Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Day

5:01:18 PM - Dec 31, 2010

5:03:04 PM - Dec 31, 2010

5:05:06 PM - Dec 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Quartet Of Days

The same brief note as struck by four closely related players:

5:05:00 PM - Dec 27, 2010

5:05:24 PM - Dec 28, 2010

5:04:18 PM - Dec 29, 2010

5:04:54 PM - Dec 30, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry December 27th!

I hope everyone is continuing to enjoy a happy holiday season.

Me? I'm doing better now that Christmas is over.

I can only wonder how much better the season could be if it didn't have Christmas holding it back.

It's not that I hate Christmas, exactly. It's more a case of my having little use for any of the four pillars that it rests on (religion, tradition, materialism, and family). Until people stop sending cards celebrating virgin births and men in red suits and start sending cards encouraging others to read books while sitting quietly in their rooms, this is not likely to change.

Today, though - today is a very different story. It's Louis Pasteur's birthday! WOOO-HOOO!

Despite the fact that it's extremely doubtful that he was born of a virgin, he seems to have done far more for mankind than some "saviors" I could mention.

Here's how Wikipedia sums things up:

Louis Pasteur (December 27, 1822 – September 28, 1895) was a French chemist and microbiologist born in Dole. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases. His discoveries reduced mortality from puerperal fever, and he created the first vaccine for rabies and anthrax. His experiments supported the germ theory of disease. He was best known to the general public for inventing a method to stop milk and wine from causing sickness, a process that came to be called pasteurization. He is regarded as one of the three main founders of microbiology....

To celebrate the birth of this remarkable man, this morning I did what I do every December 27th: I got up early, rushed into my kitchen, poured pasteurized milk on my cereal, and proceeded to eat a breakfast that didn't kill me. Tales of a mythic demigod who allegedly came to earth to save me from a mythic hell just can't begin to compare to that.

And as luck would have it, today is also the day that I first learned about Joanna Southcott. I look forward to the day that her story is known at least as well as that of Mary, Joseph, and the Three So-Called Wise Men.

Here it as (as briefly recounted in Elizabeth and Gerald Donaldson's Book of Days):

Joanna Southcott was a self-appointed prophetress who declared herself to be the foretold woman to whom, by miraculous birth, the Messiah would be born. When she was well over the age of sixty she suddenly appeared to be pregnant, and the numbers and faith of her followers increased dramatically. An elaborate cradle was constructed and over 100,000 converts around London awaited the birth. Instead of bearing the Messiah the poor woman died on December 27, 1814. Her swollen abdomen was caused by a tumor found at an autopsy. Still, numbers of her followers refused to believe she was dead, and took vows not to cut their hair or beards until the child was born.

Now, really, which do you think is a better preparation for life: Stories about flying reindeer and magic stars or stories about the crazy claims of deluded people and the extreme gullibility of those who believe them?

*Suddenly wishing I'd whipped up a batch of hairy cookies to go with my fresh morning milk*

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Never-Ending Story

4:48:40 PM - Dec 25, 2010

5:01:12 PM - Dec 25, 2010

5:05:18 PM - Dec 25, 2010

5:14:16 PM - Dec 25, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Still Waiting For Santa

Was Santa good to you this year?

Did he stop by your home?

Did he bring you something special?

I hope so.

I'm still sitting here waiting for him myself.

Just as I've been waiting for the last 40 years or so.

Do you think I might have better luck if I wasn't waiting for him with a dart gun at the ready?

Oh, well. As nice as any visit from Santa may have been to contemplate when I was a child, I'm afraid that nothing less than a properly darted and bagged Santa will satisfy me now.

I have a lot of questions for the Jolly Old Elf, you see, and at this point I'm far less interested in having my stocking stuffed than I am in getting a few answers.

Here are some of the questions I have in mind. If you see Santa before I do, please share them with him:

Question #1: Is habitual jolliness more a symptom of mental disability or simple ignorance? Since Santa allegedly knows all and sees all, simple ignorance doesn't seem very likely, but it's much more comforting to imagine than a man with a mental disability slipping into my home while I sleep. Perhaps Santa is merely being callous when he Ho-Ho-Ho's his way through a season about as plagued with violence, natural disasters, and heartache as any other? Perhaps human suffering actually increases his jollity?? Let's hope not! But we just won't know unless he finally submits to a proper psychiatric examination, will we?

Question #2: Santa allegedly knows who's been naughty and who's been nice - but what exactly is his definition of naughty? What exactly, in his opinion, constitutes nice? These are pretty vague terms that philosophers and lawyers alike could twist into meaning almost anything they might like. Until Santa indicates precisely what *he* means when he uses these terms and why, I'm afraid we're all left stumbling in the dark as we go through the year hoping for the best. (If Santa continues to refuse to properly define his terms, perhaps it's time for the government to start regulating him as well as all other freelance moral judges.)

Question #3: If Santa does indeed know enough about everyone to render sound moral judgments, certainly he also knows where everyone is - right? So why has he been keeping Osama bin Laden's location secret for the last decade? Isn't that a pretty naughty thing to do by virtually everyone's understanding of the term? If Santa doesn't willingly divulge this information to the proper authorities within the next 60 days, why shouldn't he be subpoenaed and forced to divulge this information under threat of fine and/or imprisonment?

Question #4: Is Santa's habit of leaving socks under our trees a sick little joke or what? I mean, really - has anyone in the history of the world been thrilled to open up a gaily wrapped package and find SOCKS? (Honestly, it's almost as if Santa is secretly BEGGING for the government to step in and regulate his outrageous behavior.)

Question #5: Santa has had centuries to perfect the art of toy making. So why does he keep delivering banal stuff that holds the attention of kids for mere minutes? Why does he persist in handing out crap that breaks within days? I can't recall much of what I got when I was a kid; what I can recall vanished a long, long time ago. Is it too much to ask that he give everyone at least ONE great, durable toy that's capable of providing us with life-long pleasure?

Question #6: Ok, this is The Big One, so my plan is to inject Santa with a potent mixture of sugar plum extract and truth serum before asking it. And I plan on connecting him up to a polygraph machine, too - just so that I can have as much confidence in his answer as possible. The question is this: Why do rich kids find so many more cool gifts under their trees on Xmas morn than poor kids do? Are rich kids *really* that much nicer? Are poor kids that much naughtier? That hasn't been my experience. But if it had, I'd have to wonder if the poor kids who are always getting less cool stuff (or no stuff at all) year after year after year are naughty *because* they're deprived rather than intrinsically inferior and less deserving. If Santa really has the powers ascribed to him, I'd hope that he would help redress the material imbalances that plague human societies rather than make them worse. As it is... well, it pains me to say it, but... Santa seems to me to be the worst kind of conservative. You know - the type that votes for huge tax cuts for the wealthy while slashing aid to the old, the sick, and the homeless. (If it turns out that the Pentagon brass and their kids are getting some of the best gifts of anyone, why doesn't he just legally change him name to Santa Reagan or George W. Claus and end the ruse of being something he's not once and for all?)

I have other questions but it's getting pretty late in the day to squander any more time or energy on them. Best to clean, oil, and store away my dart gun for next year, then get back to normal life before I've wasted yet another Christmas Day on a guy who seems to always have the time to answer even the silliest questions of the millions of children he invites up on his lap but never has a second to spare for even one investigative journalist offering cash, booze, and a hooker in exchange for a brief interview.

*Checking Amazon to see if Rudolph has written his tell-all memoirs yet*

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Flock

About once a year a huge flock of starlings descends on my yard without warning. I missed last year's visit (if there was one), but not this year's (which occurred early Monday afternoon).

As usual, I heard these visitors from the sky before I saw them....

Where did they come from?

The flock extended far beyond the confines of this photo.

Much like life itself.

Or so I'm told....

Believe it or not, there are at least 70 starlings in this photo of the smallish area between my house and barn....

Suddenly, without warning, they were gone....

Where are they now?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Saluting The Old Admiral

Attentive readers with a perversely sharp memory may recall that I once shared living space with an Admiral TV.

If you're in the mood to shock me to death, just let me know that your extra-perversely sharp memory immediately recalled that I mentioned this set in my Dec 9th entry, Unheard Conversations.

After posting that entry I spent some time online trying to find a photo of the exact kind of set we had. I was curious to see how well my own memory of the thing might match the reality. A tricky proposition, I know, since I was specifically looking for sets that matched my memory, but hey - once you're over the age of 40, you get to fudge things a bit to make them fit. (If memory serves correctly, the US Supreme Court itself has said so. [See Bush v. Gore.])

The closest thing I could find was a 1954 model, but it wasn't very close at all. For one thing, ours had a blond wood cabinet - not one painted fire engine red. For another, the knobs were up high, not in the mid-section.

One might think that by now one could find photos online of everything that's ever been made, but no. I'm constantly surprised by what I can't find.

And if you can't find it online, can it be said to have ever existed at all?

An existential question, that - one that I'm sure will be worthy of endless college debates in the near future (if it's not already).

An existential question that left me twitching in the here and now, fer sure.

Well, until it occurred to me to check my own stash of photo albums, anyway.

Not having a perversely sharp memory, I could only vaguely recall one possible shot.

Boy, did I ever feel stupid when I found no fewer than FOUR shots!

In hopes of filling an obvious gap in the Internet's collection of images (and in hopes of conclusively proving to myself that I really DID share living space with this beast in a place long ago and far away), here they are:

Sharp-eyed readers will note the charmingly retro "rabbit ears" in the third shot.

If memory serves correctly, it was on this set that I tried to watch cartoons one Saturday morning, only to find continuing coverage of JFK's assassination instead.

It was also on this set that I watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, and Gemini launches, and Dick Van Dyke falling over that damned ottoman, week after week - the Sisyphus myth made safe for family audiences.

Oh, and of course "The Outer Limits" and "The Twilight Zone." One never knew what one might find on those shows!

Unlike today. Today it's just the same damned thing, over and over again - the Sisyphus myth reduced to Hollywood cash cow.

Feel free to imagine me sitting in a rocking chair on a decrepit front porch, angrily waving my cane at the world as I say that.

Just be aware that I'll deny everything unless you can produce a photo.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Alternative To Dancing Naked Under A Solstice Moon

I hope you're enjoying the happiest winter solstice season ever.

And if you found transcendent joy dancing naked out in the woods during last night's total lunar eclipse, well, so much the better.

Personally, I don't dance. I may sway a bit in a strong wind, but you're more likely to see the Empire State Building doing a tango or a waltz or even the Funky Chicken than you are me.

As for being naked in the wintry woods, ah, that's even less likely. It's cold and snowy out there! And I happen to have been born fully clothed.

What I did instead to celebrate the season was attend my local humanist group's annual winter solstice banquet.

It was held Saturday night in a building with central heating.

Dan Barker was the guest speaker.

I've written about Dan numerous times in my old OD diary. The entry I posted on Nov 19, 2008 is one example that pretty much summarizes what this co-president of The Freedom From Religion Foundation said to the crowd of about 100 Ohio humanists on Saturday night. Hearing him in person and talking to him a bit afterwards for the first time ever only raised my already high opinion of the man.

If I were writing this for my old diary, I would now describe and comment upon exactly what he said at some length. Instead, I'll just point you to Amazon's description of his latest book, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, and encourage you to get to know this guy and his thoughts better at your convenience.

As compelling as Barker and his story is, however, I have to say that I personally found my mind drifting as he spoke. I'd heard it all in one form or another many times before. It's not as if he's come up with any new reasons for rejecting theism - or that he has to. The old reasons are more than adequate. And it's not as if his life story offers any short-cuts we can share with those like him who start off in a small, windowless Christian cell and gradually chisel their way out into the fresh air and light of rationalism.

No one can go through the puberty stage of philosophical maturation for us.

And as encouraging as it might be to know that others can and are successfully going through that stage every day, I long ago stopped finding the step-by-step descriptions of that evolution the most fascinating of stories....

So, my mind drifted.

In many directions, to many things.

At some point I noticed that Dan was speaking in front of curtainless windows. The cold black night on the other side of those windows had transformed them into a set of imperfect mirrors.

Mirrors that offered a ghostly, funhouse reflection of the room I was in and of all the people around me.

It was clearly a banquet room, with decorative lights and food and servers, but it was also something else: A Proustian reminder of the first banquet room I was ever in, circa 1965.

I was maybe 6 years old at the time. The neighbor lady who attempted to keep me out of trouble between the time I got out of school and the time my mother came home from work occasionally needed to run a few errands while I was officially her responsibility, so naturally I was required to go along however much I might have preferred to stay behind and build a new and better world out of Legos instead.

At least two or three times, these errands involved visiting Toledo's very own Moose Lodge.

Here are two photos of that Lodge, both taken by an unknown photographer at about the time I would have visited:

My neighbor and I lived less than 10 minutes away from this near-downtown structure, so similar to the miles and miles of slowly decaying structures that lined both sides of so many of the streets I traveled back then. (In retrospect, it seems that a tide of prosperity had washed over Toledo around 1920, then gone out, never to return. The flotsam and jetsam left behind has been rotting away and complicating the lives of countless squirrels ever since.)

I'm not sure where my neighbor may have parked. My memories seem to always begin with our entering through the gray-blue front door in the exact center of the front of the building. I think it had a round glass window in its upper half. Maybe two doors with two windows. I *know* the door (the one on the right, if there was indeed two) had an official Moose decal in the lower right portion of the glass - an artistically irresistible rendition of a moose head projecting through a gold circle. For several years I would habitually look for this decal - clearly visible from the street despite its relatively small size - every time I went by on the bus to and from downtown (a not infrequent occurrence in those pre-mall days).

Once the door had been unlocked and my neighbor and I were magically transported to the other side of this moose head, we would go up a dull flight of stairs, turn right, go up another, shorter flight of dull stairs, then find ourselves in Moose Central.

I suppose it must have been what normal mortals called the second floor. I can now only wonder what might have been on the higher levels revealed in the photos.

There seems to have been a restaurant/bar area on the right side of the building. To the left was the banquet hall - which seems to have looked much like a typical elementary school auditorium with an unschool-like balcony or mezzanine level attached.

Like empty theaters between shows (and cemeteries between funerals), both spaces seem to have been inhabited by the unheard echoes of past events and charged with the eternally patient anticipation of future ones.

It seems that my neighbor had gone there to prepare for one of these future events. As near as I can recall, this involved going to the back of the restaurant area, descending a few steps, unlocking a fancy wood door, entering the small but impressively paneled office of the Head Moose, and stocking his desk drawers with liquor....

The second time we visited, the restaurant area was alive with people chatting and mingling (a stark contrast to the so close but still so empty banquet hall). It wasn't all that crowded, and it doesn't seem to have been a very important event, but at least one 20-something woman who may have had a few drinks in her seems to have been using the occasion to talk too loudly to any good-looking male who might have been half-interested in listening to what she had to say. It was while she was talking to one of these passing males that I myself seem to have passed by with my neighbor and discovered how hot the end of a cigarette tip can be when the woman wheeled unexpectedly and the stick of lit tobacco she was holding in her waist-high hand touched my naked arm. I screamed, the woman hastily apologized, and my neighbor and I scurried away - perhaps while the cigarette-smoking woman wondered to her companion of the moment what the hell a kid was doing there in the first place.

The third and final time I visited, there seems to have been a full-scale banquet in progress in The Great Room. I briefly surveyed the scene more or less from ground level while a moose head dully surveyed the scene from a central spot just below the balcony railing. I couldn't quite comprehend why the moose didn't seem as impressed as I was....

Saturday night, I found out.

Saturday night, I was that glassy-eyed moose.

Although the ultra-modern room in a single-story building near the Ohio State campus had little in common architecturally with the lodge I'd visited all those years ago, the time and distance between the two shrunk to zero in my head as Dan Barker finished his presentation and I mingled with the others present.

As a child, I'd looked upon all the trappings that adults surround themselves with when they're officially socializing and I'd felt confused and out of place.

I felt just as confused and out of place Saturday night.

The main difference seems to have been that when I was a child, I had some vague expectation of it all making sense and fitting together someday. That expectation is now gone. In its place is the sense that we humans are all just going through the motions and playing dress up while passing that awkward time between birth and death as best we can.

This is, of course, something I've known and felt for a very long time now, but it's somewhat easy to forget. Fairy tales, comic books, movies, novels, TV shows, and news stories (among many other things) all tend to present me with a much different reality - a reality in which fully formed people with clearly defined motives exchange interesting witticisms and insights with the perfect timing that comes from being carefully crafted by writers and/or editors slaving away for hours and hours. Life as I've known it, in contrast, is an unedited mess of half-formed thoughts and clashing impulses that we absurdly attempt to communicate to those who are busy wondering whether or not the plumber will really show up on time tomorrow.

Oh, I know there are exceptions - that there are novelists like Kafka and playwrights like Ionesco who capture the unbridgeable gap between people as well as between the world as it exists and the world as we would like for it to exist, but... by and large, banquets and other social events are not planned with their point of view in mind. If they were, well, I suppose they wouldn't be planned at all. A social event, after all, seems necessarily predicated upon the possibility of people actually connecting in some way above the level of billiard balls hitting off one another after being sent spinning across a table by random forces.

Or maybe a cash bar is reason enough?

Hmmm, well... as someone for whom alcohol invariably induces a migraine, I guess I'm shit out of luck either way.

In the end, I suppose the quiet, detached stoicism displayed by the moose head I first saw in the Toledo banquet hall so many decades ago is the best way to go.

And not just during banquets or solstice seasons, either.

Though I admit I might be wrong about this.

Suffice it to say that this is something I intend to ask that moose about the very next time I see him.

If you catch up with Ol' Glass Eyes before I do, please be sure to ask him for me.

Just don't expect to find him at his old residence. It was torn down just a few years after I last set foot in it. (I don't think it was torn down *because* I stopped setting foot in it, but... would they really have torn it down had they known I had never left?)

Here's what his old abode looks like now:

No matter how hard I look, I can't seem to see any forwarding address.

Can you?


Well, let's try again after the glare of the solstice moon has left our eyes for good....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

More Odds Than Ends

It's now the 17th day of the month. They tell me that we've had some sort of precipitation every one of those days.

Mainly snow.

It's snowing now.

Between all the whiteness and the fact that it apparently hasn't been above freezing since before I was born, I think my brain has started to shut down.

At least that's my best explanation for why when the phone rang today, I tried to answer the refrigerator.

Before my brain shuts down entirely, I thought I'd post a few odds and ends just to get them out of my head and maybe - just maybe - make more room for warmth.

Even the least attentive reader will no doubt notice that the following contains more odds than ends. Tidbits without much context. Events without any resolution. In other words, it's just like high school, if not life itself.

If you have a cereal box handy, you might want to read the back of it instead.


First up, a quick question: Did YOU cry when you heard the news last month?

You know - about Prince William being engaged.

According to a story I read in the newspaper, many women did.

Or at least said they did.

Well, according to the reporter who allegedly took the time to analyze the explosion of tweets and online comments that erupted in the wake of the announcement, anyway.

If memory serves correctly (and I wouldn't bet on it), some 16% of women were outraged and/or crushed that William hadn't picked them.

The story didn't say how many of these women came from families in which the females have historically talked back to their TVs or tried to write to soap opera characters to alert them to the nefarious things going on behind their backs.

I have to say, I was shocked when I heard the news - mainly because I couldn't believe it was being reported as honest-to-goodness news on a par with the homeless overflowing the shelters and North Korea shelling civilians in the south.

And as I thought about all the follow-up coverage that's sure to follow in the months to come, I cried a little, too....

It all brought back to mind a review I'd once read of Brooke Shield's Blue Lagoon movie. The author of that review declared it to be about as interesting as watching guppies mate. My interest in the British royal family is somewhat to the south of that, and probably will remain so unless North Korea decides to shell that, too.

I suppose the case could be made that in these tough times, people shouldn't be begrudged a nice Prince Charming fantasy they can escape into, if only for a few moments, but really.... The more I thought about Will and his bride, the sorrier I felt for them. Marriage is tough enough in the best of circumstances (except for ours, darling - that goes without saying); how much worse must it be when you're having to undertake it in a fish bowl?

If anyone is in the mood to make a case today, let it be the case that the media hounded Princess Diana to death and no one has apparently gained anything in the wisdom department since....


Secondly - and without any sort of segue whatsoever - I recently had a dream that bears writing about even though - as I've said before - no account of a dream is ever worth reading about.

Consider that fair warning.

I was at a flea market with a younger couple that I can't recall ever having seen in real life. I'm not sure what my connection was to them, but the three of us were browsing the wares, more or less as a unit.

Well, until they drifted away from me, anyway, and I came across an antique puzzle on one of the many tables. It was one of those thick wooden puzzles with very few pieces - the sort of puzzle you might buy for a two-year-old (or maybe your boss if he or she is the type who can take a joke). The well-worn puzzle pieces were a dull pink or liver color. The base was of course larger and apparently made of particle board. When assembled correctly in the recessed space in the base, the ten or so pieces formed a human body. Well, an abstract, dressmaker's dummy version of a human body.

This puzzle had a name. It was called "The Benefits Of Physical Handicaps." Each of the several body parts had a line that visually connected it with some writing on the base. The leg pieces, for example, connected to a bit of writing that more or less went like this: "If you're lucky enough to be legless, people will open a lot of doors for you."

I can't recall reading anything else.

I especially can't remember reading what the benefits of not having a head might be.

I did not buy this game.


Thirdly (and without ado), there's this:

One of my wall clocks died today.

I'd noticed yesterday that it was displaying the wrong time but had hoped that simply replacing the battery would return it to perfect health.

Last night, though, I'd noticed that it had stalled out again after I'd slipped it a new Duracell.

This morning I pronounced it dead.

It wasn't a very old clock - I think I bought it for five bucks earlier this year - but in situations like this, experience has taught me that it's best to shrug and move on rather than resort to heroic measures such as going to a craft store and trying to find a replacement movement.

And as amusing as it might be in theory to rush a five buck clock into a fine clock shop and ask for it to be repaired, cost be damned, just to see the look on the face of the elderly craftsman working there, I just can't muster up the will to do that.

Not in all this snow and cold.

So I guess I'll just shrug and consign my (somewhat) old friend to the landfill.

Which is really too bad, now that I think about it, because I like clocks.

Along with maps, they help create the illusion that we can precisely locate ourselves in time and space.

If I could, I'd not only revive this particular clock - I'd figure out a way to connect it to my bathroom scale so that whenever I stepped on that scale, it would tell me how old I was.

That would make it sooooo much easier to throw out....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

STILL Learning

Bed rollers, mustache cups, and volunteer firefighters are just three of the things I've learned about recently.

Here are some of the others:

----- The Goodyear blimp doesn't have a bathroom. That is to say, it doesn't have restroom facilities. That's according to the service manager I talked to at the Goodyear shop my Significant Other recently got new tires at. The service manager claims to have taken a ride in one of Goodyear's blimps, so he should know. This means that Goodyear pilots apparently have to fly the blimp down here from Akron, circle around Ohio State University's horseshoe stadium for the duration of a football game, then fly all the way back to Akron while somehow managing not to piss themselves. That's more amazing to me than a tire that can go 50,000 miles without a blow-out. (The service manager also said that a crew of guys on the ground have to grab bars along the sides of the blimp's passenger compartment and physically lift it up into the air to get it started on its journey. In order to land, the blimps have to head to earth at a rather steep angle so that the ground crew can grab the wires dangling from the nose and pull it in. I guess this means that if everyone on earth disappeared during a flight, the people on the blimps would have no way to land and get off. Well, no easy way, anyway. But I guess they'd have more pressing worries than that if everyone else on earth had disappeared. Like how to piss out a window.)

----- I recently tried Norwegian Jarlsberg cheese for the first time ever. It reminded me of faraway beaches - especially faraway beaches that taste just like Swiss cheese.

----- 56% of American dogs can expect to find a gift under the family Christmas tree compared to only 48% of American cats. (Some 56% of female pet owners give their pet(s) holiday gifts; only 49% of male pet owners do.)

----- A Social Security check is the only income coming in for 27% of Ohioans over the age of 65. The average monthly check for them is less than $1200.

----- Every month another 15,000 Ohioans turn 60. All of them seem to enjoy standing right in front of whatever I want at the grocery store.

----- Only about 0.1% of the world's human population lives in Israel.

----- The English language has about 250,000 words (not counting technical terms, regionalisms, and neologisms). About 20% are no longer used. (Which ones do *you* wish fell into that category?)

----- Foreigners now make up more than 20% of Switzerland's population. (No, I don't know how many are Norwegians smuggling in Jarlsberg cheese.)

----- Leslie Nielsen's brother, Erik, was once the deputy prime minister of Canada.

----- The da Vinci surgical robot now performs about half of all US prostate operations. (I can only wonder how much lower the percentage might be had the inventors decided to call it HAL.)

----- About 60% of American 12-year-olds now have their own cell phone. More and more kids are getting their first cell phone every day. This means that as you read this, there's a good chance that more booger jokes are being bounced off a satellite than ever before in human history.

----- Tinsel seems to have first been offered for sale to the American consumer in 1932. Philadelphia's Brite Star Manufacturing Company now controls about 80% of the market. You can get about 1000 strands of tinsel for a buck. If you intend on cornering the American tinsel market, you're gonna need a lot of bucks! (Personally, I just hope I survive another year without getting caught in the crossfire between those who think tossing tinsel on the tree is fine and dandy and those who insist that each strand must be carefully placed, just so.)

----- Larry King's real name is Larry Zeiger. His brother was never the deputy prime minister of Canada. If I ever learn that anyone in Norway, Switzerland, Israel, or anywhere else has ever called him Larry da Vinci, I'll be as shocked as a 60-year-old cat that finds a blimp under the tree with its name on it Christmas morning.


4:45:58 PM - Dec 14, 2010

4:55:38 PM - Dec 14, 2010

5:07:24 PM - Dec 14, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

From Mustache Cups To Firefighters

As eye-opening as my introduction to mustache cups was on Saturday, my mind keeps drifting back to something else I learned about a couple weeks earlier.

It was just one of three quick little factoids passed along by CBS Sunday Morning between feature stories, but it's turned out to be one of those things that has lingered in my mind long after most of the bigger news stories of the past month have faded away.

Here's the factoid I'm talking about: 75% of US firefighters are volunteers.

Had CBS told me that 75% of emergency room doctors are volunteers or that 75% of IRS tax auditors are volunteers I could hardly have been more surprised.

I had long thought that if my house burst into flames anywhere in the country, a trained professional was likely to be there within minutes to restore order. Now I instead have images of some overweight, underpaid grocery store manager maybe eventually stopping by to sift the ashes for my bones if he happens to hear the bell in the night.

I know (or at least hope) that that's almost certainly a gross mischaracterization of the nature and quality of volunteer firefighters and the service they provide. Still, it's hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I live in a country that's willing to pay a baseball player like Alex Rodriguez more than $27 million a year to hit and catch a ball while relying on volunteers to provide an essential, life-saving service.

CBS said that these volunteers annually provide a service worth some $37 billion. That's about one-third the amount of money Americans donate to churches and other religious institutions every year. I guess they think protecting themselves from fire in the hypothetical next world is much more important than protecting themselves and others from fire in this real world....

Incidentally, a local news station told me last night that December is the deadliest month for fires. Some awful ones have claimed a number of lives here in central Ohio in recent days. So far this year, 138 Ohioans have died in fires. Only 16% of those happened in homes with working smoke detectors.

Last year, 139 Ohioans had died in fires by December 14. Isn't that amazing? Sure, it's sad, too, but I expect the world to be a sad place. What I'm always caught off-guard by are unsuspected patterns to the sadness. Apparently there's something about the way we 11 million or so Ohioans have arranged our lives that results in a certain number of us dying in fires every year. Although it's impossible to say exactly who will die or when, the final number of victims is unlikely to vary much from 138. I think they said that about 175 Ohioans died in fires two years ago, so it seems a pretty safe bet to say that between 100 and 200 will die next year.

What might we do as a society to boost the odds of that number being closer to 100 than to 200 in 2011? Or 2012? Or 2013?

I'm not sure, but... I'd sure feel better about things if I lived in a society that cared more about memorizing the win-loss statistics of its emergency workers than those of Yankee pitchers.

And I'd feel a whole lot better about things if my fellow "We Need To Cut Taxes!" citizens expected televangelists like central Ohio's own Rod Parsley to hitchhike to his engagements and conferences rather than donating some $500,000 a year to provide him with a private jet (as a recent newspaper story revealed that they do)....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stinky And The Mustache Cups

My weekend visit to Benjamin Hanby's house left me with some time to kill.

This might not have been the case had Ben not sadly died of tuberculosis at the age of 33. Although I tried to imagine how much more stuff he might have been able to accumulate and leave behind for me to gawk at had he lived twice or even three times as long, I'm afraid my mind simply wasn't up to the task. I'm going to blame the unseasonably cold weather for that.

Whatever the actual cause of my inability may have been, the fact remains that my appetite for Very Old Things had merely been teased, not satisfied, so I headed over to one of my favorite antique shops. It wasn't very far away, and I knew that if it somehow failed to completely fulfill my desire to be reminded that there really are things in this world older than I am, I might at least catch an invigorating glimpse of the cat that lived there.

According to a newspaper article that had once been written about this cat (apparently on a slow news day when Bush was making the world a worse place at only half his usual pace), his name was Stinky.

According to a photo that accompanied this story, Stinky likes to sleep atop the vintage jewelry that's stored in one of the shop cases, so that's where I first looked for him when I got there.

The rascal snuck up on me from behind while I was thus occupied.

I don't know why or how this Maine coon cat got the name Stinky. I've never noticed a stench emanating from the pampered animal's hide during my visits, but I admit that I've never bent down and sniffed him, either. I'm not even sure that public cat sniffing is legal in my state. Better to be safe than fined and jailed, I always say.

Turns out that Stinky really hadn't intentionally snuck up on me. The shop's owner had merely directed the beam of a laser pointer in my general direction and Stinky had followed it. My own cat had merely looked at me with a contemptuous "You have GOT to be kidding!" expression whenever I'd tried to play such games with him, but Stinky was mesmerized. Had the shop owner directed the beam of his laser pointer at the moon, Stinky would undoubtedly now be clawing around in the dust of the Sea of Tranquility or its equivalent.

Despite such excitement, I managed to slowly make my way through the shop in search of the two or three specific things I look for whenever I'm in a place that sells antiques. (I'd tell you what they are, but then you'd just go out there and look for them as well, driving up the price. Well, consider your evil plans foiled!)

It's a fairly big shop, recently made even bigger by what I hope was a legal expansion into the shop next door, but... nothing really grabbed my interest (Stinky excepted) until I happened upon a few cups with a strange little inner rim.

Here's a photo I found online of the sort of thing I'm talking about:

I had no idea what they might be used for, having never seen anything like them. A sippy cup was perhaps the closest thing I'd ever seen, but it didn't seem too likely to me that elegant Victorian women would have spent good money on fine porcelain versions of sippy cups for themselves or even their most spoiled children.

Fortunately, my Significant Other was soon by my side, providing enlightenment.

"That's a mustache cup. Haven't you ever seen a mustache cup? I first saw them a long, long time ago! I know *all* about them. That makes ME smarter than you - and a better person, too! Hahahahahahahahaha!!!"

Or words to that effect.

According to S.O., mustache cups were used by men with mustaches. The little inner rim allegedly helped keep their mustaches out of their drinks (and vice versa) at a time when men apparently weren't willing to go thirsty just so they could sport a bit of dry facial hair above their upper lips.

It all seemed pretty surreal to me. Which is to say that it seemed both weird and unexpected. Nothing in my many years on this planet had prepared me for the moment I first laid eyes on a mustache cup.

What might I not come across next? Beard bowls that have little inner rims to keep men's beards out of their soup? Breast plates that have shields to keep the breasts of well-endowed women out of their spaghetti?

Honestly, every day is an adventure.

And I suspect that I'll be resting up from my Saturday adventures for the next week.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Under The Housetop

Hope you've been having a great weekend.

I spent part of mine touring the house of the guy who wrote "Up On The Housetop."

Who knew that he had lived in central Ohio?

Well, I suppose many people did - especially those locals eager to trumpet any connection to fame, however tenuous - but I didn't.

Not until I moved to the area some 10 years ago, anyway.

I finally decided that yesterday was the day to go learn more. It was, after all, one of the few days of the year they were offering free music, courtesy of a local piano player.

They were also offering free cookies, though I didn't know that until I got there. It's a wonder they ever got rid of me, but I digress....

The composer of "Up On The Housetop" (just in case you're one of the billions of people who have managed to get this far in life just fine without knowing) was Benjamin Hanby. Oddly enough, apparently even he didn't know it as "Up On The Housetop" until long after writing it, having simply (and rather unmemorably) entitled it "Santa Claus." The alternate name given to it by The Masses is the one that stuck. (Given the way these things usually go, I'm surprised "The Click Click Click Carol" didn't beat out both in the end....)

During his lifetime, Hanby seems to have been much more famous as the composer of Darling Nelly Gray - an "Uncle Tom's Cabin set to music," as one long-forgotten commentator put it. Apparently it was the big Lady Gaga-like hit of its day, that day being the Civil War years (days being much longer back then). If the video I watched at the ol' homestead yesterday is to be believed, you couldn't visit a Union encampment anywhere between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico without hearing some soldier or other singing or humming it - which is more than I can do despite hearing it several times. I guess "catchy" meant something very different in the 1860s than it does today.

"Darling Nelly Gray" was allegedly so catchy, even Confederate soldiers sang and hummed it non-stop. (Apparently the Civil War years were like an extended episode of "Glee," though historians continue to disagree about how much emphasis to put on the gay sub-plot.) Those Confederate soldiers, however, changed the words so that the song was no longer a melodramatic indictment of slavery. I'm not sure what words they used instead (the video didn't share that version - go figure), but I bet at least some Southerners didn't much care as long as those words allowed them to forget that damn "Dixie" earworm for a few minutes.

The part of the story that I found most interesting was that Hanby sent the words and music off to some big New York City music publisher after being encouraged (and/or endlessly nagged) to do so by a female supporter, and then heard nothing. Well, that is until he heard others in the area suddenly singing it after it had become a big hit among those in the nascent music business. He contacted the publisher again, asking for an explanation - and royalties. The publisher basically replied, "Hey, you get the fame - we get the money." If I'm not mistaken, this is the same basic deal that's been offered by many music publishers ever since.

"Up On The Housetop" was written a bit later. And it was written over near Dayton - not in central Oho, and not in the house I toured yesterday. The folks who run the house *did* have on display a few items Hanby may have touched before or after having written "Up On The Housetop," however, and if that's a good enough excuse for some people to hand out free cookies, well, it's a good enough excuse for me to politely take and eat them.

Hanby, by the way, was an abolitionist (as you may have guessed from "Darling Nelly Gray"). Turns out that this got him into trouble when he became a minister in southwestern Ohio. His church superiors apparently didn't think it appropriate for Christians to go around telling other people it was wrong to own individuals belonging to inferior races, so Hanby resigned ("never to preach from a pulpit again," as the video put it). Just one more tidbit I hope I can remember to share with my Christian friends when they start implying that there's no morality without religion....

Much was made of the fact yesterday that Hanby's homestead was a stop on the Underground Railroad. But every time we were all about to gaze in awe at this building that had allegedly actually held Runaway Slaves, we were brought back down to earth by some troubling comment, like "Of course the house wasn't here then" or "Of course this house has been moved twice since then." As with so much of history, the people who came later apparently thought there was nothing wrong with rearranging those elements they found too inconvenient to deal with. I forget where the house originally stood. I also forget where it stood for a time after that. It wasn't that far away - maybe only a couple miles originally, and maybe only half a block or so before finding a "permanent" home in 1937 - but... I hope visitors to the moon are never told "Yes, these are Neil Armstrong's actual footprints! Just moved from where they were originally so McDonald's could expand their drive-thru...."

How much of the original house made it to the current site, alas, is also more a matter of conjecture than I would like. Apparently it had fallen into quite a state of disrepair before one enterprising woman took it upon herself to save it. The oldest photos they have in the video as well as the photos of the reconstruction left me repeatedly recalling the famous story of Grandpa's Ax - you know, it's had 6 new heads and 5 new handles over the years, but it's still Grandpa's Ax.

Fortunately, there were a few genuine pieces of history on display that my eyes drank in the way a man lost in the desert might drink in water after stumbling upon an oasis. By far the most notable of these was a guest book signed by Orville Wright during a visit to the house in 1947. The signature was perfectly legible and right there on a page you could touch if you wanted without any of that nasty protective glass getting in the way. This really amazed me. I mean, given the number of people who have been killed in horrific airplane accidents and attacks since Orville's first flight in 1903, I would have thought that at least one angry surviving relative would have seen his name there during a chance visit to the house, burst into a rage, and ripped it to pieces, but no. Apparently everyone has been saving up all their rage all these years for TSA workers and their demonic x-ray machines and gloved hands....

One of the tour guides (ever anxious to strengthened even the weakest threads between the site and History) told us that someone in the Hanby family ended up marrying someone in the Wright family. Alas, it wasn't a descendant of Orville or Wilbur (who never married) but a descendant of another Wright brother.

That really lit me up. ANOTHER Wright brother?? It was like learning that Einstein had had a twin. Or that George W. was an only child and the whole Jeb thing is just a frat house gag that got out of hand.

I forget what the brother's name was, but Wikipedia indicates that it must have been either Reuchlin (yes, really) or Lorin (Otis having died in infancy). Bottom Line: There were more Wright brothers than I ever suspected. This gives me hope that there are dozens of unknown Warner brothers out there still, just waiting to produce Bugs Bunny cartoons as good as the ones from the 1940s.

If you ever have the chance to tour the Hanby house for yourself, I hope you'll seize it. Sure, you won't get to set foot in the basement any more than I did unless you're part of an oh-so-special school group, but you almost certainly *will* get a glimpse of the huge roller mounted atop the headboard of the bed that Hanby's father (or someone more or less like him) once used to smooth out the mattress stuffed with genuine corn husks.

You better go soon if you can, though. I bet some Mexican History Cartel is even now plotting to send a few gang members up here to take over the business and start charging exorbitant prices after getting you hooked on a few free facts. That's the way they work. And, as with the shoe, steel, auto, and toy industries, Americans just won't know what they had until it's gone....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Unheard Conversations

The extended reverie/remembrance that I recently had while suffering from prednisone-induced insomnia and that I described in my last post didn't end at the point my post did.

Instead, it shifted gears as I recalled that my Uncle Bob had also once gone to see Dr. D. at his office.

The story I heard was that Dr. D. said something to my Uncle Bob during that visit that made him vow never to go back.

I have no idea what Dr. D. might have said, but... don't you think it would have been fun to have been a fly on the wall when he said it?

Pondering this at length in my sleep-deprived state, I realized that this was just one of several conversations or comments that I've missed in my life that I wish I hadn't.

Perhaps the earliest came when I was about 10. We were living in a four-unit apartment building - in the first floor, east side unit, to be precise. The couple who managed the building on behalf of the absentee landlord lived in the second floor, west side unit. Their unit had beams and sun and easy access to a small but comfortable second floor porch. Our unit was dark and buggy (being right above the building's crypt-like half-basement) and it was last on the steam pipe line that provided either too much heat or not enough. All the units shared common front and back stairs. One day the elderly male caretaker (whose neck and head were about as tortoise-like as Burt Mustin's) came down the back steps to see us – maybe to collect the rent, maybe to make excuses for the latest half-assed repair job he’d attempted, maybe just because "Go be a nuisance" had come up on his Ouija board. All I know for sure is that when he was on his way out our back door he whispered something to my mother that amused him mightily but left her flustered and red-faced. Despite my repeated requests then and later, she never told me what it was that he had whispered. At some point, she began to claim not to have any memory of the event whatsoever....

A few years later my sister came home from her job in downtown Toledo in tears. The hour-long bus ride had done little to calm her down after a passing bum had said something to her. She refused to repeat what he had said....

A few years after that I had a job of my own in a warehouse near downtown Toledo. There were about 20 other employees. One of them was John. He was a sweet, older guy who always reminded me of one of Snow White's dwarfs - either Happy or Bashful. He was a good, conscientious worker, but pretty quiet. He'd laugh at our jokes, but never tell any of his own. He might smile and nod if we talked about ourselves or our families, but he never said anything about himself or his family. He seemed to exist all alone, in the world but not part of it. Then one day, out of the blue, a phone call came for him. He took it in the warehouse while I was walking by (and everyone else who worked there was probably exchanging shocked glances over his actually having been paged). It was the only phone call I think he ever got at work. I suppose he said hello. Maybe a dull uh-huh or two after that, but not much more. It was a pretty short call. The next day, John didn't come into work. He'd quit. He was gone. As our co-worker, Carl, succinctly put it, "Somebody found him." I think I saw him once after that. He was sitting on the stoop of an apartment building not too far away from where we worked. It was a hot, sunny day. He smiled and nodded as I walked by - but then scurried inside, as if he'd been found again....

Something somewhat similar happened during another walk I took after work. As I passed an old office building that had been taken over by the city, I just happened to look into one of the shop-like windows and saw my high school's most popular substitute teacher working at a desk. He smiled and waved - but what caught my eye was the shiny badge on his black-shirted chest. The blinds on that window were always down and closed when I walked by after that....

At some point I discovered that this was the street Danny Thomas had lived on at some point during his youth, by the way. The tiny upstairs apartment his family had inhabited was long gone, but the empty lot remained. It was a pretty depressed neighborhood by then, about a million miles from Hollywood and even further from the world he inhabited inside our Admiral TV. I don't think I ever saw another pedestrian in all the time I walked that route to and from work everyday. I certainly never saw Danny Thomas coming back in search of his roots. I did hear people locking their car doors, though, as I approached them as they sat waiting for a light to change or for traffic to clear enough for them to pull away from an inconvenient stop sign. As if they had anything I wanted. As if I were the type of person who might take what I wanted by force....

Not that I can blame them, of course. My mother used to tell a story about how she and her first husband were once sitting at a red light when some guy grabbed her car door handle and tried to open it. Her husband hit the gas and went through the red light, leaving their would-be companion far behind. This would have been circa 1950 - you know, the Good Old Days. By the time I was walking to and from work during the evil 1970s, well... it's a wonder any of us made it out alive, isn't it?

Do you suppose this is how people spend their time in nursing homes, just following a daisy-chain of memories across the years and around the globe? Or do they have all sorts of interesting conversations with themselves and others that we'll never be fortunate enough to hear?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My First Time

During one of my recent bouts of prednisone-induced insomnia, my restless mind replayed the first time I went to see a doctor on my own.

I guess this was sparked by my thinking about all the doctors I've seen recently and my mind then struggling to remember exactly how my association with these strange people first started.

In any event, I think I was about 17 when I went out into the world all alone in search of my first consultation with a physician.

Not wanting to choose a physician more or less at random from the phone book and hoping for the best, I set off in search of the general practitioner whom I'd been told had delivered my sister nearly 30 years earlier. I guess I thought that any guy who'd managed to bring my sister into this world without accidentally killing her wasn't very likely to end up accidentally killing me, either. After all, I was much bigger.

Dr. D. had an office in an old house in a part of Toledo I'd not been to before and haven't been to since. I had to take two buses to get there. The second half of the second bus ride seems to have involved a canopy of trees swallowing the road. No one else on the bus seems to have been as excited about this as I was. I now wonder if they were inflatable dolls or department store mannequins scattered randomly throughout the bus by a bus driver who didn't want first-time riders of his route like me to feel quite so alone....

Dr. D.'s rather small waiting room was crowded with old women with mysterious diseases and younger women with crying children. I think I took the last available seat then did my best to blend in as much as possible by coughing at odd moments for no apparent reason and grimacing between coughs the way that I imagined savagely infectious people do. I certainly didn't want to draw attention to my oh-so-male and oh-so-young self by smiling maniacally, and I didn't want to blow my first audition as a patient by appearing too healthy.

Had I known the waiting room was going to be so crowded, I probably would have practiced waiting at home first....

Experienced patients may have already noted that one thing I did *not* do was go to the receptionist lurking behind the odd sliding glass window and let her know that I was there. I didn't know that this was what I was supposed to do - I just thought my name would be called when my appointment time arrived and that would be that.

When other patients came in and gave their name to the receptionist, I began to feel uneasy.

When those who arrived after I did were called back before I was, I began to squirm and sweat.

I felt trapped, not sure what to do. If I got up and gave my name to the receptionist after having sat there for what must have already been an hour or more, I'd be drawing unwanted attention to my oh-so-male and oh-so-young self. If I just got up and left, I wouldn't get to see the doctor - not unless he suddenly bolted out of the house and chased me down, which would have presented me with an even worse situation. So, I just continued to sit as the minutes slipped by, as minutes are wont to do....

As evening drew near and the waiting room slowly cleared out, I began to feel better about things. The air seemed cooler and less infectious, the sound of crying children became nothing more than a vaguely hellish memory, and - once I became the waiting patient with the most seniority - feelings of superiority and ownership began to wash over me. I welcomed newcomers with a knowing glance, sighed nostalgically as each departing patient brushed past me, and pondered at length the exact nature of the new carpet I would order for the place if and when I once again had access to a phone.

All these thoughts and feelings vanished in an instant when Dr. D. suddenly appeared like a white tornado behind the receptionist. Seeing me through the window, he practically yelled at the poor woman, "I told you to send him back to me as soon as he came in!"

She was flustered and probably flummoxed. I was perturbed and distressed. I certainly hadn't wanted to get her or anybody else in trouble with my behavior, yet apparently I had. And I certainly hadn't known that my condition was so serious that it required immediate attention. What else might I not know?

A waiting room appears to be such a simple thing. If such a simple thing could lead to so much confusion and trouble, what hope had I of ever learning how to deal with the much more complex human body?

Fortunately, I didn't have time to ponder that question at the time as I was quickly called back and escorted into Dr. D.'s private office rather than any of the cold, white exam rooms I'd seen on TV and had fully expected to end up in as appropriately dramatic music played in the background.

Did the rabbit hole I'd fallen down not have a bottom?

My mind now wants me to believe that his office was straight out of Dickens - a Victorian England parlor, lined with velvet curtains and curiosities from all around the world. In truth, it was probably nothing more than yet another too big, too cold, overly gray room of the sort I'd seen too many times already in my life as a temporary visitor to innumerable old homes in an old town.

I sat down in a chair in front of his large, undoctor-like desk. My mind now wants me to believe that he looked like a cross between Albert Schweitzer and Alan Alda's father but I know that that's a lie. What he actually looked like was something I have never been able to quite bring back into focus. The lie eclipsed the reality at the time; there is little chance of my now recapturing what was never really captured in the first place....

A severe bout of depression is what had prompted me to make an appointment in the first place. I'm not sure what I may have been depressed about. Maybe the Ford administration. Maybe disco. Maybe the sheer shock of being alive. It's safe to say that none of those things were helping even if they weren't the exact cause of my feelings of world-weariness.

I suppose I'd heard that doctors were now doing wonderful things for world-weary people and that we all owed it to ourselves to consult them the moment world-weariness crept into our minds.

I was surprised when those wonderful things began with Dr. D.'s bellowing, "What are YOU depressed about?! I see SICK people ALL day long. If anyone ought to be depressed, it's ME!"

Fortunately, he didn't leave that thought hanging long enough for me to suggest that we forge a suicide pact and make plans to off ourselves together.

Unfortunately, what he did instead was pull out some generic "Are you depressed?" check list and read it to me.

You know the type.... Are you sleeping ok? Are you eating ok? Can restaurants trust you to use a steak knife only for the purposes for which it is intended?

It was all so dry and mechanical, as if the human being who had so recently barked at the receptionist and me had been replaced by a carnival fortune telling machine.

And then he asked, "How's your sex life?"

I was stunned.

Taken aback.


I was 17. I wanted to say that I didn't *have* a sex life.

Instead, I croaked "Fine" or "Ok" or some such nonsense that quickly got lost as he methodically continue on down his list.

Soon I was out the door, probably with a prescription for sugar pills.

From that moment to this, I've often wondered what he might have done had I told him my sex life was lousy. Awful. The worst in human history.

Would he have prescribed a lover instead?

Would any doctor in any society from the Hopi to the Swedish have wisely declared, "Son, what you need is some fresh-squeezed pussy - three times a week to start with, and then as needed for the rest of your life. Here's the address of a pharmacy that will set you up...."?

I know, I know - that would be oh-so-wrong, and oh-so-terrible for oh-so-many, many reasons.

But you have to understand.

I actually somehow lived through the Ford administration.

I actually existed at a time when you couldn't turn on a radio without hearing Disco Duck.

You wouldn't deny your grandmother the pain-killing benefits of marijuana as she lay dying in agony on her deathbed, would you?

Please don't deny the 17-year-old boy that's dying a slow death in every man the pain-killing benefits of this fantasy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just Another Day In Crazytown....

----- Evangelist Torches Crow (Ghana News Agency; Nov 23)

TAKORADI, Ghana: Drama unfolded at the Takoradi Market Circle on Tuesday morning when a strange crow was set ablaze by some traders and an evangelist who suspected the bird was possessed by witchcraft.

Evangelist Nyame-Akwan of the Christ Healing Power Church and the traders poured 'anointing oil' (olive oil) on the crow amidst intensive prayers and speaking in tongues, around 1100 hours on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview at the Takoradi Market Circle, Evangelist Nyame-Akwan said he daily goes to the market to preach and pray with some of the traders.

In line with this routine, he said, God instructed him to ask the traders to fast for three weeks because of their complaints about poor sales in recent times.

He said while they were praying, a strange crow flew frenziedly from nowhere and entered the stall of Mrs. Sophia Aggrey, who was praying with them.

The evangelist said they initially became frightened but they gathered the courage and prayed fervently on the bird, which desperately sprawled and rotated on the floor.

After the prayers, he said, they picked up the bird and brought it into an open place and poured anointing oil on it and set it ablaze with the hope that the person whose spirit it possessed would also die.

The incident attracted a number of onlookers, some of whom shouted 'anyen' which means witch in Fante.

Fleeting Glimpses Of December

Here's some of what I saw on Monday as I traveled across Ohio:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Little Home Improvement Project

So, my S.O. and I have been talking about replacing our tired old kitchen floor for a long, long time.

We recently finally got around to going to Lowe's and pricing some of our options and asking what it would cost to have them do the installation.


In the end, I decided it would be cheaper and faster just to re-do the floor myself using materials I've collected over the years.

Here's the final result:

Not too bad for a first timer, eh?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Still Learning

When I was a child I thought that every adult knew everything.

I looked forward to the day when I was all grown up and knew everything, too.

A good chunk of my childhood was spent being secretly afraid that I was going to be the first person in the history of the world to grow up without ever learning how to tell time or comb my hair.

I'm proud to say that after many years of effort, I've managed to master one of those two tasks.

The effort to learn everything else continues.

Here are a few of the things I've learned since posting my last update on this subject on Nov 21:

----- Some 50 films have been nominated for Best Picture in the last decade. According to Time magazine, nearly 60% of them were set in the historical past. More than 10% were set in Britain. (You know that chart of the brain someone made in which the number of neurons devoted to each body part are depicted proportionality so that tongues and lips and thumbs and genitalia are revealed to be where our interests primarily lie? I've often wished someone would do the same for pop culture, history, etc. The horrors of the Holocaust would undoubtedly be the size of our tongues while the horrors of the Hun invasions would be something akin to the dead zone of our backs. And tiny Britain would be as huge as our thumbs while all of Africa would probably amount to part of an earlobe, maybe. Got time? Please develop this further for me.)

----- After ceasing to be president in 1909, Theodore Roosevelt went on a year-long safari in Africa. He bagged 296 animals. (Roosevelt is known to this day as one of the Republican Party's biggest conservationists. Please hold your applause until after the next Great Extinction so as not to give any doomed species any undue hope.)

----- The premiere episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" drew 5 million viewers. The next episode drew only 3 million. (No word on how many people might tune in to see "Sarah Silverman's Alaska.")

----- Americans bought (and presumably used) 1.7 million coffins last year. That's down from 1.9 million ten years ago, but still seems like an awful lot of coffins to me. If you laid them all out, end to end, they'd form a line about 2000 miles long - and you'd probably be arrested for blocking traffic. (If you simply MUST block traffic, please do so in a somewhat less disturbing way. Thank you.)

----- The average cost of a traditional funeral is nearly $8000. That's roughly how much it costs to keep a cat or dog alive for 8 years.

----- 25% of US households lack a computer. That's some 28,000,000 homes without a single PC or Mac. (As tempting as it may be to make fun of the people in these households, I'll refrain. It isn't nice. And it's not really fun if they can't read what I'm saying about them.)

----- US businesses replace aproximately 40 million computers a year. About 75% of those computers being replaced are just 4 years old or younger. (I guess this means that if the Statue of Liberty had been a computer owned by GM or GE, she would probably would have been replaced by 1890.)

----- According to the latest research, there are about 300 sextillion stars in the universe. That's about how many cells are in all the human bodies on earth (50 trillion a body times 6 billion bodies). This not only proves there's a gOd - it proves that he wants each of our cells to have its own star. (My neurons are smart enough to have hired an agent, however, and are holding out for TWO stars each, plus a $100,000 signing bonus.)

----- "The Young and the Restless" is now the #1 soap opera on TV. It has some 5.15 million viewers. I've never, ever been one of them. (Since it's been on the air for nearly 38 years now, I suppose its first stars have been spun off into a series entitled "The Old and the Tired.")

----- Deer season began here in Ohio on Monday. I'm told that exactly 37,805 deer were shot dead on that one day. I didn't shoot any of them. (And despite what some people may think, I didn't talk any of them to death, either.)

----- There are an estimated 750,000 deer in Ohio. (Or at least there were before Monday.) There are 34 "Welcome to Ohio!" signs on the roads coming into Ohio from other states. If there had been only 30 such signs in 2010, would there now be 10% fewer deer? Explain.

----- When Ohio's new governor takes office in January, it will cost the Ohio Department of Transportation a total of $7500 to put his name up on these "Welcome to Ohio!" signs. Would a true fiscally conservative Republican just say, "Oh, that's ok - just leave the old name up"? Why or why not?

----- About 17,000 deer end up as roadkill in Ohio every year. State workers spend about 29,000 hours annually (at a cost of about $725,000) to remove the carcasses. How much time and money could we save if we outsourced this work to India?

----- The brain chemistry of Siberian hamsters is more like the brain chemistry of humans than the brain chemistry of mice is. (If you find it easier to pick up a Siberian hamster in a bar than a mouse, that might be why.)

----- It takes about 3 apples to make 1 cup of cider.

----- Nebraska is the only state in the United States with a unicameral legislature. It seems to get along just fine with just half the number of chambers of a standard legislature. How much money could all the other states save if they followed suit? (Why haven't I ever heard a single fiscally conservative Republican advocate this?)

----- There are about 13 million hotel and/or motel rooms on earth. Only 400,000 are allegedly in the "luxury" class.

----- There are supposedly 650 million adult Pacific salmon in the ocean at any one time. (This means that our hotels and motels could accommodate them all if they don't mind staying 50 to a room. And judging from some of the rooms I've stayed in, they don't.)

----- 90% of the food mammals eat goes to maintaining their core body temperature. (I guess this means that cold-blooded killers need to eat less than other people.)

----- The largest mammal ever was the rhino-like Indricotherium. It was about four times as large as today's elephant. (If it wasn't now extinct, how many do you think would end up as roadkill on Ohio's highways?)

----- There are 793 plants and 578 animals in the US that are considered to be threatened or endangered. President Obama's administration has added 51 to the official list. (How many of these do you think President Palin will serve at her first state dinner?)

----- Despite the often repeated claim that smiling takes fewer muscles than frowning, at least one plastic surgeon says that it's actually the other way around. Smiling may take less effort, however, because our smile muscles tend to be in better shape. If less effort is your goal, though, you should know that frozen, insincere smiles involve just two muscles and take the least amount of effort of all.