Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Then Did The Sparkle Of Money Appear

One of these days, the guy with the orange hunting cap will show up on our street, head down, trudging along the tree lawn, speaking to no one. But not today and not for many days to come.

When the snow has melted, and not one instant later, he will be here, looking around the meters where people have dropped coins and are less concerned about them than he. A dime here, a nickel there, a quarter the next place; it all adds up. He gets some exercise, fresh air and enough loose change for whatever he wishes.

Even during the nice months, he’s out here kicking a leaf out of the way, locating the odd coin lost in the grass.

I’m not that energetic, which is surprising for someone who is as cheap as I. When I used to walk over to the newspaper at 1:30 in the morning, I could spot a penny in an unlighted dirt parking lot. Picked it up, of course. But, even though I keep an eye on the metered area around here, I’ve rarely seen anything fitting the description of “coin of the realm.”

Friend of mine, back home where we had a public beach and a deposit law, used to go barrel-picking and come up with all sorts of treasure: bottles and cans each worth their own price at the redemption center. Over the course of a year, that would pay a good part of her annual cruise. We don’t have one here; pity. I’d have containers all over the place and a nicer cabin on the ship.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Just as I went down the steps in front of my house, a car came up the hill and took someone’s mirror with it. And kept going.

“You can run, but you can’t hide,” I thought, after having watched a program about people who hunt down bail jumpers. I went into a convenient phone booth, changed into my CrimeChaser outfit and emerged to dish out justice.

In reality, I called 911, told the whole exciting story (“I want to report a hit and run; someone took a person’s mirror off and here’s the license number”) and, exhausted from the event, went back and made myself a cup of tea.

In reality, the victim came along just as I was on the phone with 911 and he called them back after we looked over the situation. The cop who arrived on the scene pulled in to a parking space and missed hitting a car by, literally, inches. It was almost 0-2 this morning.

He was in what the city calls a “semi-marked car.” That is, it has the standard red and blue over white markings all over except in the front, with no visible light bar on top. You can see it a mile away, unless it’s right behind you; then it looks like an ordinary white sedan and you don’t notice the red and blue lights next to the mirror until they start flashing.

Tune in next week to “Wilkes-Barre’s Most Wanted.”

Monday, February 26, 2007

There Is No Dearth Of Many Things

True Religions, for one. I belong to one of them, and we can prove it chapter and verse. Our leader has even let it be known, publicly, that those who don’t follow us are not eligible for salvation. Burn, suckers, burn. But all religions claim to be The One True Religion and, I suspect, at the end of the world one of these leaders will say to God, “Which is the true religion?” And God will shrug and say, “It doesn’t matter any more than which is the true drugstore. As long as you get well, they’re both equally good.”

Princesses. Not royalty, but shopping mall princesses. Little Miss Wilkes-Barre Princess, all decked out with tiara and wand. The other mall is sponsoring Little Miss West Side Princess. Both can compete for Miss Little Wyoming Valley Princess. Yes, your little princess may someday be Miss Pennsylvania and maybe Miss America! She may also grow up to think she has all the rights and privileges of a princess and wonder why she has no friends.

Entitlement. Otherwise known as, “I have my rights.” I can park anywhere I want, I don’t have to hold a door open for anyone, so sue me, your sign has no legal standing, you’re doing that because I’m (female/male, black/white, young/old, this/that). We want what we can get without regard to others, simply because we can get it. It’s the opposite of cooperation, exclusive of getting along with others.

Complaining. A hundred years ago, nobody drove, flew, had a radio or tv. Illness brought death, food was tainted, physicians didn’t know much; around here, you worked in the mines and died just like your father. So why are you complaining?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Z Factory

I make my bed every night; yes, at night. All day it just sits there looking exactly as it did when I bailed out in the morning. I make it, or construct it, very carefully and methodically.

First, I get in and pull up the sheet full length over my head. Then the blanket, the bedspread and the afghan. At this point, I look much like someone who has been laid out in the school colors.

One of two things happen: Either I wake up an hour or so later and turn off my bedside light, or I turn off the light, roll over and I’m pretty much gone for the night.

Whichever way it may be, I have set up the Z Factory and made all the parts work the right way to get the desired results. And it’s time to do just that.

Everybody has a story:
Michael Moir, who lived nearby, wrote his own obituary after learning he was terminal. In part, it read: “I decided to write this myself so I could be humorous one last time. I attended St. Mary’s grade and high schools and I believe I was labeled as ‘the boy who had ability but no ambition.’ I spent four years at King’s College, Senunas’ Bar & Grill and McDermott’s and, in those formative years, I think I got a true grasp of who I was. [Of his band] …the formation of what was to become ‘Tom Slick and the Converted Thunderbolt Greaseslappers.’”

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Marching On In

Cold out tonight. I just went over to the newspaper at 1:30 a.m. to pick up the copies I need as they came off the press. We’d had a run of fairly warm weather (mid-30s to mid-40s) and gotten used to it real fast. But it didn’t stay around long and now it’s dipped down again. Not only that, but there’s more snow coming, a “winter mix,” as they like to put it. Rain, snow, maybe some sleet.

March usually comes in like a lion, but this year it’s coming in like an igloo.

Off-topic point of information: Mom and I went to the Arctic a few years back and the natives told us there are no such things as igloos. “The first time we saw one was in a Hollywood movie,” an Inuit told us, “and we laughed ourselves silly.” They do have little windbreaks made out of ice chunks when they are fishing or waiting for whales to appear.

Back to Pennsylvania. The weather people said the temps would be going up and down this winter, much like a rollercoaster. They sure got that one right; up one week, down the next, then back again. In a way, it’s good because it makes for a more controlled melt in Binghamton and Elmira NY. We should care about them? Yup; what melts there passes by here two days later. The river these last four days has been pretty steady at just over two feet, moving about 6,000 cubic feet of water per second, down from the average of 10,000 cubic feet this time of year. So we wish our friends upriver warm days and cold nights. We can handle only 41’ down here before the dikes overflow and Main Street becomes a hot spot for canoe rentals.

Friday, February 23, 2007

We Wrote The Encyclopedia Britannica

Cats did not, nor did ants. I never saw a dog going over proofs for a book or reading a magazine. Whales and dolphins are smart, but they never went to the moon. So there.

We also wrote the theology books and, since the victors write the history books as they wish, we have decided who survives bodily death. Us, that’s who. Not a single Seeing Eye dog will be reunited with the person it aided, no soaring eagles will grace heaven, the mighty oak will rot into the forest ground. We wrote the book, we decide what gets into it.

There’s a little problem with that, of course. It’s called “our pride” and “God is running the joint.” The creator of life just might have other plans and that might include all those creatures who have been given the gift of life. Humans, birds, dogs and cats, eagles, ants and, yes, trees and grass. If it lives, that’s because it shares in the life of the creator of life. Why shouldn’t that life continue?

Our books once put the center of the universe as Greece, the sun and stars revolving around us. It wasn’t until Edwin Hubble started messing around in 1926 that we discovered there are a lot of other groups of stars and they don’t particularly give a rat’s ass about Greece.

I’m willing to bet a heavenly cup of tea that we will find every bit of God’s living creation joining us, alive and conscious in their own way, glorifying the Person who brought them into creation. God will correct the books we wrote. We meant well.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What's Up, Docs?

My cruise ticket arrived today, along with everything else that goes along in the packet. Together, they’re called “travel documents,” or “travel docs.” They are the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the cruise ship.” I think my walk-in closet is called a “stateroom,” and is located on Deck 6, inside. Way inside.

In the packet: The Wine Navigator, allowing me to see the choices of, of course, wines. I don’t remember seeing any prices and perhaps that’s all for the best.

There’s a thick booklet with all the shore excursions and dollar signs indicating the approximate prices. All the way from $ (up to fifty dollars), through $$ and $$$ to a maximum of $$$$ (over a hundred fifty).

There’s also a 13-page contract which includes, among other little facts of cruise life, that the company can, without our approval or compensation, use recordings (audio or video), still pictures or drawings of us for retail sale, marketing, promotional, publicity or training activities.

What else could I want, you ask? To be bumped, I reply; that’s what. I didn’t want an April trip, but at the time of booking, nothing else worked. I’m told the ship is full, which means they may need to bump someone and my travel agent already volunteered me. If they need someone who can wait six months (me! me!), I can get the fall cruise I originally wanted and the line will compensate me nicely. That’s what’s up, doc.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

We begin the solemn observance of Lent on this Wednesday. This, as we know, marks the start of seven weeks until I take my cruise, three days after the Lord has risen. HALlelujah. (That spelling is a sort of in-joke for those who sail with Holland America Line.)


Our street was plowed – finally! The city initially came by after the first four inches and gave a perfunctory pass with a plow, then that was it for the next ten inches. After six more days, the crew was out there working. Our crew; the college crew. Where are the city guys? Certainly not goofing off, as this has been a difficult storm for them. But they weren’t in this block of North Franklin and, generally, they aren’t. It’s become too customary that they will give one quick shove and then the college has to clean the street after the storm is over.

We should charge them: in exchange for doing this, nobody has to feed the parking meters for the, oh, next month. Without us, there would be no access to the meters until sometime in May. I’ve never driven a front-end loader, one of the few vehicles that has, so far, escaped my control. I wouldn’t mind spending a couple hours bringing the street down to pavement, widening it from one poorly-plowed lane out to a wide lane and double-sided parking. I also wouldn’t mind the city paying me the going rate for doing the job. I bet it would help out on the cost of my next cruise.

There are three streets inside the college campus that the city “forgets” it has. I could make some easy money that way. Hmmmmm.

Everybody has a story.
Edward Carty, former local resident, passed away Sunday. He had responsibility for the Titan I through IV launch vehicles, the Multiple Docking Adapter on Skylab, the Manned Orbital Laboratory and the Mars Viking Landers.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

1 Out Of 10

I have no idea how many Catholic men started out as altar boys. It’s not a lot, given how many kids are in church pews and how many are up front. One in a hundred? Maybe not that many?

Back in the ‘50s, I was a soda jerk at the local drugstore. I made up the sodas, the ice cream delights (milk shakes, frosteds, floats) and whatever else we do. I don’t know how many kids lived out where I was, but there were only three or four of us who did this. It was quite the job. Another one in a hundred?

I also delivered newspapers out there. Only five of us did that, so you can see it was another of those “one in x” jobs.

How many kids out in this small village were altar boys, soda jerks and paperboys? I think I was the only triple-threat, so that made me “one in the total population,” small as it may have been.

I found out tonight that 1 in 10 people have worked at McDonald’s. That means a couple of things: It is, over a period of time, one of this country’s major employers … or, 9 out of 10 people have the good sense to find another job.

I never was part of that 1 out of 10. I wonder how many politicians were? Celebrities? Other famous people in one line of work or another? Will we ever have a President or candidate who started working at “Mickey D’s”?

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Neighborhood Bar

I was walking along, keeping my eye open for anything worth looking at, and noticed some paw prints in the snow. Nothing particularly unusual and not worth a second glance but, huh?, there’s a second set coming from another direction and both are headed the same way. As are several others. They meet at a tree, one specific tree, near the side of a house.

Have I discovered the neighborhood bar, the hangout for the local dogs? I know they like to mark their spots and what they leave behind gives all sorts of information to the other dogs. So is this the tree they have chosen for their local bulletin board, the table where they meet to exchange gossip, to check up on each other?

Apparently so. There weren’t a lot of prints, but they all headed this way and it’s how the critters keep in touch.

Another possibility is that they could have been squirrels who know which branches will take them where they want to go. This tree trunk will bring you up to branches that will connect with that roof, or to another tree that connects to a telephone wire which will bring you to another tree, etc. Why scamper through snow when the overhead will take you where you are going in relative comfort?

So, we have our two choices: The Doggie Bar and Grill, where you meet and greet your old friends, carry on good conversation, or The Squirrel Expressway to all points.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Rock-A-Bye Your Baby

I sit here in my front window listening to a couple of people trying to get their SUV out of a snowbank. Apparently, the recommended way is to put your foot on the gas pedal and stand on it. It doesn’t work, but that seems to be what the driver thinks is right.

A previous occupant of the snowbank on this side of the street, in a regular car, had much the same idea earlier today. Spin the driving wheels until you have melted the snow and ice beneath them, and then take off. That didn’t work either.

Seems as if neither of them ever heard of rocking the car. They both had plenty of room in their tire paths to do it. Back and forth, a little gas here, a little “drive” and “reverse” there, keep it up and suddenly you’re free.

Maybe it’s a guy thing: I am going to overcome this object with sheer power. I am not going to resort to gentle tactics. I will take down the brute on my own. I know from experience that a gal thing is, “I don’t need your help,” or, “My husband told me not to let anyone drive the car,” or, “My boyfriend will get mad if anyone helped me.”

If you only treat the car and the snow as your friends, who are having a temporary little spat – a little turf battle – then you can resolve the difficulty with ease. You just talk to the car as you are rocking it and giving it just a little gas, you let it feel the ridge of snow a few times so it’s not scared to go over it and into the road. You rock-a-bye your baby and with one final kick on the gas pedal, you’re onto the road and off to another adventure.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

E-mail Received From Nigeria

Dear Friend, I am writing to you, following the impressive information received about you from the chambers of commerce.

Pretty neat; we don’t have one. We do have a Chamber of Business and Industry, but that’s beside the point.

I discovered an abandoned sum of U.S $12.5m US dollars

Huh?? Somebody talkin’ to me?? Keep on, keep on!

in an account that belonged to one of our foreign customer who died along with his entire family on the Concorde plane crash.

The last one of these I got was a car crash in Nigeria and at least had my correct last name on it. This one is the Schranner family. My condolences to all these wiped-out millionaire families.

I decided to make this business proposal to you, so that the bank can release the money to you as the relation to the deceased for disbursement. I agree that 35% of this money will be for you as foreign partner.

They are going to give me $4,375,000 and think I am going to disburse it? The only people who would see that money are named “Holland America Cruise Line.” The rest can suck eggs; I’m just as crooked as these Nigerians.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Friday That Was Saturday

It’s Friday … at least, I think so. Feels more like Saturday around here, what with school being closed for two days, then on a compressed schedule for the third. You sort of lose the time lock you have on the week. Even tonight, I was going to watch the first few minutes of “Saturday Night Live,” when I realized I was a day early. SNL only runs on S and today is F. It’s not FNL.

So I don’t have to get up for church tomorrow morning. I know, it doesn’t sound too pious to say this, but I’m just as happy to sleep in. At least I can do it without feeling like a pagan. Sunday, well, that will take care of itself; I’ll be there as usual.

It’s like having an extra day thrown into the week. The Friday that was Saturday, a day to get other things done because regular activities were called off for two days.

I guess it will take us a while to become accustomed to living in eternity. There aren’t any clocks there; it’s not a matter of it being a long time, but of being no time. We won’t have days and months and years and centuries – just “now.” What time is it? Now. How long have we been here? Now. When is “now” going to be over? Now never is over.

That would be neat: an endless sunny Saturday on a medium-warm June day. The sun never sets, we have nowhere to go, there is loads of time to converse and meet new people. The endless Saturday.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


This recent snow storm has been quite an inconvenience for me. Living on a hill means being extra careful in how I walk down it (more dangerous and difficult than walking up). I don’t want to make any false trips down to the office; it’s a ten-minute round trip in this kind of weather and slippery, besides.

I decided not to go over and pick up the newspapers at press run time last night and might not do it tonight. There might be no parking in the high school’s faculty lot next to the paper and my car’s brakes act oddly when stopping on snow. I can do it ok, but I’d rather not be going downhill (which I have to; we’re at the top of one).

I could walk over; it’s not that far. But not all the sidewalks are cleared and I don’t want to be plodding along in the road keeping an eye out for cars.

Route 81 runs north and south of the city just to the east of us. It was closed off yesterday and closed off again today. During today’s shutdown, hundreds (I heard thousands) of cars and trucks were stuck. Some people were trapped there for 17-20 hours and, as I write this at 1:00 on Friday morning, many may still be there. Pretty bad way to spend the better part of a 24-hour period.

So I’m here, fairly comfy in my little universe with the worst-case event being nothing more than how I might get over to the newspaper a few blocks away. Even that is optional. There’s not much to complain about in my snowy winter life; I could be stuck on 81. It’s silly to complain about such small things.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Media Hype

“Media hype,” someone said yesterday. “It’s all media hype. They just like to frighten us. It helps their ratings. I never believe a bit of it. There’ll be hardly anything, you just wait and see.”

When I went in for lunch this noon, I said, “Anyone know how many inches of media hype we have out there so far?” Let me say this, you can get some dirty looks when you try that.

I once knew a guy who said, “When I heard the tv weather man, I dress for exactly the opposite of what he says. I have never been wrong.” Well, pardon me; I should have told him not to take an umbrella when the guy predicted heavy rain, to wear a light jacket when sub-freezing temps were expected.

No matter what we do for a living, we always seem to know more than the weather people. I’d bet anything if they told us how to do our job, we’d let them know where to get off.

Weather guy: “I wouldn’t use that particular chemical formula for the mixture.”
Chemist: What the **** do you know about chemistry? Stick to the weather.”
Weather guy: “You act as if you know more about weather than I do, so I thought I’d try the same thing with your job. Use more nitric acid there."

We might end up with ten inches of media hype by the time this is over.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The North Wind Doth Blow

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor dormouse do then, poor thing?
Rolled up like a ball,
In his nest snug and small,
He'll sleep till warm weather comes in.
Poor thing!

The North Wind Doth Blow and We Shall Have... Porridge!

Three takes on a familiar first verse. As for me, I’ll take the last of them, made with water and no sweetener, raisins, dried cherries and chopped walnuts. On a cold day, there is nothing –absolutely nothing- like it. Cook it to more dry than wet, make a cup of tea to go with it and you are set for the afternoon or evening.

I don’t know where robins go during the winter. South? I don’t remember seeing them around our yard back home. They are carnivorous, rather than seed-eaters and, since the worms are far into the frozen ground, early bird or not, there would be none to pull out and devour.

Same with our friend the dormouse; it’s a European beast, perhaps as a big as a squirrel at best and, as a rodent, will find its own hiding-place with no difficulty at all.

But for us, as I write this (2:42pm) the first flakes of a possibly big storm have just begun to fall.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Cat Is Knitting A Sweater

When I have shared custody of the cat, she has her favorite hang-out spots in my apartment. There are several, most of them having pieces of a brick-colored blanket I saved from being justly thrown away. But cut properly, they are her resting places.

They are also her fur drop-offs. Imagine a room full of Goodwill or Salvation Army boxes. But instead of old clothes, these rug scraps are collection baskets for kitty fur. Depending on the season, or change of seasons, it can be lots of kitty fur.

Dutifully, I take the lint brush to it and after I’ve made my rounds, I have a fairly healthy amount. It ends up in the wastebasket, but you have to wonder if there isn’t something better to be done with it.

I have this idea, perhaps more of a fantasy, that I can get the cat to knit a sweater while I’m at work. Instead of just lying there sleeping in the sun, she could be making herself useful and cleaning up her discarded fur at the same time.

Then we market it: “Sweaters Par le Chat” - Sweaters by the cat. You, too, can wear the same fur coat as your dear kitty; be as warm and snug as your little furball.

Then, having made your fortune, you can retire to a proper mansion where proper maids can bring proper meals to the two of you. Sweaters Par le Chat has become a world wide sensation and it all began as you swept off her window perch with a lint brush.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

It Was Easier To Spot Criminals Then

I remember in my younger days how much easier it was to spot criminals.

In the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip, for instance, you could pick out the Communists because they always called each other “Comrade.” Easy call.

Dick Tracy’s villains had strange features. The Mole looked pretty much like a mole, right to his nose. “Nothing” Yonson didn’t have any facial features, with a cigar stuck in where a mouth might be. Pruneface, well, self-explanatory.

Superman fought people who just looked like thugs; Batman had his odd group to deal with. But I think Superman’s villains had bigger, fuller chins.

In the cowboy movies, of course, it was white hats and black hats. No problem there and it helped us in our younger years when we might not understand all the dialogue. Also, the bad guys tended to look rougher than the hero.

Even when you were being tempted, there were two figures on your shoulder; one in white with a halo and another, in red, with horns. Guess who’s the bad guy.

Dick Tracy may be around and dealing with the odd guys; Annie may still be going with her villains and the strange bunch who kept an eye on her (Daddy Warbucks, The Asp, Punjab and Sandy the dog). The last western I heard of was about two gay cowboys and I don’t think white or black hats was the issue.

Sing A Song Of Saturday

A little late again getting this written and posted. So let’s say it’s still Saturday on “Things at King’s,” even though the clock and calendar both inform us that it’s really Sunday in the real world.

Curse ye, Real World! Ye clocks and watches, calendars and phases of the moon!

Let us sing a song of Saturday.

This is the day the Lord hath made, let us be glad and rejoice in it. Let us put off our wristwatches, let us turn our timepieces to the wall. Let us not look at television schedules, nor gaze upon the hours of meal times.

Let us be free of time constraints, eat when we are hungry, play when we wish, nap at moments when our brains tell us they would like a few minutes off. Let us worry not about the passage of the sun ‘cross the sky, the immediacy of whatever we are told we can do now.

Let us sing a song of Saturday.

Before we enter into the eternity of happiness, where neither calendar nor clock abides, let us prepare ourselves by occasionally wiping our slate clean on this seventh day of the week. With no place to go and nothing pressing to do, we can see what lies in store for us and, perhaps, moderate our hurried pace here below.

Friday, February 09, 2007

It's Friday And Here's Sunday's News

A friend of mine had his picture in the newspaper, so I cut it out for him. He reads the papers rather closely and said, "That’s odd; I didn’t see this today.” It was a Friday and I said, “Oh, that’s in Sunday’s paper.” He gave me what I think one could consider an odd look and I explained that, as I work as a newspaper columnist, I get the Sunday pre-prints on Friday.

Much of what is in the Sunday newspaper is undated: wedding, anniversary and birth announcements; people shown standing left to right; senior citizens news; upcoming events of all kinds; correspondents’ columns from the boonies; editorials, letters and op-ed pieces. The tv section comes in on Friday, as well, from our other newspaper in a nearby city.

The only things that need to be in the "A" and "B" sections are news and sports. At our paper, those are the only sections printed on Saturday night. The color magazine section has been sitting there for two weeks, as have the comics. The whole insert package has been put together early and they are bundled and ready to go for the individual contract drivers, who pick up their news and sports sections as they come off the press and through the bundling machine.

The mailing room garage, which looked like an overstuffed refrigerator on Friday morning, is reduced to piles of bundles on Saturday afternoon. By 4:00am on Sunday morning, there’s hardly anything left except for a half-dozen pallets of pre-prints for the week’s runs and maybe something for next Sunday.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Then The Turkey Ran Down The Aisle

The great people take on great challenges: marathon running; spending vacation time working in the poorest of countries; getting drunk and bungee jumping. Mine is trying to write around improbable sentences.

Some years back, I thought it would be neat to start a paragraph in the middle of a story with, “Then the turkey ran down the aisle.” No particular reason and that sentence had no meaning of itself. It just seemed like a neat thing to put in the middle of a story.

So I did. Then I had to figure out how to explain it, especially since the aisle was in a DC-3. I wrote a story and then worked the turkey into it, for that sentence only.

Ok, so my story wasn’t a cure for cancer, or the Great American Novel. But it was a fun challenge and I think we need fun challenges. Like the watermelon.

I was doing news at some radio station and there was a story about a watermelon seed-spitting contest. Distance, accuracy, jumping up and spinning backwards, over the shoulder, etc. I nearly got through it before completely breaking up.

One of my constant challenges is to see how little I can pack for my vacation cruises. I’ve been able to go for 14 days with one carry-on. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t go. It takes careful planning on just what I really need, along with which ties will match all the shirts, and things like that. People ask, but I just smile kindly and avoid a direct answer.

I Thought It Was Around Here Somewhere

Despite the date tag above, this is actually Wednesday’s blog.

Get some water for tea, maybe use the toilet, wash the dishes. Uh… there’s no water? Yeah, no water. Now you have to think in advance about everything you are going to do, because we use it so often and for so many things. In this case, it was because of a water main break in the middle of a cold snap that resulted in the ordinary precautions (sinks left dripping) no longer working.

It’s one of many things that work without our noticing it. Or, when it’s not working right, then we do notice it. Stomach problems; we eat and drink through the day, with meals and snacks, and never think about it. But when it acts up – that’s when we know it’s there.

I’m writing this because down the river a few miles, some bored guy is (supposedly) watching over the nuke plant which is generating our electricity. I’m looking out the window and there isn’t any glow in the sky, so I guess he’s still awake. We don’t think of it; when I walk into my room, I flip the light switch with no thought of the possibility that nothing might happen. None of us do, until the power is out. Then almost everything in our lives is out.

In the Olden Days, our ancestors got along just fine without eyeglasses. Of course, they weren’t reading so it didn’t matter. But we’re used to near-perfect correction, so when our specs are missing, we suddenly realize how little we thought about them before.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Super Bowl -or- The Big Game?

Some ads encourage you to use their products as you watch the Super Bowl. Others think you’d like their stuff as you enjoy The Big Game. There seem to be more ads for The Big Game or "on game day" than for the Super Bowl.

You have to be licensed to use those two sacred words. They are hot property, trademarked and used only when coin of the realm changes hand. NFL Enterprises prefers all others use wording such as "The Big Game" or the teams’ cities (not their trademarked names, please). Showing it in a public place? One set, 55” screen maximum.

In writers’ magazines, you will generally find an ad placed by Xerox. It doesn’t say much, just something like, "There are two r’s in Xerox. One in the word and one in the circle after it, indicating that Xerox is a registered trademark." The company is working like crazy to protect its word from falling into the public domain. Although the Merriam brothers bought Noah Webster’s dictionary and rights, somehow his name fell into the public domain and anybody can publish a "Webster’s" dictionary. There remains, however, only one Merriam-Webster edition.

Don’t mess with the Styrofoam people. My newspaper ran an article and used that word without capitalizing it. They received a nice letter from Dow Chemical requesting (a) capitalize it or (b) use "foam" instead. Their insulation is colored blue and that is also a trademark; yes, you can protect a color for a specific product, although it appears Sanka has lost the battle with their "orange = decaf" tint.

Monday, February 05, 2007

In Praise Of Cosmic Vacuum Cleaners

How do you clean up a galaxy? What’s going to pick up all the zillions of dust particles, the odds and ends of stars that revolve around the central core? It’s a big place out there, where it takes light 10,000 years just to go up thru the middle and 100,000 years to go from edge to edge. We’re talking some huge frequent flier miles here, folks; this isn’t just a trip to the sun.

Our tool of choice is a larger version of an Oreck vacuum cleaner, called a Black Hole. It has a gravity so great that when anything gets near it, the poor victim (be it dust, star or even light itself) gets sucked in never to be seen again. Where does all this stuff go? And who empties the bag? Those answers we just don’t have. Possibly it spurts out into another universe or another dimension.

It would be nice to have a very tiny Black Hole we could keep in our closet and bring out to clean our houses. The ultimate office shredder. A larger model to be used as a landfill eliminator or to remove large buildings, instead of tearing them down.

Everybody has a story.
Maria Shaw, a local resident, passed away a few days ago. “She was an accomplished ballet dancer. As a member of Ballet Caravan, Maria toured the United States, Canada and South America under the artistic direction of George Balanchine. She lived an interesting and active life. She made 11 trips to India; her most recent was when she was 86 years old.”

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Questions I Wonder About

When I was in grammar school, we used to wonder if nuns had ears. It was back in the days when they were restrained sartorially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. But all we knew was: they may or may not have ears. If they did, and we saw them, was it a sin?

If we went down the street to the beach and dug a really deep hole, would we eventually reach China? Well, we would have to go through an extraordinarily hot core before we came out the other side – in Northwestern Australia. At least by placing my fingers on a globe and seeing where they balance. Not exactly scientific, but close enough to blow the China theory.

What I don’t understand is this: A typical cloud weighs in the neighborhood of 130 tons. Pretty close to the average railroad locomotive. So how does the cloud sail along in the sky, while the locomotive is pretty much glued to the tracks?

Isn’t it something that winter always comes at the coldest time of the year? And summer is always at the hottest time of the year? I’m glad it’s that way, because it’s much too hot to shovel snow in August.

I can’t figure out why people fall for Internet hoaxes and forward everything that comes with an "Urgent! Send this to everyone you know!" on it.

Where can you buy a barrel full of monkeys? I’d like to have as much fun as.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Love Crusades

We had what this group calls a "Love Crusade" today for a fallen soldier who was buried locally. From what I understand, he had saved the lives of several others in some action and, in so doing, was killed himself. Not only did the military turn out, but the volunteer fire department, of which he was a member, also took part in the ceremonies.

So did the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. They’re the people who travel about the country holding what they call Love Crusades. This group, quite small and not really Baptist, taunts the families of the deceased and holds signs saying, "God Hates Fags," somehow connecting the soldiers’ deaths with America’s acceptance of gays.

The virulence of this group is hard to understand. With two of the adult children lawyers, they know exactly what they can and cannot do. They can drive you to great anger, but you cannot react without breaking one law or another.

Where did this all come from? Beats me. Usually, when someone has taken such an extreme position, it indicates some sort of hidden issue in their own life. Such violent hatred of homosexuality might mean the father has this deep down inside. Who knows??

But there will come a day – The Day. When that occurs, as it must for each member of this family church, there will be no fast talking, no legal briefs, no fancy dancing. There will be no "You Are Doomed," or "God Hates Fags" signs. There will only be Jesus pointing out to them his instruction that, "What you did to the least of these, you did to me."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Beautiful Trash

There’s nothing, in my opinion, quite like a plotless blow-up-the-city movie. One was on tonight: “Volcano,” in which Los Angeles has an earthquake, a nearby volcano explodes and huge balls of molten lava land all over the city. There may have been a plot when the story line, such as it is, was written, but I think it got lost in the lava flow and the buildings collapsing. All in all, lots of fun; Los Angeles never looked so good.

Right after that, AMC followed with “The Towering Inferno,” one of my favorite “who cares what the plot is, I just want to see the building burn” movies. Besides, Richard Chamberlain gets to fall 135 floors to his deservedly rotten death; he was responsible for the fire starting in the first place.

They’re ok for fiction, because you know nobody really gets hurt. At the end of the day, they go home and learn their lines for the next day’s filming. It doesn’t bother me when I see some guy catch fire trying to leave his apartment and then falling thru a window 81 floors to the sidewalk below. He gets paid, goes home and watches tv that night.

I also don’t mind The History Channel’s programs on the Chicago gangsters rubbing each other out. Yeah, they’re real people and, yeah, they died of “lead poisoning.” They got shot, blown up, whatever, but they were the worst of crooks who would kill anyone in an instant and it doesn’t bother me to see them sent off to face the Boss of Bosses.

What bothers me? Real people being killed in wars; people in poverty-stricken countries; people being oppressed by the super-rich; dirty, dirty election campaigns.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Where I Find My Books

Life could be worse. At 11:00pm, there’s "The Daily Show," the nightly satirical look at the news, mostly political, with sufficient background so you can also see the hypocrisy of those who vector themselves for power. Its guest list, in the final third, includes the known and the unknown, almost always pitching their books. What’s unusual here is they have a chance to talk about the subject of their books and it’s always something meaty.

At 11:30, "The Colbert Report," a parody of Bill O’Reilly and his "O’Reilly Factor." It’s a quick-moving, smart program with sharp commentary and a good guest in the last seven minutes. Again, a book and good discussion, with plenty of shared laughter between host and guest.

After that, I get the morning newspapers as they are being printed, check with the college’s overnight crew and then stretch out for the night.

The Daily Show and Colbert Report books? I’ve bought some. TDS has become the "go to" place for authors and reports that sales peak the day after an author appears there. I did my part earlier this week when an astronomer came on to talk about the universe and, not so coincidentally, his book. not only had it, but also another which seemed like a good companion. They may be here by the time you read this.

I have to finish my mug of tea, fetch the newspapers and then, as my brother says, "get horizontal."

A Late Wednesday Blog

It's overnight, Wednesday going into Thursday, and I'm tired. My newspaper column's co-writer seems to be approaching the rainbow bridge, which has me down. You can know someone's 94, but when they don't look that age, you figure they have lots of years left on them. One major hospital procedure, however, and all of a sudden the body says, "I'm 94, get real." So the getting real is happening, I'm afraid.

Triumph today: I put a broom together. Ok, it's not a cure for cancer (which, if I had one, my friend would see 95), but when the manufacturer uses a 5/16th head, rather than the common 4/16th (1/4), it's a scramble through the toolbox to find the right drive. Would it have been so difficult to go with a standard size?

I have to get the morning newspapers now (1:10am) and then spend eight hours in the loving embrance of my bed.

Someone once said: "What goes up, must come down."
I say: "Nothing can come down unless it has first gone up."