Friday, July 29, 2011

Never Feed A Mojita to a Moose

Thought for the day:  Ever hear of an ig? It's a snow house without a loo.

Just how hot IS it this summer ...?

Yeah, it's been freaky deaky hot throughout most of the country this summer. And dry, too. I hear the drought's so bad in Texas, Baptists there have started doing baptisms by sprinkling. And even worse, the Catholics have actually been praying for the wine to turn back into water. 

So, tell ya what. Let's turn our backs on the lower 48 today, and spirit our bottles of wine northward to the land where hookers are probably known as frostitutes: Alaska. Last week, we talked about some of Alabama's strange laws, but this week, we're gonna turn our thoughts to the beautiful (and cool) state of Alaska.

Gorgeous, right?
What do you think of when you think of Alaska? Me, I think of breathtaking scenery, wide open spaces and wilderness, rugged terrain, wildlife galore, and a Wild West kind of gun-toting, down-to-earth freedom. Thanks to a number of TV series, we've had the opportunity to learn a little something about the state's culture from the comfort of our easy chairs this past year. We could follow Sarah Palin around the state, watch the travails of Alaskan gold miners and fishermen, and witness amazing animals in action.

But I hate to tell you ...  Alaska may be free, but it also has some, shall we say, interesting laws in their books:

  • Moose may not be viewed from an airplane. (But you can probably shoot 'em, as long as your eyes are closed ...)
  • It's legal to shoot bears, but it's NOT legal to wake one up so you can take its picture. (Shoot with gun, OK. Shoot with camera, not OK. Got it.)
  • It's illegal to push a live moose out of a moving airplane. (Guess that'd be a moving violation, eh?)
  • In Anchorage, you aren't allowed to tie your pet dog to the roof of a car. (Kinda makes you wonder about the persons who made a law like this necessary, doesn't it?)
  • Also in Anchorage, you're prohibited from living in a trailer while it is being towed. (Doesn't say anything about using the loo while being towed ...)
  • In Fairbanks, you can't feed alcoholic beverages to a moose. (But bears are OK?)
  • In Haines, you must have a license to carry a concealed slingshot. (But not a gun?)
  • Also in Haines, bartenders are prohibited from serving alcohol while inebriated. (So much for being comped free drinks up there ...)
  • In Juneau, owners may not take their pet flamingos into barber shops. (Really?)
  • And in Soldotna, you may not allow "attractive nuisances" to exist. (Lest you think this means it'd be OK to permanently rid yourself of that good-looking neighbor who never knows when to shut up, it doesn't. The law actually defines "attractive" as any object that will attract bears. 'Course, if said neighbor were smeared with garbage ... )
Okay, here it is, the moment you've all been waiting for. It's time for (ta DA!)

This Week's Weirdest News Stories

***  I'm all for do-it-yourself attitudes. For some things. Certainly, not for all. This week, a 63-year-old southern California man tried his hand at a bit of do-it-himself surgery. Using a six-inch butter knife, he tried to cut out his hernia. Not push it out, like the pros would've done, but cut that puppy clean out. His wife called 911, and while the police officers were with the (naked) man, waiting for the EMTs to arrive, he yanked the knife out of his stomach and stuffed a burning cigarette into it. (Guess he was attempting to cauterize?) No indication as to whether there were any adult beverages involved in this gentleman's decision-making processes, but it sure sounds like he may have dug deeply into his little baggie of medicinal marijuana. 

*** One hundred thirty-four days after Christchurch, New Zealand, was devastated by an earthquake, two unlikely survivors were found unharmed. Goldfish Shaggy and Daphne made it through the ordeal of the past four and a half months, trapped within their murky tank, without electricity, and without food. (However, three OTHER fish who used to share that tank were g-o-n-e.) Alas, no telling how these fish will fare in the future, though. The director of the company, who found the survivors when allowed back into her damaged office building, took them home with her and turned them over to the care of her (gasp) little boy.

*** New Hampshire just erected a brand  new historical marker to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of an alleged alien abduction. It reads: On the night of September 19-20, 1961, Portsmouth, N.H., couple Betty and Barney Hill experienced a close encounter with an unidentified flying object and two hours of "lost" time while driving south on Rte. 3 near Lincoln. They filed an official Air Force Project Blue Book report of a brightly-lit cigar-shaped craft the next day, but were not public with their story until it was leaked in the Boston Traveler in 1965. This was the first widely-reported UFO abduction report in the United States.  

See, where ELSE can you find out such crap  fascinating information?

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Do You Smell What I Smell?

Thought for the day:  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a scent will linger longer.

CORRECTION: In my last post, I screwed up when I said the only talent my grandmother's boxers ever had was generating copious quantities of killer flatulence. Not so. They were champion droolers, as well, and could string a line of slobber from both corners of their mouths all the way to the floor. Quite impressive, really. And the male, Chief, was also a major ball player. Nothing made him happier than hours spent chasing after his well-chewed, slobbery, soggy, slimy rubber ball and bringing it back to you. Whether you were dressed for the sport or not.


Studies indicate that the male brain, not to mention certain other sundry body parts, responds more enthusiastically to visual stimuli than the female brain. That is, the sight of bare flesh has the tendency to rev up a man's juices faster than it will a woman's. That doesn't mean men are more responsive to non-sexual visual stimuli, however. My hubby considers traipsing around behind me in an art museum to be a scant step above having a root canal. Nor does it mean women are immune to the visual appeal of certain male physiques, either. I've heard some women say the only reason they watch football is for the sheer pleasure of ogling all those tight bottoms clad in tight breeches. (Not that I've ever noticed, mind you. I watch it purely for the game.)

An excellent athlete, I'm sure.

To varying degrees, we all react to visual images. Females respond viscerally to the sight of babies, both human and animal. Men are more apt to notice an anomaly in their surroundings. Or in a movie. This, however, may be due to the fact that while a teary-eyed woman is absorbed in the story, her man may be bored out of his gourd, and itching to poke holes in the movie for his own perverse entertainment. (I mean, really, who CARES if a Roman gladiator is wearing Reeboks, right?)


The point is, yes, men react, women react, we all react to what we see. But why do some writers work so hard to reproduce a specific visual image in the minds of their readers, while completely ignoring the value of our other senses?

Like hearing. It would be totally cool if life were accompanied by a soundtrack, wouldn't it? If music could warn us when danger's coming, or if maybe a goofy-sounding ditty could've let my son-in-law's Uncle Mike know I was just joking when I told him we'd already met our quota for Mikes at the wedding, so he'd have to leave. (Thankfully, after a brief awkward moment, he DID laugh ...)

If your entrance were marked with music, what do you think it would be?

I'd like to think mine would be some really cool, sexy down and dirty sax music, but unfortunately, I'm more of a Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk" kinda person. (sigh)

Some writers listen to music when they write. It helps them tap into the proper mood they're attempting to recreate with their words. Kinda like adding a soundtrack to their writing. Do you think it's possible for a writer to provide some semblance of auditory stimulation for his readers, as well?

Yeah, I think it is. Can't provide a full-blown soundtrack, of course, but word choice makes all the difference. Take the statement: "The dog barked." It provides us with basic information, and we understand what the words are saying. But how about this statement? "The chihuahua yapped like a pit bull on helium." It provides the same information, but in a manner such that we can almost hear the little mutt.

Certain sounds leave indelible marks on our psyches, like fingernails scraping across a blackboard, a bugler playing the haunting notes of Taps, coyotes howling, and bombs exploding. When a writer successfully taps into the sounds existing in our collective psyches, he may indeed make it possible for a reader to clearly hear the action in his mind. (And let's not forget the potential power of POW-BOOM-SPLAT onomatopoeia, either.)

Incorporating taste and touch into our writings is also possible, by taking advantage of common sensory experiences. Most of us are familiar with the taste of blood, salt, and vinegar, and the feel of silk, satin, and sand paper.

But I'm more interested in the sense of smell.

Smells have the uncanny ability to evoke very strong deep-rooted reactions and emotions. Don't believe me? Have you ever experienced the phenomenon of catching a whiff of baking bread, a dank musty cellar, a certain brand of perfume or aftershave, or even the scent of sulfur, and been immediately gut-punched by an unexpected memory?

Does the smell of sulfur elicit any memories for you?

Psychologists say our brains are hardwired to associate smells with memories. It's only natural that whenever I smell a dank dusty smell, I am immediately transported to my maternal grandmother's scary cellar. There's a certain expensive brand of make-up ... I don't know what it IS, because I'm ... er ... thrifty .... but whenever I catch a faint whiff of it, I'm cuddled up next to my paternal grandmother again. Old Spice? Can't smell the stuff without thinking of my father.

So, the wise writer will make an effort to incorporate smells into his work. Take advantage of your capacity to stimulate associative memories with your smelly words. Because the bottom line is, evoking a reader's reaction to the smells you describe in your writing will also evoke a strong reaction to your writing itself.

Ya know? Kinda makes me wonder if when I'm long gone, my children and grandchildren will associate any particular scent with me. 

Hmmmm, maybe I'd better lay off the baked beans.

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

On Doggies and Doggles

Thought for the day:  There never yet has been a dog who learned to double cross, nor catered to you when you won, then dropped you when you lost.  Mary Hale

Dogs have almost always been a part of my life.

When I was very young, my parents had a shaggy dog named Tippy who was so timid, my mother had to stand over him with a stick while he was eating so other animals couldn't scare him away and eat all his food. Later, we had a teeny tiny dog named Dixie, and for a short while, a beautiful, but demented blond shepherd named Tiger. No matter how long a time we let Tiger outside, he was always extremely diligent about holding it until he came back into the house. Or, upon occasion, he was known to let 'er rip on the steps leading up to the back porch. Oh, and when he wanted in, he would charge up the steps and fling himself full force at the door, knocking himself half silly in the process. "Oh, that's fine," my father would say. "He's just a puppy," he would say. Tiger chewed up shoes belonging to my mother and me, ate a rosebush, thorns and all, and destroyed every piece of clothing hanging on the clothesline one day. Again, my father said, "That's okay. He's just a puppy." But when said pup chewed through the lead-in wire to my father's TV set, Tiger's little doggie bags were packed, and he earned himself a one-way ticket to a friend's place in the country.


None of our dogs was ever particularly talented. None could jump rope or break dance, but our son had a springer spaniel who was quite good at catching a frisbee. Alas, when she died, our son tried to teach our next dog how to perform the same tricks, but all he managed to do was amuse the dog ... and us. He'd throw the frisbee and then go after it on his hands and knees and bring it back in his mouth, while Buck watched, and wagged his tail. My grandmother had a couple boxers who were quite beautiful, but their only talent was generating copious quantities of flatulence. For which my poor grandfather often got blamed.

All our dogs were gentle and loving.

Ours may not have been the most beautiful dogs, or the smartest dogs, but they were all loving dogs. But I'd like to tell you a little bit now about some truly amazing, highly-trained dogs. MWDs, or Military Working Dogs.

Belgian malinois
Cairo, a Belgian malinois, was part of the Navy Seal team that nailed Bin Laden. Until that story broke, I'd never heard of that particular breed before. Turns out, this breed is very similar to the German shepherd, but smaller and more compact. Although the military uses numerous breeds of dog, the shepherd and malinois are the most common, because of their keen sense of smell, endurance, speed, strength, courage, intelligence, and ability to adapt to almost any climate.

Even though dogs worked alongside soldiers during the Civil War and WWI, it wasn't until 1942 that they were officially inducted into the U.S. Army. Currently, there are an estimated 2800 active-duty dogs, and about 600 of them are serving  in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

This picture, released by K9 Storm, shows what Cairo may have looked like when heading up the stairs in pursuit of Bin Laden.

This pic, also from K9 Storm, shows military dog handler Mike Forsythe and his dog Cara, jumping from an airplane from a record-breaking height of 30,100 feet. Both of them had to wear oxygen to tackle this mind-boggling feat. Military dogs usually jump in tandem with their trainers, but with flotation devices, can make short jumps into the water on their own.

And just what is K9 Storm, you ask? It's a hi-tech mom-and-pop business in Winnipeg, Canada, that designs and manufactures canine body armor. How hi-tech, you ask? A tactical vest is fitted with infrared and night vision enabled cameras capable of delivering feed one thousand yards line-of-sight, and up to 200 yards through multiple concrete walls. Thanks to K9 Storm, the well-dressed MWD of today wears protective eye gear called doggles, body armor, life vests, gas masks, long-range GPS-equipped vests, and hi-tech flak jackets.

Plus, the standard K9 Storm vest also has a load-bearing harness system that works well for tandem rappelling and parachuting. As a point of interest, USAF dogs have been airborne for decades, but the earliest flying dogs were probably those accompanying Soviet troops during the '30s.

This picture, from Manual J. Martinez, of the USAF,  shows a jump from a Chinook CH-47, in a training exercise over the Gulf of Mexico. This dog is wearing a special flotation device.

MWDs and their handlers are a tightly-knit unit.

These dogs are trained to detect explosives and hostile, hiding humans. Equipped with their cameras, they enter danger zones first, and allow their handlers to see what's coming before the humans venture forward. Like their human counterparts, dog SEALs, like Cairo, are not only highly trained, but also highly skilled, and highly motivated. And these heroic canines are loved and respected.

Kinda like our dogs.

Only different.

So, how about you? Not that you've ever had a dog who jumped out of airplanes with a parachute, (they can ALL do it WITHOUT one ... but only ONCE) but what nifty tricks could your favorite pooch do?

(And thank you to and for the use of their pictures.)

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

Money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make it wag its tail.   Kinky Friedman

Friday, July 22, 2011

Nutso Laws and Charging Bosoms

Thought for the day:  The real problem is not whether machines think, but whether men do.  B.F. Skinner

Have you ever wondered how (and why) legislators continually contrive to come up with more and more new laws every year? I mean, come ON! Shouldn't these solons have covered everything up, down, back, forth, and sideways by now? God deemed TEN relatively short and to-the-point commandments to be sufficient, but our earthly lawmakers seem to ascribe to a more is better mentality, as though their paychecks depended on them regurgitating a never-ending list of long-winded laws, statutes, and regulations every year. Thankfully, the laws of God and nature remain the same, but the laws of man have a way of changing at the whim of our legislators, and we the people are expected to know what they are and to obey them.

Gimme your hat; it's time to make dinner.
An article in this week's newspaper told the tale of Austrian Niko Alm's response to his country's law regarding head coverings. The only time they're to be allowed in official documents is if they are being worn  for religious reasons. When it came time for Mr. Alm, an atheist, to renew his driver's license, he submitted a picture of himself with a colander on his head. Said he was a pastafarian. Took him three years to get past all the official hemming and hawing, but he got his license, colander and all.

As they say, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Emulating our fellow citizens in the hopes that THEY are obeying the laws doesn't always work, either. There's an old movie called Starman,  in which a man is driving an alien around, who concludes by observation that an amber traffic light means drive faster. And in parts of most cities in the world, one could assume by observation that it's perfectly legal to urinate in public. Or to panhandle. Or to throw trash on the ground. So, how, pray tell, are we to know?

Easy. You've got ME to tell you! Okay, so these laws I'm going to tell you about aren't ones you're ever likely to break, and it's probably a pretty safe bet that the legislators aren't even aware of them anymore. But they ARE currently on the books. Today, we're going to take a peek at some of the laws currently on the books in the state of Alabama.

  • Bear wrestling matches are illegal. (just in case you were considering it ...)
  • It's illegal to wear a false mustache that causes laughter in church. (I guess ridiculously funny REAL mustaches and fake ones with a serious side are OK)
  • You may NOT flick boogers into the wind. 
  • It's illegal to sell peanuts in Lee County after sundown on Wednesdays.
  • You may NOT play dominoes on Sundays.
  • Putting salt on a railroad track may be punishable by death. (Yipes! How about PEPPER?)
  • It is LEGAL to drive the wrong way on a one-way street if you have a lantern attached to the front of your automobile. 
  • You may not have an ice cream cone in your back pocket at any time. (oh, darn!)
  • In the event of divorce, women are able to retain all property they owned prior to marriage. However, this provision does not apply to men. 
  • It's illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while driving.
  • In Anniston, it's illegal to wear blue jeans down Noble Street. (So, what? People strip them off?)
  • In Auburn, men who deflower virgins, regardless of age or marital status, may face up to five years in jail. (Um, does this apply to the wedding night?)
  • In Mobile, women may not wear a "lewd dress" in public. 
  • Also in Mobile, bathing in city fountains is prohibited.
  • AND ... it's illegal to possess confetti. 
  • OR ... spit orange peels on the sidewalk. (In the streets is OK?)
  • OR ... to howl at ladies within the city limits. (AL seems to have it in for men, but if the ladies were wearing a "lewd dress", they might catch a break on this one ...)
  • Last mention for Mobile: it's unlawful to wear women's pumps with sharp high heels. 
  • And in Montgomery, it's illegal to open an umbrella on the street. It might spook the horses. 
See? Dontcha feel better? More informed? Yeah, I thought so. We'll look at the crazy laws of another state next week. For now, it's time for (ta DA!)

The Weirdest News Stories of the Week

**  A Texas gal was only trying to help her future hubby conquer his fear of heights when she convinced him to take a bungee ride with her. The problem? The ride got stuck. While they were on it. Fifty feet off the ground. For three hours, the couple dangled, until firefighters used an aerial ladder to rescue them. Amazingly, the couple still plans to marry in February. However, the experience did NOT conquer this gentleman's fears. It's safe to say he will never, I say NEVER, take another bungee ride again.

Coming into the stretch ...
**  Rain caused a twenty-minute delay in a Norfolk, England race  recently, but the competitors didn't mind. They're snails. This annual event attracts trainers and their snails from all over the country, and each entrant is marked with a number, because as the organizers said, "One garden snail looks very much like another." The record pace was set ten years ago by a snail named Archie, who covered the thirteen-inch track in two minutes flat. Coolest name in this year's race: Optimus Slime. 

**  In this year's running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, the naked truth is, one runner stood out from the crowd. In a sea of runners clad in the traditional white shirt and red neckerchief, a bull zeroed in on an Australian gent who chose a more nontraditional garb. Nothing. The streaker was seriously injured when the bull gored him in the leg, but is expected to recover. He was, however, arrested for causing a public disturbance.

For Dolly Parton's iKini, maybe?
**   New York designer Andrew Schneider created quite a buzz when he came up with a way to charge your gadgets with your boobs. Sorta. Called the iKini, his design, currently available from Solar Coterie for about two hundred dollars, is a bikini covered in photovoltaic strips, (i.e. solar panels) terminated in an USB connector capable of providing 5 volts. And yes, it IS possible to swim in it, ladies, provided you remember to unplug your gadgets first. And oh yeah, better not try to reconnect until you're completely dry. Men, never fear. Another  version is in the works just for you. The solar shorts, to be dubbed iDrink, will feature a higher voltage output capable of  powering a peltier junction, which will connect to a custom coozy, so you can keep your beer cold while charging your iPod. (Too bad Mr. Schneider didn't figure out how to harness methane in his design, too. Some men could power a small TV ...) 

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Sounds of Silence

Thought for the day:  The laughter of a child is the light of a house.   African proverb

You wanta know what is it
Made this past week such a riot?
Seven grandkids came to visit.
But now ...
It's much too quiet.

It was both exhilarating and exhausting having the family here. First time in years all our chicks were back in the nest at the same time. And the first time we ever had seven grandchildren here all at once, too.  My hubby and I found out we both make pretty darned good jungle gyms, even if we do need to reach for the tube of BenGay later. And I learned, even though I have a competitive nature, I don't mind it at all when my granddaughters beat me at Candyland. I also learned that even though one of our granddaughters is almost as tall as I am, she still fits quite nicely on my lap.

Now, we're in what my hubby jokingly called recovery and damage assessment modes. The chalk drawings all over our driveway (and my car!) should last until we have a good rain, and I may leave the swirl of fingerprints on the screen door glass and living room TV for a few days, too. Seeing them makes me smile. They're a reminder of giggling grandchildren, shrieks of laughter, running feet, and gleeful shouts of  "Grandmom!" and "Grandpop!"  ringing through the house.

I miss them already.

This camel is in dire need of Listerine.
While they were here, we did a little sightseeing, too. Like to the plantation at Stone Mountain, where our granddaughters were convinced we'd see ghosts. (My husband's eerie Woooooos didn't help that situation a bit.) We also went to a game ranch, where the kids got to interact up-close and personal with a bunch of different animals. However, that picture with the camel isn't of our grandson. It's just a picture that tickled my funny bone, and it comes to us courtesy of the cool people at

There's something magical about being a grandparent.

Being a parent is wonderful, but being a grandparent is downright magical. Here are some really cool thoughts about being a grandparent:

  • Becoming a grandmother is wonderful. One moment you're just a mother. The next you are all-wise and prehistoric.   Pam Brown
  • My grandkids believe I'm the oldest thing in the world. And after two or three hours with them, I believe it, too.   Gene Perret
  • Grandparents are just antique kids.  Origin unknown
  • A grandfather is someone with silver in his hair and gold in his heart.  Origin unknown
  • An hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again. Anything longer than that, you start to age quickly.   Gene Perret
  • Being grandparents sufficiently removes us from the responsibilities so that we can be friends.  Allan Frome
  • Few things are more delightful than grandchildren fighting over your lap.  Doug Larsen
  • Do you know why children are so full of energy? Because they suck it out of their grandparents. Gene Perret
  • Grandchildren are God's reward for not killing our kids.  Origin unknown
  • Grandchildren don't stay young forever, which is good, because grandfathers only have so many horsey rides in them.   Gene Perret
  • The handwriting on the wall means the grandchildren found the crayons.  Origin unknown

It was a glorious week. But alas, even if I do leave the fingerprints for a while, I should probably go scrub the sticky kitchen floor before one of our poor cats get glued to it. They've suffered enough trauma. They, I might add, are deliriously happy to have their house back again.

In closing, I'd like to share a totally cool video with you that my brother sent to me. It shows an intimate view inside a robin's nest. It seems rather appropriate, because I can certainly identify with that mother robin when her nest was jammed full of her growing babies ... and when her nest was empty again. You can check it out here

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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Auntie Susie's Handy Dandy Stock Tips

Thought for the day:  Why is the guy who advises you about your money called a ... broker?

I'm still not here.

Nope, this is another pre-written post. By the time you're reading this, I should be up to my eyebrows in  grandkiddies.

Life is good.

OK, the stock market is recovering nicely, so it isn't such a sore spot anymore. That means I can get away with being a smart ass about it. YAY! ( I do that so WELL!)

So, if you're unsure where to invest your hard-earned money, here's your Auntie Susie to the rescue with my handy dandy stock market forecast. Read it, and invest wisely, grasshoppers:

  • Helium is definitely going up.
  • Feathers? Going down.
  • Paper will remain stationery.
  • Florescent tubing will dim in light trading.
  • Knives? Up sharply.
  • Cows will be steering into a bull market.
  • Pencils are going to lose some points.
  • Hiking equipment may be trailing.
  • Elevators are going up, but escalators will continue a slow decline.
  • Weights are up in heavy trading.
  • Light switches are going to be off.
  • Mining equipment will hit rock bottom.
  • Diapers will remain unchanged.
  • Shipping lines will be on an even keel.
  • The market for raisins will dry up.
  • Coca Cola may fizzle.
  • Caterpillar stock should inch up a bit.
  • Sun will peak at midday.
  • Balloon prices will be inflated.
  • Charmin will touch a new bottom.
  • The interstate sale of electricity will be alternating.
REMEMBER: You got your tips here!

Oh well, while we're picking on the economy, might as well throw these in, too. These are some very important answers to the question, "How bad IS the economy?" 

Our economy is so bad ...
  1. When I bought a toaster oven, they gave me a bank.
  2. I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.
  3. CEOs are now playing miniature golf.
  4. Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars are trading higher than GM.
  5. McDonald's is going to start selling the quarter ouncer.
  6. Rich folks are firing their nannies, and (gasp!) learning their children's names.
  7. The most highly-paid job now is jury duty.
  8. Motel Six isn't leaving its lights on anymore.
  9. The Mafia is laying off judges.
  10. If the bank returns a check marked "insufficient funds," you have to call to see if they meant you ...  or them.
OK, that's enough of this pre-written stuff. I'm gonna sign clear with y'all and come back to you live and in person next Wednesday. Until then, take care of yourselves. And each other.

A coin saved is a government oversight.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spacious Sardine Cans

Thought for the day:  Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.  

Do these glasses look OK on me?
I'm not really here right now. That is, I'm writing this post on Saturday, but when it appears like magic on my blog on Monday, I won't actually be here. (Dontcha love that Blogger lets us do that?)

I'll be at the opth   ophth   eye doctor's on Monday. So might as well get the post done early, right? In fact, I'm gonna try to set up multiple posts today, because I won't "be around" for a while. You've heard of the British invasion of the '60s? Well, we're expecting a Polish invasion at our house. Our grandchildren. Seven of them will be visiting. All our kids and their spouses, too. So, as you can imagine, I'm gonna be kinda busy ... cooking, cooking, cooking, running the washing machine, and most important of all, enjoying the kids and grandkids. Not sure if I'll have any time at all to get on the computer, but if I do, I'll try to check for your comments. Probably won't be checking your blogs, though. Sorry. Not that I don't love you guys, but I love those younguns more.

2012 Mini coupe

There was a write-up in last night's newspaper about the 2012 two-seat Mini coupe. The Mini Coopers are kinda cute, but this new top-of-the-line sporty coupe will be able to achieve speeds of 149 mph. Not that I have any interest in traveling that fast, but it's a bit of a disconnect to think of a Mini and that kind of speed. You can even order luxurious leather seats and special spiffy alloy wheels for it. Considering all the options on this cute little car that's being marketed as a vehicle to "maximize driving fun",  you could almost call this a luxury car. If you don't mind riding around in a sardine can, that is. 

Made me think about what sort of luxury features I'd put into a car. Leather interiors are nice, and even here in Atlanta, heated seats feel mighty good on a chilly winter morning, but there are a couple more practical luxuries I believe most parents would pay extra money to call their own. Like those windows limos have separating the front seat from the back. Can you imagine? How many times have you had to endure the raucous sounds of children bruising the crap out of each other in a ridiculous game of punch buggy in the back seat? Or heard the question, "Are we there yet?" Oh, and my favorite: the endless litany of "He's touching me!" and "She touched me first!" emanating from the back seat. How many times have you heard THAT? Enough times that you're tempted to pull the car over and do a little "touching" yourself? Well, then, just think of it. If you had one of those super duper cool windows, you could hit the button, and voila! Peace and quiet. 

One other feature that might come in handy, although I don't believe I'd ever have the chutzpah to use it, would be an ejection seat. Got any back seat drivers who drive you nuts? Give 'em a warning, and then pfffft! Out they go. Just having that puppy in the car as an option would likely put an end to most of that annoying know-it-all babbling. You'd never even have to use it. Not more than once, anyway ...

OK, back to the "fast" or "luxury" Mini. Either one is a bit of an oxymoron, isn't it? So, just for fun, let's look at some other oxymorons. The most commonly referenced oxymoron is probably "jumbo shrimp", but here are some others you may not have heard before. Let's call them 

 The Top 35 Oxymorons of All Time   

  • State worker
  • Legally drunk
  • Exact estimate
  • Act naturally
  • Found missing
  • Resident alien
  • Genuine imitation
  • Airline food
  • Good grief
  • Government organization
  • Sanitary landfill
  • Alone together
  • Small crowd
  • Business ethics
  • Soft rock
  • Amtrak schedule
  • Military intelligence
  • Sweet sorrow
  • Compassionate conservative
  • "Now, then ... "
  • Passive aggression
  • Clearly misunderstood
  • Peace force
  • Extinct life
  • Plastic glasses
  • Terribly pleased
  • Computer security
  • Political science
  • Tight slacks
  • Definite maybe
  • Pretty ugly
  • Rap music
  • Working vacation
  • Religious tolerance
  • Microsoft Works

Pretty good, huh? That list was sent to me almost a decade ago by one of Georgia's Emergency Managers. I thought it was funny then, and I still think it's funny, now.

How about you? Have any oxymorons you'd care to share? Or a luxury feature you'd like to see in your next vehicle? Do tell.

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

Have a fuzzy-licious happy day

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Am What I Eat? How Utterly Disgusting!

Thought for the day:  How is it that a toddler can be so picky and slow when it comes to eating a nutritious dinner, and yet so fast at shoving every disgusting thing he finds on the ground into his mouth?

Before writing Wednesday's post about the turtles at JFK Airport, I discovered the words turtle, terrapin, and tortoise seemed to be used interchangeably in the articles and reports I was reading. So I wondered ... what's the difference between the three words? Well, I can tell you right now, according to the definition of terrapin I found, there's absolutely no need for that particular word in my vocabulary. No sirree, and here's why. Turtle is a generic term, so you can properly use it to refer to any of those adorable shelled reptiles, whether they live on the land or in the water.  A tortoise is a turtle, and though the term can be used to denote any turtle, it refers especially to a land turtle. But terrapin is defined as any of North America's edible water turtles. Oh, no, no, no, no, no.  I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned, there is no such thing as an edible turtle. So, I will not be using that word again anytime soon.

And yeah, I know some of you may disagree. Some of you may consider turtles a wonderful delicacy. After all, even though I think calves are absolutely adorable and have the most beautiful eyes, when driving past a field of them, I may or may not have said a time or two, "Oh, look at all the veals!"

I know. Crass.

But if you think about it, we humans eat a lot of strange foods. I mean, I love raw oysters, but you've got to wonder about the first human who thought to himself, I'm going to crack that thing open and eat whatever I find in there, no matter how slimy and disgusting it looks.

You must admit. It doesn't look very appetizing.
OK, let's take a look at some of the weird foods people eat around the world, shall we?
  • In Sardinia, people eat something called casu marzu, which is cheese riddled with insect larvae. Appropriately enough, it is also called maggot cheese. Yum, huh?
  • In Indonesia, fried monkey toes are considered a delicacy.
  • In Hungary, a favorite dish is comprised of fresh pig blood and scrambled eggs.
  • Talking about blood, in Sweden, blood dumplings are made with flour and reindeer blood, and the Polish have czarnina, a soup whose not-so-secret ingredient is duck blood.
  • Ever hear of head cheese? It looks like a nondescript mish-mash jellied lunch meat, and can be found in many delis. Did you know that isn't just a cutesy name? That it's actually made from the head of a pig? A whole head, which has to be shaved, and has to have the wax removed from its ears, prior to cooking? If you have the stomach for it, you can see how it's done here
head cheese

  • Americans traditionally eat some pretty weird stuff, too. How about scrapple, which is allegedly made from every part of the pig but its oink? I also read that some people in the South eat squirrel brains, although I can't say I've ever seen any of my neighbors so indulge, and I don't plan to serve them at our next dinner party, either.
  • In Eastern Europe, there's a dish called p'tcha which is a translucent "jello" made from calves' feet. 
  • Oh, and while we're talking about feet, let's not forget pickled pig and cow feet. (There are two jars of pig feet lurking in my pantry now.)
  • In France, they eat calf's head; in Slovenia, they eat stewed dormice; in Italy, they eat cibreo, which is cock's combs; and in Thailand, they eat rats.
  • You've heard of Chinese birds nest soup? It is literally made from swifts' nests, and lest you think those nests are made of twigs and grass, they aren't. They're mostly made of saliva.
  • In the Philippines, balut answers the age-old chicken-or-the-egg question. This dish is made of fertilized eggs, which are cooked just before they hatch, so when you eat it, you get both the chicken (or duck) AND the egg.  
  • One of  Korea's favorite dishes is sannakji. Octopus. No big deal, you say? You've eaten octopus many times, you say?  How many times have you eaten it while it was still squirming on your plate? That's right. This dish is reeeeeeally fresh. While it's still alive, the octopus is cut into pieces and sprinkled with sesame oil, and the tentacles are STILL MOVING when diners pop it into their mouths. It poses quite a challenge, too, because those little suction cups on the tentacles stick to whatever surface they touch. So the diner has to pry his dinner from his chopsticks, and once it's in his mouth,  the tentacles latch onto his teeth, his tongue, and the roof of his mouth.
  • And then, there's the national dish of Scotland. Haggis. This is a sausage-like dish which contains what they call the pluck of a sheep: its heart, liver, and lungs. (Takes a bit of pluck to eat it, too!) When all the ingredients are combined, they're traditionally sewn into the sheep's stomach for cooking, with the windpipe hanging over the side of the pot. Modern recipes, however, may call for tongue instead of lung, and sausage casing instead of sheep's stomach. 
  • This love-it or hate-it food comes to us from the UK:  

Marmite is a dark brown spread made from brewery yeast by-products. It was mentioned on several blogs recently, so the last time I visited a local British specialty store, I decided to buy some ... and try some. The shop's owner fairly waxed poetic about this stuff, but she did warn me not to spread it on my toast like butter. A very thin coat will do you, she said. Indeed. Although British children pretty much eat Marmite from the time they're weaned, I must say, even a very thin coating of it delivered a powerhouse punch of taste. Not exactly yeasty. A little salty. Just a strong strong taste unlike anything I've ever had before. It's chock full of B vitamins, and very nutritious, so I'll probably try it again, but no rush. I have plenty of time. Even after opening, it'll last for years at room temperature.

In closing on this whole weird foods of the world idea, I'll let these following pictures speak for themselves:

 bugs on a stick

fried spiders, anyone?

So, what's all this mean? It means there's simply no accounting for taste. People like what they like, and hate what they hate. Just because I tried chocolate-covered ants when I was a kid (they're crunchy) doesn't mean I'd ever choose them over a Hershey bar. Just because I ate snake once (it really DOES taste like chicken) doesn't mean I ever want to eat it again. And just because most of the world loves chocolate doesn't make you wrong if you hate it.

And here we go: Rejection from any given agent or publisher doesn't mean your writing stinks. All it means is you haven't submitted it to the person with the perfect palate for it yet. The work of any creative person  is every bit as susceptible to personal taste as a still-moving chunk of octopus or jar of pickled pigs feet. I'll betcha even Michelangelo had his detractors. (the artist, not the ninja turtle)

OK, time to take a look at (ta-DA!) the

Weirdest News Stories of the Week

**   After a scant week on the job, Japan's new reconstruction minister had to resign because of offensive remarks he made about the country's earthquake and tsunami victims. His explanation? No, he didn't say the devil made him do it. He blamed his insensitive behavior on his blood type, alluding to a widespread Japanese belief that associates blood type with certain character traits. He says his behavior stemmed from his type B blood, although there was no mention of Rh factor. Judging by his unkind remarks, I think he may ... B negative.

** To curb complaints about drivers taking needlessly long roundabout routes, old New Delhi rickshaws are now fitted with new SatNav systems ... AKA GPS ... which local authorities will monitor. This unlikely pairing of old and new should result in more direct routes, yes, but it may not alleviate customer concerns about overcharging. It seems that many of the rickshaw drivers refuse to use meters.

**  In a follow-up to last week's story about Nathan's Hot Dog Eating competition, for the fifth year in a row, Joey Chestnut won the Mustard Belt ( I kid you not) and ten thousand dollars (that'll buy a LOT of hot dogs!) by scarfing down 62 dogs and rolls in the span of ten minutes. The winner among lady competitors? Although I can't imagine where she put 'em, Sonya Thomas, who is 5'5" tall, and a mere 105 pounds, managed to pack in forty dogs and buns. In an interesting side story, Takeru Kobayashi, a one-time Mustard Belt holder who was banned from the competition because of his refusal to sign a contract, held his own event. From atop a Manhattan rooftop, and in front of witnesses, he ate sixty-nine dogs and buns within the allotted ten minutes. Alas, although it would've broken the official record, there'll be no mustard belt for him. But I'll bet he ate with a lot of relish.

If you have time, check out the blogs of  Dianne Salerni and Marcy Hatch today. They've thrown me into the back of their trucks and will be toting me across the tarmac. That is, they'll be critiquing the first page of my novel. Go ahead. Let me know what you think about my haggis. So to speak.

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

We Can Fly With a Little Help From Our Friends

Thought for the day:  Man must  not allow the clock and the calendar to blind him to the fact that each moment of his life is a miracle and a mystery.   H.G. Welles

All's relatives at family reunions.
No, I'm not gonna go all Einstein-y on you, but the old dude was right. Time and speed are relative. Children have little grasp of time, and scant concern about it beyond the eon separating one Christmas from the next, or the interminable amount of time it takes to drive to Aunt Sally's or to the vacation spot at the beach. On the other hand, as we get older, our days no longer seem to contain the full allotment of twenty-four hours, and the days, weeks, months, and years pass so quickly, there doesn't even seem to be much point in bothering to take our Christmas decorations down anymore. Like the joke says, life is like a roll of toilet paper: the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.

Speed's the same way. To a child pedaling his toy car down the driveway as fast as he can, he's flying like the wind. But if you put that same pedal car on the autobahn? Different story. And compared to a snail, a turtle moves pretty darned fast. But compared to a 747? Road kill.

Or at least,  it could be.

If  you've ever been disheartened by news stories about modern progress pushing yet another animal out of its natural habitat and to the brink of extinction, here's a story of a different breed. On June 29, a piece of the modern world hit the pause button. Or you could say ...  it slowed to a crawl.

You've heard of the annual running of the bulls? Well, every year diamondback terrapins leave the salt marshes of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to take part in a slow motion stampede of their own. In this annual running of the turtles, these critters are lumbering to their nesting grounds, and every year, a herd of 'em crawls across a runway at New York's JFK Airport while making their laborious trek to the Jamaica Bay Refuge Center to lay their eggs. This year's journey intersected with JFK's Runway 4 on June 29, when an estimated 150 turtles shut down the runway and delayed flights for approximately an hour. As one unnamed Jet Blue pilot allegedly said, "Running over turtles is not healthy for them, nor is it good for the tires." Right. I can't see as how being run over by a 747 would be particularly healthy for any of God's creatures. Life transforming, perhaps, but definitely not healthy.

As soon as the first turtles were spotted on the tarmac, airport staff did what they do every year. They rushed out to help. Some terrapins were hand-carried across the runway to safety, while others were scooped up and given a lift to their nesting grounds in the bed of a pick-up truck.

It just goes to show you. Even if we cover it up with concrete, steel, and asphalt, nature is still all around us. And it was here first. It's good to know the folks at JFK Airport understand that.

Another thing this turtle tale reminds us. We might feel like the lone turtle on a scary runway at times, but we aren't alone. No matter what our destination, there are others willing to help us in our journey. In the amateur radio community, the more experienced hams who provide guidance and assistance to other hams are called Elmers. In schools and workplaces, we have tutors and mentors. Same for most hobbies, and same for writing. Especially in the blogosphere. Not only is there a host of aspiring writers blogging about their travails and triumphs, but there are also agents, editors, publishers, and already-published authors offering a treasure trove of tips, advise, and support, and bless their hearts, they're willing to throw us in the back of the truck and help us across that scary tarmac. In a matter of speaking.

Two authors will be killing me   dissecting my writing  throwing me in the back of their truck this coming Friday. The lovely Dianne Salerni and the lovely Marcy Hatch will be critiquing the first page of my novel Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade on their blogs. Go on over and check it out. If I survive the surgery, you might even consider submitting a page of your own work. While you're checking out their blogs, you lovely people can even pick up a scalpel cut my baby to shreds   offer your valuable opinions, as well. (And remember, y'all. I did call you lovely. So be kind.)

Know what? I may still be a turtle, but with the support of so many wonderful friends, I feel like


Super thanks to the fine folks at for so graciously granting me permission to use that cool picture of the flying turtle.

We can all be super turtles. With a little help from our friends. Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.