Monday, September 30, 2019

I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter

Out in Lincoln, Nebraska, lives a young woman by the name of Ariauna Chantell Lillard.

Ariauna used to date a certain guy, and her next date will be October 16.  But it won't be at Olive Garden or a movie or anything.  It'll be in court, and all over the guy she used to date.

That's not accurate, either. If she really were over him, she wouldn't have done what she did, which was setting a fire in her apartment by burning his old love letters.

She lives in an apartment on the third floor, and she was burned up over the end of her relationship, and grabbed a butane lighter and set the letters on fire.

And then, in her haste to be rid of his memory, she left some of the letters still a-smolderin' on her bedroom carpet and took a nap.

Guess what happened.

She woke up when the smoke alarm started yelping.

The Lincoln Police Department confirms that police and fire crews were called to the apartment building.  The firefighters were able to put the blaze to rest in a few minutes, and the police wrote their report, including the fact that the damage estimate ran to $4,000.  The report noted a "burned carpet in the bedroom" and smoke damage.

Ms Lillard was cited for negligent burning, and escaped injury.

We can suppose that her court dates and other legal papers were sent to her by mail, and we can hope that she did not burn those documents.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Playing the symbols

This admission won't come as a surprise to anyone, but I have to admit, I am rather dense in certain areas.

Birdbrained, boneheaded, chuckleheaded, dense, dim, and slow... all of these apply to me in certain fields.  Interpreting modern dance, appreciating modern art, and enjoying a mime show are all areas in which I am markedly deficient.  Anyone who has ever seen me shaking my head as I walk away from such events realizes that.

But what people might not know is that I am the one and only person in the United States - a country with a current population of 320,000,000 some-odd people (some much more odd than others, but anyway) - who does not get symbolism in books, movies and TV shows, even when it's so heavy-handed as to drown out the plot.

People read "A Christmas Carol" by Chuck Dickens and marvel at the old Victorian's ability to symbolize the evil that took place at the firm of Scrooge & Marley by understanding that the chain Marley "forged in life" was made of "cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel."  I read that and came away figuring that whoever took Marley to his fate just grabbed the heaviest steel stuff sitting around the office, and then I am happy for Bob Cratchit that they didn't take away the coal scuttle.

Or let's say we're watching a movie, and for the 427th time, I have to watch "The Wizard Of Oz" and when it's over, the cinema buffs go on about how Dorothy’s walk down the Yellow Bricks stands for her spiritual quest, Toto the dog represents the "incredible unanimal mankind" side that Cummings described, and the haggy Wicked Witch of the West is the symbol for the repressed dark thoughts of the subconscious, and I just sit there saying I can count 17 people who could play Miss Gulch today.
When you see this hamburger chain logo, you are
supposed to get the subliminal message that her
collar says "MOM."  I don't.

And of course, amateur psychologists had a field day with Bill Clinton's cigar, trains going into tunnels in Fellini movies, and even the silver and black of the Oakland Raiders uniforms inspire their players and fans to adopt pirate personae during games.

I don't look too deeply into things, but I get a boot out of people who do.

A boot. You know what THAT stands for, don't you?

Oh no.........

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, September 28, 2019

I am among the many people wondering why it's still so hot and yet, fall is here. There will still be pumpkin pie, though.
You know what? I choose these pictures at random all week as I surf around, but I notice that I chose a lot of nature pictures this time. Here's a volunteer pine growing up in the stump of an old pine.
All of these leaves are going to need to be raked up.  Or...stand by a minute...
If there's a bustle in your hedgehog, don't be alarmed about that, either.
Don't worry about painting the shed! Just tack up some spools and make a goose.
We showed the complete contents of a police car before, so it's only fair to do the same for a Croatian fire engine.
Just a picture of a sunflower, except...the person in whose yard it grew did not plant a sunflower. He had a friend who was wild about sunflowers and had a lot of them in her yard. She passed away last December, and sent this greeting just this month. Nature works with the angels.
Don't rake all those leaves, if you have the time to turn the yard into a labyrinth. Might as well have fun!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Shark tanked

I can't remember a time when being a confirmed indoorsman, as I am, has been a better idea.

I mean, you go outside and the mosquitoes are waiting to bite you, and even if you don't get this EEE from the bite (the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus that affects human brains) you still have to scratch that thang for days on end.

And then you go in the ocean to cool off and get away from the deadly bugs, and a shark bites you.

No thanks, outside. I'll be in here, reading.

And then you go to read and you read about some jackanapes down in Florida whose idea of a good time is to swim around with a giant fake dorsal fin right off the beach in Pinellas County.

Very funny, right? 

It's not Jaws. Florida Fish and Wildlife officials have put the kibosh on the rumors that a huge shark was lingering in the sea around Tampa Bay.

Because nothing happens anymore without still photos or videos being taken, WFLA TV down there was receiving all these images of the Big Fin, but when the officials checked it out, they throw the hoax flag right down.

“That is a huge dorsal fin and in such shallow water, you would expect to be able to see a portion of the shark’s back and/or the second dorsal or tip of the caudal fin,” FWC Marine Fisheries Biologist Brent Winner told the news, but “none of those are visible.”

And Winner noticed something else: “Even more suspect are the ‘bubbles’ that come up a few feet behind the fin. These look like an exhale from a SCUBA diver in shallow water. Not a swirl or anything that was caused by a shark’s movement.”


Of course, you do wonder what sort of mentality it takes to find such a prank humorous. This guy (and you KNOW it's a guy!) probably hangs around the Senior Center looking for people to trip, and hands out those fake winning lottery tickets to his few friends.

So relax, all you Buccaneers and Rays fans...the fake shark is not real. 

But remember, the real one might not be fake.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Looks all right

I think the worst thing about social media is how it allows people to be "keyboard warriors" - talking badly to each other under the cloak of anonymity or, at least, distance.

I mean, it's very easy to call someone a name if you see that they live in Hong Kong or Baluchistan or Nome.  People don't threaten others with physical violence if the other person is a) standing right behind them in line at the Try 'N' Save  and b) 6' 7" tall and massive.

But take the case of Melissa Blake.  She's a journalist who recently wrote an essay for a national news site, and the result was a lot of comments from ninnyhammers who said she is "too ugly" to post selfies.

Of course, the obvious things is that, "The comments had nothing to do with the content of my work; they were just insulting my looks," Blake says.

Ms Blake has had 26 surgeries in life to deal with the genetic condition known as Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a neuromusculoskeletal disorder.

This is not the first time for this boneheaded unkindness. "Usually the comments roll off my back," she told Good Morning America. "But it was really hurtful."

But did you ever notice that a person with a great deal of self-awareness knows how to deal with jabs and jibes?  Ms Blake said, ok, you don't like my selfie? Here are three more for you!

"I'm just defiant enough to do the opposite of what they want me to do," Blake told "GMA." "I thought, 'you will not get the best of me."'

What a way to deal!

And one reward for Blake, who writes about pop culture, relationships and such in the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and CNN, as well as her blog, was finding 2000 new Twitter followers overnight. "I thought it was a glitch," she said.

No glitch. The three selfies on Instagram have been liked over 300,000 times.

"I have heard from so many people, in all different countries, they're so glad to see something positive on social media for once," she told the morning show.

She encourages others to put up their best with the hashtag #Mybestselfie" and include something they like about themselves.

Ms Blake says her message for young people (and for everyone who hasn't learned this, no matter their age) is not to care so much about what other people think.

The current iteration of this is, "What other people think of me is none of my business," and that is true. People who are hung up on looks suddenly don't care so much when they need cardiac surgery or a transmission repair or a dishwasher repaired. You don't care so much how your surgeon, mechanic, or installation guy looks, do you?

Moreover, if the mechanic is the best looking person in the world, and you get two blocks away before your transmission falls out again, then you learn the lesson!

Don't let it be about looks. That doesn't look good on anyone.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Art for money's sake

The passion of Jesus Christ - his final suffering and crucifixion - has been depicted on thousands of paintings and artworks over the years. So for years and years, a nonagenarian female in Compiègne, France had just such a panel in her kitchen, and she thought it was just an old fakeroo.

And was revealed to be a rare Renaissance treasure more than 700 years old.
Check your kitchen!

That painting she kept above her hot plate is likely the work of Cenni di Pepo, a/k/a Cimabue, a/k/a Big Pepo (just kidding).  Cimabue was a 13th-century Florentine painter. In June, the woman decided to sell off her house and its belongings, as people in their 90s will.

The auction company Actéon reported to her house to do an appraisal.

Philomène Wolf, an auctioneer, was given a week "to give an expert view on the house contents and empty it,” as she told Le Parisien. She found the painting and heard the distant sound of cash registers.

Wolf knew right away she had found a prize. “You rarely see something of such quality,” she explained. “I immediately thought it was a work of Italian primitivism. But I didn’t imagine it was a Cimabue.”

The painting is unsigned. Had old Cimabue signed it somewhere, it would have been easier to peg him as the artist. Wolf took the picture to Eric Turquin, who appraises old masters from his office in Paris. Turquin told her it was worth much more than she initially suspected.

The auction is coming up on October 27, and you might want to cash in your savings bonds if you're going over for it. The good people over at Actéon figure to hang a price tag between $4.4 million and $6.6 million on it.  Extra, if you want it framed and the tires rotated.

Rooting through the lady's house, the auctioneer found objects worth about $7200, and the rest went to the town dump.

As an inveterate dumpster diver, I wonder if that stuff is up for grabs!

Big Idea

If you're an inventor looking for the next million-dollar idea, here you go! Just give me one of these when you start producing them and I'll be thrilled. I don't want the money, and you'll be rolling in it like Scrooge McDuck as soon as you iron out the final details.

Here it is.  A slow-down machine, like when you replay your favorite scene from a TV show or movie on your DVR, but for real life.  You know what I mean?

It came to me the other night at my 50th high school reunion. And it was based on thoughts I've had other events, unhappy ones such as my parents' funerals, and moments of glee, like when they opened the new Ollie's Bargain Outlet near us.

Maybe this has happened to you. There I was at the reunion, and person after person that I happily recognized (some on sight, some after I peeped their name tag with graduation photo) passed by in a wonderful maelstrom of humanity. It was the same at the funerals, because even at a sad event like there, there is joy from the love that people bring, enough to share with everyone.

And I was going, "Hey, there's Joe! Jane! Tom! Sarah! Lee! Pete! Tim! Susan! Janet!......." and shaking hands and hugging and catching up as fast as I could, but there were also moments when I tucked in the back of my mind the thought that I had to find a minute later to catch up with Sam and Dave and Jerry and Lewis and Dean and Martin. 

The machine will look something like this.
And it's not possible.  People come and go, get swallowed up in eddying pools of other friends and classmates, and you miss them. It's sad.

But as soon as someone patents the Time Freezer Machine so that we can sort out all the moments we want to savor, it won't happen, and there will be no more disappointment in finding that someone said Tom and Jerry just left a few minutes ago.

And if you're that someone who will make this machine a reality, please hurry! We have a 55th reunion to plan for in 2024!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Carats are easy to digest

Stop me if you've heard this one:

"I had a crazy dream that I ate a giant marshmallow. Woke up and couldn't find my pillow."

Jenna Evans and Bobby Howell might not find that one too funny, so it wasn't just you. Jenna and Bobby are engaged.

Not long ago, she was having a dream in which the two of them were on a high-speed cargo train. In the dream, bad guys were chasing them around the train, so Bobby, IN THE DREAM, told her to take off her engagement ring and swallow it for safekeeping.

Jenna told Facebook, “So I popped that sucker off, put it in my mouth and swallowed it with a glass of water."

And that's when she woke up.

She felt a tad bit odd. She wondered at how silly it was, to have a dream in which she gobbled her 2.4 carat diamond ring like a Tic-Tac.

Then she looked at her left hand.

“When I woke up and it was not on my hand, I knew exactly where it was,” Evans told KGTV. “It was in my stomach.”

Evans has a history of sleepwalking, which is quite a coincidence, because I sleepwalked through History class time and again.

So, it was off to the Emergency Department at a hospital at 8 AM, where she finally figured out a way to tell them what was up. Or down.

A visit to X-ray later, the doctors confirmed her worst fear: Like Jonah, that ring was making a home in her ab-dome-in.

So how to get it out of there and back on her left hand?

“Every girl, I think, wants as big a ring as she can get — until you swallow it and are trying to figure out what to do next,” Evans told the news.

It might surprise anyone who ever swallowed a nickel as a kid (and you know who you are!) that the doctor said "let's not wait for nature to work things out" as it were.

It was off to the Gastroenterology Dept for Ms Evans, just as the ring started to "migrate."  It was starting to hurt.

The gastro squad decided that an upper endoscopy would be the trick: reach down there with a doodad and pluck that ring, sort of like the claw machine in the entryway at Walmart, but in someone's throat.

The doctor said, “don’t worry its no big deal,” Evans wrote, “but please sign this release form just in case you die.”

At least she got a good anesthesia, and was nodding as the doctors passed a tiny camera down her gullet and on past her stomach.

And there it was!

And then she woke up! And Bobby had the ring, handed over by the doctor.

“Bobby finally gave my ring back this morning,” Evans posted. “I promised not to swallow it again, we’re still getting married and all is right in the world.”

After recovering from the procedure, Ms Evans was back to herself. Her first request was a double-double burger from In-N-Out for lunch.

No onion rings.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Another feckless, futile plan

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to have nothing to do for a weekend?

If you can stand the two-hour wait between the time "The View" goes off and "The Talk" comes on, you might try retirement.

Otherwise, go fool around pretending to storm Area 51.  See what happens!

You might have heard about this. Area 51 is a vast area in the western US - the Nevada desert, to be precise. It was set aside during the Cold War between the US and those dirty Russian commies, whom we once hated and now cozy up to, as a place to test aircraft.

But no one unauthorized is allowed to prowl around the place, and naturally this gives rise to all sort of nutty notions, including the claim that an "alien spacecraft" that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 is stashed away there, along with the bodies of its spacemen.

How do we know the spacemen died, anyway?  Can't they survive anything, like E.T?

Earlier this year (here comes the part about nothing to do) some weisenheimers posted an event to Facebook and said "Here's what we'll do! On September 20, let's all storm the gates at Area 51! They can't stop us! We'll just get all worked up and run through the gates! Yeeeeeehaaaa!"

The Grand Parade of Nerds
They should have promised free Skittles or something.  Only a couple  thousand people unmoored to reality made the trek to the  “Storm Area 51” celebration. Five people were arrested: three of them for trespassing on the restricted military base, one for voiding his bladder in the entrance area, and we do not know the nature of the charges against the fifth detainee. I'm guessing that "Humming Dave Matthews and Phish tunes too loudly in public" might be a possibility.

You are not welcome here.

And further dampening the ardor of the easily ardent, the military put out what might be called a provocative tweet, showing a group of military folks around a stealth bomber and proclaiming that to be the very last thing any raiders would see.

Lighten up, Francis.

The tweet - now deleted - "in no way" reflects the stance of the US Military, according to the US Military.

What the would-be raiders did not know is that the government has a secret detachment called Squad 51 to protect the base.

 Squad 51.  KMG365.

We can only assume that the would-be raiders have all returned to their normal daily inactivities.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Even a con has a conscience

The headline from the Hollywood Reporter said:

Wal-Mart Faults Tracy Morgan for Not Wearing Seat Belt During Car Accident

And we all remember the wreck on the New Jersey highway, late on a Friday night in June, as the comedian and his friends and fellow performers returned from a show in Delaware.  A Wal-Mart truck, driven by a man who allegedly had been awake for over a day without rest before he slammed into Tracy's limousine, caused the death of James McNair, and grievous injury to Morgan and several others.  

All the soggy details are coming out in court papers now. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., of Bentonville, Arkansas, claims in their filing that the passengers' injuries were caused "in whole or in part" by their "failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt restraint device." The "retail giant" said that constitutes "unreasonable conduct."

Right after the accident, Wal-Mart said they were going to take full responsibility and do the right thing, but it would appear that their lawyers got in the way of the right thing. 

I know accidents will happen, and people die and get hurt, and a good person owns up to their faults.  And yes, I know that people are supposed to be wearing their seat belts.  But pointing at Tracy Morgan, who was minding his own business right up until the semi slammed into the vehicle he occupied, is not the way for Wal-Mart to own this in the right manner. 

Peggy had a friend who used to work for a lawyer who worked a scam with a home improvement crook.  The crook would go around and find old people living in old houses with decrepit porches or steps, and then offer to repair same for a few hundred dollars, reminding the superannuated homeowner that they stood to lose everything if the mailman fell off their rickety steps. He would then have them sign a contract for the repair job, with terms of payment that included fine print that said if a monthly payment was received late, the homeowner would forfeit their house to the home improvement crook and the lawyer who typed the fine print in the contract. 

And then the homeowner really would lose everything!

I know this stuff goes on.  Some lawyers will stain the reputation of their entire profession like that, some car dealers will sell you a lemon without a peppermint stick in it, some doctors will take 1/2 of your pain medication for their own use, leaving you in pain.  Some itinerants go driveway to driveway, offering to blacktop your parking pad, and then throw waste motor oil down on it before driving off with your check or cash.  Some bank employees embezzle your life savings, some spouses swear lifelong fealty and then hop in the sack with a traveling salesperson from Dubuque, some dancing schools take your money for the three-month ballroom course, all the while planning to close in the morning and abscond with your money and your hopes of doing the foxtrot at your wedding.

What I don't know is, how do these people live with themselves, and how can they ever get to sleep at night?

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, September 21, 2019

At first glance, you said this is one of the most stunning photos of a battleground scene you've even seen, but then I had to tell you that this is two plastic soldiers photographed up close on a muddy setting and now you question what's real and what isn't.
Every time you hear some company say they sent you the same bill twice or they forgot to send your check "because of a computer glitch," just figure that their tech room looks a lot like this one. Or it might even BE this one.
The age-old excuse of "My dog ate my homework" is now being replaced by "There is a picture that I drew of my dog on my homework."
Don't fear The Grim Reaper.
Here he is.
Yes, Wednesday was National Cheeseburger Day, but because we are a free society, you can have this meaty cheesy lettuce-y tomato-ey goodness on a roll 365 days a year! Or not. Totally up to you.
This New Yorker cover is called "First Date."  I don't know if there will be a second, but you have to love all the feline/canine details!
This is one of the thousands of parts of Baltimore that you don't hear about from the White House. It's Little Italy and it's vibrant and wonderful.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Brother bought a coconut, he bought it for a dime

There was a time that a builder was trying to ship enough bricks to Alaska for a project. According to US Post Office lore, he went to the post office, and addressed each stamp, and had them individually mailed to the job site.

You can mail a potato to your friend. Just to go Mail A Spud and send a tuber to your cousin.

The winner of the Ripley's Believe It Or Not contest in 2014 was the person who mailed a Hula Hoop.

What child wouldn't be enchanted to open the mailbox and find a nice pink toy pig?

You can send a Frisbee by mail! You might try a boomerang, but it would probably arrive marked "return to sender."

And here's a way to send a coconut to your friends back home.

And here is the story of someone who sent a coconut to the San Diego Opera!

Apparently, this person went to the Post Office in Hawaii, and mailed a labelled coconut back to the mainland. The opera staff was so happy about it, they put a picture of it on Facebook!

"We get the strangest mail here some days," the post said.

The Opera said they think that an employee on vacation sent back the coconut.

Here in Baltimore, when we go on vacation, we bring back boxes of saltwater taffy or macaroons or caramel popcorn and pass it around, so everyone knows who brought the goodies.

I don't get the point to the nameless coconut.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

By any other name

Somehow, Amazon must have heard that my wallet is about 20 years old, and starting to show some signs of wear.  It's certainly not from being packed full of fifty-dollar bills that is ragging the leather, but, rather, all those BOGO pizza coupons, BJs receipts, and gift cards for hamburger restaurants that closed during the (first) Bush administration.

But at least this ad above caught my eye, until I saw the price of $7.19. No wallet that sells for so little could be any good at all, even one made of PU Leather.

Wow! Real PU leather! I thought of what that acronym might mean. Pop up? No. Plutonium, from the chart of the elements? No sir. Purdue University? Nuh uh. Same with Panamanian Union, Power Up, Pick Up, Product Update and Pressure Ulcer.

It turns out, "PU leather" means fake leather made of PolyUrethane.

Which means it's not leather.

I think this all started with "faux fur."  Long ago, it became uncool to parade around wearing animal skins, because leopards and bears and alligators did not live their lives just to make clothing for us. So the textile industry, always on the lookout for ways to make our lives better, came up with realistic fake furs, but the tony, well-dressed and chic among us demur when it comes to using the word "fake."  Only the unschooled would label something fake, so the GQ and Vogue readers called it "faux" fur, from the French word for "false."

Foes of the word "faux" have yet to mount any opposition to its deceptive use. You see this all the time on those home shopping channels as they sell "faux" pearls and "faux" diamonds to real people watching at home on real old TVs.
A real entry for a real word in a real dictionary

Other firms have come up with new terms for their trumpery. Burger King is selling a fake hamburger made of potatoes and other forms of plant life, but they call it the "impossible" burger. We can allow BK a little latitude in this matter, on the grounds that real hamburgers contain no ham.

There was a brand of wigs for women that used the slogan "It's not fake anything; it's real Dynel!"

And if you're going to start a modern version of a 50s doo-wop group, have them wear pleather jackets, and wigs, and call themselves "The Dynels"!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


We all look forward to riding around looking at the pretty fall leaves in October and November.

Raking them up is not quite so appealing, leading many people to just let them lie there and eventually blow onto my yard.

Whatever your fall pleasure, don't rush out just yet.

The Weather Channel (what did we ever do without them?) says our rich autumn golds and browns will be here a little later this year. Blame the warmer temperatures of September.

And on the other hand, the Weather Channel, the good people who sponsor Jim Cantore's visits to wherever it's really hot or cold or snowy or rainy or floody, says that because it was a wet summer before it became a hot one, the foliage (pronounced "foilage" in Baltimore) will be really, really vivid, unless it gets windy.

Things change first in Western Maryland, where Garrett County Forester Melissa Nash reports that a sugar maple in New Germany State Park "… is telling us fall is just around the corner! If these warm days and cool nights keep up along with intermittent rain we should get some good color this year."

So count on the peak of pretty leaves to hit Garrett and Allegany counties in mid-October.

I have to look this up every autumn, because I forget, but it's photosythesis - your old friend from 7th grade Science class - that begins the process of leaf color change.  From spring until fall, the leaves on the trees make chlorophyll, the chemical that allows a tree to make its own glucose for nourishment. Chlorophyll being green, the leaves are as well - or so it would seem.

Actually, the colors of the leaves in October are the true colors of the leaves! And once they stop being all chlorophyll-ish, gone is the green and here comes the brown and yellow and what-have-you.

The same substance that makes carrots orange (beta carotene) makes some leaves orange, and something called anthocyanin makes them red, and flavonol, which sounds like something from a commercial ("Try Certs! Now with added flavonol!") makes them yellow. 

And nothing about any of these facts will help you rake them. Enjoy the fall!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Rolling Stones

As George Jones sang in his tender love ballad "Nothing Ever Hurt Me Half As Bad As Losing You," there are dozens of maladies waiting to afflict us.

"Well, I've had a splittin' headache from my eyebrows to my backbone
Arthritis, appendicitis, Bright's disease and gall stones
Bleedin' ulcers, ingrown toe nails, swollen adenoids
The Asian flu a time or two and inflamed vocal chords
I've had a toothache so severe my jawbone split in two
But nothing's ever hurt me half as bad as losing you."

If you're looking for a cure for these problems, you have definitely chosen the wrong blog. BUT if it's Kidney Stones that are ailing you, Bunky, then read on...

David Wartinger, a professor emeritus in the Department of Osteopathic Surgical Specialties at Michigan State University, says that riding a roller coaster helps patients pass kidney stones! And he points to a success rate of nearly 70 percent.

We don't know if Medicare covers the price of your ride.
In the study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (your copy is in the mail today), Wartinger says, “Basically, I had patients telling me that after riding a particular roller coaster at Walt Disney World, they were able to pass their kidney stone. I even had one patient say he passed three different stones after riding multiple times.”

Well, you know how Wartinger is. He just had to make a synthetic kidney and try this thing out! So he stuck three kidney stones into the replica, and he and his fake kidney rode Big Thunder Mountain 20 times. And he got results like people using their own kidneys did.

Roller Coaster enthusiasts will note that Wartinger said, “Big Thunder Mountain was the only one that worked. We tried Space Mountain and Aerosmith’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and both failed.”

Wartinger went on to explain that these other rides are too fast and too violent. But he does feel that people dealing with kidney stones should get on that coaster once a year and see what shakes loose, as it were.

“You need to heed the warnings before going on a roller coaster,” he advised. “If you have a kidney stone, but are otherwise healthy and meet the requirements of the ride, patients should try it. It’s definitely a lower-cost alternative to health care.”

Monday, September 16, 2019

It's Shocking

Man oh man! You really CAN get anything from Amazon!

Or, in this case, from THE Amazon. The noted river is home to two newly-discovered species of electric eels, and one of them goes by the name  Electrophorus voltai.  He can put out some 860 V of electricity in a single zap, and the average low-voltage eel can only do 650 V.

So if you're planning to swim the Amazon this winter, find a way to be grounded, or you might become part of a short circuit!  That much voltage is even more than you might get from a taser gun.

We USED to think there was only one species of electric eel (E. electricus) but as usual, what we do really know? A lot of us think whales are fish!

These eels, which are not eels at all (they're fish) seem to have developed this high voltage over the years because they live in highland water, and that doesn't conduct electricity so well, meaning that the eels had to crank up the juice on the evolutionary scale.

The whole reason for having this electric power is actually twofold. Electric eels sense their surroundings by electricity and they can neutralize prey with it.

It's like they have their own battery pack, and unlike the ones for phones and tablets, theirs do not catch fire on board airplanes, although in fairness, eels usually swim to their destination.

Getting on a plane can be risky if you look like this and Samuel L. Jackson is flying with you:

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday Rerun: 1,2,3

Good things seem to come along "in pairs of three," as I once heard someone say.  Take little lists, chock full of advice.

Homer Simpson once shared with us this list of three sentences that will get you out of any situation at work:

  1. Great idea, Boss!
  2. Cover for me!
  3. It was like that when I got here!

Simpson & Simpson
And, never to be outdone, his son offered three handy phrases for anyone caught getting down with something or up to something:

  1. I didn't do it.
  2. Nobody saw me do it.
  3. You can't prove anything.
And for those who aspire to be CEOs and COOs and CMFs of airline companies, graciously quadrupling airfares between DC and NYC when there has been a tragic multifatal AMTRAK collision that shut down the trains, here you go. Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed wrote a book entitled The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think, and from them we learn how to make a bundle in the marketplace:

1. Better before cheaper. In other words, don’t compete on price.

2. Revenue before cost. Profits need to come from price and volume, not cost-cutting.

3. There are no other rules.

Oh, but there are.  Three more hints, and then I'm off to do whatever today, as I wish you a happy one too!  Jean Shepherd, radio raconteur best known today for writing "A Christmas Story," said that with just three sentences, you can carry on a conversation with anyone about anything, especially someone who is going on and on about something. So, take these with you today, and be ready:

  1. "Beats me!"
  2. "That'll be the day!"
  3. "I'll be damned!"

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, September 14, 2019

From Nat King Cole to the Rolling Stones, dozens of people have sung the song about this transamerican highway. The song was written by Bobby Troup, who played Dr Joe Early on the "Emergency" TV show.  Have you ever gotten YOUR kicks on Route 66?
What a powerful lesson for kids of all ages! The person in your mirror is in charge.
It looks like a toy from this far above, but these are the total contents of a Dutch police car.  Some assembly required.
The good people over at Quaker Oats are giving their mascot an image update. Now his silk neckerchief is tousled in the breeze as if he were Yanni or something.
If you've ever spent some time banging away on the keys of a real typewriter, you'd appreciate this old/new keyboard
The same couple on the same motorbike, in 1967 and in 2018.
Labor Day means two things to me - a salute to the working class which made America great and keeps it that way, and also, it's time to break out the fall decorations!
The scenes we can see soon when we take that walk down by the pond!

Friday, September 13, 2019

T for Two

Between 1975 and 1978, a horrible man named Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime ruled Cambodia, forced people to move and work on collective farms, and murdered somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million of his own citizens!  His name is always mentioned along with Hitler, Mussolini, and other brutal despots.

It is said that the only people Pol Pot feared were kids in American elementary schools, universally regarded as the meanest people under 5 feet tall in the world, viz:

A fourth grader in Altamonte Elementary School in Florida wanted to get in on the fun on "College Colors Day," which the school puts on to engender school spirit (albeit for other schools, but anyway...)

The little tacker did not have any University of Tennessee gear. That's his favorite school, but for reasons that are none of our business, he didn't have a UT t-shirt or cap or anything.

So, he drew up a UT logo and pinned it to an orange T.

His teacher is Laura Snyder, and she said on Facebook, "When the day finally arrived, he was SO EXCITED to show me his shirt. I was impressed that he took it one step further to make his own label."

But apparently that wasn't cool enough for some of the sweet little girls in his school.

"After lunch, he came back to my room, put his head on on his desk and was crying," Snyder wrote. "Some girls at the lunch table next to his (who didn't even participate in college colors day) had made fun of his sign that he had attached to his shirt. He was DEVASTATED."

The magic of social media helped Snyder spread the story. She asked if any of her contacts could help get the little guy (whose name is not given, in the name of decency) some UT swag of some sort.

Well, you know what happened next. The U of Tenn saw the posts and send the boy a big box o' coolness.

Hats, bags, school supplies, bracelets, water bottles, towels and other UT stuff was in the box that came to Snyder's classroom. She feels the experience was a great unifier for her class, and that was the kids were "ecstatic" to have the hats and shirts etc.

But here's the other really cool part. UT took the boy's homemade logo and has made an official t-shirt of it, with a portion of the proceeds to go to STOMP Out Bullying, a national anti-bullying organization.

"When I told him that his design was being made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped. He had a big smile on his face, walked taller and I could tell his confidence grew," Snyder said.

Meanwhile, back on campus, as the UT Volunteers football team stumbled off to an 0-2 start to their season, there was so much demand for the shirt (pictured above) that the campus store website crashed.

And Ms Snyder shared this message from the young man's mom:

"I am overwhelmed by the love I feel from this extended community and the pride I feel for my son and for being a VFL*," she wrote. "Every comment, item sent and action taken on behalf of my son will never be forgotten and hopefully will serve as inspiration for him throughout his life."

I hope so too. It's great, the way people stepped up and did something nice!

*"Volunteer For Life

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Too much too much

Michael Greger, M.D. says that nutmeg, the popular spice, is unsafe. It "appears to have a relatively narrow margin of safety," as he says.

Everyone loves nutmeg on certain foods. It adds a lot to applesauce and apple pie and egg nog. It comes from the ground-up seed of the Myristica fragrans tree, which is an evergreen with dark leaves.  You don't have one in your yard, unless you're reading this from your home in the Spice Islands of Indonesia.

Dr Greger, a vegan and an expert on health matters, says he came across "a peculiar paper entitled “Christmas Gingerbread and Christmas Cheer: Review of the Potential Role of Mood Elevating Amphetamine-like Compounds” in which it is suggested that there is something in nutmeg that may form amphetamine compounds after we consume them, to such a degree that they elevate our moods.

Maybe THAT'S why we love our eggnog so much!

Dr Greger reports that way back in the 1960s there was an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in an article called “Nutmeg Intoxication," discussing the possibility that psychopharmacological effects of consuming too much eggnog have been talked about for a long time. And, as far back as the 1500s, people used nutmeg as an abortifacient (a drug given to cause a miscarriage).

I don't know if people still use it for this purpose. Dr Greger also says that people from the 60s were discussing whether nutmeg was a safe alternative to heroin!

But he also points out that turmeric (that yellow curry spice that's as popular as those silly vaping devices all of a sudden) can be harmful if overused. Same with too much tea, or soy, or raw cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc).

Long before egg nog was even created for the first blessed time, a Greek poet named Hesiod said,"observe due measure; moderation is best in all things."
He said this around 700 B.C.

That was 2,718 years ago, and we still go nuts for fried chicken sandwiches.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Like Kennedy

Beside the time I saw a car just like the one in which I took Driver's Ed in high school (a 1968 Chevrolet Biscayne the approximate size of that Korean ship that foundered in the Atlantic over the weekend) in the Antique Division at the Fourth of July parade (held in the same streets in Towson in which I raced about in that Chevy as the instructor, Mr Adkins, and a female in my class hung on for dear life), the second time I felt really old was when I asked a grocery cashier what sort of thing she was studying in high school.

The response was swift, and right to my heart: "Oh, old presidents. Like Kennedy."

Our parents had December 7, 1941, as a touchstone. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor led the US into a war that had been raging in Europe, turning it into the Second World War.  Mind you, they called the First World War (1914 - 1918) the War To End All Wars, because it was thought there would be no more.  So much for hopeful intentions.

World War II (1941 - 1945) became something for all Americans to work together to win, and with one exception I don't think that sort of esprit de corps nationwide has existed since. After that war, we hardly had time to pull up our socks before the Korean War (1950 - 1953) and the Viet Nam war (1955 - 1975) dragged us overseas to fight to maintain the status quo won in WW2.

The nation had little heart for the Korean Conflict, and the homefront battling over Viet Nam tore that heart out day by day as the death toll and the sense of futility grew.

I bring all this history up because I realize that the students who just began college this fall were born in 2001, and so the events of September 11 of that year are not in their range of memory at all, other than movies and documentaries and history class lessons.

Please, don't forget all you have learned from those sources, but also, remember this: for several months after September 11, 2001, there was a feeling of a pax Americana - an American peace - here on the homefront as the battles raged over it elsewhere.

I clearly remember people being more polite, more considerate. People let each other go ahead in traffic. People who had family members on active duty had others asking about their kin and praying for them to come home safe. People paid it forward, people smiled at each other, and people passed the time of day with total strangers.

This pacific feeling didn't last nearly long enough, but I'll remember it, and I wrote this to pass along that memory to the young who weren't here yet and to those of us who were and might have forgotten.

It wasn't quite Camelot (January 1961 - November 22, 1963) but it was close.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ask anything

Hey Mom.....?

Mom, what's this?

Mom, are you there? I wonder what would happen if I put cheese in the microwave for 10 minutes...?

A British survey has shown something that every mother in the world knows. Mothers are THE most quizzed people, and on a veritable panoply of topics.

Mothers of three-year-old girls will be chilled to learn that girls aged four ask an amazing 390 questions per day. That's one question for every 1 minute and 56 seconds they're awake.

82% of kids go to dear old Mom first with a question, although only 24% of them will admit to the obvious reason: their fathers would just say, "Go ask your mother."

Four of the leading questions in England, and probably here, as well, are:

  • "Why is water wet?"
  • "What are shadows made of?"
  • "Why do we have to go to school?"
  • "Why are you so old?"

Assuming the kids don't ask any of these four again, they will still find a way to say 105,120 sentences that end in question marks per year.

And, if four-year-old girls ask the most questions, nine-year-old boys ask the fewest. 

As someone who once was a nine-year-old boy, the reason for that is simple.  They already know everything.

The survey showed that 82 % of moms admit they can't answer everything, and 90% admit to Googling the answers, leaving 8% of mothers standing in the kitchen with a PB&J on a plate and a perplexed look on their face.

And as far as this "why is water wet" question, I wanted to help the young moms in my life, so I asked the good people at the Univ of Southern California, Santa Barbara.  Their learned scientists were good enough to hop off their surfboards for a minute and say this:

"Being a liquid, water is not itself wet, but can make other solid materials wet."

Water is not wet. I'm sorry I asked.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Something blue

How many times have you heard someone say, "There's no need to curse if you know the right words to say."

Ah, but sometimes, a well-timed epithet IS the right thing to say.

  • You get a flat tire and your spare is flat but it doesn't matter because someone stole your jack.
  • You let someone pull out from a side street and go ahead of you, and they poke along at 14 miles per hour
  • You burn the roof of your mouth on hot pizza
  • You cut your thumb on page 382 of volume "M" of the World Book 
  • You cut your thumb opening a Band-Aid to put on your other thumb
  • You watch the news
All of these irksome tribulations can lead you to malediction. And why not? Even just talking to the guy down the street about those kids hanging around the light pole late at night, you're liable to hear a curse word fly.

Does that wreck your impression of the cursin' person?

Timothy Jay of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has studied all this and his study of why swear words might bring out the humor.

Jay and his partner, Kristin Janschewitz, authored a study called "The Science Of Swearing," and they concluded that the occasional f-bomb of GD it is necessarily a problem. "We know this because we have recorded over 10,000 episodes of public swearing by children and adults, and rarely have we witnessed negative consequences. We have never seen public swearing lead to physical violence. Most public uses of taboo words are not in anger; they are innocuous or produce positive consequences (e.g., humor elicitation)," they say.

I have a feeling that they did most of their studying in salons, where the well-heeled sip tea and discuss Emily Dickinson.  In such a setting, an occasional imprecation would not cause a raised eyebrow or a lowered pinky.

But just mention Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at Lefty Louie's Trackside Bar and Grill, and you might cause a fracas just by mentioning someone else's Longfellow.  It's all a matter of context.

Jay and Janschewitz (not to be confused with 60's pop sensations Jay and The Americans) say that there are some jokes that must be told with the proper amount of original off-color language, lest the teller seem pusillanimous. What's more, a little profanity can reduce stress (see above), help one fit in with the crowd (remember the time Richard Nixon asked a tv crew, setting up lights and camera for an interview, if any of them "had done any fornicating over the weekend"?).

And they write that "swearing has a cathartic effect, which many of us may have personally experienced in frustration or in response to pain."

So hit your thumb with that hammer and let the pain out with a few blue "Golly gee whizzes!" I won't care.

What I heard at work over the years would embarrass a stevedore who just pushed a longshoreman off a pier.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Who Says?

Maybe it's because I am currently reading a book ("The Class of '65," by Jim Auchmutey) about the high school in Americus, Georgia, a town that refused to integrate their schools until they were forced to do so ten years after Brown v. Board of Education was supposed to have granted equal education to all Americans, but it's irksome to keep seeing instances of how gay people are being abused and discriminated against in a nation that proudly calls itself The Land Of The Free.

I'm not gay or a minority of any other classification, but I don't like it when people are treated shabbily. And it's even worse when the people doing the mistreating are people who run school systems or churches.

Dylan Settles
The latest case in point came from Brookland, Arkansas, where a church told a young man who has been a member there at Woods Chapel General Baptist for six years that he is no longer welcome to attend.

"I'm a little hurt by it but I know how they feel," says Dylan Settles, who had not been attending church all that often lately.  So when he got a letter from Woods Chapel, he figured it was one of those "haven't seen you lately, please come worship with us on Sunday" sort of notes.

But no. The letter told him there had been a vote among the members of the church board, and they voted to take away his membership.

Because he is gay.

"I was like in awe ... I was in so much shock. I couldn't read like the rest of it,” Settles said.

He came out to his parents three months ago, and mentioned on Facebook that he had tried to find a wife or girlfriend but realized that was not his path.  He feels good about having received many messages from people inviting him to come to their church.

The letter from his church went on to say that he can come back if he is willing to repent for his lifestyle, but Settles says, "I don't feel comfortable sitting at pew or sitting beside my parents when all I'm going to see is people pointing their fingers at me because of the lifestyle I chose.”

Please join me in wondering when the people who sent him all that hate in the mail will repent for their lifestyles.  But again, just like Americus GA in the 1960s, there are people all over in 2015 who feel that they are in a position to determine who gets to go to school or pray or eat in a restaurant or marry or get hired or serve in public office or check into a hotel.

And they are wrong to think so.  The people who went to school with one young man from Americus, a young man who was scorned, shunned and abused in many ways because he supported the rights of all Americans to attend all American schools, later sent apologies and reunion invitations to him. That's how the book turned out.

Maybe the people at Woods Chapel could do their apologies and take it all back now, instead of waiting 40 years.