Thursday, February 28, 2019

Mary Ann with the shaky plan

It causes me no small embarrassment to see that a woman from the next county up the road, a Democrat, a delegate to the Maryland Legislature by the name of Mary Ann Lisanti, has disgraced herself to a point where people are calling for her resignation.

But that's the situation the way it stands for Lisanti, 51, who used the vile n-word to refer to Prince George's County while speaking with other lawmakers at a cigar bar in Annapolis.  She told the Washington Post  that she didn’t recall saying that word, but was “sure everyone has used it.”

Two problems here: a) if you drop bombs like that in public and are unable to remember doing it, you might be dealing with some sort of impairment, and 2) this is the standard political apology.

I don't recall that. OK, now I remember. And I have issued a written apology and I will attend sensitivity training.
That paraphrase of her bumbling apologia reminds me that she forgot the other time-honored defense of telling us that a lot of her friends are black.

Meanwhile, she has lost her leadership position in the House. House Speaker Michael Busch announced Tuesday he has removed Lisanti as chair of the workers' comp subcommittee. Lisanti, a Democrat from Harford County pictured below, issued a statement later in which she weirdly claimed the ability to say words she did not know.
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She apologized to the House Democratic Caucus Tuesday morning, after apologizing to leaders of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus on Monday.

Del. Darryl Barnes, the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, called Lisanti’s words “a blatant act of racism.” After all, this is Black History Month, “a time where we should be recognizing achievements in the African-American community.”

Maryland taxpayers pay 141 delegates, and 47 state senators, annual salaries of $50,330 to make laws to govern our lives. It's not too much to expect a bit of probity from these men and women.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

More Bang for the buck

Down in Montgomery County, Maryland, a Washington DC suburb, officials are reeling about a theft of $6.7 million in county (that means tax!) money.

What's most embarrassing is that the theft was big-time embezzlement by the chief operating officer of the county Department of Economic Development.

Byung Il Bang, 59, also known as Peter Bang, is the man whose job it was to help small businesses and businesses run by women and minorities, as well as businesses in the fields of computer technology and biological technology.  He was paid to bring these businesses to Montgomery County and help them flourish.

He just wasn't paid $6,705,669, which was how much he figured he needed to cover his gambling debts, so he reached into the county cash register, so to speak, and helped himself.

The IRS got wise to the scheme when Bang was unable to explain where he was getting these big checks he cashed at casinos.  They check on these things, you know.  Good thing there was no government shutdown at the time.

"Everyone who holds positions of trust should prove themselves worthy of that trust," said U.S. attorney Robert Hur, the prosecutor. But he said that Bang betrayed that trust.

The scheme went this way:  Montgomery County struck a deal with a  province in South Korea to create an "incubator fund," the purpose being to help the growth of Korean-run businesses in the county. Bang then set up a shell corporation called Chungbuk Incubator Fund LLC with four bank accounts in that name.

He used his own home address as the address of all four accounts. From there, it was a snap to direct money to the accounts. The Montgomery County Department of Finance transferred $5.4 million, the Maryland Economic Development Corporation transferred $1.2 million, and the Maryland Conference & Visitors Bureau chipped in $43,000.  All of these agencies believed they were investing in Montgomery County's economic future, but were in fact supporting Bang as he poured all of it into casinos around the nation.
Montgomery County Official Gets 4 Years for Stealing $6.7M in Government Funds
Of course, Bang (pictured above) not only pled guilty to ripping off the money, but also admitted he didn't report the income on his taxes.

Bang is obligated to pay the money back, per his plea agreement. The court left it up to him to figure out how, and we only hope the plan doesn't involve winning it in casinos, race tracks, or scratchers.

The judge pointed out that Bang did good work for the county, just before she sent him up the federal river for a four-year bid.

And Montgomery County officials said they will set up oversight to make sure no one is ever able to commit this level of crime again. They did not say what Bang's supervisors were doing while they should have been overseeing his sketchy practices.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Gorilla My Dreams

Image result for joe angel ben mcdonald

With the baseball season getting underway, and Orioles fans relieved of the worry about getting the money to pay for home playoff tickets, we still have a lot to look forward to with the local nine.

The team has been putzing around for the last few years since winning the American League East pennant in 2014, and the time has come to see if the old saw about having to hit rock bottom before things get better is true. There are fewer bottoms rockier than when you lose 115 games out of 162, and that's the sad state of recent Orioles history.

Just like a motel on Rte 40 with a hastily scrawled sign on the front desk reading "NOW UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT," the O's have new management, new players, and, one hopes, a new spirit of trying a bit harder than recent teams seem to have. There will be plenty of rookies and plenty of rookie mistakes, but let's see...

And it also seems that a new radio voice will be calling the play-by-play. I was very sad to read that Joe Angel, longtime announcer, decided to retire, but he is 71 and deserves not to sit through rain delays in Cleveland any longer.

The picture up top ^ shows engineer "Tiny" Tim Jones in the back, with Joe (l) and Ben McDonald (r) in front. Ben was a pretty fair pitcher back in the '89-'95 glory days, and now all 6'7" of him flies up from Louisiana to join the radio broadcasting team on some games. He does what the best of the radio sidekicks do - he shares experience from the vantage point of a player, with a little humor thrown in. It just might be an interesting season with the Orioles this year.

Speaking of interesting things, and Louisiana, that's where a would-be crook made a rookie mistake.

The Sulphur Police Dept down there responded to a call for a subject acting in a suspicious manner. Sulphurians (Sulphurites?) called 911 to say that a man was prowling through yards and looking into houses, both of which activities add up to crimes about to occur.

The callers added that it wouldn't be too hard to spot the peeper, as he was wearing a gorilla costume.

Jeremie Moran is the name of the ALLEGED ne'er-do-well, and when police arrived in the neighborhood and told Moran to stop, he pranced right on in through the front door of one of the houses.  Three steps behind came the law. They searched the house and found no Moran. (Spell check, save me!) When they got to the back of the house, the back door was wide open as well, leading officers to deduce that Moran had gone sailing off into the night.

But NO! He wasn't outside anywhere!

Image result for man in gorilla suit

So they circled back and check the house a little more thoroughly, and you know all those dustballs and empty McWrappers that you find under the bed when you turn the mattress? Well, among all that detritus, they found Moran, wearing a gorilla suit and a black eye. He was arrested and booked on several charges, including resisting an officer, unauthorized entry and meth possession.

As of this writing, it is unclear if Moran has a lawyer, or a dentist or a barber.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Help from an unexpected source!

It's well known among law enforcement types that a typical child molester is so perverse as to enjoy keeping detailed records of his "conquests," and in this new digital age, what better way to log one's filthy depravities than to write about them on one's personal computer?

A police officer from another county in Maryland told me of a case in which his department, some years ago, raided the home of a child molester and took into custody his computer, which they were sure would yield a treasure trove of inculpatory evidence.

So the top brainiacs in the department set about opening up the computer's files, only to find that they were password-protected. Time after time they fiddled with password after password, only to be rebuffed every time.

At length, they did the only thing they could do, which was to go down to the high school and round up the King Of All Smalltown Hackers. They took him back to the precinct, and with a few taps on the keyboard, he was in there in a twinkling, and asked for a ride to Game Stop.

The point is, sometimes you need help, and sometimes the skills that will help you are not exactly on Angie's List.

Which brings us to sun-drenched Florida, where Pasco County Sheriff's deputies were trying to help a family.  The father had locked his keys in his SUV on Valentine's Day, and his efforts to jimmy the door were fruitless, and with his one-year-old daughter perched inside in her car seat, it was an emergency to get into the car.

Even with the temperature at 56°, it's not safe for the baby to be stuck in the car, even though she seemed comfortable when the deputies came along.

After a few more minutes with no luck, the parents told the deputies that the dad was going to break the front driver's side window.  That's not optimal, and it turned out that they didn't have to be, because...

Working nearby was one of those prison work gangs you see all over the south, uniformly dressed in stripes and busily repairing parking lot medians. They saw what was going on, and volunteered their unique skill sets to get into the car.

I mean, why not, you know what I mean?

The deputies told the dad to get up close to a window so the baby would see Daddy and not some scary-looking dudes.

The men went to work, their skilled hands like those of a surgeon performing a bladder cystectomy.
Image result for florida inmates car rescue
It took two minutes for the robbin' hoods to pry open the front door enough for one of their number to reach in with a coat hanger and work the door lock button. Two minutes.

Please remember this, the next time you can't get your car started. That sketchy-looking guy hanging around the LP gas canisters in front of Home Depot should be able to help.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Earache, my eye

Even though my daily pace has been measured at somewhere between "glacial" and "somnambulent," there is one thing you can say about me.  I am an early riser.  The cats don't even bother dive -bombing me awake any more; they know they can count on me shuffling down to the kitchen and doling out the Tuna 'n' Kibble while Marty Bass is still tieing his tie. 
Remember us?

I can't rely on the old Native American trick of guzzling a gallon of water just before shutting the peepers so as to guarantee an early wakeup, so I use an alarm clock.  And the one that I've been using has just been relegated to second-string status, sitting in my den with the sole job of keeping my second-string iPod charged.  

And why?  Simple?  It had the annoying feature of the alarm, whether on buzzer or radio, starting out super quiet and then gradually getting louder.

Very annoying, to me, at least. It's like someone trying to awaken you by whispering in your ear for a few seconds and then ramping it up to a bellow in a while.  

Look at this way...if an emergency vehicle is behind you and you are so intently listening to Adele rolling around in deep deep sorrow that you don't see the 27 flashing lights behind you, the driver will hit the siren. And that siren starts off loud and stays that way. 

So what I want in an alarm is something that says "Wake up!" And not something that says,"hey listen Mark good morning it's Friday and it looks like a sunny day with temps in the 60s so anytime you see fit to go ahead and get your socks on and feed the cats and empty the dishwasher and make coffee and tea, that would be great..."

(Click on the highlighted words "wake up" to hear an explanation for today's title.)

Nope.  Wake me up so I stay that way!  

And the other plus of the new clock radio is that I will be one minute earlier getting downstairs to see the morning news.  The old one, you hit the snooze button and you got ten more minutes in the arms of Morpheus.  This new one, the snooze cycle is NINE minutes!

See you in the morning!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, February 23, 2019

I always loved advertisements that made humanoid characters out of commercial products. And extra points for "Speedy," the Alka-Seltzer mascot, whose hat was an Alka-Seltzer tablet.
People in New Bedford, PA, are restoring the old Orpheum Theater. These classic old theaters can't be allowed to just disappear!
Mars stopped making the Mars bar in 2002, and I think it's because of a shortage of a vital ingredient. There's plenty of milk chocolate and almonds, but our national nougat reserves are tapped out. Once, giant vats of raw nougat dotted the landscape near where nougat grew wild. A pity.
We had a wild turkey up on our deck one day a few years ago, and the next day, a fox was up there, apparently sensing a turkey dinner. It's a tough world out there.
Charles Chaplin (r) met Albert Einstein in 1931, and Einstein said, “What I admire most about your art is its universality. You do not say a word, and yet the world understands you." “It's true,” replied Chaplin, "But your fame is even greater. The world admires you, when no one understands you."
Not that I could have done better, but this street mural saluting Kurt Cobain wound up looking for all the world like David Spade.
America was crazy about riding bicycles at about the time the American Playing Card company came into being, so that's why we call a deck of cards a pack of bicycles. It is almost impossible to draw a good hand at poker while riding a bike, though.
Just keep telling yourself there's no climate change going on as the snow piles up in Las Vegas.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Space Race

They call her The Queen of All Declutter, this Marie Kondo, and now all this straightening up of America's basements, garages and porticos has been good for the good people over at Goodwill. 

Lauren Lawson-Zilai, senior director of public relations for Goodwill, says they are seeing a jump in donations to Goodwill outlets, and that surely must mean that other repurposing organizations are seeing cars pull up everyday and people hopping out to drop off old lamps, Englebert Humperdinck albums, and 8-track players. 

She adds that January donations were up more than 32 percent in Washington, D.C, 22 percent in Houston, 20 percent in Roanoke, Virginia, and 16 percent in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“Some of the local Goodwills cite other factors that might have contributed to an increase in donations like warm weather and New Year’s resolutions,” Zilai says.

There are any number of stores like that around here: Savers, Goodwill, and so forth, and while there are questions about how "charitable" some of them are, and where the profits go, to most people, just getting that old ottoman out of the house so Dick Van Dyke won't trip over it again is the whole point.

And don't forget to get a receipt in exchange for your bag of Members Only jackets and OP corduroy shorts and VHS tapes of "Ernest Needs A Kidney," because you may also be entitled to claim a charitable deduction for your donations on your taxes.  According to the IRS, and they would be the ones who know, a taxpayer can deduct a fair market value of clothing, household goods, used furniture, shoes, books and whatnot.
Image result for ernest needs a kidney

The late great talk show host Allan Prell, beloved here and elsewhere as elfin "Uncle Allie, your radio pally" used to say that there were only three stationary bikes in all of Baltimore, and once someone gave up on riding one of them, he or she would drop it off to Goodwill or sell it for $5 at a yard sale, and the cycle would start all over again.

Still, enjoy all that empty space you'll have in your house! Marie Kondo is proud of you.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The shoestring broke

If you have a pair of mauve canvas espadrilles that need to be returned to Payless, you should get there as soon as you can.

This week, Payless ShoeSource, a company that's been shoeing us all since 1956, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and this is it. They mean business this time, which is to say they mean no more business because they are pulling down the chainlink doors for good on all their stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Two years ago, Payless cut a deal to lower debts and close their struggling stores, and they seemed to come out of bankruptcy with both feet on the ground.

The reorganization left them with 2,500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. But even that wasn't enough.

We've seen this with so many retailers: liquidation sales and the gradual closing of the stores, and the loss of thousands of jobs. By the end of March, some of the stores will be shuttered, and they will all be gone by Memorial Day.

“The challenges facing retailers today are well documented, and unfortunately Payless emerged from its prior reorganization ill-equipped to survive in today’s retail environment," Payless chief restructuring officer Stephen Marotta said in a statement. "The prior proceedings left the company with too much remaining debt, too large a store footprint and a yet-to-be realized systems and corporate overhead structure consolidation."

If you have a gift card, use it before March 11, they said.

Or you can always go to one of three dozen other countries where 420 company-owned stores and 370 international franchisee stores will remain open. It's the perfect excuse for a getaway to scenic Bora Bora.

Experts are blaming the closing of Payless on the problems all mall stores have these days: declining foot traffic (got to love the irony there), digital competition and the changing tastes of shoppers.

And maybe it didn't help that as their business was getting run down at the heels, they still found time to play games with customers, pretending to be a swanky store. Ha ha. That will give the bosses something to laugh about soon, huh?

I'm hardly a fashionable shopper. I buy wool sox that last forever, shoes from the Rockport Outlet, pants from LL Bean and T shirts from Walmart. 
Image result for payless

But there was a certain bit of fun in parading down the aisles at a shoe store, taking care not to trip over the 47 boxes and shoes tossed on the floor by prior customers, and parking my carcass on a bench to pull on a pair of Weejuns.

You don't get that when you buy shoes by mail order, although the letter carrier will often wait while you try on your new shoes and walk around the truck to see what he or she thinks.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

It Max a Difference

Image result for max mcgee wjz
Max McGee
Image result for max mcgee packers
Max McGee

Baltimore recently welcomed a new anchor/reporter to Channel 13. Max McGee is his name, and chances are, he is not related to Max McGee, a football player for the Green Bay Packers in their glory days of the 1960s.

The first thing one learns about sharing a name with a famous person is that all the jokers who crack wise about it always think they are the first to do so.  I happen to share the name of men who were, in no particular order, a World War II general, a Black Panther gunned down by Chicago police in 1969, and a major league baseball pitcher. All of the men who called me "General" when I was but a wise guy in short pants got the biggest kick out of that, just as I did when I would listen to a ball game and hear that I was warming up for the Mets, Cubs, or Indians. And no one ever saw fit to conflate me with an urban revolutionary.

Of course, fewer and fewer people these days remember any of the three men whose name I still sign on legal documents. That's the thing about time passages; some things stand still and some don't. We went to the graduation exercises when a friend of ours became a county police officer, and in the class was another graduate whose name was a homophone for that of a fairly well known rock star. (I won't mention his name, but it rhymes with "Bindsey Luckingham.") 

At any rate, when I asked our friend if the other cop had been teased for having a famous name, he was genuinely surprised to hear about it. That '70s star was not known to '00s people at all.

Albert Brooks, the comedian, was given the name Albert Einstein at birth. His father, Harry Einstein, was a comedian as well, performing under the name "Parkyakarkus," which is funnier than sticking your son with the name of a doggone genius.  Imagine Albert's teachers and classmates teasing him in school. Please, parents, think before naming your children!

If your surname is Knight, don't have your son go around as "Jed I. Knight."  And no matter how much they like "Catcher In The Rye," the Butts family just cannot have a son named Holden.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Turnin' Up the Heat

I know I am going to get a lot of comments on this, and I welcome it. Hell, I love to start a conversation.

Image result for rocky hitting beedHere's the setup: A long-married couple we know - we'll call them "Mark" and "Peggy" - keep their thermostat set at a constant temperature all winter long. For the record, that temp is 68°, and please don't bother trying to persuade us to turn it up. I know, some of you keep your houses so warm that a pan of cake batter left sitting on the kitchen counter will bake itself to a golden turn in half an hour, and some could hang sides of beef in your sunrooms.  That's not the point of this, as you will see in a minute.

The person we are calling "Peggy" in this scenario said, on a day when the temperature outside was almost 50°, that the house had been warmer on the days a couple of weeks ago when it was like 4° out.

"Mark," as he likes to be called, pointed out that the house temperature is a constant 68° day and night, and that while the heating system has to work more on the 4° days to keep the house at 68° than it does when it's 50°, the house stays at the same temp all the time, so the feeling that it's warmer in their fashionable suburban home is illusory at best.

This was followed by a pithy discussion of how warm it is and how warm it ought to be, and so forth.

"Mark", logical and scientific, but with a disarming wit, dragged out the old saw about people believing that a ton of lead weighs more than a ton of feathers, although he does give certain credence to the notion that 60 minutes spent watching Tim Allen on television is much longer than any other hour.

"Peggy", possessed of her own wisdom, and being the person who pays the gas and electric bill every month, pointed out that she "felt warmer" when the heat was running, ended her summation with a classic, "That's what I believe!"

I believe it was best that I put on a sweater and shut up. First time for everything, and I have worn a sweater before.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Presidential Rules from GW

Lauren Cowling of went through the list of 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation that George Washington copied from a book as a young man, before he cut the book in half with his hatchet and threw it across the Rappahannock.

From those 110, Ms Cowling picked the Top 12, and to celebrate Presidents' Day 2019, here we go...... 

1. In the presence of others, sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet.

2. Read no letters, books, or papers in company but when there is a necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the books or writings of another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unasked also look not nigh when another is writing a letter.

3. Do not laugh too loud or too much at any public spectacle.

4. Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.

5. In visiting the sick, do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.

6. Be not immodest in urging your friends to discover a secret.

7. Be not apt to relate news if you know not the truth thereof.

8. Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.

9. A man ought not to value himself of his achievements, or rare qualities of wit; much less of his riches, virtue or kindred.

10. Speak not evil of the absent for it is unjust.

11. Think before you speak, pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.

12. Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after drinking, wipe your lips; breath not then or ever with too great a noise, for its uncivil.

PS: I break #3 more than any of them!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Uncle Mark's Cabin

If you're on Facebook, you might have seen this.  It's one of many brain teasers that people post for each other to noodle over.

The deal is, would you spend a month in this rustic cabin?  It doesn't say where it is, so all we can do is hope that it's not out in Oregon, where a band of misguided "patriots" is showing how unpatriotic they are by complaining about people having to go to jail for burning up federal land. 

I mean, really.  A patriot follows the law.

But there is no internet, tv or cell service. So, you would really be cut off from the world, since I doubt that there would be a good newspaper on your doorsill every morning.  

And how bad would it be to avoid hearing about a bloviating, hirsute real estate mogul and his insane rants?  Would you really miss seeing "CSI: Cincinnati" or any of the 27 other hourlong dramas that show completely unreal versions of people's jobs? Or any of the completely unreal reality shows?  

I would miss Facebook and the NFL playoffs.  Peggy would miss "Downton Abbey" and "Supergirl." 

And you.  I would miss you.  But in a month, we would have a $100,000 worth of party.  Pass that caviar right on over my way, would you please?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, February 16, 2019

I don't think I've seen anything like this before, but this tree fell victim to a lightning strike that started a fire inside the tree. I assume that the tree was already rotting, if it were that combustible, and this fire isn't going to help that at all.
Happy birthday in the great beyond to Lee Marvin (1924 - 1987) who starred in "The Dirty Dozen" and lots of other movies. He did indeed serve in World War II, and was wounded quite severely in the Battle of Saipan. But, no matter what you read, he did not serve with Bob Keeshan, and never told a late night TV show that the man who played Captain Kangaroo was the bravest man he served with. One can only wonder what sort of person sits around and makes this nonsense up?
To celebrate their 150th season of baseball, the Cincinnati Reds will be wearing 15 different throwback uniforms this year, showing their finery from years gone by. This is the 1956 model, featuring baseball-headed "Mr Redlegs" on the vest. The Reds were originally the Red Stockings, but changed to just being the Reds when the Boston Red Sox came along. But during the Red Scare of the 1950s, when dunderheads came to believe that dirty communists were hiding underneath every mattress, it was not good to be called "Red," so they called themselves the Redlegs until cooler heads prevailed.
The USS Hornet was a Navy aircraft carrier that was sunk in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in the South Pacific in October, 1942. It was found last month, and robot cameras are sending back amazing images from 17,5000 feet below the ocean's surface. Check this tractor, still aboard and still looking ready to work, 77 years later. You can even see the International Harvester logo on the machine.
Following the death of Chuck Berry, we are down to two of the original pioneers of our rock and roll music. Jerry Lee Lewis turned 83 last fall and he is still cool as a moose. This recording of a 1964 concert has been a prized possession of mine since high school, and still sounds just as great today.
Richard Wayne Penniman had 86 candles on his last cake. Little Richard, as I and his others trillions of fans call him, shines brightly in every endeavor. Last I heard, the years were catching up with him, but he have our records and the best-ever GEICO commercial to remember him by.
When I first saw this tribute to American Mastication, I thought the cowboy was sporting a pretty sweet ponytail, but no.
I've always thought that the Monarch Butterfly looked a lot like the Maryland state flag. It's sad that the butterfly population is dwindling rapidly, but fortunately, our ship of state is being steered by a wise leader who is in tune with the needs of nature and the flora and fauna,so I'm sure he will devote a great deal of attention to the matter.

Friday, February 15, 2019


Today I wish to salute Diane Dwyer, principal at Umatilla Elementary in Umatilla, Florida (where else could it be?)

In a day and age when kids put coins and bills into vending machines and get nothing but Everlasting Gobsmackers and that blue juice that looks like windshield washer fluid in return, Ms Dwyer has set it up so that students get books, rather than crappy sweet food and drink, out of the moneygrabbers.

She says, "It's been a success. It has created excitement and joy around reading and anything that encourages reading is a win in our book."

Actually, Ms Dwyer told "Good Morning America" that Susan Caldwell, the school's media specialist, came up with the idea to begin with.

The school rounded up books from Scholastic Book Fair points, parent donations, and purchases by other school staff.

Umatilla students, kindergarten through 5th grade, have the choice of spending their own allowance money on books or earning special "Bulldog Bucks" tokens that the machine takes like money. One can earn some "Bulldog Bucks" for doing some act of kindness, or working hard on an assignment.

Umatilla Elementary in Umatilla, Florida, is offering reading material, rather than sweets, to students who frequent the vending machine.

"It would be wonderful if we can partner with local businesses to donate more books because it's been a hit," Ms Caldwell, in full hint-dropping mode, told "GMA."

Already, a local church donated another machine, so that there can be one machine stocked with books for kids in kindergarten through 2nd grade, and another for the upper grades.

As a lifelong reader, I have to sympathize with parents who struggle to get their children to read. Maybe the answer is to make them equate reading a book with winning a prize.

Because reading and gaining knowledge is the greatest prize of all!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Don't shake hands with this man

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about how some people feel that allowing their children to go without proper vaccinations is just dandy.

I'm starting to see where these questionable notions come from.  Where else but Fox "News"?

That cable channel, which some people use like an IV drip to fill their brains with nonsense, employs a man named Pete Hegseth to appear as part of a show called "Fox and Friends."

The other day, Hegseth said that he has not washed his hands for 10 years because "germs are not a real thing" and that not washing his hands helps him to "inoculate himself."

From what, he didn't say.

Hegseth said that germs -  infectious micro-organisms -  don't exist because they could not be seen with the naked eye.

It's difficult to imagine anything so ridiculous, but Harvard and Princeton both placed diplomas in his cruddy, germy hands at one time, you know.

All this came up after his co-hosts, Ed Henry and Jedediah Bila, saw him eating a the remains of a pizza that had been left out on their set from the day before. They started ragging on him about germs, but Hegseth defended himself and promised to tell his faithful viewers everything.

"My 2019 resolution is to say things on air that I say off air," he added.

I don't know if any of his degrees were in the field of immunology, but Hegseth dug in a bit deeper:

"We live in a society where people walk around with bottles of Purell in their pockets, and they sanitise 19,000 times a day as if that's going to save their life," he said.

It'a also a society in which people walk around with bottles of Old Granddad in their pockets, so there's that.

Hegseth continued: "I take care of myself and all that, but I don't obsess over everything all the time."

So this fellow on the news says that washing one's hands - basic human hygiene - counts as an obsession.

This comes to us from a network which lionizes a peculiar fellow who obsesses over building a magical wall to keep crime at bay, since there no Americans committing crimes.

Science fact: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says regular hand washing "is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others."

Bacteria that can be spread by unwashed hands include salmonella and E coli.

Even Donald Trump is a germaphobe.

In his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, Mr Trump's ghostwriter wrote: "One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking hands, and the more successful and famous one becomes the worse this terrible custom seems to get.

"I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible."

FOX News Lunatic Claims Germs Aren’t Real & That He Never Washes His Hands

Hegseth displays his filthy paws.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Love Connection

Here's some real inside police lingo for you: BOLO means "Be On the LookOut."

And staff and students at Towson University here have been given the BOLO heads-up to keep both eyes peeled for a woman, in her 50s, wearing a multi-colored scarf. (I would assume her daily raiment includes more than a scarf, but you never know.)

She has been prowling the campus, most notably at the Cook Library and Center for the Arts, bracing one and all.

Her M.O. (modus operandi) is that she shows one and all a cell phone picture of her L.S. (lonely son) and says she is trying to hook him up with a date, and so she is advertising his lonesomeness around the school in an effort to find true love for the young man.

Image result for eric trump before surgeryAs a crime, this isn't one per se, although it could be called a crime to embarrass your children like this. I mean, unless this kid has the pre-surgical appearance of the situation pictured at right, or the personality of The Situation (currently incarcerated), he should be able to find his own dates.

But, ever vigilant, the TU Police Squad  alerted students via an “incident advisory” that linked one and all to surveillance footage of the guy's mom accosting students in search of The One For Junior.

"This incident advisory is being provided in order to make the TU Community aware of an incident on campus that may cause concern,” Charles Herring, chief of the university police department, wrote in an e-mail to the campus community. “This advisory is intended to heighten awareness and inform the community of incidents that may impact their safety and security.”

In an exclusive to this blog, the young man involved issued the following statement: "Come on, Ma! Leave me alone, will ya?"

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Astounding Silence

There was an interesting story on the CBS Sunday Morning about John Francis, an environmentalist with a fascinating fact in his life much so that they ought to bring back that "I've Got A Secret" show.

But if you didn't see the show Sunday, I'll tell you the secret.  This man Francis went 17 years without speaking to anyone, from his birthday in 1973 to Earth Day, 1990.

It all started when he was thunderstruck by the damage in San Francisco Bay in January of 1971 when two tankers collided in the San Francisco Bay, spilling 840,000 gallons of oil. Francis thought then that it would be a good idea never to ride in a motor vehicle anymore, and then, when a neighbor died suddenly in 1972, he thought that was his signal, and for the next 22 years (1972- 1994) he walked everywhere he wanted to go.

As we have all learned while trying to get somewhere on foot, you can't go ten feet without someone stopping you to demand why you are walking. "Whaddya, got no car?" (or friends, or cab money), they ask.

Francis's completely rational response (slight sarcasm alert) to all this hectoring was to stop speaking to anyone anywhere about anything. He communicated with others by the use of gestures (hoo man!) and written notes exclusively for 17 years.
Image result for John Francis (environmentalist)
Now here is the part that tends to strain credulity (and if you've ever had your credulity strained, you know how bad it feels.) Somehow, without saying a word out loud, Francis was able to earn three college degrees, topping off his academic achievement with a a Ph.D. in Land Management from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

I guess he had to write to his professors back in those pre-email days to tell them he would be in the class, but would not be engaging in the normal discourse that passes among students and professors, because of his pledge of silence.

The article I read said that he learned to communicate through the banjo that he taught himself to play. Surely, his stirring renditions of "Dueling Banjos," "I'll Have a Ham Sandwich and a Coffee," and "Do You Know A Good Shoe Repair Place Within Walking Distance" helped him say a lot with zero words.

It all seems true, although I'm not sure about the benefits of being silent for 17 years. And get this - the day after he broke his vow of silence, he was struck by a car in D.C, and was able to talk the medic crew into letting him walk to the hospital.

Just in time!

Assignment for tonight: list the ten people you wish would take up the 17-Year-Silence Challenge.  Give reasons.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Draw Me

Well, it's February, so once again the Maryland State Legislature is in session down in Annapolis, which is always good for the economy, especially in the areas of hotel, restaurant, and bar & grill revenues. 90 days in the state capital can only mean boon times for people who serve the fat cats and lobbyists.

Down on the bicameral floor, once again there is talk of passing a law allowing cameras in the courtrooms of our state. I mean, why not? I have always told people with nothing better to do early in the afternoon on a weekday that the finest free entertainment in town takes place in courtrooms, where cases ranging from speeding tickets, assaults, homicide, and I don't know what-all else are heard by a judge, a jury (in Circuit Court) and an appreciative audience of others awaiting their own trials, witnesses awaiting a chance to tell their stories, cops doing the same, and retirees who gave up watching Judge Judy to see the real thing. It is fascinating, and why it can't be on tv for the benefit of shut-ins and those unable to get to the courtroom is something I don't get.

It's not as if these proceedings are secret; they are covered and reported on by the news media. So why not put them on television to compete with The Talk and The Real and The View and that ridiculous Good Morning In The Afternoon, America!

Of course, if this idea becomes law, the people most affected will be courtroom sketch artists, whose charcoal renderings of miscreants from Tom Brady to Bill Cosby to John Gotti amuse us all.

Here's my idea: give them their own show, either before or after the trials come on tv, in which they draw famous people and home contestants guess who in the hell it's supposed to be!

The prize could be, the sketch artists would come to your house and draw a quick charcoal version of the winner.

They could even put THAT on tv!

I'd better go choose a tie right now.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday Rerun (from 2016): Teach Your Children Well

As the Civil War was beginning, Massachusetts troops were marching through Baltimore, on their way south to join the fray. (Just think - if no one ever went and joined a fray, there would be no more wars.)  Anyway, several Baltimoreans died on Pratt Street downtown when they chose to riot in the street as part of their demonstration of Southern loyalty.

A man by the name of James Ryder Randall, then living in Louisiana but a former Marylander, wrote a nine-stanza poem about all this 1861 unpleasantness.  His goal was to urge Maryland to secede from the Union and join the ill-fated Confederacy.

That didn't work out, good to hear, but along the line, the wise solons of the Maryland legislature made that song our state song, putting the poem to the tune of "O Tannenbaum." (aka "Oh Christmas Tree.")

The words to the song are offensive to many and arcane to others.  You have to know your history to know that the despot, the tyrant mentioned in the words was Abraham Lincoln.  And elsewhere, they mention the Union as "Northern scum."

This has to be the only state song that calls for the overthrow of the US Government, unless Oregon recently changed their state tune to something by Ted Nugent.

State Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick, has filed a bill for the legislature to consider, which would eliminate some of the offensive lyrics and add a verse written by a man from Middletown in 1894.

"This is not a song that should really be our state song," Sen Young said. 

Of course, there is opposition to the opposition to having our state song be so nasty.  Jay Barringer, division commander of the Maryland Sons of Confederate Veterans, said that "Maryland's unique and vibrant history is embodied in James Randall's 'Maryland, My Maryland.'"

People are quick to rise up against changing things on the grounds that they dislike being "politically correct," which is another way of saying they don't mind hurting people's feelings. Mr Barringer says the song is "a history lesson" about which too many Marylanders are unaware.

I can tell the story of some awful people in history - the Hitlers, the Pol Pots, the Agnews - without calling them "scum."  As my dad always said, people who have to call others names and say revulsive things about them do so because they don't know the right words to use.

Teach the children what happened when some people started a riot. But don't make it a glorified part of our history, because it wasn't.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, February 9, 2019

Secrets of the Male Gender Revealed: There is not a one among us who doesn't see some guy working one of these earthmovers without wishing he could get in the cab and give it a whirl. Guaranteed.
"The beauty and art of nature can oft be seen in its vegetables" - Col. Sanders
The Michelin Man got tired.
Last week when it was so doggone cold in the Midwest, people were throwing boiling water up in the air, just to see it come down to earth as ice pellets. Here's someone's idea for an instantly-frozen cracked egg.
This summer, the minor league Reading Phillies will play several games wearing alternate jerseys and hats identifying them as the Reading Pretzels. They take pretzels very seriously in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, as the major league Orioles rebuild, they will please a certain part of their base by wearing this special cap on St Patrick's Day.
This is a very cool garden bench! I didn't say it was a very comfortable garden bench, however.
This is part of the "Marilyn Diptych," a series of silkscreen images made by Andy Warhol shortly after Marilyn Monroe died in 1962. He used multiple images to show that she was many things to many people in many different ways.

Friday, February 8, 2019

My advice to youth

"Youth is wasted on the young," said some old man a long time ago, and no one young listened to him either.

But consider what's going on just south of here, down in Virginia.
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  • the governor either did or did not pose as either a guy in blackface or a guy in Klan robes in his med school days
  • but as he denied being in the now-famous picture, he freely chirped up with the info that he entered a Michael Jackson dance contest while wearing Jacksonian regalia and with his face cosmetically darkened
  • the lieutenant governor, his putative replacement, is accused of sexual assault
  • the attorney general, next in line for the governor's mansion, also volunteered that he donned the facepaint and clothing in order to pay tribute to Kurtis Blow back in his college days
  • that would leave a man named Kirk Cox to run the state, because...and get this....last year's race for the state House of Delegate seat from the 94th District was declared a tie, so...
  • an elections official pulled the name of the incumbent, David Yancey, out of a ceramic bowl designed by a ceramicist at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as the tiebreaker.
I know what you're thinking; this sounds like the news as read on "Hee Haw," but it all seems to be happening right now.
Image result for charlie hee haw

So, here is the advice I have for you, dear gentle young readers:

Don't be involved in costumery that degrades and humiliates other people.
Be wise and careful about your romances.
And don't think that the dumb stuff you do right now won't come back to bite you on the asterisk* years from now.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

"I don't know anything about what I like. All I know is art."

Andy Warhol, American artist born Andrew Warhola (1928 - 1987) was a leading figure in the art world, specifically, pop art, which he "pop"ularized in the 60s with his "Campbell's Soup Cans," a collection of 32 superrealistic pictures of various cans of soup.

Even as a teenager at the time, soon to be employed in the field of stamping prices on cans of soup at the A&P, I knew great art when I saw it. He followed that with a picture of many pictures of Marilyn Monroe, and reproduced the cardboard boxes in which Brillo pads were shipped to the A&P.
Image result for warhol brillo box

I brought one of the real Brillo boxes home from the A&P, after first stamping a price in purple on the boxes within. I kept socks in it for years.

My thoughts turned to Warhol the other day when a commercial for Burger King appeared on the Super Bowl. Burger King got the rights to the pop art movie "Andy Warhol Eating a Hamburger," which was one of the 66 scenes in director JØrgen Leth's 1982 film "66 Scenes from America."

"I still remember the first time I watched the complete length of the film of Andy Warhol eating a Burger King Whopper, and my head exploded," Fernando Machado, Burger King's global chief marketing officer told Ad Week magazine. "I was like, 'Is that really Andy Warhol; why is he eating that? What's happening there?'"

Here's what was happening there. Leth is an immigrant, a Dane, who says that he sees the hamburger as the "great social equalizer in America. People, regardless of their socio-economic status, can enjoy them."

When he wasn't busy duplicating the art of others, Warhol was known for saying witty and wise things, and one of them is worth thinking about:

"A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too." 
That's the point of the American homogenization that's been going on for years. The point of Burger King, and all other fast food chains, is that a Whopper is prepared the same and will taste the same in New York City or Kankakee.

And just think, if you eat burgers, you're eating just like the president of the United States and the championship college football team. 

And for those asking what the point of the commercial was, there you have it.
Image result for andy warhol burger king

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Occasional language rant, #12

My new policy is not to complain about grammar, spelling, or punctuation until I see or hear the same mistake made at least half a dozen times.

It usually doesn't take very long.

Lately, I have heard people on radio, television, and at the seafood counter at the Giant say, for example, "The Patriots are a shoo-in to win the Super Bowl."

That turned out to be accurate, but the problem is when people write the word, rather than saying it. Too often, they type "shoe-in."  And why?  What about being the overwhelmingly presumptive winner of some race, or ballgame, or election, makes people think it has anything to do with their footwear?  I don't get that.

When you are trying to get a fly away from you at a picnic, you wave your hand and hiss, "Shoo, fly!" 
Image result for shoo fly
When you want to get a pack of dogs away from you, you holler, "Shoo!"

The only connection to shoes is to think that people are swatting the flies with their left Converse All-Star, or throwing a loafer to get the dogs to go.

And before you shoo me away, the aforementioned Super Bowl featured the Patriots versus the Rams. Versus. Against.  A two-syllable word from the old Latin, originally meaning "toward."

So why do people say it as "verse"? 

My answer is, the same reason that veterinarian becomes "vetnarian," meteorologist becomes "meterologist," temperature is "tempacher," and, most awful of all, February becomes "Febuary."

It must be that we're in too big a rush to finish speaking so we can watch "Dr Pimplepopper" on TV.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Just a good ole boy

I recall being at a restaurant in Ocean City (MD) in 1980 at Halloween time. The wait staff all turned up in costumes, including one gangly white kid who decided it would be fun to go around as a gangly black kid in a basketball uniform. He had it all; the Afro wig, blackface makeup. He even was dribbling a toy basketball as he went from table to table.

Reactions ranged from dumbfounded to, sad to say, some mirth among those who find this sort of mockery funny. He wasn't our server, so I didn't have the opportunity to share my thoughts with him, not that he would have liked them.

In all these years, I don't think I've seen anything quite so blatantly insensitive in public, and now we see that the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, either was or was not dressed in blackface and/or a Ku Klux Klan getup in his yearbook in 1984.
Image result for northam yearbook
I hasten to add, this was not his high school yearbook, where stupidity can be blamed on the callowness of youth, or his college yearbook, where it can often be due to overindulgence in drugs or alcohol. No, this was a medical school yearbook, from a school called the Eastern Virginia Medical School. Click on the link to be taken to their website to see how they are scrambling to form advisory committees to make sure nothing this embarrassing occurs again in this school until a whole bunch o' seniors get all juiced up and go off a-hootin' an' a-hollerin' this spring.

So Northam was 25 when he was graduated from this school, and the yearbook shows the racist pictures, about which he said on Friday he was one of those pictured and then on Saturday said he wasn't, although he did put shoe polish on his face to take place in a Michael Jackson dance contest that same year. His wife gave him the raised eyebrow when he was about to demonstrate the Moonwalk at the press conference.

Good thing she was there or he might have started talking like Stepin Fetchit for the press.

Other interesting pictures on his yearbook page show him wearing a cowboy hat, and posing languidly in front of a Corvette. Hardly the sort of image one seeks when choosing a pediatric neurologist to treat a child.

His political career is finished, although as of now (Monday morning) he has refused to resign the governorship because he feels he is the man for the job and can regain the trust of the public, because that's how blind a person can be who once thought that dressing up like this was amusing.

And what kind of medical school publishes yearbooks like this? Is there anyone with any sense in charge down there?

Monday, February 4, 2019

A cup to go with more than coffee in it

On the one ear, we are subjected to the intemperate braying of an orange poltroon, but listen to the words of Breanna Zolfo in your other ear, and let them wash over your soul....

"Believe there is good in the world. Be the good" is what she says.

Breanne owns the Café Fresco, out in Crown Point (where they once bragged of having an escape-proof jail, until the night John Dillinger checked in, and, finding the amenities lacking, checked right out again), Indiana.

You know those little cardboard cup sleeves that are that stand between your fingers and second-degree burns from a hot cuppa mocha java? Well, Breanne and her team write little inspirational slogans on theirs, to send people off into the world with a cheerier mien.

(Ironic that a word pronounced the same as "mean" can also stand for sweet politeness, eh?)


Breanne is 31, used to be a nanny, and gave up changing diapers for changing coffee filters six years ago when she opened the Café.

One day, according to what she told CBS, it just seemed like a good idea to add some inspiration to the caffeine.

"Well, I just hoped that it would, like, add some positive light to their day. Because it's not everyone gets to experience that in the day," is how she put it.

Well, it went over well, and so she moved to step two...she challenged her customers:  perform one of those random good deeds, and get a free cup of jitter juice.

Now, Breanna estimates she's poured out thousands of cups of covfefe for those who poured their heart out to others, and reported making contributions to charities, treating the next person in line to their morning jolt.

What's more, there is a tip jar on the counter at her spot, and that tip money goes out to the community every month in various ways.

Zolfo has surprised grocery shoppers by paying for their chow, things like that.

And once, she bought a bike for a homeless guy, and that worked out very well!

"We had this one person that, he was homeless, and we had bought a bike for him. And he came back two years later after we had purchased the bike for him, and he said, 'You don't know how much you've changed my life. Like, because you bought me a bike, I got a job, and I got an apartment.' And even talking about him makes me cry," Zolfo said.

Breanne says, "I hope that it's spread positivity throughout, like, not just this community, but other communities that are around us … and for us to play a small part in a lot of people's lives is the most amazing feeling."

Every now and then it's good to wash out our eyes and ears like this.