Monday, April 30, 2018

Nautical but not nice

Here in Maryland, the words "Jolly Roger" connote for most of us that b.a. amusement park down in Ocean City with the Ferris wheel, roller coasters, carousel, water slides, go-karts, miniature golf and zip lines and I don't know what-all else, but it's a pretty cool place, as I recall. I don't frequent amusement parks, but if I feel like playing in bumper cars, there's always Trader Joe's parking lot.

Image result for raiders jolly rogerAnd we also think of the pirate flag - the Jolly Roger, usually shown in  black and white and carried by fans of the Oakland Los Angeles Oakland Las Vegas Raiders (left) (by which I mean they will have left Oakland twice and LA once when move to Las Vegas).

It's a fearsome image, dating back to the pirate days when ships plied the seas, launching battles and stealing what they wanted from passing vessels. It's interesting that pirates would advertise, allowing all to see just who was pulling up next to them mid-ocean. You see that skull and crossbones, and you know they weren't pulling up to ask if you had any Grey Poupon.  It was the 18th century version of a bumper sticker we might see today on an old Ford with a shot suspension and loud exhaust, a sticker reading, "We have come for your children, and your car, and your wallet, and that bag of KFC in the back seat."

Richard Noyce is the curator of artifacts at the National Museum of the British Royal Navy, and he points out that "Pirates always attract much interest, no doubt in part due to the many Hollywood films about them. However, in reality they weren't the loveable rogues they are often portrayed as. Then, as now, pirates were seen as a threat to trade and great efforts were made to suppress their criminal activities."

Also of interest (to me, at least) is that pirates who flew that black skull-and-crossbones flag were mean enough, but if you saw a red flag flying on a pirate ship, it was time to call your travel agent and change your plans.

When pirates flew a flag with the skull on a red background, that meant they were the kind of pirates who would not only steal your entire payload, and every one of the limes you took along to prevent scurvy. Pirates flying the red flag - the Jolly Roger - were telling you there would be no survivors if you came at them, so don't.

So who was this "Roger" and why was he so jolly?  There was never a Roger, no matter what anyone says. The expression "Jolly Roger" comes from the French phrase "joli rouge," which means "pretty red".

Fearsome: The red Jolly Roger which has gone on display for the first time since it was captured off the north African coast in 1790 by a British seaman

 This is a real original Jolly Roger from the 18th Century that Mr Noyce has on display in his nautical museum.  Where did the skull and crossbones image come from?  That was the mark that a pirate captain would make in the ship's log for every person they killed.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunday Rerun: A tip of the slongue

The afternoon guy on our local public radio station committed a classic Spoonerism the other day, referring to our Governor Larry Hogan as "Governor Harry Logan."

This dates back to the days of Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), the pastor of New College, Oxford, England, who would stand up in the pulpit and say "The Lord is a shoving leopard" instead of "a loving shepherd," or end a wedding with, "It is kisstomary to cuss the bride."

Rev. Spooner
So linguists call that a Spoonerism, in his honor, defining it as "an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched between two words in a phrase."

From what we can read of the Rev. Spooner, he was a very intelligent man whose thoughts sometimes came to him faster than his words could be formed, such as time he found a worshipper in the wrong seat in church ("You are occupewing the wrong pie") or asked to see the Dean of his school ("Is the bean dizzy?").

Just as every statement that seems goofy but has a kernel of wisdom deep within ("If people don't want to come out to the ballpark, how are you gonna stop them?") winds up being attributed to Yogi Berra, every slip o' the tongue seems to get lumped in the dap of the good preacher.  Does it matter whether it was he who said, at the end of World War I, "When our boys come home from France, we will have the hags flung out," as long as SOMEONE did? 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, April 28, 2018

My smart friend Barbara Davis shared this with me. What a great wall clock for a library!  A really clever idea.
There was a time when we knew so little about the damage done by cigarette smoking (or pretended we didn't) that tobacco companies sold their smokes to people who wanted to get or maintain a slim figure - hence the slogan "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." You have to like the audacity of saying "no throat irritation" unless you don't consider the various illnesses brought on by smoking to be irritating.
I'm surprised there's a parking spot left so close to this evening sunset in Amalfi, Italy.
How curious. This orange bottom-dweller (and bottom feeder), the Handfish (an anglerfish of the family Brachionichthyidae), is known to live on the ocean floor, eating small crustaceans and not swimming. He propels himself around with those little tiny hands. I am not kidding. We'll see how it works out for him. He is the greatest fish in the world. He keeps the ocean bottom in tippy-top shape. And it’s a great, great place. These fish have mental stability and are, like, really smart.
They sometimes travel in packs, and always bring love and happiness to all.
Henry Ford received this fan mail for his Ford V-8 from an early purchaser, a man who, along with his girlfriend Bonnie, was in need of a speedy reliable vehicle, as he was in the business of moving large sums of money from one location to the next. It's also amazing that in 1934, the Post Office could get a letter from Tulsa to Detroit within four days.
You can make a birdfeeder out of an old 2-liter soda bottle. The bird won't pay any mind, and he or she will thank you with a pretty song.
Springtime in Williamsburg, VA, is something everyone should see at least once!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Another Saturday night

Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a great time at prom

This is a tweet sent by former NFL placekicker Jay Feely the other night as his daughter left for her prom with her boyfriend. Feely spent 14 years booting oblate spheroids in stadiums across America, and became a commentator for NFL games for CBS in 2014.

CBS puts on a lot of news broadcasts that Feely ought to watch. As funny as he might find it to portray an image of Big Bad Daddy menacing the young man taking his daughter (whom he apparently considers his personal property) to a dance, he might have seen on the news a story or two about the carnage wreaked on high schoolers in this nation by guns.

Of course, the very next morning, he was all over himself mansplaining how we were all wrong to dislike the original tweet.

The prom picture I posted was obviously intended to be a joke. My Daughter has dated her boyfriend for over a year and they knew I was joking.I take gun safety seriously (the gun was not loaded and had no clip in) and I did not intend to be insensitive to that important issue

OK, Jay. First of all, jokes are supposed to be funny. Playing CopDad is not funny, nor is standing around with a gun in one's hand.

Second of all, being insensitive is not a matter of intent. Either one is in tune with the feelings of others, or one is not.

You will notice in this life that the oafs and galoots who dot the landscape regularly go out of their way to put their foolishness on display. Not enough to brandish his shootin' iron for the two young people who wanted to go have fun at a prom and forget for one evening how guns have cast a pall on this nation, no sir. He had to get pictures and tweet all over himself.

No, he had to make the whole evening all about Jay Feely, which is why I hope his daughter and her boyfriend are good enough to forgive him.

The prom and the picture and the tweet all are from the same Saturday night in America that a clearly deranged young man took a weapon of mass destruction into a Waffle House - a gun that authorities had taken from him after he attempted to take it to the White House, only to have his father return it to him - and kill four people. This person, Travis Reinking, was recently running amok claiming that Taylor Swift was stalking him. Good idea to give his guns back to him.

And none of this causes anyone to stop and consider doing anything.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Actually, my favorite Candy was John

Do you like Necco wafers?  They are those disc-like "candies" made by the New England Confectionery Company (hence the snappy name.)

I never cared for them. I thought they were not much more flavorful than poker chips, although I once had a boss who just loved his Neccos, oh yes he did.

But someone must love them, because now that the company that has been grinding them out since 1847 (really!) is in danger of going out of business, people are breaking their necks to build up their stashes of the stuff.

Take Katie Samuels, from Florida.  I don't actually mean to take her from Florida; if she is happy down there, she ought to stay. But she is from Florida, and these awful candies mean more to her than her car does.

She contacted a candy wholesaler,, to see if they would be willing to swap their entire Necco inventory for her 2003 Honda Accord.

Katie says she remembers being a child (don't we all?) and how she would "play church" at home. I don't remember doing that, although I often "played home" at church, earning sharp rebukes from pastor and parents alike.

But in Katie's fun childhood, she used Neccos as pretend Communion wafers.

I really want to get to hear more about Katie's childhood, including what she dressed up as for Halloween, but the story ends there, because turned down the deal, but did sell her a few boxes of the tasteless treats.

Necco also makes Squirrel Nut Zippers, which always sounded like apparel for yard rodents, and Candy Buttons, another favorite of many that found no truck among my want list, and please! Just because my last name happens to be Clark, don't assume I like Clark Bars, even though dozens of would-be comics have ankled up to me and crooned,"I want a Clark Bar!"

Image result for neccoFor the record, in my candy-gobbling days, I liked Almond Joys and Mars bars, with the occasional Bonomo Turkish Taffy and Mary Jane thrown in for ballast.

The company says they will shut the doors for good the first week of May if no one comes along to buy the place. Al Gulachenski, former CEO of Necco ("Neccoceo"?) is trying to come up with $30 million to do so, but so far, his hopes that 3 musketeers will come up with the loot have mainly been met only with snickers. They say that so far, he's only raised 100 Grand.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pudding things to good use

Before we proceed, we need to define some terms. For instance, "head cheese" is not cheese at all, but an undesirable delicatessen selection. The Hundred Year War was over by the second weekend, a foot-long sandwich measures 11 inches, the Civil War was quite uncivil, Chinese Checkers are neither Chinese nor checkers, koala bears are not bears at all, and Poor Richard's Almanac was not written by anyone named Richard, but by Ben Franklin, and he was plenty rich, having been the only president of the United States who was never president of the United States!

Image result for black pudding
So don't be fooled if an English person offers you pudding. Don't think of vanilla, chocolate or pistachio.  Over there, pudding is blood sausage, which is hardly a dessert item with some Cool Whip on top.

But while English pudding is no way to end a meal, it did save the life of a British butcher.  Chris McCabe was locked in a freezer and the lock froze after a gust of wind blew the door closed. (Well, things are supposed to freeze in there, right?

Chris's butcher shop is in Totnes, southwest England, and he did all he could by kicking at the door to no avail, so he got the idea to pick up a frozen blood sausage weighing 3.3 lbs and using it as a battering ram.

He whomped on that thang a few times and finally the button came unstuck and off he dashed, to have a cup of tea, one supposes, with a nice slab of blood pudding, which, if you really want to know, consists of pork fat or beef suet, pork blood and a ton of oatmeal, and your choice of groats: oat or barley. 

Maybe he needed something stronger than tea. You know, to take the chill off.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Nothing's quite as certain as change

Would I be wrong if I assumed you had heard the Firesign Theater comedy record "Everything You Know Is Wrong"? That was the 70s album with the skit about everything we think we know being all wrong. You can hear side 'A' here and side 'B' here to learn facts such as "Dogs flew space ships! The Aztecs invented the vacation! Men and Women are the same sex! Our forefathers took drugs! and Your brain is not the boss!" 

And they claim the 70s were ten lost years!  Balderdash!

Now, if you keep your wits about you, you'll learn all sorts of interesting things.  Things change! They almost have to. For instance, also in the 70s, the Minnesota Vikings had a pretty good wide receiver named Bobby Moore, and then I didn't hear his name any more, and I wondered what happened to him, since he was apparently replaced by a guy named Ahmad Rashad. Finally, someone took me aside (remember, this was all before the "World Wide Webs") and told me that Moore had converted to Islam, taking the name Ahmad Rashad, which means "Admirable one led to truth" in Arabic.

I bring this up to warn all students of world geography that the country in Africa known until recently as Swaziland is now to be called the Kingdom of eSwatini.

The country is ruled by Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III, who celebrated turning 50 the other day by changing the name of the country.

Image result for eswatini flag
The flag did not change.
When you're the absolute monarch of a country, you can do these things.

His objection to calling the nation, which is smaller than New Jersey, "Swaziland" was that people all over confused it with Switzerland, in the amusing manner of American postal workers who believe New Mexico is a foreign country, like Alaska.

But outside of being landlocked and mountainous, the countries have very little in common, so now it's eSwatini in Africa.

Of course, if the Swiss had any sense of humor, they could quickly change their name to "eSwitzerland," but it ain't gonna happen.  And don't look for a change back anytime soon, either. King Mswati took over the throne 32 years ago from his dad, Sobhuza II, and he had reigned for 82 years.

Mswati has 15 wives and an equivalent number of mothers-in-law. There are prices to be paid.

Monday, April 23, 2018


It was not the best way to celebrate a birthday for former Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance last Friday, but instead of blowing out candles that morning, he was blowing out the light on his jail-free future.

Going to the Ironbar Hilton at 37 was never in the cards for the overachieving Dance, whose meteoric rise to the top of the education business came to a sudden halt last summer when, amid questions and rumors, he suddenly packed up his backpack and left his job suddenly, one year into his contract, three years before the dismissal bell was to ring.

And all without a note from his mother, although there was plenty of correspondence from lawyers and prosecutors.

Dance's crime, and that is what it is, was lying about money he pocketed, but did not report to the school system which employed him, or the taxpayers, who paid him plenty to run the school system, when all along the only running he was doing was running here and there taking side jobs and arranging for his side-job friends to be taken care of back here with no-bid contracts and such.

He pleaded guilty to the charges last month. State prosecutors asked for him to get five years, with all but 18 months suspended. The judge handed Dance a fiver, all right, but with all but six months suspended, two years of probation and 700 community service hours to begin next Friday.

He was allowed to leave the courthouse on his own and will report to the luxurious county lockup this Friday.

You have to like the chutzpah of a man who admits he was guilty, but still asked for a break, telling Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Cox, "I'm embarrassed, I'm sorry. I'm seriously remorseful for my actions."

But that remorse was mixed with having known what he was up to all along. And that's what troubles me the most. Dance was given the chance and then another chance while in the job to make proper disclosures of what he was raking in and get on the right track. After all, he showed up at schools on the rare occasions that he actually woke up in the county that paid him $287,000 per year. and told little kids that with a little perspicacity, they could be like him and be someone important.

But the numbers that matter for Dance now are 4 (the number of felony perjury counts he is guilty of) and what prison number he is assigned on Friday.

He is only 37. He will be out of the sin-bin by autumn, a free man again with his destiny of his own making.

Let's see if Dr Dallas Dance does something to redeem himself in the eyes of society and himself. No sane school system will hire him, but someone might want to hire a man who once seemed to have good ideas about teaching children to be ready for the world.

A good teacher learns from his students as well. Give Dallas another chance.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Rerun: A blessed day

It was one of those chance encounters, two strangers on a hospital elevator.  I was leaving my orthopedic surgeon's office after he told me to take my knee trouble to my back surgeon.  That kind of a day...

But I held the elevator door for a lady, a bit older than I, one of those nice people you meet every so often.  She apologized for taking a while to get in the elevator car, but, as I said, I'm not in a hurry, take your time, and what floor did you need, ma'am?

Well, she didn't know; it was her first time seeing this new doctor and she was having a hard time finding his office, but she had tried 3 and 4 and so now she was ready to give the second floor a once-over to see if he was there.

We got to 2 and I asked if she wanted me to hold the car while she looked.  She said no, thanks just the same, and then she said, "Have a blessed day!"

Well, that's the kind of thing that many people use as a "Take care!" sort of farewell expression...a throwaway line...but from this dignified and kind lady, it seemed like so much more. 

 I got back in the car, popped on the Bluetooth, called Peggy (Blessing #1) and told her where things stood, and drove home (#2) in my car that started, ran and stopped at the right times (#3) and all along the way, I saw (#4) things for which to be thankful.  I stopped at the grocery store (#5) and spent some of my money on some milk (#6) to put in my tea (#7) when I got home.  I thought of family (#8) and friends (#9) and the fact that we live in the greatest country on earth (#10) and then I sat down at the pc (#11) to read my emails (#12) and check in with my Facebook family (#13).

Then Peggy came home and took me to the Double T Diner (#14) to celebrate my first year of retirement (#15) and we had a wonderful meal (#16).

That lady inspired me to have a blessed day, so I counted my blessings! And I haven't stopped counting because I haven't come close to counting them all.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, April 21, 2018

Two noble figures meet. Here's Aaron Rodgers, star of the Green Bay Packers and several television commercials, recruiting a new fan: The Dalai Lama. Big Tipper, The Lama, and he granted Rodgers a moment of perfect consciousness, so he's got that going for him.
This is the very definition of "mesmerizing."  Stare at this for a few seconds and you'll feel your eyeballs turning into pinwheels.
This sounds like it will lead to perfectly orderly stairways...but think about it...
I saw this online would make a great t-shirt or beach towel.
Reach out and touch...touch someone's hand...make this world a better place, if you can...
We were told as children that the stork brought babies. No one told us where the stork got these babies, but you still see his image at bridal showers all the time.
We enjoyed seeing this on the Turner Classic "Noir Alley." Ricardo Montalban, long before the Chrysler commercials and the "Rich Corinthian leather," and long after the Bride of Frankenstein days for Elsa Lanchester.
Tonight is the final night for Baltimore Light City, the annual celebration of electricity downtown. After tonight, it'll be back to the usual red and blue flashing lights.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Bat Man

Did you ever watch a situation "comedy" on TV, or a movie with Adam Sandler (except for "Big Daddy") and wonder where the comedy went?

The answer is, and always has been, that the comedy we seek from television and movies is hiding in plain real life!

The latest example comes from the Millcreek Township School District, outside Erie, Pennsylvania, where Superintendent William Hall has heard about all the school shootings that our lax laws have brought us, and responded by handing out miniature wooden baseball bats to the 500 (probably amused) teachers who shape young mind there.

The purpose of the baseball bats is use "as a tool against an active shooter just like any other item in the immediate room."

Image result for miss grundyI know, I know.  Like me, you're shaking your head, picturing Ms Grundy in the Archie comics subduing Moose and Jughead with a tiny Louisville Slugger, and not coming up with a lucid image.

Mr Hall says parents and students need not fear that young Marmaduke or Penelope will be getting bopped on the beezer for any little infraction, since the wee bats will remain locked in the classroom and are only to be used/available in a hard lockdown situation.

Of course, if and when a "hard lockdown" situation occurs, it will be a simple matter for a teacher confronted with an armed sociopath to ask for enough time to get the key out of the little wooden box that says "Souvenir of Painted Mountain, Arkansas" that Uncle Ned brought back that time out of the top right drawer of the desk, and then go to the locked cabinet where the bat sits, waiting for the call to duty.

I'm sure the armed sociopath won't mind waiting.

Bottom line:  the bats are 16 inches long, and cost the district about $1,800.

William Hall, superintendent of the Millcreek Township School District in western Pennsylvania, displays one of the miniature bats given to teachers.
Weapon of math instruction
I don't mean to harsh Mr Hall; I'm sure he came up with this plan with the best of intentions, but just like that school down South that wanted all the kids to bring in canned goods, so as to subdue an intruder with a barrage of thrown cans of Dole Pineapple Chunks in Heavy Syrup and Green Giant Mexicorn, the problems and needs of our schools and our society at large will better be served by meaningful legislators enacting meaningful laws and judges and juries punishing those who violate same.

And not to mock Mr Hall too heavily, but, sir, have you spent much time around teenagers, especially teenaged males?  I don't think you have spent enough, if you don't think they won't howl at the name you gave this ill-conceived program.

The bat defense is technically called "Threat assessment, Run, Obstruct and barricade, Join forces, Attack, and Never give up."

That's right. What young dude won't look forward to trying on a TROJAN?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I got a hurricane named Isaac...

Get ready! Batten down the hatches, or whatever you do with your battens.

The Atlantic Hurricane (known in Maryland as "HAIRikin Season) Season is June 1 til November 30, after which it is not allowable to wear white clothing. During Hurricane Season, dress as you would for boarding up windows and bringing in lawn furniture, the grill, and Uncle Ed from where they sit outside and putting them in the garage or whatever saloon Ed likes.

And the annual clenchy predictions are out for this season. We get guesses  informed predictions from two main sources: Colorado State University, and AccuWeather.  CSU is calling for slightly above-average hurricane activity with a prediction of 14 named storms (see name chart below.) They go on say that 7 of the 14 will be graduated to full hurricane status, with 3 of THEM being full-blown BFD (Big Fine Donnybrook) major hurricanes.

Over at AccuWeather, their weather guesses say it will be a near normal to slightly above-normal year, and they say to count on between 12 to 15 tropical storms, with 6 to 8  forecast to become hurricanes and 3 to 5 are seen as real bough-breakers.

Of course, it seems longer than this, but it was only last September when the Hurricane Twins, Irma and Maria, caused such unimaginable damage in the South and Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Michael Bell, of Colorado University's Tropical Meteorology Project, is one of those believers in the "whose ox is being gored" theory of disaster evaluation, because, as he puts it, "It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season."  And how many times have we been enjoying clear, sunny summer weather while the coast of N. Carolina or Flo. Rida are being shredded by a named storm?  And vice versa.

The meteorologists sit down and analyze decades' worth of data, including the temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean waters, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear (that's the measurement of wind speed and direction compared to heights above sea level and the always-important El NiƱo (the result of waters warming in the Pacific).

There is also a scientific notion that as far as hurricanes are concerned, lightning does not strike twice in the same location, but two wrongs do not make a right, either.

Here are the names of the candidates for Hurricane Status: (clip 'n' save!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Trouble brewing? Be more perky.

Image result for dj jazzy jeff thrown outI've been paying attention to this Starbucks mess up in Philadelphia. I'm sure you've seen the story. Two African-American men were waiting in a Sbux for a third guy - a business associate - to join them and they got the old tosseroo from the staff because they were sitting there without ordering.  Even though they said they were waiting for a dude, they still got the rush, and plenty of people leaped up to say they hang around in the green coffee dungeons all the time without getting treated like DJ Jazzy Jeff.

So! It's full emergency time for the *bx public relations team, and HBIC (Head Barista In Charge), Kevin Johnson, is putting himself out there. He had a cup of coffee and flew to Philly, where he is appearing on every television show except "Hockey Night In Canada" to beg the public not to boycott.

The two men so rudely (and likely illegally) arrested have agreed to meet with Johnson, who called the arrests "reprehensible" and told Good Morning America, "I'd like to have a dialogue with them so that I can ensure that we have opportunity to really understand the situation and show some compassion and empathy for the experience they went through. Finally as we're working to solve this, I'd like to invite them to join me in finding a constructive way to solve this issue."

I am reading a book in which a guy gets gasoline all over his jeans, and later is surprised to find himself engulfed in flame, and seriously burned.
I bring this up to point out that it's best to prevent situations like this, rather than deal with them afterwards.

I know it's tough to hire people to serve coffee, and be courteous to people as well.  Even though Starbuxxxxxx calls them "baristas," they have a need to educate the people they hire, to teach them the rules of civil conduct. No, there is no way to test an applicant for latent racial bias (although a look at their social pages and t-shirt can give you some leads) but at least the coffee shop empire could provide training for managers BEFORE an incident like this comes along and allows some callow counter person to cause the firm millions of lost customers and dollars.

Two questions remain in my mind:

  • What difference did it make to the starb*** staff if those two guys sat around waiting for their friend? Did it affect their income or status at all? No matter the race of the people involved, who cares if people sit there soaking up Wi-Fi and waiting to get a coffee? 
  • Does anyone ever think of finding locally-owned cafes and diners to grab a cuppa mocha java instead of enriching people from Seattle? I know, Starbs is the cool coffee spot, beloved by hipsters. I urge the pack to find another place that knows how to treat people right.

And one last thing before I finish my tea. Here come the standard stencilled-and-outlined PR denials! Johnson is now saying, "This is not who we are."  Balderdash. This is EXACTLY who you are, or people would not be so steamed.  Maybe it's not who you WISH to be, but you can work on that while I get my tea at home.