Thursday, August 13, 2020

Tall Story

My Eddie The Cat likes to do this thing in which I'm sitting on my stool in the kitchen and she jumps up on me and climbs on my shoulder and demands to be taken for a walk around the house, thus staking her claim as The Tallest Cat In The World.

When I stand up straight, that puts Eddie up at around 6' 5" (that's about 196 cm for our metric friends) so the chances are, she is rightfully entitled to her claim.  (And who's going to tell her she isn't, anyway?)

But even Eddie, and I, and Shaquille O'Neal, my fellow member of the Rhyming Name Club, must bow before the amazing tall Forrest The Giraffe! It takes more than three six-foot measuring tapes to record his height.  He's 18 feet, 8 inches tall! 

Read about him in the  Guinness Book of World Records.

Giraffes don't usually go much more than 18 feet, but Forrest, a happy resident of the Australia Zoo, goes beyond that.
And the article says he has fathered 12 calves. That reminded me of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, the eccentric singer of "I Put A Spell On You," who is said, depending on whose account you go with, to have fathered between 33 and 75 children, .
As someone once said, that would account for the screaming.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Most Baltimore Thing

The Most Baltimore Thing In The World is not the unrest and contumacious behavior we see in the streets and on the news sometimes.

The Most Baltimore Thing In The World showed up the other day when a gas explosion blew up three houses on Labyrinth Avenue in the city's northwest corridor.

It happened just before 10 in the morning, and the news stations had live coverage all day and into the night.  By the time the noon news came on, they were showing people showing up with needed supplies.  It was fortunate, at least, that the scene of the explosion was a few steps away from the Reisterstown Road Plaza, which afforded the helpers plenty of room to set up.

Meanwhile, at the scene, people living nearby had run out of their homes - often without socks or shoes - to start the rescue effort. Seven people were injured, and two lost their lives. Families and friends came together as people emerged from the detritus, with their possessions scattered to the four winds, but, with those exceptions above, their bodies and souls still among the quick.

Baltimore City police were there along with the Fire Departments from the city and Baltimore and Howard Counties. The Jewish community group known as the Chesed Fund was passing out water to neighbors and the many fire, police, utilities and other agencies on site.  The temperature was 90°, with oppressive humidity, so water was a must.  And because of the uncertainty of the source of the gas leak, power had to be shut off in the neighborhood for safety, leaving more people in need of a cool drink and shade.

One of the people rescued was barefoot, according to the article in the Baltimore SUN. Na-ShaƩ Carter, 20, went to her house and came back with a pair of her mother's pink socks for the lady.

“I got 10,000 socks,” said her mother. “One pair ain’t gonna hurt. To give it to somebody in their time of need, I don’t even care. I was out here giving out water. … I wasn’t worried about me. I was worried about my neighbors.”

Meanwhile, the American Red Cross was on the job to find temporary housing for those left without a home, and they were supplying water and food on the lot near the Applebee’s. 

But here is the most Baltimore thing on an awful Baltimore day: a man was on the news, no bigshot he, just a working class salt of the earth guy. He said, "I had $500. I took $300 and bought 30 pizzas at Papa John's, and $200 worth of water at Giant's*."

And he delivered all that to people he didn't know, just people he wanted to help. That's Baltimore.
*Something else that's pure Baltimore - we make the names of all grocery stores and hardware outlets possesive. I can meet you at Safeway's or Home Depot's if you want to hear more.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

It doesn't mean "Bidirectional Forwarding Detection," either

I guess I was a teen by the time I first heard the expression "BFD," and, with my background of hanging around more firehouses than schoolhouses, I thought it referred to the Baltimore Fire Department.


Then I had one of those 'ah-ha' moments Oprah is always advertising as one of her favorite things, and it dawned on me what they were talking about every time someone said "BFD!"  It IS a big deal, because there is nothing better than BFD  - as in Breakfast For Dinner.

You see, my dad worked all three shifts when I was a kid (not all at once, you understand, but a week of dayshift, then a week of 4-12, and then the dreaded 12-8. A nice eye-opener with sausage, eggs, and toast, and he was ready to go to work.

And I don't know if you've ever worked on the midnight shift (old line: big boss asks supervisor how many people work on the midnight shift. Comes the reply: "About half of them.")  Some people adjust well right away, some never get used to it, but no matter how well you adjust, the chances are, if you work all night and sleep during the day, when you wake up, you won't feel like having a T-bone steak and baked patootie and broccoli with "Highlandtown" sauce, so you go to the breakfast menu and ask for waffles or toast and bacon or sausage or both and then eggs - scrambled, sunny side up, over easy, and some grits.  Nice way to get the system activated.

As a retiree, I am currently shiftless, but even when I worked the straight day trick, I still liked BFD and I recommend it to those who are looking for that something special to delight Mom and Dad and Billy and Sis.

Monday, August 10, 2020

It's Bob and Doug, eh, hoser

As every schoolkid knows, Edison invented the telephone in 1876, because he wanted to call a girl he had met in Kankakee, Illinois.

But did you know that it only took eight years for schoolkids to invent prank phone calls? The first mention of a fake call was mentioned in "Electric World" magazine in 1884:

A Grave Joke on Undertakers.—Some malicious wag at Providence, R.I., has been playing a grave practical joke on the undertakers there, by summoning them over the telephone to bring freezers, candlesticks and coffins for persons alleged to be dead. In each case the denouement was highly farcical, and the reputed corpses are now hunting in a lively manner for that telephonist.
Of course, the modern version of that one is calling an undertaker and asking to speak to "Myra Mains." Or calling Bekins Moving and Storage under the name May Flower Van Lines. Or calling the French Embassy as "Lafayette S. Cadrille."
Or calling a plumber and saying your name is "Lee Keysink."

(If this is starting to sound like pranks I might have pulled, well.)

But we who used the phone for amusement now can feel better. Those Dad Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken "landed" in the Gulf of Mexico (why don't we say they "waterered" in the Gulf?) on Sunday, they were just bobbing around with time on their hands...and a satellite phone. They had to wait for a pickup ride in a boat, so....

"Five hours ago we were in a spaceship bobbing around making prank satellite phone calls to whoever we could get ahold of," Hurley said later at a press conference. "Which was kind of fun, by the way."

Whom did they call? So who did they call? At least a few familiar names, according to NASA flight director Anthony Vareha said, "I received one of these calls at the flight director console. It started with an opening line like 'Hi, it's Doug and Bob, and we're in the ocean.' I think my response was, 'Yeah, I can see that.'"

Behnken's wife is a fellow astronaut named Megan McArthur, and she also got a call. "On my phone it said 'Spam Risk.' Glad I answered anyway!" she tweeted.

Please note that Hurley and Behnken did not order a pizza or call a bar and ask for Hugh Jass or ask a tobacconist if he had Prince Albert in a can.  But after their nine-week space jaunt, the path is clear to launch SpaceX in September to send a crew of six to the International Space Station.

And if among six people, no one can call some random number and say you're calling from the phone company and a guy is outside on the pole working on the lines, so DO NOT ANSWER the phone for the next fifteen minutes or he will be seriously shocked and then as soon as you hang up, you call them back and shriek like a banshee, then this is not the country where I grew up. Or not.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Sunday Rerun: from APRIL FOOL'S DAY 2019

Today's the day when Burger King sold Left-Handed Whoppers (1998) and Taco Bell got everyone all worked up by claiming that they had bought the Liberty Bell, with plans to rename that national treasure "The Taco Bell Liberty Bell" (1996).

A great many "Sports Illustrated" readers were duped on this day in 1985, when that magazine, always known for accuracy and dependable reporting, claimed that the New York Mets had signed a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch, and that young Finch was capable of throwing a baseball 168 miles per hour.  The backstory, as supplied by master storyteller (and inveterate practical joker) George Plimpton, was that Finch, raised in an English orphanage, had traveled to Tibet to learn "yogic mastery of mind-body" under "the great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa", and that's why he could toss that ball with such speed and accuracy.

Like all great pranks, it took great skill to pull that one off, and it was a few days before most people realized that Finch was a fake, perhaps the most elaborate since Piltdown Man.

The Piltdown composite skull was used as
a stand-in for Gary Busey later.
And it took 41 years for people to realize they had been fooled by Piltdown Man, although some men seem to fool people every single day. What happened was, 1912 was a very boring year, except for that Titanic thing and the opening of Fenway Park, so some paleoanthropologists (always a fun-loving bunch) decided to throw some old skulls, a jawbone, more skull fragments, a set of teeth, and primitive tools from an area called Piltdown in England into an empty ginger ale carton and tell the rubes that these were fossils, the remains of  an early human previously undiscovered.

Not until 1953 was it proven that Piltdown Man was a fakeroo, since he had the jaw and some teeth of an orangutan crammed into the cranium of a modern man.

This makes the Piltdown Man skullduggery, if you will, the longest-running hoax perpetrated on people, even longer than trickle-down economics, which is, admittedly, still fooling them since the 1980s.

That's the economic theory that states that giving the rich more money will be good for the poor, on the grounds that if you pile so much food onto the roofs of rich people's cars, a certain amount of it will fall off on their way to Richville, and the poor can forage for it happily.

Happy April Fool's Day!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Saturday Picture Show, August 8, 2020

This week, Melanie Newman became the first female to do play-by-play of Orioles game on radio. I think she did a great job. There are seemingly dozens of people doing O's games on radio and TV this year; it doesn't make sense to me how they are working it, but I'll be happy to listen to her on the radio any time!
I think it "wood" be a good idea to use this as a Rorschach test. Who else sees a wolf?
If you saw this man's interview on Axios, you understand the utter befuddlement.
Egypt lights up the Pyramids at Giza in solidarity with those lost in Beirut.
This looks like the only time I would want to play Monopoly. I'm with Ben. He really didn't forget the board; he didn't want to play!
Do people still do that "Loves me, loves me not" thing with daisies?
If you love cats, you get this. They will do what they will do. In fact, I believe the very word "will" was created for them.

This took some planning on the part of the architect and the builders. It came naturally to the tree.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Always be honest. No one likes a cheddar.

I see on the wonderful website Gastro Obscura  that there is cheese even stankier than Limburger or Beerkaese.  Beerkaese is described as "robust and pungent" in the way that you might describe Freddie Mercury as "flamboyant" and Terry Bradshaw as "goofy." The word beerkaese literally means beer cheese, and there is no beer in the cheese at all, but it got the name because it goes so well with beer, and the only problem is, when you go to schmear some on a cracker, you are made to think about the time you spent changing the foundation garmentry of a particularly incontinent toddler.

But the name Beerkaese doesn't tell you about how its aroma would send a buzzard running for cover. How about this stuff? Stinking Bishop cheese!

They say that it's an award-winning cheese, and they say it's the “smelliest cheese in Britain.” The article says it has a "subtle, nutty flavor," and also says it smells like a "rugby team's locker room," and that doesn't sound subtle at all, but a little bit nutty.

Cheese is funny stuff, no matter how you slice it. You wouldn't call a men's cologne "Rotten Feet," nor would you call a canned cherry pie filling "Putrid Pie Stuff," but the cheese manufacturers of the world seem to delight in slapping repulsive names on their goods. 

So it is with this Stinkin' cheese. The odor comes from soaking the ripening cheese in pear cider.  The cider was named for the pear that gets squeezed in its making.

The pear in question is called a Stinking Bishop pear because it was grown in Gloucestershire, England by a man who eschewed such niceties as taking a bath every now and then and not getting drunk every once in a while. The rank old man was Frederick Bishop (1847 - 1919) and his name was hung on the pears he raised.

Meanwhile, long after Freddy shuffled off to that meadow in the sky, a dairy farmer by the name of Charles Martell had some cows making milk to make cheese from, and he decided to do it the way monks made cheese in the 17th Century, and wash the cheese rinds in pear cider.

I know you think I'm making this up, but this happened in 1972.

And then it was years and years until 2005, when a movie called "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" was made, in which someone named Gromit waves Stinking Bishop cheese around to revive a friend.

This ain't exactly Kraft Cheddar or Land O' Lakes American we're talking about here. This is the malodorous product of the coagulated, compressed, and  ripened milk curd that has been separated from the whey.

It's the perfect sandwich cheese for those who are tired of having that new guy in the office ripping off your lunch every day. He'll never pilfer from you twice.