Friday, May 27, 2016

Keeping the Memorial in Memorial Day

Thought for the day: The willingness with which our young people serve our country shall be directly proportional to the way they perceive our nation and how it treats our veterans. [George Washington]

Next Monday is Memorial Day, and in its honor, I'm re-running this post from 2011. I figured... it was time. We can all use a reminder from time to time.


Thought for the day:  One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people.

Well, are you ready for the big three-day weekend, America's unofficial start of summer? Ready for your first big cook-out of the season? Bought all your food, your booze, and have the swimming pool ready to go? Got those white shoes dusted off and back at the front of your closet? Your shopping list ready to take advantage of all those big sales?

Got everything done on your to-do list? Forgetting anything? Anything at all?

Some people consider Memorial Day to be our most important national holiday, but to others, it's nothing but  another three-day weekend filled with sales and cook-outs.

John Moon, the former commander-in-chief of the VFW, said

 Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. America's collective consciousness demands that all citizens recall and be aware of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime. Far too often, the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms Americans enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew. That's why they are all collectively remembered for one special day.

Memorial Day.

 A memorial is something that keeps remembrance alive. Let's all of us, in the midst of our cooking out, and in the midst of our shopping and having a grand old time this weekend, remember all of those men and women who made the supreme sacrifice.

Those are the four words engraved on the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.  And here is a poem with that same title, "Freedom is Not Free,"  written in 1988 by Air Force ROTC Cadet Major Kelly Strong:

                                              I watched the flag pass by one day.
                                              It fluttered in the breeze.
                                             A young Marine saluted it,
                                             And then he stood at ease.

                                             I looked at him in uniform
                                             So young, so tall, so proud,
                                             With hair cut square and eyes alert,
                                             He'd stand out in any crowd.

                                              I thought how many men like him
                                             Had fallen through the years.
                                             How many died on foreign soil?
                                             How many mothers' tears?

                                             How many pilots' planes shot down?
                                             How many died at sea?
                                             How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
                                             No, freedom is not free.

                                             I heard the sound of "taps" one night,
                                            When everything was still.
                                             I listened to the bugler play
                                            And felt a sudden chill.

                                             I wondered just how many times
                                             That "taps" had meant "Amen,"
                                             When a flag had draped a coffin
                                             Of a brother or a friend.

                                             I thought of all the children,
                                            Of the mothers and the wives,
                                            Of fathers, sons and husbands
                                            With interrupted lives.

                                            I thought about a graveyard
                                           At the bottom of the sea,
                                           Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
                                           No, freedom is not free.

Vietnam memorial
As an amateur radio operator, I've also had the privilege of serving as a member of  Army MARS. (Military Affiliate Radio Service) For Memorial Day one year, the Chief shared a story with us about a Captain who was stuck in traffic at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It was pouring rain, and this captain was growing increasingly more agitated because he was running late, and knew he'd never make it to PT on time. Just as traffic was finally starting to move, the vehicle in front of him stopped, and a private jumped out into the pouring rain and ran into the Memorial Grove beside them.

What a bonehead! the captain thought.

Horns were honking, and the captain, as well as everyone else behind him, were fuming. Still, the private kept going, with his BDUs soaked and plastered to his skin. He ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground, and set it back up again. Then he came to attention and saluted, before running back to his car and driving off.

The captain later said, "That soldier, whose name I'll never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures. That simple salute - that simple act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag - encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said I will never forget. I will keep the faith. I will keep the mission. I am an American soldier."

We may not be soldiers, but the least we can do is remember them, a very small effort for those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. The picture above is of the familiar Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., but most states also have memorials in honor of our Vietnam vets. The one in Springfield, Illinois, includes the following words:  To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace.

One last comment about Memorial Day. May 30 also happens to be my brother's birthday. He's a retired Marine, who served multiple tours of duty in Vietnam. So to him, I wish a very happy birthday, as well as gratitude and peace.

Happy Birthday, big brother. Semper fi

                                                Enjoy your three-day weekend, y'all.
                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

We stand today strong not primarily because we have the weapons or resources or the leadership needed to wage war, thought all are necessary, but because of an ideal. It is the ideal of freedom founded on the rights of the common man, on the dignity of the human being, on the conception of the state as the servant, and not the master, of its people.  [Franklin D. Roosevelt]

Friday, May 20, 2016

At the Corner of True and False

Thought for the day:  Don't believe everything you read on the Internet.  [Abraham Lincoln]

Even George Washington, who allegedly never told a lie, would tell you not to believe everything you read online. Just because your pal is one smart cookie doesn't mean all the stuff in that amazing facts email (s)he forwarded to you is accurate, either. But some of the stuff in those emails is interesting enough to merit further investigation, dontcha think? And that's just what I did for today's post. Ready?

#1 Brass door knobs automatically disinfect in about eight hours. 

Whatcha think? True or false?

Actually, it's true. The oligodynamic effect, first discovered by a Swiss scientist in 1893, is a process in which certain metals have an antimicrobial effect on viruses, bacteria, and other living cells, like molds, algae, fungi, and the like. And while brass may be a more aesthetically pleasing choice for door knobs and knockers, it does, indeed, kill germs in about eight hours, making it a healthier choice than stainless steel or aluminum, as well.


#2  Netherlands is closing nineteen prisons due to a serious prisoner shortage. 

Again, this one is true. Inmates in the Netherlands typically only serve 2/3 of their sentences, and even after those closures, there are still more guards and other prison staff than there are prisoners.  (Wow! What a great problem to have.)

Claim #3 is rather astounding, and kinda cool, regarding the Vatican's Women's Rifle Team. Supposedly, in 1936, for the first and only time in history, Vatican City participated in the Olympics by entering said team. As I investigated, this same picture kept popping up on website after website, along with pretty much the same story. The pic shown here came from an amateur radio site, and is supposedly a QSL card. (Which amateur radio operators exchange after making contact with other stations.) The basic story: although the gun-slinging nuns failed to win any medals at the Games, they became minor celebrities, and in 1937, Nuns With Guns did a tour of Latin America and the United States, where they allegedly wowed the crowds at places like the Iowa State Fair.  In 1938, the Pope disbanded the group, because he decided they were bad for the Church's image. Sister Juliette, at the far right in this photo, left the order in 1942 to join the French underground as a very effective sharpshooter, and in 1949, returned to the convent.

So whattaya think? Is this story crazy enough to be true? Maybe, but unfortunately, I think it's a bunch of hooey, because I couldn't find any actual facts to support it, no matter how many sites kept reiterating the same story. There was nothing to verify it on the IOC website about the 1936 Olympics, and nothing about it on the Vatican's sites, either. Likewise, I came up with nothing after doing a search on Sister Juliette, the French Resistance,  and Mother Superior Maria Grazia, who allegedly led the rifle team. Nada. Plus there's this inconvenient fact: the International Olympics Committee only allows countries with a recognized National Olympic Committee to participate in the Games. Vatican City does, indeed, have such a committee... now, but not in 1936. Their NOC was recognized in 2010, and Vatican City participated for the first time at the London games in 2012. Still... if anyone has any facts to support the shooting nuns story, I'd love to hear it.

Now, for #4, we're gonna go from the nun side of things to the less-than-heavenly side, and check on the existence of something called the Door to Hell. Guess what? This one is true. Not saying it's actually a door to the netherworld, but that's what it's called... because that's what it looks like. Also called the Gate to Hell, it is located at a natural gas field in Derweze, Turkmenistan. In 1971, it collapsed into an underground cavern, forming a natural gas crater, which scientists set on fire, hoping to prevent the spread of deadly methane gas. They expected it to burn for several days, but it is... still burning. 


Although those of you from Australia most assuredly know about this already, others may be a bit skeptical about the amazing fact #5, claiming that a baby kangaroo can fit into the bowl of a spoon.

A spoon? Have you seen how big mama kangaroos are...?


I mean, just look at them! It'd have to be a pretty doggone big serving spoon, huh?

Or would it... ?

Nope... because this claim is also... true.

Wanta see one of those itty bitty roos?

Now let's jump right into #6, which claims the Diving Bell Spider spends most of its life underwater.

TRUE! These spiders, which are found in Northern and Central Europe, and Northern Asia, don't have gills, and some of them may surface once a day, but for the most part they live underwater. How do they do it? They trap air in a bubble, which is held by hairs on its abdomen and legs. Females build underwater diving bell webs, which they fill with air. In well-oxygenated water, replenishment of air is unnecessary, because the bell allows a gas exchange with the water: oxygen in, and carbon dioxide out. Wanta see one of these spiders in action?

The last item we're going to explore involves a claim that a tribe in India has created a system of living bridges. 

Really... living??? As in... alive??? 

Yep. Absolutely true.


Most of us think of a ficus as an attractive, and easy-to-grow houseplant.

But in the wild, the ficus elastica is something to behold...


I don't think this ficus is gonna fit into any flower pot, do you?

India's honest-to-goodness living bridges aren't so much built as they are grown. In an area that typically gets about fifty meters of rain a year, a normal wooden bridge would rot, but because these bridges are alive and still growing, they actually get stronger with time. Tribal members guide roots and vines across rivers, using hollowed trees to create a root guidance system, which eventually allows them to take root in the soil on the opposite bank. It can take as long as ten to fifteen years for the roots to become a functioning bridge, but once they do, some of these bridges are more than one hundred feet long and can support the weight of fifty or more people. This clever way of using the ficus tree to grow bridges has been done for more than five hundred years. Okay, one last video to show you what some of these bridges actually look like:

                                                                 Pretty clever, huh?

Bottom line? All of these amazing facts were true, except for the one about the nuns' rifle team. Too bad. That one was kinda cool.

But this is a fact: Nude Nuns With Big Guns was an actual movie, made in 2010. Pretty funny, huh?

Well, actually, I don't know if it's funny or not. We never saw it, because I've never, um, been in the habit of watching movies like that...

Okay, now for a bonus fact check: Smarticus married me when I was still a zygote. TRUE! It must be... how else could you explain the fact that our 47th anniversary is coming up on the 24th? It simply must be true. Only old people have been married that long... and it's been a terrific ride so far.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Good Pun is its Own Reword

Thought for the day:  Writers fish for the right words like fishermen fish for, um, whatever those aquatic creatures with fins and gills are called. [Jarrod Kintz]

We all flounder for the right word at times— especially as we get older— but I have a confession to make: I am so helplessly hooked on words, I'm not even trying to wriggle off the hook. Yep, I must confess, for it's true. I have a deep-seated and incurable case of logophilia, which is further complicated by my inexplicable love of puns.

A pun is the lowest form of humor, unless you thought of it yourself. [Gary Larson]

So just for the halibut, let's do a little fishing together, shall we? Let's talk about lost and found words— words and phrases of the past, and brand spanking new ones that have recently finagled their way into the dictionary.

Some really cool words and phrases have gone the way of milkmen. Just as young people of today missed out on the rather dubious experience of picking up bottles of milk from their front porches early in the morning, (A memorable experience in the wintertime, when the milk is partially frozen, and the cap is popped off, and sitting atop a big bulge of icky -thick cream...) they've also missed out on a bunch of colorful expressions and phrases. Do kids today know what a carbon copy is? Does anybody even make carbon paper any more? (Believe it or not, I still have a partial box of it.) With the advent of remote controls, kids today have no concept of jumping up to change the channel, and have never heard a TV announcer say, Don't touch that dial! Would your kids have any idea what you were talking about if you told them they sounded like a broken record? Or if you complained that someone had hung you out to dry? Nope, the kids of today may be living the life of Riley, but it's unlikely that they've ever heard that expression. That's okay. We may never again be the bee's knees, or the cat's pajamas, and nothing may ever again be dubbed gross enough to gag a maggot, but with all of the new words that are added to the dictionary every year, I guess something's gotta give. Out with the old and in with the new. And now for a glimpse of some of the lost ones we've shoved off a cliff, and some of the new ones that have taken their place. And a-waaaaay we go. (How sweet it is!)

Okay, here's a handful of long-lost words most of us never heard of before, and more's the pity, because some of them are pretty darned spiffy:

Wonder-wench: A sweetheart [Wouldn't you gals love it if your fella hung that moniker on you?]
Groak: To silently watch someone while they are eating, hoping to be invited to join them [Dogs are the undisputed masters of this art]
Beef-witted: Having an inactive brain, thought to be from eating too much beef. [Makes sense.. I guess doughnut dumb will be next.]
Queerplungers: Cheats who throw themselves into the water in order that they may be taken up by their accomplices, who carry them to one of the houses appointed by the Humane Society for the recovery of drowned persons, where they are rewarded by the society with a guinea each, and the supposed drowned person, pretending he was driven to that extremity by great necessity, is also frequently sent away with a contribution in his pocket. [Talk about a specific definition...]
Resistentialism: The seemingly spiteful behavior shown by inanimate objects [There is definitely still a need for this word.]

Because I like to cling to old words, in spite of my age, I still say words like cool and neat, I must confess, some of the new words just added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary are pretty darned cool, too. (Told ya!)

belignorant- both belligerent and ignorant [a word necessitated by the state of politics in today's world?]
mantrum- a tantrum thrown by a man [hmmm, also politically based?]
breakfunch- a small meal between breakfast and lunch [Um, I thought that was called brunch]
confungry- both confused and angry [back to politics...]
definotly- definitely not [HA! I like that one]
jokative- causing laughter [sounds like a made-up word, doesn't it?]
niblings- a person's nieces and nephews [kinda cool]
smellucination- an olfactory hallucination; the perception of a smell when there is no source for that smell. [another cool one]
gayborhood- neighborhood where gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people live and/or work

Like gayborhood, a number of new words are based on society's changing perception about sexuality.

Like cisgender. I guess you could say this word is the opposite of transgender. It describes someone who does still identify with his/her birth gender. [I never heard of this word, and wouldn't have thought it a necessary word, but it has been in use within the LGBT community since the late '90s]
And genderqueer, meaning someone who doesn't clearly qualify(?) or identify as either male or female.
How about Mx? That's now an accepted gender-neutral title of address.

And just a few more new words, non-sexuality based:

nomophobia- the fear of being without a working cellphone [Now you know what to call it!]
FOMO- fear of missing out
hella- a lot of

Let's end this post with something rock solid... you know, something you can hang your hat (or quoit) on. Although there was some stiff competition as to what that should be, I made the hard decision to consider the potentially punny and funny side of naming drugs. In particular... Viagra... you know, that wonder drug that brings good things to life, and provides a lift to dudes who have fallen and can't get up. For sure, it's a swell medication, to which many would offer a standing ovation, but for all that, its name is rather... limp.

As you all know, drugs have two names... a trade name and a generic name. So what about Viagra? Its generic name is currently sildenafil, but surely this most uplifting drug of them all should have a more edifying  generic name to reflect its rise in popularity, don't you think? Indeed, the generic form of Viagra offers more bang for the buck, but why can't its name be more... fun?

So here we go: I humbly suggest some possible nominees for an appropriate name (or inappropriate, depending on your point of view...)  for the FDA to consider as Viagra's new generic name:

  • Fixaflatun
  • Peckerupp
  • Nomorefloppin
  • Nulazarus
  • Nolimpics (for marketing to athletes)
  • Hardwood
  • Lovinlarge 
  • Poleraisin
  • Wheewillie
  • Popnrock
Hmm, I dunno. I think it'd be a really hard choice...

Oh, and guess what? Word has it that Pfizer may soon be offering Viagra as a liquid, and in a beverage suitable for mixing with liquor. Cool, huh? Just think. If he wanted to, a man could literally pour himself a stiff one. I guess it wouldn't sound quite right to call the beverage a soft drink, but I dunno, if Pepsi agreed to bottle it, they could always call it Mount & Do. Or maybe it could be offered as a hot beverage. Something like Viagracinno... guaranteed to keep you up all night. Or as a lip balm... to help one keep a stiff upper lip. Shoot, maybe even as a nasal spray. They could call it Kama Snootra. And I think the product should have a spokesperson, too. Maybe Poppin Fresh would like to earn a little money on the side? Oh, and a theme song, too. I think either Paul Simon's I Am a Rock or the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night would fit the bill quite nicely. And wasn't there once a song about The Hardest Part of Loving You? (If not, there should be.)

Okay, I'll stop now.

On that note, I'll bid y'all adieu. Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

It's very difficult to explain puns to a kleptomaniac, They always take things literally.