Friday, September 25, 2015

Outta This World

Thought for the day:  I think that it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the results of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence than of the unknown rational efforts of extra-terrestrial intelligence.  [Richard Feynman]

So whattaya think? Are we... alone... in this universe, or are there other lifeforms out there somewhere... lifeforms who may have even paid our planet a visit upon occasion? It seems mathematically improbable that we humans are the only intelligent lifeforms in this endless universe. And yes, I do use the term intelligent rather loosely. I suspect that if we ever do make contact with other beings from outta this world, we're gonna get our comeuppance, and find out just how unintelligent we are.

Nonetheless, let's have a little fun by taking a look at some of the space alien hoaxes perpetrated over the years by some of our fellow earthlings, shall we?

As far back as April Fool's Day, 1897, pranksters have been trying to dupe the public into thinking they saw a gen-u-ine UFO. On that day in Omaha, Nebraska, a couple guys launched a helium balloon with a burning wicker basket beneath, and allegedly spooked quite a few people.

[Okay, ya got me. I'm sure it didn't look anything at all like the balloon in the picture.] 

A couple weeks later, three boys in Dallas, Texas, soaked a cotton ball in kerosene and tied it to the leg of a turkey vulture. Alas, the pranksters got caught when the bird landed on their school's roof, and started a fire. Poor bird probably cooked his own goose. So to speak.

In 1947, residents of Twin Falls, Idaho reported multiple sightings of a flying saucer. Then one agitated lady called the authorities, because she spotted the saucer embedded in her neighbor's yard, along with a long strip gouged in the dirt... obviously showing where the compact UFO (better gas mileage!) came in for a landing...

Or not.

Turned out to be the handiwork of four creative teenagers, who built their saucer with scraps: radio tubes, wires, an old phonograph, and discarded electrical parts. The boys said they were just having fun. Not their fault the town got so gosh-darned excited. Sheesh.

Also in 1947, in what was dubbed the Maury Island Incident, Harold Dahl claimed six flying doughnut-shaped discs flew over him when he was boating in the Puget Sound. He said one of those dastardly discs dared to spew molten metal, which killed his dog, and burned his son. Air Force investigators later ID'd the metal as scrap from a local factory, and Dahl admitted to the hoax. Said it was just a joke that got out of control. Let's hope he didn't kill his dog and burn his son to support his joke.


Then there's THE big event of 1947. You know, the alleged spaceship landing in Roswell, New Mexico, near the area now known as Area 51. Everyone agrees that there's some hush-hush deeply secretive stuff going on there at those Air Force grounds, but did a spaceship crash there in Nevada in 1947? Were live aliens captured? Was one autopsied? Ooooh, could they still be there today? According to some ufologists, three months after the alleged crash in Roswell, President Truman formed a highly secret group called MJ-12, (short for Majestic-12) whose soul purpose was to investigate and recover alien spacecraft. Some also attribute this 1950 quote to him: I can assure you that flying saucers, given that they exist, are not constructed by any power on earth. Did he actually form that group, and say those words? Beats me. But quite a few other presidents, world leaders, and military figures have spoken up on the side of flying saucers. Jimmy Carter even claims to have seen one.

Okay, I'm gonna stop right here, and finish up with this topic next week. In the meantime, did you have a favorite space toy or show about space travel when you were a kid? Anybody remember the 1954-55 TV show Flash Gordon? Let's just say special effects weren't all that outta this world in those days, because if I remember right, in some shots, you could actually see the string holding the rocket in the air. (And I'm not sure, but the sound of the flames coming out its rear might very well have been provided by some guy saying, "Shhhhhhhhhhhh.")  Even so, we watched it. And were amazed. And then there was the mighty Rocket Man, who worked hard to save the world in the '50s and early '60s. In this clip, you might hear a familiar voice. Would you believe... Leonard Nimoy?

Oh well, since we mentioned Leonard Nimoy, we've gotta give a nod to William Shatner, too, right? This clip is muuuuuch more recent; it's from 1978. He's kinda sorta singing. What else? Rocket Man, of course.

I was gonna stop there, but I decided to leave you with something... classy. Yeah, that's the ticket. I never saw the movie Rocket Man, but after seeing this clip, I wish I had. Looks like a real hoot. Or should I say... a blast?


I'm not gonna be outta this world, but I am gonna be outta my office until sometime next week, so I won't be responding to your comments right away. But as Schwartzeneggar said, I'll be Bach.                              

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

Friday, September 18, 2015

By Land, Water, and Air

Thought for the day:  For those of you who have never had the pleasure of owning a British car, but want to know what it's like: Next big rainstorm, wait until dark, roll down all the windows, leave off lights and heater and wipers and go for a drive. Stop at every intersection and throw out a twenty dollar bill. It's not exactly the same, but it's real close.  [Mike Nash]

a small sampling of some of the Morgans at the show
I've never owned a British-made car, but I must confess, quite a few of them  make me salivate a teensy bit. Like the 1953 MGTD (preferably a convertible... in green) and just about ANY of the Morgans. This past Saturday was our town's annual British Car Fayre, so there were plenty of snazzy Brit cars available for me to ogle to my heart's content.

For the first time, the car show was also accompanied by a boot sale, and the weather was perfect. Cooler than it's been for a while, and overcast. Kinda like Brit weather, eh? Since I've already posted plenty of pictures from some of the other British Car Fayres we've attended, I'll only share a few this time around. That way, I can save plenty of room for the OTHER spiffy event we attended that day.

1910 Silver Ghost (Rolls Royce)
Not sure, but I think there were even more cars at the show this year than in the past, and quite a few of them were Rolls Royces. This one from 1910 was probably my favorite, though. Talk about classy!

It was a tough choice, but I think this was my favorite Morgan. The Trikings (3-wheelers) are pretty cool, too, but THIS car is king.

an amphibious Lotus!
THIS car is where the water part of this post's title comes into play. It was made to look like the Lotus Esprit submarine from the 1977 James Bond flick The Spy Who Loved Me. But it doesn't just look like the car from the movie... it actually moves in the water! A designer from Wales made it, and it is now owned by a Georgia fella, who launched it in U.S. waters for the first time at our local Lake Lanier.

Okay, ready to head to our next destination? As you can probably guess, it involves airborne vehicles... some very special airborne vehicles.  Some real beauties.

You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck.  [WWII military pilot]

Along with the impressive array of planes on display, both on the ground and in the air, there were also a number of WWII veterans and re-enactors there, as well. This properly-garbed re-enactor is standing inside of a WWII field tent, which contains authentic items from that time.

 And this WWII vet is standing beside the same kind of plane he served on as a bombardier. It was an absolute delight and honor to speak with him.

And here's another vet, along with a re-enactor who did a dandy job impersonating General MacArthur. I don't know if you can tell in the photo, but the vet was wearing a bright red smooch mark on his cheek.

Of the WWII vets who were there, this was the only original Tuskeegee airman present. It was a real honor to talk with him, too. At the rate we're losing our WWII vets, it's important to listen to their stories and thank them now, while we can. Also present at the show were representatives from a group with the Atlanta Historical Society, who have already taped hundreds of WWII vets telling their stories, and hope to get as many more recordings as they can, thus saving those stories for posterity. A noble project, don't you think?

Now, a handful of pictures of some things that caught my fancy:

Since I started out with some British cars, I figured I'd include a plane flown by the RAF, too. This one, called a Bulldog, was built by Scottish Aviation. Not for WWII, though. This was flown by the RAF from 1974-2001.

A male pilot is a confused soul who talks about women when he's flying, and about flying when he's with a woman. 

A lot of the nosecone art on WWII planes features various pin-up girls. Here are some I found kinda cool. These particular images were on teeshirts.

I'm glad that quote up there about pilots specifies male pilots, because there were quite a few female pilots during WWII, too.

Here's a couple of them. Unfortunately, it's just a photo of a photo... I didn't see any female WWII vets at the airfield.

But WWII WASP humor was on display at a reenactor's tent.

We weren't sure if we'd have enough time to do both of these events justice in a single day. But with a positive attitude and lots of walking, we really COULD do it. And it was a lot of fun. I hope you enjoyed making the trip with us.

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

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dem Dirty Birds

Thought for the day:  Growing up, my mother always claimed to feel bad when a bird would slam head-first into our living room window. If she really felt bad, though, she'd have moved the bird feeder outside.  [Rich Johnson]

It's September! Can you believe it? All the kids are back in school, and autumn will be getting its official by-the-calendar start later this month. Georgia's thermometers will probably still be flirting with the ninety-degree mark for a while longer, but at least we have hope that cooler temperatures are on the horizon. Change is coming. And sometimes, change is good.

For me, it's gonna be time to start cheering on our Dirty Birds (AKA the Atlanta Falcons) and to stop grumbling about dem other dirty birds.

In general, I love birds. I really do. Love their songs, love their brilliant colors, love to watch them. But for some reason, they've reeeeally had it in for me this year.

Or to be more specific, they've had it in for my car.

There is an unseen force which lets birds know when you've just washed your car.  [Denis Norden]

Now, I've had my little red car since 1999, and while birds have been known to dive-bomb it quite a bit in the past, it's been downright ridiculous this summer. Totally out of control.

Have I done something to offend the little feathered darlings? Perhaps my singing as I went outside to fetch the morning newspaper literally annoyed the crap out of them?

I dunno, but the truth of the matter is, birds from miles around selected my poor little red car as their potty of choice this summer. Mind you, there are two other vehicles sitting in our front yard which they largely ignored. Think the color red attracted them? Maybe, but Smarticus' big ol' pick-up... a much larger target... is also red. What can I say? For whatever reason, the birds obviously voted to use MY car as their outhouse. Copiously, and often.

Not haphazardly, either. Not like that car in the picture. No, one after another, they perched on my side mirrors and let 'er rip all down the sides of my car. Over and over and over again. And not that I'm begrudging Smarticus his relatively clean truck or anything, but I don't get it. I mean, the side mirrors on his pick-up are almost twice the size as the ones on my car, so the darling birds could've sat on them in luxurious comfort, enjoyed a little chat about the weather, and pooped two at a time.

I had to hold it for two days!!!
It didn't do much good to clean it off, either, because twenty minutes after I got rid of the mess, it was right back again. What can I say? Dem dirty birds decided my car was their loo of choice, and I was stuck with it.

Carols of gladness ring from every tree.  [Frances Anne Kemble]

Yeah, carols. I swear, when we had the audacity to go away in my car... their toilet... for a few days this summer, an army of squawking birds was waiting when we got back. A whole slew of angry birds was lined up across the yard, squirming and fidgeting from foot to foot, with little bird newspapers tucked under their wings. Glaring at me, and telling me what for. Believe me, they didn't waste any time at all in using their facilities, eitherSome of them didn't even wait to get a comfy mirror seat; they just flew overhead and let loose.

Tell ya what, it was a regular blitzkrieg. They weren't nearly as polite and well-disciplined as our neighborhood dogs, either.

Oh well. As the summer waned, the birds became less possessive of my poor little car. Maybe that's because most of the baby birds (the most grievous offenders) have grown up and moved on to some other bathroom facility. My car is grateful, and so am I.

But there are still plenty of birds around.... in my yard, and in yours, too. So beware. Not all birds are as eagle-eyed as others, so they just might mistake your head for a little red car.

How about you? Do birds have an affinity for your car, too? I would have taken a picture of my poop-covered car for ya, but (Woo HOO!) we've been having a lot of rain lately. I guess you could say our feathered friends have flush toilets now, and my car is cleaner than it's been all summer.

So now as the season prepares to change, I'm gonna stop worrying about all dem dirty birds who've been having their way with my car, and start thinking about what kinda season our (RAH! RAH!) Dirty Birds are gonna have. And one thing's for sure. No matter how well or poorly the Falcons do, they NEVER poop on my car.

And you didn't believe me last week when I said this week's post was gonna be about bird poop, did ya? Well, actually, if you think about it, it has a much deeper meaning. It's really a simple depiction of the socioeconomic changes in... Nah! Who am I kidding? It's about poop.

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

A (Somewhat) Flexible Logophile

Thought for the day:  Indecision is the key to flexibility.

Yeah. Okay. Sure, I can be flexible. Not like that feisty ol' gal in the picture kinda flexible, but given the right circumstances, I'm open to changing my mind. Like, for example, I finished a perfectly fine post for today almost two weeks ago. A good one, too. Classy. Yep, you know me. Real classy. It was a fine dissertation on bird poop. Really. (Didn't stink a bit!)

BUT... a small article in  Monday's newspaper made me change my mind and scramble to write a new post. See how that works? Flexible. That's me. Oughta be my middle name.

So what did I see, you ask? Something irresistible to a word nerd, or logophile (lover of words) like me. It was about some of the new words that have just been added to the Oxford Dictionary.


No, not THIS Oxford Dictionary. Updating the contents of this august set of books on a quarterly basis would require an almost impossible level of flexibility... not to mention a boatload of effort and moolah. No, I'm talking about the free online version at Here, the same honorable (Excuse me; I mean honourable.) folks who publish the world-renown Oxford English Dictionary help us keep track of the ever-changing face of the English language.

A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content, according to circumstances and the time in which it is used.  [Oliver Wendell Holmes]

The most recent update added more than a thousand new words. I, uh, won't be sharing all of those words with you. (You're welcome.) But I will share a handful:

BRAIN FART: a temporary mental lapse.

Who'd a thunk it? Slang ... and a kind of undignified slang, at that... with an Oxford seal of approval.

Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands, and goes to work.  [Carl Sandburg]

FAT-SHAME:  to make fun of someone for being overweight.

The dictionary isn't condoning it; just expressing the reality that many people are doing it. And that's the real shame.

HANGRY:  a grumpy state caused by being hungry

Huh. I never heard of this one before, but it's kinda cool.

BEER O'CLOCK and WINE O'CLOCK: Just what you think they mean... it's time to drink an adult beverage. Smarticus has been calling it beer thirty for years.

BUTT DIAL: to accidentally call someone on the phone... with your butt? Reeeeeally? Geez, that doesn't sound like something I'd want to do, even if I could. I mean, I am NOT that flexible. Just take a look at my desk phone there. I cannot figure out for the life of me how I could possibly dial it with my backside on purpose, let alone inadvertently. Never mind. This term is actually in reference to a mobile phone tucked into someone's rear pocket. No problem. I don't have one of those, and it's a cinch my desk phone ain't gonna fit in my pocket.

MANSPREADING: refers to men who sprawl on public transportation, with their legs spread wide apart, so they're gobbling up the space of passengers sitting in adjoining seats.

Seems as though the term could apply to guys hogging space in an office setting, too...


MACGYVER: to make or repair something in an inventive manner.

Really? This show was on TV from like 1985 until about 1992, so it's kinda odd that the term is just catching on now. But it's a good one. As anyone knows who ever saw that show, all MacGyver needed was a Swiss army knife, a piece of string and a little bit of spit to fix just about anything. (Slight exaggeration there.)

BUTTHURT:  overly offended or resentful.

Another new one on me, but it is a kinda fun one, isn't it? I would have thought it was referring to those poor suffering souls who (OW!) have to sit on an inflatable donut.


RAGE-QUIT:  to angrily quit an activity or pursuit; particularly refers to the playing of video games.

Huh! We used to call a person who got mad and took his ball and went home a poor sport. Or a spoiled brat. It's kinda sad that this kind of petulant behavior has become prevalent enough to rate its own special term in the dictionary.

Even as new words are added to the dictionary multiple times a year to reflect the changing habits of language, so too do words get dropped. Alas, some words now obsolete are totally cool, and our language is the less for their loss. Here's one of my favorites:

WONDER-WENCH: a sweetheart.

Wouldn't it be cool to be called a wonder-wench? It's more earthy and less perfect than Wonder Woman, but totally cool.  It could reflect a state of wonder, too, maybe. Anyhow, I like it. And it's much nicer than BEEF-WITTED, another obsolete word, dontcha think? (Yeah, it meant just what it sounds like... having a dull brain.)


For those of you who are as enamored with words as I am, here's another dictionary you might enjoy. Written in 1811 by Francis Grose, the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue is a treasure trove of obsolete words. I haven't checked its status recently, but I got an e-version of this book from Amazon for FREE a couple years ago. Wanta hear some of those words? As if you had a choice... (Sorry. I'm on a roll.)

  • BLIND CUPID- backside
  • ELBOW SHAKER- dice player
  • FLASH THE HASH- vomit
  • SHOOT THE CAT- vomit because of drinking too much booze
  • TWIDDLE DIDDLES- testicles
  • TWIDDLE POOP- effeminate-looking man
Okay, before I close, let me share one last example of the new words just added to the online dictionary. It's HOT DIGGITY, a phrase used to express excitement. Whattaya know? What's old is new again. Check out this video of a popular song from 1956:

So who knows? Maybe wonder-wench and twiddle diddles could make a comeback some day, too.

Until next time, when I will regale you with that riveting tale about bird poop, take care of yourselves. And each other. 

Language has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone.  [Paul Tillich]

If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur.  [Gary Larson]

Language is wine upon the lips.  [Virginia Woolf]

I believe it is now wine o'clock. Time for a nice glass of... language.  [me]