Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Hu said coffee is good for you?

Everyone's got a deal, and here is mine: It's just like the weather...if you hear something is bad for you, wait ten minutes and someone else will come along and tell you it's ok.

Red meat bad!  No, red meat is ok as long as you don't grill it! Wait a while; red meat is ok but chicken is bad and eggs are worse!  Undercooked pork used to be bad and we were told we'd get lockjaw, and maybe some of us should have, but trichinosis turned out to be less of a threat to us than slipping on banana peels, which was a staple of cartoon fun, but you never saw it happen to anyone in real life.

And now, for those who were told that coffee and its caffeine would send you to the Pearly Gates Starbucks way too soon, you can sip easily. Harvard University did a study and they say that coffee drinkers are likely to live longer.  They followed 200,000 java junkies for almost 30 years and find that those who guzzled 3 to 5 cups per day had a lower mortality rate - up to 15 percent lower! - than those who made do with Postum or water or whatever.

Frank Hu, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H, is the author of the study, and he says the reason for this kick in the years is a powerful antioxidant called chlorogenic acid, which is super abundant in coffee.

Dr Hu also says that those who average swallowing half a Big Box of Joe from Dunkin Donuts are 37 percent less likely to die from a neurodegenerative disease such Parkinson's, and 36 percent less likely to die from suicide, compared to nondrinkers.

Insert obvious joke about people who can't get their coffee fix ending their lives way too soon...

Dopamine seems to be the key here...all that coffee produces a ton of dopamine for you, and a large feature of Parkinson's is a lower level of dopamine, the chemical that plays a large part in both animal and plant lives. And plenty of dopamine means plenty of nerve transmitters in your brain, and that produces an antidepressant effect. And that's a good thing.

Dr Hu did not answer the puzzling question about what would happen to a person who drinks coffee while listening to Adele. For some, that's really having it all!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, March 30, 2019

Some sweet day, Sunkist will develop a lemon that you don't need to slice!
Some tile guy just had to do this to drive all us OCDers insane.
Recognize this drum kit? It's the one that Santana's drummer, Michael Shrieve, played at Woodstock when he did the amazing solo on "Soul Sacrifice."  Amazingly small, when you look at the 137 drums that drummers with half his talent use today. His drums just landed in the Musician's Hall of Fame in Memphis.
Hard to believe it's been almost 25 years since the Clueless movie, but the cast recently reunited for the occasion. Here are Donald Faison (Murray), Breckin Meyer (Travis), Alicia Silverstone (Cher) and Paul Rudd (Josh). Are you totally buggin'?
They don't hand out little Oriole schedules so much anymore, so here's one you can print and keep on the refrigerator with a magnet or something.
Police are still on the lookout for this driver, who was seen driving through our neighborhood in a little white sports car with a red S painted on the driver's door. Police were heard to say, "Look at that 'S' car go!"
Here's my reminder that no matter how busy your day is, it's always good to carve out a little time to treat yourself to something you enjoy. It doesn't have to be cake! It could be reading a good book, or even something John Grisham wrote. Just take care of yourself.

This is the Clipper Stad Amsterdam, come to visit Baltimore from the Netherlands. They offer free deck tours today from 10AM – 3PM at the Inner Harbor’s West Wall.

Friday, March 29, 2019

They dig dinosaurs

Will Rogers once said, "Everyone is ignorant, just on different topics." What the old Oklahoma cowboy was saying there was that everyone has gaps in their learning.  I happen to know a little kid whose knowledge of dinosaurs far eclipses mine. 

As a matter of fact, his knowledge of eclipses, uh, surpasses mine.

I don't know Jack about dinosaurs, and that's never more apparent than when someone mentions the world's largest T-Rex skeleton showing up in Canada the other day. My first thought went to the British glam band fronted by Marc Bolan, who gave the world songs like "Jeepster," "Bang A Gong," "Hot Love," "Telegram Sam," and the lyrical "There Was A Time/Raw Ramp/Electric Boogie." 

I don't get tattoos, only because doing so would make me unable to donate blood for a year (and I love those Red Cross pretzels!) but if I did etch words on my skin, surely these T-Rex lyrics would be among them:

There was a time everything was fine
You could drink all the day
Like it was wine
And all the children
They put flowers in their hair
And all the grown-ups
They put daggers there instead.
 I don't think that anyone ever encapsulated the difference between crusty old timers and wistful youth quite so well.

But the world's largest T-Rex did show up the other day, having waited for his ride since 68,000,000 years ago, so we might as well have him over for dinner. Scientists figure that, fully fleshed out, this dude weighed in at 19,500 pounds, which is about enough to qualify him for his own TV show.

Paleontologists have nicknamed him "Scotty," because they passed around a nice bottle of scotch while they looked him over.

At length, they discovered a Bedrock legal ID in his pocket that indicates he lived to be 28 or so, which (they say) is far above the average lifespan of a T-Rex. 

Marc Bolan himself, leader of the T-Rex band, lived to be almost 30, losing his life in a car wreck in September, 1977...a month after Elvis died, and a month before Bing Crosby bought the farm.

That was a rough time for my music, with three of my favorites dying in a row, but people call me a dinosaur, so...

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Legend of Chief Moose

Back in 2002, the Washington DC area and its suburbs in Maryland were held in terror by the "Beltway Snipers," John Allen Muhammad, 41, and  Lee Boyd Malvo, then 17.

For reasons best known to themselves, they went on a shooting spree, cruising the DC Beltway in a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice.  All told, they killed 17 people and wounded 10 more.

Muhammad was sentenced to death, and eventually executed in 2009, while Malvo, as a juvenile, was given six consecutive life sentences without parole.

In the meantime came the case of Miller v. Alabama (2012), in which the US Supreme Court decided that mandatory life-sentence punishments for juveniles are unconstitutional. That decision led to Malvo's sentence being overturned for re-sentencing. Most scholars feel that Malvo will still get a life sentence in Virginia, besides which, he also stands convicted in Maryland, sentenced to six life terms, and that ruling hasn't even been challenged yet.  Safe to say, between his Virginia sentences and those from Maryland, Malvo will be behind bars for quite some time.

But the recent stories on the news about Malvo brought back a central figure in the whole case, which, if you weren't around here at the time, was quite a terrifying ordeal. Since the snipers were shooting randomly at people, it got to a point where people filling their cars with gas would start the pump flowing, and then dart back into the safety of their vehicle, praying not to be shot. It was awful.

But the calming hand of the cop in charge, the chief of the Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Department, Charles Moose, was credited with both coordinating the investigation and keeping the public from chaos. Chief Moose and his people worked with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the police in the many other jurisdictions where Muhammad and Malvo shot people, but to this day, when you think back to those scary days, you think of the calm demeanor of Chief Moose (above).

Life took interesting turns for the chief after the case was wrapped up, however. In June of 2003, just months after the arrests of the two killers, Moose resigned from the Montgomery County PD after county officials told him his interests were conflicted by participating in the writing of a book about the case. That book, Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper, was published in October, 2003 and then became a TV movie. Charles S. "Roc" Dutton played Moose.

There were complaints from prosecutors about Moose's publicity tour, with tv appearances, promoting the book, but the prosecution had no trouble getting convictions.

Moose then left for Hawaii, entered the training academy of the Honolulu Police, and served there as an officer for six years before retiring to Florida.

It will be interesting to see if Malvo's legal team files for an appeal in Maryland, but that was the way it happened 17 years ago.  It seems a lot longer somehow.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

More about Streisand (and this should be all I ever say about her)

Have you ever heard of The Streisand Effect?

Let me tell you about it with an example. 

Recently, Congressman Devin Nunes (R,CA) got himself all up in a hissy because some people satirized him by creating a fake Twitter page under the name "Devin Nunes' Cow."

They could tell that I had nothing to do with this spoof, because I would have insisted that the proper name would be "Devin Nunes's Cow."

Nunes's family owns a cattle ranch; that's where the beef got started here.  And the people who wrote the fake tweets were harsh on Nunes, who once sponsored a bill in Congress to cut down on frivolous lawsuits.

Always one for the ironic, he titled it the Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act.

And now he has filed lawsuits against the people who created the fakery, and that brought even more attention to them (and negative attention to the congressman, who came off looking like a bit of a sorehead in the whole thing.)

So what does this have to do with diva Barbara?  Well, in 2003, she made a big freakin' deal about not wanting anyone to take pictures of her palatial oceanside mansion in Malibu, CA.

Instead of being happy that people who don't get to live like Queen Tut wanted to see her digs so they would be a little happier in their meager huts, she tried to stop people from flying over the joint, and since she is not a national monument, the only thing that came from all this is, she got more attention drawn to the place, and hundreds and hundreds of pictures taken of it.

The Streisand effect is defined as "a phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the internet. It is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware that some information is being kept from them, their motivation to access and spread it is increased."
Image result for barbra streisand house
Hey Barb - enjoy the attention! And you can come over and take a picture of my house any time! It's a lot like yours (above) in that it has a roof and a floor and cable tv!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

People, people who need intelligence

I honestly cannot remember the last time there were two reasons to talk about Barbra Streisand, but she's all over the news these days.

We start with this: The found legendary singer and actress found herself in deep, uh, water for saying that Wade Robson and James Safechuck — the two men who were in the Michael Jackson documentaty “Leaving Neverland" — “were thrilled to be there” and that what allegedly happened to them “didn’t kill them."

That's right, Babs. Hey look, guys, get up and brush yourself off. You had a good time with old Michael, so don't come crying now, said Streisand.

You know how we say some people should get out more?  Maybe she should stay in more, and keep her kisser closed.

Parents who are seeking to guide their children into highly remunerative fields of employment that do not require much work should look into the widening field of Celebrity Apology Writing! Some master of that craft penned this to go out over Babs's signature:

“I am profoundly sorry for any pain or misunderstanding I caused by not choosing my words more carefully about Michael Jackson and his victims,” she wrote.

“I didn’t mean to dismiss the trauma these boys experienced in any way,” she wrote. “Like all survivors of sexual assault, they will have to carry this for the rest of their lives. I feel deep remorse and I hope that James and Wade know that I truly respect and admire them for speaking their truth.”

I'm going to follow your lead, and choose my words very carefully, Barbra. You showed your, let's say, heart, the first time, so mopping up after your spilled your thoughts is too little, too late.

More on this perpetual embarrassment tomorrow, and I promise not to mention the time she cloned her dog.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Pistol-packin' papa

Today's Riddle:

What's 74, has two legs and two arms and one handgun, and works as a substitute teacher in Alabama?

If you answered "Henry Rex Weaver," you win! You must watch WBRC-TV, or read The Cullman Times, because they are reporting on a little fracas involving old Henry Rex last week.

Seems this "good guy with a gun" was, against all logic and sense, employed as a substitute teacher in a first-grade classroom at Blountsville Elementary School on Friday. Weaver is 74, for crying out loud, hardly up to the pace of a room full of 6-year-olds.

But no one knew he had the old persuader - the peacemaker - the gat, the bulky, the deuce-deuce, the rooty tooty point and shooty, the roscoe, in his pants.
Henry Rex Weaver
This superannuated fool (above) carried a gun in his pocket as he substituted for the regular teacher, and the gun went off, slightly injuring one child.

Blount County Sheriff Mark Moon says Weaver, of Blountsville, was taken off campus and into custody. Weaver was taken to the Blount County Jail and has been charged with possession of a deadly weapon on school grounds, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment.

"(The sound) alerted administrators,’’ Moon said. “He was detained until we could get him in our jail.”

In 2016, a former teacher at that same school, Bobbie Holaway, 60, was charged with shooting her husband to death.

Yeah buddy, arming teachers sounds like a mighty fine idea. It's been especially helpful in Blountsville, Alabama.

“Obviously I’m concerned about a substitute teacher bring (sic) a gun to school,’’ the sheriff said, “and what we can do to prevent that in the future.”

Hire people who don't tote around a shootin' iron? Metal detectors in the faculty lounge? A quick pat-down for all staff before the first bell?

Bueller?  Bueller?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Look ma, no hands!

Google thinks they're really ahead of the curve with the driverless cars that they're testing, but there was a man 50-some years ago who drove a magic car that folded up like a briefcase when he got to work.

So what if it was George Jetson!  Your point being?

Back to real life, one of the Googlemobiles was stopped for driving too slowly last month...this took place in California where police stopped a car with no driver for driving 24 mph in a 35-mph zone.

Can you just imagine the officer walking up to the car and seeing no one at the wheel?  "Uh...invisible license and registration, please..."

I have no idea why Google is spending a fortune on driverless cars. How useful can they be?  How can they pay tolls - by having a saucer full of change on the front seat, and having the tolltaker reach in and take the fare?

How do they talk to the drive-thru window person at McDonald's?

How do they roll down the window to holler at other drivers? Oh that's right.  There is no one to do the hollering.

Google says its cars have a "library of various sirens" and they have an inner app to identify them, so when an police car, fire engine or medic unit come up on them, the car will "drive more conservatively until it has a better sense of where the
sirens are coming from." And the automatic autos have cameras for eyes to "see" flashing lights at an intersection, so they will yield to the emergency vehicle.

That's nice.  I still don't get the point of replacing a human driver who would work for $50,000 a year with a device that costs $50,000,000, but that's just me.

Google says their robot cars have been on the roads for 6 years, have driven over 2 million miles, and have had 17 "minor incidents," which is what I told my father it was when I skidded on ice that time.  They also say that their driverless cars have never been the cause of an accident, which, again, is what I told my father that snowy morning.

Here's what I really love about the Googlenews on this brave new world of unmanned Impalas. Last week, they received a patent for a device that will equip its cars with robotic hands to make hand gestures.

This is science following mankind!  I see people making gestures all the time with their hands, or sometimes, just one finger.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, March 23, 2019

I am fascinated with the life story of Hal Blaine, the greatest drummer of them all, who passed away last week. How do you learn to play that well? He did it this way: he attended drum school from 8 am til 4 pm daily and then had two whole hours of free time before going to work as the drummer in a strip club from 6 pm til 2 am. After that, being the ghost drummer for Gary Lewis And The Playboys (and a thousand other bands) must have seemed easy...
I don't have any idea what this artist is trying to say, if anything, but I do know that Joan Crawford would have loved this.
And this is a greatly magnified look at a dragonfly with raindrops all over him/herself.
My buddy Fran, King of All Locksmiths, will probably agree with my theory that the person who installed the grab handle on this door was a totally different person from the one who installed the lock.
We celebrated St Patrick's Day with Reuben sandwiches, and if that ain't the best example of e pluribus unum, I don't know what is.
"You can't tell the players without a scorecard," said the vendors outside Forbes Field in Pittsburgh as they sold these programs outside Pirates games in the 1930s for a dime. I love the slogan on the Planters Jumbo Blocks ad: "Ask the boy to sock you one." I can only assume that young vendors went around the park, selling peanut candy blocks, but who else ever heard of referring to "selling you" something as "socking you" something? Must be a Pittsburgh thing.
Don't @ me with "well, you eat beef," but I saw video of a guy killing a sleeping lion with his rifle, and if you support killing that lion or this tiger with her cub or an elephant just to have something on your wall, it says here that you should be on some animal's trophy wall, just to keep it fair.
This week's clever idea is starting your seeds in a thoroughly biodegradable container such as an ice cream cone. Cool sprouting!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Come fly with me

You know who's the coolest couple in downtown Baltimore? Boh and Barb.

They are the highest flyers of them all.  Barb and Boh are peregrine falcons, mated for life, and their roost is the 33rd floor ledge of the Transamerica Tower in Baltimore.

They welcomed their first egg of spring on the first day of spring, and you can see it all live! as it happens! by going to the webcam at

We'll wait while you go there and see the sights. 

The Chesapeake Conservancy, a group of people dedicated to nature, has had a camera up there showing their falconry since 2015.

The building used to be called the USF & G Building, and then the Legg Mason building, and one day in 1978, someone who was probably supposed to be doing something work-related saw a pair of falcons setting up a home outside his/her window.

The Conservancy has done a lot to share the falcons' lives with us, and they even named these two for local favorites: National BOHemian beer, and former US Senator BARBara Mikulski.

They say that Peregrine falcons move faster than any other creature that roams the earth, with the exception of people who push their carts past me to get in line at the Giant. They fly and swoop at around 200 miles per hour, and for lunch will just have a pigeon that until a minute ago was flapping his wings around the courthouse sidewalk. 

And they like to set up their homes on high cliffs, but will settle for a skyscraper downtown where the hipsters are. 

And you know that old expression about "leaving the nest," right? Well, it's true. Falcons call their young "eyasses" (!) and Barb and Boh had a brood of four eyasses last year. One of them, Kalani, showed up on the upper floors of a tall building in Richmond. We don't know about about the other three, but I reckon at least one of them is wearing flannel shirts and a full long beard and trying to get his book of haiku published. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Son of a B

I know many people who have been accused of being the world's biggest b, but there exists in nature a winged creature known as the Wallace's Giant Bee (catchy, huh?) and you can just hop a flight or a boat to Indonesia if you want to see one up close and personal.

Wallace's giant bee — biologically known as Megachile pluto — is bigger than your average honeybee. The female WB is around an inch and a half in length. Look, its tongue is an inch long! And this critter comes equipped with giant mandibles, so no. Keep them in Indonesia.

Clay Bolt is a natural history photographer, which is certainly more fun than taking pictures of seventh-graders all day, and he was part of them that went to see Wallace's Giant Bee. "It was absolutely breathtaking to see this 'flying bulldog' of an insect that we weren't sure existed anymore — to have real proof right there in front of us in the wild," he said, running for his life.

Females of the species like to take over a termite nest on the side of a tree, and really, who's going to tell them they can't? After they move in, and arrange for cable and internet and mail delivery, the bees take resin and wood to make tunnels and little rooms, so that they can live in peace without sharing space with termites.  Many of the rooms have natural light and ventilation, and a little library with all the latest novels and magazines.

"To actually see how beautiful and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible," Bolt said.

I understand that we all have instant instinctive reactions to certain words and phrases. Among those that inspire fear and loathing are "letter from the IRS," "Lifetime movie featuring Tori Spelling," and "giant wings thrumming."

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Throw the book at her

I don't know how many more times I can shake my head about what goes in Baltimore. Yes, I live in "Baltimore," but technically, we live in Baltimore County, which is a whole separate jurisdiction and government. We broke up with the city in 1854 and very little that they do down there makes us want to get back together again.

Just today, we see the news that the former police commissioner is in trouble for not paying taxes, and the people who collect taxes from the rest of us want to put him in an orange jumpsuit for a year in the Ironbar Hilton as a reminder to him and everyone else who shirks their duty to pay.  But that story hardly gets any traction at all, what with the recent revelations about what the mayor is up to.

Her name is Catherine Pugh, and if you follow these stories, you will remember that she came into office as an antidote (locally pronounced "anecdote") to the antics of a previous mayor, Sheila Dixon. Ms Dixon ripped off gift cards that had been donated to her office for use as gifts for the underprivileged, and was forced to resign her office in disgrace so she could go shopping.

Pugh served on the City Council and ran to succeed Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as mayor.  She was said to be the perfect candidate without a whiff of scandal, so she won, and guess what astonished citizens have learned in the past week!
Image result for catherine pugh
Her honor (above) cut a sweet deal with the University of Maryland Medical System. She was one of 30 unpaid board members there, until it came to light that she, too, wrote children's books.  Writing children's books is not against the law, although it's quite the big deal among the celebrity set to write them so that moms and dads all over can bore their children to sleep by reading stories from minds such as those of Jamie Lee Curtis, Al Yankovic, Emma Thompson, Spike Lee, and Steve Martin.

Pugh got the board to shell out $500,000 for 100,000 copies of the  “Healthy Holly” books she wrote. They're all about that fitness life and healthy eating. The newspaper reports the books were purchased by the hospital sytem in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018, and distributed to local schools and daycare centers.

The Baltimore City Public Schools were so thrilled to have these magnum opuses available for their kids that they have 8,700 copies of Healthy Holly: Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow gathering dust in a warehouse.

The mayor resigned from the board, saying, "I have many other pressing concerns that require my full attention, energy and efforts."

You know what else she has? Half a million dollars from this enterprise.

And somewhere, Sheila Dixon is saying, "Hey! Wait a minute..."

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


The outfielder who dropped a fly ball, allowing three runs to score and causing his team to lose a baseball game, used to be called "the goat," and sportswriters, who often pulled their shoulders out of joint reaching for a metaphor, would say the "woebegone flychaser" was "being fitted for goat horns."

I tell you, reading the sports pages used to remind me reading Aesop's Fables, with all the animal allusions.

Now, we say the GOAT is the Greatest Of All Time, for people ranging from Muhammad Ali to Brooks Robinson to Oprah Winfrey to John Lennon, people who had achieved ne plus ultra status in their line of work.

So make room for the GOAT goat, because here's one who has finally found work in the highest office in her town. Say hi to Lincoln, a three-year-old Nubian goat. She was elected mayor of Fair Haven, Vermont, a town that seems to have lots of time for fol-de-rol, especially in those cold New England winters.

To be honest, being mayor of Fair Haven is largely a ceremonial position. Town Manager Joe Gunter does all the work, and had enough time one day to read a newspaper about some hamlet in Michigan that had no mayor, so they decided to elect a four-legged one. Gunter decided to follow suit.

Lincoln is also employed as a groundskeeper; she keeps the yard freed of brush and whatnot for a local family.
Right after her swearing-in ceremony last week, Lincoln did what a lot of our leaders do, and dropped off a nice package of poop-pourri that the police chief had to clean up with a broom and dust pan.

Lincoln will serve a one-year term, and she will make public appearances and also "march" in the Memorial Day parade wearing a red hat with a the slogan "Make Fair Haven Fair Again."

Monday, March 18, 2019

You may say I'm a dreamer

After World War I (1914 - 1918), people said, well, that was the "war to end all wars," and vowed there would be no more world wars. Everyone was firm on that, and stuck to the promise, and sure enough, there was no more world war until the next one (1939 - 1945.)

But that second one ended with mushroom clouds and it became clear to all observers that another war like that would leave Earth smouldering, like a charcoal grill long after everyone has gone home. In fact, the US and its enemies around the world have continued to keep up the MAD pace that began during World War II and technically ended in 1991 when the Cold War ended, but continues in force.

MAD stands for Mutually Assured Destruction, a apropos acronym that means the other guy knows we can wipe them out if they try to wipe us out, so no one pulls out their guns, as it were. Knowing we can press the big red button as soon as missiles are launched in our direction keeps those missiles from being launched, goes the MAD theory, and so far, it works.

So far. 

But something dawned on me the other day.  Have you ever heard the notion that a person can die of a thousand paper cuts? No one little nick will end it all, not even a hundred (although that would sting a mite!) but keep it up and soon the victim will know the heartbreak of bleeding to death.

And it seems to me that we are in World War III after all, but instead of entire countries and continents going at in in combat, we see groups defending certain doctrines or religions going on the attack, and sometimes it's just people who like to fight and hurt people and sometimes it seems to be people who are entrenched in hatred passed down from generations past in their tribes.

A massacre here, a mass shooting here, a plane is taken out of the sky, arson claims lives and property, and down the line it goes. We're not dropping atom bombs on each other, but slowly but surely we are whittling away the population of the world.

The response will remind you of one of those neighborhood feuds. The new people down the street with the 4 cars and a motorcycle take up all the parking spots, and Joe down on the corner blows his leaves all over Marge and Nick's yard, and the O'Hoolahans and the Nessmans haven't been talking since the older O'Hoolahan boy stood up the Nessman girl before the Ring Dance and no one sees the people who keep their house dark all the time. The kids call the place Morbid Manor. 

The world situation is really a lot of neighborhood ruckuses writ largest. People are people, with all their good qualities and bad, and even though we say we are inured to pain and unable to be surprised anymore, it still knocks us off our feet to hear that some guy decided to kill 50 people who are of a different faith for no other reason than that he dislike immigrants.  If it ever really does get to the point that they don't cover these enormities on the news, it will be time to give up.
Image result for imagine john lennon
I've been philosophical of late, and I just came up with the totally original idea of issuing every citizen of the world a hat that says "Make The World Great Again." 

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Blame it on the moon

I still haven't figured out who was kidding whom down in Florida as Irma the Hurricane approached.

A guy started a Facebook page exhorting locals in the path of the behemoth storm to "Shoot at Hurricane Irma."

Having just recently read about how one Billy Ray Taylor and some others in Kelly, Kentucky, shot their weapons at what they perceived to be "Little Green Men" invading from Mars in 1955 (it turned out to be a parliament of owls), I was on the hunt for another story in which men (it's always men) shoot guns at some otherworldly force.

Well, sir, the Pasco County Sheriff's office took this seriously, posting a tweet as the storm drew near. "To clarify, DO NOT shoot weapons at Irma," read the tweet in an earnest, albeit poorly worded, bit of advice.  "You won't make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects."

Such as shooting the people next door, or your car.

46,000 souls clicked "like" on the page started by Ryon Edwards. Edwards was later to write that he was "amazed that anyone could see it as anything else than a joke." He told the news down there that the idea for the page came to him out of "stress and boredom."

Sometimes I just shake my old head and hear the thoughts (or something) rattling around in there, and one of the thoughts is that a joke ought to be funny.

Just to give you an example, here is a joke that is funny, as told by comedy master Norm MacDonald:

"A guy said, 'I want you to buy this pit bull. This will protect your valuables.' I don't own anything very valuable. If I buy the pit bull, that would be the most valuable thing I own. I'd have to buy something to protect it then."

And this one, which I have heard from comics like Buddy Hackett and Mel Tillis:

A guy goes into a pet shop and tells the owner that he needs a pet for his mother. The guy says that Mom lives alone and could really use some company. Pet shop guy says, "I have just what she needs. A parrot that can speak in five languages. She'll have a lot of fun with that bird." The guy says he'll take the parrot and makes arrangement to have the bird delivered to his Mom. A few days pass and the man calls his mother. "Well Mom, how did you like that bird I sent?" She says, "Oh son, he was delicious!" Aghast, the guys says, "Mom, you ate that bird? Why, he could speak five languages!" 

And the Mom says, "Well, he shoulda said something!"

All in good fun, and no bullets flying.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, March 16, 2019

This is a house in Finland and I love this Finnish house, because there would never be a need to go running around to find the ladder when the Frisbee went on the roof.
Stonehenge, seen here, was cobbled together during the  late Neolithic period in Britain (around 2800-2400 B.C.) and now people who make it their business to dig up the past have uncovered (!) evidence that in the closest town to the stones, Durrington Walls, people threw mammoth parties with lots and lots of pig roasts. Hog bones they find outnumber cow bones by 10:1, and they are still looking for the empty bottles of Open Pit Bar-B-Q Sauce.
This is someone's random tool drawer, a/k/a The Land Of Swiss Army Knives.  I love this drawer.
I still feel sheepish because the 3rd word in last Wednesday's Jumble was "meadow" and I couldn't get it.
Let's play "Real Estate Agent."  Call this one a "fixer-upper" or a "Handyman's Delight" and emphasize the massive potential for rehabbing it into the showpiece of your whole block!
Every time I see one of these, I just have to save it to share with you...pencil carving art, the hallmark of patience and skill (and dirty hands).
This is colorful Bismol Street in Lisbon, Portugal!

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Happy St Patrick's Day tomorrow!

Friday, March 15, 2019

He got canned

The topic of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee came up the other morning on the Howard Stern show, so I had to research the old chef to find out what his story was.

And as with anything covered with tomato sauce, it's fascinating!

First off, Howard said that he was an avid consumer of the Chef's canned meatball and pasta products. He said his mother would be in the kitchen making wonderful meatballs, sauce, and pasta, and old Howard would go into the kitchen, open a can of C B-A-D noodles, and heat it up, gobbling it in front of his mom as a form of teenage rebellion.

Can you just imagine? I ate canned pasta once in my life and had a pre-teenage rebellion.  I think I stood up and hollered, "I ain't eating this slop!" while tossing my plate like I had seen George Raft do in the movies.

All right, I didn't throw my plate, but I definitely balked at consuming canned pasta. As I recall, it tasted like rubber bands floating in catsup. Not good. But for all I know, it's a whole lot tastier now, yessir. Si, signore.

As Howard's sidekick (and former student of mine) Robin Quivers pointed out, the chef must have been a pretty good cook in his day. Turns out the man born Ettore (Hector) Boiardi in Piacenza, Italy in 1897 came to America in 1914 and worked in the kitchen in the Plaza Hotel in New York, rising to the position of head chef. In short order he moved to Cleveland to open his own restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia (The Garden of Italy.)

Sometimes, the combination of timing, luck and talent results in huge success. By the time the Depression hit, Hector's restaurant was doing very well, and people just loved his tomato sauce. Loved it. So much so that they asked him for sauce to take home, and he began using washed-out milk bottles and filling them with his sauce as favors to customers.

That was the talent, making that red gravy. Luck and timing came in because the early 1930s saw a lot of people losing their jobs and savings due to foolish national economic policy during the 20s. So, pasta became an affordable meal for many, and Chef Boiardi started making sauce for sale.
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The only problem then was, no one could figure out how the hell to pronounce "Boiardi," and the chef said, "Let's go phonetic," and rechristened his brand "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee."

Image result for gi can openerWhat's more, his company made a lot of canned food for GIs during World War II, and many of those soldiers and sailors came home and brought their Army can opener (left) with them, thereby staving off starvation until they got married. They purchased canned chow by the truckload.

Chef Boy-Ar-Dee appeared in television ads for many years, and at his death in 1985, his pasta and sauce cans were selling to the tune of $500 million per year.

So there you have it, and if you like his food, it's still available. If you'd like some real homemade pasta sauce, come on over one night and I'll share Vic Damone's recipe with you, and even cook you up some.

Tomorrow, let's talk about a man who changed the world for sufferers of indigestion. As luck would have it, his name was Al Kaseltzer.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Really Desperate Housewives

Every once in a while, we all get a reminder of why rich and powerful people are often quite loathsome. It's because they seem to think they operate under different rules and breathe different air from the rest of us schlubs.

I remember the time I was in court, bringing evidence for a trial, waiting to share it with the assistant state's attorney before the proceedings began. As I waited my turn, some attorney with a briefcase and a $600 suit pushed past me to confer with the ASA as if I were invisible. And I assure you, I am not.

With the same sense of outrage that I display in this blog almost daily, I asked him how he felt entitled to brush past me in that way, and as he sputtered, the ASA told him I was not a defendant, and to get back in line.

I replayed that scene the other day when I read that Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin, and dozens of other well-off types found out that standing on stacks of money they made with their bland, mawkish acting in bland, mawkish television stories could give their children a leg up in the college admissions game. 

According to the news, Huffman and her husband, William H. Macy, plunked down $15,000 “to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her oldest daughter” and later "made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her youngest daughter, before deciding not to do so.”

They got off cheaply, according to the authorities. Lori Loughlin, who acts in "Full House," was charged as well, and the documents filed  say that she and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, shelled out bribes totaling $500,000 to have their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team.

The fact that neither of the daughters know which end of an oar to put in the water did not seem to matter in this criminal enterprise. 
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Huffman (l) and Loughlin
Andrew Lelling, U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts, told the press that this is the  “largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice,” totaling $25 million in bribes.

Both actresses, if convicted, could face up to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

The kingpin - Mr Big - the "capo di tutti capi" - in this whole sickening situation is one William Singer, a Californian whose business it was to get kids into college in return for truckloads of lucre.  The scheme involved either bribing college entrance test administrators to correct wrong answers on the tests, or paying coaches to set aside places on college teams for students who, in many cases, did not even participate in the sport involved.

Singer pleaded guilty in a Boston federal courtroom to charges ranging from racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Some years ago, Tom Wolfe wrote an essay about the changing American economy, pointing out that with all the money floating around today, everyone's kids have the chance to do things that previously only the Rockefeller family enjoyed. But the fact that really struck me is that the profits from this game were such that the tennis coach at Georgetown University - the TENNIS coach, for crying out loud, got 2.7 MILLION dollars for his involvement, before resigning in December, two steps ahead of the feds.

The tennis coach.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hold On

I'm proud and happy to say that we get all our pharmacy needs taken care of by the good people at Giant Food. In fact, before we got a Giant near us, we used to get our prescriptions and nostrums at Walgreens, and then that company decided not to honor the prescription plan from where I worked, and that happened just as the new Giant was opening, so it was all propitious.

We didn't think of going with CVS, although, out our way, you can't swing a tire chain without hitting a CVS, and now they are literally building a new one of them 200 yards from an existing one, and two blocks from another existing one.  Sometimes I think when I go into our powder room to take a powder, a white-coated CVS pharmacist will be in there, asking me for a copay.

But for those who deal with CVS, there is good news.  Apparently, their music on hold is an especially annoying, jangly tune, and people have been fussing about it for some time now, led by a child psychiatrist from Harvard named Steven Schlozman.
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If I ever need a psychiatrist (betting odds are 2-1 on the morning Vegas line) I will consult with a fully grown adult. I can't tell my problems to a child.

Schlozman has to call pharmacies quite often to prescribe meds for his patients, so often that he figures he's called CVS three times a day, only to be put on hold for a minute and a half each time.

At 52, Schlozman figures that he has been walking this earth for 18,980 days, and 25 of them have been spent aggregately listening to the CVS hold jingle.

I will wager that he did this ciphering while on hold with CVS.

Dr S wrote about his despair over this tune, and now the drug chain has decided it's time for a NEW annoying song.

“CVS Pharmacy is in the process of updating the interactive voice response phone system in our stores, including the on-hold music. We expect this work to be completed later in 2019,” CVS said.

Always on the lookout for a chance to make the public happy, I offer these suggestions for new hold music:

"High School Confidential" from the Jerry Lee Lewis London Sessions album.

"Tammy" by Hank Snow, long underrated as a guitarist because he was such a great singer.

"So What's New?" by Milton DeLugg and His Band With A Thug, the beloved melodymakers from the Gong Show.

"The Chicken Dance" by #1 Party Band, just because.

You could call CVS to tell them which song you choose, but they'd just put you on hold...

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Off on a jag

We're always hearing about how intelligent people are if we just give them a chance to show it.

So, how about the little scene that took place in Wildlife World Zoo in Arizona, where a woman (unidentified and unintelligent) climbed over a barrier?

Now, had this been a barrier, that velvet rope thing at the movies, or the stretch canvas ribbon that forms near orderly lines at the bank so that we all have a chance to wait for 20 mins. while Honolulu O' Hoolihan searches her purse for her ID, or even the barrier that lets you hop on the subway, it would have been improper, or dumb, or several other things, but this one was the El Supremo of dumb barrier jumping.

Because the mystery woman jumped a barrier to take a selfie. With a jaguar.

Shawn Gilleland, a spokesman for the Rural Metro Fire Department, told The Washington Post that fire crews reported that a woman in her 30s climbed over a barrier at the zoo Saturday to get closer to the jaguar’s enclosure so that she could get a picture.   I guess posing with another living being makes the picture a dualie, but anyhow, the big cat reached out its paw, lacerating her arm, as jaguars will.

Her injuries are not life-threatening, although her foolishness may well turn out to be.

Wildlife World Zoo officials put out a statement saying the attack (more like a "predictable, justified response") is under investigation. They do point out that the animal was not outside her enclosure at any time. “Please understand why barriers are put in place,” officials tweeted, in the same way we might remind an adult not to stick their fork in an electric outlet. “Sending prayers to the family tonight.”

Adam Wilkerson went to the zoo on Saturday, never expecting a scene like this:

“My mom runs up and takes her water bottle and shoves it through the cage near where the jaguar is, and the jaguar goes to let go of the girl to take the water bottle, and the claw just catches this girl’s sweater. So at that point, I see that it’s no longer attached to the girl’s actual arm, only on her sweater, so I grab the girl on her torso, and I pull her back.”

Wilkerson said the woman was “lying on the ground, screaming in agony.”

Kitty (!) Block is the president of the Humane Society of the United States. She responded by urging zoos to “set a higher standard to protect people and to respect wildlife from a safe distance.”
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Official police sketch of jaguar as described by the victim
“People get the mistaken idea that wild animals are approachable,” Ms Block said in a statement. “Throw in a healthy dose of poor judgement, and incidents like this are bound to happen.”

I'd have to remind her that when it comes to humans who want to do something for themselves, there is no "higher standard" available.  People would ford the Mississippi River if they thought they could get a photo of themselves with some crocodile on the bank across the way.

What's more, with about 37 cable channels showing us cute animal documentaries 24 hours a day, people are more and more charmed by critters that should scare the camera right back into their pocket. Just put some veterinarian in a jungle jacket, and put him or her on television, and there ya go.

But go carefully!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Sun's out, fun's out

And so once again we find ourselves in the great national debate that pits red and blue together against sun and dark.  It doesn't matter where you come down on the political sphere; you either really like Daylight Savings Time (which began yesterday, in case you were late for work today) and lasts until November, or you really don't.

Sure, Saturday night/Sunday morning went by an hour faster than normal, but look at all the extra sunshine we'll have in the evenings if it stops raining!

Related imageThe whole thing started in 1918 when Congress issued the Standard Time Act, which was supposed to save fuel during World War I. Since then, it seems like another world war every spring, every fall, when the debate sparks up again. 

It all reminds me of the guy whose shoulders and head are chilly because his blanket isn't long enough, so he cuts 12" off the bottom and sews that swatch on at the top.  There aren't but 24 hours in a day, no matter how you juggle them around. You could cancel 2-3 AM and put that hour later in the afternoon to make dinnertime longer, but then you'd just wind up arguing about whether the evening meal is "dinner" or "supper."

Nobody asked me, but I'm not a fan of sunlight or heat or humidity or sunstroke or perspiration or anything summerish at all except baseball, hot dogs and cold matter what time it is.  My idea is to take all of August and put it in December to keep it cooler.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Double Whopper

Pictured here is the Burger King restaurant in Denville, New Jersey, where they really take that "Have It Your Way" slogan to heart - day after day.

According to WABC TV, on a recent Friday night, Denville police responded to the Home Of The Whopper for a report of a woman in labor, birth imminent. The parents had been going to the hospital via private auto, but ran into heavy traffic, and, lacking red lights and a siren, drove into the drive-in. Traffic jams in New Jersey are usually the result of shenanigans involving the popular governor of the state, Chris ("Chris") Christie, but we don't know about this one.

At any rate, "It happened so fast," Denville police Detective Scott Tobin told the TV station. That is exactly what the turtle said when he reported being assaulted by a snail, you know.

"We had to take action, and thank God everything worked out great," Det. Tobin also said.

"This baby did not want to wait, though, so we got there and she was actively in labor," firefighter/EMT Shannon Covert said. "Ready to push, and within minutes, the baby came out."

So between the police and the fire department and the father, who probably just ran laps around the parking lot all the while, a healthy son named Ryan became the newest, shiniest New Jerseyite.

"It was a little surreal," Covert said. "I had to actually sit down and think, like, wow that just happened. Because it doesn't happen every day here. It's something that a lot of people in this department have never experienced."

And then...

Everyone in town was still talking about little Ryan the next evening when ANOTHER woman enroute to the hospital pulled into BK because she was PG and her BP was sky-hi and she was ready to deliver.

And the same police got the call to respond! It must have felt like that "Groundhog Day" movie. But there they were, following Friday's labors (!) with a Saturday delivery, right in the parents' vehicle.

This time, the expectant mom was going through severe contractions, with the cord wrapped around the neck and the body, so, "We had to take a little more action to make sure everything was OK," Tobin said. "Thank God everything worked out great."

And the Saturday night special at that Burger King was a little guy name of Braydon.

"This is something that we don't get called to do too often," Denville police Chief Christopher Wagner says. "But they did a banner job on it and were truly heroic in the birth of two healthy baby boys."

That Sunday evening, you can be sure that people kept an eye on that BK parking lot...but nothing.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, March 9, 2019

The setting here is China, where a 1,000 year old ginko tree drops a golden carpet of leaves every year around this time. I wonder why there's not a carryout called "The Golden Carpet." Oh, never mind.
The good people at the Farmer's Almanac want to remind you that it's time to put out seeds and start germination. Remember, for what you'll pay to grow a beanstalk, you could buy a lot of beans from the farmer down on the corner.
I don't know what flower this is (some taxonomist, please let us know) but it sure looks like an eyeball. Oh, maybe it's an iris.
I don't have fox news to share; I'm sorry.
On the right, say hi to Tanner Wilson, and that's Brandon Qualls on the left. Both of these dudes are seniors at Caddo High School in (where else) Caddo, Oklahoma. Tanner saved his money earned at a local car repair shop to buy his best fried Brandon this motorized wheelchair. Brandon had been using a hand-push chair for years, but, as he told News9 TV, "My arms would get really tired." Tanner said, "I just felt like I needed to do it. ... Brandon, he's just always been there for me."

There is always something to make us all look up and smile!

In case you are time traveling and heading back to Scotland in 1948, here's the train schedule.  Now, if a train leaves Inverkeithing at 4:37....
This is the interview people talked about all week. G. King talked to R. Kelly, who can't remember having illicit relations with underage women. You can tell that Gayle is, in fact, a mother, because when he really became obstreperous, she calmed him right down just by the way she intoned his name..."ROOOBBBBBert..."
Not a very good picture, but I remain fascinated with this woman. Her name was Hilda Chester, and she was a stalwart fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball club, and attended all the home games, ringing a cowbell during Dodger rallies, and placing a placard in front of her seat so that other fans at Ebbets Field would know where all the commotion was coming from.