if being a vile enormity was your goal.

    This fellow on the local classic rock station, Stephen Smith, went by the air name "Stash" and was on 98 Rock for more than 20 years, until this past summer, when he plowed his car into a chain-reaction collision that left a few fellow citizens injured and inconvenienced to a great degree.  The radio station fired him for this.  Radio is a numbers business, and this sort of bad publicity was likely to affect their ratings numbers.  Here are some other numbers that station management should have considered earlier: 1, 32, and 56.  1 being the number of marijuana arrests he has in his folder, 32 being the number of prior traffic convictions he has racked up, and 56 being the number of payable tickets he has had.

    And yet, last July 22, he was legal to drive a car in the state of Maryland, although he had no insurance (wonder why).  On that evening, his wife found him drunk in their Bel Air home and told him to get out, which he did.  And he drove to where Rt 24 and I-95 meet and slammed into history, tossing a can of Four Loko out of his car, denying that he had alcohol, and then admitting to it.

    So now, because he could not control his alcohol intake,  he's off to the Ironbar Hilton for six months, he has lost his job, he owes legal bills like the size of Fergie's plastic surgery tab, and things are looking pretty bleak for him, his wife and his five children.

    I've seen people who can't control their boozing and it is a damned shame.  Not to put myself on a pedestal, because I don't do so well when it comes to following a proper food diet.  I guess I'm lucky; I like a beer with dinner, and if we go someplace that does not serve beer, I don't miss it one little bit.  Persons dealing with alcoholism have to fight the urge to dilute their bloodstreams all day and all night.  It's tough. 

    But.  You read the attached article and his attorney is saying that the former DJ sank into the sauce because of the stress of dealing with a severely autistic son, to which I say this:  there are millions of parents who deal with millions of burdens without reaching for the bottle to get them through, and I surely hope that no one tells the son involved that his dad blames all this trouble on the situation that the young man lives with every day and night.

    A man owns up to his problems and owns his problems and takes care of them the best he can.  With the same hand that he used to throw away the Four Loko can, he is pointing now at his son and blaming him for the whole sad story.  It's hardly the mature approach. In fact, it's despicable.  I hope that after he gets out of the tank, he goes somewhere and gets serious help, and then spends the rest of his life trying to restore his family. 

    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

    I'm left, you're right, she's gone

    Her father was known for firing up a jet plane (named for her!) to fly across the country to get a special PBJ sammich, so it's hardly a surprise that Lisa Marie Presley has moved to England and is selling fish and chips from a friend's van.

    The local pub is called the "Kings Arms" (no apostrophe).  In England, they have had plenty of kings, but we Americans have had but one. (photo, right >>)

    The story about her move is all true, according to the New York Daily News, which ran a story on Sept 28.  Lisa Marie, her husband Michael, and their twins Harper and Finley moved to jolly old Rotherfield, England two years ago to get away from what she calls "self-absorbed" Californians.

    Well. I've never been to California, but I know some Californians, and they are fine people, and living near them would be a pleasure for me.

    But if Lisa Marie is happier there, what the heck?  The money from her dad's estate keeps rolling in, so it's really not like she needs the pin money that selling fish and chips will bring in. 

    It just seems that she likes the lifestyle across the sea more than she likes it here, and it's her choice.
    In an English online article, LMP said,    "We have found the quality of life so much more enriching and fulfilling. The civility, the culture, the people and its beauty have reawakened me and have smoothed out some of my bleak and jagged views about people and life. I can honestly say I am the only person who came to England for the weather. I love the cold and the rain."

    Pardon me.  I have to go show some travel brochures to Peggy now.  I want that cold and rain too!


    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Ring a ding

    Ever find yourself wishing for a button or an app on the phone that would cause a meltdown of the phone of the person who just called you?

    I do that all the time, especially when the call is from some crackpot outfit like Americans for Prosperity (for the Ruling Class), who robocalled me last night at 8 PM.  On a Sunday. 

    I have to answer just about any calls that come in because of my mom's parlous medical might always be a medical person from the senior high rise...but to get these lunatic messages from a group of disordered people is really more than I wish to handle.

    This is what the AFP looks like
    It's easy to get people to follow a cause like that...just question the patriotism of others and they will break their necks to proclaim their nationalistic fealty.  People with huge money at stake on the hopes that a certain "R" party will regain the White House have convinced rubes all across the nation to join this group.  Which is fine by me.  Start all the groups you want, have your meetings, fool as many people as you can.  Having people work as volunteers to make the rich richer is a perfect example.

    Just don't call my home phone. Is that ok?  Does that sound fair? 

    Sunday, October 21, 2012

    Sunday rerun: And after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark

    I see from watching "The Talk" that ageless pop singer Barry Manilow and ageless sitcom actress/diet expert Suzanne Somers have some sort of pact concerning their deaths, which is that, whoever dies first, the other is going to be responsible for planning their funeral.

    Or "producing" a funeral, as Ms Somers, showbiz to the core, put it.  (When she said that, I had a vision of her in a headset with microphone and a clipboard, darting around the mortuary giving orders: "All right, cue the mourners...Rabbi, you're on..musicians, give me  "Looks Like We Made It", nice and tastefully slow...dirge-like..annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd dim the lights and we're on!"

    Of course, I immediately started wondering how my final appearance will go.  And then I started fretting about who should go first...I or Peggy.  Normally, my policy is "ladies first," but not in this case.  I don't think I would be a very good cranky widower.  I would be the Arthur Spooneriest of all Arthur Spooners, the crazy uncle to top all crazy uncles.

    I will now leave a space for all my nieces  - in the family and out - to rebut the above.

    I'd like to think that there would be a great outpouring of humanity, with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I'll settle for a couple of dozen people rattling change in their pockets (male) or rooting through their purses for a Kleenex (female) while someone reminisces about the time I won a crab feast or how we used to go fishing at the lake, hoping that the fish would leave us alone, or how I used to go into grocery stores and pretend to be French.  I got that idea from Sebastian Cabot.   
    But after I have crossed that bar and am meeting my Pilot face to face, I hope there is jubilation back here.  There will be laughter aplenty when they read the will, I can promise you that!

    Well, anyway, if I go first and Peggy is still here, her life wouldn't change too much, except if she wanted a nice big salad, because I'm the only one who can reach the top cabinets, which is where the big salad bowl and giant wooden salad pitchforks are.  Same with batteries for the remotes; they are up high above the Frigidaire, but I realize, the second call she would make after calling Digger O'Dell would be to CableTown to have them disconnect the TV, except for the Oprah Channel, and The Talk, 2 PM weekdays on CBS.

    Which is how I got on this topic in the first place.  Don't worry, I'm not ready just yet.

    Saturday, October 20, 2012

    Saturday rerun: The Traipse of Roth

    Roth and Rat
    You know what I really feel sad about?  It's the saddening fact that we are all bound for that same sorrowful destination, that place where our hopes and dreams all wind up, heaven's waiting room....the court system.
    Everything winds up as a big fight in front of a judge or mediator these days.  The most recent example that came to my mind was the fact that Ed "Big Daddy" Roth had to go to court before he died to settle down all the hue and cry ("Hugh and cry" as I saw it in a magazine not long ago) over the rights to his beloved artwork.

    Ed "Big Daddy" Roth?  you ask yourself.  Is he a Dadaist, a Cubist, a Neo-Impressionist, a Primitive, a pre-Raphaelite?  Well, he is certainly a pre-Rafaelite, in that he was famous before Rafael Palmeiro was, but we remember Ed for his hot rods and his beloved "Rat Fink" character which came to be seen like a rodent version of Dino Flintstone, gigantic head sticking out of a car, holding a 6-foot long stick shift and roaring off in a supercharged car.  There were Rat Fink decals on almost every notebook in my junior high school, and plenty t-shirts too, being proudly worn by the same guys who toted those notebooks. 

    I re-read Tom Wolfe's "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" at least once every year, amazed that a book of essays from the early 1960's is still relevant today. (One of the pieces, "The First Tycoon of Teen," is about Phil Spector, and we were just talking about his Christmas music and Darlene Love last week.)  The title essay in the book centers on the "Kustom Kulture" of highly-stylized cars created by guys like Roth and George Barris in Southern California, and how the car culture was so predominant in those waning days of the American 1950's (which ended on November 22, 1963.)  Wolfe refers to Roth as the Salvador Dali of the hot rod world, and that implies a timelessness to his art (although without a drippy melting clock to tell the time.)

    Dali's "The Persistence of Memory"
    But, according to the Los Angeles Times, all this happiness and mirth came crashing down with the sound of legal briefs being filed and decisions being handed down.  To think of a jury sitting around deciding who would get the rights to "Sick But Happy" t-shirts or "Grim Reaper" decals is cause for a head shake.  

    My will will be a simple will, and I will will my few belongings to those who I feel will care for them well.  One of you will come into possession of several thousand 45-rpm records and as many LPs.  If I'm up on my cloud somewhere playing a harp and I hear that people are down here in a courtroom arguing over ownership of Jerry Lee Lewis's classic album "The Greatest Live Show on Earth" I will smite you mightily, so don't be a rat fink!

    Friday, October 19, 2012

    The next big thing

    Let's face it.  We all blew many chances to make a fortune. 

    It only takes one good idea to make a mint, as the man who invented LifeSavers always said.  Bill Gates had an idea that he rode to the top of the money heap, and so did his onetime competitor Steve Jobs.  Big ideas, big payoffs.

    A few years ago, if we had just come up with the idea to scrounge up a few thousand dollars, we could have bought up some ocean waterfront property, or a new 1964 Mustang, or a few shares of Apple stock.  If we had done that, the only Jobs we would have had to fool with would have been those dividend checks from Steve. 

    It's too late for me, but I saw an idea and I wish to pass it along to someone with a few bucks and a willingness to do a little digging.  It's bound to be the moneymaker of the future, my friends.  And there are only a few of them in the nation as of now, so there is still room on the ground floor for you.

    We're talking about Pizza Farms, here.  Get yourself some fertile farmland, divide it into 8 "slices," and get to work.  You plant herbs for spices, wheat for dough, tomatoes for sauce, and olives and peppers for topping.  With the three remaining land wedges, you have room for dairy cattle (cheese) and beef cattle and hogs for meat toppings. 

    Everything is all contained, right there:  Here's how one looks at the Pierce College campus in Los Angeles (please excuse their misspelling of "agriculture.")

    This all reminds me of the setting for Faber College, of Animal House fame.  As the movie will tell you,  "FABER COLLEGE was founded in 1904 by Emil Faber, philanthropist, father of the modern American lead pencil and brother of Germany's Eberhard Faber. The campus was once the site of the original Faber Pencil Works. The pencil mill was built in Faber because of the town's happy proximity to a natural graphite quarry, forests of virgin pencilwood trees, and plentiful wild eraser-root."

    So you see?  You have all you need right there when you start your own pizza farm, and I wish you lots of luck.  Send me a postcard when you make your million, and save a slice with pepperoni for me!

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Think it over

    When I say what I have to say here, please understand that I am speaking to very, very few of my friends.  Real friends, that is. 

    I just have to ask one question of people who so thoughtlessly use portmanteaus* such as "libtards" and the entire word "retard" in otherwise polite conversation.  The question would be, why do it?

    Not to get all preachy about it, but there are people who have used that sort of term in polite conversation and have been asked (by me) why they would use an offensive term.  Often, they say they did not realize that the word was offensive.

    Over the years, we have gradually gotten to the point at which racial, ethnic and gender slurs have been removed from the everyday lexicon of sentient individuals, but still, they have no compunctions about calling some a "retard" when they trip over the carpet, spilling coffee in the office, or make a simple math error.

    As it happens, I know and love people who have family members with Down Syndrome.  They would be hurt to hear people use such language.  Disagree all you want with people who discuss the news on NPR, but don't use a loathsome term in reference to them.

    As if people dealing with intellectual disability don't have it tough enough already...

    It's best to try to know what you're talking about. Just a year ago, Michele Bachmann took herself out of the running for the presidential campaign when she repeated an unfounded rumor, advising young women not to get the HPV vaccine because "it causes mental retardation."  Her political demise was sealed when Sarah Palin agreed with her.

    More on the r-word, and a valiant effort to get people to stop using it, is here on the web.  You can click here to see how many times the word is used on the web.

    I'm not saying I've never said anything offensive.  I'm just saying that if we all try to stop this mean word, some people who are dealing with a lot would feel a lot better.

    * words formed from combining part of or all of two words, as in "Microsoft" from microcomputer and software.  A portmanteau is one of those old suitcases that opened into two parts and then closed as a single unit...hence the term...which is itself a portmanteau of the French "porter" (carry) and "manteau" ( a cloak).

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    A guy walks into a doctor's office...

    I took Peggy to the eye doctor last week - she needed to have the old eyeballs dilated and as such, would not do real well driving home.  So I chauffeured, and was sitting in the waiting room when they arrived.

    "They" were a man and a woman well into their 80s. That should be all I can tell you about them, but he chose to have his end of the conversation so loud that people in the next office over were forced to holler to be heard.

    We soon learned that they were not married; he had driven her to her appointment.  Her marital status remained unclear to us, but we do know that he has a wife who is in a nursing home and that the day before, he had found the t-shirt in which she wishes to be buried.  It has a picture of a cow on it.

    They went on into detail about the lives of others in their orbs, but all I could focus on is the sadness that must accompany one's choice of burial shroud.  Some might find the t-shirt with a picture of a cow to be less than dignified, to which I can only reply that it's her choice. Why would anyone nay-say it?

    If you're thinking that they were speaking so loudly because he might be partially deaf, that's not it.  When Peggy and I were in the dimly-lit secondary waiting room, he came along, sat right next to Peggy, and made small talk in a normal tone. 

    It's been almost a week and all I can figure is that he wanted to share his impending grief, that he wanted everyone else around to know that his wife's days were numbered low and he was getting ready to send her off.

    I am sorry that you are dealing with that, sir.  I can hardly imagine life without my Peggy, and I feel for you.  God bless you both.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    Doggone Right

    Before we get into this discussion, I have to proclaim my absolute neutrality on the subject of owning a dog.

    I know many people whose lives are all the richer for having Fido and Rover nipping at their heels as they parade along.  One person with whom I dealt in an enforcement capacity said, at his hearing, that he had two kids and two dogs, and if he ever had to choose, the kids better get packing.  And he was not kidding, kids.

    I also know many people who shudder at the very thought of being within 100 yards of a dog.

    See right in the middle there, between those two views?  That's where you find me.  We've never had a dog, but we were always thrilled to dogsit the amazing Heidi (right), a dog who was smarter than many people, especially considering that Heidi never once during her wonderful life drove a car while drunk or stuck a knife in a toaster.  So please be assured that I am not in the anti-dog club.

    I am in the Follow The Law club, which brings me to this.  Peggy and I like walking a mile or so a day.  Even beyond the physical benefits, it's good to get out in nature, breathing in the good air outside and seeing the sights.  We enjoy walking on quarter-mile tracks; four spins around that oval and there's your mile right there. 

    High schools have good tracks.  We like the one at nearby Parkville High, but the other day we found ourselves over by my beloved alma mater Towson High, so we set off for a stroll there.

    Right outside the entrance to the track area was a sign advising all dog owners that dogs must be leashed, and quoting the specific county ordinance requiring this simple step.

    Well, first thing we saw was a dog so huge that, at first glance, it looked like a horse.  Old Marmaduke was leashed and being walked by his owner.

    But guess who wasn't?  Every other dog we saw!  And they were in the company of prosperous-looking, upright citizens, not thuggy-looking ne'er-do-wells.  Dogs large and small cavorted free of leash on the soccer field and around the track. 

    And let's say that all of the owners were prepared with plastic bags and removed all of the poop from the ground.  Let's say that.  I didn't see any evidence of it, but the point I'm getting to is, why is that people feel empowered to break the law so blatantly and let their dogs scamper at will while they stand in huddles of two and three and their dogs are scampering?

    I'm guessing that if these people saw another violation of the law later that night, they would have been all worked up about it.  Why they felt that everyone so enjoyed the antics of Ol' Butterscotch and Gobbler that they wouldn't mind dogs running up to them, I can't tell you. 

    But I'll be glad to hear about it, if you can explain.

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    Never too late to learn

    For many years, I have wondered just what it was that Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra were talking about in their song "Jackson." 

    Here's another link to another version they did.

    So I went to Google and learned the following things:

    Lee Hazlewood (1929 - 2007) was an interesting fellow, a Korean War soldier who came home and wrote songs such as "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and "Summer Wine" and a lot of movie themes as well.  When you're up late watching David Letterman and he does his "Small Town News" segment, the music Paul Shaffer plays as the segment theme song is "This Town," a song Lee wrote that Frank Sinatra sang in 1967.

    Frank Sinatra (1915 - 1998) was an American singer, perhaps best known as the father of Nancy Sinatra (1940 - ), whose stirring rendition of "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and "How Does That Grab You Baby?"  - another Hazlewood composition - are fondly remembered as ushering in the go-go boot and miniskirt era in American fashion.

    So.  1967. Nancy, always on the cusp of the new trends, records a country album in Nashville with some of the best country musicians down there, and she did a duet on "Jackson" with Hazlewood, although it is not a song that he wrote. 

    And since then, I have been puzzled by two things, things that you hear in the song if you click on the links above or read in the lyrics below:

    We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout
    We've been talkin' bout Jackson ever since the fire went out
    I'm goin' to Jackson I'm gonna mess around
    Yeah I'm goin' to Jackson look out Jackson town

    Well go on down to Jackson go ahead and wreck your health

    Go play your hand you big talkin' man make a big fool of yourself
    Yeah yeah go to Jackson but go comb your hair
    I'm gonna snowball Jackson go ahead and see if I care

    When I breeze into that city the people gonna stoop and bow

    All them women gonna make me teach 'em what they don't know how
    I'm goin' to Jackson you turn loose my coat
    Cause I'm goin' to Jackson goodbye that's all she wrote

    They laugh at you in Jackson and I'll be dancin' on the pony keg

    They'll lead you around town like a scalded hound
    With your tail tucked tween your legs
    Yeah yeah yeah go to Jackson you big talkin' man
    And I'll be waitin' there in Jackson behind my Japan fan

    We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout

    We've been talking bout Jackson ever since the fire went out
    Goin' to Jackson and that's a natural fact
    We're goin' to Jackson ain't never comin' back

    We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout

    We've been talkin' bout Jackson ever since the fire went out

    The song was written by Jerry Lieber and Billy Edd Wheeler in 1963.  Questions? 

    Uh, yes.  What is a pony keg and why would someone be dancing on it?  And what is a Japan (pronounced JAY-pan) fan?

    It turns out that in the wide world of beer, one can find regular-sized kegs of beer and, for nights when the entire family can't come over, the popular "pony" kegs are available, holding about 1/2 as much beer, but just as much fun, if you space it out right.  A smaller keg would be easier for Nancy and her miniskirt to dance upon.

    I'm a big fan
    And apparently, in some parts of this nation, Japanese fans were referred to as "Japan fans," probably by people who refer to manicotti as "EYEtalian food."

    My research ends here, but it also revealed that the 1980's English band Prefab Sprout took their name from a mondegreen of the words "pepper sprout" in "Jackson."  They did a song in tribute to the great American country singer Faron Young in their song "Faron Young."

    The term "mondegreen" comes from someone misunderstanding these old Scottish lyrics:

    They hae slay the Earl of Murray,
    And laid him on the green.


    They hae slay the Earl of Murray,
    And Lady Mondegreen.

    I sincerely hope this clears everything up.

    Sunday, October 14, 2012

    Sunday rerun: Words fail us

    expletive: a (usually profane) exclamation
    epithet: a disparaging word or phrase
    epaulet: a decoration on a shirt's shoulder
    epitaph: words on a tomb or gravestone

    From these four words, Americans, always linguistically inventive, have coined a new word which we call "epitet."

    We have decided to put the four words in a blender and use the result when we want to say, for instance, "The man used an ethnic epithet to describe his new neighbors."  Instead, we say he used an epitet.

    It started with spelling; I understand that a certain segment of the teaching profession encourages their young followers to spell creatively now, fearing that asking young Beauregard to spell words correctly would crimp his sense of self-worth.

    And then we started allowing mispronunciations, and probably became probly, and Social Security became SoShecurity, and February became Febyooary.  This is at least the "fith or sixt" time I have hollered about the way TV health reporters warn us of "respitory" infections.

    So we find ourselves just making up new words, and you might as well tell Beau's math teacher that 6 times 8 equals 57, because he feels it should be.

    I could just screen.

    Saturday, October 13, 2012

    I wear red socks because Mr Keillor does

    I'm in a bit of a goofy mood as I write this.  I was up 'til all hours on Thursday night with the Orioles beating the Yankees, and then got up at the usual 0530 on Friday to be Mr Belvedere all day with the dusting and the vacuuming and the bathroom cleanser-ing and I don't know what-all else.

    Skipped my nap, I did.  I went to a retirement party for Doreen, of my beloved 911 family.  She welcomed me to my first shift there back in '83 (1983, wise guy!) and she has been a stalwart there for her 30 years as a dispatcher and supervisor.  She is about as real as a person can be, and it was a pleasure to welcome her to the ranks of the gainfully retired.

    But then I had to come home and watch the Orioles, and this time that mean old C.C. Sabathia beat them again, and the season ended.  But what a season, and what hopes it leaves us with for next year!

    So when I opened my email, I found this link from another old buddy from 911.  If you watch the Letterman show every night and never miss the last show before Christmas, when he always has Darlene Love sing "Merry Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" and Jay Thomas helps out by telling his Lone Ranger story.

    That's the link, right here, and if you're feeling blue about the black and orange today, Jay's story will perk you right up!

    And then you can hear from Jerry Clower, about eating the last piece of chicken.

    And a little bit of Mr Keillor's wisdom is here for us!

    Friday, October 12, 2012

    C'mon, Get Happy!

    Because I love classic, old-school entertainment, and like old-fashioned showbiz, I was excited to see that Boscov's Dept. Store, reopening in our local mall after a four-year absence, brought in the wonderful Shirley Jones to perform in their community auditorium every day for a week.

    There have been shows (free of charge!) every day at 2 PM and 7 PM, but we seasoned retirees know that 7 is just too late.  I mean, it might as well be midnight at one of those niteclubs in Las Vegas or something!  2 PM was fine.  I went the other day and was just enthralled.  Accompanied by guys playing piano, drums and upright bass, Ms Jones sang for almost an hour...songs from all her movies and Broadway shows (Oklahoma, The Music Man, Carousel) and of course the Partridge Family on TV.  She also threw in some humorous anecdotes and stories from her career, and made it a wonderful afternoon for all of us.

    She mentioned, and I agree with this wholeheartedly, that The Music Man is the perfect musical..."Because the songs and the story are just about perfect!"  She was great in that show as Marian Paroo, the librarian who fell in might not have seen the movie.  I hope you do.  It's got everything a movie should have - including Buddy Hackett!

    Unbecoming stage attire
    Shirley Jones is the sort of performer that we don't see so much anymore. She dressed in the elegant fashion of variety performers while singing, and then came back out to sing autographs and say hi to the friends and neighbors dressed in a nice velour pantsuit.  This is called "respecting your audience," dressing in something a little better than a t-shirt and grubby jeans. Right, Keith? 

    She admitted to being almost 79, and said that's why she had her lyrics right handy on a music stand in case she forgot any words...but she didn't forget a thing, including how to walk into a room with a microphone and a three-piece band and enchant everyone there. 

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    Even murderers look down on him

    Up in Pennsylvania, prison officials are assessing the needs of Jerry Sandusky, the erstwhile assistant coach of the football team at the state college.  For his heinous deeds molesting countless young men, he will be locked up for the next 30-60 years, and for a man of 68 years, that's pretty much forever.

    You have to figure that one of these mornings, he will wake up and realize that this is it for him: every day until he leaves this earth he will remain locked away from anyone else whom he might otherwise harm.

    He will be working for pennies a day performing clerical tasks around the prison.  He will be allowed to purchase a prison-approved television ($200) and hook it up to prison-supplied cable tv ($15/month) so he can catch PSU football games. He will be dressed in prison garb.  He will have five visits per month from friends and family, but no conjugal visits.  He will be among the general population, with no special plans for segregating him from the rapists, murderers and other members of life's lower strata.  Even they look down on a person with "short eyes," convict slang for a child molester.

    He continues to insist that he is innocent, that all he was doing was "horsing around" with these young men that he just had to shower with, so great was his affection for them.  An endless parade of young men came to trial, and there were others who chose not to testify, and yet this Sandusky's only regret is that his defense team didn't come up with enough lies to fool the jury, the judge and the world.

    I think it was noteworthy to point out that his wife, who tried to run over a TV reporter who was standing at the edge of the Sandusky driveway this summer, showed up at the sentencing hearing the other day, but had nothing to say.  All along, she had denied that anything improper happened with her husband  - a man who told young men to call him "The Tickle Monster" - and those victims. 

    Perhaps she grew tired of protesting his innocence.  Or, perhaps she woke up one morning and saw there was none.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Under Full Sale

    What I've always loved about American commerce is that it just does not stop.  Grocery stores are open all night long, so in case you need Mrs Fanning's Bread and Butter Pickles at three in the yawning, you can just throw on a hoodie and slide on over to the Stop, Slop and Shop and get a Valu-Size jar of briney cucumbers.  7-11 should have changed their name to 24-7 years ago.  And should you feel like getting the car lubed and waxed early on a Sunday morning, you can be sure that some friendly shop will be glad to take your car in and show you to a nice seat in their luxuriously-appointed waiting room.

    So it's only natural that televised commerce ceases not for any purpose.  QVC, which is a channel for people who can't be bothered to go to a mall when they need flannel sheets, is another fountain of sales, and when a pitchman notices that his sidekick is suddenly indisposed, well, by golly, he's just bound to ignore that and keep on selling tablets.

    The other day on QVC, Dan Hughes was on air along with Cassie Slane, and Cassie suddenly lapsed into silence, clutching her chest.  Instead of being Gallant about it, Dan went all Goofus, rattling off his spiel while someone else summoned help for his colleague.

    He hopes they did, I guess.

    Turns out, Cassie had a blood sugar issue that resulted in a fainting spell, but Dan showed what mattered most in a time of medical emergency.

    Keep on selling those fake iPads, there, Dan.  Commerce takes no holiday for the ill and the weak.

    I think I'll change the name of this blog to "What the Hell IS it with people?"

    Monday, October 8, 2012

    Oh! THAT Wib Davenport!

    Down in Virginia, if you want to drive away from a certain Chevrolet dealer, you should know this: they really drive a hard bargain!

    Danny Sawyer, 40, bought a black Chevy Traverse from Priority Chevrolet back in May, but woke up the next day wishing he had bought a blue one.  He drove back to the dealership and found a blue one that caught his fancy, and that's where things go crazy.

    The blue one must have had some optional equipment that the black SUV lacked, because after Sawyer swapped cars, went on vacation and came home, he came home to many frantic messages from the car lot and its sales manager, whose name is Wib Davenport.  We've all known someone named "Wib," haven't we?  The car Sawyer wound up with cost $5,600 more than the original one, and how would he like to pay for that, was the point of all the messages.

    All this turmoil over this?
    He wouldn't like to pay for that.  Sawyer says no one told him that the blue car cost more, and even though the dealership says they told him that it did, there still seems to be a matter of him not signing anything additional to attest to the switcheroo.

    Completely disregarding the basic tenet of good customer service (Never have your customers thrown in jail, since it's hard to buy a car from there) the dealership called the local cops, who mistook a civil matter for a crime, and ushered Sawyer into a cell for four hours.

    Dennis Ellmer, president of Priority Chevrolet, has decided to be adorable about the whole thing and says Sawyer can keep the blue car for the price of the black one, and hey!  How about a free tire rotation, buddy boy?

    Ironically enough, Sawyer rotated those tires himself, driving over to the office of a lawyer, upon whose sage advice he has filed two lawsuits against the dealer, accusing the business of malicious prosecution, slander, defamation and abuse of process. He'll need a total of $2.2 million in damages, plus attorney fees before he feels better about the whole doggone thing.

    We used to have a Chevy dealer in Baltimore who advertised that his dealership, at the corner of York and Bellona, was "the best place to become a Chevrolet ownah!" 

    Priority Chevrolet can now claim proudly that they offer a car buyer the chance to "come on down and get a Chevy on sale - and if we don't like you, we'll throw you in jail!"

    It's not a movie. It's real life!

    For everyone who tells me that it is always a good idea to have a gun in case someone is prowling around this, please.  We'll discuss...
    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — An attorney for a Connecticut man who fatally shot his 15-year-old son, thinking he was an intruder, said that state police want access to a computer and phone used by the teen to try to determine why he was out at night wearing a ski mask and armed with a knife.

    Gene Zingaro said his client Jeffrey Giuliano is cooperating with the request because he and his wife want the same answers.

    Police say Giuliano went outside with a gun around 1 a.m. on Sept. 27 when his sister called to say someone was trying to break into her house next door in New Fairfield. Authorities say Giuliano saw a masked person holding a shiny object come toward him in a threatening manner and shot him. He later was told the person he killed was his son Tyler. Police said the weapon was a knife.

    Police are investigating the shooting and declined to comment on details. No charges have been filed.
    State police plan to view the family computer, probably this week. Atty. Zingaro said they want to see any emails, posts to social media and visits to websites made by the boy.

    "In my opinion, the focus of the investigation has shifted from what happened on the night of the shooting to why Tyler was where he was and what he was doing, what his intentions were," Zingaro said.
    He said he believes his client fired at least four shots but is not sure how many hit the boy. Police have said Tyler died of multiple gunshot wounds.

    At the time, Giuliano thought the masked person had a gun, Zingaro said. "My client felt like his life was in imminent danger at the time he fired," he said. "In my opinion, Jeff Giuliano had a fear of being shot at the time he fired his weapon."

    Zingaro said he does not expect any charges to be filed against Giuliano. Police spent about six hours interviewing him in his attorney's office and have not asked to re-interview him, Zingaro said.

    Zingaro said Giuliano had shouted several commands before the shooting, but he would not disclose what his client said. Asked if Tyler responded, he said, "not audibly."

    When I read this, I thought of that jerk in Florida who took advantage of that state's crazy "stand your ground" law to shoot a door-to-door meat salesman, who had the temerity to walk up the shooter's driveway.  From his front porch, the man saw another man approaching, and what choice did he have but to shoot him and then declare that he was in fear for his life?

    Son and father
    In this Connecticut case, we have a man who got a call from his sister that something was afoot outside.  Instead of either of these adults calling the police to have them do their job, he grabbed the old sidearm and headed out to shoot his son to death.  For the love of Pete, he even said his son didn't reply "audibly" when challenged.  

    Shoot first, wait to hear the answers later.

    One question for the gun advocates:  do you think that Guiliano might regret his actions, and recommend a different course of action to someone else in his situation?  You know he does, and would, and before you say, well it's easy to judge the situation in retrospect...can we remember that he put himself in the situation in the first place?

    Sunday, October 7, 2012

    Sunday Rerun: Don't take that tone with me

    In a public setting, people are often startled to hear my cell tone ringing.  I think they are surprised that I have friends, or at least friends with unrestricted access to a phone.  

    They take their bands seriously down South
    Or maybe it's my ring tone.  It's "Yea Alabama," the fight song of the University of Alabama, a school with which I have no affiliation besides this obsession with their football team.  I can't explain where that came from, but I love the ring tone.  

    Like the bumperstickers hanging off the back of the Fairlane, and the t-shirts we sport, our ring tones say a lot about us. A lot of people go for the various free ones that come with the phone, and that's cool, but then they are limited to what they can use.

    I was in a police supply store and a City officer came in, apparently on his way home from a ceremonial function.  I mean, this guy was decked out in his finery, with the leather belts and badges and pins.  And he was looking at a new sidearm when someone from somewhere decided to call him on his cell.

    And the cell said: "I like big butts and I cannot lie; You other brothers can't deny..."

    And there was snickering all around.  

    Another entire category of ring tones would be Songs That Are Currently Popular But I Never Heard Of Them.  Ofttimes, I'll turn to Peggy when someone's tone comes crashing into our silence to find out what song that was, and she'll say, "Oh, that's 'For the Sweet Love of God, Will You Stop Breaking My Heart' by 3 Random Wurdz."


    Funny sound effects, or sunny found effects, are both good to hear on the phone.  Just get one of those sound effects CDs and soon, your every call will ring with the merriment of "Cross-Cut Saw," "Crowd Noise," or "Fire Engine and Ambulance Sirens."

    Of course, if you really want to stir things up, most phones have a tone option called something like "Old Fashioned Phone Bell."  Use that one, and watch the heads spin - people don't even know what it is.


    Saturday, October 6, 2012

    Saturday rerun: Old Uncle Mark's Book of Recipes

    My boyish figure is the envy of dozens; well, maybe the envy of two or three.  But there's no secret, I like to eat and I like to cook and I like to share recipes.  

    Recently, I stumbled over two new ways to whip up old favorites.  And I thought, as soon as I get over the resultant contusions and abrasions, I'd write them down so that others might share.  One's for breakfast and one is for dinner.  Lunch, you're on your own, although Peggy will make you a wonderful PB & J if you like.

    If you like a nice omelet for breakfast, but you can't stand all the flipping and the flapping, here's a nice way to make a French Country Omelet.  Oh, now, like you, I found the name daunting.  French Country?  What's that, Monsieur Porter Wagoner et Les Wagonmasters, eh?  But it's good and easy.

    Let's begin by finding that large cast-iron skillet .  Heaven knows where that is.  Did Edna bring it back after she took it to the pancake breakfast that time?  Once you find it, heat it up on the stovetop and throw in some olive oil, and then bacon, mushrooms, potatoes and onions, as you see fit.  Let it all fry up nice and brown.  While it's frying, turn the oven on to 350° and break four or five eggs into a suitable bowl, whisking them just ever so with just a schkosh of milk.  When everything is fried up to a turn, dump in the eggs right over everything, toss on a little grated cheddar if you wish and definitely shake some chives over it all, put it in the oven for 6 - 7 minutes, and, like the old Esskay commercial used to say, "Put it on the table and stand back out of the way!"

    It's gooooooooooooooooooood!

    Everyone loves pulled pork barbecue, and yet it's hard to find a good pork puller up in these parts.  Is that what's troubling you, friend?  Are you tired of driving all the way to China Grove, NC, to get a mess of barbecue from Gary's place?  'Cause if that's what's been making you toss and turn in fitful bursts of sleep all night, your problems are over.

    Grab yourself a pork shoulder roast over at the Try 'N' Save, a bottle of beer and a bottle of cider vinegar.  Toss the pork into your Crock Pot with some garlic and onions, and then fill the crock up over the pork shoulder's shoulder with some water - about a 1/3 of the way - and fill the rest with vinegar.  Turn on the Crock Pot to LOW and go find something to do for the next 7 hours.  Hint: that's what the beer is for...

    Ok, so you put it in the crock at 9 in the yawning.  At 4 that afternoon, get a big bowl down from the cupboard - the big yellow one where you used to soak Navy beans all night until the Air Force started to complain.  With tongs, take the roast out of the crockpot.  The bone will tenderly fall right out.  Take two serving forks and go to town on that roast, shreddin' and pullin'.  Once it's all torn to bits, put it back in the crock, cover it with decent barbecue sauce, stir it all, and let it go on LOW for another hour.

    Then at 5, get your cole slaw and your Miller High Life and gather the family around, 'cause you're fixing to love your dinner!

    Friday, October 5, 2012

    Lest Ye Be Judged

    Considering that only one person I know is in perfect physical condition (and you know who you are, don't you!?) I guess it's fair to say that most of us who slog along life's pathways are not doing that slogging in the best of shape.

    So there is a female news anchor named Jennifer Livingston in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, who is, in the eyes of Mr Kenneth Krause, also known as The World's Most Perfect Human Being, a bit on the chubby side.  He emailed her a bitchogram in which he said she is not a suitable example for the young kids out there watching the news...all 17 of them.

    Mr Perfect
    So what if she is?  As we used to say on the playground, this is a conversation between A and B, so can you C your way out of it?  In more mature terms (to which I rarely resort) this is not an area in which Mr Krause needs to share his opinion.  If Ms Livingston went on TV and said that Rhode Island is the biggest state or announced that Tim Tebow was the Republican candidate for president, then yes, write to her and point out that she erred.  Her weight is not the business of Mr Krause.  If he doesn't like to watch her do the news (and in his nasty note to her, he says he doesn't watch her anyway) then he can go watch workout videos or something.

    Ms Livingston
    We saw Ms Livingston on the morning shows yesterday; she is a pleasant, well-spoken woman.  Mr Krause, in the picture we see of him posing with his mountain bike, displaying his many pads, his helmet, his tank top and his bicep tattoo, looks like a man who rides a bike more than anything else, if you catch my drift.

    If you're wondering why he sat right down and wrote that nasty letter, well, so am I, except that I'm guessing that he is part of the group that feels qualified to pass judgement on others.  That's usually a bad idea, especially for someone less than perfect.

    And that's all of us.

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    In which I quote from Matthew

    You might not recognize the name Amanda Clayton, but you probably remember her as the woman from Michigan who won a million semolians in the Lottery out there in 2011 - and then continued to collect welfare ($5500 in food stamps and other benefits.)

    It broke down like this: Clayton chose the lump sum payout of $735,000, and then half of that went to taxes.  With two kids to support and two houses to maintain, and no job, she figured that as long as those benefits came her way, she was not going to complain about them.  A TV station in Detroit found out about this and confronted her; she pleaded no contest to fraud in June and was given six months' probation.

    She didn't live to see the end of the probation.  She died over the past weekend at a friend's house; the cops suspect a drug overdose.  Once again, the riches of the world got all dusty.

    Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
    But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
    For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

    That's from the Bible, friends, and while I'm no Bible scholar, I know that verse by heart.  You see, back when I was a kid, my Dad bought a wooden shipping crate for 50 cents and then decorated it as you see here.  That hand painting, that calligraphy: all his.  It was my toy chest as a kid and it's our blanket chest now.  So, I've seen this scripture just about every day of my life, and I commend it to your attention for contemplation.

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Orville and Wilbur Wrong

    Drunks on the plane (drunks flying the plane.)  Flight attendants going berserk and then deploying the emergency evacuation chute, and then sliding down that chute on their way to unemployment.  TSA people who check you out on the way to the plane stealing laptops and iPads and anything else they can get their sticky fingers on.  Lost luggage.  Stolen luggage. Landing gear comes down, but backward.  Air traffic controllers are sound asleep in the middle of the day and fail to notice that two gigantic airliners are about to come within 10 yards of each other in the sky over the airport.  It rains in Chi or Atlanta, so your flight from Baltimore to Boston is delayed until Tuesday.  United Air Lines has a computer glitch that knocks out ticketing and boarding operations all across the nation. A flight attendant argues with another flight attendant over whether the second will turn off her cell phone, resulting in a FOUR-HOUR delay.  Alec Baldwin holds up a planeload of fellow travelers while he completes an exciting game of Words With Friends with his friend.

    For these and many other reasons, the only way in hell that I will take a plane will be if Capt Sully Sullenberger comes out of retirement to fly it.  Otherwise, you go ahead and try to fly, and wave to me if you ever get off the ground!

    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Snow problem

    Here it is, October the second, and already the ads for snow blowers are blowing up the radio. 

    "Don't be caught without a Sno-No-Mo' Snow Evacuator this winter!"

    "They're calling for the worst winter since 2010, and you remember the twin blizzards!"

    "If you don't get a snow blower now, you won't be able to drive over to Joe's Snow Hut with three feet of snow on the ground.  Buy one now, for the sweet love of all that's good and holy!"

    These are the words we hear, and they are enough to put the fear of Snow into anyone so foolhardy as to allow his family to be marooned in their house for up to 20 minutes when The Big One hits this winter.  The betting is that since we hardly had any decent snow last year, and what we did get came on Halloween, we are overdue for a good dose of White Hell.

    Friends, we've had major blizzards many times since I was a youngster, and each and every one of them was followed by hot sticky snow-meltin' weather within a few days.  Panic not! 

    Last time, when we had the twin blizzards, we all got our driveways shoveled out and blown out and bulldozed clear, and then who was going anywhere?  The main roads were still clogged, everyone's work was closed, so why get all dressed up for a shindig that's not going to happen?

    My advice is to get a snowblower if you really feel that you must, but don't give into the panic yet.  Wait until Columbus Day for that, please!

    Monday, October 1, 2012

    New laws affect many

    Welcome to October in Maryland, when new laws take effect.  This year's grab bag of laws we are only now just hearing about includes laws that cut costs for patients undergoing oral chemotherapy, make it ok to win cash prizes in online fantasy football tournaments and give prisoners a break: they don't have to pay child support while in the hoosegow.

    Also, children under 8 years old will have to do their squirming in a booster seat or child seat until they reach a certain height.  Used to be that if little Abercrombie was a bit of a beefy lad, he could roam the back seat at will, but no more. 

    And this will be a big surprise to many people who no longer are allowed to drive a car in this state and have gone out and gotten motor scooters or mopeds.  As of right this minute,  motor scooter and moped operators and riders have to wear a helmet and eye protection, and those scootulators and mopeds have to be titled and insured.

    So, look for a huge increase in horse sales all across Maryland, followed by a slight increase in purchases of shovels and buckets.

    Same old stuff, different fiscal year.