Monday, February 29, 2016

Don't turn the page just yet

Today is a day that only comes along every four years or so. No, it's not the quadrennial return of the McRib® to McDonald''s something even more fun!

This is a leap year in the Gregorian calendar, so we have a February 29th.  Leap year happens in years that are divisible by 4, such as 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, and 2024...except years that are divisible by 100, but not by 400, do not contain a leap day.

All this was worked out by monks many many years ago. I'm sure it made perfect sense to them.

OK, for example, 1700, 1800, and 1900 did not contain a leap day. There won't be one in 2100, 2200, and 2300, so you can mark your calendar accordingly.  2400 will, but you will not be here to see it (unless you are Keith Richards).

Why even have a leap day, you might be asking.  You'd like that, wouldn't you?  Just forget about leap year, and before too long you'd have chaos in the streets, dogs forming into packs and previously estranged relatives taking trips together to scenic Bayonne, NJ.

Here's the dealio: a complete revolution around the sun takes 365 days and 6 hours, even longer if you have to wait in Waverly for a transfer to the #8 bus.  So. Every four years, all those extra 6 hourses add up to a whole day, which we tack onto February, the shortest month and the one that no one even takes the time to pronounce correctly.  There is a groundswell of support for adding that extra day to January 1 every four years, for those who need an extra 1/1 to get over what they did on 12/31.

I have a friend who feels that all the years WITHOUT a 2/29 should be called "leap year," because we leap from 2/28 to 3/1 without a look back. I'm sure the next president will look into this.

It's cool that my brother-in-law's sister, born on Feb 29, turned 80 a few years ago, and was able to claim it as her 20th birthday.  But in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The Pirates of Penzance," Frederic was apprenticed to some pirates as a child until he had had 21 birthdays.  As soon as he was 21 he jumped ship, only to be forced to return because he would not have had 21 birthdays until he lived to be 84, which is how old one must be to really appreciate Gilbert and Sullivan.

And the lead pirate asked, "ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR you 21 or ARRRRRRRRRRRRRR you not?"

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Rerun: Here's a tip

Restaurant servers have an expression that they don't always share with all diners: "If you can't afford to leave a tip, you really should eat at home."

We all know that their base pay is so minimal, it wouldn't cover the expense of getting themselves a cup of coffee on the way home from a shift.  For whatever reason, the custom in America is to tip the server, and I think we should.

Now, we didn't all sign a contract that pays us 75 million clams, as Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco did, but still, it was generous of him to leave a $150 tip at a restaurant in Pittsburgh the night before the Ravens beat Pittsburgh in the NFL playoffs.  His tab was $208, so a tip of a yard and a half comes to about 72%, which is a tad higher than most of us can manage, but still, we tip as we can.   15 - 20% is the way to go.

I have dined (once only!) with people who say, as the check sits gathering dust on the table, "Well, she took almost 2 minutes to get over here and greet us, and the drinks took another 3 minutes, and she didn't bring enough butter for the rolls, and I think my Steak Tartare was too rare and the Vichyssoise was cold, so we only have to leave a 5% tip." 

There are people whose days are made all the sweeter by the very prospect of chiseling someone else out of money they deserve to have.  Thank you for not being one of them!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, February 27, 2016

What they did here, you see, was paint a mural on the outside of the building ∩dsᴉpǝ poʍu so that it would appear as you see it on the water.  Nice, eh?

Who said only kids can have tree houses?  This could be a nice home and office for a tree surgeon.
I like the look of aged wood and faded paint.
You can't be sure if the light in the bulb is the filament itself, or a reflection of the greatest light source of the all, old Mr Sun.
The other day, we had one of those days when we just didn't feel like doing doodly, and we wound up watching (and enjoying) this romcom from 2007.  I mean, if you don't adore Drew Barrymore or want to be around Hugh Grant, why watch movies in the first place?
This great album from 1968 is down in the basement, soon to be in the hands of my favorite vinyl-lover.  Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, in a last ditch attempt to parody the music of the 1950s, put out a great record about music that was 10 or 15 years old at the time. So how come no current bands slag the music of 2001? Is it because there is no difference  - dreck then, dreck now?
There must be a name for this school of photography, in which you hold up an old snap of some site taken many years ago and you hold it up now against the old background.  It will not work for pictures of Betty White.
Good advice:  don't take bed bugs.  Let them find their own way around.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The worst persons alive

There are low, despicable people in the world.

And then, there's this, which is even lower than a snake's belly.

For those of you out of town, a little background.  Harford County, MD, the next county up the road from here, has always been a quiet place, with lots of farms and rolling country vistas.  

But like anyplace else, there are bad people around, and a couple of weeks ago, a man who had lived on the edges of society for many years popped up in the county again.  He was wanted for an assault on his ex-wife, and she saw him in a Panera Bread restaurant and notified the local sheriff.  A deputy went to the store to check him out, and was shot dead on the spot as he approached the slimeball, who then ran from Panera and got a little way up the street before killing another deputy.

This is not the city, where murder and shootings are the order of the day almost every day.  Harford County was rocked to its knees by the unimaginable loss of these two fine men, each of whom was a veteran police with families and children and ties to the community.  Their funerals were impressive, as police funerals (sadly) enforcement comes from all around as a show of support and unity and love for the families left bereaved.

The brave men are buried now and the families and the county are left to gather their thoughts and proceed with life as it is, totally changed and forever different.  Surely the support from the public - the people who lined the route of the funeral processions, the cards and gifts and hugs and and tears - has helped the families and the police family deal with this awful, awful thing.

AND THEN some person or persons, seeing the enormity of all this, decided there was money to be made of all this sorrow, and started a phone call campaign "on behalf of the local Fraternal Order of Police," purporting to raise money for the saddened families.

Just one problem.  The Harford County Sheriff's Deputies are not members of the FOP. They have a different union, but in any event, they would not be calling to raise money in this manner.

You hear about people who show up in communities where a hurricane has leveled houses and stores, and the National Guard has to stand watch over people's meager few remaining belongings so that these two-legged vultures don't walk (skulk) off with things.

You hear that people read the newspaper death notices to see whose house they can break into while the family is off at the funeral.  Or you read that swindlers cheat elderly widows out of their last nickel.

Those people, along with whoever is behind this disgraceful "collection" in Harford County, should really take a lot of ice with them when they go, because it's going to be pretty damned hot where they're headed.
If you are interested in making a donation to the families of Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey and Deputy First Class Mark Logsdon, you can do so by making a donation through the Harford County Deputy Sheriff’s Union Benevolent Fund. You can do it electronically by clicking here:
or you can send a check to:
Harford Co. Deputy Sheriff’s Union
P.O. Box 881
Bel Air MD, 21014
Checks can be made out to the HCDSU Benevolent Fund

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Carry On

You see, we all used to dress like Angus Young every morning and carry our books to school this way.

It's funny how trends and styles work.  I see kids and non-kids wearing Doc Martin boots and shoes, and I think of when we Weejun-wearing teens called work boots "clodhoppers" and would never dream of wearing them to school.

Long hair was out, then it was it, then it was out and in again.

And in my school days, toting books got tricky when you had to carry a science lab kit and a slide rule and math workbooks and texts of different sizes.   I solved that by stashing all those things in my locker from September until June.

It was cool in elementary school to go to Sunny's Surplus and get old army "knap sacks" to carry books and lunches to school. I used to think that it meant "nap sack" and would use the olive-drab bag as a makeshift pillow while teachers droned on about Manifest Destiny, long division, and how to make a battery out of a lemon and some copper strips.  

Actually, "knap" comes from an Old German word meaning "bite" or "snap," so a knap sack was supposed to be something to carry your lunch or a snack.  Books just crowded the peanut-butter sandwich, TastyKake Butterscotch Krimpets and apple. 

If I were back in school these days, I would happily join in on the backpack brigade.  I would carry:

  • Flashlight
  • Keys
  • Cash
  • Cell 
  • Water bottle
  • Bandana
  • Baseball cap 
  • Sewing kit 
  • Carabiner
  • Rain jacket
  • Gloves
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Whistle
  • Cord
  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic mug
  • Spare eyeglasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Some coins
  • Pens, pencils, highlighters, and erasers
  • iPod and headphones
  • Flash drive
  • Dental floss
  • Vaseline / first aid kit
  • CPR Face Mask with Ventilation Tube 
  • Hand cream
  • Toothbrush / toothpaste
  • Eyedrops
  • Food (fruits, sandwiches, snacks, etc.)
  • Texts and notebooks (space permitting)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

You never know...

I don't have anywhere to go that would require hiring an Uber person to take me there, so don't count me in when asking around to see if people will stop using that ride service after Saturday night's killing spree that saw one of their drivers ALLEGEDLY kill six people and injure two more with the gun that the Second Amendment so generously provided to him and his fellow militiamen.

All this took place in Kalamazoo, and again, grief-stricken residents were saying they "can't believe it happened here." I shake my head at that.  "It" happens in towns with populations of ten, and ten million. "It" is going to keep happening, at least until something or someone gets control of our collective senses.

But that was my thought after hearing the news: why should people stop using the Uber service, any more than they should stop conducting business in federal buildings or going to any high school or college or Planned Parenthood clinic or military recruitment center or AME Church or army base or elementary school or Sikh temple or movie theater or constituent meet-and-greet at a Safeway?

Life is inherently risky.  Lots of people fall out of bed, first thing they do one morning, and wind up in traction or Johns Hopkins (or both).   Beyond normal precautions and a safe approach to life, what are we do to? Sit home in a bubble and never leave the house?  A lot of good that'll do you when an airplane drops its luggage compartment on your 4 br/2.5 ba Colonial! You'd have been better off going bungee jumping off a bridge in West Virginia that day.

Sorry for seeming flippant, but a certain insouciance is the overcoat we need to wear when facing the wintry part of life. 

By the way, that ALLEGED shooter Jason Dalton, up in Michigan? He also worked as an insurance salesman for Progressive.  

Just keeping up with the Flo.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

You could look it up

Teacher, restaurant reviewer, food lover, chef, friend of mine, and all-around bon vivant Jennifer W. found this link.  She says she did not like her birthyear word, although she cleverly avoided mentioning what word it was (doing so would have given away her birth year, which was not all that long ago, from the looks of things.)

It's a link to an article on a British website that tells you what new word was coined during the year of your birth. And this is according to the OED - the Oxford English Dictionary - which is even more expert at using our native tongue than noted "winner" Charles Sheen.

My high school classmates and I were slapped and brought onto this earth while rocket engineers were starting to use "blast-off" to describe a spaceship taking off. Peggy's birth came in the same year that hepcats and jive talkers started using the term "Nowheresville" to describe no-fun towns such as Auburn, Alabama and Pixburg, PA.  My high school graduation year was 1969, when they started calling people such as Bobby Goldsboro a "megastar," and when Peggy wrapped up her studies a few years later, someone came up with calling the heavy business that people lay on you to make you feel bad enough to do things their way a "guilt trip." 

For whatever lucky reason, I know a lot of people born in 1981 ("chill pill") and 1989 ("crowd surfing"), and I would certainly need one of the former before attempting the latter.

And I have decided that my favorite new word on the whole list is 1909's "nutarian,"- a vegetarian whose diet is based on or confined to nut products. 

Any nutarians out there today?  Anyone born in 1909 out there today?  That would be "chucklesome" (1917).

Monday, February 22, 2016

Big League all the way

In 1964, essayist Tom Wolfe wrote a piece that wound up in the anthology "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby," his collection that is still a great amount of fun reading for someone interested in the 1960's in America as seen by the inventor of a new form of journalism.  One of the pieces was called "The Big-League Complex," concerning the habit of New Yorkers to have to be the best of everything and be the best at everything.  I mean, if you're a New York firefighter, you are one of the best firefighters in the world, and it's similar for whatever your occupation is.  The finest restaurants, the media capital, the home of the best magazines...all there in Noo Yawk. 

Remember, this was over 50 years ago, and it's still true, as Wolfe writes: "New York is the status capital of the United States, if not the whole hulking world," and he goes on to say that "this has curious effects on everyone who lives here. And by that I mean everybody..."

If you really want to see The Big League Complex in action, take a ride up to Amish Country in Lancaster, PA and see a busful of NYC types, down for a day of shopping the outlets, going to a smorgasbord and finding themselves served by Sarah Hannah Stoltzfuss.  

Or, read about what happened to New Yorker Reilly Flaherty, who ran afoul of a Big League pickpocket up in Gotham.  He went to a concert in Brooklyn and came home without his wallet, and he figured he would never again see his cash, IDs and credit cards again.

Flaherty figured he had had his pocket picked by a big-leaguer and would never see it, or any of its contents again, but no!

Two weeks later, here came a package in the mail, and the thief had mailed back his credit cards and driver's license.

No cash.  But a note in the package explained that:
'I kept the cash because I needed weed, the MetroCard because, well, the fare's $2.75 now, and the wallet 'cause it's kinda cool. Enjoy the rest of your day. Toodles, Anonymous.' 

Subway fares are up, so he kept some of the loot to pay for the "A" train, and of course, the price of New York weed must be sky high.

You have to figure it is, because from thieves to recreational drugs, they get the best up there, yessir!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday rerun: She thought it would be something sweet to do

Just one quick reading of Heather Cagle's information page on the Catoosa, Oklahoma, Public Schools website makes me shudder for her spelling and grammar deficiencies, but that's not why the school board down there tied a can to her this fall.

Ms Cagle taught 6th grade math, and was yearbook advisor, at Wells Middle School right up until the day in October when she decided it would be a great idea to treat the kids to some WalMart candy. 

That was a good idea.  Kids love candy.  What wasn't so good about the idea was to take the students off school grounds to the WalMart in her Honda Accord. 11  - eleven! - students, 12 to 15 years of age.

It's like the old "how do you get four elephants in a Volkswagen? joke (Two in the front seats, two in the back) but the clearly resourceful Ms Cagle had two kids in the front with her (I presume she was doing the driving), seven in the back, and two girls in the trunk.

This also sounds like one of those college student stunts from the 1950s.  Before they had XBox and Play Station to fool away the hours, students would see how many of themselves they could shoehorn into a phone booth, or they would eat live goldfish, or dance for seven days and nights.

Someone dropped a dime on Ms Cagle, and the local school board voted 4-1 to fire her for taking the kids off school grounds without parental permission. 

Always dignified, Ms Cagle posts a picture
from a lighter moment for her students to enjoy
I love this ungrammatical quote from her attorney, Richard O'Carroll: "There wasn't any danger and it was a farce. All you got to do is cry a lawsuit or something these days."

There's nothing a lawyer hates more than a lawsuit or something.

In a related development, when I was in high school, I was often summoned to the office, where the vice principal would hand me a dollar with the instructions to go to the nearby drug store and get him a pack of Kents and a large Coke, "and get yourself something too."  No one asked my parents if it was ok for me to wander off school grounds.  They would probably have been shocked to find I was there in the first place.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, February 20, 2016

This is sort of like "Highlights" for adults, with no Goofus and Gallant...tell me, what's wrong with this picture?
Not that you would, but if you ever do skid into a pickup on an icy morning, and then decide to do the hit 'n' run thing, better make sure not to leave your license tag behind!
So, you can hook up a hose to water the peas and then guzzle water all at the same time!
I like efficient use of space.  Here's a bachelor pad with a little computer desk that's really out of the way of everything else!
I've seen this over the years, and I believe there is a lot of wisdom in these words.  I'd say it works for both genders. Follow the wise person!
I love when packaging meets need.  Sometimes a cup o' suds and some goober peas are really all you need.
I can't say much for the artwork on this movie poster (you can hardly tell Bogart from Fred MacMurray!) but the movie remains a great favorite of mine, with lessons about duty and responsibility being more important that personality and status.  And of course, as with any war movie from the 1950s, the poster had to have a picture of a man and a woman getting horizontal on the sand because...that had nothing to do with the movie.
My apologies to my many vegan or vegetarian friends, but sometimes, there's nothing like a nice steak!  I might make this my wallpaper.  Literally.  On the walls of my den.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Let's make America grate again

Unless you're really into grated cheese, you might not know who Michelle Myrter is.  She's the president of Castle Cheese, Inc. Not for much longer, though.  She is headed for (maybe) a year in the Walled-Off Astoria and a $100,000 fine, because all those times that people in Pennsylvania sprinkled Castle brand parmesan cheese on their pizzas and hoagies, they were not really getting 100% cheese in that jar.

Remember this, the next time someone cries about there being too much government regulation and inspection:  U.S. Food and Drug Administration agents found that Castle Cheese Inc. was doctoring its 100 percent real parmesan with cheapo substitutes and fillers, like wood pulp.

The FDA got a tip on this and sent in the inspectors.  You have to figure the tip came from someone in the factory whose conscience got him/her to the point of feeling bad about little Tommy or Jenny down the block eating sawdust with their pepperoni (and heaven knows what's in THAT.)

It also turns out that some grated Parmesan vendors have been cutting the cheese by filling it with too much cellulose, which is an anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp.  Sometimes, they use cheap cheddar cheese, instead of real Romano. 

And hey, for what the supermarket charges for this stuff, we should be getting RAY Romano.

A man named Neal Schuman, who runs Arthur Schuman Inc - the biggest American seller of Italian hard cheeses - keeps an eye on the honesty of his competitors.  He figures that 20% of domestic parmesan is no more cheesy than the wood in your dining room table.

Bloomberg News bought some cheese and sent it out for testing, and while they do point out that 2 - 4% of cellulose pulp is acceptable, what's on the shelf at TryNSave contains more. 

Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, was 8.8 percent cellulose. Wal-Mart's Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8 wood. Whole Foods - known for purity and organicness, does not list cellulose on the label of their 365 brand, but it still contains 0.3%. Kraft had 3.8 percent.

Spokespersons for all those firms had the usual "We remain committed to the quality of our products" replies to the Bloomberg story, but really, what's in that cheese?

Wooden you like to know?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Who, what, where, how, and Venn

Do you remember (waking up in Math class and they were discussing) Venn diagrams?  Those overlapping circles that proved that different sets have some things in common?  

Venn diagrams were used by
Algonquin J. Venn
to keep his girlfriends from
finding out about each other
The textbook definition of a Venn diagram says it's "a diagram representing mathematical or logical sets pictorially as circles or closed curves within an enclosing rectangle (the universal set), common elements of the sets being represented by the areas of overlap among the circles."

Think of it this way.  You might like pepperoni pizza, steamed crabs, cheeseburgers and steak for dinner.  (And you would be welcome here any time!)  Your neighbor, a pescatarian, eats fish but no meat, so his meal chart includes steamed crabs, broiled tilapia, cod, and something else, just for the halibut.  

You have something in common, namely, eating crabs, so a Venn diagram would show your two food circles with crabs being the mutual area of overlap.

And, keep eating plenty of pizza, and there will be another area of overlap, I wanna tell ya...

The idea of a Venn diagram came to me the other day when I saw this chart about religion. You see, the more you talk to people about what they believe, the more you find in common. I'm no expert on religion - I may be the only kid who ever had to go to Summer School for Sunday School - but I have spoken to many people about their faiths, and I find that it doesn't matter where or how or when you practice your religion, you want to live your life and not have people get all up in your grille as you do.  

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Simple, and yet...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When am I ever gonna learn?

I love to read, and I love to read biographies and autobiographies. The life stories of other humans are far more interesting to me than some fantasy about underground civilizations or English boarding school wizards or books that say they're all about chicken soup and then have exactly zero recipes for chicken soup.

However, time and again I am reminded that if I like a particular performer, a comedian, actor, musician, or some such, it would be best not to read the real facts about their real lives, because they don't always turn out to be the finest people.

Case in point is the new, revealing, biography of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.  I can't think of any two people I ever enjoyed more on a sitcom than Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Fife on The Andy Griffith Show.  I watched the shows when they were new, and I have seen each episode in reruns over the years many times over.

They were really good friends, on and off screen; that was easy to tell from watching them act together. But reading the book, one finds that they weren't exactly like the people they portrayed.

Andy, who seemed like the wise center who held Mayberry together, was actually an angry man, nursing grudges from his childhood in North Carolina.  He was a heavy drinker and an indifferent husband to his first wife, his college sweetheart, and, at best, a negligent parent to his own two children...a far cry from the fatherly "Pa" he was to Opie on the show.  Andy had a violent temper.  You might remember a couple of episodes in which you saw his wrist and hand bandaged.  That was because he habitually banged his hand through walls, and trashed hotel rooms, in his fits of rage.  He would cut people off with no reason or warning but also expect total loyalty from all for no reason.  

And it seemed to irk him that he never again found the success that he reached with Don Knotts as his sidekick.  Knotts left "TAGS" once his first contract was up because Andy would not duke him in on the show profits.  Andy made millions and paid Don $100,000 a year.

Don Knotts, who could not find time to attend his mother's funeral, was so limited by neurosis and insecurity that he routinely spent entire two or three-day periods in bed, not always accompanied by his wife.  Both of these men ran around on their wives and tried at all times to fit into the Hollywood Swinger set that they shook their heads at back in Mayberry.

Andy Griffith cheated on his wife, it says in the book, by having an affair of several years with Aneta Corsaut.  Yes.  Sheriff Taylor was getting horizontal with Miss Crump.

Another childhood hero shot all to hell. The next thing you know, they'll be telling me that Attila The Hun wasn't quite as great a guy as we all believed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Ice Ice baby

I postponed writing about this topic until the temperatures became a little nicer outside. No one wants to talk about ice in the middle of winter, but that used to be the time of year to make money on ice.

Nowadays, if we want ice, we just ankle into the kitchen and open the freezer door on the Kelvinator, where crystal-clear cubes drop into a white container automatically.  Very simple deal.

But imagine yourself living in India in the early Whirlpool refrigerator in the kitchen to make your ice...and even if there had been one, there was nowhere to plug it in!  And all across the Caribbean, Europe, and India, there were no frozen ponds to chip off a chunk of ice and cool your limeade.

Where is there plenty of free ice?  Massachusetts in winter!  So the only problem is, find a way to get that ice over the sea to places where they need it, and you'll be rolling in the long green in a minute.

The Wright Brothers weren't even twinkles in papa Wright's eyes at the time, so Frederic Tudor (1783 - 1864) knew he couldn't count on an airplane to send the ice to the Old World.

So he packed huge ("yuuuuuuge!") ice slices, cut from Walden Pond in Concord, Mass, and other waterways, packed them onto a ship and covered them with sawdust and shipped them off to places that wanted ice.

Ice King Tudor
His first effort was sending ice aboard his ship "Favorite" to Martinique with a load of frosty coolness.  It took three weeks for the ship to get there (I suppose they stopped off somewhere for beer and pizza on the way) and a lot of the ice had become watered down, and then had become water, which is hard to sell on an island surrounded by it.  Tudor sold what little ice there was to sell, and took a loss of $4500 on the deal.

That was 1806, but by 1810 he was profiting from selling ice to the tune of a cool $7400.  But there was no Forbes Magazine then to give him business advice, so Tudor had to spend some time in debtor's prison in 1812 and 1813, before springing out in the fall of 1815 with a new scheme - an icehouse in Havana, nicely insulated, and large enough to hold 150 tons of ice.

In the years to come, he brought back Cuban fruit as the boats returned to New England, and it's stunning to think how much he could have taken in by combining the fruit with the ice and some Cuban sugar and inventing the snowball. 

Tudor also missed out on making some bigtime starbucks when he invested in coffee futures in the 1830s...he couldn't envision iced coffee!

Today's modern entrepreneur knows how to diversify, spreading his income and investments across all spectra of the business world, before indictments, jail terms and disgrace get in the way.

Monday, February 15, 2016

When the ship hits the sand

It is tough to live in Baltimore, Maryland, a great port city on the Chesapeake Bay that also happens to be near an ocean of some size, and have the lack of interest in boats that I have.

From a rowboat to the 168,666-ton Anthem of the Seas, I'm not interested in getting on board, and that is hard for some to understand.  I don't have anything against riding in a boat, be it powered by wind or motor, and I figure that just leaves more room for my fellow townspeople to get out on the water.

And by the way, yes, I can swim. ships?  

I know lots of people who say they are the best vacations ever, and I'm sure that they go on lots of voyages in which people have lots of fun and no one gets Legionnaire's Disease or a virulent illness or tossed about like a toy in a gale.

You just don't hear about those cruises.

What you do hear is stories like this: that same Anthem of the Seas took off on a cruise to Port Canaveral, FL and the Bahamas, last week, and cruised right into a storm that had been forecast, resulting in damage to the vessel and dozens of shaken passengers.

When the ship ran into the storm, it began to pitch and roll about in the sea like a drunk frat boy on spring break, and the passengers were ordered to stay in their cabins.  

The shipping line said that "extreme wind and sea conditions" were not expected, and the captain said the day was among his most challenging ever at sea. Wave heights reached 30 feet in the area, and gentle sea breezes of 122 mph were tossing the ship about. Furniture, dishes and glasses were flying around, windows broke, and ceilings and walls gave way.

Out of 4,529 passengers and 1,616 crew members on board, only four reported being injured.  All the rest remained in their cabins, watching movies on the ship's cable system.  They had a choice of "Titanic," "Life of Pi," "The Blue Lagoon," and "Cast Away."

All right.  I made that part up.  But nothing about being domiciled in a tiny cabin, rocked about on ocean waves and confined with several thousand people wearing white belts and patent-leather shoes strikes me as a fun time.  If you like it, I wish you smooth sailing!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Rerun: The traipse of Roth

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, February 13, 2016

A picture of a big old tree from the main campus of Penn State University.  And those are not leaves way up on the branches.  All the leaves turned brown and fell to the ground, leaving all this room for all these crows.
Just about time for Spring Training! And here is where the Orioles get into form for the baseball season: Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.
If you can top a nice rack o' ribs, I'd like to see it!

I love old stuff, and I think looking at something that was used in a battle 1,800 years ago by a Roman soldier is pretty doggone cool.
Dad's home from work and Junior's home from skiing!  What's for lunch?  Mmmm canned soup!

So what you have here is a pile of salt, rearranged to look like a wolf. It's nothing to sneeze at.

No, I'm not going for the obvious here.  I just thought this was a really cool looking horse!
ShopRite stays current with the latest lingo to let you know their fish is really really fresh!

Friday, February 12, 2016

We can be better

I've been working like a mule to keep my blog and my Facebook away from politics. The election is still many months away, and I am already weary of the slings and arrows being hurled about in the names of politicians who, really, don't care a bit about us after they get our votes.  Just the thought that someone who has spent a lifetime building things - be they casino hotels or grassroots support  - can promise honestly to move into the White House and keep all the promises made to all the people is ludicrous. 

It reminds me of car salespeople who will tell you that Toyota is the best and safest car to buy, until the other car dealer hires him to sell Fords.  Then, it's all about how great the Explorer is.

Plus, did you ever change your mind about any philosophy or politician or duck hunter based on someone's post?  Of course not.

I love people and I love the stories they tell and the photos they share of the babies they have and the people they love and the places they visit.  That's what Facebook is great at.  I see people I have known since Eisenhower was president, and it's great to see them thriving and showing their progeny, their new home, their progress in physical therapy...

Facebook and other sites of the sort (I abhor the term "social media" when so many of its users are so ardently antisocial) are also good for sharing good news and balming the soul when the news is bad.  

For instance, the other day when two Harford County Sheriff's Deputies were gunned down, people were able to express their condolences and words of support and encouragement, in one of the darkest hours that county has ever known. 

That was for the good.  What was for the bad was when the conversation devolved into denunciations of people who were not responsible for the whole awful event, nasty bickering between the two sides of the gun control debate, and (of course, as always) a chance for racebaiters to turn it into a racial argument, although it was hard for that to gain traction in a situation where one Caucasian male killed two Caucasian males.  

I keep thinking about the pax Americana that we felt in September, 2001, where, in the face of unspeakable enormity we responded by letting people go ahead of us in traffic, holding doors for others, and greeting strangers with a kind hello.  It didn't last long; we were flipping each other off again by the new year, but it felt good for a while, and I wish we could try it again.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Members Only

As even a quick glance at the photo above will tell you, Emily Sears, an Australian model currently working in the USA, is a very attractive woman.

You might not realize this, but many Internet users are men who like to surf about, looking for pretty women to ogle. And that's their business, so to speak.

But when they act on their desire by taking a picture of their noodle and emailing it to pretty models such as Emily Sears, well, you're into weirdo territory.  And just imagine being that model and getting a photo of some perv's tumescence in your morning email! Yow.

Here's another thing you won't believe.  It turns out that most of the men sending schlong shots to women they have never met (and never will, outside of a courtroom) are dumb enough to have Facebook pages replete with pictures of their wives, mothers, girlfriends, and moms.

So Ms Sears writes to these other women, and tells them about the woody image she got! And she includes the picture she received.

“We send the photos as a reminder for them to have respect for women,” Sears says. “I think it provides an accountability that people seem to lose online; being behind a screen gives people a false sense of anonymity.”

Ms Sears, once involved in an abusive relationship, gets these pictures once or twice a day even yet, as word spreads of her habit of outing offenders. She points out that it doesn't just happen to models, but to women all over: “It’s happening when women are online dating and denying matches with men. It can happen to any woman online, just like it can happen to any woman walking down the street.”

A lot of men justify this sort of behavior by subscribing to the belief that they are just too much man for any one woman, and must spread themselves thickly upon our earth. 

This is why they invented cold showers.  And maturity.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Build a better mousetrap...

I am honored to have inherited a large number of hand tools from my father. Just walk into your local Home Depot or Build 'N' Save and ask for wood-handled screwdrivers or planes and they will probably tell you such things were never made.

But they were, and I am here to tell you, the old tools feel better in your hand, and work better than the plastic ones.  And it's fun to use a screwdriver from 1927 to tighten a switch cover for a dimmable LED bulb!

Everyone knows that old is better...even a country mouse in England.

Over there across the pond, in the town of Reading, there is a museum called the Museum of English Rural Life, which is something I need to see someday.  

They have hundreds of old mousetraps on display, and there is one invented by Colin Pullinger that was displayed at The Great Exhibition in 1851 at Crystal Palace. Pullinger called it a "perpetual" mouse trap, and he was right...155 years later, it still works!

Ollie Douglas, an assistant curator at the museum, was startled recently to find a recently deceased rodent in the age-old trap. He figures the little guy was gnawing at the string that worked the see-saw mechanism, and after all these years, it still worked, much to the displeasure of little Mickey.

And here is why The New Yorker still runs their "There Will Always Be An England" feature at the bottom of some pages: 
the Museum, which is based at the University of Reading, announced that "the mouse could become a permanent feature in the museum, or be given a burial."

I know you're out there; I can hear you coffin.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Admirable Thrift

One grows sad and weary, hearing about football players and other athletes who earn big money, huge money, all right...
YUUUUUGE money, for two or three years toting a football or hitting a baseball and then, a torn ACL or two and they are out of the game, and their earning power is significantly diminished.

You can't pick up the newspaper without reading about some erstwhile "superstar" who is now selling his Super Bowl ring or working night crew at the BuySumMor to feed his family.

And where did all the money go?  Good heavens, ask M.C. Hammer, who had one hit record in his short career, and the next thing you know he's buying mansions and racehorses and stables, and for all I know now, he's working at a racetrack.  Athletes, too, go through the money like salt pork through a goose, and then, they often find themselves in bankruptcy court at age 26.

So it's good to hear that Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has played in the NFL for 9 seasons and has earned $49.7 million  - and he says he's got it all in the bank! 

On the "The Ian & Puck Show" on KJR Radio in Seattle, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network said that there is talk that Lynch might retire now...and that he can afford to do so because he "has a lot of money.He hasn't spent a dime of his actual playing money ... ever."

The word among the advertising people is that Lynch has made around $5 million a year off endorsements for firms such as Nike, Pepsi, Skittles, Progressive, and Activision, according to Forbes.

You and I could do well on five million a year, especially if we clip coupons and use my senior discount at KFC.

Lynch was drafted in 2007 and made $19 million for five years with the Buffalo Bills, before being traded to Seattle and signing a $30 million deal.  He earned $12 million for 2015, and is not expected to return for the second year of the deal, on the grounds that at age 29, he is set for life.

Imagine. All that money AND he won't have to wear that hideous Seattle uniform any longer.  Pretty sweet deal.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Born to Hand Jive

Last week's live production of "Grease" brought renewed attention to one of the finest dances we ever stole got from England...the amazingly fun Hand Jive!

There wasn't enough room for dancing in the London coffee bar called "The Cat's Whisker" in 1957.  Ken Russell - then a photographer, later a filmmaker ("Women in Love," "Tommy," "Altered States") got pictures of the teenagers doing the "steps," as it were, to dances with just their hands. Russell found the whole thing so enjoyable that he wound up joining in.

"The place was crowded with young kids... the atmosphere was very jolly. Wholesome... everyone jiving with their hands because there was precious little room to do it with their feet... a bizarre sight."

You know that Irish-style step dancing that Michael Flatley and others do so well was developed so that people could dance in their homes without worrying about the parish priest walking by and seeing them flailing about in the throes of dance fever.  From the waist up, which is all one could see through the living room window, there was no hint that the legs below were shakin' all over.

And the Hand Jive dance came to America in the late 1950s, which was handy (!) because so did a hit record "Willie and the Hand Jive" by Johnny Otis, a song that featured that "shave-and-a-haircut two-bits" tempo that was actually the featured rhythm for Bo Diddley's songs.

Trivia lovers will note that Johnny Otis, born Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes, is the father of Shuggie Otis, who gave us "Strawberry Letter #23, and I suppose one could Hand Jive to that song if one were not so busy trying to figure out what it's all about!

There are three ways to learn to do the Hand Jive,  One of them is to ask me, quite possibly the worst dancer since Elaine Benes, or you can read these instructions...

  • Slap your thighs twice with the flats of your hands.
  • Clap your hands together twice.
  • Turning your palms parallel to the floor, move one hand over the other, then apart, then over again, keeping about three inches between your hands. Then reverse, putting the other hand on top, again with two beats back and forth.
  • Finally, make a fist with one hand leaving your thumb sticking out, and rotate your hand out twice, as if motioning with your thumb for someone to "Get outta here!". Do the same thing with your other hand, and you've completed one full iteration of the "hand jive." Repeat as long as the song continues.
OR you can watch this video and learn it from the charming cast of "Grease Live."  

Now you can Hand Jive, baby!  Oh yeah!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Rerun: Some more of the Dharma

Let's say you are kidnapped, hogtied and dragged from your office or the deep fryer where you work and taken hostage by Venezuelan nationals bent on avenging some slight or another.

For days you remain tied up in Caracas, subsisting on leftovers from a Subway located in the hotel where your captors have set up a command post to further their cause of prolonging the Bolivarian Revolution.  At length you are untied and paraded through the streets as fiery locals call you unkind names and toss burros at you as they ride their colorful burritos.  Or the other way around.

You are brought before the Queen of the Revolution, Her Majesty, the leader of the Puppet Government, Mary Annette.

"Silence, Insect!" she commands, as you cower and beg for mercy.

Mimi Kennedy
"At the stroke of 11 this morning, you shall be defenestrated if you cannot answer the following question:  Which cast member of 'Dharma and Greg' suggested a song topic to Jim Steinman, which led to Steinman writing Meat Loaf's biggest hit ever, based on an Elvis Presley song?"

That's when you say, "Mary Annette, stop pulling my string. The answer is Mimi Kennedy, who played Dharma's mom Abby, who was in a musical with Steinman. Steinman was complaining that he couldn't make progress as a songwriter, and she told him that his songs were too complicated, and advised him to write something a little easier to comprehend. And while she was saying that, someone had an oldies station on the radio, and 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' was playing, and Steinman started to sing along but then put his own twist on the song.  In his take, the guy wants and needs the girl, but there ain't no way he's ever gonna love her...but two out of three ain't bad, right?"

Steinman finished the song, Meat Loaf cut it for his first album in 1977, "Bat Out Of Hell," and now you can tell Queen Mary Annette that you do not a) want her, b) need her or c) love her.

She will understand. You might as well go back to work tomorrow.