Monday, September 30, 2013

I'll believe it when I believe it

Let's say you're out driving.  It's been one of those days, boy. The stupid alarm clock didn't go off, you had to stop for gas on the way to work, you were late, the boss wasn't, they left the salami off your salami and cream cheese on date-nut bread sammy for lunch, but you had a hot date all set up for after work, so every prospect pleased.

Off work, run home and SS&S (shine, shower and shave) and then to the date, who leaves a note Scotch-taped to her apartment door saying sorry, but she left town earlier with a traveling saxophone player she met while picking up her dry-cleaning.  And in the note, she asks that you call her boss and let him know that she won't be back to work, and that he can mail her final paycheck c/o General Delivery, Schenectady.

Since you are her boss, you don't have anyone to call.  Never truer.  But lookie!  Here you are, with a free Friday night, all to yourself, so let's get the phone out and check out Yelp to find out where's a good place over here in Biscuitville to get a sandwich, maybe dance a little, see a movie, buy a book...

I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but it's now estimated that 20% of the reviews on Yelp are phonier than Hollywood cleavage.  What a world, where proprietors of carry-out shops, bowling alleys, fruit stands and muffler garages can plant their own reviews on the local review site!  The San Francisco-based company says that they have filters in place to make sure that the person saying that Crazy Wayne's Wayback Tacos are worth driving across town for is not Crazy Wayne himself.  But, as they say, "who" can you trust?  (Trust people who say, "Whom can you trust?")
99% fake

Gee whiz, what else do we have to question?  What other sacred institutions must crumble and fall?  Next thing you know, that Norman Rockwell original you bought, the one that shows a cop giving directions to a lost hitchhiker on his iPhone, will turn out to be a forgery too!

And when you buy one of those counterfeit-bill detector pens, how do you know it's a real one?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Rerun: No peaking!

Here's the deal. The Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, the energy giant in our town, offers a program called "Peak Rewards."  In return for giving customers a break of around 200 bucks in summertime, the electric company (still known to longtimers around here as "The Gas Company") installs a radio-controlled gizmo on said customers' central air conditioners. When the temp hits 106°, as it did the other day, and generators from here to Iowa are generating all the juice they can squeeze, BGE cuts off a certain amount of air conditioners for a certain amount of time.

Certainly you understand this is a gamble that some customers are willing to take, in return for 200 shekels, and certainly you understand that taking the risk also means there are going to be times when your AC is DOA.  A deal's a deal, am I wrong?

Well, the other day when the mercury was about to burst out of the top of the thermometer and the tv news was all over itself showing firefighters and roofers and guys working on asphalt trucks and cookies baking on car dashboards and polar bears bobbing around with giant fish-flavored popsicles, the paper had a top of the front page article about people howling because their air conditioners were cut off when it got so hot.

So, to recap, people sign up for a program where they can expect to have their air conditioners taken away from them on the hottest days of the year, when they need them the most.  But they get some money for it.

And, being people, they're hollering, screaming bloody murder.

And, like most things in life, it all reminds me of an Albert Brooks movie.  Do you remember "Lost in America," the 1985 picture in which Albert and his wife (played by Julie Hagerty) get rid of their status-y possessions, buy a Winnebago and set out to drive across the country and "touch Indians"?  There's a great scene - SPOILER ALERT! - in which Albert's wife gambles away their entire nest egg in Las Vegas, and Albert tries to talk the casino manager into giving it back, as if it all never happened.

The people who signed up for the Peak Rewards program knew they were gambling a day's comfort in exchange for a couple of hundred semolians, and yet they get to do a complainologue because they lost a day's comfort.  It's not as if they were unaware of how this worked, and it's not as if they didn't get their two thousand dimes from the BGE.

A note of clarification:  My father worked for Baltimore Gas and Electric from 1929 - 1978, taking time out only to go fight in World War II.  He was so loyal to the company that it was said there was no other firm from whom he would purchase electricity!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, September 29, 2013

 "But I want my breakfast NOW!  Whaddya mean, you're closed???"
 This is going on in Germany...people putting clever pictures on the sides of vending machines to make it appear that people are inside of vending machines making music, or coffee, or whatever you want from a machine.  This might scare children in real life, though, right?
 Peggy, during her working days - which ended yesterday - liked to detour through the Hampton neighborhood to see a herd of deer that were always out having breakfast on someone's shrubbery at about the same time she was supposed to be at on her way to work.  I have seen these deer parading around as well, and from time to time there is an albino deer in the pack.  Now, here is a picture of an albino raven.  The Baltimore Ravens football team, named for a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, has three mascots running around named Edgar, Allan, and Poe. This guy would have to be named Edgar, and you know why.
Speaking of guys...we see the guy in the sunglasses w/ backward cap at most of the home Orioles games. I think the other guy might be Elvis, to tell you the truth. His seat is right behind home plate, so you see him watching the O's whenever a right-handed hitter is up.   I always wondered if I would have the Hart to ask if his name was Corey.  But now we know it isn't.  Click here to find out what it is!

Friday, September 27, 2013

15,082 days

June, 1972, was not memorable for music, what with top 10 records like "Nice To Be With You" by Gallery and "Song Sung Blue" by Neil Diamond topping the charts that month.  Not even "Tumbling Dice" by the Stones or "Hot Rod Lincoln" by Commander Cody can make up for those atrocities.

In fashion, the best that can be said about these clothes from the Spring Sears catalog from that year is that it looks like everyone worked at Burger World in 1972.

Hurricane Agnes tore Maryland all to heck at the end of the month, flooding Ellicott City and tearing up roads all through Central Maryland.

1972 was a down year for the Orioles, who were at the time considered the best team in the American League. They had won the AL pennant in '71, finished a disappointing third in '72, and got back to the playoffs in '73.

You could get a real nice deal on an 8-track player for your car that month, while a digital calculator would put a $395 dent in your wet-look wallet.  A plane crash in the Andes left 16 survivors who were eventually rescued and admitted to cannibalism, and people flocked to the movies to see "The Godfather."

A proud moment
And of course, G. Gordon Liddy, thug-in-chief to the president of the United States, Dick "Dick" Nixon, led a hapless band of burglars into the Democratic offices at the Watergate complex in DC, where they attempted to do dirty tricks, only to be caught by a security guard.  Liddy went to jail and then, still in need of serious psychiatric attention, began a career in radio, doling out advice to people willing to seek advice from a lunatic. Little is known of Nixon after these events.

My wonderful Peggy
But my favorite event of June, 1972 (the 12th, to be exact) is that my wonderful wife Peggy, who had just about a year until the fateful night that we met, fell in love and went on a blind date that has yet to end, took a job with the law firm of Hymes, Keyes and Simmons in downtown Baltimore.  Through many changes of name to the firm, four different office locations and more coworkers than Adam Levine has tattoos, she has been there, day in and day out, for more than 41 years, and today she is retiring.  There's a lunch in her honor at noon, and that's that!

For all these years, Peggy has been the one who knew where the Hasenpfeffer Files were, as well
as how to order more postage for the postage meter and who fixed the electric typewriters (then) and computers (now).  She kept the books for the firm, kept her bosses' schedules straight, typed, printed and mailed at least a million letters, worked hard all day long and then came home to me.

And that's what she's doing today at noon, forever!  Thank God and thanks to everyone at her firm and all of her friends and coworkers past and present for the warm sendoff.  As of Monday, let's see if she jumps out of bed at 0515 again!

Congratulations to my Peggy, the best woman in the entire world.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This just Crossed my mind

With all the attention being given to flamboyant, bloviating freshman senator and native Canadian Ted Cruz, quite naturally my attention turned to a far more important American: Todd Cruz.

Todd Cruz lives on in the memory of Orioles fans for his contributions to the 1983 World Championship season.  He was acquired on June 30 of that golden season to replace Leo Hernandez at third base.  He blended very well with shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr, to form a formidable left side of the infield. Even though Todd was nowhere near the hitter that Cal was, he was well-liked in the clubhouse, and he, along with catcher Rick Dempsey and second baseman Rich Dauer, formed a triumvirate of jokesters known as the Three Stooges.  As we all remember, the team won the World's Serious against the Phillies that fall and has not done so since.  (But wait till next year!)

A great example of the scouting shorthand "good field no hit," Todd batted .208 in '83 and only .218 in '84, and when the O's had the chance to have Wayne Gross play third and bat a whopping .235 in 1985, they jumped on it, consigning Cruz to Rochester of the minor leagues.  That season in upstate New York left many with the indelible memory of his manager looking for Todd to pinch hit during a game, only to find that he was under the grandstand, in uniform, in a hot dog line. True.

Cruz's 1983 jersey.  These
sacred relics matter to us!
In 2008, the Orioles had a reunion of the 1983 champs, and Todd came to town as an enthusiastic participant. "Being with these guys here is like being a little kid ... getting ready for Christmas," he told an interviewer at the time. "I love them all, and I'll be an Oriole for the rest of my life."

The rest of his life was only to extend for six more weeks. Todd Cruz died in September of 2008, drowning in the swimming pool of the apartment complex where he was living in Bullhead City, AZ.

Sometimes, we hit on one brief and shining moment, and it's the lucky person who can look back on it with joy and no regret.  “In the eternal scheme of things, shining moments are as brief as the twinkling of an eye, yet such twinklings are what eternity is made of...” said Mr Rogers on TV.

And he didn't have to talk all night to make that point.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Go right ahead

You never know when you'll run into one of Them.  No, not the British band led by Van Morrison who sang "Gloria" in 1964. Not the 1954 movie about giant ants.   Not even the people who late at night send furtive emails about how the government is stockpiling weapons and Band-Aids to suppress the right of the people to do whatever they will.

No, we're talking about something even more insidious to our welfare.  This is about speech fillers, the little extra words that some add to their everyday conversation.

I was on hold with the cable company the other day, and the first thing I hear after choosing my language is an abuse of my language.  "Presently, all agents are assisting other callers..." says a recorded voice.  "Presently" means "soon," if you want to be proper.

It was even worse when a young lady got on the line and found out my problem, which is that sometimes when I record a certain show on the DVR, that show is not there to watch the next day.  Overnight, when all the house is asleep, electronic monsters prowl the house and delete my precious episodes of "Jerseylicious," "Car 54, Where Are You?" and "Howie Met Your Mother."

The young lady expressed, with great poignancy, her solemn regret over this hideous inconvenience.

And then it began.

"I'm going to go ahead and send a signal to your cable box and then we can go ahead and check the diagnostics and see what things look like.  OK?  I'm going to go ahead and send the signal now."

I stared at the TV screen and waited.  I don't know what was supposed to happen.  Maybe Barbara Eden would pop up, dressed in a genie costume?  Nothing happened.  So I told her nothing happened, and she said we were going to go ahead and send a stronger signal this time.

I grabbed the coffee table to make sure I was grounded. Nothing happened anyway.  She told me that it might take 30 to 45 minutes for the system to reset itself.  And then I think that I asked what would happen if I lost any more shows, and she said that if that happened, they would go ahead and send a technician out to house to go ahead and see what is happening.

I told her that if that turned out to be the case, I would call her back and tell her to go ahead and give the technician the go-ahead to go ahead and come out here.

She said to go ahead and do that.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I think it's time we leave

Every year at about this time, I get the same question from friends and family.  It's always a variation on the same theme, but the question boils down to, "What the hell is the matter with you, anyway?"

No, just kidding.  You know I get that question all year long.  The question that pops up as the nights grow longer and people start looking around for the blankets and quilts they put away in May is, how come the leaves change color every year?

And I thought I ought to look it up, because until I just did, I would have to tell people to ask my friend Mr Damifeyeno.

I got this scoop from and, as with all things scientific, it wasn't quite simple enough the first time I read it, but after a couple of passes, it cleared up somewhat.

Here 'tis...

All spring and summer, plants (which trees are, after all) take water out of the ground through their roots, and they take carbon dioxide through the air. Through photosynthesis, the process we were supposed to learn about in high school science while we were trying to figure out how to get a date with the girl at the next bunsen burner, the trees use sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose. Like Jumpin Jack Flash, Oxygen is a gas gas gas in the air that we breathe.  Plants use their glucose as food for energy and for growing, as they are not able to shop for food on their own, and very few pizza places will deliver to "The Third Elm on Maple Street."  Chlorophyll is involved in this photosynthesis, and it's chlorophyll, along with envy, that turns plants green.

When autumn is on its way, days get shorter, and the trees get less sunshine, so they figure it's time to put on the winter clothes.  Meanwhile, we have people driving cars and owning property who can't figure out that it's not tank top weather anymore.

Photosynthesis takes off all winter, without light or water to operate, so trees live off the glucose they put in their little wooden pantries all summer long and stop preparing food. Well, there goes the chlorophyll!  And the leaves become yellow and orange.  It's not so much that the leaves turn yellow and orange; they lose the green when photosynthesis ends, and with the green pigmentation that used to cover up the golden colors no longer there anymore, we get what we get.  

Red leaves, such as on maple trees, occur because glucose is trapped in the leaves when photosynthesis stops, and a combination of sun and cool nights turn the leaves red, just as reading The SUN on a cool night makes Robert Ehrlich turn red. For the same kind of reason, oak leaves turn brown from what's left in them when photosynthesis ends. We just don't know why a tree with like 200 leaves on it will drop 200,000 leaves to be raked up.

And that's what I got from the article.  I hope it sheds some light on the amazing natural process known as the changing colors of leaves in autumn.  Next week here on Science Corner with Uncle Mark, let's try to figure out whatever happened to Axl Rose.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A good guy

There's a Facebook page I keep up with that shows pictures and shares memories of the part of town where I grew up, and the other day, someone posted a picture of a fellow named Jack Thomas.  Jack graduated the year after me from Towson High, but he was even as an underclassman the star athlete of the school, excelling in football, basketball and lacrosse.  His father was the football coach, and if you sent out for a guy to play "high school football coach," you'd get a guy who looked just like Mr. Thomas...sort of burly, red faced, wearing a nylon jacket and sweat pants with sneakers, a baseball cap and a whistle on a lanyard around his neck.  As I recall, his son did not look like the archetypal jock, nor did he act like one.  Let me tell you how...

A fellow who had been in Jack's phys ed class wrote on the page that he was always the last guy to be chosen for a team. He said that under normal circumstances, he couldn't catch a ball, but that he still remembers a kindness and a good deed that Jack did all those years ago...and the appreciation he felt for the kind of man Jack was and is.

Here it is, right from Facebook:

Baltimore SUN photo
 In our senior year at THS, Jack and I were in the same gym class. I was the kid always picked last for every team sport. I was so uncoordinated I couldn't catch ANYTHING, baseballs, footballs, b-balls, etc. During the last seconds of a gym class touch football game Jack threw me the ball. I caught the ball and scored. What a HIGH for me. He was so good he could make ME catch the ball. He just smiled at me. What a leader and gentleman. I will never forget this though it seems insignificant. Besides a great sportsman, he is a person of great character!

It would have been easy for the star athlete to be a total churl in dealing with the non-jocks around him.  Heaven knows, a lot of them were, and are.

It turns out that Jack Thomas is now teaching history in a Howard County high school.  I have no doubt that a man of his decency and goodness is teaching his students a lot more than who won the Peloponnesian Wars.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Rerun: The Laugh of Brian

You know who I think is one of the greatest men we have in our country?  I mean, this guy is right there with Kid Rock, Cal Ripken, Jr, Jimmy Carter and Johnny Knoxville in my pantheon of heroes.  Brian Williams!  The guy from NBC Nightly News! To name just one reason: he wears the kind of shirts and ties that are the only kinds of shirts and ties that men ought to wear: the standard kind, with stripes or club figures on the ties and regular collars on the shirts, not those awful shirts that look like they have batwing collars from old monster movies or ties that look like dropclothes from when a brothel was repainted.

But his clothing is hardly why he is heroic.  In case you haven't noticed, this blog is not exactly GQ.  Brian Williams is a great guy because he is one of us!  He's from a normal state - New Jersey - and his first job, not like those richkid jobs where the sons of the privileged collate memos in a richdaddy office for $10,000 a week, was bussing tables in a Perkins Steak 'n' Pancake restaurant.  And he was a volunteer firefighter in his home town of Middletown, NJ!  

If you can find a town name better than Middletown, let me know.

So naturally, we watch NBC Nightly News with a devotion that would rival the most dedicated viewers of soap operas, reality shows and Keno broadcasts.  BW is conversant on all topics, tells the top stories of the day and even features cultural landmarks such as discussing the early days of the Bruce Springsteen band when saxman Clarence Clemons passed away.

But the other night on Letterman, Brian topped every comedian and raconteur ever! Click ^^on the link to see what I'm talking about.  In his marvelous self-depreciating way, he tells of being honored as Broadcaster of the Year for a group of New York state TV types, and how he and Regis Philbin (!) had to wedge themselves into a private jet to be flown to the ceremonies in Lake George, NY.  I tell you, this man has talent, because there's nothing that says a news anchor can't be perfectly serious about the debt ceiling at 6:30 and side-splitting about sharing a bag of Cheez-Its at 11:30.  

It's all in knowing what to do when, and how!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, September 21, 2013

 There is an entire genre of nature photography, known as the "A tree grew up through it" style.  There is one around with a bike that was parked against a sapling many years ago, and now this.  The old Chinese wisdom says that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  This could be a really cool Dodge panel truck.  Call it a "woody."
At first, I thought this was the office of some writer in the 30's, a place for Thomas Wolfe or W. Somerset Maugham to pound out masterpieces on the old Underwood typewriter.  But then I saw the modern phone.

 As much as I like Teresa Heinz Kerry, wish her good health and happiness and all the best for her husband, I have a list of foods that I would eat rather than consume canned spaghetti.  No need to share the list, but no thanks for canned noodles. I will eat Brussels sprouts first!
They say this is Lake Hiller in Australia!  You can believe that if you wish.  I have information that this is the natural spring from which we derive enough Pepto-Bismol to soothe the tummies of everyone who eats canned spaghetti!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Sound of a Fury

The past few Septembers have been dotted with a non-specific sort of agitation, as if something somewhere were missing in my life.  I took inventory of my emotions (confusion, mild rage, skepticism, scorn, delight, joy, happiness and pure bliss) and found them all intact, and then it hit me.

September used to mean new TV shows and new cars.  And not any more, for the most part.

Man, I'm telling you, the time was that TV networks would show promos for new shows coming on right after Labor Day and excitement reigned.  "They're making a 'Dennis The Menace' situation comedy," people screamed! "How many more days must I survive until the premiere of 'CPO Sharkey,' starring Don Rickles?" pondered many.  "I can't wait until that new 'Maury' show comes on!" cried many.  And then it came on, and many more cried.

Now, instead of three networks with new shows that no one wishes to watch, there are 237 networks, and the only shows that people are looking at feature poorly-educated, un-shaven-and-shorn rustics.  We revere televised individuals from whom we would move away, were they to sit next to us in a diner.

This is a Plymouth Fury.  It was not a rocket ship.
And, even worse, do you remember the tiny thrill you got when the new cars came out!  "The new Plymouths have tail fins the size of half a cow!"  "Dad wants to go down to Rustee Ford to look over the new Galaxie 500 XL!" "Is it a Falcon or is it a pickup?"  All these huzzahs rang out every September, in a country not that far away, not that long ago.

Today, the Toyota Camry changes the door on the gas cap every couple of years, and that's about it.  The NASCAR cars all look like the same non-NASCAR cars.  And can you tell me three differences between a Corolla and a Civic?  What in the devil is a Passat, a Tiguan or a Touareg?

Every kid could tell you the difference between the Chevies..the el cheapo Biscayne, the moderately-priced BelAir, the top of the line Impala, and the top of the Impala line, the Impala Super Sport.  Ford, Mercury, Plymouth, Dodge, and the rest of the GM line (Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Cadillac) of cars all had major changes from year to year, and the new models all came out every September, while Liberace never did.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bottled Up

There was a time when we (and by "we" I really mean everyone else but "I") spent days, weeks, months constructing elaborate ships in bottles.  The trick is, you (and by "you," I mean anyone but "I") build a tiny ship model and have the sails and topsail and mizzenmast and gangplanks and all that fold flat, and then you loop a string around it all and reach in with a knitting needle or hawser and pull it all upright.

Then you go watch TV and wonder why you bothered.

My dad had a bottle of brandy with a pear inside of it. Apparently on this earth there are pear farmers who have the time to put a bottle over a budding pear in the spring and allow the pear to grow within.  After that, it's a simple matter to snip off the pear and fill the bottle with brandy.

I had a bottle of beer with a slice of lemon in it, but that was not a trick of the lemon tree.  Now, you show me a bottle of beer with a cheesesteak wrapped up inside of it, and you've got my attention.  Until then, here's a recipe I found for making a chocolate chip cookie in the very mug from which you are currently sipping mocha java!

I found this on the website.

1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon Granulated White Sugar
1 Tablespoon of firmly packed Dark Brown Sugar
3 Drops of Vanilla Extract
Small Pinch of Kosher Salt
1 Egg Yolk (discard the egg white or save for different recipe)
Scant ¼ of All Purpose Flour (slightly less than ¼ of a cup)
2 heaping tablespoons of Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
Start by melting your butter in the microwave. Butter should just be melted, not boiling.
Add sugars, vanilla and salt. Stir to combine.
Separate your egg and add the yolk only to your cup. Stir to combine.
Add flour, then stir again. Measure a scant, slightly less than full, ¼ cup of all-purpose flour.
Add the chocolate chips, and give a final stir. Now your mixture will look like cookie dough.
Cook in microwave 40-60 seconds, start checking for doneness at 40 seconds. Mine takes 50 seconds. Do not cook past one minute, just like a regular cookie, this will continue cooking as it cools. If the cookie is dry or cake like, try less time.
Serve warm

 Somehow, I see this becoming a popular thing in offices, dormitories, firehouse kitchens, lighthouses and bail bond offices.  Wherever man has tamed the awesome power of microwave cookery, no mug shall remain cookieless!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Quite the young Word Smith

I don't often delve into the world of what celebrities say about stuff because a) who cares what they say and b) I don't either.

But when they start handing out bad advice, I need to clear my throat and speak up.

Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith (she's a Baltimorean; her stepfather is diminutive defense attorney Warren Brown, often seen on the news defending people who should behave themselves) have an interesting way of raising their kids.  "We don't do punishment," the erstwhile Fresh Prince says.  "The way that we deal with our kids is, they are responsible for their lives. Our concept is, as young as possible, give them as much control over their lives as possible and the concept of punishment, our experience has been—it has a little too much of a negative quality.

"So when they do things—and you know, Jaden, he's done things—you can do anything you want as long as you can explain to me why that was the right thing to do for your life."

By the way, thanks to the 100 of my Facebook friends who "liked" my salute to my late father last week on the occasion of his 100th birthday.  Dad certainly would have found Will's comment amusing.  The Smith School of Raising Kids stresses that the kids can do what they wish, as long as they feel it's the right thing to do for their lives.  I wish I had that alibi in hand when my parents dealt with some of my adolescent capers.  "But Mom and Dad, it was the right thing to do for my life, to cut school and spend the day on the sunny shores of Loch Raven, guzzling beer and Ripple with my ne'er-do-well friends!"

"OK then, son."

Never happened.  But maybe that sort of "parenting" leads to pronouncements like these recent Twitterances from young Jaden Smith, who, at 15, is already as wise as a 4-year-old:
“School Is The Tool To Brainwash The Youth”

“If Everybody In The World Dropped Out Of School We Would Have A Much More Intelligent Society.”

“If Newborn Babies Could Speak They Would Be The Most Intelligent Beings On Planet Earth.”

TV's entire Smith Family
Listen.  There's a time to be 15 and strut around like you know everything.  Any adult could take this youth aside and say, Son, your parents are doing you a horrible disservice, and even though the money they have made from your father's movies will be enough to support you and your children's children's children for a long time, you will have more respect for education when you have one of your own.

Of course, the fact that the Smith family fortune was "earned" in one of the few fields in which not much in the way of formal education is required would be lost on him as well.  We can only hope that he never needs medical attention or legal advice of any sort.  The thought of him having his broken ankle set by a dropout, or his broken partnership disincorporated by another 15-year old visionary, is too sad even to consider.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What's next? Where's next?

It's getting to where every time you turn around, there is another mass casualty incident.  Schools, movie theatres, and now the Washington Navy Yard.

No need to go over the details of yesterday's shooting. Aaron Alexis, former Navy reserve member, killed thirteen people at the Navy Yard, and once again the national psyche was jarred into thinking about just what is wrong with us all.  This is happening far too often to be chalked up to "oh I guess he just cracked under pressure..."

Right after the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut, there was a hue and cry to pass new gun control legislation.  I have always been a proponent of gun control, but now I'm starting to wonder what good it does.  After all, it's against the law in DC to strut around with a gun, and certainly against the law to shoot a dozen people to death, but that doesn't seem to stop anyone.

And there are people who like to hunt, and people who feel better protected by having firearms in the house, and why penalize those who own and use their pistols and rifles legally?

However.  If you saw the news, you saw a booking photo of Alexis from 2010, when he was arrested in Texas for shooting off a gun...through the ceiling of his apartment.  And you read that he was arrested in Seattle in 2004 for shooting out the tires of someone's car in what Alexis described as an "anger-filled blackout."

So, does anyone see any reason why Texas authorities failed to lock him up and keep him locked up for a long, long time?
That's the form of gun control I now support...taking people who use guns illegally - especially those who do so twice - and controlling them by putting them in prison.

It's like when you were a kid and your parents told you if they caught you sneaking out at night and you know that they grounded your older brother for six months before for the same offense.  You're not going to risk the penalty when you know it will be severe and unforgiving.

There has to be an answer somewhere.

Monday, September 16, 2013

I'll Race You Home

We talked about it before, and now comes word that the Baltimore Grand Prix race will not be held in 2014.  Or 2015.  2016 should not hold its breath, either.

Race-day traffic
It turns out that the city of Baltimore was a little overeager to jump into the car race, which saw many of the teeming streets of downtown Baltimore closed to normal traffic so that European-style race cars could drive like bats out of Helsinki through our town.  For days before and after the race, a lot of streets were shut down, as work crews put up barriers and walls and many more seats than were needed for the paltry crowds that were willing to pay a King's ransom to sit in the heat and watch cars go by too fast.

This all took place the last two Labor Day weekends, and it cut into the profit and business activities of people who own restaurants, clubs, and dry cleaning establishments that can magically repair bullet holes in a man's suit.  Those are three huge money-making business models in the city, and along came Rapid Roy the Race Car Boy to make their establishments close down for the holiday weekend.

Business owners are upset that the city rolled out the red carpet for the three dozen people who showed up at the race, at the expense of the people who have invested their money in downtown businesses.  Enchanted by the idea of having our streets on worldwide display, the city went along with the idea, and it's only because Ohio State is coming here to play the Naval Academy in a game of football next Labor Day weekend that we will be spared the noise of a city-sponsored event that violated the city's own noise ordinances.

Normal Baltimore traffic
But we want to be good sports about it, so if anyone wishes to come to Baltimore next Labor Day weekend and see people drive recklessly and also too fast, come stay with us at the Lazy 'C' Ranch, and I will take you down to where Rt 702 and the Beltway meet.

Buckle up.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Rerun: How to Ty Cobbs together

Picture of Ty Cobb, for no good reason
This past spring and summer, people whose job it is to worry about the National Football League were all upset because they were certain that the game would be ruined by the new rule which moved the kickoff line up by five yards.  "With no more runbacks, a lot of the excitement of the game will be lost," they moaned.

Randall "Not Tex" Cobb
That notion was dispelled in the opening day of the season when rookie Randall Cobb of the Packers  ran back a third-quarter kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. And if you want to feel a bit older, please read this:  my Lord, Randall is the first NFL player born in the 1990s. (August 22, 1990) Now will someone please make room on the recliner?  After reading that bit of news,"I'm wearied wi hunting, and fain wad lie down," as they say in sunny Scotland.

You see, there's a poem, "Lord Randall," and there's Randall Cobb the ball player, and then there's Randall "Tex" Cobb, the fighter and actor. Some forty years before RC of the Packers made his run to the end zone, Randall Craig "Tex" Cobb was brought forth into this world in Bridge City, Texas.  He became a boxer and kickboxer at about the same time that America became enchanted with the Rocky legend of the Stallone movies.  (As an aside, please try to catch the documentary "The Real Rocky" on ESPN, about the legendary Chuck "The Bayonne Bleeder" Wepner, a former boxer who claims that the Rocky story is based on his life. Since that story, no matter its provenance, has earned billions of dollars for Stallone, Wepner feels he is due a little slice of that pie.  "No, I don't think so, you know what I'm saying to you here?" is Stallone's reply.)

In November 1982, a Korean boxer named Duk Koo Kim was killed in a bout with American pugilist Ray Mancini, leading to discussions about the violent nature of a sport in which two men get into a square "ring" and slug the hell out of each other.  (In high school, "Boxing" is known as "Locker room.") Then, in a nationally televised fight, "Tex" Cobb fought the champion, Larry Holmes, at the Astrodome for the World Heavyweight Title on the 26th of that month.  Those who saw the fight will never forget it.  Holmes slugged, slammed, hit and pummeled Cobb for fifteen rounds, and it was like a child trying to bring down an Frigidaire refrigerator/freezer.  I can't say that Cobb ever landed a punch on the champ, but he stood there like the Colossus of Rhodes all through the fight.  Sure he lost every round on two of the three judges' cards, and 14 out of 15 on that of the third, but he was still standing at the end!  Bloodied, battered and unbowed, he was.  The other predominant memory of most sports fans from that night was Howard Cosell's commentary, a ceaseless diatribe against the sport that was paying him a pretty penny to cover it, and his vow to have nothing to do with the sport henceforth, which Cobb still calls his gift to boxing. 

That wrapped up Cobb's boxing career, but he went on to even greater acclaim, playing the part of Leonard Smalls, The Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, in the movie "Raising Arizona."  I tell you, the man was a great actor, and the look in his eyes when he realized that Nicolas Cage had pulled the pin on a grenade was priceless.  In fact, he really blew up over it. So good was he at acting that I really thought it was he who rained body parts and boots all over the scene right after that.

That wrapped up Cobb's acting career, and I don't know why.  I read that he kept a promise to his mother, went back to college, and graduated magna cum laude from Temple University in 2008. His degree is in recreation and sports management.  I think it would be the perfect thing for young Randall of the Packers to hire old "Tex" as an advisor.  Can someone look into that, please?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, September 14, 2013

 There's a pretty mist in the air here.  I take it that these are two Russian women gathering whatever.  I just liked the picture, although I can't begin to tell you why.
 Sometimes, when I root through the internets looking for interesting pictures, I see one and say, "Hey! (Insert name of friend) would enjoy seeing this one!"  So this is for my buddy Fran, the King of All Locksmiths.  Someone had the idea to turn a screwdriver into a key, so that someone could enjoy the feeling of driving around in what appears to be a stolen car. Just don't pull up next to any police cars, be my advice.
 Any time I post a picture of Paris, I think of my friend Carol Boone and my sister Robin Beynon, both of whom have been to Paris, the City of Light.  Enjoy this picture, ladies, sent to you from Baltimore, the City of Coors Light.
If this is not the coolest bedroom mural in the world, then I just don't know.  Calvin and Hobbes live on!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Rush Limo

In what sounds a little like a subplot in a movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, a young couple got married last week in front of the famous lighthouse in Havre de Grave.

Havre de Grace, MD, is a city in northeastern Maryland where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay.  In fact, if you stand along the wooden walkway near the town docks, they say you can hear the bay saying "Nice to meet you!" to the river.

The lighthouse in town is near the point where a pitched battle of the War of 1812 took place in 1813.  The fight seems to have been over whether they should still call it the War of 1812 on May 3, 1813, which is when Lt O'Neill of the American Navy manned a cannon against Admiral Cockburn of the British Navy to settle the matter.  It's a popular place, the lighthouse, and so it made a great setting for last Saturday's wedding of Chris and Taylor Karabaich from Westminster.

The nuptials took place, and then the photographer went to work, and everyone had their picture taken, and then everyone piled into cars to be taken to the gala reception at La Banque de Fleuve, around the corner on St. John Street.

Everyone was at the banquet hall and no one noticed that two people were missing as they nibbled on port wine cheese on crackers and other hors d'oeuvres.  The limo driver, whose name may or may not have been Homer J. Simpson, took the bridal party to the hall and was supposed to return to the lighthouse to pick up the newly-minted Mr and Mrs.

"Was supposed to" are the three saddest words in the English language, just ahead of "Bill O'Reilly says."

photo from HdG PATCH
The limo driver went off to do whatever he had to do besides doing his job,
and Mr and Mr Karabaich were left waiting at the lighthouse.  Fortunately, members of the Susquehanna Hose Company, the volunteer fire company in town, were having a crab feast right in the lighthouse park.  True to their nature, they got the bride and groom up in the cab of Engine 535 and delivered them, with lights flashing and siren wailing, to the reception.

I wish them happiness and health forever.  How many married couples get a story like this to tell about their wedding day?  So cool!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Floating along

Photo: From Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel & Resort

So one of our owners Judi was walking on the beach this morning cleaning up the junk that washed into shore and finds a bottle with a message in it. There is also some sand and 2 one dollar bills. Once we get it open and read the notes we find out that it is in fact NOT sand. It is the ashes of this woman's husband of 70 years named Gordon. She writes that He loved to travel so she sent him traveling in a bottle with a note and money for someone to call home and tell her where he landed. He started at Big Pine Key in March of 2012 and then went to Islamerada where someone found him. They added a note and sent him traveling again and he landed on our beach in Key Colony. Judi called the wife in Tennessee who was excited to know of Gordon's travels! Judi added her note, we put him in a rum bottle (you know added a little fun to his trip) with the three notes. We added another dollar in case Gordon travels far and a long distance call is needed. We will be having a memorial service or celebration of his life on our beach later today before sending him on his way again. Only our sister Judi could find a dead guy on our beach!

This is an amazing true story Hit Like if you AgreeI saw this on Facebook; it originated at the Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel & Resort, which is in Key Colony Beach, Florida...

So one of our owners Judi was walking on the beach this morning cleaning up the junk that washed into shore and finds a bottle with a message in it. There is also some sand and 2 one dollar bills. Once we get it open and read the notes we find out that it is in fact NOT sand. It is the ashes of this woman's husband of 70 years named Gordon. She writes that He loved to travel so she sent him traveling in a bottle with a note and money for someone to call home and tell her where he landed. He started at Big Pine Key in March of 2012 and then went to Islamerada where someone found him. They added a note and sent him traveling again and he landed on our beach in Key Colony. Judi called the wife in Tennessee who was excited to know of 
Gordon's travels! Judi added her note, we put him in a rum bottle (you know added a little fun to his trip) with the three notes. We added another dollar in case Gordon travels far and a long distance call is needed. We will be having a memorial service or celebration of his life on our beach later today before sending him on his way again. Only our sister Judi could find a dead guy on our beach!

I think this would be a nice way to see the world - at least the parts of the world covered by water - when we really have a lot of leisure time on our hands.  I'm not sure what kind of bottle I'd like to be in.  I don't drink soda, and they make those water bottles so thin and flimsy these days, I don't know how long they could be expected to last.  

It dawns on me that if all I have to worry about for now is what type of bottle I want to wind up in, I don't really have any big problems.  Thank you, world! 

Go ahead and use a ginger ale bottle.  When I did guzzle soda, that was my favorite.  But not just yet!  Take your time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Now is the time for your tears

Photo: Mother Accused of Killing Daughter Released on Bail

A week after being indicted on charges of second degree murder, manslaughter, first degree child abuse, neglect of a minor and reckless endangerment Paula Shipley has been released from the Carroll County Detention Center.  Shipley's 4 year old daughter died from an overdose in March. An autopsy showed the child had a lethal dose of narcotics in her system. Today, Judge Barry Hughes in Carroll County granted Shipley a bail of $75,000. Shipley is being represented by attorney Haven Shoemaker who is also a County Commissioner.I got this story from local station FOX 45, as reported by Joy Lepola.

A week after being indicted on charges of second degree murder, manslaughter, first degree child abuse, neglect of a minor and reckless endangerment, Paula Shipley has been released from the Carroll County Detention Center. Shipley's 4 year old daughter died from an overdose in March. An autopsy showed the child had a lethal dose of narcotics in her system. Today, Judge Barry Hughes in Carroll County granted Shipley a bail of $75,000. Shipley is being represented by attorney Haven Shoemaker, who is also a County Commissioner.

I keep thinking about this...this woman is 46 years of age, and was just indicted last week in the death of her little 4-year-old daughter, who passed away on March 21 of a lethal dose of various narcotics.  And the judge lets her out on bail of 75 Gs.  

And her attorney, the honorable Haven Shoemaker, is also a county commissioner out there in Carroll County.

You might remember the William Zantzinger case from 1963.  Zantzinger was a rich, spoiled brat, a member of the landed gentry, a gentleman tobacco farmer from Charles County who found himself here in the big town for a drunken night at the Spinsters' Ball at the Emerson Hotel.  A boorish ass of a "human," he chose to hurl racial slurs at a barmaid named Hattie Carroll, and smack her around with one of those stupid bamboo canes that they used to hand out at state fairs and carnivals, after he assaulted employees at a downtown restaurant.  None of his rich-guy friends thought to tell this 22-year dipstick that he should not go around hitting people with his cane.  And then Ms Carroll didn't bring him his drinks fast enough, and he smacked her again around the head and shoulders, and she left the room, his racial slurs fouling the air, and collapsed.  She died at Mercy Hospital, aged 51 years.  Cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage.

Zantzinger was taken into custody, lawyered up, and got six months.

Bob Dylan came to Baltimore to gather facts about this travesty in the song "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."  Click on that link and listen to the song, please, and see if we have come very far in fifty years.  I know, they only let this mother out on pre-trial bail, and the judge might yet give her a sentence wholly in keeping with the enormity of the crime of which she stands accused. But this just reminds me of the age-old tradition of "who-knows-whom justice" that has prevailed in Maryland since the first settlers, and it's about time it stopped.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

There Oughta Be A Law

On the local beat...Baltimore County Police arrested a guy who was hanging around a 7-11 Store (for our far-flung readers, this is locally pronounced "Sem-Elem") and claiming to be a police officer.  He had all the regalia - polo shirt with POLICE in big letters on the back, badge on a chain 'round the neck...air gun..

Air gun?  Gives it away.  That won't be enough on the streets. A fleeing felon will keep right on a-fleein' if the only thing he has to fear is a ping-pong ball popping on the back of his head.

But I'm not making light of this, because beyond making Halloween an everyday holiday to parade around in his get-up, this guy was making fake traffic stops on real cars, the police say.  Not good.  Let's have a trial, and get him off the street if he's guilty.

I can almost hear his defense atty. now.  "Your honor, my client has a long-standing interest in law enforcement, and when the chance to purchase a silver Chevrolet Impala and some used police equipment and clothing presented itself, he availed himself of the opportunity to augment the sworn forces of the County Police in his efforts to bring crime to a standstill."

What he WON'T say:  "Your honor, my client is a kind of a schlub who's never quite gotten out of the starting gates in life.  Rather than achieve anything on his own, he decided it would be faster, and certainly easier, to just dress like people who had achieved a certain status.  Also, free donuts, ya know?"

Of course, it all might just be a merry mixup.  Only the judge can say the guy is guilty.  But I can tell you about another person I ran across (not quite literally) who decided to play cop.

It was Saturday, September 7.  It was warm in Baltimore.  We were working the day watch out of Retirement Squad.  The boss is Peggy Clark.  My name's Mark.  Shortly after 1 pm, we left the house to go to the annual Parkville Towne Fair near our little neighborhood.  It was the usual street fair: booths for arts and crafts, churches, retirement homes, roofers, window installers, high school alumni associations, beer know the set-up.  We were en route to park where I always park for this gala celebration: the parking lot behind the physical therapy office where I always wind up after a doctor visit.  We were driving down Linwood Avenue to get there, and an old dude was walking down the middle of that street, waving his hands to me, indicating that I should drive no further.

OK.  So I'm trying to dodge Father Time, as well as a Hyundai, because there is not enough space for all of us on the street.  It would be great if he would step on the sidewalk and let me continue, but he is determined not to let me proceed, until I keep proceeding, as does the Hyundai.  I guess he figured that I didn't realize that a police car was blocking the intersection at Harford Rd, but he really enjoyed the few moments he got to spend trying to tell me how and where to drive.

I bet later he went home and set up a chart for who got to park in his driveway next week.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Whaddya know?

There are jobs about which most of us know nothing.  None of us would walk into a hospital operating room and try to tell a surgeon how to lance a hypothalamus, no one sticks their face back in the restaurant kitchen to throw down advice on how best to make a hollandaise sauce, and very few people even think of climbing up a telephone pole and telling the electric company guy how to hook up the electricity.

To tell you the truth, I don't even know the circumstances under which a hypothalamus would need a good lancing, if it ever did.  I just threw that in there because "hypothalamus" is way up on high on my list of funny body part names, taking its rightful place among such as "the circle of Willis" (a series of interconnected blood vessels at the bottom of the brain), the cremaster (the muscle that brings a man's dangling participles back inside when it's cold outside) and the loop of Henle (part of the tubules which concentrate and secrete various ions in the urine).  "Tubules" is kind of funny, too.

The Circle of Willis
I bring all this up to point out that, now that football season is once again upon us, very few of us who are NOT head coaches of football teams, quarterbacks for football teams or referees for football games know nearly as much as those who do hold those positions.  Which doesn't mean that you can't keep calling the sports-talk radio shows and saying you know more than they do, but I really wish you would refrain from doing so. It takes away from the enjoyment of listening to tire commercials and updates on Bo Jackson's lack of energy.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday rerun: Self-Interview

I'm always on the lookout for a new verbal trend.  Over the years, I have enjoyed word fads such as:
  • the incorrect use of "hopefully" (We say, "Hopefully, I'll be home in time for supper" when we might not be hopeful at all when we get home, especially if creamed cauliflower is being served. But when we use the word correctly, as in "Hopefully, I mixed all the ingredients together to make a cake," people look at you oddly.)
  • stores telling you they will give you a "free gift."  What other kind of gift is there?
  • People saying that something is "one of the most unique things."  Unique means one of a kind, so there can only be one.
  • the recent trend of "moving forward."  This phrase pops up in sentences all the time.  Moving forward, I think we can do without it. 
  • "It is what it is."  Of course it is.  Similarly, any number multiplied by one equals the same number.  So why say this?
  • "Go ahead and..." or "Take and..." are just sentence-stretchers.  I believe we can go ahead and stop saying, "Go ahead and cancel that order of creamed cauliflower" and "Please take and cut the grass for me."
  • the past tense of "text" is lost somewhere and needs to come home.  We say "I'm going to text Herbert and ask him to pick up some beer" and then later, when there is no beer to be had, we say, "Why didn't Herbert show up with the suds?  I text him four hours ago!"  
OK.  Those are my pet peevelets, but here is one that's coming up fast on the charts.  I call it The Self-Interview.  I believe it had its origins in the 1977 classic movie "Animal House," in the scene where the Delta fraternity is on trial.  Otter is chosen as spokesperson for the Deltas, because he's pre-law.  Or is it pre-med? ("What's the difference?") Addressing the college community, he says, "The question is not whether we took a few liberties with our female party guests.  We did!" as he gives a conspiratorial wink and nod to Dean Vernon Wormer.

That was the genesis of the self-interview.  We see it a lot suddenly when people have a microphone in front of them and a camera trained on them.  They ask themselves questions!
  • "Did we hit, pitch and field well enough to win this ball game? No, we did not!"
  • "Have we seen you dance better than this before? Yes, we have! Do we expect to see you dance better next week? Of course we do!"
  • "Have the American people spoken about the debt ceiling? They have. Have we heard them loud and clear? We have!"

You will also notice a similar trend among people who used to be school teachers, usually in the upper grades, usually in a less-than-scintillating topic. They tend to say things such as, "Woodrow Wilson sought to form an early precursor of the United Nations, a group he called the, what?  League of Nations!"

Have I written enough about language trends for today?  Moving forward, I'm gonna go ahead and say, what? "Yes!"

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, September 7, 2013

 I know, I know.  How many pictures of daffodil-sniffing foxes can there be?  This is the worthwhile version of Fox News.
 My friend Hazel Wood from the UK mentioned this pileup the other day on Facebook.  It's a car crash involving 130 cars.  I've studied the picture, looked over every aspect with a clear analytical eye, and have concluded that it all started because they were all driving on the right side of the road.  I hope no one was seriously hurt.
 This picture is of one of the twin towers.  Someone leaned up against the building and took the picture...12 years ago this week...
Wouldn't this one make a great wallpaper?  This is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which is what allows people from the big part of Maryland to go the Eastern Shore, and, eventually, the beaches at Ocean City, among others.  It is rated as one of the scariest bridges to drive over, according to a recent survey of gephyrophobics (people with a fear of driving over bridges.)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Thank you, Earl of Sandwich

The governor of Texas
(dignity not intact)
I think I need to do more traveling.  The genesis of this notion is not all the lovely pictures of distant beaches, waterfalls and downtown crowd scenes I see on Instagram, not Rosie O'Donnell movies set in the Great Northwest, and certainly not the chance to see Rick Perry in his natural habitat.

It's this article on, listing the best sandwiches of all 50 American states.  My oh my, there is good eating out there in America, home of those brave enough to try Alaska's Reindeer Sausage sandwich (it looks too much like Spam for me) and free enough to love Alabama's Pulled Chicken with White Sauce (Mayonnaise, cider vinegar and maybe a little horseradish.)

I just might try making that sauce myself, but there is no maybe in my mind on the topic of horseradish, which adds goodness to everything except corn flakes.

Half smoke, fully dressed
Other notable sammies from around the US include the pride of Kansas, a Z-Man sandwich (beef brisket, provolone cheese and two onion rings), the great Reuben sandwich (corned beef, Swiss, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut on rye) invented in Nebraska, and D.C.'s tasty Half Smokes.  That's a sausage that looks like a knockwurst but is more like a chubby hot dog.  They are all over the place in DC and Southern Maryland, and unknown up here, 45 miles away in Baltimore, home of the Lake Trout sandwich that represents our state.  As is everything around here, it's a confusion of elements, because the fish is the ocean-going Whiting, not a trout.
Z-Man gets an A from me

Most of the sandwiches cited sound great to me; there are several variations on lobster rolls and Italian cold cut subs (or grinders or torpedoes, as they are known elsewhere).  I think we'll skip Delaware's Bobbie - roasted turkey, stuffing, mayo and cranberry sauce.  It would just make me holler like Little Richard!

Thursday, September 5, 2013


None of this is political, but some events of the past few days have the chance - yea, the likelihood - of affecting our lives and those of the recently-born for years to come.

Of course, I am speaking of Kim K, mother of NW, who, in her endless quest to worm herself into our consciousness has decided to turn bland blond.  If this matters to you, would you kindly send me a few words about why?  Just curious...

The other news that seems to grip the nation: the president put his feet up on the desk, enraging the fans of onetime movie star Ronald Reagan, who always wore a suit in the Oval Office, except when he didn't.

And John McCain was photographed during a lengthy Senate debate, playing with a poker game on his cell phone.  "Scandal!" he tweeted! "Worst part is, I lost."

As a longtime advocate of hoisting my size 13s up onto any horizontal surface, I say right on, Mr President.  I don't see what's so wrong about letting the blood circulate and giving your tensed-up calf muscles a little rest.
McCain on his McPhone playing McPoker

As for tiny games on the phone, I'm a Crazy 8's man myself, and, having seen House and Senate debates on the C-Span, I would not blame any congressperson if they brought in a portable DVD player to amuse themselves while the others drone on and on and on and on and on and on.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From the world wide spider web

I've often been told that I should write a book about my experiences working in 911 and public safety.  I am loath to compete with brilliant wordsmiths such as Debbie Macomber, J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown, so I keep nixing the idea.  But here is a story that I like.  It concerns 911 and it has a happy ending, and you rarely see that combination.

It started for me when someone told me that "it was on the news - some teenaged girl called 911 because there was a spider in the house."  I figured I'd look into it, and I'm awful glad I did, because my friend missed a couple of important pieces of the story.

Here is a link to the story on ABC News.  The first thing you need to know is that the young lady, 17-year-old Makenna Sewell, gets around in a wheelchair.  She has muscular dystrophy.  Right away, that puts the story in a different light.

Second thing: she was alone in her house when she spotted the spider, the biggest one she ever saw.

It's believed that the spider was a brown recluse spider, not too rare where Makenna lives.  Days before all this, her mom had been bitten by a brown recluse, which is a venomous type of spider.  Makenna has a compromised immune system, due to her MD, and that makes it all the more important that she avoid being bitten by one.

Makenna tried to call her mother, her father, the friends her parents were with, her own friends and two neighbors...all to no avail.

She realized that if she made a swat at the creature, it would fall to the floor and scuttle away, only to come back out again.

She needed help.  She called the non-emergency police number and asked - asked - if someone could help.
Ms Sewell
 And the police responded after their dispatcher sent them, and they dispatched the spider to Kingdom Come.

Makenna Sewell of Forest Grove, OR (which sounds like a place where spiders and other woodland fauna abound) did the right thing, so did the dispatcher, and so did the police who responded.

Kindly compare that with the young lady who called our 911 several years ago, haughtily informing the calltaker that her father was a big shot, well connected in the county government.  She said her boyfriend had come back from fishing and had been cleaning his flounder on her porch, leaving scales and fish innards all over the porch.  And she demanded - demanded -  that the Fire Dept. send an engine to hose off her porch.

Quick- name the supervisor who suggested she try another plan, involving buckets of water and Ajax!

No, spider extermination is not part of the standard protocols for 911, police, fire, or EMS.  But intelligent, reasonable public service is.  All those folks in Forest Grove ought to be proud!