Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Rerun: The best things really ARE free!

I don't think that a lot of other cities have something like we have in's called Sherwood Gardens, a free park that really is like the old shampoo claimed to be: a garden of earthly delights.

It's in the Guilford section of town, near Johns Hopkins University and the high-tone homes on North Charles Street. This is where the old money lives in Baltimore, friends, and the people are generous with nature's bounty.

A.S. Abell, who founded the Baltimore Sun newspaper, originally owned the property where the gardens bloom.  In his day, that part of the  
acreage was the location of a pond on his large estate, but as the property was sold off in lots with the plan to build houses (very large houses!) six acres, formerly the pond, were filled in with earth, for planting pretty things. 

Enter John W. Sherwood, the chairman of the Sinclair Oil Company, who first planted tulips imported from Holland in the 1920s. Interesting local connection: Sherwood's father was the president of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, a passenger ship line nicknamed the "Old Bay Line." Their ships took passengers down the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, Virginia. Our beloved local Old Bay crab and seafood seasoning was named for those boats. 

It was Sherwood's idea to have the public come down and stroll around the grounds, enjoying the amazing sights and smells.  When he died in 1965, he bequeathed enough money to the community to maintain the Gardens for a year.  Ever since, the Guilford Association has assumed the costs of keeping the Gardens pleasant for all and free for all.  There are no gates or entrances of any sort.

Today, Sherwood Gardens still flourishes.  There are 80,000 tulip bulbs and other spring flowering bulbs planted annually. Shade trees such as dogwoods, flowering cherries, wisteria and magnolias just happen to blossom all over at around the same time at the ground plants...including the beautifully colored azaleas.  They say that some of these plants date back to the 18th century and were brought up from old colonial estates in Southern Maryland.  

On the other hand, each of those 80,000 tulip bulbs is planted every single year. Locals are allowed to come down and dig up bulbs after the season ends.

Peggy and I try to get down there every year in late April or early May.  I recommend going on a weekday if you like to avoid the big crowds. People saunter along, enthralled by the sights. Frisbees fly, dogs on leashes gambol about, kids bring juice boxes and snacks, but you won't see discarded litter...just happy people having a free day enjoying nature.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, April 29, 2017

Here it is: the tallest bridge in the world! It's the Millau bridge, which is in France on the road from Paris to Beziers, which they say is a town full of the best and brightest over there. 
You have to give it to nature.  It would be one thing if there were one perfect bluebell, but there are billions and billions of them!
This was recently found in an archeological dig in Turkey. They say it's 13,000 years old, and meanwhile, some people say the world is only 6,000 years old. I've got socks older than that. It seems to depict ancient people playing baseball or volleyball.
Here we see a seal protecting a penguin, but we don't know from what.
In the US during World War II, people were encouraged to plant "Victory Gardens," because so much of the food supply went to the war effort. This is a poster advocating the same self-sufficiency in Great Britain during those dark years.
The mating ritual of the Great Crested Grebe, shown here, involves the male bring the female a clump of seagrass for a snack or a decoration.  The Not-So-Great Crested Grebe shows up empty handed.
I want an Uncle Fester nightlight for Christmas, please.

I know that Clear Lake is in Minnesota, but this is a REALLY clear lake in Montana!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bob on this

It was just the other night that Peggy was reading a book that contained the phrase "Bob's your uncle."  

I had an Uncle Barrett, and his daughter married a guy named Bob, and that's as close as I can get to that phrase.  And you know what? I had heard it before, from an English friend on Facebook. 

I had to look it up, as it's not part of my everyday lexicon. People use those words to mean "and there it is" or "and there you have it" and the one that Mitch uses on "Modern Family" all the time..."There it is."  

From what Wikipedia says, "Bob's your uncle" is the thing to say when you've finally figured out how to assemble the grill you just dragged home from Lowes, or when you get your vacation trip to the Gilligan Islands all set for next winter. 

Paul's his grandson!
Something about it doesn't make perfect sense, to be Frank about it. As in, you get off the phone with the reservation clerk from the Step Back Inn, and proudly say to your significant other, when asked if everything is all set, "Bob's your uncle!"

You might get that look we've all seen.

Wikipedia also says that the British sometimes append "And Nellie's your aunt!" or say, "And Bob's your mother's brother!" just to change things up a bit.

Apparently, every other English speaker in the world gets the humor of all this.  I don't see it.  But that happens all the time, doesn't it? I have a joke about a hitchhiker that just floors me every time I tell it.

It seems to floor everyone else too.  At least, that's what they stare at when I get the punch line out.

And my parents had a friend whose last name was "Bacon." Everyone called him "Ham" as a first name. The very mention of a man named Ham Bacon would reduce me to paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter every single time, and my parents would look at me in knitted-brow disbelief, wondering what was so daggone funny.  

They say the expression dates back to the 19th Century in England, when an unpopular prime minister named Bob appointed his nephew to a sinecure government position, and the easy explanation was that "Bob's his uncle!"

Here in Maryland, we would say that "(name of crooked manipulator) is your neighbor or he belonged to the same political club or he was Agnew's bagman...".

So I'm happy that I figured all this out! Maybe someday I will run for office, after changing my name legally to "Bob Shurrunkle."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

State of Gracie

As always, The Simpsons presaged this years ago, in the 1993 episode "Marge On The Lam," when Homer, reaching up inside a soda vending machine gets his hand caught:

Repairman 1#: Homer, there's no easy way to tell you this: I'm afraid I'm gonna have to saw your arms off.
Homer: They'll grow back, right?
Repairman 1#: Oh... yeah.
[He cranks up the rotary saw and moves it toward Homer's arm...]
Repairman 2#: Wait a minute. Homer, are you just holding on to the can?
Homer: Your point being...?

Gracie Henderson of New Caney, Texas, had her Homer moment the other day. It was not her best day by any means, as she moved into a new house.

"A water pipe busted (sic) in the wall the day I moved in. I got my car stuck in the mud in the front yard. My brand new lawn mower stopped working," was how she described her mishaps to the Houston Chronicle.

With all that happening, the last thing she needed was for the toilet to clog up.

So, of course, the toilet clogged up, and, not having a plunger, she decided to take the old advice that one can always find a helping hand, right at the end of one's left arm.

In she plunged, right up to her watch, and then the watch got stuck in the commode. And since she couldn't very well reach in with her other hand to remove the watch, she was stuck.

But, she works as a paramedic, and so she reasoned, "It’s not really stuck, I’m not really about to call 911 for this. We’ve done all kinds of crazy stuff [as medics], but I have never done a hand- stuck-in-the-toilet call," she told "Inside Edition."

Guess what! Someone really did call 911 for her, and EMS came out to the house. They removed the toilet from the floor, carried it and her outside, and smashed the American Standard to American Smithereens with a sledgehammer, while Gracie writhed in mortification.

Good thing she had a free hand to cover
her embarrassment
She got a new toilet installed, and the "Inside Edition" people gave her the gift of a plunger, and she is all happy now, and would give you this advice, I'm sure:

Before you attempt to do anything this silly, stop and ask yourself, "Is there a chance I could wind up on one of those goofy Inside Access shows that come on at 7:30 by doing this?"

If there is, don't do it. There are much better ways to meet Deborah Norville.

A Texas woman took the plunge into viral infamy when she got her hand stuck in a toilet.

Gracie Henderson was having a tough time with the move into her new home in New Caney.

Then she got the royal flush of misery on April 12 when her toilet clogged and she didn’t have a plunger. Henderson thought she might be able to fix the clogged commode by sticking her hand into the pot.

Instead, she got herself into a real shitstorm when her watch got stuck and, by extension, the hand it was on, according to KHOU-TV.

Henderson was flushed with embarrassment because she works as a medic and knew how ridiculous her call was going to sound to other first responders.

Emergency Medical Services came to Henderson’s home to “rescue” her. The operation required removing the toilet from the bathroom, carrying it outside with her hand still in it and then breaking it open with a sledgehammer, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“My son was mortified when all the EMS and fire showed up!!!” Henderson told the paper.

Henderson now needs a new toilet for the home, but she already has something that is almost as important: a new plunger, donated to her by “Inside Edition.”

“This is my best friend from now on,” she told the show.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cohen down a bumpy road

Even before Brian Williams of NBC News got in all that trouble for claiming to have been in the thick of a battle in a helicopter landing, I always thought he was trying juuuuuuust a bit too hard to come off as momentous... ponderous...memorable.

Such as...the night of the Virginia Tech shootings ten years ago, when he opened his newscast by saying, "You will always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news of this mass attack on a college campus..."

Well, no, and not because that was not an awful event, but because it occurred in what has become a whirling vortex of terrorist attacks across the nation, it really does not achieve singularity in our memory. Can you name the killer, or how many people died there? Chances are, you can't, and that is a shame, because the killer deserves infamy and the departed deserve our honor, but they were just more people in the morbid montage of America Today.

And now that B-Dub has been demoted to the minor leagues of MSNBC, forced to do a late-night newsreel review, he seems to be itching for a chance to knock one out of the park. So recently, when the USA sent missiles to ruin a Syrian military airfield in response to unspeakable acts Syria did to their own people, killing 70 in a chemical attack, Williams took official Pentagon footage of the American bombs bursting in air and got all rockets'-red-glare about it, quoting "the great" Leonard Cohen, of all people, calling
the bombing "beautiful."

The footage showed Tomahawk missiles sent from Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, lighting the decks and the night sky as they homed in.

I'm willing to admit the possibility that Williams may have been nonplussed at the sight of war live on late evening television, and maybe that's why he used the word "beautiful" to describe it.

"We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: 'I am guided by the beauty of our weapons,'" he opined.

"They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield," he added before asking a guest, "What did they hit?"

The song he was taking the quote from is "First We Take Manhattan." one of Cohen’s best-known tracks. The verse says:

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

The late Leonard Cohen said this song is a "terrorist song,"
and when the song came out in 1988, he actually said he admired certain types of extremism:

There’s something about terrorism that I’ve always admired. The fact that there are no alibis or no compromises. That position is always very attractive. I don’t like it when it’s manifested on the physical plane — I don’t really enjoy the terrorist activities — but Psychic Terrorism. I remember there was a great poem by Irving Layton that I once read, I’ll give you a paraphrase of it. It was 'well, you guys blow up an occasional airline and kill a few children here and there', he says. 'But our terrorists, Jesus, Freud, Marx, Einstein. The whole world is still quaking.'
I believe that all Americans are entitled to free speech, and that the above is a perfect example of why some Americans should keep that entitlement folded up and unused. And of course, Brian Williams, who used to enchant audiences of late-night talk shows with his casual hip relevance...maybe someday, he will find someone not so Leonard Cohen-ish to quote.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017


There is a rap performer who suffered a certain loss of "street cred" when it was revealed that he had worked as a jail guard years before putting down the metal detector for a microphone.

And of course there was a guy on Faxe News who claimed to be a former CIA agent...and another one who claimed to be an expert on Sweden...all fakes.

But millions of people listen to the radio show, and watch YouTube videos, of this Alex Jones, a Texan who claims that the children who were shot to death by another crazy guy in Newtown were not really children who were shot to death, but actors.

And of course, Jones said that 9/11 was fake news ("controlled demolition"), that it was all an inside job. There are some among us who dwell in the shadowy world where reality blurs with mental disorders, and they use the term "false flag operation" to categorize things they do not wish to accept as fact. The list goes on and on with these people: the former president of the United States was an Al Qaeda terrorist born in Kenya, and was responsible for a series of tornadoes in Oklahoma, mass shootings are staged to give the government a reason to go door-to-door confiscating guns, and dozens of nations are headed for financial collapse. Oh, and the government is rounding us all up into FEMA camps. And controlling the weather.

That sort of thing.

Well, Jones makes a lot of money selling crazy, And he is one of those people who bellow and caterwaul and howl and yelp and yowl when they speak. There's a lot of that going around lately.

So maybe it was no big surprise that Jones's wife had enough of his bombast and filed for divorce several years back. Kelly Jones - his ex - and her lawyers are trying to get custody of the couple's children, and attempting to paint him as an unsuitable parent.

But the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, down there Deep In The Heart Of, says, "At a recent pretrial hearing, attorney Randall Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo that using his client Jones’ on-air Infowars persona to evaluate Alex Jones as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in 'Batman.' "

So there it is. Watch him expound on his theories and judge for yourself. His own lawyer said this is all make believe, he's only playing a character, and we shouldn't take all this seriously.

Or maybe it is all true, and he's an actor.

Watch for Kevin James to play him if they really ever make a movie about this nonsense.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Half a loaf

I'm going to talk about the vice president of the United States of America here. 

Mike Pence, a man who proposed to his wife Karen by hollowing out the two halves of a loaf of bread, hiding a bottle of champagne in one and a ring box in the other (she was prepared for this magical moment by carrying around a gold cross with the word "YES" engraved upon it.)

Mike Pence, who calls his wife "mother" or "Mrs Pence."

Mike Pence, who says that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife, and will not attend events where there is alcohol available without her being right there. 

Well now. I don't know these people personally (for which I am eternally grateful) but as someone whose marriage predates streaking, disco, Gerald Ford in the White House, and every gas crisis, I'm here to tell you that if you're in a marriage in which the partners keep suchacloseyeoneachother as this, something is wrong in the marriage.

Or you are people who think that every woman is out to seduce every man in the world, and that no man has the power to refuse those "womanly wiles."  That's a phrase we don't hear too much anymore, but then again, we don't see loons like this couple too much either.

Love does not mean constant vigilance and check-ups. I've said this before: I could be the only male in an auditorium full of females and I would not cheat on my wife, because I love my wife. 

And I will tell you this. If a person - male or female - is open for business, he or she will find a customer, if you catch my meaning. 

It never fails. The guy who times how long it should take for his wife to get home from the hair saloon and grills her like Lennie Briscoe if the ride takes 2 minutes more than that has something hidden, and the wife who posts spies around hubbyguy's office to let her know if he stops at the cute receptionist's cubicle to sharpen his pencil is also guilty of wandering thoughts.

Either that - or the spouse is guilty of breaching the marital vows, and why are you still around, in that case?

Pence is big on telling you what a wonderful Christian he is, and then he throws in with a man who represents that segment of society that holds men to be superior in all ways, while subjugating women to serving supper.  And even more insidious, setting them up in million-dollar businesses so he can claim they are million-dollar businesswomen.

Pence says loves and respects his wife, and is in with a crowd that chants horrible obscenities at a woman who happened to be running for office.

You can't have it both ways. Half a loaf of this is still half-baked.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Rerun: Red all about it

Red all about it

And there I was at the Giant Food, in the dairy aisle, to be precise. A little red-headed boy was selecting his yogurts for the coming week, and I wanted to ask him and/or his red-headed mom if strangers still walk up to redhaired boys and run their hand through their hair for luck.

And then it dawned on me that not only do people not rub their paws in the hair of another person without certain permission from the rubee, it would be really weird to just ankle up and do that to a kid.

But people used to do that!  Any redhaired man over 30 can tell you that.  Total strangers just before kickoff at a football game! Your uncle, just before midnight on New Year's Eve! A kid named "Howie" who sat behind Francis X. "Reds" O'Hoolahan in Algebra when Mr Dittmar was passing out the tests!  All of these indignities were visited upon redhaired men.

An auburn-tressed buddy of mine once told me that a total stranger once asked him to remove his baseball hat, the better to muss that hair.

Incidental info: In all other towns across the US of A, redhaired boys are nicknamed "Red," like in Skelton, or Schoendienst,or the guy in Shawshank.  In Baltimore, they are called "Reds."

And no one knows why.


But besides the bit about rubbing their hair, redheads have to deal with being called "ginger," being regarded as jinxes, people thinking that they all have fiery tempers or are natural targets for bee attacks, and, most ludicrous, during the Spanish Inquisition, the Spaniards killed redheads by the hundreds because they thought that redheads were witches who had stolen the fires of hell, and therefore were to be burned at the stake.

As someone who was born with blond hair that later became brown and of late, quite grey, I never had to deal with this sort of torment.  Of course, in a world where people are so foolishly assessed on the basis of the color of their skin, it's just a leap for the judgemental to rule on others based on their hair color, too.

Being 6' 5" and being asked to grab a quart of prune juice from the top shelf at the BuySumMor is nothing, compared to that.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, April 22, 2017

The only flaw here is figuring out who is going to hand out these stickers to adults for adulting in adult-style situations. Perhaps we need to appoint some people as superadults, and they will hand out the coveted prizes whenever one of us acts right. Or IF one of us acts right.
It's on the IFC Network and it's worth searching for the channel number  - or you can see it on demand. It's a show called "Brockmire," starring Amanda Peet as the owner of a last-chance minor league baseball club who hires Jim Brockmire, who had been a major league broadcaster until an untoward meltdown one night during a ballgame in Kansas City.  He found out his wife had been multiply unfaithful and went off on her during his broadcast. Brockmire is played by Hank Azaria, whom we know from The Simpsons as the voice of Moe Szyslak, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Carl Carlson, Dr Nick Riviera, Kirk Van Houten, the Sea Captain, and Cletus. 
These were the Beach Boys during their golden era...I guess this picture is from 1964. The music they made then still rings true to me, and sounds like summer and cars and surfing and running around like we did at 17.
I love this picture of the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, with the reflection in a parking lot puddle.
This might be posed, or maybe this little critter is learning to play the leaf guitar...
There's a woodpecker not far from us in the trees at the end of our court.  All morning he works and then he goes to lunch and usually ducks out the rest of the day.
This is the view of the Mediterranean from Mt Athos, Greece. And what a view!
This is an official Harris Tweed jacket. There is a fascinating process involved in weaving the wool for this tweed, which is only produced on the western Scottish Isles known as the Outer Hebrides. You can read about it here. Every other herringbone sport jacket or suit that you see is trying to be as great as this.

Friday, April 21, 2017

I was one of those Academia Nuts

This is the time of year when high school students are anxiously, eagerly, clicking on emails from colleges and universities to which they have applied for admission.  They used to rip open envelopes brought by the USPS, but that's so 2000.

And just as eagerly, I tear open 2,000 envelopes from ValPak every week.

But that means nothing to Ifeoma White-Thorpe, a senior at Morris Hills High in New Jersey, because she has now been accepted at all eight of the Ivy League schools - Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth, plus Stanford, and Essex Community College, for us "Hairspray" fans.

Harvard was first to offer her a spot in the Class of 2021, and she was all set to go Northern Crimson (the over-the-Mason-Dixon-Line version of Alabama) until the other acceptances started rolling in.

Now she has the luxury of choosing.

"I got into Harvard early action so I figured I'll just go there, so then I got into all the others and I was like, 'Wait, now I don't know where I want to go,'" White-Thorpe told ABC 7 in New York.   She told the TV news thats schools offering merit scholarships and financial aid will be higher up on the list. 

To attend Harvard this academic year, people (and their parents) are shelling out $63,025 for tuition, room, board, and fees combined, just so you have an idea.

Ms White-Thorpe will study biology in college and wants to have a career in public health.

Wherever she winds up, White-Thorpe plans to study biology and pursue a career in public health. 

I've already learned something from her! "Early action" just entered my lexicon as an adverbial phrase.  

I learned early action to listen to people smarter than I. They're everywhere!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What "Fore!'?

I remember playing golf a few times with some friends back in my carefree teens. I usually did pretty well, although a couple of times, I couldn't get the doggone ball past the little windmill and through to the hole.

Kidding. I did play 18 holes of golf, and only fell asleep once or twice.  

I get a lot of looks for saying this, but I think golf is deadly boring. In fact, any smart detective who wants to pin some sort of crime spree on me needs only to lock me in a room with a TV and a broken remote that's stuck on the Golf Channel. I'll confess to whatever I'm falsely accused of, and also help clear up cases that have baffled the local gendarmes for decades, just to get out of watching Bubba and his pants smacking a little ball around while a rapt crowd stands, well, rapt, and silent.  Until the guy sinks a two-foot putt, and a wave of polite applause ripples through the crowd.

If you play baseball, a sweaty man 60' 6" away is going to throw a small white ball toward you at 90-some miles per hour. Football players have to tackle a man the approximate size of Delaware as he lumbers down the field toting a ball, and basketball players get thrown around like toothpicks battling for rebounds.

And all of that is happening while tens of thousands of people hoot and ululate and holler.  

Have you ever heard a ballplayer say, "I was going to catch that fly ball, but a rude fan in the left field bleachers said something derogatory about my parentage and I lost concentration, so upset was I"?

No, and you haven't heard of a football player asking that the crowd sit on their hands while he tries to make a 47-yard field goal.  "You pays your money and you speaks your mind" is the law of the ballpark.

But oh no! Golf, and tennis, another game requiring funny pants, require total stillness while play goes on. In fact, they probably ask that you be totally silent while you're driving to the match, just to get quiet enough.  I don't get this, and since I wouldn't pay to attend a game during which I could not boo or cheer or razz someone, I turned to the good old internet to find out why the ban on volubility exists at The Snootington Tennis Club or Morning Wood Country Club.

"Etiquette," said United States Golf Association historian Robert Williams in the Florida Times-Union. "Golf has been a gentleman's game from the very beginning and players treated each other with respect. During the early tournaments such as the British Open and U.S. Open, the spectators were almost 100 percent golfers themselves so they all practiced etiquette and the tradition has carried on ever since."

"You know, despite what happened, I-I'm still convinced you have many fine qualities and I... I think you can still become a gentleman some day if you understand and abide by the rules of decent society."  - - The words of Judge Smails to Danny Noonan in "Caddyshack."

Judge Smails to Al Czervik: "You're no gentleman!"
Al Czervik to Judge Smails (as he dances away): "I'm no doorknob, either!"
 (op. cit.)
You know what?  I'm with Al!

"It looks good on you, though!"

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

There's never been a Tropical Storm Davis

We're a funny bunch, we humans.  Some of us worry that our food is impure, and bad for our health, and insist on only 100% organic shredded wheat to have with almond milk and "locally-sourced" huckleberries for breakfast, along with a cup of Sumatran Lava Mocha Java, and a Marlboro Light.

Some of us are so irate over the scourge of drunk driving that they take time to text their congressperson about it, while driving to work in the morning.

And some of us will chortle and say "pish-tosh" at the morning weather forecast, and say that "they can never tell you when it's gonna rain!" but then they will grab ahold of the official advance report of the Tropical Meteorology Protect team from Colorado State University, which predicts 11 named storms during the 2017 Batten Down The Hatches Season (which is officially June 1 to Nov. 30, but is really January 1 to December 31) and commence panicking procedures right away.

The team figures that four of the 11 storms with nicknames will turn into hurricanes, and that two of the four will become Major B.A. Hurricanes... "major" hurricanes being those that reach category 3, 4 and 5 storms on the Saffir/Simpson scale. You have to have maximum sustained winds of at least 111 mph for The Simpsons to take notice. 

It's just a riot to me that we will pay no attention to the morning meteorologists, but then start fretting about hurricanes ruining the Labor Day picnic when Memorial Day hasn't even been celebrated yet. There must be a rule of some sort that the further into the future a forecast delves, the more believable it is.

Last year in Maryland, we had no hurricane problem at all. The closest we came was Hurricane Hermine in September, but she took a hard right turn right into the ocean and left us to gather up the surf mats and beach umbrellas without 112 mph winds to mess things up.

There was Matthew last year, which caused death and destruction down south and in the Caribbean. That name has been retired. But if your name is on the list below, get ready to be mentioned if hurricanes start brewing:

Next year, look for names such as "Rex," "Reince," and "Ivanka" to make the list.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sign Posse

I tend to see both sides of this story.  I don't know how it is where you live, but in our county, enough people got sick and tired of the roadside landscapes being ruined by those doggone advertising signs that ruthless corporations stick in the ground...ground that does not belong to them, I must point out...that the county passed a law against shoving their dumb signs in the ground.

So there's a man in the north part of the county who goes around pulling the signs out of the ground (and out of everyone's ruined sight).  Mike Pierce is his name, and I think he deserves a community service medal of some sort, because he has made it his fulltime everyday avocation to yank out what he calls "litter on a stick."

But he ran afoul of a company whose business it is to wreck the roadside vista, and how he has to go to court to defend himself on a misdemeanor criminal charge of theft less than $100. 

He was on Providence Rd near the Baltimore Beltway - just a mile from my once-rural childhood home, where as a child I played and gamboled about "in sweet fragrant meadows of dawn and dew" - and he saw a yellow HOUSE FOR SALE sign.  Mr Pierce rang up a NO SALE and pulled that sucker right on out of the ground.

But he was being observed by one Darren Hahnfeld, owner of iStuff sellers, which does estate sales in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and DC.  "Marketing is a big portion of what we do," says Hahnfeld, who also told the Baltimore SUNpaper that "one well-placed sign can mean a world of difference."

That is true.  But I don't think that we all think it's the same kind of difference that Hahnfeld thinks. He sees money, and we see a roadside despoiled by ugly little plastic signs.

So Hahnfeld tips off the police, and they show up at Pierce's house, and here is where I have to throw a penalty flag on Pierce. The PD asked him to relinquish the sign he had taken, on the indisputable grounds that it was not his property.  He refused, and some lucky District Court judge will bang the gavel on the whole matter soon. 

After all, the law here does say it's legal "for a person who is not an employee of the county to remove a sign" that is posted in violation of the law. What is left unclarified is what is to happen with the sign after that.  

Pierce is represented by attorney Andrew Alperstein, who says, "It's unusual, but the code seems to sort of deputize citizens to be allowed to remove signs on public rights of way. He's passionate about his community and how it looks and appears."

"He probably would never have been charged with this theft if he hadn't refused to cooperate with us," said Baltimore County Police Officer Jen Peach.

"He could've righted everything by just giving it back," Hahnfeld said.

Pierce figures he has removed 10,000 signs over the years. 

I hope he gets 10,000 more, and that if he's asked again, will return the sign to the person who owns and illegally planted it. Maybe he'll get to remove the same blight twice!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Keep her away from us

Under the bizarre rules that govern these matters, Heather Cook will come up for parole in early May.

Yes, THAT Heather Cook, the drunk former Episcopal bishop who got plastered two days after Christmas 2014 and careered down Roland Avenue in her car, texting as she went, striking and killing a bicyclist and leaving the scene. Her blood alcohol at a staggering .22 - nearly three times the legal limit - she drove off and left Tom Palermo bleeding profusely in the street.  

Somehow she managed to drive to her apartment without killing anyone else, and then she called a friend for advice on how to handle the mess she made of her life and those of many others. That person convinced her to return to the scene and begin to face the sad music that she composed.

You see, this was not the first brush with the law for Bishop Cook, who was arrested in 2010 for DUI and possession of marijuana in Caroline County, MD.  She was Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of Easton at the time. In that case, she was driving while impaired with a bag of weed, so egregiously that her tire was shredded as she plowed along.

So running down a man on his bike was not her first dance with outrageous behavior, which is why I opposed the light sentence she got off with in 2015. She could have got 20 years, and the State's Attorney settled for 10, and the judge gave her 7.

Now the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections Services, who have had Cook as a guest in their Jessup facility, says, "She has a seven-year sentence, but because the crime is considered non-violent, she is eligible for parole after serving 25% of it," according to spokesperson Gerard Shields.

Booking photo
"Non-violent," that is, to everyone but the man whose body was crushed beneath this drunk's SUV. And remember this when you think about cutting her some slack: she told the police she went home to make sure her dog was fed and all taken care of. The dog, she cared about. The man she ran over, nah.

Please consider joining me by writing to the Maryland Parole Commission at 6776 Reisterstown Road, Suite 307, Baltimore, MD 21215 to ask that Cook spend every second of the remaining part of her sentence behind bars and not behind the wheel of a car. Being out here among the law-abiding is not a privilege she has earned. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Rerun: Saucy

As it happens, I love hot sauce and will douse most any food with it.  I like them all, from the run of the mill store brands to the national brands like Texas Pete and Cholula to the more esoteric bottles of liquid hell, made in smaller batches.  Joe Perry of Aerosmith, whose solo career led him to record the great "Let The Music Do The Talking," probably doesn't talk too much when his Rock Your World sauce is dripping off a rib.

I once enjoyed a moment or two of sheer idiotic hotsauce bliss when one drop - one drop! - of Smokin' Tonsils hot sauce on a pork chop made it feel like the top of my head had been trepanned.  But in a good way!

So it came as a surprise when I read that the scientists at Penn State U did a study and found that people "who were most inclined to enjoy action movies, adventure-seeking and exploration were about six times more likely to enjoy the burn of a spicy meal."

In other words, thrill-seekers also like hot sauce.  Go figure. 

But you can't prove it by me that it works the other way.  I'll be glad to stand at the top of the ski slope and watch others fly off toward an indeterminate future.  Wave to me as you hang glide across Snake River Canyon!  And as you descend after jumping out of an airplane, hoping against hope that your parachute opens, I'll be the guy standing there munching on a pit beef sandwich slathered with Sriracha.

By the way, doctors and medics, my doctor told me once that I am that one-in-ten thousand whose tonsils disappeared over time. Year after year, my tonsils would swell up and make it impossible to eat or drink for several days, and then one day Dr Payne looked down there and said, "They're gone!"

Do you think that Smokin' Tonsils did it?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, April 15, 2017

Used to be that baseball players would write their uniform # on the butt of their bats so they could tell which bat belonged to whom. Then they started getting these little stickers with their name or number or maybe a little caricature. This must be the most creative of them all. It belongs to Matt Foley, a catcher in the Braves organization.  Do you know the name Matt Foley from somewhere else?
For those collecting pictures of animals waving hello to them, this one has the...seal of approval. I didn't think I had the nerve to say that.
Larry King used to say that the all-purpose universal weather forecast was "partly cloudy, chance of rain," because that's almost always the case, when you think about it. Here is the chart to go along with covers everything that might fall from the sky.
If you like the taste of lemon as I do, look for Meyer Lemons next time you're at the BiSumMor. This is the combination of a tart lemon with a little orange for sweetness and it is gooooood!
 The old double-rainbow trick. 
There was a time in America, or so it seems, that everyone sort of reeked...until they found the right laundry soap, deodorant, or toothpaste to make them smell like a bed of petunias again.
Hi Folks...having a great time on our vacation...we flipped the Catalina, but the guy who came with the tow truck was kind enough to snap our picture before he put us upright again. It gave Dad a chance to check the tread on those Firestones, too!
People are doing great things in the burgeoning field of apple-carving nowadays!

Friday, April 14, 2017

The kids are alright

The story was in the Washington POST the other day, about how some students in the journalism class at Pittsburg High School in Kansas looked into the background of a woman who had been hired as the school's new principal.  They found some of her academic credentials to be, in a word, bogus. And in two words, made up. And in three, a lotta baloney.

Amy Robertson was hired to run the school on the strength of having a bachelor's degree from the University of Tulsa, but she was not able to produce a transcript from that institution. 

What's more, Robertson claimed to have earned a master's and a doctorate from something called Corllins University. It turns out that this school is regarded as a diploma mill, and the students who work on the "Booster Redux," the school newspaper at Pittsburg High, couldn't even get the Corllins website to come up. There's no evidence that it's an accredited university, and on the scale of 1-10 in rating colleges, where "10" would be Harvard or Hopkins, Corllins rates a zero, equal to "Trump U." The school has no address for even so much as a building, and it is not approved by the US Dept of Education.  

There is no indication that they have a football team, either.

The student journalists also found it interesting that Robertson had been living in Dubai for the last 20 years, working as the boss of an education consulting firm called Atticus I S Consultants there.

Clearly, her three ponied-up degrees and two decades of working 7,586 miles away in Dubai qualify her to run a high school in Southeastern Kansas.

Even the student advisor to the newspaper staff, Emily Smith, had been among the educational "experts" who vetted the credentials of Robertson, so when the kids started digging a little deeper into her, Smith had to step aside and allow Eric Thomas, executive director of the Kansas Scholastic Press Association, and other proficient journalists to lend a hand. 

On April 4, 28 days after she was hired, Robertson resigned, after telling the Kansas City STAR that all three of her degrees "have been authenticated by the U.S. government," and refused to talk about the facts the students unearthed "because their concerns are not based on facts."

Some of the high school journalists worked through their spring break to bring out the facts about the charlatan would-be principal. 
The future is in good hands

And that makes me wonder how hard the adults who were supposed to hire the best person to run the school for these and the other students worked to find about Robertson's credentials.

If they worked at all. 

People used to trot out the expression "youth must be served," and I have no idea what that means. If it means that young people should be catered to and patronized, no need! They're all right on their own. This is the perfect example. The adults in the town of Pittsburg should be bowing their collective heads in shame.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


I saw this online and it seemed like good advice. As a man who has made his share of mistakes over the years, not to mention the shares of several other goofballs, I have plenty of experience in apologizing. It's not hard for me to admit I was wrong, I made a mistake, I shouldn't have done that, said that, thrown that...

Anyway, sorry for digressing. (See how easy that was?)  The thing I read online says that there are three parts to a "real, effective apology":
Image result for deviled eggs

  1. Acknowledge how your action has affected the person. For many first-time apologizers, this means not focusing on yourself, and that can be hard. Let's say you were supposed to bring the deviled eggs to the community picnic, and you totally forgot to buy both the eggs and the devilment, so you show up without them, and everyone is grinding cold chicken and potato salad and rolls and they really want a deviled egg and there are none to be had.  A poor apology would start off, "Well I was so busy last night and the cable went out and Jimbo stopped by and I was all out of mayonnaise..." while a good one would sound like, "I blew it. I committed to bringing deviled eggs today and I did not do that and people are disappointed..."
  2. Say you're sorry. I know a lot of people who have never uttered the phrases "I was wrong" or "I'm sorry." Everyone is wrong now and then and everyone OUGHT to be sorry now and then, but some people can never get those words out. Perhaps it's because they don't feel that way. So, back to the deviled eggs, a nice "I'm sorry, everyone! I really feel bad about it" will do fine.  Note: this should really suffice, unless what you're apologizing for is so monumental as to require something along the lines of a human sacrifice. I think it goes too far when people carry on and on about how deeply sorry they really truly are.
  3. The third thing is to describe how you're going to make it right or at least make sure it won't happen again, so in our example, the thing to say would be, "I know we'll have another picnic soon, and if you give me another chance to take care of the deviled eggs, you'll see I mean it when I promise to do better."
And then just do better! And by making a proper apology, and making things better next time, we set things right.

I'm not sorry for not liking deviled eggs in the first place, though.