Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show Special Halloween Edition, October 31, 2015

Halloween parties used to be popular for children, and besides the snacks and treats, there was always some game that involved sticking your mug in a giant tub, hoping to get an apple, or trying to bite an apple bobbing around on a string.  All that work for an apple?
Sending Halloween postcards used to be fun too, so that you and the recipient and the mailman could enjoy reading them!
Homemade costumes just used to be WEIRD!  There's no other way to say it!
Zombies and ghouls and hobgoblins on the big screen.  I would imagine that walking with a zombie, it would take a long time to get anywhere.  They don't scoot along.
"Fun size" candy bars are not really any fun at all.  Go big and give the full size candy bars!
 How do you get into this guy's house?  Use a skeleton key!
I love Sriracha sauce and I like this costume!
Yes, I hope that someday I will find that house that everyone always talked about...the house where they handed out beer to all the kids...meanwhile, Happy Halloween to you all!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hard drive

It's easy to point fingers, but there are at least three reasons why Heather Cook, pictured at right, is waking up this morning in the Walled-off Astoria. Not long ago, she was the #2 ranking Episcopal church official in the local diocese, and now the only number she bears is longer, and worn on the front of her shirt.

Cook was sentenced Tuesday to serve seven years in prison.  This is because last year, two days after Christmas, she got drunk three times the legal limit and drove her car up Roland Avenue, striking and killing bicyclist Tom Palermo. She was texting on her cell phone at the time.

And then, maybe worst of all, this woman, a representative of God on Earth, chose to drive away from the scene, leaving Palermo to die on the street.

Frankly, it's hard to tell what was the worst part of all this.  Maybe it's the fact that she got gassed a few years ago while serving on the Eastern Shore, driving on a rim and a shredded tire with marijuana in the car.  She said then that was her major wakeup call.  And then she went right back to sleep, adrift in the slumber of the uncaring, the unconcerned for anyone but themselves.   

Mr Palermo's family spoke for two hours at the sentencing hearing Tuesday, begging the court to put this awful woman away for a long time, as they spoke of the emotional loss of a son, brother, and father.

Led away for a long time
"This tragedy will not define Tom or our family; our resolve is strong as we hold Tom in our hearts,” Palermo’s sister-in-law Alisa Rock said.

I understand the struggle many people have with alcohol, and I sympathize with that fight. However, it's one thing to sit in one's house and drink to excess, and quite another to drink to excess and then get behind the steering wheel of a car, and to be texting and careering up the street in that car, and to strike and kill another human being and flee like a coward.

People who study crime and punishment will tell you that one part of the reason for prison (penitentiary - a place to be penitent) is to punish wrongdoers by taking away their freedom and confining them to a cell, and the other part is to serve as a deterrent by reminding people who might be thinking about driving while drunk and/or being careless enough to text while driving, that there will be severe consequences for doing so.

It's sad.  The Palermo family will surely not be the last to be bereaved due to the foul actions of others, but chances are that someone will get the message from this, and not drive drunk.

And for the next seven years, Heather Cook won't be driving at all. Thank God.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

I'm all up in the air over the blimp

Right up the road from us, up US Rte 40 or I-95 (depending on whether you want trucks going 40 mph, or 95 mph, six inches behind your back bumper) lies the little town of Aberdeen, MD.

It's known to sports fans as the home town of the Ripken family of baseball legends (Cal Sr, Cal Jr and Billy) and Ripken Stadium, where Cal Jr's minor league team, the Ironbirds, plays, as well as teen league baseball with kids from all over the world, in summer.

It's also known as the home of Aberdeen Proving Ground, a huge Army installation and the home of two one blimps 10,000 feet in the air, keeping an eye out for incoming enemy missiles and trucks speeding on I-95.  

Just kidding about the trucks. No one cares about that.

But the good people at the US Army and the Raytheon Corporation are spending 2.8 BILLION tax dollars on the project, which gives defense officials a good look at cruise missiles and I don't know what-all else on the way to Baltimore and DC.  And my neighborhood, for that matter.  They even claim that the blimps can find attacking missiles from as far as 340 miles away, although they cannot look down and see that they are about to break away and fly a couple hundred miles themselves.

For almost a year, we have looked up at the sky and seen these giant inflatables hanging around.  Technically, they are aerostats, or tether aircraft, since they are tied to the ground by really thick, strong cables that cannot possibly break or come loose and let the blimps go a'sailin'

This is my favorite news story since Kim Davis
And, just to make you feel better about those dirty enemies sneaking in a missile on us, these blimps are part of the completely impregnable, inscrutable, unbeatable Joint Land-Attack Cruise Missile Elevated Netted Sensor System, or WHOOOOPS.

You know what I'm getting at.  "Our" blimps were the lead story on all the news last night, even bumping another local product full of gas, Ben Carson, off to the side for a minute, because one of them broke free from its moorings, and took a cruise of its own, as blimps will do.

Two F-16 fighter jets, normally assigned to protect Trump Casino in Atlantic City, scrambled and got airborne and tracked the big white device, which came to earth near Williamsport, Pennsylvania. They found it by hearing from people on the ground below, hollering that their electricity was knocked out by the dragged tether from below the blimp.  So that meant that Pennsylvanians could not follow the story on cable news all afternoon, but the story could not have taken place anyhow, because the Army said it never could have.

Today is not going to be a good day for a lot of people in the defense industry.  The phones are going to be ringing and ringing. "They" said this could never happen.  "They" were wrong, again.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Heaven on earth with an onion slice

There we were at a cookout the other day (this is the time of year I love cookouts best, when hanging near the grill actually feels good, and you need a hoodie and long pants outside) and a guy was flipping burgers off that Weber, and they were goooooood!

I'm not gonna lie to you. From a frozen patty on a whitebread bun, to fresh-ground top round on a ciabatta roll, I love a hamburger sammy. I can even skip the cheese, and I can live without the fried onion and relish and lettuce and tomato if need be. If the other goodies aren't available, just a squirt each of catsup and mustard will do me fine.

Cook it on the grill, broil it in the oven, fry it in the cast-iron pan, it's all good.  Even if the patty is ground turkey or chicken, I'm fine. The amazing pizzaburger sub is great, too: toss some pizza sauce and cheese onto an opened-up sub roll and toast it, while meanwhile cooking up a couple of thin patties, which you then toss into the roll and dress up with shaker cheese and oregano. Swiss cheese! Provolone (from the Italian, meaning "in favor of volone")! Port wine cheese spread!  Even good old American cheese. I'm just a "cheeseburger in paradise," as the old Jimmy Buffett tune had it. Buffett said, "I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes, Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer..."

I had to talk about all this because, as you probably heard, the World Health Organization now issued their monthly reminder that red meat likely is bad for you, and you might as well smoke ten Lucky Strike cigarettes while you chow down on bacon, sausage and other processed meats.  

They have studies about how bad it is to eat red meat, like beef, lamb and liver. Well, I have said all along that liver is not good! So I have that going for me. And hot dogs have been part of the American diet for over a century. So what are we going to do, stop going to ballgames?

And sure, eat more fish, the scientists say. I wish I had time to do more fishing for dinner! Right out near us is a lake owned by the Paul family, where the wily stickfish swim. Rectangular fish born without heads, these tasty treats come already breaded and ready for the pan, right out of Mrs Paul's lake.

I am sorry, vegans and vegetarians and malt-dextrose gobblers. I know you will be alive to see the year 2100, and I won't be. I can only hope that the presidents of the end of the 21st Century (Carson III, Trump IV, and Pee Wee Herman) will treat you kindly. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

There comes a time

We know that there are five stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance) but sometimes people speed through the first three and get stuck in a depressed state. And that stops them from getting to acceptance, which is the way out of the grief we feel from loss.

Well, just google "how to beat depression," and you get almost as many answers as if you had looked up ways to beat the Las Vegas crap tables.  Everyone has their ways to do it. Get up early and go for a swim!  Sleep late and get plenty of rest! Set goals and work toward them every day!  Let life come to you as fate has it unfold! Laugh a lot! Be serious more often!  

You see the point...when someone has suffered a loss, the climb out of the blues can be steady, a step or two every day, and then on the next-to-last landing, you get stuck.

We have a friend who is currently fighting that last hump toward getting over a sad, sad loss, and it's tough to know what to say or do sometimes.  And while it's tough for me, a guy who likes to get things done and move on to the next, to know that I haven't come up with the perfect magic word or phrase to help out, that's only a tiny fraction of how hard it must be for that person in their utter unspeakable grief and agony.

That's the key thing to's their nightmare to get past, and you do the best thing to steer them to professional help, and then let the qualified people do their thing.  Saying, "Snap out of it," or, "It could be worse," or "They're in a better place, you know" is not helpful.  

You may or may not like Joe Biden the politician, but Joe Biden the man has said some mighty things about dealing with a loss.

For those who came to him after he had learned of the death of his wife and daughter, and years later, of his son, he said, "I have to tell you. I used to resent people. They'd come up to me and say, 'Joe, I know how you feel.'" To claps and laughter, he continued: "I know, right? I knew they meant well. I knew they were genuine. But you knew they didn't have any damn idea."

And this hopeful note, at the 2012 TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar:
"There will come a day, I promise you and your parents, as well, when the thought of your son or daughter or your husband or wife brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen. My prayer for you is that day will come sooner or later.. But the only thing I have more experience than you in is this: I’m telling you it will come."

I guess all I can add to that would be the old axiom: If you're going through hell, keep going!

Monday, October 26, 2015

California Dreaming!

Out in Nevada City, California (it's near Cisco, Grass Valley and You Bet) there is a radio station with the call letters KVMR.  You can listen to them live by following this link.  It's a volunteer-based, listener-supported operation out there, and you never know what you're going to hear when you tune them in.

Listeners recently were treated to that old Simon and Garfunkel classic, "Sounds of Silence," followed by The Tremeloes with "Silence is Golden" and then "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode.  No. I kid.  Anyone could play those records, but the all-night DJ on KVMR fell asleep during her own show!  And she was playing a Native American flute marathon! The show is called American Timbres, and she started the fluteathon off strong at 2 AM, but by 3:30 in the yawning, she was out cold and there was naught but dead air on the station except that she left her mic open, and there was the "the soft, yet distinct sound of gentle snoring," according to the news story on AOL.

The best part is that a few listeners believed that the snoring was part of the show.  

Lynn Cooke operates the crisis line overnight for that community, and she likes the wafting, lilting sounds of Native American flutes in the room as she counsels the forlorn. “The flute sounds are perfect for my stressful shift when I’m helping people in need. Then there was silence, so I thought someone screwed up. It happens, you know? However it went on for over twenty minutes and then the snoring started. It was pretty funny.”

The article in The Nevada County Scooper went on to say that American Timbres is the #1 show in hotly-contested overnight ratings battle in Nevada County.  Its chief competition is Coast to Coast AM, one of those shows that deals in conspiracies and aliens and pyramid UFOs flying over Brazil, for the 37 people in this nation with time to invest in fol-de-rol.  

Also making news among the recent KVMR staff notes was the discovery that their former evening DJ, James E. Stanley, was in fact a recently escaped psych ward patient.  The people at the Nevada County Health and Human Services Department were able to unmask the psych patient-turned-DJ by seeing through his clever ruse of using his own name.  

A promotional picture
The Scooper reporter tried to contact the radio station for their comments on Stanley's abrupt departure, but the radio people told the reporter to get out of the building. Bystanders who claim to have been around for the apprehension told the Scooper that the health officials nabbed Stanley during his news commentary.  That was wise, because the musical portion of his show tended to be an hour or two of solid white noise.

“There was a lot of commotion,” said one witness who chose to remain anonymous. “There was a lot of shouting about the Illuminati and forced vaccines from the police state. All weird stuff. They just shoved him in the car and drove off. It was really odd.”

Oh, THAT was odd?

I think it's best for California and me to remain strangers.  I love some people who live there (Anne, Pat, Sam, Chris, Jonie, Katie, Patricia, Tracy) and they have a tremendous governor in Jerry Brown.  But how could I relate to James E. Stanley?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Rerun: Talk It Over

Friends of mine have a son, middle school age.  With back-to-school looming heavily in the immediate future, he got himself ready by assembling a desk from a kit (might have been IKEA) and they showed a picture of the desk on that Facebook thing.

He set the desk up very well, had his trash can all ready to go, and a copy of a book on prominent display.  The book is called "How To Talk To Girls."

I would now like to offer all that I know on that topic, for the benefit of young men everywhere.

As I remember from the days when I was in junior high school, we were reeling from the budget cuts made by President Fillmore, so a lot of our extra-curricular activities were eliminated or made smaller.  I was a founding member of the Detention Club, though, and that's where I met a lot of girls. Good girls, bad girls, ok girls, tall girls, short girls, blondes, brunettes, redheads, smart girls, not-so-smart girls...I was turned down by every type of girl you could name.  But persistence was my ally, so I would just keep talking until they said, "IF I agree to go out with you, will you just shut up?  And also never tell anyone about it?"

And then, I felt the true majesty of young love sweeping over me.  I shivered, and they shuddered.

Listen, guys, these books will tell you to be sure of yourself, to come on a little strong but not like Justin Bieber, to compliment the girl but do so sincerely, to ask gentle questions, to get her to laugh, and above all, to get her to talk about herself.  Warning: this may result in her saying that what she likes about herself the most are those moments when you are nowhere in sight. Use caution.

Also, "they" (and trust me, this book was not written by George Clooney or any member of One Direction) offer the advice to let the girl know you hope you'll be able to talk to her again.  This often results in the girl going to the school office and getting a new locker assigned. 

I was not one of the smooth guys with a great way with women, but feel better about this: I wound up with the best woman on earth.

And before that, well, there were a lot of women asking me if I would like to be married!

They included my mother, my grandmother, my sister and my aunt.  But still.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, October 24, 2015

 Here's President Eisenhower throwing out the first ball of the 1955 baseball season at Griffith Stadium in DC.  Fans of the movie "Stripes" will wonder if Yankee manager Casey Stengel is about to ask, "How's it going, Eisenhower?"
A chilly, misty gold-dappled autumn morning.  Can't beat it!
Nature has the greatest way of showing us signs of love. For those of us who can't afford a heart-shaped pool, here's a heart-shaped puddle!
Here's a brilliant use of photoshop technology - inserting Calvin and Hobbes cartoons into real life!
A man was taking a picture of the sunset when a water droplet splashed his camera's lens, creating this diffusion effect...
Taken by a construction worker in New York, someone who gets to appreciate the great view from way up high.
The best movie for everyone who ever got the PC LOAD LETTER error code on their printer, or was told that their boss needed them to go ahead and come in on Saturday...
Just a week to go to get that Halloween shopping done! Goobers, Raisinets, Milk Duds, Almond Joy, B-B Bats, Snickers, Mars...Trick or Treat!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Something about a bird

Clark's Nutcracker
You can call them "Clark's Nutcracker" (no relation) or by their biological name Nucifraga columbiana, but you can't call them "birdbrain."  

Clark's Nutcracker is a bird we don't get to see here in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States; they live in high mountains in the western part of North America, from British Columbia and western Alberta in the north down as far as Baja California and New Mexico to the south. If they can't find enough food where they are, they might jot over to Illinois or Pennsylvania for takeout. Wouldn't you think that if they come to PA, they would just wander down to Maryland? But no.  

These guys love to eat pine seeds, in much the same way we love to put pine nuts on our salads, and they don't even need bleu cheese dressing with theirs. Let them near some pine cones and they are happy; they can find all the chow they will need, and carry a lot of with them! They are gray-and-black, with white in the tail and wing. And their bills are sharp. They use them to dig into a pine cone and get the seeds. Clark's Nutcrackers have a sublingual (beneath the tongue) pouch that will hold 50–150 seeds, as well as their car keys and the garage door remote.

But here is why we can't label them as "birdbrains." These birds store seeds, in little piles of a dozen or so. They put them in the ground, and this does two things for them: in the long run, it allows for more pine trees to sprout and grow to provide more food for future nutcrackers, and of course it provides a nice stash of seeds for later use.  

Fly high, Freeeeeeeee Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrd
Bird experts figure that a single Clark's nutcracker can cache away as many as 98,000 seeds per year, and here's the kicker: they remember where as many as 70% of the seeds are planted!  We think birds are dumb, what with their little tiny brains, and yet they remember to sock some food away and they remember where most of it is!

And half the time, I can't even remember where I left my lunch.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Johnny, be better

People in the United States look at South Africa and shake their heads in disbelief because that creepy Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend to death, and only sat in jail for 10 months before being released to serve his term out in his uncle's lavish mansion.  And he will be allowed to leave this ritzy "home detention" for the purposes of work, which means he can just take off for any track meet that strikes his fancy.  We say that would never happen here.

It's actually a lot like here, because Pistorius is of the proper race, class, social stratum and level of athletic renown to catch big breaks from the legal system. But still, we look on this travesty with scorn, because we know that there is no question Pistorius shot his girl, Reeva Steenkamp, in the bathroom of the condo they shared. Why it happened, only he knows, but he needs to take the responsibility for his recklessness.

He's asking for money here
Meanwhile, back in the good old USA, here's an athlete who is just setting record after record, but they are all for asinine behavior, not anything on the field. He's Johnny Manziel, benchwarming second-string quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, but he also answers to "Johnny Football," a selfmade nickname that he coined in the fashion of Michael Jackson calling himself "The King of Pop."

He's only come off the bench long enough to throw 39 passes this year, completing 21 of them, but he keeps his throwing hand busy by punching out tweets to his adoring fans. Lately, he's been explaining away how he and his girlfriend Colleen Crowley got into an argument while driving on the highway.  He who came out of a ten-week alcohol rehab this spring admits he had "two" drinks before driving off with Ms Crowley.  Someone saw them tussling in the car, the police pulled them over, and even though she had an abrasion on her wrist from him trying to keep her from climbing out of the car he was driving at 90 mph, the police saw no reason to charge anyone with anything, and away they drove, to make up. 

Even though an eyewitness said Manziel's car drove at high speed on the berm on an interstate west of Cleveland, then cut across several lanes of the highway to exit, the police declined to take action when they pulled him over.

The shifty, sketchy look of a loser
The Browns are saying they don't know if Manziel is involved in the NFL's substance abuse program, and they say are handling the matter privately.

While you wonder how long it will be before this young man's alcohol problem causes a serious injury (or worse) to some unfortunate bystander, you might also wish to ponder what would happen to YOU if you acted like he does.  

And then,  imagine if he was any good at playing football, instead of just being famous at it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Do you like Kipling? I don't know; I've never Kippled

There was a time when I would have worn the shocked, disheartened, stupefied look you see on the young man at left, just because of how a football or baseball game or presidential election turned out. 

He is a fan of the University of Michigan, probably a student there, and his team (coached by Jim Harbaugh, onetime Raven quarterback and brother of Ravens head coach John) was 10 seconds away from beating archrival Michigan State on Saturday afternoon.  All they needed to ice the victory was to punt the ball away and let the clock run out, but their punter, Australian √©migr√© Blake O'Neill, couldn't handle the low snap of the ball.  Then, instead of just falling on the ball, he tried to get the punt off anyway, and, well, if he had, you never would have heard another word about it all.  But no.  Michigan State's Jalen Watts-Jackson grabbed the loose ball and scooted in for a 38-yard game-winning touchdown as the clock ran out.

And then, things went all crazy
Hey, it's a football game, and things happen. Snaps are poorly snapped, easy passes get dropped, balls get deflated by cheaters. Things don't always go the way we want them to, so the best way is to treat triumph and disaster, those two impostors, pretty much the same. Rudyard Kipling wrote that in his poem "If" and that would be good reading for the Michigan fans who have taken to sending young O'Neill hate-filled emails and death threats over his faux pas.

Yes, it's happening. On Twitter, someone who calls himself @jaaake_f1 recommended that O'Neill should "jump off of a cliff into a pool of spikes and cyanide."  

Sean Kenzel (@SeanKenzel), who probably has never punted in a football game outside of his own back yard, said this:   @blakewoneill I hate you. I. Hate. You.

And then there's Twitterer TheEricTaylor1, who encouraged O'Neill to go to the equipment room and "start chugging that bleach my friend."

"I'm asking that our community not lose this game twice by condoning thoughtless comments," MSU interim athletic director Jim Hackett said in a letter to the school's students and fans.

I am sad to see that there are people in this world who would suggest that another person needs to die for the results of his playing a football game. It's one thing to care for your team and hope they do well, exulting in victory, but it's quite unreasonable to put forth a death wish because someone didn't kick a ball all that well.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Radio signoff

It's the habit around here at the Lazy 'C' Ranch for Peggy to watch her "Once Upon A Time" (which I always call "One Day At A Time") on Sunday evenings, and then a couple of shows she follows on PBS - those English dramas - and maybe something on the Oprah Network.

For all I know, she could be running a printing press and running off bogus twenty-dollar bills all that time, because I am up here in my den listening to "The Big Broadcast" on WAMU-FM, the American University radio station from DC.  The show consists of tapes of old radio shows, such as "Dragnet" and "Gunsmoke" and "The Great Gildersleeve."   

The host since 1990 has been a fellow named Ed Walker, who has been around WAMU since they signed on in 1951 as a campus AM station.  Things have changed for sure! Now they carry NPR programming during the day, and are usually the top rated station in DC.

Without fail, the top rated show on Sunday nights is "Big Broadcast," and Ed, as I say, has been there for 25 years.  He took over from John Hickman, who realized in 1964 that people would like to hear old radio shows again.

Before hosting this Sunday show, Ed teamed with Willard Scott, whom you'll remember from the Today Show with his weather forecasts, jam and jelly commercials, and birthday greetings for people who turn 100 or so.  They were a radio comedy team called "The Joy Boys," until 1974, when they were replaced by Dick Cheney and George Bush.

At 83, Ed Walker, born blind, is battling cancer and has retired to enter a skilled nursing facility. As a young man, he listened to the radio and found a future in it. “Radio was everything to me, not being able to see,” he told an interviewer on WAMU.

Ed Walker
“The sound on radio was important. Radio took the place of comic books and newspapers and the funnies and all that stuff. So I grew up with it.”

Radio is often described as the theater of the mind, and has no visuals to put its message across.  That puts both sighted and visually impaired people on the same footing as listeners, and Ed always found people he worked with at radio stations helpful in getting his commercial copy put into Braille. Listening to him, one could never tell he could not see...and still, he could hear like you and I and everyone else could as well, and that's all radio is.

The last time we'll get to hear Ed, for now, will be on his final recorded broadcast, this Sunday the 25th, 8 til midnight, on 88.5 FM, or online at

Listening to the old radio shows will be something interesting if it's your first time hearing them, or if you remember hearing the radio version of "Ozzie and Harriet" during the late 40s and early 50s. Trust me, it was a whole different world then. I'm just glad someone saved the tapes from when radio was everything.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Office Spaced

You know that you can get all sorts of helpful advice from your government - local, state, federal, moon - about everything from raising delphiniums to filing your own will.  Governments publish all sorts of public publications, usually for free - the local Farm Bureau, for instance, puts out pamphlets on how to enrich your soil, and they are dirt cheap.

Hey, listen, I am listening to The Outlaws Green Grass and High Tides while I type this, so of course, I am trying to keep up with their tempo and falling a bit short.  Good jokes sometimes have to be sacrificed for fast ones.

Anyhow, an official government agency, back in 1944, put out a book about how to operate the organizational aspects of a business, and it might be fun to look at the list below and see how many of them apply to the place where you work:  My unasked-for comments follow in red:

  • “Insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit short-cuts to be taken to expedite decisions.”  And repeat the magic words "But we've ALWAYS done it this way!" as often as possible
  • Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.” Because nothing says 'tomorrow' like 'yesterday.'
  • “When possible, refer all matters to committees, for ‘further study and consideration.’ Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.” An elephant is a horse, as designed by a committee.
  • "Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.”  Ever notice how a trained paramedic working at the scene of a gory auto accident doesn't concern herself with whether the driver was wearing a seat belt, or who ran the red light, or anything that does not involve the immediate situation?
  • “Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, and resolutions.”  Yes, for the love of all that's good and holy, make sure the minutes of last month's subcommittee meetings reflect fully the views and opinions of somebody's nephew who only works here because the carwash is closed for winter.
  • “Refer back to a matter decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.”  Nothing is ever final, finally.
  • “Advocate ‘caution.’ Be ‘reasonable’ and urge your fellow conferees to be ‘reasonable’ and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.” When deciding whether to use blue/black or jet black ink on the logo of the internal company newsletter, take your time deciding! Communicating information can wait!
  • “Be worried about the propriety of any decision. Raise the question of whether [it] lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.” Argue endlessly about whether the instant matter should be handled by Budget or Finance or Budget & Finance.
And now comes the big surprise I didn't tell you about.  If you recognize some of these management practices from your office or carwash or whatever, it is definitely time to revamp the way you all do your business, because these were all taken directly from a book written in 1944.   And it's not so much that they are therefore even older than ballpoint pens.

These are all business techniques published in a document called “Simple Sabotage Field Manual.” The U.S. Office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the CIA) put it out as a fake guide for our European spies to leave lying around, the better to undermine the Axis powers we fought.

It's like leaving a recipe out with instructions to use half a cup of cayenne pepper in your bread pudding.  Someone who didn't know better would follow the directions exactly and cause the top of Aunt Millicent's head to come off at Sunday dinner.

There's a good chance that handing out inane advice helped us win World War II.  So show this to your boss, point out the error of his/her ways, and then go back and get your resume ready.  You'll be sending it out soon!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Rerun: Nickel-and-diming him

Some people just don't think about the consequences of their actions.

Out in Los Angeles, a man named Andres Carrasco, apparently an upright clean-living citizen, retired bus driver, used to have his car insurance through Adriana's Insurance, but one day he went to their office to find out why they had dropped him.

An employee of Adriana's Insurance attempted to explain the situation to Mr Carrasco by bodily throwing him out of the office.

So Mr Carrasco went to the courts to sue the insurance company, and he won a settlement of $12,000.

So the good people over at Adriana's decided that the best way to shell out that kind of change would be to send over that kind of change.

Eight paint buckets full of American coins were delivered to Mr Carrasco by eight goons working for the Adriana firm.

His attorney, Anthony Gallo, said he can't even lift the buckets and he doesn't feel that Mr Carrasco, recently recovering from hernia surgery, should even try.

"I am disappointed by the way Adriana's treats their customers and the elderly," Carrasco told KNBC-TV. "We might be poor, but we are people too."

Even if he were not poor and elderly, and I wish he weren't either one of them, Mr Carrasco has a right not be assaulted by insurance agents.  It doesn't sound like Adriana's is a firm with which I would do business.  My car insurance company has a cute little gecko and Little Richard doing their commercials; Adriana's just doesn't seem to care how many people hear about their nastiness.  It cannot be good for their business to treat the gentleman this way.

The one bright note in all this is that Mr Carrasco now has 8 paint buckets!  You can never have too many of them around the house.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, October 17, 2015

This is labeled "A Proper English Breakfast." I will consult with my Experts on England on this matter. The ham, sausage, toast and egg are all parts of my breakfast buffet. Tomatoes, mushrooms and beans are all more lunch-y to me, but what do you think? I'd give this a try any day!  (Need one more egg, please!)

At the first break of dawn, crabbing vessels head out to net the day's catch. By nightfall, crabs will be caught, steamed and seasoned, and served up in restaurants all over our area.  
If you lived here, you would want to balance the great view, especially at this time of year, against the risk of living in a cabin on stilts on a mountainside.  Decisions, decisions.
This Wednesday, October 21, marks the 46th anniversary of the day Jack Kerouac took his final road trip.  His books are still good to read.
Today's beautiful nature scene shows where all the great colors come from...certainly not a can of paint!

This is a TV Guide from 1961, showing Captain Kangaroo, a kiddie TV show host from that era.  Big extra points for the cool old helmet, too. By the way, every now and again, people with nothing better to do with their time pass around a story saying that Lee Marvin went on the Tonight Show to say that Bob Keeshan fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima with him and was the bravest man Marvin ever saw.  But this could not have happened, as neither of them was there at the time. Both of them served in WWII.  And that should be enough anyway!
 "I don't care what anyone says, I want a window in my office!  Now, make it happen!"
This is taking place at a Kroger store in the midwest...they grow mushrooms right there in the produce department.  Next summer, I hear they are thinking of putting in corn.  We shall see...

Friday, October 16, 2015

Getting Randy in his old age

The Quaids In Court
You remember Randy Quaid, the quirky character actor who was in The Last Picture Show, Independence Day, The National Lampoon Vacation movies, and the wonderful Kingpin. He also did a great job playing Lyndon Johnson in the tv movie "LBJ: The Early Years."  Probably he is best known as Cousin Eddie in the vacation movies...everyone's bumptious relative.  
"It's full, Clark!"

Well, as you might recall, he and his wife Evi took it on the lam in 2010 after Los Angeles authorities wanted them for illegally squatting in a home they apparently could no longer afford.  You know how that stuff works.  So they booked out to Canada, where Randy has worked steadily in the burgeoning field of not shaving his face ever since.  And then they tried to sneak back in here through America's back door - Vermont - and were tossed in the can as fugitives last week, until yesterday, when a judge cut them loose after they made court appearances.  It was the old story...there was a clerical error on a charging document.

I tell you this here and now: that would NEVER happen to me. If I'm hauled in front of a court for aggravated aggravation, every possible document filed will be used later in textbooks, they will be so perfectly typed and filed.

Anyway, the Quaids' attorney says the couple planned to stay in Vermont because Evi's father was sick. A quick check of Hollywood shows that Jack Black is now playing all the parts that Randy used to, although not quite as well. So off they went into the glorious Vermont afternoon, still wearing their prison jumpsuits, headed to an uncertain New England future. 

"I've always known the facts are what they are and that they're in our favor," Randy said. "I've never worried about being found guilty."

Or a lot of things, it would seem. 

Lincoln VFC
Randy also said he hoped to enjoy the Vermont foliage and maybe even join the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Company in Lincoln, where the Quaids plan to reside except for when Randy is down at the fire house spinning tales of his movie star days, and showing the other guys how to empty the commode of an RV right into the sewer. 

I of course totally support anyone who wants to join a volunteer fire company.  I wouldn't trade my days at Providence for anything. But this news story from WCAX TV says that Lincoln only has 8 firefighters on their roster, so Randy would make 9.

Climb aboard that big red pumper, big guy! They need you there!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

With Mallets Toward None

Billy the Kid (born Henry McCarty, but that doesn't sound like a name for a legendary gunslinger) was a pretty tough hombre in America's Wild West days, the days when people walked around with guns, shooting at each other. (Can you even believe such a time ever existed in our country?)

He became a hero, a well-known name in cowboy lore.  There is even a kid's clothing line named after him, which leads me to wonder why no one ever came up with "Lil' John Dillinger" suits, overalls and jeans for America's youth.  

The original Billy was a common crook, a thief and murderer, and he met his maker at the age of 21 in a gunfight.  He died as he lived, with a gun in one hand, and possibly a croquet mallet in the other.

No kidding. Historians have just authenticated a photograph as being of a group that included BTK.  He is seen in the picture playing croquet with his posse ("The Regulators") in New Mexico in 1878.  It was taken after a wedding that summer, just a month after the gang took part in the brutal Lincoln County war, a dispute between rival factions over dry goods and cattle that was resolved by having people shoot guns at each other repeatedly.

Having been imported from England, croquet became popular in 19th Century America. There is even a letter from Gen. George Custer to his wife, asking that she procure and bring him a croquet set so he could play the game with his Army buddies in Kansas. There's no word on whether he took that equipment to his final battle at Little Big Horn.

Billy's other picture
A fellow named Randy Guijarro paid $2 for the picture in a junk shop in Fresno, CA, in 2010, and it's on the auction block now, expected to bring in a few cool million bucks.  The only other picture we have to keep the young felon's dear memory alive is the picture taken in 1880, the one where he looks like a member of Blake Shelton's entourage.  

Billy also went by the moniker "William H. Bonney." It would seem that he had more names than good qualities.  He was a horse thief, cattle rustler, and murderer of at least eight people (although he claimed to have killed 21) and was not missed at all by anyone who liked it peaceful and crime free.  Still, in the inexplicable way we have of turning scoundrels into folk heroes, his name alone inspires people to reach for their checkbooks to buy the original tintype of this photo for their den walls: 
This picture for sale

That's Billy on the left in this closeup

By the way, the historians went to a lot of trouble to make sure this is not a picture of a Billy the Kid impersonator or something. In the course of a year-long investigation, they where it was taken: Chaves County, New Mexico. They even dug up the remains of the building shown. Jeff Aiello, director of a National Geographic Channel documentary on this story, says, “We found the old lumber underneath. We found those exact rock piers are still there.”   There will be a TV show about this later this month.  

137 years from now, Keith Richards, who will still be alive, will be hosting a TV special about a VHS tape that someone just found that shows Tonya Harding's wedding night, and people will pay billions for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A sharper look at razors

Men from the age of puberty (that's when you're old enough to go to a pub) know the face pain that no other gender faces, and we face it on a daily basis (until we retire, and the only other person we might see from the outside world is the letter carrier or the crew on the recycling truck.)

Of course, we are talking about shaving here, and here's the deal. When you don't need to shave, when your face is still all peachfuzzy, you can't wait to grab some steel and drag it across the plains of your cheeks, upper lip, and neck.  Then you get out of high school, and unless your name is Don Johnson, you have to shave, more or less every day.

And that's when you learn about the styptic pencil. According to Wikipedia, "(s)typtics cause hemostasis by contracting blood vessels."  Hemostasis is defining as the stopping of a flow of blood. Blood is defined as the red stuff that you get on the one and only clean dress shirt you are wearing as you hurriedly shave and dress for a job interview or date or some other such event.
Cousin Eddie in court

Of course, some guys beat the shaving deal by just letting everything go, but that just makes it easier to spot you trying to sneak back into the US via the Vermont/Canada border.

The reason all this comes to mind is that I see that, a new online business that ships you razors through the mail, is cutting into (sorry) that business once monopolized by Schick and Gillette.  I have no reason to believe their product is any better or worse than the longtime industry leaders, but I notice from their website that they also sell a toilet paper replacement called "One Wipe Charlies" (sic), a hair goo called "Boogie's Hair Clay," and "Dr Carver's Easy Shave Butter."  

I am particular enough about my wizened old face that I do insist on buying name brand razors instead of cheapie BICs that come 48 to the package, but the day I start putting butter on my face is the day I join the No Shave Club.