Saturday, February 28, 2009

What August Did To February

Or so I understand. February had 30 days up until Caesar Augustus wanted another day for his month (guess which) to make it more important and at least equal to that owned by the Caesar known as Julius. That was around 153 b.c., far as I know.

February got knocked around somewhat, having 23 or 24 days from time to time. It, and January, were also the last two months added to the calendar since the Romans were smart enough to just forget winter and not even give it a name. Things ended in December (decem, 10) and started up again in March.

The Roman calendar was 355 days, with a 22-23 day month every second year when they thought of it, which wasn’t that often. So Julius got rid of it and added an extra day to some other months and, hey what the heck, invented another month for himself.

It’s good to be the Emperor.

So now we have the Leapers. Not lepers; Leapers. Leap Year babies and/or adults. Oddly enough, in non-leap years, they can celebrate their birthdays on either surrounding day, but when they reach Imbibing Age, they have to wait until March 1. Sorry.

A tradition is that from St. Bridget back in the 5th century, when she got the hots for St. Patrick and convinced him to allow one that one day when a woman could propose to a man. (He blew her off, so it says here.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Have I Emitted Anything?

We have a wonderful public service announcement that plays on my program occasionally. It’s the “Don’t Pass Gas” spot from the folks who encourage smokers to do it outside. It starts off with people talking just like someone has cut a fart, but it’s actually about the gasses in second-hand smoke.

I was shaking hands with a woman in church the other day and accidentally pulled her finger. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “did she deliberately do that? If so, who gets the blame?”

Anyway, I got my car inspected on February 28, coincidentally the last day I was road legal. Since most of my driving is at night, I probably could get away with it, but there’s no sense in getting nailed during a daylight run to the mall.

Which brings us to the emissions thing. While I understand that we expel gas, personally, about 14 times a day (I guess that’s one way or another), PennDOT does not worry about that; it’s what our car does that falls under their domain.

Once again, since I’ve had this ’98 Cavalier, I’ve been exempted due to having driven less than 5,000 miles during the year. I know athletes who have run farther than that in the course of 12 months, but at least they don’t have to get inspected.

If I did, I’d probably go out on the interstate for a few exits and blow the carbon out of the system and then bring it in. Better that way.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Four-Track Service

I grew up very close to the mainline of the New Haven Railroad, known in those days as the New York, New Haven and Hartford. Laid out in front of me was four-track service, two outside for local (coming and going to NY and NH), and two inside for express and passing tracks.

As I began traveling, I noticed that not every railroad had this abundance of steel. There seemed to be an awful lot of single-track everywhere, even on main lines; occasionally I might see double-track. Even the railroad calendars seemed to note single-track with passing sidings every so many miles.

Darn! Once you moved from the Metro NYC area, railroading became far less impressive. This was very new to me, very much a surprise and a letdown, as well.

“There’s probably no Santa Claus, either,” I said. Well, I really didn’t say it, but the thought might not have been far from my mind. When your favorite railroad and its first-class roadbed “under the wire” (electrified) is elsewhere nothing more than sooty diesels on “slow order” track that needs fixing, you begin to appreciate what you have and 90-mph (or whatever) trains don’t exist everywhere.

Although the New Haven seldom ran them, my favorite little dink was the Rail Diesel Car, the RDC, put out by Budd. It could run single, double or in triple units. It just seemed to be the perfect little doodlebug.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shake Your Ashes

“That's a hot song from the 30's, where every beat is accentuated. But that's not what I'm going to write about after lunch.”

That was this day’s blog tease, but I got real busy and it’s being written on Saturday. It was a long lunch; what can I say? I could be honest and say I never got around to it, because we’re not supposed to lie during Lent … or any other time of the year, for that matter. So I’ll be honest: I got busy and forgot.

As is the Catholic custom, I went to church and had my forehead crossed with ashes that came from the Palm Sunday leftovers, since burned and saved. It’s not magic and does not make me a particularly better Catholic; at best, it’s symbolic of “you came from dust” (ok, that’s not to be taken literally or my sex books were all wrong) “and to dust you shall return” (also not to be taken literally).

But you get the idea: This world is temporary for us. We get 70, 80, maybe 90 years to hang out here and make the best of things. But, guys and gals, keep in mind there is a future we should be considering as time goes along, and it’s not on this particular speck of creation where we happen to be occupying at the moment.

During the day, it’s an “I Believe” symbol of our faith. And not a bad one, at that; it’s visible and even if we decide to rub it off, there’s still that faint cross at the end of the work day. We believe.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

$600 Ride For One Mile

I needed a lift up River Street, about a mile or so. Normally, I could walk or drive but this time they wanted me to take a $553 ride. Well, $545 for the ride and $8.00 for mileage. (You’d think they’d toss in the first mile for free.)

What did I get for half a grand? Lights, siren, people pulling over to the side of the road. Well, I don’t remember lights and siren and I don’t think anyone pulled over; it was more of a transport to General Hospital for someone who had a mild (to me) but scary (to those around me) seizure.

If they had shown up half an hour later, I’d be coherent, sipping on a hot, steaming mug of tea, discussing the finer points of philosophy and whether the Cubs would win the Series. They are, after all, tied for first place the day before the season begins.

All of us “E’s” dread being put into the back of an ambulance. By the time we get to the hospital, the episode is over and we have to find our way home. The hospital people, on their part, are convinced I’m going to fly out of bed and start bouncing off the walls, so they bring in some padding for the sides of what now becomes my cage.

“I don’t need these,” I say. “Policy,” they reply. “Put ‘policy’ over there in the corner, thanks,” I politely say, with a slight bit of sarcasm dripping off the end of my voice.

Sunday pm to Wednesday am; yes, nurse, I am used to having seizures.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Ultimate Global Warming

“It’s clear and twenty degrees at 9:45, and I’ll be here as the temps drop until midnight.” Standard radio talk: as it was in the beginning, is now, and always will be, world without end, amen.

Well, forget the prayer ending, “world without end,” because this one (which the prayer does not refer to) deals with the planet where our buildings stand, upon which cats land regardless of how they fall, where mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.

The sun doth grace us as it shineth forth upon our winter-weary bodies the fruit of its fusion, as heat and light rays that may have been trapped in its interior for a million years finally burst forth and make the eight-minute trip to our outdoor pools.

One of these days, that trip won’t take so long. Maybe a minute, perhaps less.

You see, we’re in deep doo-doo. The sun will be running out of hydrogen and, when that happens, it’s not quite like when your car runs out of gas and sputters to a stop. The sun starts to expand into a red giant. Thus expanding, it takes out Mercury, then Venus disappears. The good news? We don’t! We’re saved from destruction.

But everything on the planet is so close to the sun by now that it’s nothing but ashes, and I think even the ashes burn. Earth survives, so to speak, as a burned-out piece of coal when the sun then collapses on itself. Global warming wasn’t so bad.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Steeple For Sale, Church Included

Our diocese is having a fire sale on churches. You want one? Come up with the cash, prove it won’t be used for satanic worship, topless dance halls or yet another well-beloved tavern. Papers signed and transfer completed.

Them Who’s In Charge has shut down almost half the churches and now needs to find buyers for buildings which look amazingly like houses of worship. Not much you can do with them. One has become a funeral parlor; another is on a piece of prime real estate with plenty of land on a major highway and you can bet Wal-Mart is out there with a measuring tape and the church lawyers as we speak.

“Alternate worship sites” will keep the places tax-free until the last possible moment when the “Please Join Us For Worship Across Town” sign goes up and “Future Site Of Super K-Mart” is right next to it.

Some churches are struggling to stay open, while others do rather well ministering to their congregations and are stable. It’s a painful and, perhaps, curious process with its breakdown in communication. What is necessary has been alienating.

You don’t run the buses if people aren’t riding; you don’t keep stores open if people aren’t patronizing. The Catholics who opted out of active membership, for whatever reason, have not only brought this on themselves, but also on their descendants who have to live with the drop-outs’ decision.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Largest Rock I Ever Saw

Outside my dining-room window is the sheer face of a steep hill, maybe three stories high, with an exposed face. I look at it often and think, “I am sitting on part of this rock right now; I am on the outside of a planet.”

You see, I could not say this on Jupiter, as it has no surface; at least, not one worth talking about. It’s a gas giant (no smart remarks, guys) and when you crash into it, you are diving from no atmosphere into a fluffy fog, then into something resembling rain, then a little thicker. Maybe the interior is something akin to Jell-O that never quite set. It’s not like Earth, where it hurts when you fall off the roof.

Seems to me I wrote earlier about digging a hole and coming out in China. Well, if you go to Wikipedia and enter “Antipodes,” you will see that only in Argentina and Chile can you do that. Us’n? The best we here on the Coast that is East and north of the Confederacy is more or less near the Kerguelen Islands.

Never been there? Well, dig a big hole, stick your head out of it and look around. Tasmania is to the east, India is to the north and Antarctica is not that far to the south. To the west is the southern tip of Argentina and from *there* you can dig a hole to China.

We are, as I mentioned above, on this big hunk of rock that is racing along on its orbit around the sun. There’s another big rock which will skim by us closely rather soon and even closer after that. Then maybe Jesus comes again.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Going Where You Will Want To Went

How would you add up your life at this point? What you have done of which you are proud, what you would like to accomplish in the future?

I fulfilled my teenage dream to be a dj on several radio stations, in the news department of some and even on the Metropolitan Opera radio network. I passed my FCC engineer’s exam and hold the highest Amateur Radio license. At one point (and maybe still), I was listed in Who’s Who In Entertainment.

Taught myself piano at 21, I did; was taught trumpet at 37. In between, I learned Braille and have narrated over 500 talking magazines.

Why all the puffery? Because this is part of what I have written up for my obituary and I hope those who end up printing it will use as written. I’m proud of those things and would like them remembered. They were part of a “laundry list” I’ve had in the back of my mind for many years, always adding to it. This blog has been another, tho recent, and I will have other plans yet to be discovered.

I read once that “When you get into your thirties, either you develop new energies, or you die.” I don’t want to shrivel up with my life in the past, but to find new ways of expanding it. Some will be (and have been) for the better and others for the worse; I’ve swung and connected … I’ve swung and struck out. But I swung and didn’t stay in the stands eating hot dogs, drinking beer and watching.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Anti-Bad Luck Society

I never knew there was an “Anti-Bad Luck Society” until yesterday, when I ran into it while reading the latest issue of Scientific American. Seems as how the magazine wrote something about it in their issue of March 1859.

My thanks to them, as I wasn’t there at the time.

They noted the proposition held by “some brave Frenchmen” to the effect that to prove a superstition as nonsense is simply bold defiance.

I know that, you silly scientists. Walked under ladders, broke a mirror, let a black cat cross my path – and I’m still here.

It is “bad luck,” they tell us “everybody knows,” to begin anything on a Friday (so they will have regularly have dinners on that day), to sit down at a table with 13 (the number of guests at said dinners – a twofer, I guess), or to spill salt between yourself and a friend (which they will do all around during dinner -- a threepeat).

The piece is small and does not mention mirrors, cats of color black, ladders and other implements of misfortune. Did they drag all of this into the dining room of disaster?

I tried running this through Google, but all I found were four references: Two for the pre-posting of this blog and two for Scientific American.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Deadly Accurate

The obituary editor of the New York Times … do you yes, or do you no, want this on your resumé? How do you describe yourself at an otherwise jolly cocktail party? What sort of small talk do you make at church dinners?

Bill McDonald has what he calls an interesting job at the Times.

“This is probably one of the only newspaper editing jobs in the country in which you have to think like an actuary. So age, yes; health, yes; external risk factors, yes (a well-known mobster might get one earlier in the game).

“But we also have to be mindful of not writing the obit prematurely. I mean we don't necessarily want to write the advance obit while the subject is still in full flower. We'd rather write about them when their essential work — that which they'll be remembered for — is done. Otherwise the obit is likely to require a rewrite 10 years down the road. Why bother now?

“The risk, of course, is lightning, the proverbial bus, a chance encounter with a shark or sudden illness.

“But prominence is also a major consideration. We wouldn't necessarily wait for an ex-president of the United States to write his memoirs before assigning the ‘advance.’ We might jump on that one while he's in office, just in case.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

That Which Makes Us Infallible

Some people believe the Pope is infallible; when he catches a cold, Catholics are supposed to sneeze. If he says the world is square, Catholic are supposed to fall off the edge. If he says “this,” then “that” is a mortal sin.

Ok, maybe and maybe not. You look through the history (“Rome Has Spoken” is a great book for comparing and contrasting Papal “you gotta believe” edicts). Be that as it may.

But you want to find infallibility, the real kind, just go to a party or a tavern where The Real Stuff is being served. No need to visit the Vatican to hear the old man give his opinion; you can get it straight from the bottle.

Someone once referred to alcohol as “that which makes us infallible,” and he sure got it right. Religious leaders, of whatever type, are pikers compared to the combination of a slightly pent-up angry person, an audience of at least one, and a bottle of firewater.

Then it all comes together. He holds his glass in one hand, says things like, “Let me tell you what’s REALLY going on here,” and then starts pointing his finger at you.

Everything comes out twice, a little harder to understand as the minutes slowly pass, as you realize you are stuck. You are in the worse possible situation: agree with this person or the temper (temperature?) rises, the infallibility quotient goes up with it and you wish you had a camcorder for the next morning.

Monday, February 16, 2009

President's, Presidents', Day

Whither the apostrophe?

It used to be President’s Day, as I recall: The president in question being Washington, George. It was his, singular, so the apostrophe went before the “s.” And thus did the tradition of automobile sales begin and the curiosity (at least on my part) as to the possibility of carriage sales in the late 18th century.

Then Abraham (or Abe, to his friends and fellow lawyers) came along with his own birthday but ten days apart. Generals with stripes have rank over log-splitting lawyers, so the two became combined.

Thus, Presidents’ Day. Apostrophe after the “s.” Happy now, presidents?

Being happy in heaven probably makes the issue quite unimportant to the Commanders-in-Chief. But not to PC’s-in-Chief down here, who decide just which people deserve to be victims and which don’t care.

Victims win; grammarians lose.

It’s now “Presidents Day.” Washington shares his founding skills with Warren Harding; Lincoln’s union-uniting with Bush-43’s division, Teddy Roosevelt’s robust health with John Kennedy’s constant war-related disabilities.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Best Judges Money Can Buy

Welcome to Luzerne County. When the FBI gets finished here, only the courthouse janitor will be found innocent, and everyone in the county will be disheartened enough to keep from voting for their replacements.

One judge we knew was corrupt; another we thought was honest; then there was a trip to Las Vegas for honorable reasons which cost us money the participants should have charged themselves, including (I’m pretty sure about this) a stop at some strip joint.

Then this, then that, then the next thing.

The newspapers made noise, but these people’s defenders came out with their favorite phrase: “Liberal Media.” Once again, the liberal media is destroying our way of life, our judges, our legal system. I’m not all that convinced the media is liberal or, if so, it’s all that bad. It certainly couldn’t be as bad as the judge who sent very minor juveniles up the river for months in juvie without benefit of lawyers or, in some cases, even parents.

In today’s “Inquiring Photographer” newspaper feature, I think three people out of five said, “Clear out the courthouse and start over.” The other two were only slightly less definitive in their views, but not by much.

Can we trust the people who are now running for office? Or will they be just as crooked as those who are going to jail? It’s still Luzerne County.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The World's Smallest Altar Girl

Memories of my days as an altar boy: An altar girl whose feel could not reach the floor as she sat there. A tiny little thing with her sister on the other side of the priest.

I began serving Mass as soon as I could fit into the smallest cassock we had out where I lived. When that joyous day came around, I began joining my brother and a very few others (we lived in an isolated area). This was probably around 1950 and not long after I was asked to help at two Masses, as there were only three of us to fill four slots.

Anyway, this little girl and her sister did a good job, although reaching up to the top of the altar was about as high as she was capable. I watched her and thought, “Was I that small once?” Yes, you were that small once.

That small, but not quite that serious. There were two others from the west end of town, roughly four or five streets away (but where we lived, that was pretty much toward the west end, defined as anywhere beyond the general store). We could get into all kinds of trouble without much problem, but I won’t get into detail here; fifty years has not lessened the grossness of our remarks.

Let’s just say that, if Jesus welcomed the little children into his midst, he must have also appreciated the funny things the kids came out with. I hope he laughs when the three of us appear before the throne to have our lives reviewed. Sure, it’s a serious moment when we come to worship, but it’s also a celebration.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Grammar School Friends

The St. James family: a Catholic school which struggled to stay alive, much less grow, in its earliest days. We had “Scotch” tape with numbers running through it, no doubt left over from some factory; if we needed a protractor or some other circle-maker for class, they came from the round top of a milk bottle. The playground was the dead-end street behind the school. The cafeteria? Bring your own sandwiches, sit on one bench and put them on the bench in front of you.

That’s how Catholic schools were in those days. For the pupils and the nuns, we formed a family which stayed together over the years.

Three days ago, Mary Lou Dinan passed away; the cutest girl in the class went to her reward. As I read her obituary, it appears she was not only cute, but also was very kind and giving: an EMT, library volunteer, Red Cross helper.

I used to think she was way above me, her father being a physician and having any boy she wanted. Now I wonder about that; I’m willing to bet she went for whoever was the best match, the person who would be as generous with life as she was. Maybe I should have tried harder (!).

Losing a grammar-school classmate is, to my mind, a lot different from losing any other person of the same age. Here is someone you grew up with, you were school family, you began your learning process. We’ll see you sometime.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just Can't Hold It Any Longer

Sometimes I wonder what we would do if someone invented the universal solvent. A liquid, I suppose, that would dissolve anything it touched.

The initial problem, of course, would be where we might store it. Even at the moment of its creation. If it’s the universal solvent, there’s no container capable of containing it.

So first we’d have to figure out how to store it. No glass, no metal, no plastic, no dirt, no natural or artificial bottles, cans, insulated barrels. Eventually, no matter how thick the container, the universal solvent cuts through.

My theory: Use electrical currents, plasma, anything which has no physical properties. That way, once we invent something which will dissolve everything, we now have a way of keeping it “on the shelf.”

Why would we want such an item? I haven’t the faintest idea. There’s always been a concept of “How can we store a universal solvent?” Given a hypothetical situation like that, I present an equally hypothetical solution.

Now that we supposedly have the container, we can invent the product. When the time comes that we can roll out the production line, it’s time to find the use.

Just don’t get any on your hands. Or anywhere else.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This Stuff Tastes Like Piss

“Does your Pepsi lack pep? Is your Coke not the real thing? India's Hindu nationalist movement apparently has the answer: a new soft drink made from cow urine.”

(This is just one more reason I am really, really happy about having given up soft drinks a long time ago. Sugar’s no good for you; carbonation means it just goes right through, in one end and out the other. Now we have to worry about cow piss.)

“Om Prakash said, ‘Don't worry, it won't smell like urine and will be tasty too.’"

(I bet; gives a new meaning to, “This stuff tastes like piss.” Now it really will.)

“Hindus revere cows; cow urine and dung are often consumed in rituals to ‘purify’ those on the bottom rungs of the Hindu caste system and people began promoting cow urine as a cure for ailments ranging from liver disease to obesity and even cancer.

“Mr. Prakash said his drink would be ‘cheap,’ and insisted that it would be able to compete with the American cola brands, even with their enormous advertising budgets. ‘We're going to give them good competition as our drink is good for mankind,’ he said.

"We may also think of exporting it."

(From the London Times online.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Do You See What I See?

(CNN) When Julian Asher listens to an orchestra, he doesn't just hear music; he also sees it. The sounds of a violin make him see a rich burgundy color, shiny and fluid like a red wine, while a cello's music flows like honey in a golden yellow hue. Asher, a researcher at Imperial College London, has a rare condition called synesthesia, a neurological condition in which people experience a mixing of their senses. People with the condition may see colors and movement in numbers, words or sounds.

(>>Don’t I know. Numbers, letters, words, sounds; they all combine in a garden of colors and a symphony of sounds. Yellow is a bright, sparkling flute and what I see in the written word “chemistry.” Purple, “15” and “Thursday” are all the same.<<)

As many as 1 percent of people have synesthesia, studies say. Researchers looked exclusively at auditory-visual synesthesia, the kind where sound triggers color. Brain scans have shown that people with synesthesia seem to have "cross-wiring" between brain regions: visual areas of the brain were activated in response to sound in people for whom sound triggers color.

When he was a child, Asher would go to the symphony with his parents and assumed that the lights went down so that everyone could see the colors better. "I mean, why else would they do it?" he said. I said, 'Oh, they turned the lights off so you could see the colors,' and they had no idea what I was talking about, and that's when I realized that they didn't see what I saw," he said.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Odds Are 6 Million To One

We have a lot of problems with the local bishop, but at least he believes in the Holocaust. On the other hand, British Bishop Richard Williamson feels he needs more proof and a little more time to think about it. (Approximately his words.)

Late-night satirist, and devout Catholic, Stephen Colbert said the Bishop can believe that a man rose from the dead 2,000 years ago, but can’t believe that six million Jews were methodically killed 60 years ago.

The Person Who Makes The Decisions has decided that religious heresy is basis for excommunication, but a flat-out lie is not. If the bishop in question has renounced his heresy of leaving the church, we can take care of the lie later on.

After he’s had a little more time to think about it.

I could see the Klan saying something like this; a White Supremacist, likewise; they all tend to be somewhat uneducated and followers of whatever rumors and misinformation is going around.

But a bishop … an educated, compassionate person who should (and does) know better, is not the kind of religious leader who should be set loose in front of a congregation. Six million unaccepted dead Jews to one crucified and risen Jew are strange odds for a true believer. But not an anti-Semitic.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

That Kind Of Person

As I understand it, she was the kind of person who, as the airplane was making its final turn over New Jersey, ready to line up for its approach to LaGuardia Airport, took out her house keys. Or so the story goes.

Had a teacher once in grad school; when he erased the blackboard, he never did it in any kind of methodical way. A little bit here, a little bit there, all over the place without any pattern to what he was doing. Had he simply gone line by line, or up & down, the job would have been done in a quarter of the time.

This fellow I knew used to underline passages in books he agreed with, or thought were important. That usually would be most of the book. Then he would double-underline parts which were *really* important. For sections which were doubly, super important, he would triple-underline. For those which surpassed even these, he would then write exclamatory comments in the margins.

My cousin happily glories being “pigs in the parlor” Irish. She just has too much to do and housekeeping isn’t one of her primary talents. I was in her car one day as, facing the sun, she had to drive with her head out the window because the windshield was so dirty. I said, “We’re going to clean this,” and she said, “Oh, don’t worry about it; I drive this way all the time,” and gave an uproarious laugh.

You might as well enjoy them; they’re that kind of person.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Lure Of Elevator Buttons

"You get into an elevator, someone presses a button to go to a certain floor, the button lights up. Another person looks at the button and presses the exact same one! I’ve seen it happen so many times I’m beginning to think there’s something evil about elevator buttons that compels people to push them even when they don’t have to. Either that or people are just idiots." ( blog site)

I was in an elevator once with a slightly-nutty professor who not only kept pushing the button for his floor, but started talking to it. Or all of them; I wasn’t sure. He kept muttering away and I stood as far in the other corner as I could – not an easy job in a very small cab.

When I’m in an elevator and people are going to the same floor, I’ll hit it a couple of times, smile and say, “We’ll stop there twice.”

I worked in a place where the top floor was “key access,” and one person kept his key in the access position, apparently thinking it would get him there faster. Never did understand it and he was not the kind of person you would ask.

My preference is for elevators with open-face lattice doors where you can see the floors passing by. They have gone out of style and all you have now are the closed boxes with nothing to look at. Cruise ship elevators are of the old style, both exterior toward the water and inside; they are fun to ride.

Friday, February 06, 2009

When 40 Was Spring ... Or Winter

It’s going to be 40 degrees! At last it’s warming up!
It’s going to be 40 degrees! That’s really too cold!

Well, depends: Are you leaving a very cold winter, or having the first cool snap of fall? Makes a big difference. This weekend, we will be walking around in light clothes, even though we’d be bundled up a bit if it happened in the fall.

I can remember going to school when +20 was considered a rather seasonable day. I think that February it never got up to nothing, so anything above zero was a luxury.

Right now, my music service ( is playing, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and it sure was this morning. Things are getting better now, but the music remains valid and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s such a nice piece I’d listen to it anytime. A long time ago, when I was a dj somewhere, I played it during a heat wave.

Ray Charles and an uncredited female singer are featured here. Good piece and certainly appropriate. But, as I mentioned above, I’d listen to it anytime.

Perhaps I should keep a note on when the weather breaks 40 and stick it in my calendar along about the fall, then make a note then when we drop down to 40 and see what people (including me) say at that point. Will it be “of course it gets cool now” or will it be “baby, it’s cold outside”?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

It Just Came Up To My Hips

People Who Figure These Things Out have figured this one out: just how warm (or hot, actually) it was around the equator and such places in the long-ago and thankfully nowhere near 2009 times.

You need to have a certain temperature to keep cold-blooded creatures alive. That’s why you won’t see them in the Arctic and/or Antarctic. (The latter not to be confused with Antacid, although it does mean the same thing relative to –arctic and –acid.)

Anyway, long ago (thankfully) and far away (also thankfully) there were these huge giant snakes. You can worry all you want about anacondas, boa constrictors and pythons; these are just garden-variety squeezers compared to what was keeping the barnyard clean in those days.

To support their cold-blooded metabolism, it had to be pretty hot. Given the molt the People Who Figure These Things Out ran into, they have assumed a minimum temp of between 87-90 degrees. Mimimun.

So you are walking along and see a log up to your hip and decide to sit down. The log moves. You move. Hopefully, you move faster than the “log” and 42 feet in front of you the head doesn’t quite catch on that someone has been sitting on it.

It’s a rough life; always has been.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wedding Day Of The Fairies

I use ragtime music at the halfway point in my radio show, bottom of the hour. Just about twenty seconds in and a little more coming out of a feature piece. Nice stuff, gives a little lift to the program and adds about a minute to a short insert.

The music tends to be around 1890-1917, the height of ragtime’s popularity. Scott Joplin was a big name from those days, as well as Charles Johnson (now fairly forgotten). I’m going through an especially good disc by Mr. Johnson and, unlike Scott Joplin, never heard of any pieces he composed.

For instance, “Wedding Day of the Fairies.”

Back 100 years ago, it had a delightful touch about it, these denizens of the forest, dancing about the flowers and open hillsides. What could be more picturesque? I grew up on these imaginative books, as did my mother and her mother before her.

Alas, no more. What you’re likely to get, having mentioned the name of this piece to others, is a snort and perhaps someone’s beer shooting out of their nose.

I miss those days when books had magical, full-page illustrations of fairies in fairyland, of sprites and butterflies, of dragonflies flitting about, of little boys and girls sitting in their leafy bowers. I was one of them, in my imagination, and spent time under my grandfather’s grape arbor with butterflies and fairies.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

From My Head To Yours

So there are words on a sheet of paper, which someone has written, and we read them. That’s quite an accomplishment just by itself. We have figured out what all these marks mean and someone has made the jump from their head to mine.

Then we speak these words to other people, maybe in person, on the radio or tv. It’s another jump, because we have now translated all those marks into sounds and someone is listening for those recognizable groups of noises.

But it’s so imperfect, this paper-to-voice thing. You will hear those words said one way in Maine, another in Boston, quite another just south of Boston, in New York City, in the Ozarks, then Texas and even when my brother gives it a try.

So we adjust our ears. Quickly enough, we realize that “Somebody fat here?” means, in Ohio, it’s a noun and we are looking for a heavy person; south of Boston, it’s a verb and we’re wondering if anybody had too many beans for lunch.

I’ve been to a State Store and I’ve been to a Package Store; it just depends on what state I was living at the time. The State Stores sold hard liquor and were owned by … well, you can guess. The Package Stores were privately owned and you had to take the More Effective Beverages out in a package, rather than consuming them on premises. (A licensed establishment cannot let you take out any containers; the good stuff must be consumed on-site. But we’re off-topic and out of space).

Monday, February 02, 2009

1,000 Blog Posts

April 4, 2006, was nearly three years ago; I understand that, in the blogosphere, many such musings have come and gone since then. The average is about six months, so I hear, and the average number of readers is between one (the blogger) and ten (his or her close friends).

I never did put a counter on this site because I didn’t want to become disappointed or boastful. “Let it run,” I figured, “and like a bus, people can jump on and off where they will.” Maybe there’s the oft-quoted ten, or less, and perhaps there are dozens dropping in on a daily basis. Whoever: welcome to the party.

Let me tell you how I manage this particular spot in the universe:

First, it’s designed to be a quiet, safe spot where we can just walk along a country road and talk about whatever happens to catch our interest at the moment.

Second, I never know what I will write about until I put my fingers to the keyboard. It just flows, this conversation, this monologue in my mind. Spontaneity is a good thing and planning too closely can really mess up the writing process.

Third, I print each week’s output as a record of where I’ve been, what my mind’s been up to. A thousand blogs is 500 pages, but I’ve no interest in holding a book signing at the local B&N. I hope someone will preserve my ramblings when I am gone.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Birds Sing, The Squirrels Scamper

In Africa, the wildebeest hunts its prey, the lion sleeps tonight, wheat grows on the plains of Argentina and rice is harvested wherever rice is harvested.

Multi-unit locomotives are pulling intermodal stack trains from the Port of Los Angeles through the mid-section of these great United States to destinations in the east. Cruise ships sail through the warmer seas.

Fully unaware, the deer skip playfully through the fields and forests of Pennsylvania, attempting not to be one of the 60,000 road kill this year.

Unaware of what?

In Tampa, now Xanadu, did Kubla Khan
a stately pleasure-dome decree.
Where steel Steelers and red-coated Cardinals,
the sacred game ran,
through caverns of commercials
measureless to man.

But there is no joy in Mudville,
Whether Pitts or Ari-Z
— mighty Casey has struck out.