Friday, August 31, 2018

Life is a buffet

To be quite honest, forced to choose between Jimmy Buffett and Warren Buffett, I would choose an Asian Buffet.  But that's just my choice, and even though making money as a fulltime obsession seems a little graceless to me, someone has started a fake twitter acct. under the name of "Warren Buffet" (one t) and this person has some pretty good thoughts, viz. the following list entitled "What Is Cool."
Image result for asian buffet hibachi
Who's up for Asian buffet?

With no preamble, "Warren" lists ten things that never lost coolness:

1 saying 'thank you'
2 apologizing when wrong
3 showing up on time
4 being nice to strangers
5 listening without interrupting
6 admitting you were wrong
7 following your dreams
8 being a mentor
9 learning and using people's names
10 holding doors open

What great ideas! Why, I would like everyone on earth to start saying "thank you" - and meaning it! And while we're at it, could the proper response revert to "You're welcome," in place of "No problem!"?

Apologizing when wrong? Just like someone who has played the national anthem twice a day for twenty years, I am in good practice in this category. You never knew anyone with such a predilection for goofing - and saying I am sorry as soon as possible. I really am.

Showing up on time? You must be kidding me. Ten minutes early is late, to me, and to see the way people blithely sashay in for appointments and what-have-you fifteen minutes after they were due just makes me wanna holla. I attribute this to the "proximate spelling" craze currently bedeviling some of our schools.

Being nice to strangers gets all the easier when we remember the times we were the stranger and wished someone could help us find a bus stop or our pants. Or both.

Listening without interrupting gets easier when we remember that we came from the factory with one mouth and two ears.

Admitting you were wrong takes place just before apologizing for it, and that should be followed by acknowledgment of how our actions hurt another, and an earnest promise to do better.

Following your dreams? I will tell you, let  John Greenleaf Whittier say it: "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been.' "   Don't be one of those people who enters dotage wondering how it might have been had they pursued their dream.

Mentoring a young person or a new person to a group is one of the most rewarding feelings, and just like being nice to strangers, it's something you don't have to do, but you're glad when you do. And so is the mentored person.

There is no sweeter sound to a person, with the possible exception of the winner winner winner! noise at a casino, that their own name. And the person is thrilled that you take time to learn and use their handle, so you can't lose. What's more, there is no better way to get the attention of someone named Earl than to go, "Hey Earl!"

I like to hold doors open as a new way to meet new people. People are almost always appreciative, and so I hold the hardware while they come and go. And if they don't say thanks, hand them this list, with item #1 highlighted in yellow.

Now remember, this list was not written by the real Warren Buffett. At least, as far as we know.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sandwich Man

The good old New York DAILY NEWS - home to countless snappy headlines ("FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD") and grisly pictures of murdered gangsters bleeding all over the sidewalk, reports on the sandwich above, and as they say on TV news, you won't believe how much it costs!

Or maybe you will, if you've ever been in a Noo Yawk hotel and sent your laundry out.

They call it a grilled cheese sandwich, but this tasty morsel also features wagyu, which is Japanese beef so expensive that it's only sold at auction.  You just can't run down to the Tri 'n' Save and get a pound of it.

"The reality is the cattle from the prized Wagyu beef are pampered, they are treated like royalty. They are fed organic grains and are raised all-naturally. So their fat is distributed evenly throughout their body, and it's actually good fat because of what they eat," said Steve Mangione, spokesman for The Old Homestead Steakhouse, which is selling these sandwiches - white cheddar, beer cheese and creamy fontina melted on white bread with some Wagyu - for just $275.

The article doesn't mention whether you get chips and a pickle spear for that, and I'm betting that you don't.

I'm sorry to be bringing you this news as August mercifully drags to a steamy close, but the Steakhouse was featuring this, along with an $89 peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a $150 bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, a $225 pastrami sandwich and a $250 Philly cheesesteak. But it's ending soon, because so is August, and August is National Sandwich Month.  And here I never even got around to sending greeting cards to mark the occasion.

I'll tell you what. If you want to come over for lunch one day, I can fix you a sandwich just as good as this with Taylor Pork Roll - the official tubular meat product of Heaven - and various cheeses that I have lying about, for much less. In fact, for $275, I will wash and wax your car while performing a medley of Broadway showstoppers in the garage.

For a hundred more, I'll send you home with a brownie in a ziploc bag.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Mayo Clinic

There must be a line somewhere between a city's civic pride and a city's dignity.  Or, less subtly, how much will it take for some nationwide company to grease your town's coffers sufficiently to get you to change the name of your burg to something silly, something guaranteed to have the worst thing in the world happen, namely, having Jimmy Fallon poke fun at your town?

Down South in Florida, right about where the Panhandle turns into a peninsula, there's the town of Mayo, Florida.  It's not New York, or even York; there are fewer than 1,500 Mayonites, but the Town Fathers And Mothers, for a fee said to range between $15,000- $25,000, are willing to change temporarily the name of the town to "Miracle Whip."

Miracle Whip is an alternative spread to mayonnaise in much the same way a McDouble is an alternative to a Ruth's Chris 24-oz filet mignon, and it's a product of the good people over at Kraft Heinz, and they're the ones who brought this madcap idea to the Mayo folks, and found they have a deal, the point of which is to get residents of the town to switch to artificial mayonnaise.  But Shhhhh...they want it to be a secret!

Imagine the hijinx on film! The plan is to have film cameras rolling as trained condiment-replacement specialists go door to door to swap out sandwich spreads, by force if necessary.

This undated photo provided by the Kraft Heinz Company shows a person wearing a  "Miracle Whip" shirt.  The mayor of  Mayo, Fla., a  tiny town of less than 1,500 residents, located where Florida's Panhandle morphs into a peninsula, is announcing Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018,  that the city is switching its name to "Miracle Whip." But it's a joke. The name change started as a secret, tongue-in-cheek marketing proposal for the Kraft Heinz-owned mayonnaise-alternative.(Kraft Heinz Company via AP) Photo: 1, AP / Kraft Heinz Company
And they're going to change the name on street signs and the water tower! Oh, the consternation!

At least, the only good thing about all this is that Mayo (located halfway Tallahassee and Gainesville) will use the money for city beautification measures.

"We aren't going to be boring Mayo anymore. We are going to be Miracle Whip!" Ann Murphy, the mayor of Mayo, said. "I definitely think this will put us on the map."

One little problem that arose from all these secret meetings and keeping the public in the dark about it all is that closed sessions of town council are in violation of Florida's Sunshine Law.

The town, the county seat of Lafayette County, Florida's second-least populous county, is named for a confederate colonel, James Mayo, and its biggest employer is a state prison.

Maybe they needed to do this just to lighten the place up a bit.

By the way, there's a town in New Mexico that used to be called Hot Springs, but in 1950 (when radio was still king) a national radio show offered prizes for any city willing to change its name to the name of the radio show.

And that's how Hot Springs, N.M. became Truth Or Consequences, N.M.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

What the shell

Ask any stranger you might meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, or Auckland, New Zealand, or Albuquerque, New Mexico "what is Baltimore famous for?" and after they mention Johns Hopkins Hospital and University and rampant street crime, they will know us for our crabmeat.

Even in a summer when a dozen steamed crabs will put a $90 dent in your wallet, we throng to crabhouses to crack 'em or enjoy 'em in crabcakes, fried hard crabs, or crab fluffs (remember them?)

So you have to hand it to the PETA people, the people for the ethical treatment of animals, people clad in rubber shoes and hemp belts, eating watercress sandwiches on 37-grain bread for lunch with plant-based mayonnaise.

These are the people who shut down the circus because of the elephants, and got Nabisco to get new paintings for their animal cracker boxes, showing uncaged beasts roaming the earth in search of humans to eat.

Turn about is fair play, right? We eat animals, they eat us, but in the animal kingdom there exists no AETH - Animals for the Ethical Treatment of Humans - movement. Any creature from mosquito to crocodile sees us as lunch, dinner, or a post-prandial snack.

I bring all this up because PETA has now launched a billboard advertising campaign near some of the best crabhouses in town. It's near the Inner Harbor, and it is not getting many thumbs up on social media.

“Just like humans, crabs feel pain and fear, have unique personalities, and value their own lives,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said, without explaining how many crabs have ever told her so. “PETA’s billboard aims to give Charm City residents some food for thought about sparing sensitive marine animals the agony of being boiled alive or crushed to death in fishing nets simply by going vegan.”

A local tv station interviewed Nick Lentis, owner of the Silver Moon II restaurant, and he says the billboard is hurting his business.

“I don’t have nothing to do with this. I sell crab meat,” Lentis said. “I think they have to remove it.”

In September, Baltimore will celebrate their annual seafood festival, and PETA plans to keep the billboard up through that time.

They say crabs are sensitive...Some years ago, on the fishing pier in Ocean City, a crab attached himself to me by grabbing the sole of my Sperry TopSider with his pincer. I found this insensitive of him, and I mentioned this to his cousin that night over dinner, if he could hear me with all that Old Bay on him.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Oysters in a stew

For some time, many of us have yearned to vacation on Île de Ré, a French Island named in honor of Ray Romano. but one nagging problem held us back from plopping down our francs and booking passage on the good ship Le Barge Qui Fuit to spend a happy fortnight on the Bay of Biscay.

And that one hitch was, what if you want a fresh oyster at 3 AM?  What will you do? What WILL you do?

Relax and book that passage right now, because our problem has been solved, our fears allayed, our brows unknit. The world is quite literally our oyster, because Tony Berthelot, an oyster farmer, has devised a means of dispensing ice-cold oysters at any time to anyone who has the price in his or her pocket. (Actually, it only takes credit cards.)

M. Berthelot created the world's first oyster vending machine!  He raises them, harvests them, cleans them and puts them in boxes inside refrigerated (I should hope so!) compartments inside his Oysterama machine.

Then, when you're jonesing for a bivalve in the middle of the night, just report to Berthelot's machine for a variety of oysters, ranging from about €15 ($18) to €34 ($40).

Image result for Oyster farmers on the Île de Ré are using refrigerated vending machines
Berthelot says he invested just about the same loot in the machine that he would have spent in salary for an employee, and of course, this "employee," once plugged in, will work 24-7 all around the calendar.

And he recognizes that the younger generation of oyster slurpers is more content to deal with a machine than with a real live person.

"We can come at midnight if we want, if we have a craving for oysters. It's excellent; they're really fresh," said Christel Petinon, a 45-year-old client holidaying on the island.

"We felt as though we were losing lots of sales when we are closed," Berthelot points out.

"There was a cost involved when buying this machine, of course, but we're paying it back in installments ... And today, in theory, we can say that the calculations are correct and it's working."

The big gamble in all this was, would consumers throw caution to the wind and "shell out" money for oysters, knowing full well that they were trusting Berthelot to keep them cold all along. Live mollusks not kept cool enough, or too long out of seawater, can cause food poisoning when opened.

But Mon Dieu, how convenient!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Rerun: About Sam Levenson

Sam Levenson (1911-1980)  began life as a Jewish immigrant in New York's tough tenement district, and became a Spanish teacher after graduation from college. To supplement his income during summer breaks, he began performing at Catskills nightclubs, and soon became a well-known figure in comedy in clubs, radio and TV. He told stories of his upbringing, always crediting his parents with raising children in a tough setting with dignity, and while he never became as well-known as many other comics, he did leave a legacy of warm humor and wise advice. He did a lecture tour in 1966 to support his first memoir, "Everything But Money," and we saw him speak at a local college. I was impressed and began following his career (and as much of his advice as I could.)
This little compendium of advice is often attributed to Audrey Hepburn
, but Sam wrote it for his granddaughter. Audrey used to quote it all the time, often to people who thought she was Katharine Hepburn.

Time Tested Beauty Tips

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Never throw out anybody.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair.
The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!
That's the essence of Sam...modest, understated and wise.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, August 25, 2018

 Let's just say they do things differently out in California.
"They do things a little differently out in California."
How many of us can go home at the end of a workday and feel good about what we did that day? These people can!
An imaginative New York artist saw the crumbling remains of a bridge support and turned it into giant "street art."
I like this. These good people chose to let the tree live and adjust their building's dimensions around it.
The late Aretha Franklin left this behind - her notes on spiritual discipline. The last one was cut off, but it said, "Always be kind, and never turn to hate."
Future generations visiting the Smithsonian Museum in Washington can see this baseball glove, donated by a collector. It's Brooks Robinson's mitt from 1974. It might as well have had a sticker on it saying, "Magic done here."
I haven't had a soda for years and years but I was an avid Coke guzzler back in the day, and these old jingles are still in my ear.
Yes, of course, this is an alligator in Florida lolling about on a pool noodle.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Strip Poker

It's happened again. The police - Baltimore County and Maryland State -worked together to stop this scourge of illegal (obviously) street racing. Last weekend, there was a very large crowd gathered to watch a drag race involving some cars.

Understand: the crowd was gathered on I-70, which is a very large highway sort of thing that will take you Hagerstown if you wish to go there, as long as the people standing ON THE ROAD will get out of the way and let you through.

Working together, the county police and state troopers stopped 65 cars last Friday and Saturday night, resulting in three arrests for impaired driving, and issued 97 citations, 33 warnings and 23 safety equipment repair orders.

Police say that 50 to 60 people were standing on I-70, blocking westbound traffic for 15 minutes. So they positioned themselves down the "race track" a bit, and were all set to catch violators as they fled, having caught wind of the police presence.

Image result for street race crowd
 This is a picture from another state that shows what we're up against here - people taking over a highway for their own unsafe, ridiculous, pleasures.

 Listen, I have nothing against people having the hobby of making their cars go faster and faster! There is nothing wrong with that, and in fact, I know people who take their cars to dragstrips and oval racetracks for drag races and distance races. 

But there is a difference between Cecil County Dragway and Route 70. Contestants high-tailing it down the quarter-mile strip in Rising Sun do not have to worry about a family in a Buick coming home from a vacation being on the track ahead.

I think it's symptomatic of The New American Selfishness that some of us are so solipsistic as to think they are entitled to take over a portion of a public roadway this way. 

Try shutting down a major road in your town to hold a Book Fair and see what kind of response you get.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Washed up

There's a lot to love about kids, especially their honesty and lack of guile. Just hand a 6-year-old a sandwich and ask them later how they liked it. They won't couch their answer based on what they think you want to hear: if they like the combination of peanut butter and pickle, they will tell you so, and if not, they will tell you that as well.

But a 16-year-old, now that might be different. Because you add teenaged insecurity to the urge to speak one's mind, and you hear things that would have better been left unsaid.

And teens are acutely aware of each other's sensitive points, since they have them themselves, and they can lob rocks right where it will hurt the most.

Which brings us to this:

Akbar Cook is the principal of West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey, and you don't have to do much digging to find out that is one tough high school, in a crime-ridden urban area.  Students there don't tend to have all the comforts of home, and often show up at school hungry and in dirty clothes.

Or they don't show up at school, and that's even worse.

Instead of commissioning studies about the ill effects of wearing unwashed clothing, Principal Cook took the proverbial bull by the proverbial horns and did something about it!

Note to all of us: this revolutionary response - taking action instead of taking six years to discuss a problem - should be followed in many places, especially schools, before it's too late to educate.

Cook found out why the kids whose families did not have or use laundry facilities were skipping school by asking those kids what the matter was. “They were choosing to stay home rather than coming to school to be bullied or ridiculed,” he told “We didn’t know until we started making calls.”

He found out that the students affected were the object of harsh barbs in school, and the 21st Century version of e-cruelty: other students cruelly took photos of the disadvantaged ones and posted them on social media.

Nice, huh?

Principal Cook contacted PSE&G, New Jersey’s utility supplier, and obtained from them $20,000 to be used to set up five washers and dryers in an old football locker room.

What's more, people are donating detergent to help out. 

“I refuse to let a kid come to school smelling or dirty and I’m sitting on a shirt that says ‘West Side on it,” Cook said.

All the studies and hand-wringing in the world can't take the place of some worthwhile practical action.

“We take things for granted that are easy for us. [Cook] doesn’t,” says Ellen Lambert, retired president of the PSEG Foundation. “You want everyone to succeed, especially young people. He finds those places where success doesn’t happen and he figures out why and he goes after it.”

If this makes a difference for only one student, it would be great.  But you have to figure it will help many, and that's the greatest!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Making a scene

You know that quiet reading room at the Perry Hall library we've talked about here before, the one with the magazines and easy chairs and a fireplace for when it gets cold? A great place for people to while away an afternoon, or for students to get some work done at a table without a lot of rabble, or for this one guy who is always in there taking pictures of newspaper articles...hmmmm

Anyway, the silence in the room was broken harshly the other afternoon. I missed most of the contumacity, having filled my ears with Oriole baseball via earbuds (it doesn't matter that they lose the lion's share of their games; the call of the game by radio guys Joe Angel and Jim Hunter is terrific, no matter the score) but apparently a teenaged (maybe 15, 16) girl was having trouble with her laptop, or her words, or both.

Peggy was hearing the whole thing, and it was not pleasant. I saw others in the room craning around to see what was the matter, and it sure wasn't that Santa was outside causing a clatter.  Something on the screen had upset this young woman, and she reacted by cursing a blue streak, hurling f-bombs, slamming her laptop on the desktop, and violently dragging her stylus across the screen, vowing to "erase all of you *$(#)#@*ers forever."

Image result for nipsey russell poems
A poem from Nipsey Russell:
Spring has sprung,
Fall has fell,
Now winter's here.
And it's colder than usual.
Yes, all this was out loud, in a room with other people in it, and she cared not one whit about that. At length she gathered her belongings and stormed out, leaving furrowed brows and shaking heads and a snicker or two from the people her age remaining. I felt sorry for her, because she hasn't learned to keep her equilibrium in bad times, and if she doesn't develop that ability, she will face a tough life, because as sure as God made little green apples, there will be more bad times for her.

She appeared not to be from a deprived background, but it made me wonder.  Was this a case of parental neglect, where one or both parents or guardians never stepped up to show her how a reasonable adult deals with it when they grab the, uh, dirty end of the stick?  Or was it one of those deals where her folks have always stepped up to pave the way for her to walk along merrily, as they turned a gray sky blue for her? 

I don't know what's worse, an adolescent who has nothing done for them, or one who has everything done for them. I know it's hard to strike that balance, and maybe she was just one girl having one bad day, but somehow I doubt that. 

I do hope she gets the guidance she needs, and a sense of perspective. If she likes, I can quote relevant lyrics from classic country music songs, and recite endless bromides and limericks.  So if you know this troubled young person, please talk to her, so she doesn't have to hear my corny advice.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


If you've heard this once, you've heard it a thousand times:

"Don't go in the water for half an hour after eating or you will get a cramp and drown right away."


"Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

To paraphrase Will Rogers, we're all ignorant, only in different subjects. So there's no use asking the judge for mercy by claiming that you didn't know it was illegal to break the glass on the vending machine and reach in to walk away with a treasure trove of Mr Goodbars, Goobers, and Gobstoppers.

It's no good to say you didn't know the law, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts (whatever that means) that you didn't know it's against the law to possess eagle feathers if you are not Native American.
Image result for stuttering john
So what brings all this up, anyway, in a world in which Stuttering John, radio comic, can get through to Muttering Don, television comic, on a secure line on the most-protected airplane in the world?

Up in New York, the governor, Andre Cuomo, recently wove a wistful tale involving a trip by canoe on a lake in the Adirondacks. A bald eagle swooped down just above the canoe where the governor and his daughter Michaela were paddlin' away the afternoon.

“One of the highlight moments was on Saranac Lake when we were in a canoe, and we were taking a canoe trip and out of nowhere, from one of the islands, an eagle came out and like swooped down right next to us with this beautiful, graceful glide,” Cuomo said at the Hotel Saranac.

“And when the eagle was just about at front of the canoe, one feather fell out. And we picked up that feather, and I have it on my fireplace to this day.”

Busted. Cue "Dragnet" theme.

Image result for andrew cuomoThe Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 prohibits the possession of eagle feathers by non-Native Americans.

Anyone convicted of violating the law could face a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in jail.

The Associated Press asked the gov's office about this illegal feather, and a Cuomo spokesman said the governor will either return it to the lake or give it to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife repository.

You just can't even pick up a feather anymore without facing a year in the hoosegow.

It is still legal to pick up A) a cold B) the kids from soccer practice and C) weight, but you never know.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Donkey Kong

Sometimes we fake it until we make it, and buy that knockoff "Rolex" watch from a guy on the street to impress one and all with our expensive tastes.

And some people, desperate to overcome their stubby-fingeredness and vulgar roots, claim to have a Renoir, knowing all along that it's a copy.

We feel sorry for these people, and now we have more people to shake our heads about.

Claims are being made that a zoo in Egypt is showing off a fake donkey.

I mean, is there any end to this chicanery?

Image result for nfl ref throws flagIt all started when 18-year-old student Mahmoud Sarhan, a student, was visiting the International Garden in Nasr City, Cairo. He saw what the zoo purported to be a zebra, but Mahmoud knows a donkey when he sees one, and in a hugely ironic role reversal, became the one to throw a penalty flag at someone in a striped outfit.

Mahmoud Sarhan said he knew the animal was a donkey "from the first sight". Pic: Mahmoud Sarhan
Sarhan got a selfie with the bogus zebra. The picture clearly shows black smudges on the face of the poor beast.

He told Sky News: "From the first sight I knew that it was a donkey, not a zebra, as I'm an artist. I know the shape of a donkey and I know the shape of zebras, so it was easy to know."

The photo below shows what a real self-respecting zebra looks like. He has clear-cut stripes and a darker mouth and snout than the imitation.

As soon as Mr Sarhan shared his picture on social media, the race was on to find out what was up. The zoo's director, Mohamed Sultan, told radio station that his zebra was for real and not a sham.

Meanwhile, a local veterinarian who only wishes to be identified as "Dr N" told Egyptian news site that this animal lacked the black nose and mouth common to zebras.

This confirmed zebra has clearer stripes and a darker mouth and nose area than the one in Cairo.

You can look at the two pictures and compare for yourself. As of now, the whole matter is he said-he said, and who knows where it will go.

I can only hope that no charges are brought, so no one will have to wear the stripes of shame.
Image result for convict in stripes

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sunday Rerun: Things You Have To Say

R, T, R.
Everyone who loves football and the football team from the University of Alabama - the "Crimson Tide" -  knows that the cheering cry for the team is, "Roll Tide Roll!"

Sometimes you can add in a couple of extra intensifying words, but as long as the Roll and the Tide are in there, you get the point across.

Well, whenever I wear an Alabama hat or Tshirt or jacket, I get comments from people I meet.  Sometimes, they say, "That's no way to dress for a wedding!" but what do I care?  And many give me a raised palm and a hearty greeting.

This is serious business.  My physical therapist told me she met a man who, every time he mentions the U of Alabama, croons out a "Roll Tide!"  As in, "I had the best waffles ever down in Tuscaloosa one time; we were down there to see the game - Roll Tide! - and we stopped off at a place where they pile on the grits and gravy! Hot a-mighty!"

It made me think about certain expressions or things you just have to say when you say anything.  Another thing from down South is the habit of saying "Bless his heart" or "your" heart or "whoever's" heart, as in "We met the new people down the street, I was talking to the husband, and he's an Auburn fan, bless his heart!" The blessing invoked might be very faint, but it's there.

It's always a giveaway when people do the Seinfeld thing and add "Not that there's anything WRONG with that," when referring to someone else who dares to live their own lives as they see fit. Closely related, following on the heels of some biased comment: "Some of my best friends are _____"  Insert minority, and foot in mouth.

I like to hear people who add "May (he) (she) (they) rest in peace," when mentioning those who have gone on to their rewards.  I happen to think that it helps us to remember there's a peace ahead for all of us, some sweet morning.

Bless our hearts!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, August 18, 2018

Disregarding the location, you have to say that this is quite an innovation in snack-and-drink packaging. How many times have you walked away from the counter with a drink in one hand and a plate of deep-fried goodness in the other, and realized you didn't have a free hand to catch the foul ball headed your way?  Here you go...
Why go to the fancy-pants home improvement store just because some lout broke off your showerhead? Punch some holes in your Mt. Dew when you finish it, and you're all set! And this has the added advantage of making you smell like Mt Dew after the first few showers!
We can't tell what sort of tools this woodcarver used, but they were in the hands of a true master!
Doesn't it always? Either that, or the bagpipes.
If a man ever walks up to you and starts telling you about his days of battling the Giant Otters Of The Amazon, it's all right to pretend you have somewhere else to be right away.
In case you can't afford the original, a little copy of a Vince Van G original will do fine.
He was no Eisenhower, but he did find his niche in another line of work shortly after this photo was taken. Read about the Army career of Jimi Hendrix here, and remember to be all that YOU can be.
Here in Baltimore, we get ready for Halloween right about now, and we pose in front of ads for our favorite beer.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Topic for the day is...

Every so often, I go to a site where, for the press of a button, a computer will give you 30 words, suggestions for things to talk about.

Then, with my list of 30 words on screen, I choose one and begin blathering  discussing it with you, dear reader. And so, here we go, discussing the word "Cobbler."

Well, if we learned anything from Led Zeppelin, it was this:

There's a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings

A cobbler can be a tasty dessert and it can be a person who fixes your shoes, or makes your shoes in the first place. How cool would it be if the person who runs the shoe repair shop down on Main St was also a proficient baker, and could turn out sweet blueberry cobblers to treat customers while they waited for their shoes to be fixed, eh?
Image result for shoe repair sign
And some younger readers are going, "SHOE repair? You get shoes repaired? You don't just throw them out?" Yessir, back in the day, we could keep a pair of Weejuns around for a couple of years, with new heels and half-soles every so often. I don't think there are that many shoe repair places any more for a skilled cobbler to ply his or her trade. Sure, you'll find people in the mall with industrial stitching machines to sew up a shoe or a purse, but when is the last time you heard of someone getting new heels on their shoes? More to the point, when's the last time you saw someone wearing shoes with heels in the first place? We're all hopping around in Nike/New Balance/Converse/Vans and Adidas. I personally wear Rockport, the official shoe of old guy mallwalkers nationwide. I might buy new laces now and then, but what's to repair on rubber soles?

Now then, about the yummy type of cobblers. Americans love fruit cobblers, which are most often deep-dish desserts with fruit filling and biscuit crust. Apple cobblers, peach cobblers, blueberry cobblers, cherry cobblers, pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp...oh hold up. I got to thinking about Bubba Gump.

I heard one of those cooking shows on NPR the other day and the host was really drilling deep down into the types of cobblers one can make. For instance, you can make a cherry cobbler, or a cherry crumble, or a cherry crisp. How about a nice torte, pandowdy, buckle, croustade, or bird's nest pudding? Either way, they come out tasting fine, and would go great with a scoop of Breyer's Vanilla right about now, wouldn't they?

And there is also something called a slump. That's actually my favorite kind of fruity dessert, because you have to root for something with such a downtrodden name. A slump is cooked on the stovetop, rather than the oven, and that might account for why it feels bad about itself. But what better way to welcome someone home after a bad day at the salt mines than to offer them a nice slab o' slump?
Blueberry Slump
Blueberry slump!
I also think that diet-conscious Americans like to say, "Oh no, I don't eat pie! My heavens, all those calories! I just had a corner of Martha's crisp!"

Thursday, August 16, 2018

1/8/35 - 8/16/77

From the New Yorker, December 6, 1999

Image result for elvis


Twenty years after the death, St. Paul

was sending the first of his epistles,

and bits of myth or faithful memory -

multitudes fed on scraps, the dead small girl

told "Talitha, cumi" - were self-assembling

as proto-Gospels.  Twenty years since pills

and chiliburgers did another in,

they gather at Graceland, the simple believers,

the turnpike pilgrims from the sere Midwest,

mother and daughter bleached to look alike,

Marys and Lazaruses, you and me,

brains riddled with song, with hand-tinted visions

of a lovely young man, reckless and cool

as a lily.  He lives. We live. He lives.

                                           John Updike

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wall Mart

I mentioned not long ago that my boyhood home was up for sale, and the people who bought it from Mom ten years ago invited me and Peggy and my sister Robin and her husband John over to take a nice look-a-roo before it goes over to another family.

In a word, it was a memorable evening, and gracious, and wonderful, in two other words.  These fine people kept the best of the old homestead, and made some nice upgrades too!

I got to thinking about when my father made a clubroom out of the cellar. Even though we never really had a club, there was room for them downstairs.

Image result for 1960 us quarterIn 1960, before framing out the walls and adding KDKP (that's kiln-dried knotty pine, you know?) as paneling, Dad tarred the old cinderblock walls for waterproofing, and got me to run and find a 1960 quarter, which he stuck into the tar on the far wall, so that someday, when some Future Dad goes to install Italian Marble walls down there or something, he will find that quarter and be able to say to himself, "What the hell is this thing with a picture of George Washington on it?"

I had all that in mind when I came across this story.

Alex Monney is a guy from San Jose, and he knows the way to make a twitter posting that everyone likes. What happened is that he and his wife are remodeling their bathroom, and they found a message left pasted under a wall from the previous residents.  This one was all fancy, with a picture and everything:

The Shinsekis (no apostrophe needed) wondered in 1995 why anyone would want to undo the redo that they did that year, not knowing when it would happen, but seemingly knowing that it WOULD.

So the Monneys shared this the world, saying:

"Thank you for the note. It gave us a lot of smiles. It brought a lot of laughter to our life. Your bathroom was great. Sorry, for messing with it."

And they plan to carry on the tradition and leave their own message in the walls.

They'd better hurry. Mrs Monney is going to have a baby in about three weeks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Doggin' It

Well, if you feel a little chilly today, that's because (to everyone's surprise) the Dog Days of Summer are over. According to almanac-makers, the Dog Days of Summer are the hottest of the year, July 3 until August 11. So they were over as of Saturday, thank Heaven.

In fact, it's the Heavens that give the answer to the question you just were about to ask: Why do we call this hellacious stretch of heat the "Dog Days"?

It's a matter of Astronomy. Putting aside the old saw about dogs being sluggish in heat or going mad from heat, the fact is, the Sun is in the part of the sky in July and early August as Sirius, which is the brightest star you can see from earth.

Sirius is in the constellation Canis Major (Greater Dog). You may have heard it called the Dog Star, and that's why the logo from Sirius Satellite Radio (where music and Howard Stern come to us from the heavens) features a dog with a star for its eye.

Image result for sirius radio

So, in summertime, Sirius gets up with the sun and sets with the sun, and because of this conjunction, the ancient Romans, with no Google to look stuff up, figured that Sirius gave off heat and made the Sun even warmer, as if being 10,000° Fahrenheit (5,600° Celsius) is not hot enough already. So the Romans called 7/3 - 8/11 "diēs caniculārēs," or “dog days.”

Related image
This shows Canis Major heating up the sky in an old chart.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Driving Influence

If you remember the good old days of "The King Of Queens" on television, you might recall an episode in which Carrie failed her driver's license re-test, and as she questioned the right of the people at the MVA to say who could or could not pass their test, her husband Doug pointed out, "They're the DEPARTMENT of DRIVING!"

Similarly, you would think that the people involved in NASCAR - the organization that charges people money to sit in a broiling seat in the Alabama sun and watch other people drive cars - would be hypervigilant about how their top executives drive their cars.

But here you have it:

NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France was arrested on DUI and drug-possession charges Sunday evening in Sag Harbor, N.Y., the police department there announced Monday. France was pulled over after his 2017 Lexus went through a stop sign at 7:30 p.m. local time, according to a press release from the department. His blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit, TMZ Sports reported. Police also found oxycodone pills during a search, according to the announcement.

France is 56, so it's not like he's a wild child with lessons to learn. (All right, he's not a child.) He's charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated — meaning that his blood alcohol content was above 0.18 — and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He is currently free on his own recognizance.

“We are aware of an incident that occurred last night and are in the process of gathering information,” NASCAR said in a statement. “We take this as a serious matter and will issue a statement after we have all of the facts.” And then, the same day, NASCAR put out a statement saying that France has taken an indefinite leave of absence and that, “effective immediately, NASCAR Vice Chairman and Executive Vice President Jim France has assumed the role of interim chairman and chief executive officer.”

Jim France is Brian France’s uncle.  Brian France is the grandson of NASCAR founder William H.G. France and son of longtime CEO Bill France Jr, so it's a family business.

Nice mugshot
And part of that business is the Road to Recovery drug-screening program, under which random drivers, crew members and officials are tested at each week’s racetrack. Positive findings lead to suspensions.

We don't know if NASCAR executives have to line up to fill up a cup, though.

It might surprise car racing adherents in Talladega, Daytona, and Darlington, but France does not live in Talladega, Daytona, or Darlington. France and his wife live in Manhattan, but spend as much time in the Hamptons as they can.

NASCAR writer Jack Flowers has written in a book allegations that France had undergone treatment for substance abuse at the Betty Ford Center in California and also had been arrested on drug-possession charges in South Carolina, and while France denied ever going to rehab in an ESPN interview in 2013, but does not claim a totally abstemious past:

“To this day, that still shows up, and I have no idea — obviously I’ve never been to Betty Ford. There have been times where I probably apparently have needed to be. I’m kidding around on that, obviously. All of it is tongue-in-cheek. But I have no idea where he could have — he just made it up. You know? I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not going to say I never inhaled, going back into my teenage days,” France continued. “But I have never checked into [a rehab clinic], or needed to, and have not had those issues.”

All right. I couldn't identify France in a lineup of two other people, and I'm certainly not able to say he's been to Betty Ford or driven drunk or anything of the sort.

But as they say, when two people tell you that you look ill, you'd better lie down, so I hope this man gets help with whatever his problem might be.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday Rerun: What to choose?

They call it the "Prisoner's dilemma."

Professor Dylan Selterman teaches Psychology at the University of Maryland, and on his final exam he adds a little bonus question at the end:

     "Select whether you want 2 points or 6 points added onto your final paper grade," the prompt read. "But there's a small catch: if more than 10% of the class selects 6 points, then no one gets any points."
So, if everyone in the class is of the mind to be generous and share, everyone will get two points.  But the prof has been springing this deal on his students since 2008, and only once - one time! - has a class had enough people choose the two points so that everyone who scored a 79% got boosted to 81%, and so forth.

Every other time, the students got greedy.  This all reminds us of the old MASH tv episode where they're about out of food and find that Frank Burns has some chocolate bars squirreled away in his jacket and tries to get away with gobbling instead of sharing. There are extra points to be had on this exam for free; no extra work or knowledge is required to get them.

The wise student, the generously-inclined, would vote for the 2 freebies and count on his classmates to do the same, providing a boost for all.  But we now live in a world where everything is seen as "You versus me and I will do anything to win, no matter how small the victory."

Dr Selterman says, "In reality, if too many people overuse a common resource then everyone in the group suffers, not just the selfish ones. This is what I want students to learn from the exercise. Their actions affect others, and vice versa."

And he adds, "It's too big a temptation for some students to take the greater points option, and it seems to me like just a piece of human nature."

"Social dilemmas are like drama."  Rafikian also learned that.
Of course, this being modern times, a student tweeted about this and soon everyone was all a-twitter about the prof and his unusual "mind game."  U of MD student Shahin Rafikian liked the idea of racking up free bonus points, but, "I was first upset because I was thinking, 'I know there's going to be some selfish kids in the class,' but I am still hoping that everyone was choosing two points," said Rafikian, who went with the two-point option.

He learned more than most people from this class, didn't he? Either we're all going to row this boat of life together or it's going to tip over.  That's a point worth two points.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, August 11, 2018

Time to send an anniversary card to your favorite triple-decker sandwich! The Big Mac turns 50 this year. For extra weekend fun today, why not print this picture out, take it a McDonald's, and ask them why the Mac you just purchased looks nothing like this one...
There's another hand on the other end of the Golden Bridge, keeping it up in the air above Vietnam’s Trường Sơn Mountains. This bridge is more than 4900 feet above sea level in the Ba Na Hills resort.
This is either a high school dance class from long ago, or a witch trial from long ago. Either way, no one was having too great a time...
Again, this could one of two things. It could be one of those ironic junk chic things where material from a demolished building is "repurposed" as a coffee table. Or it could be a new table at Sluggo's house. I like the tomato can vase, too.
We don't think cargo planes can laugh and talk between flights, but we're wrong.
I don't care what kind of Kelvinator you have in the kitchen keeping your orange juice cool. If your refrigerator is not BELOW the kitchen, it's not as cool as this one.
A cat will always look for the most comfortable place for one of its 27 daily snoozes.
I think our parents bought Mercurochrome by the gallon back in the day. You couldn't beat it for treating cuts and scrapes, contusions and abrasions. We even put it on sprains and pulled muscles, because why not? Well, here's why not. Mercurochrome only had just a tiny amount of mercury, but still, the FDA had to worry about mercury poisoning.  Mercury is bad for you. So, the FDA took Mercurochrome off the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) list and called it a "new drug" in 1998, meaning that until some pharmaceutical firm puts it through the expensive and time-consuming testing approval process, we'll be using soap, water, and Neosporin on our boo-boos.

Friday, August 10, 2018

What's Your Name?

How come we can remember phone numbers from dozens of years ago, the date of friends' weddings, and all the ingredients for Aunt Mildred's Apple - Rhubarb pie, and yet you can't always remember Aunt Mildred?

Or her name, at least.

You meet someone at a function (either work-related, or something enjoyable) and exchange names, and within 1.4 seconds, you're scratching your melon and asking yourself, "What the devil did he say his name is?"

Image result for what's your name don and juan
A hit from 1962! Hear it here!
That leaves but two options: swallowing your pride and asking him to repeat his moniker, or picking his pocket, extracting his wallet, and looking at his driver's license.

So, before we all become little Oliver Twists, let's ask the director of the Memory and Plasticity Program at the University of California, Davis about why we forget names. His name is Charan Ranganath, and don't you forget it!

He says the simplest explanation is that you just are not interested enough! “People are better at remembering things that they’re motivated to learn. Sometimes you are motivated to learn people’s names, and other times it’s more of a passing thing, and you don’t at the time think it’s important.”

For instance, if you think that the person you just met might be the answer to your lifetime prayer for a meaningful love, or might be willing to lend you fifty bucks, you will remember his or her name for sure.

But, it's not always that. Sometimes you want to remember, but you may have trouble remembering because you won't put in the time to log their name into your memory.

Their name might be bland and uninteresting (there are such names) or because you might already know people with that name. I have known three John Armstrongs and four Steve Millers, not counting the Space Cowboy from the Pompatus Of Love.

Although, if another Steve Miller should come along, I might just call him Steve Miller.5, and who could forget that?

A rare name may be easy to recognize but harder to recall. We've all met someone and then had to wonder if her name was "Charlotte Sidebottom" or "Charlotte Bottomside."

And you know you want to get it right.

“You’re not only remembering the name, but you’re remembering the name in relation to a face. Even if you get the information in, which we call encoding, you might not be able to find the information because there’s so much competition between other names and other faces in your memory,” Ranganath says. “People are often overconfident, and they underestimate how hard it will be later on.”

He also says we get distracted by trying to make a good impression or trying to seem like a witty, charming conversation partner, so, in other words, use fewer words and try to wedge this person's name in your cranium.

How to do that?  Ranganath says to try linking something about the person to their name, and he uses the example "John the Jogger." I once tried using "Joe The Jerk," and it wound up being embarrassing when I called him "Dr Jerkface," which is no way to greet your new dentist on a second visit.

Final tip: say the person's name back to them right after they tell you what it is. That will help them in case they just forgot it!

It happens!