Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fun and games

OK now, just sit back and relax.

Are you sitting back and relaxed? OK. Lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.

Did you do it? OK. Now, while your right foot is in the air and making clockwise circles, draw the numeral '6' in the air with your right hand.

What happened with your foot? Did it change directions? (BTW, it doesn't make any difference how many times you try this!)

Are you ready for a few jokes? Thought I'd end the month with some jocularity. (If you like your jokes all on the up and up, clean, and not to mention religious side, you should probably stop reading right here. Fair warning!)

What Would YOU Do?

A man returns home a day early from a business trip. It's after midnight. En route, he asks the cab driver if he would be a witness. (The man suspects his wife has been having an affair and he wants to try and catch her "in the act".) For 100 smackeroos, the cabbie agrees.

All right. They arrive at his house and quietly tiptoe into the bedroom, whereupon the husband turns on the lights, yanks the blankets back, and sees his wife in bed with another man. The husband puts a gun to the naked man's head.

The wife screams, "STOP!! I lied when I told you I inherited money. He paid for the Corvette I gave you. He paid for our new cabin cruiser. He paid for your season tickets to see the Pittsburgh Steelers play. He paid for our house at the lake. He paid for our country club membership, and he even pays the monthly dues!"

Lowering the gun and shaking his head from side to side, the husband looks over at the cab driver and asks, "What would you do?"

The reply? "I'd cover his butt with those blankets before he catches cold!!"

The Fishing Trip

His hobby was fishing. He spent all his weekends near a river or lake and usually paid no attention to the weather.

One Sunday, very early in the morning, he went to the river as usual. However, he didn't feel very well, and it was bitterly cold and raining. After he got out of his car, he just stood there shivering for several minutes. Then he shook his head and muttered something about 'getting old', got back in the car, and drove home.

Upon arriving, he quickly shed his clothes and got into the warm bed next to his wife. (The sun was just now coming up.) "What terrible weather we're having today, honey," he said.

Yawning and stretching, but not bothering to open her eyes, she replied, "Yes, but can you believe it? My idiot husband still went fishing!"

The Irishman

Brenda O'Malley is home making dinner as usual when Tim Finnegan arrives at her door. "Brenda, may I come in?" he asks. "I've somethin' to tell ya."

"Of course you can come in. You're always welcome. But where's my husband?"

"That's what I'm here to be tellin' ya, Brenda. There was an accident down at the Guinness Brewery ..."

"Oh God, no!" cries Brenda. "Please don't tell me ..."

"I must, Brenda. Your husband Shamus is dead and gone. I'm sorry."

After some moments she asked, "How did it happen, Tim?"

"It was terrible, Brenda. He fell into a vat of Guinness Stout and drowned."

"Oh, my dear Jesus! But you must tell me true, Tim. Did he at least go quickly?"

"Well, no, Brenda ... no."


"Fact is, he got out three times to pee."

And so on we go, charging forward into March. (I wonder if March is ready for us?)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Nat "King" Cole

It seems like I know this man personally, although I never actually met him. Nathaniel Adams Coles was born on St. Patrick's Day* in 1919, and we were of different generations. I think one reason I might feel close to him is because my husband and I first moved south - to Ohio, then Indiana, and back to Ohio again - in the very early 60's, and I became fully aware that this country had serious racial and segregation problems.

I was taking graduate courses at Kent State University during its period of unrest. We were in Columbus, Ohio when all of the gas stations on the east side of town were closed - potential troublemakers were making gasoline 'bombs' out of coke bottles. There were nightly curfews. The church we belonged to had the word "Union" as part of its name to distinguish it from the South. One would have to be either an ostrich with its head in the sand or hibernating at this time not to be aware of what was going on.

Even all these many years later, the first thing I think of - after how lovely his songs are, that is - when I hear the name Nat King Cole is how badly he was discriminated against. Not that other black musicians were treated much better. They weren't!

I'll give you just a few examples. This first one is taken directly from Wiki ... ... In 1948, Cole purchased a house in the all-white Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The property owner's association told Cole they did not want any undesirables moving in. Cole retorted, "Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I'll be the first to complain." The Ku Klux Klan, still active in Los Angeles well into the 1950's, responded by placing a burning cross on his front lawn.

He once was attacked onstage during a concert in Birmingham, Alabama in 1956. After that incident, he never again performed in the South. (BTW, the concert was not finished.)

That same year he was invited to do a series of concerts in Cuba, but was forced to stay at a hotel other than the one where he was performing due to a "color bar". Since then, a Nat King Cole corner tribute has been erected in the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.

Nat recorded three albums in Spanish, all of which were extremely well-received in Latin American countries. He didn't know how to speak Spanish. He learned the pronunciation for the words phonetically.

A 2006 online interview with Carole Cole, the oldest of his children and currently CEO of King Cole Partners and King Cole Productions, can be found here. In Carole's extensive interview, she says that she was sure he would have recorded many more of these if his lifespan had been extended. He wanted to try and reach out and connect with everyone!

I wonder if you remember this one? Not in Spanish, however ... ... there's a little French thrown in here.

He was the first African American, I believe, to host his own radio show. And, in 1956, he was the first such to host his own television show! That it lasted barely over a year only attests to the fact that many others - possibly with even more famous hosts of a musical variety series in that period - had succumbed to the short-term attention span of the public.

Here is one of his songs as recorded on his show in 1957. The video is in black and white, as everything was at that time. It's not my favorite - the song, I mean, but it is a wonderful example of his soft voice effortlessly singing a tune that is a whole lot easier to play on an instrument ... ...

In 1991, Natalie Cole's live recording of the two of them singing "Unforgettable" - perhaps Nat's most famous song ever - brought his name and unique singing style back to the forefront, as well as it should have been all along!

I'll never forget the first time I heard and saw this. Talk about goose bumps! Their voices blend so beautifully.

This is the 5th and last in my series on African American musicians in honor of Black History Month. I have done my very best to try and pay them the recognition they so rightly deserve, and I hope that you have gained some enjoyment - perhaps even triggering some almost-forgotten memories - from this series.

*BTW, you all should know that Sam is now 'out of the closet' and decked out in his finest St. Patrick's Day regalia. Boy, does he ever look spiffy! He is ready to take on any and all comers!! "Who's Sam?" you might well ask. Go here for the original story.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A comet, some Uncle Jay-isms, and a CEO

Here's one for all you star gazers and comet watchers. Yesterday, Comet Lulin passed its closest to Earth, and so the comet will remain near its brightest over the next few days. The following photograph was taken of the skies over New Mexico (USA) two days ago.

For more details on where it will be in the sky and how to find it, go here. Now, those New Mexico skies really lend themselves to star-gazing, but I thought I might try my hand at it tonight and go out for a while to see if I can spot it. Will let you know if I'm successful. [Just talked to my daughter and told her about this. They have a telescope. Altho supposedly you should be able to see this with the naked eye (I don't have wide-field binoculars), the odds on my being successful just went up!]

Selected Uncle Jay tongue-in-cheek-isms ...

1. The economy's fundamentals are sound, but right now the sound is turned down.
2. The most annoying Oscars are the ones for movies you didn't see.
3. Hell hath no fury like a chimpanzee scorned.
4. MLB players using steroids will face severe consequences ... perhaps one day even from MLB!
5. If you think they hate us now, just wait until we stop buying their oil.
6. It's hard to compose a tune for "Buddy, can you spare seven hundred and eighty-seven billion dollars invested over a three-year period?"

A different kind of CEO ...

Now here's a name you might not be familiar with, Haruka Nishimatsu. He is the CEO of Japan Airlines, one of the world's largest airline companies. In this day and age of corporate jets, limousines, and other business perks; when some CEO's are spending upwards of a million dollars to redecorate their offices (Merrill Lynch, for example) and enjoying salaries of many hundreds of thousands - not to mention millions in a few cases - of dollars, Mr. Nishimatsu rides a bus to work, knocked out the walls of his office so that fellow employees could access him more directly, and eats lunch with them in the company cafeteria.

I first heard of this remarkable man this morning, when I was going through some of my "Favorites". Although the interview you're about to see is not brand new, a story as good as this one deserves to be told often and is never out of date.

If you're interesting in reading more about this humble man, go here.

Here's what he said in a 2006 interview* ... "JAL used to consciously work to be No. 1 in terms of scale. Although it is important to pursue a high ranking and profits, it is wrong to make those one's only objectives. We can only win the support and understanding of the people around us by swiftly responding to social needs and fulfilling our social responsibilities."

*For the complete and extensive interview with Mr. Nishimatsu, go here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Charles Schulz Philosophy

There's an e-mail making the rounds that I like very much. The author wrote, "When I was in high school and early college years, we used to base our Sunday School lessons on Charlie Brown. There are many parallels between the Christ story and Charlie, and I think Mr. Schulz must have been a great practicing Christian to have designed his comic character so well.

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. By the time you get to the end, the message will be clear."

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prizes.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remembers the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields, but the applause dies down, awards tarnish, and achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.


The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They simply are the ones who care the most.

Thank you, Dianna, for including me on your distribution list for this one.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wynton Marsalis

It's kind of difficult to know where exactly to begin or what to include in this post, the 4th in my series on African American musicians in honor of Black History Month.

The story of Wynton Marsalis is unfinished. He is six months and three days younger than my own daughter, and much of his life has yet to be experienced and then recorded for posterity. In spite of his youth, however (he's only 47!), he has garnered more awards, commendations, honorary degrees, and fame than most of us would ever even dream of achieving in a much longer lifetime!

[My daughter knew him from NOCCA - the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts - when they were both studying there in the late 70's. His biography in Wiki doesn't even mention NOCCA (interesting!). It says that he attended Benjamin Franklin High School. Well, he did (as did my daughter), but it would have been for a half day ... the other half was spent at NOCCA.

There's a really nice write-up about NOCCA here, if you'd like to learn more about this unique school. Ellis Marsalis, Wynton's dad, taught music theory there. I happened to run into Ellis on the riverfront some years later, when I was visiting for some reason - probably a bridge tournament. I'd heard about the many changes in that area, and wanted to walk along the water to see some of them for myself. Ellis was there. We immediately recognized each other, and spent the next several minutes talking about the 'good old days' as well as oohing and aahing about all the new additions and improvements to the downtown area.

Here's a great shot of Ellis (proud daddy) and Wynton ... ...

The two of them made more than one recording together. There are many such available on YouTube for your enjoyment.

Altho he is younger than my daughter, she remembered him as being older. Actually, the oldest son in the Marsalis family is Branford, a musician of no little accomplishment himself! My daughter remembers Branford as being a whole lot more "fun". She says that Wynton was extremely intense and totally focused on only one thing, his music. (I venture to say that's probably what it takes to have a meteoric rise such as the one he has enjoyed. Something has to "give".) One of the reasons she might have thought he was older than she was that he graduated from high school and then entered the Julliard School of Music in New York City when he was only 17 years old.]

Wynton has been recording since the early 80's. He has won many Grammy Awards, and was the first and only recipient of a Grammy in the same year for both jazz and classical compositions ... the 1st in 1983, and then again in 1984.

Long known for his outspokedness on the subject of jazz and his somewhat narrow views on jazz history, Wynton has been both praised and criticized for his publicly stated and published opinions. There is no one, however, who can quarrel with his contributions in bringing this genre back into the forefront of the public's mind over the past 25+ years.

The name Wynton Marsalis has become so intertwined with jazz that we sometimes forget some of his other interests and accomplishments. Before I continue with this discussion, I'd like to recommend that you follow this link, where you will be able to see, hear, and enjoy him performing the first movement of Joseph Haydn's "Trumpet Concerto in Eb".

What was most impressive to me while watching and listening to this live performance was the fact that Wynton memorized this! That is not required of soloists. In fact, often - if you are looking for it - you will see sheet music somewhere nearby.

Wynton has been commissioned to compose oratorios, in addition to music for dance (including ballet). In 1997, he received the Pulitzer Prize (denied to Duke Ellington some 32 years prior for a jazz composition) for his epic "Blood on the Fields", on the subject of slavery.

[When my daughter was living in Monterey, California in the late 80's, she happened to run across Wynton on Cannery Row one day. They hadn't seen each other in at least ten years, and both were surprised at the accidental meeting. After that initial surprise, the next many mutually-enjoyable minutes were spent sharing what had been happening with each during the interim.

It seems that Wynton was in Monterey with his group and they were planning to perform that evening at a small club - 100 seats or so - in town. Did she want to go? (He had tickets for her if she would like to do so.) Well, I guess! One of life's really neat and warmer fuzzies!!]

In more recent years, Wynton seems to have mellowed just a bit. In fact, just this past year he and Willie Nelson paired up in "Two Men with the Blues". I'm going to close this post with a YouTube presentation of the two of them in concert. Don't expect much in the way of special effects, visually (there aren't any!), but do listen. You're in for a real treat!

By the way, Stephen Thomas Erlewine provides a very nice introduction and background for this video here. I recommend that you read it. Now, the link I gave you gets you directly to the YouTube recording that you might have just watched. Wait until the video loads and the music starts all over again, then stop it if you wish, or listen again, your choice - it's worth listening to again - and scroll over to where you see "(more info)" under "2channeltv" ... click on (more info), and you'll get that really good information I was just telling you about.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My best game ever!

I have always loved to bowl.

Munising, the little town of about 4,000 where I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, had a little bit of everything ... a movie theater, a department store, a pharmacy, a hardware store, a supermarket, a couple of elementary schools, a high school, several churches, a bunch* of bars, and yes, a bowling alley!

[*I often heard people say back then - this would have been in the 40's and 50's, in an effort to try and encapsulate the inordinate ratio of bars to adult population in some of the smaller communities in the region, "Well, the worst are Hayward, Hurley, and 'Hell', and 'Hell' is Munising." Rather an ignominious distinction, wouldn't you agree?]

The bowling alley, as I recall, was located in the K of C hall ... four lanes at most, I would say. Every once in a while, Dad and I would go bowling there when they had open lanes. It was fun!

I don't think more than one or two people had their own ball and shoes. We rented the shoes (10 cents) and selected a ball from the rack that we could both grip and heft.

I continued my enjoyment of bowling sporadically over the years until, in the mid-60's, my husband and I moved to Ohio with our daughter.

I joined a ladies handicap league. We bowled once a week, and I really liked it. I bought my own ball (16#) and shoes. (Still have them, by the way!) I was encouraged to buy that heavy a ball by my mother-in-law, Mary, who was an avid bowler. Whenever she came for a visit, the two of us would go bowling at least once.

One summer I persuaded my husband to enroll us in a couples bowling league. That was fun! We both loved being with each other in different surroundings and circumstances, and enjoyed the camaraderie and friendly competition.

This one night was just magical. I started off with a strike. Then another strike. The third frame saw nine pins go down in a big clean swoosh with the 10-pin left teetering. Everyone was stomping up and down in a collective effort to try and get it to fall over, but it managed to maintain its equilibrium - all the while wobbling, even when reset.

I am right-handed. The 10-pin can be a right-hander's nemesis. I stood my normal distance behind the foul line, focused, concentrated, took my three steps forward and released the ball between the second and third step, which ends in a sliding crouch position just before the line.

I nailed that sucker! The 4th frame was a strike, as well as the 5th. By the time the tenth frame came along, my score sheet showed all strikes except for that spare in the 3rd.

No one was talking to me about my game. No one was wanting to disturb my concentration. I mean, there were the normal high-fives of congratulation when someone made a strike or a spare and groans of understanding commiseration when attempts failed, but no one was speaking out loud about the extraordinary game I was having. (My husband told me later that it was like I was in another world the whole time.)

All right. It's the tenth frame. I'm up. I deliver what I'm pretty sure is a solid strike ball. I feel good about it. There's this very satisfying swooshing sound at the other end of all the pins simultaneously going about their separate ways except - somehow or another, the 10-pin is still left standing ... teetering and wobbling like crazy, but standing!

I couldn't believe it! Sweat broke out all over my body. I kept wiping my hands on my shirt, my pants, my towel, whatever I could find to wipe my hands on!! The whole alley (all 16 lanes) was silent. I was all by myself here. No one could help me.

I tried to focus. Tried to concentrate. Told myself, "You've done this before. It's only the 10-pin. You can do it!" (The very last thing I wanted to do in a game like this was to have an open frame.)

Finally, after what seemed to me like an eternity, I delivered the ball. Hit that lingerer dead on and struck out! And so you now have the story of my best game ever, a 257!!

Some time later, after all the screams and shouting from the alley had died down, my husband went to the men's room. While he was in there 'doing his thing', the only other person in there (who happened to be one of the pin-setters) said to him, "Can you believe it? Some broad just bowled a 257!"

Hubby responded, "Yeah! That broad was my wife!!"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bits & pieces

I don't usually post stuff like this mid-week. Normally, I'll wait until Sunday and throw a couple of items from Charles Osgood's "Sunday Morning" show in for good measure, but there's so much going on in my mind right now that - if I don't write about some of it, I'll explode!

My job search ...

I'm looking for part-time only, and am pretty fussy about what I'd like to do and how much I think I should get paid for doing same, but I've gotten a bit more serious in the past few days. I even 'went so far' as to redo one of my resumes! :)

I decided yesterday that I should send out either three inquiries or three applications every day. I made it yesterday. Today I had only two. :(

National Day of Mourning ...

Craig, our blogger friend from Australia - who is now in the Philippines covering a wedding, tells me that a national day of mourning has been declared for this coming Sunday in honor of those who have perished in the bush fires, some of which - it seems - were deliberately set.

Sunday is when Craig will be returning to his adopted homeland. He's looking forward to having better contact with the outside world and internet service, but is made somber by the knowledge of what he will return to.

I know that all of you join me in wishing him and his fellow countrymen the very best of luck in going forward with recovery and reconstruction efforts, not to mention quick apprehension and prosecution of those criminally responsible.

By the way, for those of you who might have the inclination and wherewithall to contribute, the Australian Red Cross is accepting donations for that relief effort.

News from Equatorial Guinea ...

Why am I writing about this? Well, that's where my friend Beth is. You might remember that I drove her up to IAH last week.

She sent me - along with other friends and members of her immediate family - an e-mail this morning that was meant to be reassuring. I had heard nothing whatsoever about this! Absolutely nothing!! Had you?

She writes, "Just to let everyone know, we are fine here at Abayak. Our compound is well-secured and we are not directly in the area where the attack took place. There is still military presence searching for attackers, as some might still be on the island. Pretty much everything is shut down. The local residents have been told to stay home with their families. The situation as it affects our work will be evaluated tomorrow. I could be sent back on Friday and rescheduled to come back later, or they might only delay the work by a week and ask me to stay past March 20th. Will let you know when I know."

[The link I gave you was from yesterday. There's probably more news today, but I haven't had the chance to check it out.]

Nonfiction writing contest update ...

Some of you know that I submitted three entries to this contest in mid-December. Results were supposed to have been announced and the top five entrants' stories published in January.

Two days ago I e-mailed the sponsor of the contest, concerned (#1) that my entries had not been received - either that, or I had submitted them in an improper format and (#2) that I was looking in the wrong place for the announced results.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail back from the sponsor, stating that she had simply been overwhelmed by the number of entries and it would be another two or three weeks until the results were announced. She remembered my name, she said, but would double-check to make sure that all three of my entries had been received.

That was a really warm fuzzy!

Sticker shock ...

I just got back home from the grocery store, and am still in somewhat of a state of shock. I'm having a terrible time believing that I had to shell out $25.97 (including tax) for one furnace filter!

Now, I'll admit that I'm a little lax in changing these things out and I know that I have to purchase kind of an odd size - 12" x 36" x 1", but my last recollection was of paying $7 or $8 each plus tax. (Of course, my fondest memories were of $2.99 plus tax, you understand, but this was back in the dark ages - before most of you were even born.)

And so, I looked it up. I keep records out the wazoo on **** like this. Yep, I was right ... unfortunately! The last time I bought furnace filters (about a year ago, and I bought more than one), I paid 1/3 of what I was over-charged for today!!

Let me check to see if this one is gold-plated. ... ... Give me a sec here. ... ... No, it's not. The packaging is different, tho. It's made by 3M. (That information alone ought to make it worth at least double what I paid before, right?) Let's see, what else makes this item now so dear??

It's "Micro Allergen", whatever the devil that means, and it "Outperforms Non-Electrostatic Filters". Oh, goody! And it's supposed to last "up to three months". Nothing new there!!

The upshot of this whole thing is that I will now have to go "price-shopping", and I think most of you know how much I detest shopping! My very strong tendencies are - once I find something I like and I know that a particular store carries it - I will buy that item at that location forever and count myself lucky that I only had to make one stop, but this really goes beyond the pale.

I don't know how much I'll be posting in the next couple or three days. Tomorrow will see me at the Museum of Natural Science - "Body Worlds 2, the Brain" exhibit's last day is Sunday. Friday I have customers coming in to Hobby. I'll pick them up, deliver them to their destination, wait, and then take them back to Hobby. Saturday morning there's a critique meeting of the writer's group that I've mentioned before.

As I'm now trying to be more serious about finding a part-time job, my first focus will have to be on those efforts. It's not that I don't love all of you ... I do! It's just that these posts - while I don't begrudge a single second - take a lot of time and concentration (my age playing a role here?), and I might not have enough of either left over to publish something succinct or well-written enough for anyone but me to read.

Meanwhile, all y'all hang in there, and I'll talk atcha soon!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lionel Hampton

Lionel Lee Hampton, born April 30, 1908, is the third in my series on African American musicians in honor of Black History Month.

When I saw him perform at The Blue Note* in Chicago in the late 50's, he was widely regarded as this country's premier vibraphonist**. He didn't start out playing the vibraphone, however. He started out on drums. When he was still in his teens and performing with Les Hite's band at Sebastian's Cotton Club in Culver City, CA, Hampton began experimenting with the vibraphone.

One article I read reported Hampton as saying that Sebastian got tired of this band after a few years, and brought in Louis Armstrong - who was living in the area at the time - to front for Les Hite. Hampton recalled Sebastian's introduction as, "The world's greatest trumpet player, Louis Armstrong, with the world's fastest drummer, Lionel Hampton."

It was while they were both performing at the Cotton Club that Armstrong, having heard Hampton practicing on the vibraphone, asked him if he would play vibes on two songs. And thus was launched his career as a vibraphonist.

Hampton continued to distinguish himself on the vibraphone, and in 1937 was invited by Benny Goodman - who had heard him perform in November just a few months prior - to join Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, and himself in what would become known as the Benny Goodman Quartet.

In the early 1930's, black and white musicians could not play together in most clubs or concerts. In fact, segregation was enforced by Jim Crow laws in the southern states. Benny Goodman had broken with tradition in 1935 by inviting pianist Teddy Wilson to join him and Gene Krupa, forming the Benny Goodman Trio. Hampton later said, "As far as I'm concerned, what he did in those days - and they were hard days, in 1937 - made it possible for Negroes to have their chance in baseball and other fields."

The recipient of more than twenty-five honorary degrees and awards, Hampton also appeared as himself in ten films. One, A Song is Born (1948), was a musical remake of a 1941 film starring Gary Cooper. In the musical version, such legends as Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong were featured (along with many others). Here's a still photo from that movie ...

Wiki has an extensive writeup on Lionel Hampton, and you can peruse it as you wish here. As is usual with this series, I have consulted many different sources for background information, and I found some inconsistencies. Not a whole lot, but a few. Where what I have written differs from what you might find in Wiki is the result of my going with my best instincts as to the ultimate truth.

**It has occurred to me that you might not know what a vibraphone is. Here's a photo of one such ...

... and you can find a very nice writeup about the instrument here.

*The Blue Note, which closed in 1960, hosted many illustrious musicians, not the least of which was Duke Ellington, whose orchestra performed there seventeen times between 1947 and 1960. The last LP album recorded at The Blue Note was on April 30, 1960, with the Ramsey Lewis Trio. I had no idea at the time how lucky I was. None at all!

And finally - for your listening enjoyment - here is Lionel Hampton, much as I remember him performing Flying Home, one of his more famous compositions. Hope you like it!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Attention, all word lovers

Once again, Jennie has alerted me to something I thought you might find of interest. Well, not only of interest, but some of these - the ones marked with an asterisk - I find absolutely hilarious! (By the way, the asterisks indicate what I thought were hilarious! In the report she sent, there were no asterisks.) I'd be interested in hearing your reactions!!

It seems the Washington Post - which I have never read (!?!) - annually runs a contest or two. In this first one, readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. Here are the winning entries ... ...

1. Coffee (n.) ... the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.) ... appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate (v.) ... to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade* (v.) ... to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.) ... impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.) ... absent-mindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph*** (v.) ... to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.) ... olive-flavoured mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) ... emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.) ... a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle** (n.) ... a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude* (n.) ... the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n.) ... a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.) ... a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism* (n.) ... the belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.) ... an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

**Just had to give this one two stars!
***My probably all-time and forever favorite!!

Here are the Washington Post's winning entries from their "Mensa Invitational", which asked readers to take any word from the dictionary and then alter it by either adding, subtracting, or changing one letter and supply a new definition. Here are the winning entries ... ...

1. Cashtration: The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Bozone: The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

5. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

6. Giraffiti*: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

7. Sarchasm*: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

8. Inoculatte: To take coffee intraveneously when you are running late.

9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

10. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these very bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

11. Decafalon: The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

12. Glibido: All talk and no action.

13. Dopeler Effect*: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

14. Arachnoleptic Fit*: The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

15. Beelzebug*: Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

16. Caterpallor: The colour you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

For Valentine's Day

I thought I'd share poems of love today - perhaps even throw one of my own in, who knows?

This first one is a WITS entry by Damien, 6th grade, and was published February 5th.

I love you with a love that isn't love
Which is a different love from the depth of love that is from me
The most loving soul ever in the time of history.

I love you like the sun loves to warm the plants.
I love you so much I would go to the breadth of the universe.

When you walk your body moves to the music of love.
In my soul I love you so that I write until I have no more hands.

Here are a couple that I wrote, many years ago, before my third marriage. You can see what a romantic fool and how in love with love I was!

Jumper Cable

When all else seems to fail,
When life wags its grim tale

Of woe & sadness, it seems to me
My heart jumps just looking at thee!

This, Too, Shall Pass

The magic aura of the first pangs of love
Sends us soaring far beyond the clouds above.

You say you're giddy, I say I'm drunk.
Between the two of us, we've sunk

Far below our mutual points of resistance.
(May we never wish to keep our distance!)

To think, "This, too, shall pass," only disturbs the illusion
And seems to add to the general confusion

Going on in our minds while we're living this phase
Of discovery, utter delight, and not enough time in our days.

Next, - not really a poem, but I'd like to include it - taken from The Jerusalem Bible, is one with which we are all probably familiar. Here is 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fulness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people's sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge -- for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hither and thither

While checking out favorite sites, opening e-mails, and other times just plain cruising the net, I came across a few things I thought you might either enjoy or get a pretty good-sized laugh out of. Let's start with the Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Isn't that neat? This shot of a lunar halo was captured very early last Sunday morning in France. For a detailed explanation, go here.

For all of you Maxine lovers ...

(from Jennie) A husband is someone who, after taking the trash out, gives the impression that he just cleaned the whole house.

(from Dianna, a bridge friend) I'd consider hormone replacement therapy, but I've got a bunch of other things that need to be replaced first.

The second one reminds me of something I read very recently. Supposedly, in this country, more money is spent annually on breast enhancements and Viagra than on Alzheimer's research. As a consequence, it is theorized that by the year 2040 there will be many thousands of women with big boobies and men with high expectations, but few will be able to remember what to do with either of them!

Thinking of my friends in the frozen north ...

Steven has taken to searching for the least little bit of color outdoors to help assuage his color-deprived eyes, and he's found a speck or two here and there ... in a billboard, in the base of a tree where the snow has melted away enough to provide a tiny glimpse of decaying (but still somewhat golden-hued) fall leaves. Tammy has decided to spend a few days with her girls indoors, working with color. Just the other day she included a home video of their experiment with food coloring, milk, and liquid dish soap. You can find it here. I was fascinated by it!

Then, Jennie told me of a magnificent set of photos from Michigan, several of which were from the Pictured Rocks and Munising area, where I grew up. You can spend a bunch of time savoring these for yourselves, as you so choose.

I'm going to show you two. This first one ...

shows ice on Chapel Beach. And yes, that's Lake Superior. Brrr!

This second is titled, "Winter Trail".

Rrvit! That's not a "trail", peoples, that's a road!!

What happens if you meet another vehicle coming the other direction? Well, if the 'trail' isn't wide enough at that point, one or tuther backs up until it is, and then each - very carefully, and hopefully you've remembered to attach your chains (either that, or you have four-wheel drive capabilities) - moves to the side allowing only enough room in the middle to pass by the other without leaving side mirrors dangling in the snow. Ah yes, I remember it well!

I found myself absolutely mesmerized by these photographs, and followed many other of the links provided on this site, thinking all the while that I would do a post of my own today on Munising, the Pictured Rocks, Lake Superior, the Upper Peninsula, or the Keweenaw Peninsula - all of which titillated my imaginative memory banks!

Instead, I kept digging further and further, until - all of a sudden - up popped a name that resoundingly resonated (no doubt a terrible redundancy, but I like it!). The name came with an e-mail address - albeit one that was three years old - and so I sent an inquiry, identifying myself, not really expecting to hear any sort of response (much less a positive one) back.

Long story short, I did get a response back - and yes, it was positive. It's a small world, isn't it? More later!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A couple of added thoughts and a recommendation

Black History Month ...

I mentioned, in my post on George Theophilus Walker, that my new blogger friend, Steve (who hails from Alberta, Canada), was going to be publishing - in honor of Black History Month - something on Abraham Lincoln.

Well, today he posted his fourth such! Of particular interest to me, being a fellow philatelist, was his first, where he referenced this site, which celebrates Lincoln's 200th birthday through stamps and postal history. There are over twenty illustrations of commemorative stamps, along with explanations, to be found here.

I do not know how many more Steve intends to publish on Abraham Lincoln, and so I'm going to just link you to his general blogsite. You can peruse any, some, or all at your leisure. Thank you, Steve, for your perspective!

Going digital ...

Is it only this country that's going digital? That thought occurred to me just this morning when it finally registered in my conscious mind that it was the United States Congress that had proposed the extension date of June 12th for the conversion from analog to digital (see my last post).

Mentoring at the Bridge Studio ...

It was an interesting session yesterday. This young gal had all but given up on the mentoring program. The mentors that she'd had previously had given her no feedback, suggestions, or help at all, she told me. She followed me around the whole time, listening to my every word.

These mentoring sessions are not intended to be 'lessons'. However, at the same time, the mentor is expected to be helpful. What positives did the mentor notice? Was there a point or two that the mentee could pick up on that would be of use in the future?

Long story short, we are scheduled to play again next month. More later. (Really positive vibes on this one. I'll be reporting back to all y'all again in March, no doubt, after our next session, which will be March 11th. I am certainly open to the possibility of a 'paying' client, bridge-wise, but at this point have no idea how seriously she wants to take the game, what lessons she might have had, etc. Meanwhile, for SURE I can tell you that I am very much looking forward to our next get-together.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A little of this, a little of that

Thought I'd give you a little preview of what'll be going on my direction in the next couple of days in addition to sharing with you some of my very - you know me - scattered thoughts about what's happening with me, locally, and around the world. Might even include another recommendation or two, who knows?

Digital reprieve ...

It appears as tho we have a little more breathing room here. I heard a new date of June 12th. Did anyone else hear that? Now, on February 17th, if my analog television set is not receiving, I guess I'll just have to hie my body on over to WalMart, won't I?

Disney World ...

Chuck continues with his and Whalechaser's whirlwind tour through all that Disney has to offer in Florida. If you have never been there (and I never have!), check out this site. Lots of photographs and commentary. Enjoy!

Fires in Australia ...

They are all over the news here. Probably the same your way. I'm hearing terribly distressing reports about possible arsonist activities, some going so far as to say that the arsonists are going back and resetting fires that have already been put out! One town in Australia has even been declared a "crime scene".

This doesn't sound to me as tho it was 'just' a matter of a careless smoker throwing out an unextinguished cigarette from a passing car window. Altho that is serious, what appears to be happening is far more serious!

Upwards of 200 victims now ... I'm talking about people who have actually lost their lives while trying either to stay and fight to protect their homes or vainly attempting - at the last possible minute - to flee those infernos in their motor vehicles! Did I hear those figures correctly? The fires are moving at the rate of a mile every five minutes?!? Could that possibly be right??!!??

Yesterday, Melbourne recorded its highest temperature reading ever! And - just this past week - Craig, our blogger friend who hails from near Sydney, wrote that the temperature was still 100 degrees at his house at 10pm.

Folks, our neighbors 'down under' desperately need our thoughts and prayers.

Grape salad ...

I am in an extended state of withdrawal. Those very large and juicy grapes that are so essential to the making of my favorite salad are - and have been for the past three weeks or so - 'out of season'.

That Kroger's deli has my phone number. I'm their "best customer", or so they say, and they promised they would call me. The day before yesterday, however, still in a state of somewhat disbelief that they didn't have my favorite, I drove over there to check it out for myself. No large luscious grapes. No grape salad. Nothing. Nada. And so, I remain in grape salad withdrawal. More later, if and when.

The price of success ...

Michael Phelps was photographed smoking marijuana. Such a downing piece of news! Alex Rodriguez admitted that he was on steroids in the early 2000's. Now that was really not unexpected, but still!

My daughter and I had a short conversation about the former yesterday, and she said - I'll be paraphrasing here - "The lesson is, never achieve fame. Never be the 'first' in anything. The microscope will be on you from thereon out."

She's correct, of course. I guess my question to you is, "What price success/fame?" In the former case, Michael Phelps achieved his success/fame the old-fashioned way (to put it in the words of a really good commercial that I haven't heard or seen in a while) ... he earned it! In the latter case, Alex Rodriguez - altho already acknowledged as one of the best baseball players on the planet - chose to further enhance his performances with drugs.

Valentine's Day ...

All y'all know that I'm one of the world's bigger blabbermouths, don't you? Well, the other day I was looking at Valentine's Day cards - trying to find a good one for my granddaughter - and found one that I thought was perfect to send to my friend Jacky! Wouldn't you just know it?

I just have to share it with you. (BTW, I have forbade -- via e-mail -- my friend Jacky from reading this post until she receives her card in the mail. Good luck to that, huh?)

Ready? The front of the card shows a photo of these two little old ladies. One says to the other, "Let's be friends until we're old and gray." The other says, "But we are old and gray!"

You open up the card to the middle, where it shows a photo of the same two little old ladies. This time, however, the first says to the other, "OK. Then let's be friends until we lose our good looks." The other says, "You got it, gorgeous!"

The very end of the message is, "Happy Valentine's Day to a beautiful old friend". Don't you just love it?


I have 'had it' up to here with chewing these - and I'll admit they taste "OK" -- calcium (plus Vitamins D & K) supplements! A few days back (and I always put out the night before how many I would have to dutifully chew the next day to fulfill my daily requirements), I just couldn't bring myself to put another of these in my mouth.

I thought, "Come on now, Goldenrod! You know that you have to have 'x' number of mg of these daily to keep your bones healthy, not to mention trying to regain some of the bone density your body has lost simply due to the normal process of aging. What's going on with you, mentally? What are you going to do? You can't do nothing!"

Well, I knew that purchasing some more VIACTIV was not the answer. That meant that I was going to have to go back to my old standby of pulverizing pills in a little dinky baggie with a hammer, placing remnants of same into my mouth, and then trying to swallow the vile-tasting stuff all the while pouring liquids down my throat. Sound appetizing to you?

It didn't to me, either, until last night when I eyed a humongous jar of applesauce in my refrigerator and I thought, "Hmmm! I wonder how these pulverized pills would taste with applesauce?"

Not too bad, actually. More later.

What's going on, schedule-wise? ...

Well, tonight I will be attending a local writer's group get-together. This is supposed to be a 'casual' meeting. We'll see. So much has happened since the last time I wrote about this. Am really not prepared to say anything else as of now. There will be much more later, no doubt.

Tomorrow I will be mentoring at the Bridge Studio for the second time during the day. I thoroughly enjoyed my first such last month.

Thursday, I will be taking Beth (you probably remember who she is from some of my previous posts) to IAH. She will be going to deepest darkest Africa - no, not on safari, but on business. Talked to her just a couple of hours ago, and she was scampering hither and thither trying to get everything all set for her trip.

Will talk to you all soon, no doubt. Meanwhile, hang in there, OK?

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Big "C"

I lost another member of my family last week. I started to write a post about it, but stopped when I realized that my feelings were too dark and depressing to continue.

Ed was a first cousin, the son of one of my mother's older brothers. I never spoke with him in person, other than in passing at my daughter's wedding in California years ago. However, in the years since, we both took the opportunity to correspond when we could and I felt as tho I had gotten to know him just a little bit.

He did not have one of those terribly long and protracted agonizing months of suffering, thank the good Lord, and his pain was made somewhat more tolerable with drugs. Towards the very end he was talking about arrangements to go into hospice care.

I was reminded of a post that Judy, one of my blogger friends from many months back, published in May of last year. Judy was battling breast cancer for not the first time, and her posts were all over the charts on the emotional scale.

She chose to publish what Erma Bombeck had written after learning that she was dying of cancer. Here it is ... ...

If I Had My Life to Live Over

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over for dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said 'Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.' There would have been more 'I love you's', more 'I'm sorry's'.

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it. Live it and never give it back. STOP SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF!!!

Ed is now resting peacefully. Judy, I sincerely hope that you are continuing to wage your fight against this debilitating disease that threatened to overwhelm not only you but your whole family and affected those of us in the unseen blogger world who care about you. I know there are many out there who join me in this wish.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

William Warfield

The second in my series on African American musicians in honor of Black History Month, William Caesar Warfield - altho I never heard his middle name uttered or even referred to, is one about whom I have personal knowledge.

The year was 1958. I was studying music at Northern Michigan University when Mr. Warfield appeared in concert. His rich bass-baritone voice just filled the concert hall, and afterwards all of us music majors were invited to go backstage and meet him at a private reception.

I was most familiar with his magnificent rendering of "Ol' Man River" in the 1951 movie version of "Show Boat", and was a little disappointed to see that it was not listed in the program. [Do I still have the program? No, I do not. If I'd realized that, 50-some years later, I'd be writing about him in my blog, I would have kept it!] And so, I do not remember whatall he actually sang. Certainly there would have been a German lieder or two.

He was fluent in German. As a matter of fact, he served as an Army Intelligence Officer during World War II. In his autobiography he wrote, "There has never been a time like Dec. 7, 1941, in the history of our country -- there certainly has never been anything like it since.* In the space of an hour on that Sunday afternoon, an entire nation of millions of Americans were united in a single purpose. And it was a unity of purpose that was sustained over the next three and a half years. Families were broken up, educations were interrupted, hundreds of thousands of people left home, many of them never to return. But somehow the personal problems all merged into a larger mission, with a feeling for God, flag, and country that is probably beyond the ken of people who weren't there. If it can't be comprehended emotionally, it can't be comprehended at all."

[*William Warfield died in 2002. His autobiography was written before that, obviously, and I don't know what remarks, references, or changes he might have made in regard to September 11th. What's most important to note here is his very last sentence, "If it can't be comprehended emotionally .. .."

He was a man of deep emotions. He often cried while rehearsing a song, found the level of emotion he could show during the performance without 'tearing up' himself, and then would go on to give a concert that had - at the end - at least half the audience reaching for additional handkerchiefs.]

He was equally at home with both the German lieder and the Negro spiritual, and was still performing until just before his last hospitalization. "When I reached 60 and was professor of music at the University of Illinois," he said in a personal interview, "I sort of half-retired from singing, thinking maybe the time had come for me to give it up completely and just do masterclasses. One night, lying in bed, something came over me that I still can't quite describe. I guess it must have been a message from God. What I heard was this, 'I gave you that voice. I'll tell you when to quit.' I thought I'd better listen. And you know something? Singing still continues to fill my life with joy. If it didn't, I wouldn't be doing it."

There's a lot of information (Isn't that nice?) that you can 'google' for yourself on him. His ability to project his feelings onto readings of both poetry and prose made him a highly soft-after guest and featured speaker.

In 1984, he won a Grammy Award in the 'Best Spoken Word or Non-musical category' for his narration of Copland: A Lincoln Portrait. Interestingly enough, Carl Sandburg had won a Grammy Award just a quarter century prior (Best Performance - Documentary or Spoken Word, other than comedy) for his reading of A Lincoln Portrait.

But I have digressed to the point of boring you all silly, I'm sure. Let's get back to when I actually met Mr. Warfield. As I said, his concert was wonderful - not what I expected, but still! - and none of us could wait to get backstage to meet him in person.

Our backstage in person meetings had to be delayed, however, because the audience simply would not let him go without several encores, the very last of which was "Ol' Man River". I'm getting goose bumps even now just thinking about that encore!

So, how was he? What was he like? I had always pictured in my mind a very large man. Would almost have to be, with such a huge voice, right? Wrong. I mean, he wasn't small but not enormous, either! About my height, probably. Very dark. Personable. Friendly, even.

[I wish I could tell you that you were soon to be treated to his singing "Ol' Man River" with scenes from the movie "Show Boat" showing in the background, but that video has since been removed from YouTube. I saved it, too, but it's gone. I'm sorry.]

However, I do have a couple of "goodies" for you. This first one is from a trailer of the 1951 movie. Pay attention to both the audio and video here. You will actually see William Warfield singing this song from the movie.

Warfield enjoyed telling the story of how his singing of "Ol' Man River" in MGM's 1951 "Show Boat" brought tears to the eyes of movie mogul Louis B. Mayer. With the cameras rolling, Warfield delivered a perfect rendition in an unheard of single take. When he had finished, he didn't know what all the screaming was about.

"Everyone was so excited," Warfield said, "they called Mayer from his office to come listen to the recording." Afterward Mayer began weeping and repeatedly said, "I can't believe it. I can't believe it." "Later," Warfield continued, "someone told me that when Mayer burst into tears it wasn't because of how well I had sung the song, but because of all the money I had saved him. I don't think that was true at all, but it was a good line."

Now, this last video that I'm going to share with you does not picture William Warfield singing "Old Man River." It shows Paul Robeson. However, it is William Warfield's voice. Just close your eyes, listen, and be transported - as I was.

Thank you, Trojanman21c, for putting this out there for all of us to enjoy!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Creativity, education, and the future of our children

I'm about to share with you a 20-minute video of one of the most important presentations I have ever had the privilege of witnessing.

This is for all of you home-schoolers out there, for anyone who has children, and for anyone at all, actually, who is interested in hearing one person's perspective on what is happening around the world today in the field of education. Laced with a goodly amount of British humor, Sir Ken Robinson's lecture is chock full of succinct and salient points. It is one that I intend to view again and again.

Here it is ... ...

Many thanks to Steven, who himself is a schoolteacher, for introducing me to such a remarkable individual in this post.

I mentioned that it is laced with British humor. Well, it is, and one of Sir Ken's points, as I recall, is that - paraphrasing here - by the time a person reaches college professorial status, he regards his body as simply a means of transporting his head around. I found this terribly amusing, and it reminded me of one of my husband's many stories about one of his college professors.

This professor was very shy, it seemed, and - after entering the room and placing his coat and hat on the desk and calling roll with his head hidden behind the roster the whole time, he would turn to the chalkboard and begin lecturing all the while writing appropriately corresponding equations. This would continue until the bell rang signaling the end of class, whereupon he would immediately turn around, gather up his books, hat and coat, and exit the classroom without once making eye contact or speaking with a single student.

Another little quirk was that, just before walking to his desk, he would peek behind the door. It was only after he had satisfied that bit of curiosity that he would continue his routine.

One day a student wondered out loud to nobody in particular, "What would happen if I wrote 'Boo!' on the chalkboard behind the door?" He was encouraged to go ahead with this experiment, and the next day the whole class arrived early in eager anticipation of the test results.

The hour arrived. The professor appeared, looked behind the door, saw what was written, and quickly disappeared. He wasn't seen on campus again that day!

[My husband always insisted that this was a true story. Am not entirely sure I believed him. Have just a wonderful story that I'll share with you another time about an absent-minded professor, but it's not appropriate for this post.]

Behind the Scenes at Disney World

Chuck and Whalechaser are in Florida now, and have just completed their "behind the scenes" tours with fellow Elderhostelers. Chuck posted a really fascinating series of descriptive accounts of each tour which can be found here. (I've linked you to day 4. After you read about that one, just follow his links to days one, two, and three.)

He loves taking pictures - remember I told you about how when we were at breakfast and every time I looked up, it seemed, someone was pointing a camera at my face? - and sounded a little frustrated by the fact that no picture-taking was allowed behind the scenes, but he more than makes up for the lack of photos by his wonderful details of each tour. (And still, you will notice, he manages to include a photo or two!)

If you've ever wondered what goes on behind (and under) the scenes at one of those large theme parks, spend a few minutes wandering through Chuck's stories. I think you'll find them quite interesting!

Friday, February 6, 2009

George Theophilus Walker

On the evening of January 20th this year, I was listening to PBS while sitting in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church waiting for one of my regular customers to come out from her board meeting.

I sat, enthralled, as I listened to composition after composition either performed or written by black musicians, some of which I'd never heard. I took a couple of notes, but mainly I just listened and enjoyed.

In honor of Black History Month, I thought it would be appropriate to share a few with you.

This first name, George Theophilus Walker, was a complete stranger to me, so don't be a bit surprised if you are in the same boat. Born in 1922, he has had a long and distinguished career as a concert pianist, a composer, and teacher. He earned a doctorate in music, and has had several honorary degrees conferred upon him since by other educational institutions.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra commissioned Dr. Walker to compose a piece around Walt Whitman's When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in music in 1996, the first African American to do so.

What is most amazing to me is that I was unable to find - after several hours of searching - a recording of this to share with you. Altho this was the second musical composition commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra to win the Pulitzer - the first one performed again in several encore presentations and a recording made, the only logical explanation I can personally accept for the lack of promotion for "Lilacs" is that today's marketplace does not support contemporary classical music.

Mike Wallace, I believe it was, conducted what must have been (certainly sounded like!) an obligatory and somewhat distasteful interview following the Pulitzer announcement. I'd share it with you, but it upsets me. Many interruptions, sometimes mid-word. Disgraceful! The only reason I'm even talking about it now is that it did provide a little background and insight into some of Dr. Walker's thought processes while composing the piece.

Another blogger friend of mine, Steve, intends to do a post on Abraham Lincoln a bit later this month. I'll link it for you when he publishes. This should tie in quite nicely with his, I would think.

The best link I could find to read more about Dr. Walker is this one. There were many citations in Wiki and other locations where I tried to dig a little deeper, but most that I tried to follow were either deadends or of little consequence.

I'm feeling more than a little frustrated and inadequate with this post, but am going to hit "Publish" before another minute goes by.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Colored memories

In the movie, "On Golden Pond", Katharine Hepburn had just a wonderful line that went (something like), "Sometimes you have to look really HARD at a person to know that they're doing the best they can."

Tammy, in her response to a comment on one of her recent posts on memories of her father, said -- I guess I'm going to just have to copy almost all of her response here, because it's really important --

Actually, what's really funny is I haven't had the best relationship with my parents! I felt for a long time that there was nothing I wanted to remember, but have been pleasantly surprised with various memories popping up here and there. I want to get them all down on paper 'so to speak' and see what else comes to mind.

I've spent so long feeling angry that my dad was never around for me and my brother, and am thinking perhaps he was just trying to do the best for us that he knew how.

[Ding ding ding! Does that line of Katharine Hepburn's ring a resounding bell?]

I'm also thinking that I need to forgive and start looking ahead instead of behind. He's so good with my kids and I'd really like a relationship with him, too.

My daughter and I had kind of an interesting discussion the other day about parenting, relationships, and the like. She was brought up under Dr. Spock's guidelines ... any of you from 'way back when' remember that name?

This conversation came about because she told me that, after having just dropped her daughter off for an overnight at a friend's house the night before, when she went to pick her up the next day she had trouble recognizing her!

Mostly said in jest, of course, but the 'times' today are so diverse and complex that it can sometimes seem as tho a whole other century has passed since you last saw one another!

I am reminded of a story I heard many years ago. I don't know if it's true or not, but here it is. I'll let you decide its veracity.

One of the townspeople's older generation died. He had not been well-loved. In fact, he had long been known as one of the most nasty critters (human-wise) that God had ever produced. No one in town had ever had a kind word to say about him. NO one!

There lived, however, in this town a gentle lady who had never been known to say an unkind word about anyone. In fact, when someone of even the slightest ill-repute passed on, she could almost always be counted on to say something positive.

Well, when this (by consensus) nasty/ugly/evil man passed on to 'his reward', the townspeople waited to hear what words she might possibly be able to cull from her positive memory banks to try and describe this person.

Silence. Days passed. She said nothing. Weeks passed. She volunteered no statement yea or nay. FInally, in a fit of utter exasperation, she was asked directly, "Well, what did you think of old so and so?"

And after a VERY long pause, she finally came out with, "Well, he had a nice whistle!"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lady judge rules defendant's actions "Justifiable" ...

... and throws out case.

In a landmark decision yesterday, the judge ruled in a case that had come to be known as "The Mammogram Strikes Back!"

Here is the defendant's testimony, taken directly from court records ... ...

I actually kept my mammogram appointment.

I was met with, "Hi! I'm Belinda!"

This perky clipboard carrier smiled from ear to ear, tilted her head to one side and crooned, "All I need you to do is step into this room right here, strip to the waist, and slip on this gown. Everything clear?" She then skipped away to prepare the chamber of horrors.

I'm thinking, "Belinda, try decaf. This ain't rocket science!"

With the right side finished, Belinda flipped me to the left - literally - and said, "Hmmmmm. Can you stand on your tippy toes and lean in a tad so we can get everything?"

"Fine," I answered. I was freezing, bruised, and out of air, so I thought, "Why not use the remaining circulation in my legs and neck to try and finish me off?"

My body was in a holding pattern that defied gravity - one part of my left side now firmly wedged between two 4" square pieces of glass - when we first heard, then felt a 'zap' followed by complete darkness as the power went off.

"Maintenance is working," she said as she headed for the door. "They must have hit a snag."

"Excuse me!" I shouted. "You're not going to leave me in this vise all alone, are you?"

As she made her exit I heard her say, "Oh, you fussy puppy! The door's wide open, so you'll have the emergency hall lights. I'll be right back."

And before I could scream, "NOOOOO!!" she was gone.

That's exactly how Bubba and Earl, maintenance men extraordinaire, found me ... half-naked, one part wedged in the "jaws of life" and the rest of me dangling.

After exchanging polite "Hi! Howzit goin'?" greetings, Bubba (or possibly Earl) asked, to my utter disbelief, if I knew the power was off.

Trying to disguise what was now mounting hysteria, I replied as calmly as I could, "Uh, yes. Yes, I did, thanks!"

"You bet. Take care!" Bubba replied as he made his exit.

Two hours later Brenda breezed in wearing a sheepish grin. Making no attempt to suppress her amusement, she said, "Oh, I am sooo sorry! The power came back on and I totally forgot about you! And silly me, I went to lunch. Are we upset?"

And that, Your Honor, is the story behind how her head ended up between the clamps.

I am going to label this "Jokes", but I can ALmost see such a thing actually happening, and then it would not be nearly as funny, would it?

My time for blogging is going to be quite limited the next couple of days, so I thought I'd at least get this one out there - thanking Jennie for her e-mail, which prompted this post - before I depart the house to get the car washed and then go on up to IAH to pick up one of my regular and long-timey cancer patient taxicab customers.

This time, tho, I get the opportunity to meet his wife and one of his grandchildren! How very special!! Tomorrow morning I'll be picking her and their grandson up to take them down to NASA. While the two of them are enjoying their tour, I plan to go on over to Kemah - less than ten minutes away - to ascertain for myself what's really open for business there in the aftermath of Ike.

Talk to you later. Have to go now!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pilling cats 101

Serendipity, my beloved pet of many years, was a typical cat in some ways, atypical in others. I have published over 400 times now, but only five of those - this will be the 6th - have been labeled "Love". Four are based on my own memories. This one poignantly describes the loss I felt when she died - almost fourteen years ago now - on February 14, 1995.

I remember one time - this would have been in the mid-80's - when I was petting her, and she reacted (not violently - she never reacted violently with me, but it seemed like she was trying to pull away from my touch) as tho I was hurting her.

Handling her most carefully, I began the slow process of examining her body all over to try and ascertain where the problem area might be. I found it! A wound, ulcerated and oozing. It almost looked as tho she had been 'stabbed' in the side.

Sick at heart, I took her to the vet, who - after a thorough examination - told me that she had been bitten by a dog. And it would have been a big dog, she said. Pills were prescribed along with an antibiotic salve, which had to be administered directly into the open wound at least once a day.

Ugh, I thought! The pills I could probably handle. I mean, you force the cat's mouth open, shove the pill in, and then hold the mouth closed - all the while massaging the throat until all gagging has stopped and it appears obvious that the 'vile object' has been ingested. That's all there is to it, right? Easier said than done, of course!

The salve was a whole other ball game, it seemed to me. The vet assured me that Serendipity would allow it. And so we went back home. Pills were administered - forcefully, but successfully. Salve was not only tolerated but (seemingly) welcomed until one day she simply would not lie still for any of it!

I called the vet with my concern and she said that my cat would somehow instinctively have known when the treatments/medications should stop. Serendipity was right. Vet was right. I was needlessly concerned.

So what did I know? I was only a human pet owner, for crying out loud!

Now, the rest of this post is very much tongue-in-cheek, and is courtesy of my friend Jennie. Thank you, Jennie! The subject is "How to give pills to cats and dogs" ... ...


1. Pick cat up and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat's mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2. Remove pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.

3. Retrieve cat from bedroom and throw soggy pill away.

4. Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.

5. Remove pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.

6. Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees while holding cat's front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold cat's head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into its mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat's throat vigorously.

7. Remove cat from curtain rail. Get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figures and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.

8. Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

9. Check label to make sure pill is not harmful to humans. Drink one beer to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse's forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

10. Retrieve cat from neighbor's shed. Get another pill. Open another beer. Place cat in cupboard and close door onto neck to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

11. Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Drink beer. Fetch bottle of Scotch. Pour shot, drink. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus jab. Apply whiskey compress to cheek to disinfect. Toss back another shot. Throw away shredded T-shirt and fetch new one from bedroom.

12. Ring fire brigade to retrieve the friggin' cat from tree across the road. Apologize to the neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.

13. Tie the little bugger's front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining room table. Find heavy-duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of fillet steak. Be rough about it. Hold head vertically and pour two pints of water down throat to wash pill down.

14. Consume remainder of Scotch. Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room. Sit quietly while the doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new table.

15. Arrange for SPCA to collect "mutant cat from hell" and ring local pet shop to see if they have any hamsters.


Wrap pill in bacon, drop on floor.

Groundhog Day

Well, as usual this morning, Punxatawney Phil woke up from his hibernation long enough to cast his shadow, thus announcing to one and all that there would be six more weeks of winter.

That announcement was immediately drowned out by a long and loud chorus of boos from the enthusiastic crowd, which just moments before had been wildly cheering for their Pittsburgh Steelers.

Did any of you watch the Super Bowl? I'm a baseball nut, but did happen to tune the game in just as that 100-yard return of an interception occurred. I called my daughter expressing my joy over just witnessing such a fantastic play and was met with this awesome silence on the other end.

I had remembered that she and her husband were at opposite ends of the betting scale for this game, but had forgotten which team she was rooting for. I wonder if they're speaking this morning. That must have been some kind of wild 4th quarter!

[I just called her to find out if they're speaking and she said, "Well, he's not up yet, so we're not speaking." Rrvit!]

She said that the Steelers played dirty. I acknowledged that they have long been known for same. But when she added that the Cardinals played with finesse* and grace, that's where I drew the line.

We had some exchanges about how the game of football basically involves these guys pounding one another and then running for their lives, but I remember - way back when - Joe Namath quarterbacking the Jets. Remember those gimpy knees? Remember how well he was protected in the backfield until he could release the ball?

Maybe it's just my imagination, but I can still see him receiving the snap and then tiptoeing and pirouetting around to ballet music - all the action slowed way down - while bodies were slowly flying through the air all around him.

Did that really happen? I prefer to think that it did. Certainly makes for a better story!

*She didn't say 'finesse'. I took some literary license here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The auroral corona over Norway

The latest Astronomy Picture of the Day, seen here ...

... as usual, just took my breath away.

I by no means want to detract from what took a while to compose ... ... I'm talking about what I just published, for crying out loud!

It's just that, after having published my "balancing the checkbook" post, I thought I had some time to just leisurely peruse through some of my favorites and then I'd check back with all y'all again tomorrow sometime (or whenever).

I was mistaken, for perhaps the 400 gazillionth time. I simply could not let this one go by without telling all of you about it. If you'd like to read more about this photo, please go here.

Balancing the checkbook

The very first time I ever tried to balance a checkbook would have been in February of 1959.

We were living in the Portage Lake Cabins, described pretty vividly here. Actually, this post was the middle of a five-part series that concluded with this one just a day or so later. If you didn't happen to catch any of these, you might enjoy reading them from the very beginning.

For today, tho, my focus will be on the tiny 'cabin' we had. As I said in that first linked post, we had just the two rooms. I would have been working at the kitchen table - yes, the very same one that John finally decided he'd have to crawl under to get to the bathroom! - with my first-ever checkbook balancing activities. My husband would have been sitting at a plywood-type 'desk' (shelf, actually!) that was only minimally supported in the other room, studying.

Why had I never balanced a checkbook? Well, I'd never had a checkbook whose account I had to try and balance is the immediately obvious answer, and it's the truth!

As a kid, we'd had "allowances" - Do those still even exist nowadays? - of 50 cents or so a week, I forget the exact amount, but that's probably about right. We were expected to do certain chores to 'earn' our allowance. We would have had our piggybanks, our Christmas savings accounts, our savings bonds ... ... those things I only vaguely remember. (My folks kept track of everything.)

Then, when I went away to college, there must have been some sort of student account on campus that my folks would have set up for me. I do not remember ever having any great sums of money on me at any one time, and so I must have had local access to a few dollars if/when I needed them.

ANYway, I had never had a checkbook to balance. This would have been my very first ever 'go round' with such an activity.

And so there I was, sweating like a stuck pig in the middle of a very cold winter, trying my darndest (and my best 'darndest' was feeble, to put it mildly!) to balance what was now "our" checking account.

I couldn't get it to balance! I went back to the beginning and tried again. Another time, another, and yet one more. I could not get it to balance!!

I was almost frantic with worry. Money was tight! I mean, it squeaked, it was so tight!!

Finally I called out to my husband - in the most timid way one can possibly imagine, "Honey? Does it matter if you're a 'few dollars' off?"

Big long silence.

"How many dollars off?"

I could barely whimper, "$60."

I wanted to disappear completely. We couldn't afford to be sixty cents off, much less sixty dollars!