Sunday, September 30, 2018

Castles Made of Sand: Sign Posse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, September 29, 2018

I'm wondering about this, as in, were people living in the bus when it broke down and they decided to build on to it, or, were they building a hut and decided to use a bus for the fourth wall? Also, when they have something to fix, do they call a carpenter or a mechanic?  I'm so confused.
Sheets of yellow paper, or slices of American cheese? Who knows, but I always laugh out loud at the deli when I get 1/2 pound of sliced American Land O' Lakes cheese and the label says "LOL Cheese."
My question is, when builders landscape a new house and yard, why not use fruit trees so that a few years later, the owners can make a pie?
A flock of crows is called a "murder" of crows, whereas hearing A Flock Of Seagulls makes you want to murder yourself.
I love it when things get updated and upgraded. The cake topper at weddings always looked like Thomas E. Dewey and June Cleaver, but now, they do cooler things.
Today's nature wallpaper features the kind of leaves I like the most - ones that don't need to be raked!
Very soon, we will hear these guys honking over us, heading south. They travel in groups, and they are Canadian Geese.
A zoologist at the Maryland Zoo found this turtle in a park; he had a cracked shell. The turtle did, that is. Anyhow, the zoo made him temporary wheels with Legos and plumbers' putty and they will return him to the park once his shell mends.

Friday, September 28, 2018

You feel safe?

I'm going to sum up the confusion around gun violence in just a few words.  We're told by "gun enthusiasts" that only decent, moral, upstanding, law-abiding citizens can get guns to shoot you with because there is a screening process to keep mentally ill people from getting guns.

Feel good? Good. Because it turns out that the screening process is a questionnaire, a gun permit application, and when you fill it out and see the question "ARE YOU INSANE?" all you have to do is check the "NO" box and strap on whatever weapon(s) you wish to use in killing strangers, family, or coworkers.

Last week, Snochia Moseley, 26, a temporary worker at the Rite Aid warehouse in Harford County, got cheesed off about something, so she went home and got her shootin' iron, came back to work, and killed four people, including herself. 

Moseley suffered from schizophrenia, but recently purchased the gun she used to kill four humans, because she cleverly deceived the gun permit application by denying her mental illness.

"I know so many people out in the public are looking to make some sense of this. There's just no way to make sense of something so senseless," Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler says.
Image result for gun violence
"While no evidence directly related to the shooting was recovered, evidence that the shooter was suffering from a mental illness was identified," Gahler continued. "Friends and family members told detectives over the last few weeks she had become increasingly agitated and they were concerned for her well-being."

These are the people who lost their lives to this gun of hers:

Sunday Aguda, 45, of Baltimore County
Brindra Giri, 41, of Baltimore County
Hayleen Reyes, 21, of Baltimore City

and these three people are still in hospital with their wounds:

Hassan Mitchell, 19, of Harford County
Wilfredo Villegas, 45, of Montgomery County
Purna Acharya, 45, of New York

The sheriff said Moseley legally purchased the Glock 17 9 mm handgun in March, two years after being diagnosed with mental illness. 

IN 2012, four Americans were killed by insurgents in Benghazi, and the sturm und drang over that tragedy roars on in this country, while three people far from any war zones wound up dead just by going to work in Aberdeen, Maryland, and no one is looking for a Congressional investigation over it.

And while I am irritating the "gun enthusiasts," let me share this with you.

Cody Wilson, the genius who invented the 3-D printed gun, allowing any maniac to build his or her own gun right at home, has resigned from his job as director of Defense Distributed, the Austin company he founded. He'll be too busy to help others make their own bullet-shooting machine because he's facing charges of sexual assault of a minor, stemming from an incident earlier this year in which he allegedly had sex with a 16-year-old girl he met online. Wilson was released on $150,000 bail Monday.

Some very fine people on both sides.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

They've made Rex of their lives

Image result for rex smithDo you remember Rex Smith?  I mean, at one time, he had all the irons in the fire. He was in "Grease"on Broadway, he had two hit records (a solo "You Take My Breath Away" in 1979 and a great duet version of "Everlasting Love" with Rachel Sweet in '81), he was in the movie of "The Pirates of Penzance" in 1983 when America went through a short-lived Gilbert and Sullivan revival, he played Jesse Mach in the 1985 TV show Street Hawk, and played Daredevil in the Marvel Comics show.

Right around the time of the end of the 70s and the start of the 80s, you saw his mug on 16 Magazine and Tiger Beat while you waited in line at the supermarket to pay next to nothing for filet mignon.

Now, a couple of nice filets will cost you close to 50 dollars, and do you know what else you can get for that much?

A video greeting from Rex Smith! Personalized, just for you, so like if your cousin from Delaware is still holding a torch for old Rex since the day he took over hosting TV's "Solid Gold" from Andy Gibb, and she's coming up on her 50th birthday, you can just go to and make that magic happen. He'll cut a video for Cousin Kate. Hell, for another double sawbucks, you could probably get him to drive over and bring her a cake. is the home of the almost-famous, the used-to-be-famous and the never-gonna-bes, and for varying prices, these people will record quick video greetings for you.

Scrolling through the pages of people who willingly offer their services, you can't help but feel sorry for some of them. And then you see Tommy Lee is there, asking $250 for his time, and Michael Vick wants $500, doggone it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

No matter how you slice it

A debate took place on the pages of Facebook (page after page after page) about a homeless man in our town who has taken up residence under the city-owned water tower, on the parking lot of the new CVS, and other outdoor sites.

Our councilman took the appropriate steps of contacting the proper county agencies to seek help for the man, and he remains obdurately opposed to moving to a shelter or receiving any sort of help from the government. Fine.

And the conversation moved on to anecdotes from people who regularly stop by his makeshift encampment and give him clothing, blankets, food and I don't know what-all else. This makes them feel better about the situation, but when you think about it (or when I do), it seems to be just a way to perpetuate a situation which should not be perpetuated. Living on public (or someone else's private) land is not the normal course, and I think it's like seeing someone pounding their head with a wooden mallet and giving them a new mallet. 

Image result for the middle abc
I recommend watching "The Middle" reruns all day
I'm not against charity by any means but it should be useful for the recipient.

But that's not even my point today. Some of the people chatting about the dude said that he approached their cars on the parking lot and screamed curses at them and their children, which must be awfully hard to explain to the kids. But another woman wrote to say that she thought children should be exposed to this as a "slice of life."

This led me to think of some of the things I have seen done and said by residents of that demimonde, and, frankly, I don't think children need to be exposed to such horrors. Plenty of people enjoy that "Deuces" show on HBO, and I'm not sure I'd want a child to watch the glorification of prostitution and strip bars on Sunday night before heading off to school Monday morning.

Not all slices of life ought to be served up on fine china plates with the good silverware, is all I'm saying. And I'm also saying that if you really want to help a destitute man who's living in the woods or something, help him get ready to go get a job and get his life back on track. Handing him a sandwich today does nothing to prepare him for tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Sell phone

Image result for funny drivers license photoAlmost as dreadful as the notice from the MVA that it's time to come in, pass a desultory eye test and pose for another flattering GlamorFoto is the time when you realize the two-year contract on your cell is up and it's time to go get in line at the phone store.

Normally we go to the store where our friend works, a patient lady who has been helping us stay connected since I don't know how long, but this year, there's just too much going on with us to take a whole day trip to Delaware. So we miss her, but we wound up at the store near us.

And with the kind of luck that I usually do not come up with, we chose a good day to go, as it was the day before the new i-Phones came out. As we are confirmed Androidians, we love Samsung and leave the Apples to Granny Smith. And the iPhone adherents were probably getting ready to camp out on the Avenue to wait for new smart phones as we left with our new stuff - new phones and tablets for each of us!

They have a new seamless way to transfer your contacts and documents and photos of Uncle Nate in a tanktop, so you don't have to worry about all that anymore, but it does take a little time to get used to a new phone and new apps and what-have-you. It's sort of like driving a new car for the first time, except there's no sunroof or power windows. There is a backup camera, though: just open the camera app and back up.

There was a hitch pairing my new phone to my old car (Peggy's worked without a snag). I wound up having to talk to several wireless techs to the point of striking up lifelong friendships with "Christian" and "Amy" from who-knows-where, but at least I'm connected and paired.

After the first stumbles with hooking up the phone to the car audio, it was like, every time I got in the car there was this awful looooooooong wait while I waited for the dashboard to stop saying "No phone connected" and start saying that it was. It reminded me of that eternity when you're sitting in the stands at a wedding, and the preacher says, ""If anyone sees any reason why these two should not be wed, let them speak now or forever hold their peace."

And it seems like twenty minutes while you sit and see if Uncle Nate is going to holler anything.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Call me by your name

A quick look at my Facebook friends list shows there are seven women on there named Heather.

I love that name! It conjures soft visions of a pink flower in the Scottish Highlands, and all that goes with that...tweedy jackets, mulled cider and wines and soft music played on woodwinds as fires and candles warm and scent the room.

We get a sense from names, and that's my warm glow from the name "Heather." Much more a balm to the soul that, say, Agnes, Mildred, or Hortense, all though there are lovely people by those names as well.

I also like to see the popularity charts for names as they ebb and flow. I remember the days when little boys were John, Steven, Richard (and the occasional Mark) and girls were Carol, Susan, and Barbara. Not so much anymore.

But no name ever took such a precipitous spill in popularity as Heather.

Did you know that in 1975, there were more than 24,000 American baby girls given that name, and that it finished third in the name charts that year, after Jennifer and Amy?

Fast forward to 2017, and if you named your baby Heather, she was one of only 219 to be so called. "Heather" is now the 1,129th most popular girls' name.  "Jennifer" and "Amy" have also fallen off, but not quite so much.

Because I have plenty of time to read stuff, I read an article about a woman named Laura Wattenberg, who is said to be the top expert on US naming trends. She operates a website called Baby Name Wizard, which is a great site for baby name trivia and ideas. (As always, I humbly remind all expectant families of the wonders that could befall a little boy christened "Elvis.") 

Laura (how cool would it be if her name were Heather?) said Americans name their kids according to fad and fashion, and, "When fashion is ready for a name, even a tiny spark can make it take off. Heather climbed gradually into popularity through the 1950s and ’60s, then took its biggest leap in 1969, a year that featured a popular Disney TV movie called Guns in the Heather. A whole generation of Heathers followed, at which point Heather became a ‘mom name’ and young parents pulled away.”

"Heathers" (1988)
It makes sense that the first batch of Heathers became moms and did not want to call their offspring "Heather, Jr."  Wattenberg also says the 1988 movie "Heathers," which concerned some rather evil snotty princesses, all named that, was another factor. 

And the fact that every movie made 30 years ago has, by law, been made into a Broadway musical was the final nail in the coffin.

And get this: Wattenberg also claims that the sound of a name has to do with how popular it is. “Current style favors liquid sounds dominated by long vowels,” she says, liquid sounds being those that involve using the tip of the tongue to create air flow through the mouth. This theory explains why there are so many people being born now called Liam, Noah, Aria, Amelia and Melania.

Just kidding with that last one. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Rerun: "Free advice costs nothing, and it's worth the price" - Allan Sherman

One thing I like about REALLY old people is that they become REALLY honest!

Take Tony Bennett, if you will. The longtime saloon singer, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto 90 years ago, was a guest on NPR's "Fresh Air" not long ago, and the host, Terry Gross, asked him what could be the reason for the longevity of his career.

"Talent" was his one-word answer.  

Yes, it takes talent to stay popular in show business for over 65 years; Bennett's first hits came in 1950 - 51. That's a while.  And you know what?  There are plenty of singers just as good as Tony Bennett.  I'll daresay there are many, but he knows something that has kept him around a long long time.

He went on, in the radio interview, to tell Ms Gross that Jack Benny and Bob Hope (who advised him to change his name) gave him lots of advice in the early stages of his career. In fact, he said the best advice was telling him that it would take him a few years of knowing what to do before he learned the more important lessons - knowing what NOT to do.

I've told a million people, seven of whom actually wanted to hear it, that a great lesson I learned as a supervisor was that if you did a favor for one person, the others would not say, "Wowie! What a great guy he is!"  Nope.  What they said was, where is my slice of that pie, please.  And who can blame them?

One of the first things I learned in my lifetime of driving everything from cars to trucks to fire engines is that you can see an car approaching with its turn signal flashing and the driver's arm out of the car giving a back up signal.  I don't care if the driver hollers out the window "I'm turning here! Go ahead and pull out!" I'm not going anywhere until he/she clears the intersection...not that I mistrust my fellow drivers.  I just don't trust them, you see. I remember the sage words of my father, who taught me to assume that every other car on the road was being driven by a drunken sociopath, out to kill me.  

Half the time, he has been proven right.

Knowing what NOT to do pays off.  Frying an egg? Adding three more minutes of pan time is something to avoid. Speaking before a crowd? Don't keep speaking any longer, once you've seen two people stick out their wrists to check the time. Washing your brand new white polo shirt and your brand new blue jeans? Unless you want a periwinkle colored shirt, better make that two trips around the Maytag.

Take it from Steve Harvey <<< or Tony Bennett and me: two old men who will tell you, it doesn't matter if you're repairing a Singer sewing machine or trying to be a professional singer, knowing what NOT to do is something to do.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, September 22, 2018

Spanish classrooms in high school way back when always - ALWAYS! - had bullfight posters, filling the room with the enchanting aura of tortured animals and crowds cheering about it. Sorry for this hombre, but I feel more sorry for the animals. Just like how people who go to Africa to torment lions and giraffes should not be surprised when the creatures retaliate, people attempting to spear bulls in Spain should likewise expect a little gore in return.
I should stop and get a picture of the mini-mini-library near our house, up by the Royal Farms in Perry Hall. I think this is a great idea. Take a book, donate a book, add to someone's knowledge, or your own.
I think these are weeds, but aren't they pretty? And pretty blurry.
Today's free wallpaper: up on the farm.
Take it from me: it sounds like an awful combination, but bleu cheese on a ginger snap is tasty!
Someone took the time to arrange these leaves in what the art world calls a "chromatic spiral."
These baby sting rays, smiling for you all the way from an aquarium in Australia, are sisters, known as "Cookies" and "Cream."
Go ahead and try.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Getting her new kicks

I don't know that I would want to be a football placekicker - the guy who kicks off after scores or to begin halves of the game, and kicks the field goals and extra points.

Or not.

There's a lot of pressure in that job.

This week was a bad week for guys who do that job in the National Football League. The entire football-watching world saw the Cleveland Browns lose again. They have not won a game in 636 days, but they came sort of close on Sunday when their erstwhile kicker, Zane Gonzalez, missed two field goals and two extra points in a loss to the New Orleans Saints. 

I say "erstwhile" because the Browns got rid of him on Monday, and on his way out the door he paused long enough to mention that he was trying to play while coping with a sore groin, the time-honored excuse of all men in failing situations. I hope Gonzalez paused long enough to grab some Browns jerseys, jackets and whatnot, because I love their team colors.

Also saying bye-bye this week was Minnesota Vikings kicker Dan Carlson. Carlson missed three field goals on Sunday as the Vikes tied the Packers. Against all odds, he shanked two tries to win the game in overtime, including one from just 35 yards out.

Carlson said his groin was all right, so the only reason for his poor performance must be that he went to Auburn.

I'm sure my wife and I are not the only football watchers to say it's only a matter of time before one of those NFL kicking jobs is being held by Kaylee Foster.

You might have seen Kaylee on the news the other day. She kicked two field goals and the game-winning extra point at the homecoming game at  Ocean Springs High School in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

And before the big game,she was also crowned homecoming queen. Kaylee has been a placekicker since middle school and made the team in high school.
Top, Kaylee Foster (second from left) is crowned Ocean Springs High School homecoming queen. About three hours later (bottom) she kicked the winning point-after in overtime to lead Ocean Springs to a 13-12 win over George County.
“I really don’t have any words,” Foster told the Mississippi Press after the game. “This has just been so wonderful. I love football and I love Ocean Springs.”

The newspaper asked if she was more nervous about the choice of homecoming queen or making the kick, and she said, “I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be homecoming queen, but I was pretty sure I was going to make that kick.”

I'm waiting for her to star in college ball and then get her chance in the NFL.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Take Me Out

This baseball season has been the most dismal one in the history of the Baltimore Orioles. By any measure, this motley crew that wears the black and orange has come up short, but that does not matter to those of us who love the game.

And loving the game means enjoying watching it, no matter what level. Little league, high school, college, minor leagues, big leagues...they play with varying amounts of expertise, but it's always a great game to watch.

With that in mind, let's tip our hats to the people who run minor league baseball. Time was that in every little town across the USA, there was a minor league team - a "farm" team for the big leagues, where players tried to grow to major league status. Television almost wiped them out, because who was going to sit in the rickety wooden bleachers in Baking Powder, West Virginia and swat at mosquitoes on a sultry July evening anymore, when they could sit at home and watch big time games in comfort?

The farm teams fought back with interesting promotions and giveaways and reasons to come out to the ballpark. Just look at the Aberdeen Ironbirds up the road a bit from here, Cal Ripken's ballclub. They have a great stadium and lots of reasons to come out, and sellouts night after night as they develop tomorrow's stars.

Well, starting in 2020, some of the stars of 2024 and beyond will be able to say that they were once Trash Pandas, as in Rocket City Trash Pandas, the name of the new team set to play in Madison, Alabama.

Madison, Alabama, is a suburb of Huntsville, where NASA built a history of space travel. Hence the "Rocket City" nickname, which actually came about as the result of fan voting down there. There were 28,560 nominations for town and team nicknames, and I guess they have an abundance of raccoons in Huntsville, because "trash panda" is the handle they use for raccoons, those masked critters that knock over your trash can at 3:15 AM, ransacking the detritus for ham bones and half-eaten sandwiches to gnaw on by dawn's early light.

Image result for Rocket City Trash Pandas

If you were following the voting, Trash Pandas won both rounds of the election, followed by "ThunderSharks," "Moon Possums," "Space Chimps," and "Comet Jockeys."

The team will unveil their logo and official branding on October 27 at a free community celebration, starting at 6 p.m. at Dublin Park in Madison.

Image result for cute raccoonI hope this means the above caricature is just the conception of a particularly dyspeptic cartoonist. Pandas are nothing if not cute, even when they're standing in your driveway with half a porkchop in their maws.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Goodbye then

Vontae Davis played football in the NFL long enough to be chosen for the Pro Bowl team twice, and he seems to be one of those guys who knows when enough is enough.

We talked earlier this summer about Colby Rasmus, a man being paid by the Orioles baseball team to catch fly balls and run around the bases, who decided to throw in the towel after a game, and of course there was the immortal John Kruk, who, upon reaching first base with the final hit of his career in 1995, turned right, headed for the White Sox dugout, shook hands with his teammates and drove home to West Virginia, retiring just like that.

Davis raised his retirement game way above Rasmus and Kruk. On Sunday, he and the rest of the Buffalo Bills went into the locker room at halftime in a game with the Los Angeles Chargers, trailing by 28-6. When the third quarter began, the Bills came back onto the field, all but Davis. Rather than stay around for the 31-20 final score, he retired.

“Pulled himself out of the game. He communicated to us that he was done,” Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott told reporters.

Davis put out the statement pictured below, and also later apologized to his teammates, saying he meant no disrespect, but "today on the field, reality hit me and hard. I shouldn't be out there anymore.”

His teammate, Lorenzo Alexander, a linebacker, said, "Coming out they said he's not coming out, he's retired,” adding that he had never seen anything like what Davis had done.

“Pop Warner, high school, college, pros. Never heard of it. Never seen it,” he said, according to ESPN. “And it's just completely disrespectful to his teammates.”

Davis, of course, has every right to stay around or leave, as do we all (except people in prison; that wouldn't do at all.) I've heard of people walking off their jobs in gas stations, radio stations, shoe stores and grocery stores.

Those people probably weren't making $4,312,500 for their services, as Davis was, but again, it's up to him.

It's easy for us in the income brackets beneath his level to say we'd hang in there until they dragged us away in a wheelbarrow for that sort of money. I hope he's saved his money over the course of his ten-year playing career and won't have to patronize the sort of shoe stores and grocery stores where employees walk out on him.

But that would be ironic, would it not?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Not the Tom Selleck Bluebloods

Hey! What's blue and costs $15,000 a liter?

It's not that stuff you always run out of for the windshield washer, that's for sure.  And it's not the new Blueberry flavor of Sunny D drinks. And it's sure not Aqua-Velva aftershave.

No, it's horseshoe crab blood.

That's nice to know, right? And now you wonder why people are willing to pay 15 Gs for a bottle of blue blood. Well, here's the deal...

The blood of the horseshoe crab has remarkable antibacterial properties, and they don't even use Purell! But 450 million years of evolution has given them great ability to fight infection.

I mean, as many times as you've been to the beach, have you ever seen a horseshoe crab with a cold?

Image result for horseshoe crab blood
$15,000 worth of crab blood being harvested,
 and then they'll go right back to what they were doing (most of them)
As evolution has worked it out for these cute little critters, they have this bright blue blood, which your science teacher could tell you is because their oxygen is transported by hemocyanin (which is copper-based) whereas we vertebrates think we're the big deal because we use iron-based hemoglobin.

Crabs and other invertebrates (creatures without backbone, e.g. Mitch McConnell) fight infection by the use of amebocytes, while the rest of us use white blood cells. The Atlantic Horseshoe Crab, (Latin name: Limulus polyphemus) has highly-evolved blood to fight infection, so highly refined as to be of great value to the medical community.

I also contribute to the medical community by bringing my doctor all the New Yorker cartoons I can find involving patients sitting around in their underwear in the exam room of a doctor's office hearing lab test results, but I guess that's not the same.

Technical Explanation Dep't: If you drop one part in a trillion of bacterial contamination into this blue blood, it will coagulate for lab testing in under an hour; whereas the same test on mammal blood takes two days, plus postage. Coagulan is the name of  the chemical that makes this possible, And science uses it for testing medical equipment and vaccines prior to use, making sure all is right.

A quarter of a million crabs are harvested every year for this purpose. Each crab donates 30% of his or her blood, and is sent back to the ocean with the thanks of all mankind and an Amazon gift card. Without their contribution, many people would die from infections.

Perhaps 10-30% of the volunteer crabs do not survive, and I'm sure the  people at PETA are steamed about it, but in the grand scheme, I think saving lives counts for a lot. And what's more, the horseshoe crab's cousins, the blue crabs, wind up getting steamed too!

Monday, September 17, 2018

The times they are a-changin'

As a Medicare-receiving, senior discount-taking member of the Baby Boomers, I have one piece of advice to give to my fellow sexagenarians and quinquagenarians about to join us:

Ladies and gentlemen, the world has changed.

I shake my head to think of how many times I shook my head while reading an essay by Tom Wolfe called "Hooking Up," in which he reported that casual amorous encounters among younger people are so commonplace that people in their teens and twenties were astounded to hear about the uproar caused by Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky fooling around, when all along, "the two of them had merely been on second base, hooking up."

No matter how unequal the power dynamic between Bill and Monica was, no one ever questioned her willingness to participate. And here is a significant difference in the world of today versus the Disco 70s and the Mad Men 60s and the other decades in which it was all right for men to go to work, pawing all over the women in the workplace, subjecting them to inappropriate language, comprised situations, subtle "sleep with me or else" harassment, and all that went with the Golden Age of Stupid Patriarchy: Women don't want to put up with that anymore, don't have to, and are quite willing to stand up for themselves in case the men attempting to marginalize them into bad encounters don't realize that yet.

The latest to fall, joining a list of men too numerous and vomit-inducing to recount here, is the executive producer of "60 Minutes," Jeff Fager, who chose to reply to questions from CBS reporter Jericka Duncan about the ongoing investigations about sexual misconduct at that network with a threatening text.

Two days after reporting on the firing of Leslie Moonves, the powerful chairman and chief executive officer of CBS, fired after accusations of sexual improprieties involving several women, Duncan contacted Fager with questions, since his name had surfaced in reports from Ronan Farrow about what's going on at CBS.

In reply, Fager sent a text that warned the reporter to "be careful" about reporting a story including details about accusations against him that he has denied.

"There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me, and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem," wrote Fager.

CBS News' Jericka Duncan, left, reported on the firing of two male executives at her own company. Jeff Glor, right, backed Duncan's work. (Getty Images)
Duncan and Glor
This starts to sound like an old Edward G. Robinson movie, with a gangster snarling, "You better wise up, kid, see? Shut yer trap before someone shuts it for you, and that someone might be me, see?"

(I realize that the mere mention of Edward G. Robinson ages me to the point where many younger readers are now Googling the star of a hundred or so tough-guy films.)

I don't know if they are true, but the stories about Fager cite unwanted touching, inappropriate workplace language and behavior, all that stuff that took Charlie Rose off the air last November and Moonves out of the executive suite over the weekend. Fager was fired Wednesday for sending the threatening text to Duncan.

Jeff Glor, anchor of the CBS Evening News and a member of the newer generation (he's 43 but looks about 28) offered support to Duncan on air, calling Fager's text "unacceptable."
Image result for edward g robinson
Edward G. Robinson, just so
you'll know what he looked like.
“You and I have talked about the incredible difficulty covering this story,” Glor told Duncan. adding that she has done “great work” and has his support and the support of everyone at “Evening News.”

You can hardly pick up a paper anymore or watch the news without hearing about some older man getting the can tied to him for thinking that women are there for his personal pleasures. It's about time that these men in positions of power figure out that the world has moved on, and they should either move on with it, or move to a retirement home.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday Rerun: Burns me up

Robert Burns, the great Scottish poet, wrote some very thoughtful words about the horrible little critter we call a louse.  One's a louse, a headful of them is lice.

Image result for robert burns to a mouse
Robt. Burns (1759 - 1796)
It just proves that in the old days, poets didn't write all the time about how their love was like a red, red rose. (Although he wrote that one, too!) This poem was called "To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church," and the deal was that Burns was sitting in church not paying as much attention to the pastor as he was to the little cootie prancing across a lady's hat.  If you would care to read the entire poem, here ya go.

Burns recognizes that the louse is "impudent," and just pays no attention to the fact that he is walking on the hat of an upright, high-tone, important lady.

As he says in the final stanza:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us 
To see oursels as ithers see us! 
It wad frae mony a blunder free us, 
An' foolish notion: 
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us, 
An' ev'n devotion!

Of course, that's in the Scots language, not spoken so much anymore outside of certain sections of West Virginia.  In modern English, Burns was saying:

And would some Power give us the gift

To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!

In other words, If God could give us the ability to see "us" through "their" eyes, we could save a lot of the time we now spend fretting about what to wear and how to walk and to what to devote our time and our thoughts.  

Ringo Starr, asked about how it was to be a Beatle All Those Years Ago, pointed out that of the millions and billions who saw and heard and loved that band, he and John, George, and the other one whose name I can't recall right this second, were the only ones in the whole wide world who did not get to see The Beatles. 

Yes, it's good to stop and think now and then how others must see us. But one thing I have learned is, when you really think about what others think of you, that's when you realize they probably aren't.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, September 15, 2018's still warm outside.  Who wants a nice frostberry pie?
There's nothing like the smell of a bakery, is there?
This is a beautiful scene and it would be great to be there any time of the year...especially when there's snow on the ground. Imagine sledding down that hill!
If you don't drink enough water, this picture of an ant clinging to a drop of water should remind you that he knows we all need that H2O!
Pumpkin spice time! Pumpkin spice time!
Teachers call this the Judy Clock. It's what was used for decades to teach children to tell time. But I'll tell you a story. Recently at my annual physical, I had to take a cognitive ability test (required for all Medicarees.) One of the questions was to take the pen, draw a clock face on a the paper, and show the hands to be at ten til four...and I had to stop and THINK about it for half a mo. We're all getting used to digital readouts, and these old analog devices are passé.
There has never been a season this horrible for the Baltimore Orioles, but they continue to do interesting things on the field anyway. This Tuesday 9/18, they will host National Federation of the Blind Night. The Federation has been based in Baltimore for 40 years, and the Birds will mark that occasion by having the O R I O L E S and player names spelled out in braille on the jerseys.
It's a 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge! Back then, cars could be named for animals or racetracks or constellations. This fast Pontiac was named for an old vaudeville bit revived in 1968 by baggy pants comedian Shorty Long, a song called "Here Comes The Judge." It was on Laugh-In and everything. The judge would hold a trial and then hit the guilty party over the head with an inflated pig bladder. There went the judge.

Friday, September 14, 2018

See Jane Kill

If you hang around bookstores, you'll be familiar with the signs that label the different sections, to help you find "YOUNG ADULT" or "BIOGRAPHY" or "FICTION."

You will also meet some interesting people if you meet authors listed in the "SELF HELP" department.

There are hundreds of books in that category, teaching people how to clear up their acne, lose weight, gain weight, repair a Ford, repair an Apple, grow an apple, bake an apple pie, mend broken relationships, find the love of your life, and teach pets to dance.

But let's say your wife wrote an essay called "How to murder your husband."  In that case, you should read a book about "How to make a bulletproof vest."

Here you have it, in true life: Daniel Brophy, an Oregon chef, was found shot to death in June.

Seven years ago, his wife of 27 years wrote the essay we talked about above.

Nancy Crampton-Brophy is the writer in question here. She is responsible for such magnum opuses as “Hell on the Heart” and “The Wrong Husband,” was charged with Brophy's murder on Sept. 5 - three months afterwards.

“Dan was one of the very few people I’ve known that knew exactly what he wanted in life and loved doing it,” was how she expressed her grief in June at a candlelight vigil two days after Daniel’s demise.

The cops out in Oregon aren't talking about why they booked Crampton-Brophy, 68, saying only that, “Detectives believe Nancy L. Crampton-Brophy is the suspect in Daniel C. Brophy’s murder.” Crampton-Brophy is being held for unlawful use of a weapon and murder.
Image result for Nancy L. Crampton-Brophy
She looks like Doris Roberts from "Everybody Loves Raymond"
No word on motive or evidence, but we can expect to hear those details in the future.

Daniel Brophy was  63, and was a chef at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland for over 10 years.

Holly Crampton is the writer's sister, and she is convinced Nancy is innocent.

“None of us believe it. It’s craziness and it’s just not true,” she stated to ABC News.

But a neighbor of the Brophys, Heidi Hutchinson, said Nancy said she might move to escape her old life because “She said that his side of the bedroom was haunting her.”

Her how-to-kill-him composition was published on a blog called  “See Jane Publish” in 2011. In it, she told us five surefire motives, and listed a slew of weapons among which to pick just the right appliance with which to off the hubby.

She offered such helpful advice as not hiring a hit man ("an amazing number of hit men rat you out to the police”) or getting your side lover to do the deed  (“Never a good idea.”)  And she came out squarely against doing Mr Not Right Any More in with poison, because it leaves traces, and “Who wants to hang out with a sick husband?”

“After all,” the blog concluded, “if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail.”

This is a good warning for all to check out their significant other's book shelf. If you see books with scary titles like "How to murder your husband" or "How to get your husband to clean out the basement, hang the pictures in the dining room, and get the leaves out of the rain gutter," I advise you to go to the library or bookstore yourself and find "How to run for your life" right away.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sucker Punch

I love words, and some of them stick to me like Velcro. One such word is punchinello. The word is from the Italian polecenella (a short, fat buffoon, principal character in Italian puppet shows). That word is the  diminutive of pollecena (Italian for turkey pullet) because a punchinello's beaky nose looks like a turkey’s beak. 

Now that we know where the word came from, how shall we use it?

I had one of those Punch and Judy toys when I was a kid. Image result for punch and judy

It looked like this, but much simpler. Punchinello was the guy on the left with the big schnozz and the sugarloaf hat, who appeared in puppet shows with his wife Judy. They were always slugging each other, and of course, Punch always gets the worst of it in the end, usually getting punched (so that's where that comes from!) with his own cudgel.

You might have heard Punchinello mentioned on The Simpsons, in the "Like Father, Like Clown" episode of season 3 (episode 6, October 24, 1991.) That's the show in which Krusty The Klown (né Herschel Krustofsky) finally comes over to the Simpsons' for dinner and reveals his sadness over his estrangement from his father, the noted Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky. Feeling the need to sing for his supper, Krusty begins klowning around, and Homer encourages him to do so, until Lisa says, "No Dad, Krusty is our guest. Your pratfalls and Punchinello antics aren't necessary here."

Sometimes when people are really being clownish, intentionally or not, the word Punchinello comes to my mind. Sometimes, the right word just trumps all others.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Charity Case

We talked about Ludacris stepping up to buy groceries for people in a jam the other day, and here was a story that seemed to start off in the similar vein.

It's one of the ones I call a "morning show big deal" because when things like this happen, "Good Morning America," "Today," "CBS This Morning," and all the cable outlets fall all over themselves to cover it for a day or two.  It's in the same category as a high school math teacher taking off for a tropical paradise with a cheerleader, or a couple that met twenty years ago hooking back up thanks to a dry cleaner who thought they'd be a good match...

Last fall, a woman in Philadelphia, Kate McClure, was driving home on I-95 when she ran out of gas. She left the interstate to an abutment below, where she encountered John Bobbitt, a man without a home. Bobbitt offered her help, and spent $20 - his bottom dollar - on gas to put in McClure's car. 

Well. She got home and, together with her boyfriend Mark D'Amico, put together a GoFundMe page to get Bobbitt out of homeless status and reward his generosity.
D'Amico and McClure face the music led by Megyn Kelly on a show on NBC I never watch.

Oh, the money poured in, with people digging deep to shell out something to make Bobbitt whole again. McClure said the plan was to get Bobbitt a vehicle and a home, and $402,706 filled the coffers.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Uh, no.

That dream vehicle turned out to be a 1999 Ford Ranger, which was not even a decent vehicle in 1999, and the home turned out to be a trailer, registered to McClure and parked on her family's property.

Now it's a matter for the courts. The Burlington County Prosecutor's Office and the Florence Township Police have raided the D'Amico-McClure home as charges fly that the couple pocketed most of what they took in.

They hauled away boxes and bags full of evidence and a new BMW.

Chris Fallon, an attorney for Bobbitt, says that since all this came to light, the online donations have vanished.

Medic accounts report that Bobbitt is a veteran dealing with substance abuse problems. He has sued the couple, saying that they used the GoFundMe loot as a "personal piggy bank" to "fund a lifestyle they could not otherwise afford," according to The Associated Press.

The AP goes on to say that "The couple's lawyer said Bobbitt has gotten about $200,000. But Bobbitt's lawyer said he had received only about $75,000, which includes the value of a camper and a 1999 Ford Ranger."

That must mean it's like a $73,000 camper!

The judge in the case has ordered McClure and D'Amico to submit written depositions this week to make an account for the money they raised.

WPVI, 6ABC in Philly, says that an attorney for McClure and D'Amico is using the Fifth Amendment to keep his clients safe from self-incrimination.

I'm not saying anyone did anything wrong here. You can infer what you will. But the next time I see someone reaching out their hand for a handout for someone else, I might just keep both of mine in their pockets.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


 Image result for 9 11 01

That day - September 11, 2001, was a Tuesday, just like today. I don't know about the rest of the country, but the morning dawned beautifully here in the eastern US - sunny, not at all hot or humid, and you might have even felt a little touch of fall coming on.

Until the attacks, the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, the downed flight in Pennsylvania, and then the day took on a bitter, stunning taste.

I'm fully aware that people just beginning their high school days were born after that awful day, so everything they know about it comes from oral or written history.  It's really hard to put into words what 9/11 meant - means - to this country, but for the benefit of those young ones who were not even here or those old ones who forgot this, let me talk a minute about what happened directly afterwards.

And I'm not talking about the runup to invading other countries or the sense of security that was lost and the fear of opening letters out of concern for anthrax poisoning.  All that happened, and can be read about in books.

But you never see this written about: There was a (sadly short-lived) period when America, having seen so many good people lost on that one unspeakable day, had a sense of goodness and charity.  You saw people letting others pass in traffic or come out of side streets, you saw people smile at each other in the post office or gas station, you saw people stop to pass a kind word in the office, you saw a recurrent sense of real patriotism, and you saw people just being kind, and making a difference for others.

It happened. It was a shame that such brutality was the spur for such generosity of spirit, and also a shame that the flame burned out so quickly, but it did happen for a while and it can happen again if we all decide we want it to.

Monday, September 10, 2018

This is not ludicrous

You ever think about what you would do with a lot of money?

I mean, who hasn't? And isn't it nice to imagine ourselves handing out turkeys at Thanksgiving and playing Santa a month later and just being the post-nightmare Scrooge all over town. 

What's also nice, to me, is hearing about someone who has some bucks and is willing to share his or her good fortune.

I read about a woman named Therra, whose luck had been in the dumper, and a friend sent her a Whole Foods gift card. Off to the market went Therra, "with a relief I haven't felt all month."

But then it got better! She took her $375 order up to the cashier, and the guy in front of her offered to cover the whole thing, allowing her to save the gift card until later!

Therra asked the munificent stranger for his name, and he just said he was "Chris."

And the cashier said, "You know, that's Ludacris, right?"

Image result for ludacrisLudacris is the show name of Atlanta's Chris Bridges, born in 1977,  featured in Forbes list titled "Hip-Hop Cash Kings" for earning $8 million in 2014. He's a big star in the world of hip-hop music, and he's also an actor. (I remember seeing him on "SVU" one time, and although I must plead to being a stranger to his music, it's clear that lots of people are big fans, so good for him!)

Well, the New York Times never fails, and they looked into Therra's story once it raced across social media. Turns out, they were able to track down over 100 stories about Ludacris picking up someone's grocery tab, not only in Whole Foods, but also in Publix, Costco, and other stores in the US and Canada. Ludacris's manager, Chaka Zulu, told the Times, "Luda does these things all the time. But he doesn't want to do interviews to highlight it. It's just his heart."

And there's even more! Luda, as he apparently likes to be called, has set up the Ludacris Foundation, to help urban youth get a leg up on successful lives. And Therra has gotten back on her feet and raised $1200 for the foundation!

"Be like Ludacris y'all," she wrote on Facebook.

Not bad advice at all!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Sunday Rerun: Behind the velvet rope, please

I'm not trying to blame an entire educational movement for the foolish actions of some people, but I am puzzled by the tendency of our fellow citizens to do what they damn well please at any time in any situation.

Many teachers follow the Montessori movement, which allows children to be "at liberty to choose and act freely and act spontaneously for optimal development." Theoretically, this means you leave someone in a kitchen with a package of bacon, some green leafy vegetables, a tomato and a loaf of good bread, and if you give them enough time they will learn to make a BLT.

Or, give a person a block of wood and a whittling knife, and they will cut away everything that doesn't look like a duck.

That's the theory, but there is a problem with the "Let 'Em Figure Out How To Do It" school of leaves people feeling that they can just do as they please when they please.  This is why people - not talking about kids here - climb over bars and ford streams to get into the lion's den at the zoo, why they go for boat rides without personal flotation devices, why they play with fireworks, why they run through the streets of Pamplona being chased by bulls, why they jump out of airplanes that are still aloft.

People love to take risks, probably because at some point in their lives, they were encouraged to "think outside the box" and "push the envelope" and "go for the big picture."  

Sometimes, the rules are there to say "don't think outside this box because doing so might mean sudden death in a boiling acidic pool of water."

"No significant human remains were left" to recover after Colin Nathaniel Scott, from Portland, Oregon, decided that his visit to Yellowstone National Park would be best enhanced by going off the designated pathway near a geyser basin.  He and his sister wandered 225 yards off that boardwalk before he lost his footing on gravel and tumbled to his quick death. 

In boiling acidic water.

Of course, there are regulations and rules and signs, the same kind of sign that tells people not to try to engage in civil intercourse with bears, and look how many people break that rule. 

Last year, 4.1 million visitors went to Norris Geyser Basin, where water boils at 199° at the park's high elevation.

Lovely. Fatal.
Please avoid any area where you are likely to fall into a pond of 199° acid. Leave the lions alone, wear your life preserver, attend fireworks shows put on by trained professionals, avoid Spain when the bulls are on the run, and stay in the plane until it lands. 

It might not be as thrilling to live that way, but you'll live longer that way.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, September 8, 2018

I don't know what's up here...maybe a little kale patch up on top of the hill...what a nice place to live! And all that kale!
It's the craziest thing - Jennifer Lopez and her song and dance are not in my list of favorite things, but I am always crazy about her any time she takes on an acting role. For three seasons, we enjoyed her and this fine cast on "Shades Of Blue," and we'll miss the show - and the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer acting of Ray Liotta, too!
Fallen leaves! Pumpkin everything! Jack - O - Lanterns! Skeletons! It is the most wonderful time of the year.
This is a cheeseburger with pickles and some fried chicken, and now I know what I want for dinner!
This will be my wallpaper soon - be wary! Corn stalks at sunset.
Sometimes, if you take more than half a mo' to look at a picture, things come into perspective. Like this one. It's a derelict dock with all sorts of used wood lying about, and nature chose to dress up the wreck with some pretty fuchsia weeds.
She's just like me...when you call for dinnertime delivery and you're amazed that it's there on time!
Another in our series of X-treme closeups. Once you look at this, you see how this stuff's Velcro!