Friday, January 26, 2018

What a Way to Go!

Thought for the day: According to research, an average of forty thousand Americans are injured by toilets each year.

Forty thousand??? Well, that stinks, doesn't it?

Supposedly, these injuries occur in a multitude of rather creative ways. Lots of little boys sustain a major owie if the lid unexpectedly slams down when they're learning to use the big boy toilet, and I bet a bunch of 'em revert to a the-hell-with-that diaper-only attitude afterwards. But there are also cases of adults (even sober ones!) literally falling from commodes, of others pinching their bottoms in broken seats, and even instances of bites unceremoniously delivered to their buttocks by lurking black widow spiders. Then there's the folks who sit on the pot for so long... reading a book, working a puzzle, whatever... that their legs fall asleep, and they fall flat on their faces when they try to stand. (Technically, I don't think those injuries should be blamed on the poor toilets, do you?) Oh, and before you folks in other countries start feeling too smug about American carelessness, rest assured, folks in your countries probably incur numerous injuries while going about their business, too. My guess is your sneaky loos are every bit as culpable as our perilous potties.

If you find a lizard sitting on a toilet, is he a commode-o dragon?

(ahem) Okay, let's get serious. Forget about those minor bathroom incidents. They're nothing! Just as President Roosevelt spoke of a date which will live in infamy, I'm gonna tell you about a toilet that truly went down in infamy...

[image courtesy of wikimedia]

The saying about loose lips sinking ships was prevalent in the military during WWII, but it wasn't loose lips that led to the demise of Germany's U-1206. Believe it or not, it was a toilet.

[image courtesy of]

The U-1206, a VIIC class submarine, wasn't huge. Just over twenty feet abeam and 221 feet long, it supported a very... close... crew of fifty. Pretty much packed in there like human sardines, those poor guys had no choice but to be a tightly-knit group, and to make matters worse, they were forced to share one stinking toilet. (Do you think new crew members received relief maps to help them find it...?) There were actually two heads on the sub, but the one located next to the galley was used to store food, so the crew was left with one.  Not the best circumstances, as you can imagine. Especially if they ate a lot of beans, sauerkraut and sausages. (The wurst!) Just think of it. All of those men jammed together in close quarters. Poor ventilation. Stuffy. Sweaty. BO out the wazoo. The pervasive scents of diesel fuel and grease... not to mention the lingering smell of that aforementioned kraut and wurst.

But, wait! There was often another... pervasive aroma.  U-boat toilets had no holding tanks. They flushed directly into the ocean, but because of water pressure, they could only flush when the sub was at or close to the surface.  Soooooo.... when the sub was down deep, the men had to store their stuff in buckets and cans until they resurfaced, adding yet another level of olfactory hell to the tight-quartered mix. (If they'd had a mascot, its name would've been Stinker Bell.) 

The solution? A new and improved high-pressure toilet that could flush at those deeper depths.

Problem was... those toilets were so difficult to operate, they came with complicated instruction  manuals, and a crew member actually had to be trained as a toilet-flushing specialist. I kid you not. (Think they called him Flush Gordon...?]

[image courtesy of wikimedia]
So anyhow, on April 14, 1945, the U-1206 was cruising off the shore of Scotland at a depth of approximately 200 feet when first-time sub commander Captain Schlitt had the urge to, um... use that new and improved toilet. While doing his duty, he read the manual, and afterwards, he tried to follow the complicated directions to flush.

Oopsie! Problem. Didn't work. Then when the toilet specialist came to assist, he made matters worse. Not realizing that Schlitt had already opened the inside valve, he opened the outside valve to the sea.

Oopsie! Bigger problem. Instead of what was in the toilet being flushed out of the sub, the ocean was now flooding into the toilet... and into the sub.

Flush Gordon managed to close the valve, but their problems weren't over. Now they were reeeeeeally up Schlitt Creek without a paddle. In a less-than-brilliant engineering decision, the sub's batteries were located directly below the toilet... and now they were being drenched with salt water. The result? Deadly chlorine gas, which was rapidly filling the U-boat.

If they were going to survive, they had no choice but to surface. Which they did, making themselves visible and vulnerable to attack. An allied plane promptly dropped a bomb, which caused enough damage to make re-submersion impossible, so Schlitt ordered the crew into lifeboats and scuttled the sub. One man died in the bombing attack, and three fell overboard and drowned. Thirty-six were rescued by small boats, and ten made it to shore in their lifeboats and were captured. Those 46 weren't POWs for long, because the war ended 24 days later.

However, their U-1206 became the one... and only... warship in history to be doomed by its own... Schlitter.

Maybe I should ask Smarticus to install something like this. You know, for our own safety...

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

Friday, January 19, 2018

Blowing Smoke

Thought for the day:  You can't wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club. [Jack London]

If not a club, how about a reeeeeally big gun...?

On the way to visit our older son and his family for Christmas, Smarticus and I took a tour of the battleship U.S.S. Alabama. And tour it we did, from top to bottom and stem to stern. Really cool, but whew! Talk about a LOT of skinny ladder-like steps to haul our weary bones up and down... and of course, there were LOTS of grimy handrails to assist us with that job. All of which had been touched by LOTS of people before (and after) us. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the smartest thing for us to do in the middle of flu season.

Oh well.

I had a fantasy of hitting the new year with my imagination on fire and guns blazing, (so to speak) but I'm feeling so lethargic right now, my brain feels like it's full of cotton. I'm not really sick... just blah. Too blah to come up with a worthwhile blog post this week. So I could either skip it... or go with a rerun.

Sorry. A rerun from 2013 it is. One that makes me giggle... and I DID update it a teensy bit, so I wasn't a total slug. Hopefully, my brain will rejuvenate, my imagination will soar, and I'll come up with something new for next week's post. (But, alas, it probably won't be as good as this one...)

                            Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
                               (And keep your hands off of those grimy handrails!)

                                                              *     *     *     *

Thought for the day:  Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing.  [Voltaire]

Actually, I have a lot of respect for the medical profession. However, some of the cures foisted upon us peons over the years? Not so much. You've probably seen ads on TV about the possible side effects of various medications (described soothingly in a well-modulated mellow voice, of course) that are horrifyingly worse than the ailment they're intended to treat. Um, yeah. I think I'll suffer through a little discomfort as opposed to risking that oh-so-dainty-sounding anal leakage or the (Pbbbt! Don't worry about it!) occasional heart stoppage. 

But consider for a moment what treatments looked like in Voltaire's time. No wonder Monsieur Voltaire spoke so disparagingly about doctors. After all, docs of his day thought it was a swell idea to drill holes in their patients' skulls. And I'm not talking about a little postmortem artistic creativity here, either. No sirree, those people weren't done using those skulls yet. Yep, back then if someone yelled, "You idiot! Do you have a hole in your head?" the answer was very likely to be, "Why, yes... yes, I do."

Doctors back then also had a thing about removing some of that pesky blood from their patients' bodies. If  leeches didn't do the job quickly enough, the medicos could always count on a judiciously-applied cutting instrument. ("The patient looks to be anemic. Quick... hand me the knife! Her blood is killing her...")

But as fascinating as skull-drilling and blood-letting may be, we're gonna consider another kind of treatment altogether. Let's just say... it ain't prune juice.

Here we have a sketch of a simple portable device commonly used in those days. (Heck, you never can tell when ya might need a shot up the arse when you're away from home, right?) The largest part (A) was made from a pig's bladder. Parts D and E are a mouthpiece and tap. (Wait! Wait! A mouthpiece???) We all know where that nefarious part K goes, and FG? It's a smoking pipe. (A pipe? Back up.. a mouthpiece?) What can I say? This handy-dandy take-anywhere device was for blowing tobacco smoke up... well... you know exactly where they blew it.

1776 textbook drawing of a tobacco smoke enema
Yep, tobacco was considered medicinal, and its smoke, practically a panacea. Would you believe Hippocrates recommended smoke inhalation to treat female diseases, and Pliny the Elder even recommended it to get rid of coughs? (That seems a bit counter-intuitive, doesn't it?) Later on, Spanish botanist and physician Nicolas Monardes (1493-1588) practically waxed poetic about the miraculous healing powers of tobacco smoke, and he advocated using it to treat the common cold, cancer, headaches, respiratory problems, stomach cramps, gout, intestinal worms, and the aforementioned female diseases. What's more, in the good old days, doctors believed tobacco smoke worked equally well whether you sucked it in one end or had it blown up the other.

Glyster is just a fancy old-fashioned name for enema, and a Dr. Houlston wrote the following poem in 1774 as a catchy little guide on how to resuscitate a patient :

Tobacco glyster, breath and bleed
Keep warm and rub till you succeed.
And spare no pains for what you do;
May one day be repaid to you.

You can shove that cure...
Tobacco smoke enemas became even trendier when Europeans found out natives in the New World used 'em, too. Betcha didn't know Indians didn't just use smoke signals to communicate, didja?

It may be hard to believe today, but tobacco and tobacco smoke was widely recognized as having medicinal properties until the early 19th century. That's about the time scientists decided nicotine was actually a poison, which kicked the whole smoke enema treatment in the keister. So to speak.

Dr. Houlston's poem is all well and good, (which is more than we could say about his patients) but I think it's time for a more modern take on the subject. It's time for (ahem) my take on smoke enemas...

She regretted eating the extra fiber beans. 

A call girl once had a cold
And went to her doctor, I'm told.
He blew smoke up her butt
And into her gut—
In two weeks, she felt good as gold.

Then few called on her for a fling,
For she developed a peculiar thing:
When she coughed or passed gas,
Smoke puffed out her ass
In a perfect, but smelly, smoke ring.

Turns out, like some other early medical practices, smoke enemas weren't all they were cracked up to be... so now you know where the expression, Don't blow smoke up my ass originated. See what delightful things you learn chez moi? (I don't know about you, but as for me? I'd rather let the cold go away by itself.)

He has been a doctor for a year now and has had two patients, no three, I think — yes, three; I attended their funerals.  [Mark Twain]

You may not be able to read a doctor's handwriting and prescription, but you'll notice his bills are neatly typewritten.  [Earl Wilson]

My doctor gave me six months to live, but when I couldn't pay the bill, he gave me six more. [Walter Matthau]

When I told my doctor I couldn't afford an operation, he offered to touch up my X-rays. [Henny Youngman]

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

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Fire that Inspired Flaming Crimes by Chrys Fey (Part 5)

Thought for the day: Dear Winter, I'm breaking up with you. I think it's time I started seeing other seasons. (Besides, Summer is much hotter than you are.)

[image courtesy of seniorark]

Brrrrrrrrrr! Most of the U.S. has been in a super deep freeze recently, but at least here in the Atlanta area, the temperature took a much-appreciated leap into the sixties this week. I don't know how long it'll last, but we're sure enjoying it while it's here. 

 ♪ ♫ Oh the weather outside can bite me. My muscles ache, despite me. I don't have a happy glow. Winter blows, winter blows, winter blows...♪♫

How cold was it, you ask?

So cold, politicians kept their hands in their OWN pockets... (Now THAT'S cold!)

Okay, let's forget about snow and ice, shall we?. Today's guest post is from the lovely Chrys Fey, whose latest installment of her Disaster Crimes series has just been released... and it's about... fire.

In conjunction with her new release, Chrys is sharing a ten-part account of her memories of the real-life fire that inspired some of the scenes in her new book. I'm pleased to share part five of her story today. Enjoy! 

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

                                                     Take it away, Chrys!

                                                           *     *     *
AUTHOR NOTE: Many scenes in Flaming Crimes (Disaster Crimes #4) came from real life. For this short blog tour, I am sharing my memories as a ten-part continuous story, so hop along for the entire experience.

Series: Disaster Crimes #4
Page Count: 304 
Digital Price: 4.99 
Print Price: 16.99
Rating: Spicy (PG13) 



One of my family members did make it in the newspaper. My oldest sister. In the picture, she was clutching one of our pregnant cats (Monkey…yes, really). My sister did not make it to our car with the cat. Seconds after that picture was snapped, Monkey fought her and got away. She ran toward the fire….

The reporter who took that picture ended up getting my sister’s full name and put it and our address in the newspaper as the photo’s caption. Because the reporter did that, my sister got a letter in the mail from a prison inmate. I never found out what the letter said, but my parents reported it.

I remember when, two days later, a florist delivery came to the door. My sister freaked out as my mom signed for the delivery. She thought it was from the inmate. Actually, she thought the delivery person was the inmate. As it turned out, the flowers were for me from my parents, because my birthday was in a couple of days.



“Excuse me?”

Beth turned to see a man with a note pad and pen. He had a camera around his neck. “Is that your home?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Can I ask you a few questions?”

“Sure, but don’t use my full name or put my address in your paper.” She had heard about a young woman, a victim to these fires, whose address had been put in the newspaper along with her picture, and because of that, a prison inmate had written her a letter. Beth didn’t want the same thing happening to her, especially since there were a few inmates who would very much like her address, if they didn’t already have it.

The story will continue on these blogs:

1/8Circle of Friends Books - Part 1
1/9Sandra CoxPart 2
1/10Elements of EmaginettePart 3
1/11Julie FlandersPart 4
1/12I Think; Therefore, I YamPart 5
1/15Alex J. CavanaughPart 6
1/16Just JemiPart 7
1/17Sandra DaileyPart 8
1/18FundinmentalPart 9
1/19Elizabeth SeckmanPart 10

About the Author: Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept blending romance, crimes, and disasters. She’s partnered with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and runs their Goodreads book club. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur Press.

Author Links:

Thank you for reading this post! Don’t forget to hop along to the other posts on their designated days for the full fiery story.

SHARE: Your fire story with me.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Yin and Yang of Story-Telling

Thought for the day:  It ain't whatcha write. It's the way atcha write it. [Jack Kerouac]

First off, Happy New Year!!! Now that the ball has dropped, the champagne's gone flat, and the resolutions have been broken, it's time to face a new year of endless possibilities. Let's try to carpe the heck out of every new diem, shall we?

As you can probably tell by that nifty badge on the left, it's that time again.Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

So what do you think of Jack Kerouac's thought for the day quote? Do you agree? When it comes to subject matter, do writers truly have free rein? No matter what they write... as long as it's well-written? Is their only limitation defined by their imagination and creativity, or are they in some ways restricted by the expectations of their readers?

If an author writes a book you like in a certain tone and genre, do you want him locked into always writing in that same tone and genre... or is it okay if he reveals another side of himself? Can a writer who makes you laugh in one book get away with showing a darker side of life in the next?

Can I?

My first novel is a light-hearted slice-of-life tale that embraces both humorous and poignant moments. From what readers have told me, it makes them laugh. Sometimes, it makes them cry, too, but mostly it makes them laugh. On the other hand, the trilogy I'm working on now is much more serious. Darker. Sure, there's some humor, but this slice-of-life story revolves around a rather tragic character.

So what's more important to you... the content of a book or the way it's written? When you read multiple books by the same author, do you do so with certain expectations? If your favorite sci-fi writer wrote a thriller or your favorite fantasy writer wrote a cozy mystery... would you read it?

I'm really curious about what you guys think. Books have always been an important part of my life, broadening my horizons and enabling me to view the human condition from different perspectives, and I'm generally willing to read just about anything in just about any genre. How about you? What do you expect from the books you read? Are good writing and a captivating story... no matter the content... enough, or do you seek a specific kind of story?

A fella named Leonard Chapel sent me the following poem, which he wrote in 1994, and he kindly gave me permission to share it with you. I think he really nails the way most of us feel about reading.

[image courtesy of Morguefile]


Every night I love to read while lying in my bed
Though staying home I take a trip to where my mind is led
On many journeys I have gone to places far away
Cairo, Kiev, Bogota, Peking and Bombay

I’ve also met some famous people on my nightly treks
From Thomas J. to J.F.K. and even Malcolm X
One night I sailed the ocean blue while searching for a whale
Another night I studied birds while serving life in jail

One night I drove a Sherman tank across the river Rhine
And then there was Miss Havisham who was not so divine
I crossed the Alps with elephants to wage a mighty war
I sat and pondered as the raven quoted ‘Nevermore’

While with a man called Yellow-Hair I watched the arrows fly
And at a place called Devil’s Den I watched a good friend die
Down a river I did float upon a wooden raft
And when I corrupted Hadleyburg, oh, how I did laugh

I flew a jet off a carrier deck to bomb a Korean bridge
I chased a Soviet submarine into the Atlantic Ridge
I’ve traveled around this great big earth and still there’s much to see

But thanks to books I read at night, the world now comes to me


QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

Um, none. Mine is more of a free and breezy approach. I simply plod along at my own pace, and when I'm done with a project... I'm done. No muss, no fuss. With that, I'll bid adieu. 

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