Tired of Being Tracked and Followed Wherever You Go On the Internet?

I have reached the point where I am tired of searching for a specific product or simply searching for anything and less than two minutes later see an ad for what I was looking for or something related to my search. I realize advertising is part of the Internet and, although I try to block as much of it as I can, I still expect to see some advertising. However, what really bothers me is that whatever Google is always tracking me. I’ve tried using search engines that don’t track you such as Duck-Duck-Go, but I got tired of seeing search results in other languages. So, today I discovered another tactic.

This is what I did. I went to https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity

Google My Activity page

and clicked the three little dots in the upper right, and chose “Delete Activity By” On the page that opened under Delete by Date I chose All Time and clicked Delete.

Next, I went to:
https://myaccount.google.com/activitycontrols

Google Activity Controlsand turned everything off, pausing everything.

Finally, I went to
https://adssettings.google.com/authenticated

Google Authenticated pageYou might be surprised that Google has a description of you. I took a look at it before I turned ad-personalization off. Some of these are very minor interests, but it explains some of the ads I’ve seen.

I did not install a browser plug-in to help with it, because it would just be wasted space on my computer.
Just to be sure I did some searches then opened https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity again. I was happy to see it said No activity.

Next Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/settings
I clicked on Ad settings and turned everything to either Not Allowed or No One. Then the next tab down, Hide ad topics I turned everything under Alcohol, Parenting, and Pet to off.

You might find it interesting to look at the Advertisers you’ve interacted with. I think they include advertisers your friends and friends of friends have interacted with. My list totaled 357 for a Facebook account that’s existed for less than two year and included a district attorney candidate in Oklahoma and a real estate agent in Florida, and car dealerships in Michigan, New York City, in South Carolina, New Jersey, 4 in Georgia, 2 in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, 3 in Arizona, Nevada, Illinois, Kentucky, Washington, 4 in Florida, Indiana, Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, and three here in California where I live even though the last time I looked for a car to buy was in 2009.

A couple other things to try. You can add one of four extensions to your browser to block most ads: Ad Block, Ad Block Plus, Adguard, or uBlock Origin.

Brave Browser logoAlso, if you hover your cursor over your browser icon you’ll see a list of possibilities you can open. One of them will be something like New Private Window or New Incognito Window. Choose that and you will open a window that stops your browsing from being tracked, but you’ll also have to log-in to any site that requires a login and password.

Lastly, there’s a Browser I often use called Brave https://brave.com/ that automatically blocks trackers and ads and it claims to be faster. Or you can choose to see ads that reward the publishers of those ads when you look at the ads or go to the sites.

“We produce jobs…

Yesterday Donald Trump said, “Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs.”

So far in recent U.S. history that has not been the case. Take a look at these.

Chart indicating Private Sector job growth has been better under Democrats

Not only has job growth been better, so has economic growth.

chart showing economic growth has been better under Democrats

Furthermore, a recent report by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs included this quote.

Quote from Woodrow Wilson school saying Democrats are better for the economy

Now, watch the entire story on MSNBC (I know, if you’re a Republican you might think this is fake news, but it doesn’t take much to do some research, see if you can find evidence to the contrary. Perhaps Trump’s administration is performing contrary to recent Republican Administrations, but so far much of what he has claimed is because of what his administration has accomplished concerning job creation has been due to actions by the previous administration).

https://www.msnbc.com/velshi-ruhle/watch/democratic-presidencies-have-seen-faster-job-growth-1348378179850?v=railb&

Are Trump’s Supporters Stupid?

Not long ago I read that a Trump supporter wondered why liberals and Democrats think Trump supporters are stupid?**

I don’t think Trump supporters are stupid, but I question their common sense because…

  • The guy they support has owned a fraudulent University, intent on scamming poor people;
  • has made it his business practice to stiff his creditors;
  • has proudly bragged about his own history of sexual abuse;
  • has made up stories about seeing Muslim-Americans in the thousands cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center;
  • has bragged that he could shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and his supporters wouldn’t care;
  • has illustrated his own character by telling that cute story about the elderly guest bleeding on the floor at his country club, the story about how he turned his back and how it was all an imposition on him;
  • has mocked the disabled;
  • has bragged that he doesn’t read books;
  • has told his supporters to beat up protesters and he would hire attorneys;
  • has told the people at one of his rallies to confiscate a man’s coat before throwing him out into the freezing cold;
  • has often been unable to talk with foreign dignitaries without insulting their countries and demanding that they praise his electoral win;
  • Angry Donald Trumphas removed expertise from all layers of government in favor of people who make money by eliminating protections in the industries they’re supposed to be regulating;
  • has continued to profit from his businesses, in part by leveraging his position as President, to the point of overcharging the Secret Service for space in the properties he owns;
  • has started fights with every country from Canada to New Zealand while praising Russia and quote, “falling in love” with the dictator of North Korea;
  • has said it was difficult to help Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria destroyed so much of that country because it was the middle of water;
  • has separated children from their families and put them in cages, managed to lose track of 1500 kids and opened a tent city incarceration camp in the desert in Texas while claiming that those people are just “animals;”
  • has curried favor with neo-Nazis and white supremacists while refusing to condemn them for their acts;
  • has responded angrily in reference to the Central Park Five when they were compensated as innocent men convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, and he said they should still be in prison; and
  • has laughed in your face through the thousand and one other manifestations of corruption and low moral character and outright animalistic rudeness and contempt he shows not just for people like me, but also for you (yes, you Trump supporter) the working American voter… and yet you still show up grinning and wearing those MAGA hats while threatening to beat up anybody who doesn’t agree with you.

That doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It means you’re frustrated. It means you don’t know where else to turn. It means you feel out government has failed you. I feel that way, too. In fact, in the early days of Trump’s campaign, I thought he might make a decent President, that was until he started saying he wanted to make America great again. America is great. It doesn’t to be made great. It is the greatest country in the world today. I once considered moving to Italy. The place is crawling with history and art, and it’s so romantic. I also once thought about living in England. It’s also loaded with history and its various towns are so quaint looking with all those narrow curving streets. However, I could never leave this country. I could never leave the possibilities this country offers. I could never leave the beauty of its mountains, plains, and rivers with the golden beaches of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific. I could never leave this country with New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, Boston, St. Louis and all the other cities, that offer so much strength and diversity. I could never leave this country with its thousands of small towns that have their own quaintness rivaling the narrow streets of Italy’s and England’s small towns. Mostly I could never leave because of the people here, the people like you who work so hard and diligently and know that this is a great country and that we are all blessed to be here.

That’s why I don’t understand how it is that people who are all good Americans are unable to see that Trump is using them. Just as a child uses his toys to help him act out his fantasies, Trump is using his supporters to help him with his fantasies. His fantasies are that he’s not just a great business person, a great deal maker, but that he is the greatest President of all time in what he believes was once a great country.

This is still a great country. This is not Russia. Russia might have once upon a time been a great country. Vladimir Putin wants Russia to be great again. The United States does not need to be made great again. It is great and if you don’t believe that, then maybe you are stupid.

**Thanks to Adam-Troy Castro. I took his original Facebook post, rewrote much of it and added my own thoughts.

Wondering If Bret Kavanaugh Should Be a Supreme Court Justice

I was just watching the Senate interview with Bret Kavanaugh that took place last week after the Christine Balsey Ford interview. I did not watch her interview. I wanted to get an impression of Bret Kavanaugh and see for myself if I at least thought he might be okay on the Supreme Court. Years ago I watched the Clarence Thomas hearings and I could see why he was nominated. He was intelligent and acted like a judge.

Watching the Kavanaugh interview I was expecting to see a composed, rational, intelligent person, calmly explaining his actions and competently defending himself. That’s what I remember was the case when Clarence Thomas defended himself concerning the Anita Hill allegations. Whether or not I think Thomas was guilty or not is not within the scope of my comments here. The point is Clarence Thomas acted as I thought a judge should act. When his interview began Thomas delivered an opening statement expressing his disappointment the interview was even taking place. However, he acted like someone who could be a Justice of the Supreme Court. He was deliberate, yet calm.

Bret Kavanaugh, on the other hand, was not. His opening statement was very much like that of Thomas, but he was obviously angry. Watching the video was terribly disconcerting. Kavanaugh was visibly upset, belligerent, and disturbed. There were times I thought was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. When the Senators began questioning him I saw a man who was not as much trying to defend himself as a man very afraid the Senators are going to realize he was lying. I was embarrassed watching him.

When someone catches you in a lie, what do you do? Either you admit it and confess or you try to deflect it, change the subject, turn the questioning away from you. A person trying to take control of the questioning will often say ridiculous irrational things such as: “I like beer. Do you like beer, Senator? What do you like to drink?” or “You’re asking about black-outs. I don’t know, have you?”

I find it hard to imagine the Republicans truly believe Kavanaugh will be good for this country. There are better candidates, better possibilities. Affirming him for the Supreme Court could be disastrous for the Republicans. If they dump him now the Supreme Court is still likely to have another Trump nominated Justice. And it is far more likely that person will receive a fair hearing whether he is confirmed by two houses dominated by Republicans or Democrats or one of each.

If you haven’t seen the video yet (not clips, not pictures, not synopsis or analysis), watch it and after you’ve seen it see if you can honestly say, this guy would make an acceptable Supreme Court Justice. You might also want to watch some of Clarence Thomas’ hearing.

P.S. I did like Lindsey Graham’s statement, “You’re looking for a fair process? You came to the wrong town at the wrong time, my friend.” So true, there has been no such thing as a fair process in Washington for the past eight years, if not longer.

73 Years Ago Today People Were Celebrating the End of WWII And I Was Born

Today is my birthday. I guess that’s good. For many people their birthday is a day for celebration, often a lot of celebration.

Today, friends and family will wish me a happy birthday. I’ll get a few cards. I’ll be taken out to lunch or dinner. Maybe there will be a cake and candles and a few presents.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything they say and do to acknowledge my birthday, but for me it’s just another day. I feel about the same as I did yesterday and I imagine I’ll feel about the same tomorrow.

It’s not that I don’t want to acknowledge I’m getting older, that in fact I’m old. My body tells me everyday in various ways that it’s breaking down, but in my head I’m still 23. I think a lot like I did then, although I know I’m not the same.

If no one was around to celebrate this day for me what would I do?

I’d do about the same things I do everyday. I’d thank the Lord for another day. I’d enjoy the sun, clouds, flowers, rain, trees, mountains, lakes, rivers, water. I’d spend a few moments commiserating or laughing or both with family, friends, and acquaintances. I’d do some reading and try to learn something knew, although that seems to get a little harder every day for this old dog.

In short I’d do my best to enjoy this world and this life. Today though, I’d probably take a moment to relish the fact I’ve added another year to my mental file cabinet and I’ll say a quiet thank you to all those who’ve helped me get this far.

So, in the end I guess This is not just another ordinary day.

Shopping At #Von’s/#Safeway Is Driving Me Crazy (or how to lose money while trying to save some)

Ladies and Gentlemen, the story you are about to read is true. Maybe the names should have been changed to protect the innocent, but they weren’t.

[musical interlude] This is the city, Ventura California. I live here. I’m not a cop. It was Wednesday, August 8th. It was hot in Ventura, too hot. I was shopping at the local Von’s store. This is not a pretty story. It’s a story with some complaining, some confusion, some whining, and some price reductions, but most of all… most of all there will be something else.

I beg your pardon, what is this? Some kind of feeble joke?

I don’t think I’ll ever be shopping at Von’s again.

There are hashtags in the title because I’m hoping someone of authority at #Von’s or #Safeway reads this. I considered submitting the form provided on the site for questions and complaints, but I doubt anyone at Corporate ever sees them. I’m hoping someone sees this because I think they’ve mucked things up.

First, with the exception of Trader Joe’s, WinCo Foods, and maybe Sprouts, I hate shopping at the big chain grocery stores. I love when they have sales. I love when they have something I want to buy at a good price. I love when they’re not especially busy. Too often that’s not the case. Too often their sales, their stock, or they check-out lanes are a mess.

I’m a senior of the citizen variety, not the high school or college variety, and I take advantage of sales as often as I can. Von’s is the closest grocery store to where I live, so I take advantage of as many of Von’s sales as I can. I used to love shopping there, but ever since Safeway bought the chain it’s become a nightmare. Maybe the problem is that Vons just has too damn many kinds of sales and specials. This is a partial list: five for five (buy five or more advertised mix and match items and save a dollar on each), 10 for 10 (buy 10 for $10), buy one get one, buy two get one, buy two get two, buy three get one, 50% off, three-day sales, four-day sales, thirty-day sales, $5 Fridays (advertised items at $5 each), and what was once my favorite –  “Just for U” digital coupons. While most of the sale items are marked, the digital coupons are rarely marked unless they are also listed among the advertised items.

“All we know are the facts, just the facts.” – Dragnet

Often the various sales overlap. For instance today you can buy Lucerne yogurt 32 oz $2.50 (2 for $5) advertised in the flyer or $2.53 with a digital coupon. The current flyer says you can buy 4 boxes of General Mills products for $10, or $5.00 with a digital coupon. However, there is no such digital coupon. There are two digital coupons. With one, you can save $1.00 on two boxes of cereal, and with the other, you’ll save $5 when you buy four boxes of certain General Foods products. That’s probably the one the person who put together the flyer had in mind, but it didn’t work out quite right. After reading the flyer and looking at the coupons I was confused. As it turned out for me, there was no reason to be confused, because I wasn’t going to get the savings for any of those deals.

The biggest pain in the ass with the digital coupons is you have to read the fine print because not all flavors or sizes of a product are eligible for the coupon. The reason you have to read the fine print is that Von’s (and other big chain stores) don’t mark the shelves or the shelves aren’t marked well enough to show which products are eligible for the discount and if you guess wrong, you lose. The same goes for all the other sales. Six of seven flavors of a product might be on sale, but it’s up to you to figure out if the one you want that isn’t marked is also on sale, or if the tag fell off or if someone forgot to put the tag on the shelf. Too often you guess wrong and while its close relatives are on sale, it’s not. Guess wrong and you lose.

To take advantage of Von’s “Just for U” coupons you need a Von’s card that’s also registered at Von’s online site because that’s where you’ll choose the coupons you want and you’ll click “Add” to add them to your Von’s card. When you get to the cash register you’ll either swipe your Von’s card or enter your phone number to apply the savings.

At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen.

I went to Von’s today to do some shopping, but I also had to get a refund on a sale item I that hadn’t worked out the way it was supposed to last week. This is what happened. I had a digital coupon that said if I bought a box of regular Cheerios I could get a box of Cheerios Oat crunch for free. In the store, it took me a while to find the Cheerios Oat Crunch because there are many different kinds of Cheerios and the sale item wasn’t marked. Eventually, I found the box pictured in the ad. However, when I got home and checked my receipt I saw that instead of saving $5.29 for the cereal, I was charged for both boxes. Since I’d gotten the savings for a couple other digital coupons I knew it wasn’t a matter of having not entered my phone number at the cash register. I talked to the shift manager who told me to tell the cashier when I checked out to get the refund.

So, I did my shopping. Remember that General Mills products special I mentioned earlier – buy four and save? I decided to take advantage of that, just to improve my odds in case, not all the flavors were included I picked out five items. It meant I should save at least $12. At least, that’s what I thought was supposed to happen.

Apparently, the cashier was new (I’d never seen her there before) and she got flustered when I tried to explain the refund. First, she talked to her the shift manager, then she started mucking things up. She punched some numbers into the register and it gave me $.29 change. Since she didn’t then give me the five dollars I thought she was going to deduct it from my charges for the day. Instead, of giving me the $5 she gave me a box of Cheerios, at least that was the result because she didn’t charge me the $4.49 for one of the boxes of Cheerios. Messed up, right? I was still owed $.51, but she didn’t tell me what she was doing, so it wasn’t until I got home and was able to check the receipt that my eyes were opened and I started to see. Until then I knew things were messed up, but I didn’t know if it was me or the cashier or the store or Von’s who had messed them up. I like to make sure it wasn’t me before I start accusing someone of making a mistake only to be told it was me who made the mistake.

Vons Receipt 8-8-18While the cashier was fiddling with the refund I entered my phone number and waited. I’m pretty sure she ran a transaction for the refund, then started a new transaction for my groceries, but since she didn’t tell me I didn’t know that, but I was charged full price for everything I bought. When she handed me the receipt I saw that something was mucked up, but before I started discussing (a nice word for arguing) the matter I decided to go home and make sure the mucking up hadn’t been my fault. It wasn’t. I’d done everything I was supposed to do. I’d added the coupons to my card. I’d entered my phone number to record my card with the cash register. I’d paid my bill with a valid credit card.

  • $5 for four of the General Mills products, $4.99 for the extra General Mills product (the most expensive of the five I’d picked), $2.50 for a bag of salad (two for $5), and $.97 for three bananas, totaling $13.46. That’s according to the Von’s Flyer.
  • Also according to the flyer, if the digital coupon hadn’t been entered for the General Mills products I should have been charged $10 for the Cereal and Fiber one bars, plus $4.99 for the extra product, $2.50 for the salad, and $.97 for the bananas, totaling $18.46, minus the $5 – $13.26.
  • Or there’s the variation with just the $5 savings for the coupon. $13.26 for four of the General Mills products, $4.99 for the extra one, $2.50 for the salad, and $.97 for the bananas, totaling $23.62.

Although the last scenario had the same total as the one on my receipt, the math wasn’t the same as that on the receipt. This is what it says the cashier rang up: two boxes of Fiber One bars for $4.49 each. One box of Cheerios for $4.69. One box of Chex cereal for $4.99, bananas $.97, and a bag of salad for $3.99, totaling $23.62.

I know, numbers. Too many numbers. Too much information. This is the point where most people throw up their hands and say it’s not worth it. It’s not worth the $5 or $2 or $.51 cents to take the receipt or the product or both back to the store, to point out the mistake to someone who will often have no idea what you’re talking about and might be wondering why you’re going to so much trouble for so little and you’ll be embarrassed by the thing because there’s a good chance there will be other customers waiting in line also wondering why you’re going to so much trouble for so little, after all, mistakes are made, suck it up.

It seems to me that either the digital coupons don’t get added to my Von’s card when I press “Add,” or they are not all read by Von’s system, or the store’s staff are either too busy or confused by the task and don’t link the product to its coupon. At any rate, it’s a highly flawed system. At least once a month I get overcharged for something. Sometimes I take it back. Sometimes I don’t bother and accept the loss because it’s not worth my trouble to deal with. I guess it’s my donation to help keep my local Von’s store in business.

I really, really, really, really, really (too many reallys? Okay, I’ll cross one out) really hoping someone from Von’s/Safeway reads this because I will not go back to any Von’s for any reason (not only that, I might do a little bad-mouthing like I’m doing now) until this is taken care. Unfortunately, this should not have happened, but it did.

“It’s called a mistake, Friday. But I guess you never make any of those, do you?” – Dragnet

There are just too many questions that need answers. Which discounts were the ones that should have been applied to my transactions? Which ones seem to be there just to confuse me? Why did the cashier not just refund the $5.29 instead of just $.29? Why did she presume the cost of all boxes of Cheerios are equal and not charge me for one in trying to rectify the fact I was charged for a box that should have been free? Why does Von’s flyer show an online coupon has to be added to the card to get a discount, yet the coupon does not exist. Instead, a similar coupon exists that offers a very different discount.

This is what I would like to happen. First I would like to Von’s/Safeway to send me a check for the $10.67 I believe I am owed (see variation #1, plus the $.51 difference between what I paid for the first box of Cheerios and what I was actually refunded), although there’s a good chance my math is wrong by a few cents because this whole thing is so terribly confusing.

Second, although I love them I’d like Von’s/Safeway to dump the digital coupons. Either that or at least clearly mark every product that is being offered with digital coupon savings. Vons used to that years ago, but I think people got so upset when they got to the cash register and found they didn’t get the savings because they’d never added it to their card. Or Von’s could simply advertise all the Von's receipt - 8-2-18digital coupons on their site and give the discount to anyone who bought the product (I’m sure that would wreak havoc with their system, though). Best to just go back to the old ways. If you want the discount, you cut the stupid coupon out of the ad, bring it into the store, and remember to present it to the cashier.

“So don’t expect us to roll over and play dead when you say you’re dissatisfied.” – Sgt Joe Friday, Dragnet

 

P.S. Is there a Von’s company policy about cleaning the cash register tape printer heads? You should have seen the thing I brought in there today, no wonder the cash register was flustered and confused. She was trying to give me a refund based on something that was almost impossible to read. Here’s the part she was trying to read >>

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Humuhumunukunukuapua’a Are Dreamed Of

Reef Trigger fishOkay, here I am with another bit of did-you-really-want-to-know trivia. I’ve found the smattering of Hawaiian I’ve encountered to be quite interesting, mostly because I sometimes think the Islands might have been originally inhabited by the Welsh or Germans. The languages of all three people often seem to go out of their way to create words that are longer than they need to be and therefore difficult for anyone who doesn’t speak the language not only to pronounce but also to hope to ever remember. For instance, Rindfleischetikettierung is German for beef labeling. Cyfrwngddarostynedigaeth means intercession in Welsh. And Humuhumunukunukuapua’a is the state fish of Hawaii. It’s what we know of as either the Reef Triggerfish or the Lagoon Triggerfish, although the translation of humuhumunukunukuapua’a is far more descriptive: “triggerfish with a snout like a pig.” The reef triggerfish (Rhinecanthus rectangulus), is also known as the rectangular triggerfish.

There is a chance that somewhere in your life you sang the song, “My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua Hawaiian.” and are therefore familiar with the line, ” . . .where the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa go swimming by,” but you probably had no idea what you were singing about.

Triggerfish can quickly change their coloration, sometimes fading to a drab gray when they are sleeping or threatened. Their colors tend to be the most vivid when the fish are healthy and unthreatened by their surroundings. They can bite, too. Triggerfish have blue teeth that are set close together inside their chubby little mouths. The fish can be a nasty thing, though. They have been known to bite and attack swimmers who pass too close, sometimes leaving noticeable marks often around the ankles. Maybe they bite because people have been known to catch them and eat them. I’m told they’re tasty little fish.

If you’d like to toss humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa into a conversation today, for instance, “this sandwich tastes a bit like humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa” or “Something in here smells like five-day old humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa.” The word is pronounced ˈhumuˈhumuˈnukuˈnukuˈwaːpuˈwɐʔə. I found that it starts to roll off the tongue nicely, but as I got near the end of it my lips tended to get in the way.

Perhaps even Hawaiians have trouble with the word, perhaps it simply takes too darn long to order it grilled, so they often refer to the Reef Triggerfish as simply humuhumu.

Sometimes, When I’m Bored, I Google

Google has an interesting feature I use when I need a little inspiration or when I feel like looking for something, but I don’t know what I want to look for.

Open the Google search page and just click on the bar that says, “I’m Feeling Lucky.” Usually, I don’t enter anything into the search bar because usually when I do this I don’t have anything in mind to look for. I suppose you could enter something such as baseball or piano or waddle**.

You can either click on I’m Feeling Lucky or you can hover your cursor over the words and Google will give you another choice such as I’m feeling trendy or I’m Feeling Artistic or I’m Feeling Doodley.

“What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within the span of his little life by him who interests his heart in everything.” ― Laurence Sterne

For instance today I clicked on I’m Feeling Lucky and found this Google Arts and Culture page: https://artsandculture.google.com/entity/%2Fm%2F0wzm767?hl=en

Arc de BeràAs often happens I learned something new. In fact, I learned a couple new things. First I learned there is a city in Catalonia, Spain known a Tarragona which was once known as Tárraco, a Roman settlement, which was the site of Kesse, a native Iberian settlement that dated back to the 5th century B.C. The Romans showed up in 218 B.C. Tárraco was the first and the oldest Roman settlement on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain).

The second (or maybe it was the third) thing I learned is that Tárraco became the model for future Roman settlements because “The unique Roman plan of the town is exceptional, as it adapted to the configuration of the land by means of a series of artificial terraces, which are to be seen around the provincial forum as well as in the residential quarter.

The Roman town sat on a hill, with the primary government buildings at the top and on two terraces (created by the Romans) near the top. Among the ruins that remain are the defensive ramparts or walls, the provincial forum, some columns, an aqueduct, the circus, a theater, a couple villas, and an amphitheater built in the 2nd century A.D. There is also a triumphal arch because it wouldn’t be an ancient Roman town if it didn’t have a triumphal arch.

You’ll find Tárraco within and around Tarragona, which is about 100 km southwest of Barcelona.

**P.S. Sometimes the results are disappointing. An “I’m Feeling Lucky” search for waddle turned up a definition for the word.

I Have a Little Running Joke with My Granddaughter

My granddaughter and I have a lot of fun when we’re together. I have a number of running jokes I use with her. For instance, I try to use her name at least once in any story I read her. I also try to change something in the story. That way I know if she’s paying attention or if she hasn’t heard the story enough to have learned it in which case I slow down and ease back on my “reader’s theater” performance so she can better absorb the story and not what grandpa is doing with it. On the other hand, if she reacts to the change and corrects me, then I know we can have more fun with the story and its characters.

One of my favorite running jokes is “chicken.” No, it’s not a game of nerves. It’s one where grandpa plays dumb to give granddaughter an opportunity to expand her knowledge of animals.

Whenever I see any animal whether it’s while we’re walking or riding in a car or sometimes while reading a book, I’ll say, “Look River, there’s a chicken!” Since she knows what a chicken looks like she’ll correct me and have a great time telling grandpa what it is and how she knows the horse is a horse or the heron is a bird and not a chicken. If I happen to see a chicken I’ll say, “Look River, horsie” or “there’s a duck,” both animals she is familiar with.

Because of that, I thought I’d already picked out her Christmas present for this year. I was planning to give her this turtle.Plush Gray Toy Chicken

Today, however, I saw another possibility so I’m in a bit a quandary do I get one or the other or perhaps both. Considering that she has soooo many toys and stuffed animals are things she’s going to be getting at least into her teen years, if I get both it seems I’ll be unnecessarily adding to her bedroom clutter. On the other hand would she one day better appreciate the humor of the horsie or should I instead get her this? 

Right now, I don’t know what to do. Should I be getting the rooster or the roasting chicken with the movable parts? The good thing is that I’ve got at least five months to decide.

Proud to be an American

If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife
I’d thank my lucky stars to be living here today
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away

And I’m proud to be an American where as least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the U.S.A

From the lakes of Minnesota to the hills of Tennessee
Across the plains of Texas from sea to shining sea
From Detroit down to Houston and New York to L.A
Well, there’s pride in every American heart and it’s time to stand and say

I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the U.S.A

                                                                                                                                         by Lee Greenwood

There are Rules… and Then There May Be Rules

Donald Trump, 6-20-18It often seems to me Twitter should suspend Donald Trump’s Twitter account for violation of Twitter’s Rules. It seems to me he has often violated these two rules.

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. Read more about our hateful conduct policy.

Then again, perhaps Twitter just looks at his tweets as the work of a confused, misinformed person (I use that term in deference to a couple others I prefer), who often does not get his facts straight or exaggerates them to make either the details or himself look more impressive.

Here’s. in which he claims there are far more immigration judges than there actually are, that North Korea is taking more steps toward denuclearization than they are, that crime in Germany is “way up,” when it is actually down (however, murders have increased), and Trump suggests there has been a turnaround in job creation in the U.S. when there hasn’t.

 

Do Kids Still Use the Playground? Is There Still Such a Thing as Sandlot Baseball?

children's playgroundAs is often the case, Fox News is messing with my mind, but this time, not for the reason you might think. It’s about a story that says parents are fed up with summer vacation in less than two weeks 13 days – not their vacation, their kids’ vacation! Actually, it wasn’t the 13-day thing that got me, I’m pretty sure my mom was fed up with summer vacation the day before it began – there were just going to be too many feet underfoot. She had a right to be fed up, especially when all seven of us were in school. But we made it as easy for her as we could.

We all had friends. We all had things to do and places to occupy. I spent just about every day of summer vacation out of the house, usually at the park playing baseball with my friends. My brothers were also out and about. They weren’t into sports the way I was, but for one it was bicycles. He liked to take them apart and put them back together again. My sisters weren’t out of the house as much as the boys were, they usually spent some time helping mom with some of her chores, but they also had their own groups of friends they spent time playing dolls and house and corporate finance with.

What messed with my mind was the reason parents today hate dislike summer vacation. It’s because they take it upon themselves to be their kid social secretaries, event planners, and strategy consultants.

The study mentioned found that “three in five parents worry that their summer plans won’t live up to their kids’ expectations.

What !?

No wonder kids these days are so surly, selfish, and generally inconsiderate (not all, but many, too many). The reason is that their parents are STUPID!

LET YOUR LAZY-ASS KIDS FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO WITH THEIR VACATION!

After all, it’s their vacation. It’s their time to have all the fun they’ve wanted to have for the previous nine months. If the parents want to plan a weekend activity as a family bonding event, that’s up to them, they should not feel compelled to plan any activities for their kids. If the parents do plan something – a picnic, an excursion, an overnight camping trip and the kids don’t like it, too bad. They don’t know it now, but when they become adults it’s something they’re likely to remember with fondness and if they don’t that’s their problem, not the parents.

“The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.” ― Dorothy Parker

This is what one of my aunts did. Every morning she fed her kids breakfast, then she opened the back door and told them all to go through it. They spent the morning outside. Then she called them in for lunch. After lunch, she again opened the back door. The door was locked after they left. They did not come back in until she called them. If it was raining they spent the time on the carport, otherwise, they found someplace to play, to explore, to learn. That was all the planning she did. Breakfast and lunch. I spent a week there and thought her technique was a bit drastic. We had to make sure we went to the bathroom before we went through that back door because we were not getting back inside for anything: bathroom, sick, bored – do it outside.

Here’s something else that shocked me: “Throughout the entire summer, parents will shell out an average of $7,333.80 on making sure their kids are having the time of their lives.”

$7333.80! What are they doing, spending every day at Disneyland?

Times have changed, indeed. I’m glad my parenting days are far behind me. We planned a few events for our daughter – summer camp, some trips, maybe a picnic or a trip to the zoo, but we also let her have a lot of her own time, time to do things on her own or with her friends. Sure she got in trouble a couple times, but we dealt with it. We helped her learn from it.

Mostly, I don’t remember either my wife or I ever expressing the opinion that we couldn’t wait for our daughter’s summer vacation to be over.

The Fox News story ended on a good note, though. Some parents have a handle on the parenting job and have a good idea of what they’re doing.

“Taking them to the movies, going to the zoo, bowling, and going camping or sending the kids camping were just some of the many other ways that parents were able to get their kids out of the house during the summer.

So why are parents choosing these types of activities for their kids? It turns out that the most important factor for parents was having quality family time.”

Living in a “Pleasant” Area?

Right now, I’m fortunate enough to be living in one of the most pleasant places in the United States, even though I’m barely able to afford living here. That’s why I’m considering moving to an area that is only 25% as pleasant, but much more affordable.

Where I am now I need to turn on the heater only about 30 days a year and I could use air-conditioning about 20. Where I’m thinking of moving I’ll need that heater at least 100 days a year and air conditioning about 120.

When I was 30 years I was in college I got a job offer I decided not to take. I discussed it with one of my teachers who said, “I’m sure you’ll love living there, but you’re probably going to get paid barely enough to live on because they’ll be adding those mountains to your paycheck. Sure enough, the pay was going to be just a little above minimum wage, so I decided not to take the job.

Here in California, that’s the way it is for most people living here: the pleasant weather, the ocean, the lakes, and mountains are all tossed into the paycheck.

If you’re wondering how pleasant it is where you live compared to the rest of the country (and maybe the places where you might want to live), take a look at this interactive map.

The Only President Who…

I found part of this list in Reader’s Digest:

There’s only one President Who:

George-Washington… became a six-star General: George Washington.

… was President for only 30 days: William Henry Harrison.

… was a life-long bachelor: James Buchanan.

… received a patent: Abraham Lincoln.

… had been Speaker of the House: James K.Polk.

donald trump… earned a Ph.D.: Woodrow Wilson.

… won a Pulitzer Prize: John Kennedy.

… received an offer to play professional football: Gerald Ford.

… the only father of twins: George W. Bush.

… : Donald Trump.

The Ghosts of Chicago White Sox Drafts Past

Although Major League Baseball has been around since 1869, the baseball draft is relatively new. I would have thought it started in the 1930s or maybe 1950s, but the first Free Agent Amateur draft was in 1965. Thus, tomorrow’s Major League Baseball draft which begins at 6 pm, Chicago time will be the 53rd annual draft. It will go on for three days and 40 rounds. More than 1300 college and high school baseball players will be asked if they want to play professional baseball with the ultimate goal being to play Major League Baseball. Most of them will spend 2 – 10 years trying to make it to the ‘big leagues.’ Most of them will fail.

Baseball is unusual in the way it both drafts and then uses those high school and college players. The National Football League draft also lasts three days, but it lasts just seven rounds, meaning less than 250 college football players get picked, most (although not all) of whom will eventually play for the team that drafts them. They might play only a minor role, but at least two-thirds will play for the pro team. The National Basketball Association’s draft lasts only two rounds. Most of the college players picked in the first round will eventually play for an NBA team. As for the second round, those players are long-shots to make it off the bench.

It’s to be noted, however, that a player picked in the first round of either the NFL or the NBA draft is expected to help their team within a year or two, but a player picked in the first round of the MLB draft is expected to help his team eventually, maybe in a year, maybe longer. It’s a rare, but very talented ballplayer who makes it to the major league team the same year he is drafted. It is not unusual for a first round pick to spend four or five years making his way through the minors before he gets called up to the major league club, sometimes just for a game or two before he eventually makes it to say. Major League Baseball’s draft is not so much one of expectations as it is one of hope. It is not unusual for a first or second round pick to ever become a major league player. Nevertheless, draft day is one that many baseball fans pay attention to, especially fans like me, fans of a team that hopes his team will pick a player that will eventually help get the team up off the bottom of the league.

Chicago White Sox logoI am a Chicago White Sox fan and to a lesser degree a Chicago Cubs fan (having grown up in the Chicago area its hard for me not to be at least a little bit of a Cubs fan) and now, because I live near Los Angeles and was born in Brooklyn, NY I’m also somewhat a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles. When push comes to knock-em-down, I’ll always want to see the White Sox win. While the Cubs and Dodgers have done reasonably well-picking players in the first round who eventually make it through the minors up to the major league team, the White Sox have not.

The Sox will be picking fourth tomorrow. Among White Sox fans there’s a lot of hope the players picked tomorrow, especially the player picked in the first round will be able to help the major league team soon, because that’s about the only hope White Sox fans have at this time… the hope that the players in the minor leagues will be good enough to help the White Sox in the near future. At this time the Sox are the second worst team in baseball (ahead of only the Baltimore Orioles) and the Sox have been one of the worst teams in baseballs for the past five years.

To say the least, it’s painful being a White Sox fan. According to the sports writers it’s not supposed to be as painful for Sox fans as it might be for fans of the other bottom dwellers such as Baltimore, Kansas City, Texas, Cincinnati, Miami, or San Diego. Supposedly those teams all have ‘farm’ systems (their collection of minor league players) that range from good to worse, but the Sox now have one of the best, not because they have done well in the draft, but because the White Sox management has been on a crusade to gather respectable minor league players from other teams by trading established major league players for minor league players. It remains to be seen if that will play will work. It seems to have worked for other teams such as the crosstown Cubs, the New York Yankees, the Houston Astros and most recently, the Atlanta Braves.

The reason the White Sox are in this position – hovering near worst in baseball – is because in the last 20 years their first round picks have been horrendous. Only two of their first-round picks between 1997 and 2017 have become all-stars, and only a handful have become noteworthy major league players. because the White Sox management has been busy building a farm system that is expected to produce enough quality players for the White Sox to be playoff and perhaps even World Series contenders in 2020 or 2021. Sitting where I am that seems like a long, long, long way away.

I was wondering how it is the White Sox have gotten themselves in this mess. Why have they had to build a farm system? Why haven’t they had a farm system that could tide them over and at least give Sox fans the same glimmer of hope fans of at least 20 other teams have that their team might be a contender this year.

Right now there is talk that another Major League Baseball draft is right around the corner. It’s got me wondering how the White Sox have done with their draft picks for the last 18 years (generally the maximum lifespan of an All-Star ballplayer). It’s not a pretty picture. Generally, it’s been a futile exercise for the Sox.

In 1996 the White Sox had a stunning six first-round picks. One regular first-round pick and five supplemental first-round picks. They took:
15. Jason Dellaero (his major league career lasted less than one month in 1999)
33. Kyle Kane (never played major league ball)
34. Brett Caradonna (never played major league ball)
43. Aaron Myette (pitched for four major league teams compiling a 6-12 record and 8.16 era)
46. Jim Parque (pitched for the Sox the following year, compiled a 29-26 record over three seasons until a shoulder injury all but ended his career)
51. Rocky Biddle (became a relief pitcher – two years for the Sox, two years for the Expos).

Missed out on: Lance Berkman, Jayson Werth, and Tim Hudson)

The next year the White Sox picked Kip Wells at # 16 and Aaron Rowand at # 35 in the supplemental first round. Wells made it to the majors with the Sox, spent most of his time as a reliever and was traded after two years. Over the next ten years he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres. In 2005 he lead the league in losses, going 8 -18. He finished his career in 2012 with a 69-103 record.
Rowand on the other hand became was one of the players who led the White Sox to their World Series win in 2005 and made the all-star team in 2007, and earned another World Series ring with San Francisco in 2010.

Other players the Sox could have picked: C.C. Sabathia, Brad Lidge, Mark Prior, or Matt Thornton.

The White Sox had four picks in 1999 draft. They took:
15. Jason Strum (never played major league ball)
22. Matt Ginter (relief pitcher for the Sox from 2000-2003, then played for the New York Mets, Detroit Tigers, and Cleveland Indians)
35. Brian West (never played major league ball)
45. Rob Purvis (never played major league ball)

While the Sox struck gold with Rowand in 1998, they struck out miserably in 1999. Here are some of the players they could have had: Brian Roberts, Carl Crawford, Alex Rios (who did eventually play a few seasons with the Sox), John Lackey, Justin Morneau, Jake Peavy (another familiar name to Sox fans), and Albert Pujols (but then just about everybody missed on Albert who saw 401 other players picked before his name was called).

The pick in 2000 was Joe Borchard at #12. He did play a little for the Sox and some other clubs, but he never amounted to as much as Chase Utley or Adam Wainwright who were picked after him in the first round. The Sox would have been better off stretching for the likes of Cliff Lee, Yadier Molina, or even Bobby Jenks who were picked in the fourth and fifth rounds.

The Sox had two picks in 2001: #16 Kris Honel and # 39 Wyatt Allen (both of whom never played professional ball, although Allen won an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and a bronze in 2008 for Men’s Eight Rowing). Instead of drafting those two the Sox could have picked They could have had David Wright or Jayson Nix (a player who eventually played for the Sox after he was signed as a free agent in 2008).

2002 saw Royce Ring get picked by the Sox at #18. However, they could have had a number of future major leaguers who were also picked in the first round: James Loney, Denard Span, Jeff Francoeur, Matt Cain, Mark Teahen.

Center Fielder, (and future minor league pitcher) Brian Anderson was picked at #15. Anderson was a decent defensive outfielder, but he couldn’t hit the ball even when the pitcher threw the ball at Brian’s bat. Later in his career he quit trying to be someone who swung at the ball and tried being a pitcher but he was as good hitting the bat as a pitcher as he’d been bad at hitting it when he was a hitter. That year the Sox could have had Chad Billingsley, Carlos Quentin, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Adam Jones, among others.

The next year, 2004 the Sox again picked a guy who was strong on defense, but weak on offense at # 18, infielder, Josh Fields. They also had picks at #34, Tyler Lumsden, and #38, Gio Gonzalez who was traded away a few years later. He’s now a starting pitcher with the Washington Nationals and has a 123 – 88 won-lost record. A couple of notable players the Sox missed out on were pitchers Phil Hughes and Houston Street now pitches

2005 the year the Sox won the World Series also saw them take a giant step toward the futility that would lead them to where they have been the last few years when they picked Lance Broadway instead of Jacob Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Colby Rasmus, or Matt Garza.

More of the same ensued in 2006 with pick # 29 Kyle McCulloch. However, that pick was not much worse than any of the other picks in the first round after #11, Max Scherzer, because almost none of the picks after #11 amounted to any player you would be likely to remember.

In 2007 with the 25th pick the Sox chose future trade bait Aaron Poreda, who was one of four players sent to San Diego in exchange for Jake Peavy. Poreda, with his 97 mph fastball looked like a great pick at the time, but the Sox could have had Josh Donaldson, Todd Frazier, Rick Porcello, Brett Cecil of Ben Revere instead.

Fringe player, Gordon Beckham was picked at #8 in 2008. When the Sox brought him up a year later he looked like a future all-star. He played so well that was named the Sporting News’ 2009 American League Rookie of the Year and was voted the American League Rookie of the Year by the MLBPA. After that, his career fizzled and he gradually drifted into utility infielder status. He’s still playing – with the Seattle Mariners. While Beckham was almost a great pick the Sox could have had Jason Castro, Justin Smoak, Brett Lowrie, Lonnie Chisenahll, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, or Lance Lynn.

2009 saw the Sox make two first round picks: 23 Jared Mitchell and 38 Josh Phegley. Mitchell is now playing for a professional, independent baseball league team and Phegley is on IR with the Oakland A’s after having broken two fingers of his right throwing hand. This is what I would call an ‘Oh what could have been’ year for the Sox because they could have picked Mike Trout, Garrett Richards, or even Matt Davidson instead of Jared Mitchell.

Finally, 2010 saw the White Sox make one of their best picks in the last 20 years, at # 13 Chris Sale. Yes, WE HAVE A WINNER. A few big names were picked before Sale: Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Matt Harvey. So there were about ten other teams who swung and missed.

The White Sox management made one of the worst mistakes they’ve ever made in 2011 when they gave up their first-round pick (#13 or 14) to sign Adam Dunn. At first glance, it looked like a good idea. Dunn had eight consecutive years with 38 or more home runs. His first year with the Sox he managed only 11 homers. He redeemed himself somewhat the following year when he hit 41 homers but he also struck out 222 times, just one short of the major league record. The Sox did have a first-round compensation pick at #47 and picked 47 Keenyn Walker. If they hadn’t signed Dunn they might have drafted Tyler Panik, Jackie Bradley, Jr., or Michael Fulmer.

The Sox had two picks in 2012 going with Courtney Hawkings with the 12th pick and Keon Barnum with the 48th, neither of whom made much of a dent in the Sox minor league system. It could have been a good draft if only they’d picked one of these players: Corey Seager, Michael Wacha, Marcus Stroman, Stephen Piscotty, or even Lucas Gioloto.

White Sox at Orioles 5/6/17

In 2013 the Sox again picked someone able to play at the major league level. Tim Anderson was the 17th pick in the first round, a decent pick, but instead they could have gone with Aaron Judge, Sean Manaea, or Cody Bellinger.

Since then the White Sox have picked Carlos Rodon in 2014, Carson Fulmer in 2015, Zach Collins and Zach Burdi in 2016, and Jake Burger last year. Rodon and Fulmer have both seen major league action. Collins, Burdi, and Burger are likely to sometime in the next couple years.

So, that’s the grim tale: 23 picks between 1999 and 2013, but few of them have made it to the majors. So far only three picks have made an all-star team, only one of them while with the Sox (Chris Sale), the others after being traded (Aaron Rowand and Gio Gonzalez). Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon could be All-Stars in the near future, after that, your guess would probably be as good as mine.

110 Fun Facts from Th Fact Site

Cartoon of a Pillow on a FridgeBet you didn’t know today is “Put a Pillow on Your Fridge Day”… Here a 100 things you might know, but… then again, you might not.

    1. Banging your head against a wall burns 150 calories an hour.
    2. In the UK, it is illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day!
    3. Pteronophobia is the fear of being tickled by feathers!
    4. When hippos are upset, their sweat turns red.
    5. A flock of crows is known as a murder.
    6. “Facebook Addiction Disorder” is a mental disorder identified by Psychologists.
    7. The average woman uses her height in lipstick every 5 years.
    8. 29th May is officially “Put a Pillow on Your Fridge Day“.
    9. Cherophobia is the fear of fun.
    10. Human saliva has a boiling point three times that of regular water.
    11. If you lift a kangaroo’s tail off the ground it can’t hop.
    12. Bananas are curved because they grow towards the sun.
    13. Billy goats urinate on their own heads to smell more attractive to females.
    14. The person who invented the Frisbee was cremated and made into a frisbee after he died!
    15. During your lifetime, you will produce enough saliva to fill two swimming pools.
    16. If Pinokio says “My Nose Will Grow Now”, it would cause a paradox. Details here.
    17. Polar bears can eat as many as 86 penguins in a single sitting. (If they lived in the same place)
    18. King Henry VIII slept with a gigantic ax beside him.
    19. Movie trailers were originally shown after the movie, which is why they were called “trailers”.
    20. An eagle can kill a young deer and fly away with it.
    21. Heart attacks are more likely to happen on a Monday.
    22. If you consistently fart for 6 years & 9 months, enough gas is produced to create the energy of an atomic bomb!
    23. In 2015, more people were killed from injuries caused by taking a selfie than by shark attacks.
    24. The top six foods that make your fart are beans, corn, bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage and milk!
    25. There is a species of spider called the Hobo Spider.
    26. A lion’s roar can be heard from 5 miles away!
    27. A toaster uses almost half as much energy as a full-sized oven.
    28. A baby spider is called a spiderling.
    29. You cannot snore and dream at the same time.
    30. Can the following be read forward and backward: Do geese see God?
    31. A baby octopus is about the size of a flea when it is born.
    32. A sheep, a duck, and a rooster were the first passengers in a hot air balloon.
    33. In Uganda, 50% of the population is under 15 years of age.
    34. Hitler’s mother considered abortion but the doctor persuaded her to keep the baby.
    35. Arab women can initiate a divorce if their husbands don’t pour coffee for them.
    36. Recycling one glass jar saves enough energy to watch TV for 3 hours.
    37. Smearing a small amount of dog feces on an insect bite will relieve the itching and swelling.
    38. Catfish are the only animals that naturally have an odd number of whiskers.
    39. Facebook, Skype, and Twitter are all banned in China.
    40. 95% of people text things they could never say in person.
    41. The TitanicThe Titanic was the first ship to use the SOS signal.
    42. In Poole, ‘Pound World’ went out of business because of a store across the road called ’99p Stores’, which was selling the same products but for just 1 pence cheaper! Read More.
    43. About 8,000 Americans are injured by musical instruments each year.
    44. The French language has seventeen different words for ‘surrender’.
    45. Nearly three percent of the ice in Antarctic glaciers is penguin urine.
    46. Bob Dylan’s real name is Robert Zimmerman.
    47. A crocodile can’t poke its tongue out :p
    48. Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don’t drift away from each other.
    49. A small child could swim through the veins of a blue whale.
    50. Bin Laden’s death was announced on 1st May 2011. Hitler’s death was announced on 1st May 1945.
    51. J.K. Rowling chose the unusual name ‘Hermione’ so young girls wouldn’t be teased for being nerdy!
    52. Hewlett-Packard’s name was decided in a coin toss.
    53. The total number of steps in the Eiffel Tower is 1665.
    54. The Pokémon Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan are based on Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.
    55. An arctophile is a person who collects or is very fond of teddy bears.
    56. Pirates wore earrings because they believed it improved their eyesight.
    57. Los Angeles’s full name is “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula.”
    58. The Twitter bird actually has a name – Larry.
    59. Octopuses have four pairs of arms.
    60. In England, in the 1880’s, “Pants” was considered a dirty word.
    61. It snowed in the Sahara desert for 30 minutes on the 18th February 1979.
    62. Every human spent about half an hour as a single cell.
    63. If you leave everything to the last minute… it will only take a minute.
    64. Unlike many other big cats, snow leopards are not aggressive towards humans. There has never been a verified snow leopard attack on a human being.
    65. The first alarm clock could only ring at 4 am.
    66. Birds don’t urinate.
    67. Dying is illegal in the Houses of Parliaments – This has been voted as the most ridiculous law by the British citizens.
    68. The most venomous jellyfish in the world is named the Irukandji and is smaller than your fingernail.
    69. The 20th of March is known as Snowman Burning Day!
    70. Slugs have 4 noses.
    71. Panphobia is the fear of everything… which is a pretty unlucky phobia to have.
    72. An apple, potato, and onion all taste the same if you eat them with your nose plugged.
    73. The front paws of a cat are different from the back paws. They have five toes on the front but only four on the back.
    74. A company in Taiwan makes dinnerware out of wheat, so you can eat your plate!
    75. The average person walks the equivalent of twice around the world in a lifetime.
    76. The Bible is the most shoplifted book in the world.
    77. Marco Hort has the world record for fitting 264 straws in his mouth at once!
    78. bugs bunnyMel Blanc – the voice of Bugs Bunny – was allergic to carrots.
    79. California has issued 6 drivers licenses to people named Jesus Christ.
    80. According to Genesis 1:20-22 the chicken came before the egg.
    81. In the Caribbean, there are oysters that can climb trees.
    82. Worms eat their own poo.
    83. Squirrels forget where they hide about half of their nuts.
    84. Over 1000 birds a year die from smashing into windows.
    85. The inventor of the Waffle Iron did not like waffles.
    86. George W. Bush was once a cheerleader.
    87. In total, there are 205 bones in the skeleton of a horse.
    88. In 1895 Hampshire police handed out the first ever speeding ticket, fining a man for doing 6mph!
    89. Each year, there are more than 40,000 toilet-related injuries in the United States.
    90. Strawberries can also be yellow, green or white. This also affects the taste and some have a similar taste to pineapples.
    91. Mewtwo is a clone of the Pokémon Mew, yet it comes before Mew in the Pokédex.
    92. Every year more than 2500 left-handed people are killed from using right-handed products.
    93. Madonna suffers from garophobia which is the fear of thunder.
    94. In June 2017, the Facebook community reached 2 billion active users. That’s more than a quarter of the world’s population uses Facebook each month.
    95. Samuel L. Jackson requested to have a purple lightsaber in Star Wars in order for him to accept the part as Mace Windu.
    96. Paraskavedekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th!
    97. Kleenex tissues were originally used as filters in gas masks.
    98. In 1998, Sony accidentally sold 700,000 camcorders that had the technology to see through people’s clothes. These cameras had special lenses that use infrared light, which allowed you to see through some types of clothing.
    99. During your lifetime, you will spend around thirty-eight days brushing your teeth.
    100. Ronald McDonald is “Donald McDonald” in Japan because it makes pronunciation easier for the Japanese. In Singapore, he’s known as “Uncle McDonald”.
    101. If you sneeze while traveling at 60 mph your eyes are closed for an average of 50 feet.
    102. Both Nicholas Cage and Michael Jackson shared the same wife, Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.
    103. Alligators will give manatees the right of way if they are swimming near each other.
    104. Crystal – the monkey from The Hangover 2 and Night at the Museum has her own IMDB page!
    105. The “I’m Feeling Lucky” feature in Google search actually cost Google $110 million a year, as 1% of all searches use this feature and bypass all advertising.
    106. Magpies are considered one of the most intelligent animals in the world, and the only non-mammal species able to recognize itself in a mirror test.
    107. Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, Trivago, Travelocity, and Orbitz are all owned by the same company, Expedia Inc.
    108. Before the term “bloopers” was coined, ‘out-takes’ were called ‘boners’.
    109. Baked beans are actually not baked, but stewed.
    110. Rowan Atkinson – also known as Mr. Bean – is the voice of Zazu in The Lion King.

Bowling, Handicaps, Sandbagging, and Pride

Buena Lanes, Ventura, CAI did something at the bowling alley yesterday I’m quite proud of, but maybe I shouldn’t be. After you read this tell me, should I have been proud of what I’d done?

It was the first day of the Senior Summer League bowling. It’s a day of some excitement for new bowlers, a day of strategy for seasoned bowlers, and a day of hope for all of them.

Most of the year in a handicapped league winning and losing is not based on actual scores. It’s based on the scores plus handicaps. Each player’s handicap is established on the first day based on the bowler’s average for the first three games. It’s a slightly complicated system and I won’t bore you with it here. Suffice it to say everybody begins with a zero average and a zero handicap. Everyone is expected to bowl well. However, someone who has bowled in a handicapped league before also doesn’t want to bowl much better than he or she usually bowls because a smaller handicap than the bowler is used to would act as a penalty and make it harder for him or her to score well enough to help the team.

Thus most seasoned bowlers will be afraid to bowl well and will often try not to bowl especially well. To bowl poorly on purpose is called sandbagging.

I did a little sandbagging.

My average is usually around 155. Going into the 10th frame of the first game my score was 150. I knocked down nine pins, leaving the #7 pin standing. If I missed it my score would stay at 159. If I knocked it down my score for the game could have been as high as 170. Normally, I would have tried to knock down the pin and tried for that 170 score. However, since 159 was higher than my usual average, I purposely missed the pin. I wasn’t proud of it, but I was okay with what I’d done. Until that last ball, I’d done my best to bowl well.

The second game was similar. I’d bowled well and going into the 10th frame my score was 155. Since 155 was my usual average I didn’t want to knock down a lot of pins, so I instead of throwing the ball so it would hook I threw it from the same spot I usually do in the same way I usually do except that I made sure it wouldn’t hook. I knocked down four pins. My score was again, 159 but I had another ball to throw. This time I did the exact opposite I made sure it would hook so much that it went across the alley missing all the pins.

bowling scoreboard showing 159 gameNow I had two games with a 159 score.

The third game was similar to the first two. I bowled well again and went into the 10th frame at 148. I decided I was going to try to get 11 pins. My first ball was a strike, meaning I had to roll the ball twice but get just one pin. I decided to try to pick up just the #7 pin. However, I decided if I picked up more than one I’d try to get the rest of them with the second ball. In other words, it was either one more pin and a 159 game or try for a 168 game. My first ball went down the alley, headed for the #7 pin, but dropped into the gutter so that my score was still 158. One more try. Again the ball rolled down the alley, then turned to the left and headed for the #7 pin. Would it miss and drop into the gutter again, leaving me at 158 or would it clip the four pin before hitting the seven pin, leaving me with a score in the 160s?

I bent over in anticipation, trying to get closer and guide the ball into the #7 pin. My teammates knew what I was trying to do. They were cheering me on. Everything seemed to slow down. The sounds behind me were like someone had turned a turntable down from 78 to 33 1/3, just crawling along, almost indistinguishable.

Then everything returned to normal the moment we heard a sound that went, Clunk, as the ball hit the seven pin knocking it back off the alley, giving me three 159 games in a row.

Later the scorekeeper who hadn’t been watching looked at my scores and said, “Did you do this on purpose?”

Proudly I said, “Yes.”

Nature and Your Mental Health

What this is saying, is get off your derrière and get outside. Take a walk, go on a hike, jog someplace, or at the very least sit on your front porch or steps. Spend a moment looking at the trees, plants, flowers, water, clouds, or maybe the ants crawling along the crack in the sidewalk near where you live. 

“I am extremely happy walking on the downs…I like to have space to spread my mind out in.” ― Virginia Woolf

Poster - Nature and Your Mental Health

I Write Like You and You Write Like Someone Else and Some Else Writes Like…

I Write Like, writing analysisWhen all is said and done, what you read here might amount to little more than nonsense. I found an interesting site: I write like https://iwl.me

Enter a sample of your writing and it will pull out the name of a famous writer who writes the way you do, or vice versa.

I decided to give it a try. The first sample of my writing indicated I write like Cory Doctorow. That was interesting, especially since I’d never read anything by Cory Doctorow. I decided to try again, and again, and again. My second sample, a totally different piece of writing than the first gave me an answer I liked, Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite writers. The next three samples gave me the names of two more writers I also like. The third sample said, E. L. Doctorow, the fourth and fifth samples both said, Stephen King. I decided to quit while I was ahead. If I write like Stephen King, that’s good enough for me.

“One grey cloak is much like another, just as all cats are grey in the dark.”  –  Andrew Taylor, The Ashes of London

I was having fun with the site and wondered what would happen if I entered samples of famous writers, would Nabokov write like Nabokov or Updike like Updike?

According to the single samples I entered, David Sedaris writes like Dan Brown, Vladimir Nabokov like Leo Tolstoy, John Updike like H.P. Lovecraft, Isaak Beshevis Singer like Chuck Palahuniuk, Dorothy Parker Like J.D. Salinger, George Saunders like Raymond Chandler, Groucho Marx like Dan Brown (does that also mean he writes like David Sedaris or David Sedaris also write like Groucho Marx?), F. Scott Fitzgerald writes like Ian Fleming, James Thurber like H. P. Lovecraft, John Cheever like Douglas Adams, Earnest Hemingway like H. G. Wells, E. B. White like Gertrud Stein (I’m sure they the both would love knowing that).

I was hoping to see a pattern here, but it was looking like every writer writes like someone else.

I hadn’t checked any of the writers who the website said my writing resembled. So, started with Cory Doctorow. He writes like David Foster Wallace. Kurt Vonnegut’s sample was the first one I entered that led me back to the actual writer, Kurt Vonnegut. Does that mean he was always true to himself? E. L. Doctorow it said, write’s like Nabokov, who you remember writes like Leo Tolstoy. Finally, there was Stephen King, the only writer who appeared more than once for my own writing samples. However, it appears that Mr. King writes like Raymond Chandler. In case you’re wondering, Chandler writes like Dan Brown. And Dan Brown? He writes like Dan Brown.

“Invisible things are the only realities.” – Edgar Allan Poe, Loss of Breath

There was one last thing I wanted to try. I entered some samples of gobbledygook. I know there are some who will agree, but according to the I Write Like site my meaningless sample is apparently somewhat like the writing of…I Write Like Edgar Allan Poe

Homesickness

It’s been more than 15 years since I moved from the Midwest to California. I made my decision to move no-matter-what while on my way to work early on a January morning. I happened to be sitting in my car on a cold snowy day when I made my decision. Did I mention the car was sliding sideways down the highway when I made my decision?

I didn’t walk into the boss’s office to turn in my resignation that day. Instead, I began planning how I would sort it out. After all, I had neither a job nor a place to live in California. I soon learned that landlords in California would not agree to rent a place unless I was there, even if I promised to put a check in the mail that day to pay for the required deposit, any fees, and an entire year’s rent. The real problem might have been that I was going to bring two medium sized dogs along with me. However, if I could have someone who already lived in California stop by and vouch for me, then they would gladly accept my check and rent a unit to me. Since I knew no one there, that meant I would have to live in a hotel room for a week or two.

I planned to pack my car with the things I would need immediately: toiletries, dishes, a pot, a pan, air mattress, sleeping bag, etc. There also had to be room for the dogs. Everything else I needed, clothing, more kitchen stuff, a few books, and so on got packed in boxes to be shipped U.P.S. I figured it wouldn’t take long for a hard worker like me, especially one with a good record and good references less than a couple weeks to find work.

On July 1, 2003, I gave two months notice. The next day my boss offered me a 15% pay raise. When I said, no, he upped it to 20%. Again, I said no. “It’s not going to make any difference what I offer, is it?” he asked.

“Right, it’s not,” I said.

I think some of the people I worked with thought the reason I offered such a long notice was that I was hoping the boss would offer me a raise. They didn’t know he had and I turned it down. I gave a long notice because I valued the place and hoped to give enough time for a replacement to be found, hired and maybe trained before I left. That didn’t happen, though. I’m pretty sure most of my fellow employees, some of my friends, and a couple family members expected to see me back there before the year ended. The biggest reason given was the expense. It costs almost twice as much to live here as it cost me to live in Wisconsin. Nevertheless, I stayed. It helped that a few weeks before I left my brother called to let me know a friend had a place I could rent in Long Beach. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have survived if not for that because, although I found a couple temporary jobs, it was seven months before I found a permanent job. I never thought it would be so difficult to find a job, even though I was 57 years old.

“Even after you’ve kicked the dust off your shoes, one day you’ll realize you never really left.”

Houses in Frank Lloyd Wright neighborhood, Oak ParkNow, about the homesickness. My daughter now lives out here along with her husband and they have a daughter, so I’m a grandfather with family nearby, but about six years ago I started feeling homesick. I started missing my brothers and sisters as well as the city I am most familiar with, Chicago. Last year I visited for a month and had a great time, visiting each of them, seeing some of the things the like to do, some of the places they like to go. I got to see two White Sox and one Cubs games. I wandered around the Frank Lloyd Wright neighborhood in Oak Park, a place I always wanted to see, but never took the time to go even though it’s within a couple miles of a sister’s house.

There are holidays I haven’t spent with them in years. There are many neighborhoods around Chicago that have grown up or changed drastically since I knew them and I’d like to spend a day wandering around them. I’d like to see more White Sox games, as well as watch the Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks… whether they’re any good or not. I’d like to walk through downtown, along Oak Street Beach, through Lincoln Park, around Evanston, Waukegan, Elmhurst, Lagrange, the University of Chicago, Loyola University, Navy Pier and a host of other places I haven’t seen in 20 or 30 years or more. There is so much I’m missing being out here.

“Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.”  ― Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

You’re probably thinking, “Why don’t you move back, you dunderhead?”

I’ve thought about that, a lot. It would be much easier to live there now that I’m retired, now that the days of having-to-get-up-to-shovel-snow-so-I-can-go-to-work-and-hope-I-don’t-slide-sideways-down-the-highway don’t exist for me anymore, and I could afford to buy a house, and gas is less expensive, and there aren’t soooo many people, and I still have friends in Chicago and Illinois, and Wisconsin I could visit. There are many reasons for me to go back there.

But…

simian brothers and sistersEvery time I start thinking like this I remember the snow, and the ice, and the cold, and the thunderstorms, and the mosquitoes. Do you know… of course you don’t, but I haven’t gotten more than six mosquito bites here? That’s less than one every two years. Back in the Midwest I often got a dozen in one day. I never spent a summer day not slapping myself somewhere, not to mention all the scratching.

I’m sorry brothers and sisters, as much as I would like to, I just can’t do it. The things I like and the things I miss are just not enough to overcome what I don’t miss… at least not yet. As I grow older the desire to return grows stronger. Even now, as I write this I picture the six of you sitting there saying, “Nooooooo, don’t stay in California, we miss you.”

So, I’m writing this to let you know, I miss you, too.

Sometimes Due to Extenuating Circumstances an Easy Task Becomes Impossible

You know that gag where someone super glues a coin to the sidewalk? I once found a quarter like that. I tried picking it up, but I’m not Mr. Bean and I did not run to get a crowbar or chisel to pry it free. Two tries were all I needed before I realized it was glued. For the rest of the day, though, I wondered if someone nearby was taking pictures of me. Since I’ve never found any pictures of me trying to pick up anything off the sidewalk I guess I was the victim of an abandoned practical joke.

Today I ran into a variation of that trick. I walked out of my bathroom and noticed a strip of cellophane lying on the floor. As I was bending over to pick it up I wondered where it might have fluttered from because it was in a place where I normally don’t open any kind of packages.

As I grabbed at it, I was expecting to pick it up easily, but either didn’t reach far enough or I simply missed it (I wear an eye patch, so my depth perception often causes me to grasp air when reaching for something). I grabbed at it again, dragging my fingers against the carpet this time, but again I came up empty-handed.

“Life is a long lesson in humility.” – James M. Barrie

“Tape,” I thought. “It’s a piece of cellophane tape.” Since I haven’t wrapped or unwrapped any packages in quite a while and wouldn’t have touched any cellophane tape recently, especially just outside the bathroom, it had to have been stuck there for awhile and I should have noticed it before then.

Anyway, I reached for it again, positioning my fingernails so that I can find the edge of the tape and peel it off the carpet. Once, twice I try to lift tape that isn’t there. There’s nothing to lift. It’s not tape. A stain? A tear in the carpet?

Nope. A sliver of sunlight slicing between the edge of the blinds and the window frame. Sunlight. I’m happy no one was there taking a picture of me trying to pry a strip of sunlight off the carpet.

It Sounded Like an Explosion

Boom!

It sounded like an explosion and felt a little like one too and it hurt.

It’s something I’d never done before.

I walked into a sliding screen door once and into a sliding door twice, but never to the point where I hurt myself.

There’s a video currently going viral on the Internet of Philadelphia Eagles fan slamming into a subway support pole. I did something like that once years ago. I was rushing to get out of a bar to catch up with some friends who had already left. I’d stayed behind a moment to talk with another friend. Just as I got to the door a woman and her boyfriend entered. I shifted my shoulder and leaned to my left, deftly avoiding bumping into the woman who, I noticed as I slid past, was quite attractive. Maybe that’s what I did wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked at her. Probably, I should have looked just at the space between us that led to the doorway, because instead of neatly slipping out the entrance my shoulder slammed into the door frame and my knees buckled as I almost fell to the ground. I was athletic enough at that time to easily regain my balance and continue as if nothing had happened.

The next morning there was a large, purplish bruise on my shoulder which was sore enough to make me wish I had bumped into her for two reasons. First, it’s unlikely she would have left as much pain and as much of a bruise as the door frame had, although there probably would have been a problem with her boyfriend who was a bit bigger and maybe a little more muscular than me… maybe a lot more muscular. He could have left me in more pain and more bruised than the door frame had. Second, there was the memory of how pretty she was, and you never know where these things like that could lead.

I was happy no one had their cell phone pointed at me because I think I was hurt a bit more than the Eagles fan. He slammed into the pole with his shoulder. I slammed into the one I hit with my face.
I was returning from a walk to the grocery store. After crossing the street, I pulled out my iPhone, planning to call someone.

I’ve often seen people walking down the street, heads bent, eyes staring at their cell phone screen, oblivious to the world around them. I’ve thought how stupid they looked and how dangerous their activity was. After all, they could bump into someone or walk out into the street into the path of a car, or into the side of a building, or into a street sign or light pole.

Usually, when I take out my cell phone I first look around, checking my surroundings, or I stop and step away from whatever traffic might be moving along my path. That’s not what I did, though. I continued walking as I pushed the button to get Siri’s attention. The line of light appeared at the bottom of the screen. The words, “What can I help you with rose to the top of the screen. I started to say, “Siri call…” and looked up as I spoke, just in time to see this….

After the explosion, after stepping away from the pole, I continued on my way. Anyone passing by would have heard me saying, “Dumbass! What a stupid dumbass!” Gingerly I touched my nose. scratched glasses and swollen noseIt was bloody. My phone was still in my hand. I should have used it to see how my face looked or to take a picture. Instead, I made my phone call.

When I got home I checked myself out in the mirror. There was a line of blood down my nose to my mustache. I washed it away, dried it, and applied a band-aid. I didn’t notice the scratches on my glasses or that the tip of my nose was a bit swollen. This is what I looked like… not great, but certainly not at all like someone who’d stepped into an explosion.  Also, it hurts more than my shoulder did those many years ago.

Ezra Pound’s Birthday

Poet. essayist, and radio broadcaster, Ezra Loomis Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho on this day in 1885.

In 1907, Pound became a professor of Romance languages at Wabash Presbyterian College, Crawfordsville, Indiana. However a few months later, in February 1908 he packed his bags and went to Europe where he lived the majority of the rest of his life.

In England, he published his first book of poems, Personae in 1909. A few years later in 1912 Pound was hired by Poetry, a small literary magazine at the time, to be its London correspondent. He enhanced the magazine’s stature and quickly became a major force in Anglo-American verse. He not only wrote his own poetry, but he also discovered, mentored, edited, reviewed or first published many of the early 20th century’s best known English language writers. Among those whose careers he influenced:

  • D.H. Lawrence
  • William Carlos Williams
  • Robert Frost
  • Hilda Doolittle
  • James Joyce
  • T.S. Eliott
    Ezra Pound said, “The real trouble with war (modern war) is that it gives no one a chance to kill the right people.”

In 1939 he returned to the United States, hoping to keep the peace between the U.S. and Italy. Disappointed he returned to Italy and beginning in 1941 he made several hundred broadcasts over Rome radio on a variety of topics. However, a number of his broadcasts condemned the U.S. war effort. Because of this he was arrested by U.S. forces in 1945 and imprisoned. He was sent back to the United States to face trial for treason but was pronounced “insane and mentally unfit for trial” by a panel of doctors Pound spent the next 12 years (1946–58) in Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital for the criminally insane in Washington, D.C. He remained productive during that time, writing numerous poems, translating ancient Chinese poetry, and Sophocles Trachiniai (Women of Trachis). However, two years after he was released Pound went silent, never to write again. He died in 1972 in Venice.

During his 60 years of writing and publishing activity, he wrote 70 books of his own, contributed to about 70 others, and wrote more than 1500 articles.

 

A Girl – Poem by Ezra Pound

The tree has entered my hands,
The sap has ascended my arms,
The tree has grown in my breast –
Downward,
The branches grow out of me, like arms.

Tree you are,
Moss you are,
You are violets with wind above them.
A child – so high – you are,
And all this is folly to the world.

 

Falling Asleep Again, Always Wanted To, What Am I to Do, Can’t Do It

Falling asleep is sometimes difficult. I’m always looking for solutions to the problem.
When I was younger I’d have trouble sleeping if something important was supposed to happen the next day. Now that I’m older about the only thing that’s every “important the next day” is an early morning doctor’s appointment. Otherwise, any problem falling asleep seems to go in cycles for me. I’ll have many days, a week sometimes where I’ll be asleep minutes after my head hits the pillow. Then I’ll have a series of day where I’ll fall asleep but wake in the middle of the night and not be able to fall back asleep. There are also the times when for a few days, maybe a week, falling asleep will be difficult. I’ll toss and turn. The bed will feel uncomfortable. Any position I lie in will feel wrong. But the worst will be having a moment when I’m about to fall asleep, doze for a moment, but suddenly wake up. When that happens I know I’m not going to be sleeping for awhile.
Usually, when I can’t sleep I’ll lie there trying for about 20 minutes. Then I’ll get up. Sometimes I’ll exercise jumping jacks, sit-ups, and so on. Sometimes that does the trick. Sometimes it doesn’t. Often I’ll read until I feel drowsy. Sometimes that works, but more often I’ll be awake reading again about 20 minutes later. What works best is giving up. Almost always, after I’ve been awake, tossing turning, exercising, reading and the clock says something like, 3:30, I’ll say to myself something like, “Guess that’s it, I’m not sleeping tonight so I might as well give up trying.” Sometimes I start planning my now revised day that will start at 4 a.m., other times I’ll decide to plan to turn the computer on but lie there thinking about what I’m going to look at such as a TV show, a short story, or the sports news.
The funny thing is if I try that first at 2:30 a.m. after I woke up and couldn’t sleep or at 10 p.m. on the nights when I can’t sleep at all – it doesn’t work, probably because I haven’t really given up. When I try using it early, it becomes just another trying to sleep technique.
Today I found this list of “sure-fire” sleep aids from early modern Europe (the 15th and 16th centuries. Here are three you’ll want to try:
  1. Put some blood-sucking leeches behind your ears. When they bore holes in the skin, pull them out and place a grain of opium in each hole. (From 16th-century French physician André du Laurens.)
  2. Kill a sheep, and then press its steaming lungs on either side of the head. Keep the lungs in place as long as they remain warm. (From 16th-century French surgeon Ambroise Paré.)
  3. After the evening meal, eat lettuce, drink wine, and rub an ointment made of the oil of violets or camphor on the temples. Dissolve a mixture of poppy seeds, lettuce seeds, balsam, saffron, and sugar and cook it in poppy juice. Then listen to pleasant music and lie down on a bed covered with the leaves of fresh, cool plants. (From 15th-century philosopher Marsilio Ficino.)” — Benjamin Reiss, author of Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World

This is where I found those as well as a list of more serious, more likely, contemporary solutions: Busy Brain Not Letting You Sleep? 8 Experts Offer tips

Where Do You Get Your Ideas, etc…

Cormac McCarthy Has a Unique (and Tasty) Writing Process

This sounds a bit like the story Theodore Geisel, Dr. Seuss, told when someone asked him where he got his ideas: “I get all my ideas in Switzerland near the Furka Pass. There is a little town called Gletsch, and two thousand feet up above Gletsch there is a smaller hamlet called Über  Gletsch. I go there on the fourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock fixed. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them.Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy doesn’t claim to travel to Switzerland for his inspiration, but perhaps he should consider such a trip.

Among Cormac McCarthy’s books are Blood Meridian (1985), For All the Pretty Horses, The Road, and No Country for Old Men. The famously reclusive McCarthy doesn’t talk much about his writing habits, but what he has said is fascinating. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, McCarthy remarked: “I do most of my writing at breakfast. I name the eggs and pieces of toast and bacon after my characters, then I have them dance around on the plate while I do funny voices for each of them. Whatever character I eat last becomes the protagonist of the novel.” *

Did McCarthy really say that? I don’t know. I watched clips of his interview with Oprah and never heard that, but maybe it was in a clip I didn’t see. Then again, this is April 1st.

* Found in this article: 9 Mind-Blowing Facts about Your Favorite Books

 

How Much Would You Pay for This?

Here’s my question for today: How much would you pay for this? It’s a Cheeto. Just one, not the whole bag. It does have an unusual shape.Harambe Cheeto

Would you give someone $1 for it? Maybe $5 if someone else was going to buy it for a buck? Would you spend $100 for it? Can you imagine any scenario where someone would spend $500 for one Cheeto? It’s a Flaming Hot Cheeto, does that make a difference? 

“This item is one of a kind! It measures about 1 1/2 inches in length (it looks sooo much bigger in the picture),”

Well, would you believe me if I told you someone has offered $100,000 for this Cheeto?

Here’s the story: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/harambe-cheeto-ebay-flamin-hot-cincinnati-zoo-dead-slain-gorilla-ape-tree-a7567241.html

 

Full Text of “I Am a Nasty Woman” Speech by Ashley Judd

Below is the full text of Ashley Judd’s version of Nina Donavan’ spoken poem, “I Am a Nasty Woman.”

“I am a nasty woman.

I’m not as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in Cheeto dust. A man whose words are a distract to America; Electoral College-sanctioned hate speech contaminating this national anthem.

I am not as nasty as Confederate flags being tattooed across my city. Maybe the South actually is gonna rise again; maybe for some it never really fell. Blacks are still in shackles and graves just for being Black. Slavery has been reinterpreted as the prison system in front of people who see melanin as animal skin.

I am not as nasty as a swastika painted on a pride flag. And I didn’t know devils could be resurrected, but I feel Hitler in these streets—a moustache traded for a toupee; Nazis renamed the cabinet; electro-conversion therapy the new gas chambers, shaming the gay out of America turning rainbows into suicide notes.

I am not as nasty as racism, fraud, conflict of interest, homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy, misogyny, ignorance, white privilege.

I’m not as nasty as using little girls like Pokémon before their bodies have even developed.

I am not as nasty as your own daughter being your favourite sex symbol—like your wet dreams infused with your own genes.

But yah, I am a nasty woman?!

A loud vulgar, proud woman.

I’m not nasty like the combo of Trump and Pence being served up to me in my voting booth.

I’m nasty like the battles my grandmothers fought to get me into that voting booth.

I’m nasty like the fight for wage equality. Scarlett Johansson: Why were the famous actors paid less than half of what the male actors earned last year?

See, even when we do go into higher paying jobs our wages are still cut with blades, sharpened by testosterone. Why is the work of a Black woman and a Hispanic woman worth only 63 and 54 cents of a white man’s privileged daughter?

This is not a feminist myth. This is inequality.

So we are not here to be debunked. We are here to be respected. We are here to be nasty.

I am nasty like the blood stains on my bed sheets. We don’t actually choose if and when to have our periods. Believe me, if we could, some of us would. We don’t like throwing away our favourite pairs of underpants. Tell me, why are tampons and pads still taxed when Viagra and Rogaine are not? Is your erection really more than protecting the sacred messy part of my womanhood? Is the blood stain on my jeans more embarrassing than the thinning of your hair?

I know it is hard to look at your own entitlement and privilege. You may be afraid of the truth. I am unafraid to be honest. It may sound petty bringing up a few extra cents. It adds up to the pile of change I have yet to see in my country.

I can’t see. My eyes are too busy praying to my feet hoping you don’t mistake eye contact for wanting physical contact. Half my life I have been zipping up my smile hoping you don’t think I wanna unzip your jeans.

I am unafraid to be nasty because I am nasty like Susan, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Amelia, Rosa, Gloria, Condoleezza, Sonia, Malala, Michelle, Hillary.

And our pussies ain’t for grabbin’. Therefore, reminding you that are balls are stronger than America’s ever will be. Our pussies are for our pleasure. They are for birthing new generations of filthy, vulgar, nasty, proud, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sheikh—you name it—for new generations of nasty women. So if you [are] a nasty woman or love one who is, let me hear you say, hell yeah!”

Related Story: http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/nina-donovan-is-the-19yearold-poet-who-wrote-ashley-judds-viral-i-am-a-nasty-woman-speech/news-story/d40dc60b10853ef21423b247e598ebd0

The 20 Best Desserts in Chicago

From humble to haute, these sweets deliver pure pleasure.

chocolate-profiteroleI’ve been missing Chicago for a long time now. Southern California is great for the weather, the beaches, and the mountains. That’s been enough to keep me here, but I miss Chicago’s sports scene, its neighborhoods, its architecture, and especially its food. Now, Chicago Magazine has to do this to me. The 20 best desserts in Chicago. This isn’t enough to tip the scale, yet; but with things like this to think about I might not be able to hold out much longer.

Right now I’m drooling, thinking about Chocolate Profiteroles, Chocolate Beignet, Basque Cake, and Coffee Custard.

On the other hand, it’s probably good I’m not in Chicago because right now, I’m trying especially hard to lose weight. A month ago I set a goal to lose 25 pounds in 50 days. I was told that was unrealistic and apparently it was. So I’m revising it to 25 pounds by the end of the year. If I was in Chicago right now, I know that goal wouldn’t have a chance.

coffee-custardIf I was in Chicago right now, I know that goal wouldn’t have a chance. First of all my family, typical Italians, would be inviting me to various family gatherings and I would use that as an excuse to fatten myself up; second, having read this article I would be taking the first opportunity to stop in one of these 20-best-deserts places, just to look around. It wouldn’t be long before I’d find a second opportunity, and then a third, fourth, fifth, and so on.

Now, you might be thinking, LA is a big city, bigger than Chicago, surely there have to be 20 places as with desserts as good, if not better, than the 20 in Chicago.

Funny you should think that because it so happens that the current issue of LA Magazine also has an article about LA’s best desserts. While none of them look good enough to keep me here if I decided to return to Chicago, there are a few that might be good enough to compete.

The thing is… I am in Southern CA, within driving distance of LA and as long as I’m here a slice of Chioccolato or a few Durango cookies or maybe a Halo-Halo could be worth a trip… just to look around.

Source: The 20 Best Desserts in Chicago | Chicago magazine | November 2016

Radio and Other Bloopers

This blooper video brought back memories of terror, embarrassment, and laughter. Having worked off and on for more than 20 years in broadcasting, mostly as a radio announcer and newsperson, I’m well aware of how embarrassingly funny a blooper can be, especially when an audience gets to enjoy them.

Watching this video you might wonder how these people could possibly mess up a simple six-word phrase not once, but about a dozen times. What, are these people idiots? Nope… but this sort of thing even happens to professionals, that’s why we enjoy blooper outtakes so much. It happens because when a person is not talking in a way they would normally be talking or because they are concerned about something other than the words they are saying, such as the way they look, the way they are pronouncing the word, or the way they are saying a word or phrase. 

I lost my first radio announcing job (at WBYS in Canton, IL) because of a blooper, not mine, even though I did make a few that could have gotten me fired had they either been recorded or heard by anyone in management. I mispronounced names or people, places, and things. I stumbled over various words and phrases. Once I thought I’d turned off my mike, but hadn’t and treated the audience to my side of a phone conversation while a record was playing. A couple times I said s**t on the air. Another time, knowing my microphone was off, but not realizing the phone line was not, I called a listener an a**h**e on the air. Perhaps the worst was when I misread the word duck. 

tape-cartridges-radio

magnetic tape cartridges (Carts)

At that time commercials were recorded on tape cartridges similar plastic 8-track tape cartridges that in radio jargon were called, Carts. We put a Cart into a recorder, read or produced our commercial, and put a label on the Cart to identify it. If we made a mistake we removed the Cart from the recorder, put in a new one and started over. We continued this process until we had a broadcast worthy commercial.

One of my jobs was to erase the Carts. In the production room, the small studio where commercials, promos, and other pre-recorded announcements were made, there were three cardboard boxes where all the mistakes were dumped. I had to run each cart over a magnetic eraser and put the Carts back in the rack according to size ( 30, 60, or 90 second or 2, 3, 5, 10, or 30 minutes long). It was a boring, tedious job.

One day, after I’d been doing it for a few months I noticed that one of the newsmen had ‘dirtied’ more than 50 Carts. I thought it would be funny if I acknowledged his accomplishment, so I printed a small banner announcing the winner of the “Who Dirtied the Most Carts Contest.” Everyone thought it was funny, including the newsman so I decided to continue it, even giving myself the award a couple times. Giving the award made the task of cleaning the Carts even more tedious

bulk eraser for radio magnetic tape

magnetic tape bulk eraser

because it added a couple steps to the process. Instead of just removing the label, erasing the cart, and putting the cleaned cart back into one of the racks I now had to first listen to the Cart, then put a tick mark next to the culprit’s name before I erased it.

When I was fired a couple months after starting the “Who Dirtied the Most Carts” contest, I was told I had not been getting the job done. Two for instances were given: I rarely wrote more than three news stories and usually, only two every night, whereas the person who’d been doing the job previously always turned in at least three. Second, I spent about twice as much time as my predecessor cleaning the Carts. Both accusations were true. In my defense, I was a one-finger typist, and I was too young to know that my joke was funny once or twice, but not every day.

The truth is the real reason I was fired was not because I didn’t write enough news or because I spent too much time completing a monotonous task, but because three days before I was fired I gave the award to the radio station owner. Maybe that was a mistake. Apparently, he didn’t have as much of a sense of humor as I thought he did. 

 

Writing Is Not Easy

When I was in 7th grade I won (it wasn’t exactly a victory) the award for worst handwriting. My teacher predicted I would be a doctor. At the time, that seemed like as good an idea as any. Although I also wanted to be a dancer, lawyer, baseball player, and writer.Writing is difficult. Writing is hard. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing. I know I have to do it.

P writing blue

Life took me in a variety of directions. I was mostly a radio announcer, but I was also a teacher, a sportswriter, an insurance underwriter, a carpet salesman, a car salesman, a factory worker, a stock boy, and now I’m retired so I’m trying to do something I’ve always wanted to do: write (as in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry).

Writing is difficult. Writing is hard. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing. I know I have to do it. It  needs to be done in the same sense that dishes need washing, housework needs working, the dog needs to be fed, walked, etc (there is an awful lot to that etc.), a letter (email) has to be read, a letter (email) has to be written, a bill needs to be paid, etc., etc., and etc. So, I have plenty of excuses to feed my writer’s block.

This is one of those days. In fact, every day is one of those days. It’s never easy dragging my heart and soul out and showing them to the world. I know there’s a good chance when I’m finished I will be thinking, that was stupid, or they’re not going to like that, or I’m sure that’s the last thing of mine they’re over going to read, or etc., etc., and etc.

Still, I know if I don’t do it, I might never do it. Those bills can wait, the dog can wait, the housework isn’t going anywhere; but the words I am going to put on paper, the ideas I am going to dredge up out of my heart and soul might never be there again if I don’t sit down and force myself to uncover them.

I thought if I made a schedule that would make it easier. In a sense it does. I have a direction of sorts when I start. I know that after I finish this blog post I will be rolling, I will be in the mood and it will be easier to work on one of the many, many stories waiting to be finished. This blog starts my day, but even with a schedule there is still the pain, agony, and potential for heartbreak that faces me every time I say, ‘Time to write something.’

The thing is I rarely feel inspired when it’s time to start. While inspiration often hits me at unusual moments: when I’m making a left turn, when I’m trying to decide which yogurt flavor to buy, when I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, when I’m eating dinner, and so on – real inspiration occurs when I’m writing. That little boy I’ve got rolling down a hill after Jill threw a bucket of water at him, what if he rolls into a hole and disappears, what if he keeps rolling and rolling and rolling up and over another hill, what if it’s winter and that water freezes solid, what if… what if… and how about that? That’s crazy, that might just work, that is a great idea. I’m glad I thought of it.

None of that will happen if I don’t ignore the feeling that I’m not inspired, that I have nothing worth writing about, that I’m wasting my time and get started. It’s always the first word that’s the hardest, but once that’s done it’s sometimes amazing how many line up and follow it. That’s when writing becomes fun, after that first word. So, that’s what I did today. I started with that one word: Writing…

Awareness

“Life is a process, not a substance, and it is necessarily temporary. We are not the reason for the existence of the universe, but our ability for self-awareness and reflection makes us special within it.” ~ Sean Carroll, physicist

When I Started

cartoon, man at-computerwriting this blog I thought I would write about Chicago, mostly about Chicago sports, because I grew up in the Chicago area and even though I haven’t lived there for more than 30 years I still closely follow all sports Chicago (with the exception perhaps of the Wisconsin Badgers, having lived in Wisconsin for 20 years, and the USC Trojans, having lived in California for the last ten).

I also thought I’d write about times spent in the city – wandering Michigan Ave., State St., Rush, Wabash, etc.; watching fireworks from the top of the Hancock, riding the trains into the city and the subway, eating Chicago Style, watching Second City, jogging along the lake front, going to school at Loyola and Northeastern Illinois, living in the suburbs, living on the North Side, etc., etc.

That hasn’t exactly worked out. There are too many other things that interest me from day to day and I write a lot of stuff other stuff: poetry, short stories, memoir. I tried creating other blogs for those other things: Trails Across White for my poetry, Suddenly Words for my fiction and memoirs, Theretofor for my non-fiction and Caledon Pritz, a site that no longer exists for silly quotes and one-liners I make up. At the time it seemed like a good idea to have a different blog for each thing, but some of those blogs never got off the ground and if they did they were sometimes neglected for a week or more. For instance I’ve posted a lot of poetry on Trails Across White, but it’s been a few months since I’ve added a poem.

A friend who’s into guns once told me that he bought an old Springfield rifle and took it hunting. He told me, maybe the things were good when defending against an infantry charge, because one shot might stop or slow down a handful of chargers, but it was terrible for hunting. First he was lucky if he hit what he was shooting at. Second, if he hit it he was lucky if the shot brought the animal down. Third if the animal was down, preparing it was twice as much work because a handful of buckshot had to be picked out of the meat.

That’s what it’s like trying to maintain four blogs. It’s scatter-shot and it’s at times overwhelming and discouraging. I often spend a day working on one thing which does not get published because I’m not satisfied with it. Some things stay in draft status for as much as a week before I publish it or leave it to move on to something else. That would be okay if I was writing just one blog, but when four are involved it meant weeks might go by before something got published.

If you’ve been following this the past few weeks you’ve seen more than just Chicago related stories here. The other blogs are now permanently dormant (with the exception perhaps of Trails Across White – a final decision has not yet been made), but everything I write will be here, now.

And that’s what I’m thinking about today.

Hope you like it.

A Matter of Perspective

John Hancock Bldg., ChicagoSometimes I see something that almost makes sense, but my mind simply does not compute. This is a picture of the John Hancock Center in Chicago. I love this building. If you ever get the chance go to the sky deck on a night when there are fireworks at Navy Pier, go. Fireworks offer a different experience when you look down on them. It’s what I imagine ants might look like if they were ever able to light up some ant-sized sparklers.

The first time I ever saw the Hancock like this, with its top hidden in the clouds I wondered what kind of view there was from the sky deck. I never found out, but I imagine it’s sort of like being on a plane flying through the clouds.

When I saw the picture on the right, I wondered how the photographer (Alberto Tretti) managed to take it.John Hancock Building, Chicago

Just looking at it makes me dizzy. I thought, he must have stood with his back to the building and held the camera over his head.

Actually, the process is more simple than that. It doesn’t involve any special physical gymnastics. You just have to turn any picture upside down when you post it (or hang it on your wall) to change the perspective and make somebody like me a bit dizzy!

You probably figured that out long before you read this, but it took me about 10 minutes to realize the photographer didn’t really do anything special.

As I said, sometimes my brain does not compute.

St Patrick's Day in Chicago

St Patrick's Cathedral and John Hancock BuildingMost people are aware that Chicagoans go crazy on St. Patrick’s Day. Everybody wears green, has green frosted donuts for breakfast, green frosted cookies and cup-cakes for snacks, corned beef and cabbage for dinner. They watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade, walk past the green-dyed Chicago River, then spend the night reveling, singing Irish songs and drinking green beer.

I never thought much of it when I was a kid. As far as I was concerned, St. Joseph’s Day was my day because I was Italian. Still I tried to remember to wear something green, and I enjoyed the green-frosted treats.

When I started working in Chicago I sometimes went to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Of course, on St. Patrick’s Day the cathedral was crowded like as if it was a Sunday.

Then I married an Irish lass, who happened to have a brother named Patrick, and things began to change. I started finding reasons to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but the kicker came along when I discovered a great, great, something grandmother of mine was Irish. Sure and begorrah, I was a bit Irish after all.

St Patrick's Blue shamrockNow, I’ve discovered that all those years when I preferred to wear blue rather than green, I may have been doing the right thing, because St. Patrick’s color was actually blue. Green came about when the Irish fighting for independence choose that as their color. So, if you see me wearing blue on March 17th you can be sure it’s because there is a little Irish in me.

Wheat Free Crepes

Did you know Crepes are not pronounced like Crayps. Rather the correct French pronounciation is Creps. I know, back in second or maybe third grade you were taught to change the sound of that first ‘e’ if there was another ‘e’ in the last sylable (or near the end) of the word. As far as I’m concerned you can keep saying Crepes anyway you want.

I’ve made these with Garbanzo Bean Flour, Almond Meal, and Cashew Meal. The garbanzo been flour gives it a nice texture, but an unusual flavor. The almond meal gives a little rougher texture and the mixture has to be stirred often, otherwise the almond meal tends to sink to the bottom. The cashew flour is easily the best. Doesn’t compromise the flavor, gives a nice texture and doesn’t have to be restirred.Crepe

For filling a good fruit-only jam will work, but I like to cook some fruit, carmelize it a little (especially bananas) and use that. Sometimes I stir the cooked fruit into some cream cheese or riccotta.

My favorite way to eat these is right out of the pan, without any filling. Then, instead of water I usually stir in a comparable amount of Amaretto.

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Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions

This so good and so easy. I tried adding some sweet Italian onions to this (you know, the purple oven roasted sweet potatoes and onionsones) to give it some color, but once they were cooked the color either turned to a light or dark gray. Still, this has become one of my favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes or yams. I hate any version that uses brown sugar or marshmallow. Sweet potatoes and yams are usually sweet enough with just a little butter on them. Sometimes I add a quarter cup or so of raisins, especially if I happened to get one of those sweet potatoes that has lost its sweetness along the way. One thing I like about this is that there are only five ingredients (six if you add the raisins) and, other than cutting the onions, is especially easy. Try to use a variety of  sweet onions, but the heavy tear-jerkers will work, too. (more…)

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

Chocolate Coconut Cookies 1These have become my go-to cookies. Although they are not especially sweet (you could increase the stevia if they are not sweet enough for you), they have a nice chocolatey flavor to them.

Add the Chocolate chips and these become Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies. Skip them and the cookies are still very good Chocolate Coconut Cookies. They’re easy and quick to make. (more…)

Blueberry Custard #1

I make two versions of this. The difference is that this one requires more ingredients, one of Blueberry Custardwhich is cashew meal (or almond meal) which gives it a little more body. This one also serves well as a dessert, and I sometimes double this recipe for the same reasons I double a lot of recipes (I’m lazy and this stores well in the fridge for a couple days. Will it store longer than that? Don’t know, it’s never lasted more than three days before I’ve eaten it all.). These puffed nicely, but the moment I set them down, the middle’s sagged They were still delicious.
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