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.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Back in the Saddle Again

Thought for the day: A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kickboxing.

Hi-ya! April sure did fly by, didn't it? For those of you who successfully completed the A-Z Challenge, congratulations! I hope you had a blast, and made a bunch of new friends along the way. I'll be looking forward to getting back in touch with you guys, and finding out what I missed while I was away from the blogosphere.

Me? I enjoyed my break, and actually did some writing on my next book. Not as much as I would have liked, but 20,000 words is 20,000 more than zero. (Profound, eh?) Now the trick will be to keep plugging away at it.

Some years back, while in the middle of writing my first book, a Chinese restaurant fortune cookie provided me with this message. It tickled me so much, that fortune is still pinned to my bulletin board.

Now, I don't believe in horoscopes, so don't ask me why I read the darn thing every day. Habit, I guess. Anyhow, in the middle of April, right about the time I was starting to doubt my sanity for attempting to write another book... let along THREE of them, because it's a trilogy... the newspaper delivered me this horoscope. In case you can't quite read it, it says, You've the courage to try for your exciting goal; then again, a  lot of people have that much courage. Do you also have the courage to try again? And then another time? That's the rare courage it will take to succeed. Cool, huh? I don't know if I have the courage (or longevity) to complete three more books, but I've at least found something to add to my bulletin board. Life is good.

The latest update on the case of the Affluenza kid: He has been sentenced to two years in prison. Not as much as he deserved, perhaps, but I suspect the smirk of entitlement has finally been wiped from his face.

Okay, in an attempt to ease back into the swing of things, and because this Sunday is Mothers' Day, I'm gonna re-run an appropriate post from a few years ago, entitled If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother. I hope you enjoy it.


Thought for the day:  I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them.  [Phyllis Diller]

Giving birth is easy. It's like pulling a watermelon out of your nose.
This coming Sunday is Mothers' Day, so what better time to write about mothers, right?

A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never cared for pie.  [Tenneva Jordan]

Far beyond the obvious physical changes, there's something about the miracle of having a child that changes a woman forever. Suddenly, a woman who used to be able to sleep through a sonic boom wakes up on full alert every time her baby rolls over or makes the tiniest sound. After having a baby, a woman who used to be a walking fashion plate doesn't think twice about wearing wrinkled clothes stained with spit-up. And holy moley, her capacity to love expands even more than her waistline did. (Good thing, too... if it didn't, no woman would ever have more than one child!)

Suddenly, nothing is quite as sweet as those tiny little baby feet. They're downright kissable, aren't they?

There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child— and an instinct to make any child who needs love, her own. [Robert Brault]

Then, practically overnight, babies become teenagers, and all of a sudden the little kid who used to be afraid of the dark wants to stay out half the night with his friends. The princess who didn't take her first step until she was almost a year old wants to borrow the car. They will always be the children of her heart, but more and more, they also become children of the world.

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant — and let the air out of the tires.  [Dorothy Parker]

But the truth is, no matter how big her babies' feet get to be, they still belong to her babies. Doesn't matter if those feet belong to a teacher, a doctor, or are ensconced in a pair of combat boots. Babies, one and all.

Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What's that supposed to mean? In my heart, it don't mean a thing. [Toni Morrison- Beloved]

Of all the things I've ever read about mothers, I think Erma Bombeck said it the absolute best in her essay, When God Created Mothers:

When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of "overtime" when the angel appeared and said. "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

And God said, "Have you read the specs on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 moveable parts...all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands."

The angel shook her head slowly and said. "Six pairs of hands.... no way."

"It's not the hands that are causing me problems," God remarked, "it's the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have."

"That's on the standard model?" asked the angel. God nodded.

"One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, 'What are you kids doing in there?' when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn't but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say. 'I understand and I love you' without so much as uttering a word."

"God," said the angel touching his sleeve gently, "Get some rest tomorrow...."

"I can't," said God, "I'm so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick...can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger...and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower."

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. "It's too soft," she sighed.

"But tough!" said God excitedly. "You can't  imagine what this mother can do or endure."

"Can it think?"

"Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise," said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

"There's a leak," she pronounced. "I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model."

"It's not a leak," said the Lord, "It's a tear."

"What's it for?"

"It's for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride."

"You are a genius, " said the angel.

Somberly, God said, "I didn't put it there.”


And just as our mothers always look at us as their children, a certain part of us wants to hang onto them, too. We don't want things to change. We want them to always be there, our home plate in the game of life, our constant refuge. We don't want them to grow old; we don't want them to get sick, and God knows, we don't want them to die.  But even after they do, they live on forever in our hearts.

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.  [Honore de Balzac]

Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; a mother's secret love outlives them all. [Oliver Wendell Holmes]

To all of you mothers, I wish you a wonderful Mother's Day. To all of you whose mothers are still with you, cherish them, not just on Mothers' Day, but every day of the year. To those of you experiencing that heart-wrenching role reversal—  taking care of your mothers, essentially mothering your mothers, as they once took care of you, with them depending on you as you once depended on them— bless you. I know how hard it is. For those of you whose mothers are no longer with us, I know you'll be thinking of them. And as long as they live in our hearts, they're never entirely gone.

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother's love is not. [James Joyce]

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