Thursday, August 31, 2006

Certain Sayings

Some sayings have passed through my life, one of which I made up myself:

I share custody of a cat with a friend. When it has to barf up a hairball, it makes noises somewhat similar to a baby, or some weird adult, trying to speak. If I hear it at night while I'm still in bed, I just remember the warning I made up: "When the cat starts talking, watch where you're walking."

My grandmother's favorite exclamation was, "Oh, my stars and garters!" Whether she knew it or not, she was referring to medals (stars) and the highest order of English knighthood (the Order of the Garter). The phrase goes back about 300 years to mean all these honors.

This one is already available on Google and it links to this very blog site, "Things At King's." So here we go again. It's about, uh, having a relationship with an older woman, regardless of your own age. As my mother put it, "They don't yell, tell or swell." Someone added, "and they are grateful as h*ll."

I've avoided being mashed at intersections by remembering this advice: "The right of way is something the other guy gives you; if he doesn't give it to you, you don't have it."

That which gives me most solace is: "There is always one more imbecile than you expected."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

All In All, I've Been Fortunate... have worked at radio stations that received albums that did not fit their formats ... but did fit my tastes. The latest to hit the "free for the taking" bin is "Classic Canadian Songs," from Smithsonian Folkways. "The unique sounds of Canada's varied and vibrant traditional music," it says. I have an ever-growing collection of compact discs that nobody wanted, but I can appreciate. have been raised by a mother and grandparents who were cheap New England Yankees. Where I'm from, that's a compliment. Grandma never stitched the motto, "You can always find it cheaper," but she might as well have. Because of that, I have never taken an expensive cruise, despite the ads which entice me with all sorts of nice cabins and wonderful shore excursions. I'm in the cheap seats and wander around on my own, for about 1/3 the price. have been taken on "nature walks" by my mother when I was very young (and she was desperate for something to do). We looked under rocks at bugs, under leaves for budding flowers, at any manner of little things in nature. Without thinking of it, I still look at, and appreciate, the small. After I wrote, and published, a short story many years later, Mom recognized the nature walks in it and said, "You never forgot them." have been told "Why not?" instead of "Why?" by my parents when I thought of something I'd like to do. Some of it never worked out, but, hey, I started writing for publication in my mid-teens, doing radio at the same time, suggesting to Kraft foods the idea for the wide-mouth jar when I was twelve (really!), and assisting with driving at the same time. That all came after my brother (age 8) and I (age 4) took a train trip alone from Connecticut to Vermont; they knew we were old enough.

A lot of unfortunate things happened in my life, too. You really want to hear about them? I thought not; neither do I. The others are a lot more fun.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I Say, Old Man, "Jif, Skippy"? Wot?

I mentioned the other day that people in England never heard of the Blue Plate Special. It appears to be a diner specialty unique to the U.S. and unknown anywhere else.

Now I learn, courtesy of The Food Network, that peanut butter (and, therefore, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) is pretty much unknown outside this same America composed of States which are United.

Some company has created peanut butter in a wrapper, much like how we get thin wrapped slices of cheese. That makes it easy to make a sandwich without ripping the bread. It also takes all the craftsmanship out of the deal. It takes talent and practice, the same as will get you to Carnegie Hall, to create a pb&j while keeping the bread intact. Any wuss can open a wrapped flat of peanut butter; it takes a master to swirl out a kitchen knife full of p.b. and arrange it properly and evenly without the slightest injury to the bread.

Clean the knife before going for the jelly? Oh, puleeeeeeze.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Police Must Be Constipated...

...Because they don't give a s***.

An update on the blog just below this one.

I called the cops this morning to let them know I was an eyewitness to a two-car motor vehicle accident at a traffic light. The desk officer could not have cared less, so I asked if there was someone else I could speak with. He transferred me to a person in records, who said the report was not in yet and she would not be able to tell me anything when it did arrive. I reminded her I was an eyewitness to what could be a dual "I had the green," but she shrugged it off.

Sometimes, as I explained to them, you just don't hang around in certain parts of town at that time of night waiting for a cop to show up. Especially when the parties involved themselves have driven off.

You Guys Both Claimed The Green? Uh....

I was minding my own business Saturday night, actually thirty minutes into Sunday morning, driving down North Washington Street. The green traffic light for intersecting East Jackson Street turned yellow and the car somewhat ahead of me jumped our red light a bit -- as a car on Jackson tried to squeeze out the last remaining second of his yellow light.

Someone wrote that the electrons surrounding their atoms are so small and so far from the parent atom that it would be like a few bees buzzing around the inside of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. An atom is almost totally empty space; theoretically, objects should pass easily through each other.

I heard brakes squeal and metal hit metal. I kept my distance and watched the scene; when I went past, I got the offender's license plate. So I went on my way and will check with the police later today. If the drivers filed a report and both claimed to have had the green light, I can say, "No, neither had the green. One jumped the red before it changed and the other went through the oldest yellow in the city."

If the cops remind me I left the scene of an accident, I'll just remind them that it was 12:30 in the morning, in one of the less-desirable parts of town, the two cars have gone somewhere, I don't have a cell phone and no desire to be the guest of honor at a memorial service.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Sign Of Things To Come

I'm a member of a private message with people from all over the world. One day, someone from Australia posted some signs they have that we here in the US probably would not understand. She was right; we had no idea what they meant.

Then I posted PED XING and asked her what it referred to. We're used to the "Pedestrian Crossing" abbreviation and the fact that 18 letters don't fit too well on a small sign.

There's a warning about the RXR sign, "Railroad Crossing." It's regarding beating a train to the crossing and goes like this: "If you win, you win; if you lose, you lose; if it's a tie, you lose."

There's a big difference between the British and US meaning of the No Passing sign. Over here, it means "Don't overtake the car ahead of you." For the Brits, it means, "Don't go past this sign."

Road Legally Closed is, as far as I know, a Connecticut sort of thing and I'm not sure it's still used. You're riding along and there's this big sign off to one side with "Road Legally Closed" and about five or six lines of smaller print giving a reference to the law and how the state assumes no liability. Nobody pays it any attention.

In these super-sensitive days when it's dangerous to be hanging around little ones, a sign that instructs us to Watch Children certainly seems to be an invitation to trouble.

I've seen several cemeteries with entrance and exit roads; sure enough, you're driving by a field full of tombstones and there's a sign telling you Do Not Enter.

In Connecticut, some years ago, a couple on I-95 passed a man who was frantically waving his arms at about 2:00 in the morning. The driver hit the brakes, then kept going; he had disregarded a “sign” that the Interstate’s bridge had collapsed and they flew over the edge into Kingdom Come.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Yes, Suh, Ah Do Believe Ah Has Arrived

Eleanor Menges, age 81, appeared in the obituary page yesterday, possibly to her surprise, possibly not. With someone known by her relatives as "Foxy," she may well have gone out with her shoes on.

For whatever reason, as the obituary says, "Eleanor was conferred the rank of Kentucky Colonel by Governor Brereton Jones." Prior to this, I had thought the title was given to cigar-smoking, spittoon-aiming, bourbon-drinking, well-placed politicos. Guess not.

Guess not especially when I saw a list of some Kentucky Colonels: Bob Hope, Joan Crawford, General Omar Bradley, Mae West, Muhammad Ali and the late Pope John Paul II.

The Pope was a Kentucky Colonel? Same as Harlan Sanders of KFC fame? And Elvis Presley's manager (and Dutch draft-dodger) Col. Tom Parker? I wonder if they ever met and, like the colonels of old, shared war stories over a bottle of Kentucky mash. Nah; never happen.

I'd love to be one and if anyone out there in blogland happens to be from Kentucky, see what you can do. It would be an interesting line item for my obituary and maybe I could use the title now and then before, like the old Derby winners, I get put out to stud. (That's a poor analogy, but I couldn't think of anything that would link Kentucky with going to heaven.)

Pass me a bourbon there, son; ah, thank you, mighty nice of you.

Friday, August 25, 2006

And, Lo, There Was Heard A Mighty Snap

It was Moving-In day at the college yesterday for the new students. They came as a caravan, with license plates from PA, NY and CT. Our security guards vectored everyone in to parking lots, just as quick and easy as you please. Everybody kept moving, there were uniformed people with radios and nobody had to wander around. Girls were helping in the boys' dorm, boys helping in the girls' dorm -- a match made in heaven.

There they parked: cars, people and implements of dorm living. What's necessary these days? The usual, just a little better ... tv, music machines, computers, fans, etc. What comes later on? Ratty couches from the cheap shops, some ratty tables from the same cheap shops. After four years, perhaps fewer, they end up in a dumpster, IF the landfill doesn't reject them as unworthy.

One by one, you hear a "snap," sometimes fairly loud, others much softer. They are the apron strings breaking as the excitement of coming here and setting up a dorm room all too soon becomes a sudden pang of loneliness as parents get into the car and students stand in the parking lot. The sound of the car doors closing is the dividing point between childhood and the beginning of becoming an adult. It is a loud and significant sound, as loud for the parents as for the child; the drive home as quiet for parents as the dorm room set-up for the child.

Things at home have given way to things at King's.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Of my many little hobbies (and I sincerely believe we should have many little ones) is checking personalized license plates to see if I can figure out their meaning. Why? Because it's a little challenging and it's fun. Don't I have something better and more important to do with my time? Sure; you tell me and I could be doing it. But life is not all seriousness and purpose-driven. Sometimes you just want to decipher license plates.

NOLO. I finally met the owner; when he was in law school, he got so many tickets for (I think) parking that he always pleaded Nolo Contendere, "I do not contest the charges." It's not a guilty plea, but says, "You got me."

IDID26. Have not met this local resident, but I figure he's saying he did 26 miles and might be a marathon runner.

GR8MOM was on a station wagon, belonging to what I suppose was a Great Mom. At least, in her estimation. Or the person who gave her the plate.

KENAI. A peninsula in Alaska, pretty much south of Anchorage, also the name of someone's cat. She wanted a short, but different name, for kitty and her friends' several visits to the Kenai Peninsula seemed to be the right name. Many people have their pets' names as license plate identifiers.

RHV88-5. My volunteer activity for many years, a radio reading service for the visually impaired and homebound. The Radio Home Visitor is on 88.5 FM.

SXRXRNR. SeX, RX (drugs), RNR (Rock 'N' Roll).

Everybody Has A Story
Edith Reed Mather died here recently. In 1934, she married William Mather; they wanted to become missionaries and set out for China. There she started the first Girl Scout troop in Peking. When the Japanese occupied North China, they moved to Baguio in the Philippines; after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese interned all the Americans in Baguio. Edith's third child became the first American to be born in captivity. They ended up in a prison until liberation in 1945.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Third Season Of The Declining Equinox

Autumpne, Authum, Autome, Autumn ... call it as you wish for we don't even know where it came from. It has a definite calendar time, but that matters little; what matters is when it feels like autumn.

...The warm days when there is just a twinge of cool air and you say, "Think I'll need a jacket this morning," when it seems as if the late-afternoon shadows are just a bit longer.

It's autumn, or just about, when you see back-to-school sales in the stores. when the Sunday color inserts have clothing items instead of lawn-care products and your neighbors are going to the Shore for the Labor Day weekend. Where I grew up, it was when the summer people closed up their cottages for the year.

Autumn's coming when your mindset has swung around like a compass and, instead of facing "swimming pool fun," is facing "one last grass cutting."

In the earlier days of television, when summer replacement shows like "Mike Stokey's Pantomime Quiz," which was on every network at one time or another, let us know at its end that autumn had arrived.

The state of mind is upon us, this third season of the declining equinox. Where the pool cover was, we put the lawnmower; the outdoor grill will fit in the spot where the snow blower has sat idle.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

'Cuz That's How They Say It

I'm a member of a professional radio/tv message board for the area where I live. One of the discussions currently running is "Pronunciation 101."

"As a reporter," one person said, "I learned early on that the first thing you do in ANY market you work in is to learn the 'lingo' of the locals -- take the time to learn the pronunciations of various towns, and cities. In all the markets I've worked in, there hasn't been one without a few odd names or pronunciations."

We have the "San Souci Parkway" and the "San Souci Amusement Park," but forget what you learned in your high school French class. It's the "San Sooey Parkway" and "the Sooey." Even when you are on the air. But only the locals in Plymouth, Shenandoah and Mahanoy City say "Plimmit" and "Shendo" and "Manny City."

We have a lot of local dishes here that you only have in areas with Polish, Slovak, Welsh, Middle Eastern and Italian areas. It helps to realize that pasties, when pronounced "paysties" are something worn by strippers, but when spoken as "pahsties" are a Welsh sort of meat pie. Don't get them mixed up when you are announcing that the First Welsh Congregational Church will be selling them next Saturday. They have "faggots," too, but these are another Welsh dish (fah-gos) and not a sexual orientation slur (faggots, usual way).

You say potato and I say poh-tahh-to.
You say tomato and I say to-mah-toe.
Potato, poh-tahh-to, tomato, to-mah-toe,
Oh let's call the whole thing off.
--George Gershwin, music;
Ira Gershwin, the lyrics you just read.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Who? What? Well, I'll Be Darned

Janice Roadway went to the college where I was an adjunct prof. We didn't think anything about it one way or the other until this cute little thing mentioned that her uncle owned a trucking company. All these years, I thought Roadway Express was just a real neat name for an outfit that, well, used roads. Not so, said Janice; it was a family name.

Joseph Pilates, I just learned, was the founder of the Pilates exercise program. I sort of wondered what it meant or came from; possibly a Greek word or something. Now I know, courtesy of an infomercial that came on after a late-night Sunday program.

The back-up beeper, something very normal these days, had an inventor. I had never really thought about its gestation but, yes, someone had to think it up. It wasn't something they found in the woods one day and said, "Hey, this would be neat to put on the back of a truck." The inventor died in Orient, Long Island, a few years ago. I remember that because my grandfather came from there, as did all my ancestors on his side back to, maybe, 1639.

Someone asked a noted online lexicographical source, "World Wide Words," the origin of Blue Plate Special that staple of American diners. "Never heard of it," the column's conductor said, then added, "but I've found that it's a common thing in the USA." Common, indeed; it's the cheap special of the day and, apparently, native to this country.

Defile: Can you defile in a defile? Yes, but you're using two entirely different words that never had the slightest connection with each other. When you defile (Old English "fylan") something, that's one matter; when you go through a defile (French "defiler"), that's quite another matter. So, yes, you can indeed fylan in a defiler, but just don't let anyone catch you doing it.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I Think, Therefore I Post

(1) Look at a digital clock occasionally and there's a reasonable chance the numbers, without the colon, will mean something to you. They do to me. 3:13, Donald Duck's license plate (I'm a great fan of the Duck). 2:35, our old house number. 1:33, another place where I lived for a number of years. Some are happy memories, others are not. 10:48 is the local scanner code for a fire; I'm fortunate not to have had one.

(2) I was in church this morning and the background noise (little kids) was a bit higher than normal. It was the kind of thing you ignore; after all, as the priest pointed out, they were brought to term and we should be happy about that. But one woman grabbed her little boy and, with a full head of steam, literally dragged him down the aisle, one foot in the air, and out the door. I was waiting for the =smack= and scream, but didn't hear any. It was not a happy scene. Jesus said, "Let the little children come unto me"; she seemed to say, "I'll put the fear of God into you."

(3) We have a little fountain out in the common courtyard here. I don't know who is supposed to take care of it; probably whoever. So it's Tom Whoever Carten, by default. It's a recirculating thing, bubbles up a few inches over a faux-granite ball then down over some real stones and back into a reservoir in the base. There is some evaporation, so I fill a container each day and pour it in. The bubbler was showing signs of prostate trouble, if I may be so descriptive, so I checked inside and the pump intake was loaded with algae, enough for a small salad, along with an equal or greater amount on the bottom. I cleaned it out, took a real scrub-brush to the faux ball and have been adding water mixed with a little Clorox.

(4) NIMBY is best solved by BANANA. We've had some very nice proposals for halfway houses that would present no danger or disruption to the neighbors. The residents have no drug problems; they are supervised and are there for a limited time each. If there weren't public hearings, nobody would be the wiser; I've seen this in other areas. But NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) leads to the only obvious solution: BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody). Unfortunately, we are running out of forests and deserts.

(5) I saw a two-toned car today. Actually, a Jeep-type vehicle, blue in front, yellow elsewhere. Is it my imagination, or don't you see that sort of thing anymore?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Kids Are Fighting In The Sandbox

Big place, this universe of ours. I've been studying it since I was 14 and the moon was six feet closer to us than it is now. (Yes, we are losing it at the rate of 1.5 inches per year; when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, it was about 63 feet closer.)

We're pretty far out in a galaxy of who knows how many stars ... 100 billion? 300 billion? ... shaped somewhat like a fried egg. If there was a big flash at one edge, nobody on the other edge would see if for 100,000 years; from top to bottom? 10,000 years. That's just our galaxy, our collection of stars, our little island in the sky.

Some unbelievable distance away, so far that it takes light two million years to get here, is the beautiful Andromeda galaxy. If they sent us a message around the time the dinosaurs were wiped out, it won't get here for another 600,000 years. You know what that's part of? It's called "The Local Group." A bunch of galaxies that are so close, as the universe sees things, that they, and we, are seen as "those guys over there."

We used to think there were something like a hundred billion galaxies. Then, one fine day, an astronomer said, "Oops." Another astronomer asked, "What was that all about?" The reply was, "We missed some. I just found two million more and there might be a whole bunch of others."

A hundred billion galaxies, maybe more; each one has upwards of three hundred billion stars; who knows how many planets and civilizations. The universe is huge, beyond our ability to understand it. And on this planet, this little sandbox where kids play, there has been fighting going on for centuries. If only the kids would look up into the sky and see the glories there, how insignificant their battles, that each one's god could not possibly be telling them to kill the others. Forget their holy books; just buy a good astronomy book and see the wonders of the universe, the smallness of this sandbox we call Earth. You really want to rule a sandbox?

* * *

The previous blog, "A Profitable Day," was written for Friday and done very late that night. The blog-clock clicked over to Saturday even thought I did a quickie and typed as fast as I could.

A Profitable Day

Had a meeting this afternoon (Friday) that ran all afternoon.

I fell asleep at the start and stayed asleep until the end. It was a good afternoon. I've enough seniority here to get away with it, too.

It was a profitable day.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!"

I received my jury duty notice this morning and was excused this afternoon. There are few room-clearing words like "Epilepsy," for whatever reason; I guess it's the thought of all those girls throwing fits in the 1692 Salem witch trials.

How would I have done on a jury? Hard to say. I distrust lawyers, no more so than when they are in a trial. They have their agendas relative to proving or disproving, and are quite capable of juggling the facts, or such facts as are made known to the jury.

So there they are: a dozen people listening to two people who are trying to convince them that only one is telling the truth. When the twelve finally come to a decision, they will exit the courtroom and, possibly, learn salient facts that were withheld from them. In a recent outcome that left the public baffled, a member of the jury said, "Had all the information been presented to us, we would have come to a different decision; but it wasn't. We were kept in the dark about some facts you knew that would have changed our minds."

In recent years, jury trials end with tv cameras and reporters, but traditionally it has always begun with a court official announcing the arrival of the judge by intoning, "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" It's a simple slurring of "All Rise! All Rise! All Rise!"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Not Just Another Musician

Rufus Harley died the other day in Philadelphia. He was billed as the world's first and only jazz bagpipe player. Bagpipes, even in the traditional manner, are an acquired taste and I am happy to be one who likes them. But I'm not sure how I would go for Rufus' rendition of the Mary Poppins song, "Chim Chim Cheree," from one album. The bagpipe does not have that wide a range, nor delicate a tone; he must have been very good.

Fellow named Tommy Pederson once did "Flight of the Bumblebee" on the trombone, a fact noted in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia as "a near-impossible novelty version." I used to own that recording and, yes, it was amazing. Originally, it was written for violin but most instrumentalists have tried it, including the tuba player in the Canadian Brass.

Somewhere around here, I have a tape of a gent playing "Sweet Georgia Brown" at some speed on the musical saw. He was on Public Radio's "Prairie Home Companion" and I happened to be taping the series for a couple of years. Musical saw with piano accompaniment; not to be missed.

I liked to play my trumpet with a trombone mouthpiece. It gave a mellow sound, assuming you could keep it in the regular trumpet register; the thing kept trying to drop an octave or two. But it was interesting going down into the cellar, so to speak, and taking the instrument places it was not designed to visit. When I'd switch back to the regular trumpet mouthpiece, I'd almost swallow it because it was so small relative to the trombone mouthpiece.

One time, I was playing the trumpet with my right hand and an organ with my left. Not as hard as it seems; you just do the song's chords on the keyboard with your left hand and the vocal line (transposing down one full step) on the trumpet valves with your right hand. If you have a transposing organ, it's all the easier; just drop it from C to B-flat.

As I head off to bed for the night, perhaps I will dream of being in Mary Poppins Land and hearing a bagpipe stirringly rouse us to arms with its rendition of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Thoughts That Occur In My Life

(1) I bought a so-called "Atomic Clock" at the local RadioShack store the other day. It's not really atomic and it won't blow up if I count down from ten. It keys into a signal broadcast from a low-frequency station set up by the National Bureau of Standards. Among its many services, the signal corrects this clock and keeps it in line.

There are people like me who don't want to know about what time it is, or might be, or is close to. We want to know what time it *is*. 10:59 is not 11:00, nor is 10:59:30. Maybe it comes from all those years working in radio, where two seconds early or late make a big difference. One second is bad enough; two can be rotten.

(2) One of those Internet question things asks, "Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?" I use a lot of rubber cement and, believe me, it does. When you get to the bottom of the container, you do well to clean it out before refilling. It's a messy operation, as the dried glue has the consistency somewhere between "last day of flu greenie-snot" and "taffy pull." But clean it out you must and, in a few minutes, the sheet of paper you are dropping the stuff on looks pretty disgusting.

(3) Mom had some sayings. (a) "When you hear a siren, you know someone's day was just ruined." (b) After I did a real powerful sneeze, "Well, you did three things at once: you sneezed, blew your nose and washed the floor." (c) After finding out that an elderly relative and his occasional dinner companion had booked a cabin on a cruise ship, "They're pretty old; she won't yell, tell or swell."

(4) Pious People are always sending Pious Prayer Cards to other Pious People wishing that "God may grant you His choicest blessings." What happens to all those less-than-choice that end up laying around? Are the rest of us on the "B" list when it comes to being blessed? When we pray for help, do we get irregulars? Seconds? Mark-downs? Returns?

(5) I'm afraid to look under my bed; I might see some dust bunnies copulating. Isn't that where all the little dust bunnies come from? The Protestants, at the Reformation, ended up having Sects all over the place, which may answer the question as to why there are so many denominations.

(6) Why do we say that "What goes up must come down"? I hold that "Nothing can come down unless it has first gone up."

You know the song, "There'll be bluebirds over / The white cliffs of Dover." That's how the cliffs got white; all those bluebirds pooping on them.

Final piece of advice: Never marry a guy whose favorite joke starts with, "Pull my finger."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Two Months And No Days

It's August 14th and about time to make a first check of where my travel things are. I'm just two months to the day from my vacation, eleven days on Holland America Line's ms Noordam. This is the point where I make sure my passport is where it should be (in my desk drawer marked "Next Cruise"), my online immigration form has been filled out (did that yesterday) and all is well with my Travel Agent (she has made the final preps).

There is an art, and a pleasure, to preparing for a vacation. One is to remember that it's a vacation and not an expedition to the moon or some big production which must be carried off with absolute perfection. It's a vacation, time off, release from stress.

So I start early. Months early. Many months early. I find the golf-style shirts I will wear during the day and put them aside; as I get closer, I try to find where I put them and make a pile of what I'm taking. Then I choose shirts and ties for evening wear (it's a formal line), going with six or seven shirts and half a dozen ties that will match most or all of them. Necessities are the same for each trip; that includes my camcorder, for another stunning video not available in stores.

You do this often enough and you can get the packing down to just about exactly what you need and nothing more. On ships with self-serve laundry rooms, I could travel with one carry-on; this year, I won't have that and will need two carry-ons. Easier to bring to and from the ship than a regular large suitcase. And, no, there are no airplanes involved; I only take cruises that are round-trips from NYC. Flying used to be fun; when that stopped, I stopped flying. Besides, the bus trip from the airport to midtown Manhattan is terrible.

I gotta pack. See you later.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

57 And Sunny

Lovely day today. When I got up, it was 57 degrees, sunny, and the weather map at shows no precip east of Iowa. In other words, it's a great day to walk the cat, chat with neighbors or just be lazy outside.

As it is the Lord's Day, what would the Lord do?

I'd guess He would walk the cat, chat with neighbors and just hang out. It's His day, and He can do pretty much anything He wants. You don't get days like this all the time, especially when you don't have to work.

Can you imagine the Lord God Almighty walking the cat? Sure; why not? It would be a great sight, although He would have to turn down the glory quite a bit so we don't get blinded. He's walking down the street, leash in hand, and we say, "How's it going, God?" He replies, "Just glorious as always, in the beginning, now and forever."

Actually, a day like this would be perfect for all our ancestors to drop by, with or without pets, and meet on the front porch, backyard, or local park and just chat about things. What the area was like when they were kids, how things are going for them now in the Hereafter, any advice they have for us. I'm sure it would not be scary at all; we'd be very comfortable in their presence and happy to have them visit us. When it's time to go, they'd say their goodbye's and sort of fade away, returning to their place in heaven.

Just some thoughts on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Buenos Tardis, Senorita

We have a new Mexican bakery two blocks away, further proof that the Hispanic culture is growing in our traditional Eastern European community. Several Hispanic stores have popped up here and there in the city and you can bet there will be more.

Nice little place, this bakery, open two weeks and still growing. I had a card on which I wrote a few Spanish words I got from an Internet dictionary, just in case. But the owner's daughter was there and she is bilingual, so I was safe. Bought some conch ("shell") breads; five of them, actually. Next week, I will have to try something else.

Two or three other customers came in while I was there, all Anglos. That's good; it's not a segregated place, so to speak, and it should end up being a corner store where everybody will wander in at one time or another.

We've a problem in this area with the Hispanics moving in. There are a lot who are here without the legal right and that's causing difficulties. Not just for them, as they don't wear badges saying, "I'm illegal," but for anyone from South of the Border.

The locals aren't happy about all this immigration, these Hispanics. I'm about *this close* to writing a piece in the newspaper reminding people that we have an Irish pub, an Italian restaurant, a Welsh Presbyterian church, a famous Slovak parish, a Middle-Eastern restaurant, a Polish funeral home and probably more I haven't noticed.

These new people might give me a chance to learn a third language.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Birds & The Bees, The Squirrels & The Seas

In the Middle East, people continue their age-old practice of killing each other off; others tried to knock down ten airliners; a suitcase bomb could make a city uninhabitable; suicide bombers wipe out anything they want.

Friend of mine said she walked by a rabbit on campus last night. It sort of twitched its nose, looked back at her and hopped a couple of feet away. The birds are doing whatever birds do in mid-August, and the tides come in and out at the seashore. They are unaware of terrorism. The fact that a lowered murder rate is good news is lost on them.

They've got a good thing going. When I walked along the shore, or looked at it from the deck of a ship, I envied its everlasting being. Kill, bomb, terrorize and it still rises and falls daily, the waves still grow during a storm and calm with the soft southwest breeze in the evening.

The birds and the bees, the squirrels and the seas may not have compiled encyclopedias, built cars, invented television or devised worship services. But they also do not feel compelled to kill themselves as they run into funeral processions; they may protect their territory, but not by killing people they do not know who pose no threat to them.

They pretty much practice the tenets of the world's religions. Maybe not all their silly little rules, but the essentials. That's not bad; we could learn much from them.

There's nothing wrong with writing books, exploring space, inventing Silly Putty or keeping up a blog. But God's simpler creatures seem to take things at face value and not find ways to use them to harm others.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Probably A Lettuce Leaf At McDonald's

I don't know if "stunned" is the word; perhaps "amazed" or "disheartened" would be closer. But when I heard of the plot to blow up as many as ten airplanes over the Atlantic Ocean, I felt saddened over the thought that people would be so filled hate that they would kill well over a thousand people in the middle of nowhere. There would be no closure for the families, as there would be no bodies to bury - similar to the WTC.

A secondary effect in events such as this is a decline in flying. People shy away from planes, thinking it's not safe and they may be next. After 9/11 (on 9/17, to be exact), I was on a plane from Montreal to NYC and felt safe enough, although cruise ship bookings dropped through the floor. Bad for the cruise lines, good for me; prices dropped and I cruised on the cheap for three years until people realized that they could come out from under their beds and get about life again.

The same day the terrorists were to set off bombs on these planes, a thousand people would die from effects of cigarette smoking; another 110 from automobile accidents, and so on. In other words, ordinary life is more dangerous than terrorism. You've a better chance of dying from choking on a lettuce leaf at a McDonald's rather than an airplane or cruise ship attack.

And that's most likely what will happen. Your car hits something and you're unbelted; out the window you go, through the tunnel, to the bright light and dead relatives. You're taking some boxes down the cellar stairs and misjudge the first step; happened to a lady near here and they found her the next morning, quite cold. You really have to do something about your weight and those thick cheeseburgers with supersized fries, when suddenly you feel as if someone has punched you in the chest and you see the medics arriving ... as you move away from your body.

John Glenn took two very dangerous trips, the first manned orbital mission and a space shuttle flight, quite safely; just the other day, he was in a bad car accident in Ohio. Chuck Yeager proved the sound barrier was no barrier, but was severely injured when he fell off a ladder.

Out in Minnesota, Sean Soukkala said his pastor told him, "You can't get hung if you're supposed to drown." Do what you're going to do. What happens, happens.

Can You Keep It Up For Four Hours?

It seems times were simpler in the black & white tv days. Not that the pre-color technology was any better, but "Leave It To Beaver" showed a more pleasant (if unrealistic) view of family life. On the other hand, documentaries were more graphic. Through it all, the NAB Code dictated what sort of ads you saw.

The National Association of Broadcasters put together an agreed-upon set of standards. There was never a law that you could not advertise hard liquor on tv; it just wasn't done. "Personal products," as they so discreetly put it, were also to be shunned. At the absolute most, they were to be kept within programming that the family would not see, and only hinted at. It was rare that you saw anything more explicit than soap.

Times have changed and The Beav has grown up. If his family were to be on tv now, they'd probably be a bit dysfunctional, his brother would have a live-in and June would be nipping from the cooking sherry every ten minutes.

The NAB Code is gone, if you haven't noticed, and liquor ads are the least indicator of that. It's not uncommon to see ads for Trojans, at least on some cable stations. Hey -- us guys knew what they were ever since Mother Nature tapped us on the shoulder and pointed downwards. Why advertise something we've known about ever since the older kids told us in the school cafeteria?

Back in the nicer days, you couldn't advertise Preparation H, even though everybody has a butt and sometimes it hurts. Now, we are earnestly talked to about Cialis and how it can get you from zero-to-sixty when needed, good for 36 hours -- which can certainly outlast any wifely headache. Oh ... and be sure to tell us about its best side effect: If the flag is still at full-mast after four hours, see your physician.

There was a time when you discreetly spoke to your druggist or physician; they, in turn, discreetly gave you the information you needed. You did not turn on the tv to see how absorbent this pad is, or what pill would cure your herpes. Drug stores handled health products and television handled entertainment. If you saw Trojans on tv, it was a PBS show about Greece.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's After Midnight In The City

Wilkes-Barre is, according to most, a small city. For me, it's big; I never voted on a machine before, or lived where there was more than one traffic light.

The moon is out, fairly orange in the humidity and whatever else is up there in the atmosphere. It's supposed to be full in two days, but seems to be within one day of hitting the mark. I don't believe in the "full moon = crazies are loose" theory and there is little, if any, scientific evidence to support it. Nor does Auntie Flo pay her visit more often then; another charming folk tale brought to you by the former makers of Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable [and 50% alcohol] Compound For Women.

Not much traffic tonight -- tonight being defined, roughly, as "1:30 a.m." Over at the newspaper, where I am a contributing columnist, the contract carriers (who mostly bring bundles out to the paperboys) are moving their cars and vans in and out; the other newspaper has its trucks on the road around the same time.

Since some people on City Council have pushed to have a few pay phones in the south end taken out, the drug dealers appear to be coming up this way to set up their deals. I've seen pay phone use near the newspaper at times when nobody would be there. They know cell phones are dangerous, as they can be traced; pay phones are invisible.

There's been a quiet party going on at 41 West North Street, right near us. Students, I assume, even though this is not the season for students. They're just sitting and standing around, drinking something from cans. They've been here a while now and they're just a little too quiet for college students on their own. I'll have to find out what's up over there.

That's it for the night watch. Time now is 2:05 a.m.

Monday, August 07, 2006

What Does Your Dash Mean?

It represents so much, the symbol which sums up all we are and all we've done. It's the dash between your years: Joe Doakes, 1927-2006. You were born without fanfare in some year and, unless it was spectacular, died without much notice in another year. Your formation, the work your parents took in helping you understand who you are, your work, hobbies, religious beliefs, achievements, kindnesses, good and evil tendencies; all these are represented by a dash.

1927-2006: They left the selfishness of childhood and became aware that the needs of others were more important than theirs.

1927-2006: They excelled at what they did. If not, they at least tried and avoided being discouraged when things did not work out as planned. They laughed at failure and said, "Well, nobody got hurt and it didn't start a war," then tried again.

1927-2006: They may have performed heroic or semi-heroic actions that nobody knew about, or a life of kindnesses that went unnoticed. "Anybody would have done it," was their reply.

1927-2006: They never complained; "People have it worse than I do." If you wanted gossip, you had to go somewhere else.

Maybe, someday, we will all find out what's hidden in that dash.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Use A Separate Sheet, If Necessary

My head reels with incomprehension (ok, sometimes I wonder) about people who get all riled up over things that they would never experience in a lifetime. Or, perhaps, might not experience.

I belong to the main cruiseship message board on the Internet. On it, the hopes and fears of all the years come out to dance at night. Current score: fears 100, hopes 1. I’m always running into people who haven't cruised and won't. Why? "People are missing all the time and I don't want to be the next one." When you point out that the number is not only very tiny, but the missing aspect is usually obvious (and the tv shows are digging up old events dramatically), it doesn't matter.

When "Poseidon" came out, some people expressed doubt about the safety of ships in the certainty that a rogue wave would take one out. I'm just waiting for "Snakes on a Plane" to hit the theaters; we'll be getting people worried that wild animals might be present on the ships. "Lions on a Cruise: It's their turn for a buffet."

When I was small, it was Communists. We knew how to spot one, courtesy of the "Little Orphan Annie" comic strip: They called each other "Comrade." I lived in an area with a high number of Russians and never heard them address each other that way, so we were safe. But there was a big Red Scare across the country and everyone knew somebody who knew a Communist.

For a while, we were afraid of fluoride in our water supply. It cut down on cavities in kids, but was just another Russian plot to poison everybody and take over the country. Rat poison, you know. It's done wonders for our kids' dental health and the Evil Empire has collapsed.

I wish all these people would write their fears down on a piece of paper. Use a separate sheet, if necessary. Save it for ten years, then check it again.

One more thing: If you are an Imminent Rapture person, send me all your money. You won't need it when Jeeesus comes in his limo tonight to pick you up.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hot Enough For You?

I've been watching The History Channel this evening; they are doing a series on the Gestapo. Included are side mentions of the SA and SS. Whenever I see a program about the Nazis, I wonder what the outcomes were when they faced their individual judgements and were called to account for their lives. What happens when you meet your Maker, and have to explain how you picked murder and torture as your choices in life? It can't be a pretty sight.

We all do stuff that's not quite right; little things here and there. Goes with being human. But when you supervise torture and murder, that's quite different. If you are involved in a policy that results in the deaths of 12 million people, you've hit The Big Heat Wave. The person who judges you will drop down for a visit once in a while and say, "Hot enough for you?"

My theory says there aren't any flames; you don't burn forever. Since you really have to blow it to end up Down There, it's reserved for the worst of us. A little casual naughty now and then just isn't enough.

So there are our Nazis. And what are they doing? Experiencing the fears, terrors, horrors and pains of each victim, one by one, in perfect detail; of each victim's family members, also in perfect detail. They become all twelve million of their victims, one by one, and those of all the surviving families and friends. Finally, it comes to an end; at last, it comes to an end; mercifully, it comes to an end. And then it starts over again. The cycle repeats, endlessly; it never stops and the person experiencing it never becomes accustomed to it.

It's the Final Solution, all right. Just not the one they were thinking of.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The White Letters On The Bottom Of Your TV

For a while, I was a movie projectionist. (Ha! Something else you didn't know about me!) I was seldom interested in the films as I was in spotting things that shouldn't have been there. Microphones in mirrors ("The Missouri Breaks"), trains supposedly going forward that were actually being pulled backwards on what small track they had ("The Music Man") or railroad switch towers on single-track roads with nary a switch in sight ("Smokey and the Bandit II").

I do the same with tv shows (you'd think that, at a million dollars per episode, someone could watch for reflections in windows). But commercials -- ah, I've become a "white words" junkie.

A current spot shows a man kissing his wife goodbye in the morning, walking down the front path, off a cliff and eventually opening his parasail (or something), then gliding to a stop next to the sponsor's car. The little white words on the bottom of the screen? "Professional stunt actor; do not attempt." My house is not at the edge of a cliff, nor do I know anyone whose is; I doubt many people keep their car at such a distance. Don't worry; we won't try this at home.

A car is zipping down a road in the absolute middle of nowhere. There isn't even a blade of grass for a hundred miles. The little white words: "Professional driver on a closed course. Do not attempt." Do not attempt what? Exceeding the speed limit when the nearest cop is in the next state? Are they afraid we might hit the Roadrunner or Wile E. Coyote and have a horrendous Hollywood-style rollover triple-flip explosion?

The best one I've seen is when some famous animated figure was inked into the driver's seat of a real car in a commercial. The small print said, "Driven by professional cartoon character; do not attempt this at home." At least one person in one ad agency had a sense of humor.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Mirror That Looked At Itself

On July 19, I did a blog piece about "The Big Top," a popular circus show that ran on CBS for a bunch of years. I'm not sure why I happened across it, but most likely I was trying to get an idea for my weekly newspaper column. It didn't work, so I used it here; why waste a perfectly good idea?

Ok, so we flip ahead to August 3 and I'm sitting here, desperate for an idea for my newspaper column. The clock is ticking away; I'm way over deadline and I start thinking, "Hey -- how about that circus thing on my blog? I write about old music and that's old tv; it had a band, so it kinda fits what I do." So one cut & paste later, I have 2/3 of a column, which I fill out by running the bandleader's name on a search engine ("Google" is a trademarked name and not a verb, by the way) and mentioning his work from the 1920's through the 1940's.

So we go from failed newspaper column to blog piece to successful newspaper column to a second blog piece. A mirror that looks at itself should go to infinity, but I just don't have the time and/or energy for that kind of thing.

Could a circus television show ever imagine that it would have taken such a circuitous route nearly fifty years later? Or even be remembered? Be careful what you do; half a century later, someone might blog about you.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ladybug, Ladybug

I discovered a ladybug on arm of the Facilities' receptionist yesterday. She then brought it back to the office and I thought a little research might be fun. Here's what I found:

Ladybug, ladybug
fly away home.
Your house is on fire
and your children will burn.

It is considered good luck if a Ladybug (sometimes you hear them referred to as ladycows or ladybirds) lands on someone's hand or clothing. It needs to fly away of its own will, and the ladybug rhyme must be recited.

There are several interpretations of this old rhyme - that the ladybug was named after Mary, the mother of Jesus ("Our Lady") and that she will punish anyone for nine days who dares harm it. Another story is that, in the Middle Ages, huge swarms of insects were eating up crops. The people prayed to Mary for help--and then ladybugs came and ate the pests. So they called the insect the "beetle of Our Lady." Another interpretation is that this is a rhyme of resurrection and everlasting life, since the central figure is a beetle, one of the world's oldest symbols of the resurrection.

One idea is that the rhyme came from places where hops were grown. Ladybug larvae live on hop vines. But these vines were burned after the harvest. So singers warned the ladybug that her children would burn.

In Austria, people used to ask the ladybug for good weather. In Switzerland, people told their children that human babies were brought by ladybugs. In northern Germany, people counted spots on the backs of ladybugs; fewer than seven meant a big harvest. In Central Europe, they believed that, if a girl caught a ladybug and it crawled across her hand, she would be married within a year.

The ladybug has different names in countries around the world: Flower Lady (China); Water Delivery-Man's Daughter (Iraq); Indra's Cowherd (India); Crop Picker (Africa); Good news (Iran); Lord God's Little Fatty (Switzerland); Vacchette della Madonna (Italy); Creatures of the Good God (France); Cows of the Virgin (France); and Mary's Beetles (Germany).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Using Your Thunderstorm Detector

Every house and every car has one, so why not use it? Instead of guessing, looking at the sky and wondering, taking a chance with leaving your windows open or having activities in the open air, just check the Thunderstorm Detector and be sure.

I use mine all the time. Sometimes it drives my friends nuts, but they also ask me to check for them.

It's an AM radio. Lightning produces static (which you cannot hear on an FM radio) and when you listen to this static, you can tell (a) if there is a storm, (b) how bad it is, (c) how far away it is. It takes a bit of practice, but it works quite well. The only flaw is that you don't know if it's going to hit right where you live, or a few miles away. But it's close enough for everyday use. Just tune the radio between stations so you can hear the lightning static crashes more clearly.

I mentioned this in passing the other day when I talked about nature's symphony. This time, it's nature's advance warning system, giving you possibility, strength, distance and speed of approach. And all this on an ordinary AM radio. What could be cheaper and easier?