Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Taking It Into Accounting

I have a feeling that good things lie ahead for a young man from Friendship, MD by the name of Elijah Bowen.

Elijah just started freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College, and he's taking an accounting class.

Already, he is smarter than I.

Image result for index cardAnd then the first test of the year comes along, and his instructor, Reb Beatty, tells the class that it's ok to bring some notes on a "3 x 5 card" for the test.

You know what he meant, one of those index cards like your mom used for her Sauer Beef and Dumplings recipe that she got from Thelma down the road in 1967.

But our man Elijah, he took this thing literally, and showed up with notes all over a card that was 3 x 5 FEET!

Beatty had to admit that the youth got over on him, but at least they got to be internet famous, with a few thousand social media shares and views.  

"Today, a student shows up with this. Sure enough it is 3x5 … feet," Beatty wrote on Facebook. "As precise as I am, apparently I never specified inches and therefore yes, it was allowed. Well played and lesson learned for me."

For Bowen's part, he said, "I figured it would be a win-win either way to study and fill out the entire card. I had a backup 3x5-inch card just in case he didn’t let me use it."

Image result for elijah bowen
Beatty says that he sees the card (whatever size) that students bring for the test not as a test aid, but a preparation tool.  And really. Elijah made that giant card, and then he made the pocket version just in case he was denied use of the first one, and you have to figure, all that writing, times two, means he learned his lessons well. 

And he didn't need the card - big or little - all that much. He says he only referred to it a time or two, and he got "a high B or low A."

So yeah, I think Elijah shows the sort of thinking that will serve him well through life, which can be navigated quite easily if we just take advantage of what loopholes and shortcuts are legally available.

My former co-workers will recall a harsh, authoritarian chief who rammed through a dress code that spelled out in detail everything down to whether your sweatshirt could have words on it (it couldn't) but he forgot to specify that the pants he was so worried about had to be long pants. So we had guys showing up for work when it was about 10° degrees outside and wearing short pants.

There's no accounting for that.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Brave new word

One thing you can count on besides your abacus is this: you can never say, that's it, we have all the words we will ever need. Real words, that is.  Words stumbled upon and half baked by the likes of Sarah Palin, who used the word-known-only-to-her "refudiate" for a few days until some brave soul tapped her on the shoulder, don't count.  Just learn the ones that Merriam-Webster adds to their dictionary, and you'll be fine.

'Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it! - Sarah Palin, unlikely to be confused with the Bard of Avon
 Anyhow, M-W just added 250 new words, some of which ("schneid") have been hanging around for years, hoping to be added to the book, and some ("froyo") that just showed up out of nowhere.  

And now these newly-listed words can be used in word games, and the people at "Jumble" can finally stop using "AVOYEG*" every three weeks!

So, here we go. "Hive mind" is in the dictionary now! The complete definition is way too involved to include here, but it has to do with people acting on a mob mentality, like a swarm of bees, rather than using their own noggins. "Froyo" is not a word I would feel comfortable using out loud, being a cute portmanteau for "frozen yogurt," which I would pass up 31 times on the way to Baskin-Robbins. "Schneid" is used in the term "get off the schneid," which is to say, "finally win something after many losses." Where does that come from? It's fascinating! "Schneider" is Yiddish for "tailor," and a tailor cuts cloth, so to lose is to be cut from the list of winners.  The schneid is definitely something off of which you want to be.

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"Sriracha" is on the list now - that great hot sauce I like so much.  There's also "Bibimbap," which I thought was a song that Jennifer Lopez sang in the "Selena" movie, but no. That song was "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom." Bibimbap is "a Korean dish of rice with cooked vegetables, usually meat, and often an egg, either raw or fried."  Never heard of that. 

Nor had I heard of the term "The Internet of Things," which is how Peggy approaches all of life's crazy problems! My wise wife, faced with a TV with no audio or a need for a recipe, turns to YouTube while I page through the World Almanac, 1960 edition. 

A "troll" is no longer that goofy doll with goofy hair, but is instead the goof that shows up every time you write something nice on someone else's Facebook, saying "Oh yeah? Happy birthday, Edna...but Benghazi, though!"  

How about "onboarding"?  That's the new way to say "hire a new employee, make him or her feel like part of the team, outline policies they need to know and train them to do their job."  It does save a few words...

One more?  "Front" as a verb...it's been with us for a while, and it means to put up a false front.  I never miss a chance to talk about Potemkin villages, since there are so many in our town.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Rerun (from August 2014): He'll be working at the Pearly Gates, calling names of new arrivals

Most people, when they think of the late Don Pardo, who passed away this week at the age of 96, think of his intro to "Saturday Night Live," in which he would introduce the comedians, guest host (love that oxymoron!) and musical guest like this.  Don worked as a staff announcer for NBC from 1944 until forever caught up with him, but to me, the best Pardo was the game show Pardo.

I always felt there was no higher calling for mankind than to be the host of a game show.  Bob Barker! Bill Cullen!  Jack Narz! Richard Dawson!  Peter Marshall! Jim Lange!  Tom Kennedy! Allen Ludden! Bob Eubanks! Chuck Barris! Gene Rayburn! Don Francisco from Sabado Gigante! 

Not to mention Pat Sajak, so I won't.

Being the quizmaster was the ultimate honor, but I was also a big fan of what I called the "Be Glad To" guy.  Those guys were guys like Don Pardo, Jay Stewart, Johnny Jacobs, Rod Roddy, Johnny Gilbert, George Fenneman and Art James...the guys who came on in booming baritones (all baritones are "booming," just as all left-handed pitchers are "crafty") when someone from Dubuque solved the puzzle or spun the wheel or got the price right.  The glib host (always "glib") would say, "Tell her what's she won, Don!" and the announcer would boom..."Be glad to, Bob! It's a twenty-volume set of The Encyclopedia Brittanica! A case of Turtle wax! A year's supply of Rice-A-Roni (the San Francisco Treat!) and a new gas range from Tappan!  (Tappan - the leader in kitchen appliances since 1881!")

This was why sick days and snow days were always so great when I was a young 'un.  After the game shows, after a soup-and-sammy lunch, after "Search For Tomorrow," along came Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin and Pete The Pirate.

It says here that our deductive and memory skills were sharpened by watching "Concentration," our ability to make wise consumer decisions by "The Price Is Right," and our ability to discern between Alexander the Great and Alexander the Graham Bell by enjoying "The G.E. College Bowl."

Thanks and farewell, Don. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Almost-Halloween Picture Show, Saturday, October 28, 2017

If you've been loafing and have not come up with a suitable Halloween getup for Barfy, here you go. Any way you slice it, the dog will never live down this humiliation.
Somebody help me here, please. When I saw this, I thought, OK, a pretty woman with green makeup, but then I had one of those horrible realizations that this is probably a tribute to a character in a movie that has been seen by virtually every person in the world save me and someone who has been living like a hermit since 1979.
Cats respond happily to our attempts to clothe then, and here is the Cat Queen of Maryland, everyone!
Payday! Mounds! 5th Avenue! Why were we not smart enough to go trick-or-treating at a candy store?
A pretty clever magazine cover from 1924.
Here is my chance to address a topic that I feel needs discussion. The last time I checked, there were 174 varieties of Oreos, where once, only one was all we needed. If we do nothing to stop this trend, the next thing you know, it'll be Oreos stuffed with Colgate!
This is the movie that Halloween movie lovers love to see on Halloween. To me, it's the fourth-best P.J. Soles movie, after "Stripes", "Rock 'n' Roll High School", and "Jawbreaker." I have my standards where P.J. is concerned.
Sheet music from a real toe-tapper from 1911.  Happy Halloween, all!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sweet deal

Image result for halloween candy mixAt the first location of the Lazy "C" Ranch, we used to get a veritable army of trick-or-treaters every year on Halloween (and some for other holidays as well.) There were so many that we took to sitting on the tailgate of my old pick-'em-up truck, having a pizza for dinner and passing out the Butterfingers and Mounds and I don't know what-all else.

In fact, I can tell you for sure that it rained like a monsoon around here on Halloween 1993, because that was the year I had a whole winter full of Butterfingers, Mounds, and I still don't know what-all else.  Spring of 1994 meant lots of long walks and exercise, I know that, too.

But now, we live up a hill on a court without youngsters at all. Some people come from around the corner, but we hardly get any wandering hobgoblins at all. I'll get a few treats ready, and if we're faced with an unforeseen onslaught, I guess I can always hand out canned goods from the pantry.

According to an article I read while I should have been doing other stuff, our candy-makin' sweeties figure that Americans will spend $2.7 billion just on Halloween candy this year.  That's $2,700,000 on Hershey bars, "Reesie's" Peanut Butter Cups (that's how we say it in Baltimore, hon) and candy corn. I wonder how much of that goes for fake wax lips and those marshmallow "Circus peanuts" made of pastel marshmallow.

They break it down state by state, and it seems that in Maryland, Milky Way bars are the #1 Halloween candy, followed by "Reesie's" and Blow Pops. Blow Pops, for crying out loud, are two! two! candies in one.  Like Certs used to be both a breath mint and a candy, Blow Pops are a lollipop candy that encases bubble gum, and they replaced Skittles as the third-place candy in our state this year.

Mary Janes, Bonomo's Turkish Taffy and Sugar Daddy, all the stuff that I am currently paying a dentist to repair, are nowhere on the list anymore.  But neither are those dumb wax lips.

Having a teal pumpkin and non-food Halloween treats for food allergy kids means that ALL kids get to enjoy the holiday. Find TEN inexpensive ideas here!And by the way, I really like this new trend. Houses that will have non-food treats (stickers, stamps, snap bracelets, glo-stick toys) for kids with food allergies are self-designating by putting out a teal-colored pumpkin. Fun for all! 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Teach your children well

The other day, I was flabbergasted almost to the point of being gobsmacked when I read an op-ed piece called "Were we inattentive parents?" by Jennifer Phipps. It was in the Baltimore SUN, and to synopsize, the writer and her husband, dressed in very casual clothing, took their almost-three-year-old son to one of those neighborhood parks in a very tony neighborhood. The park, as a matter of fact, is named for Mattie J.T. Stepanek, the amazing young man who wrote six books of poetry and one filled with his essays on peace activism before losing his life to one of those damned mitochondrial diseases at 14.  Clearly, a park named for Mattie would be a safe place for children to thrive.
Image result for children playing on a swing

The boy was riding a swing with his dad standing behind him and his mother next to him.

And he loosened his grip, and fell off the swing into a bed of what Ms Phipps calls "(not) just a bed of mulch but a bed of springy mulch...

And they went on home.

That's the end of the story, and thanks for reading. 

Oh no, it wasn't. Because within a half an hour of their arrival home, they had a police officer at the door, investigating a complaint of "inattentive parenting."

A male who had been at the park called 911 to report that a boy fell off a swing into a bed of cushy mulch.

As Ms Phipps points out, this craze of helicopter parenting - hovering two feet over your children at all times until they finally get old enough (65, in most cases) to live their own lives - now extends to the children of OTHER people.

Don't blame the cop. The guy called 911 and she is obligated to check things out. 

Blame the other dad, who so self-righteously saw a child experience life and had to put a halt to THAT right away, yessir.

Hey, Big Daddy, life is full of bumps and lumps and falls. Be thankful that this child landed on soft mulch and went home none the worse for wear.  People who seek to place their kids inside a glass Dome Of Protection are bound to wind up with kids who cannot function outside that dome (or inside it, for that matter.)

I'll bet you that the next time Ms Phipps's son is on a swing, he will remember what happened the last time, and the sad result of letting go.

Speaking of letting go, it seems this almost-three-year-old is better at it than SuperDaddy, the kind of guy who calls the school to complain that his kid got wet because it rained outside.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ring it up

Image result for Alysha Orrok
Alysha Orrok
Back in the days when I was a grocery clerk, the cashier had to punch in the price of every item on a cash register and then put everything in brown paper bags. While we did that, we could look out of the cave windows and see dinosaurs and pterodactyls running around on the parking lot.  

Yes, it's been a long time since I got paid to put vienna sausages, ginger ale and Fig Newtons in bags for people. Now, if I can, I give the cashier a hand by putting my purchases in bags, but I really have to hurry, because the Cheez-Its, bottles of seltzer, and cat food really come flying down that belt, because they scan prices today and it's a lot faster than punching in the price of one can of Hawaiian Punch.

So...being Americans, we turn this into a competition, because everything here is a big contest.  Say hello to Alysha Orrok, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Ms Orrok is a schoolteacher who finds the energy somehow to work nights and weekends at a Hannaford Supermarket up there. 

She won the state competition for the Fastest Bagger, and now is headed to the national finals. This will probably be televised on ESPN, the channel that brings you the Hot Dog Eating contest on July 4 every summer. The contest will be held in Las Vegas this February, in case you want to travel to see it. Top prize is $10,000: righteous bucks for anyone, especially someone working two jobs!

"Every time I go to the grocery store I have a big pet peeve of how groceries are packed, so I am thrilled to hear there is a competition in bagging," said one of Orrok’s regular customers, Kashka Hughes Clark (no relation, trust me). 

Another of Ms Orrok's regulars, Frank Desper, was quoted by the local news up there as saying, "I don’t want my bread smashed." 

And I believe Frank speaks for us all.

There is a knack to bagging groceries and it involves putting the heavy stuff on the bottom of the bags and the bread and eggs on top, and distributing the items within several bags so you don't have people walking out with a heavy bag in one hand and a light one in the other. These people are known in the grocery business as "leaners."

I think I need to make a run up to Portsmouth to see what goes on in this Hannaford store, because, well, let's let Ms Orrok say it: "When I am here, people get excited when I am bagging their groceries." 

Image result for Alysha OrrokShe also told the news, "My first day as a bagger I dropped a soda and it exploded everywhere." 

I'm glad I wasn't there for that.  Cleanup on register 6!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Dollars to Donuts

Here's the deal: a police officer arrests a guy named Daniel Rushing for possession of four small flakes of crystal methamphetamine. This took place in Orlando, Florida, a couple of years ago. 

The arresting officer was Cpl. Shelby Riggs-Hopkins, who was sure she "saw meth" on the floorboard of Rushing's car. Rushing is 64 and  swears has never partaken of drugs in his life, not even so much as a cigarette. He told the corporal that, but she remained skeptical, since she didn't just become a police last week.

Rushing told Cpl. Riggs-Hopkins that what she saw was flakes from the glaze on a Krispy Kreme donut he had eaten in the car. She did not find this plausible, especially after two roadside drug tests she administered on the sweet bits tested positive for an illegal substance.

(I must say here that I have eaten exactly one (1) Krispy Kreme donut in my life, and within seconds of the first bite, it felt like my nerves were snapping like overstretched guitar strings. So there just might be something 'funny' in those bits she tested, after all! I don't know. What am I, a chemist?)

So off to the hoosegow goes Rushing in a rush (sorry) and 
he's booked and fingerprinted and all that, and then the city of Orlando stuck with the story for a while that the arrest was legal.

And then the results came back from the lab.

Krispy Kreme icing.

Daniel Rushing, 64, has received a settlement of $37,500 after he was arrested when police mistook his Krispy Kreme doughnut glaze for crystal meth. Charges were dropped, and now Rushing has a sweet $37,500 settlement.  The arrest has marred his chance of opening a security company. "I haven’t been able to work,” Rushing told the Orlando Sentinel. "People go online and see that you’ve been arrested."

The officer responsible was reprimanded, and all 730 members of  the Orlando Police Department ended up being retrained on how to do field testing correctly.

And Rushing, a retiree from the city Parks Department, got a check with enough dollars to buy $37,500 worth of Krispy Kremes.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Town and Country

Image result for baltimore city county map
I always have to explain to people from out of town that even though I say I live "in Baltimore," the fact is, I live in Baltimore County, a totally separate jurisdiction in every way, along with 831, 127 other hearty individuals spread out over 598 square miles.  We more or less engirdle the city of Baltimore, where 621,849 pack into 92 square miles.

Even at a cursory glance at those statistics, one can tell that the county has some wide-open areas and the city doesn't, and all those people living on top of each other (literally, in some cases!) means things are usually hopping in the city.

And I don't mean that in a bad way all the time. Lots of people like the hustle and bustle of city life, and that's fine for them. I prefer the rustle of semi-country life, and it just means everyone gets a choice.

And so do the men and women who protect people in the city- residents, people working there and visiting there. They are free to live where they wish. Of course, the City Council would prefer that more of them live within the city limits; these police officers, firefighters and paramedics make a decent dollar and add to a neighborhood in many ways. They are trying to pass legislation in the city to offer $2,500 in tax credits to cops, Fire personnel and sheriff's deputies who make their homes in Baltimore.

"This is a great tool to get more police officers in the city," Councilman Eric T. Costello, the lead sponsor of the legislation, told the Sun newspaper. "It’s about making sure they’re invested in the city. It’s a great tool for recruitment and retention."

The council reports that fewer than 500 of the 3,000 sworn police in the city live there, and the numbers are similar for the firefighters - not even 300 of the 1,400.

It would be a good thing to see those numbers go up, and naturally, the city fathers (remember when they called the council that?) met and spoke with Solomonic wisdom of the ways they could encourage these men and women to enjoy city living and shorter commute and that tax break. 

The president of the city council is Bernard C. “Jack” Young. He is a co-sponsor of the tax break bill, and he is also a man who wants to see a law passed that would force police to live within the city limits. 

"We need to figure out how we can force them to live in the city. This is madness," Young is reported by the SUN to have said at the council meeting discussing the tax bill. "They’re raping the city."

Later, Young told the newspaper he "regretted a poor choice of words," but insists that having so many officers living in the suburbs and others states is bad for city - where the property tax is more than double that of in the surrounding counties - and its finances.

I'll tell you what else is really bad for the city, and that is a city council president who equates a man or woman who does their honest week's work for the city, and just wishes to live where he or she and their families wish to live, with the violent, vile, horrible act of sexual assault.  

Young ought to spend some time riding along with police and paramedics to help him define his terms and get a better vision.  The City of Baltimore seems to lose a little more lustre every day, often being seen in a negative light because of high crime rates, poor schools, legions of homeless souls and derelict empty houses and buildings, income inequality and a drug culture that seems to overcome all attempts at control.

Having a man directing the City Council while making such preposterous statements is not a sign that the City will get better anytime soon.  

Sure, he took it back, but he said it in the first place.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Rerun: While you were sleeping....

Just down the road apiece from the Lazy 'C' Ranch where we live is a road called Cromwell Bridge Road.  The old Ma & Pa (Maryland and Pennsylvania) Railroad used to run through there, and you still can see mighty remnants of the old bridges that the trains ran along.  It's a pretty area, it runs to the Loch Raven Reservoir, and the stories we could tell about that site would fill a whole 'nother blog.

Along Cromwell Bridge Rd, someone got out of his or her car and painted a perfect little white heart on the macadam.  As you see, there is no shoulder along the road whatsoever.  In fact, I wanted to get a picture of the painted heart, but there is no place to park the car and get out to snap a photo. Walking or jogging along this road is a risky proposition. The cars and the trucks, they do whiz right on by.

That's why I deduce that whoever painted that heart did so in the middle of the night, the only time when you're not about to get "runned over" while trying to get the picture.  He or she pulled over, hopped out with the can of spray paint, and did his or her thing. And it's been there a couple of years now, so someone came back and refreshed the heart not long ago.

It makes me wonder what else happens in the night. Take those real estate and "O'Hoolahan for Sheriff" signs you see along the medians and sidewalks. Have you ever actually seen anyone pounding those staked signs into the ground?  Nor have I.

Fresh bread and milk get delivered to the Bag-Ur-Self and you never see the trucks. For that matter, you never see the trucks leaving the dairy farms, shiny tankers full of raw milk, and you'd have to get up pretty early to drive past the bakery to whiff on the rye and whole wheat loaves.

The paper gets tossed into the driveway, cars get repossessed, great truckloads of Pepsi and cat food are hauled in giant trucks. Insomniacs wrestle with their pillows, police maintain their vigils, bartenders and all-night servers wipe down the same table for the millionth time, and new parents sleepily pad down the hall for the 4 AM feeding.

A little world of its own takes place overnight in the darkness, and when the sun climbs over the horizon at dawn, day side people should take a minute to appreciate what got done as they slumbered and snored.