Feeds:
Posts
Comments

I teach

Unfriend

Honk

Buckle up

 

Thoughts du Jour

Random observations / recollections / stories…

———

Close Inspection

Recently, my son Dustin borrowed my utility trailer to haul some things to the county dump. A few hours later, he returned it to its customary spot outside my garage.

The next morning, when my dog Jake and I got home from our daily walk, Jake got of the car, paused, sniffed the air, made a detour over to the trailer, and began checking it out.

He systematically sniffed the side rails, the tires, and the tongue. I let him take his time. After several minutes of close inspection, he was satisfied and trotted to the back door.

We went inside, Jake got his customary treat, and I texted Dustin to tell him about Jake’s intense interest in the trailer.

It went on an adventure and had a story to tell,” Dustin replied.

Well said.

Jake horizontal

Keeping the Story Alive

In the early 1950s, we Smiths lived in Falls Church, Virginia. One summer, when I was about 10 and my brother Lee was four-ish, our Uncle John from Brooklyn came for a visit.

We were all in the living room chatting, and John asked Lee a question, something innocuous. Lee answered, then laughed heartily and added, “You silly froop!”

Baffled, the rest of the family laughed politely, and the conversation moved on.

Years later, I brought up the incident with Lee and asked him to define froop.

Lee had no recollection of the event. The word froop didn’t ring a bell.

So I asked Mom about it. She remembered the exchange, but had no idea what Lee meant by a froop.

Nowadays, the word froop has several meanings. It can be, for example, a combined form of fruit loop, a froop being, like, an airhead. It’s also a brand of apple-flavored yogurt.

But even if the word dates back to the 1950s, Lee probably was too young to have known the term. Most likely, the word just popped into his head.

Because Lee doesn’t remember the incident, I am the only person on earth who does. This post is my effort to keep the story alive.

P.S. I call Jake a silly froop all the time.

Froop

We Regret the Error

I love this story.

In October 2007, the Los Angeles Times published the obituary of Nolan A. Herndon, 88, a South Carolinian who had been an Army Air Forces navigator during World War II. Herndon participated in the bombing of Japan by “Dolittle’s Raiders” four months after the Pearl Harbor attack.

After the war, Herndon raised cattle and later went into the wholesale grocery business. The lengthy obituary gave details about his war experiences and was mostly accurate.

Mostly.

The day after the obituary was published, this correction appeared in the Times:

The obituary of Nolan A. Herndon in Monday’s California section gave his nickname as “Sue.” In fact, he was known only as Nolan A. Herndon.

In addition, his sons were listed as Nolan A. “Sue” Herndon, Jr. and James M. “Debbie” Herndon. Neither son goes by those nicknames; Sue and Debbie are the names of their wives.

I wonder if a copywriter got fired.

Herndon N

Nolan Herndon, not Sue Herndon.

 

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

The “#” symbol aka hashtag, pound sign, crosshatch, number sign officially is called an octothorpe. The word probably was invented in the late 1960s at Bell Labs when they added the symbol to telephone keypads and needed a word to describe it. Note: an octothorpe has eight protruding lines, and octo means eight.

The 2019-20 brush fires in Australia burned an area of about 63,000 square miles, roughly the size of Florida. Smoke from the fires reached Argentina, which is 6,000 miles away.

When the Titanic sank in 1912, 12 dogs were aboard. Two Pomeranians and a Pekingese survived in lifeboats, but the other nine dogs were lost.

The Sargasso Sea, a region of the eastern Atlantic Ocean, is the only body of water in the world with no land boundaries. It is bordered by four ocean currents: the Gulf Stream, the Canary Current, the North Atlantic Current, and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current.

The Sargasso is named for its abundance of sargassum, a rich brown seaweed that is important to marine life. The Sargasso Sea is known for its exceptionally clear water and deep blue color.

Sargasso

The population of New Delhi, the capitol of India, is 28.5 million. The city’s air is so polluted that breathing it is the equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. In 2018, of the 10 cities in the world with the worst air pollution, nine were in India.

In the periodic table of the elements, the symbol for silver is Ag, which comes from argentum, the Latin word for silver.

Right now, Greenland’s ice sheet is melting seven times faster than in the 1990s.

The blue whale is believed to be the largest animal that ever lived. An adult is about 100 feet long and weighs almost 200 tons. Its tongue weighs as much as an elephant.

Blue whale

The nuclear meltdown in 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan means the area will be lethal and mostly unusable for a few lifetimes. Meanwhile, the resourceful Japanese plan to build wind farms and solar arrays there.

70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and 97 percent of that water is seawater. Of the paltry three percent that is fresh water, 69 percent of that is locked up in glaciers and ice caps.

● “Plyboo” is a brand of plywood made of bamboo.

Pringles potato “crisps” and the Pringles container were designed and patented in the 1960s by organic chemist Fredric Baur. He had been hired by Proctor & Gamble to develop a new kind of potato chip because of consumer complaints about bagged chips being broken, stale, and greasy.

Baur died in 2008. As stipulated in his will, he was cremated, and a portion of his ashes was interred in a Pringles can.

Pringles

 

Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see, the world hath more fools in it than ever.

Charles Lamb

###

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H. L. Mencken

###

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

Aristotle

###

Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.

John Galsworthy

Lamb-C

Lamb

Galsworthy-J

Galsworthy

 

Surreal Times

In my heart, I knew — knew with absolute certainty — that the right-wingers eventually would politicize COVID-19. I know these people.

For them, it is perfectly in character to object to physical distancing and wearing face masks because doing so infringes on their rights. And, for good measure, shows personal weakness.

These are, after all, the white MAGA faithful. These are manly men who brandish guns and Confederate flags in public. These are self-righteous women who cough on store clerks.

I’ve been around for a long time. My memories go back 65 or 70 years. I’ve watched in real time as the American political landscape has devolved from policy disagreements to a conservative right that has spazzed out and gone insane.

The political left, mind you, has changed very little over the decades. The liberal views and goals have remained quite consistent and, for the most part, rational and fair-minded. Meanwhile, the right wing has spiraled steadily downward into madness.

When I was young, conservative Republicans were led by honorable men. Dwight Eisenhower. Henry Cabot Lodge.

But over time, the Republicans morphed into caricatures of themselves. Eisenhower and Lodge became Nixon and Reagan.

Now, Nixon and Reagan have been replaced by a sea of cartoonish villains — McConnell, Cotton, Cruz, Hannity, Limbaugh.

And then there is Donald Trump.

To be clear, Trump is neither a Republican nor a conservative. He is a self-serving leech. But the Republicans, in a veritable pact with the devil, choose to stand with him.

As President, Trump is the personification of incompetence. And he has committed enough crimes — treason chief among them — to have been routed from office a dozen times.

Recently, news is out that Russian military intelligence paid bounties to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to kill American troops. Trump is aware of this, but voices no objection. Now he claims the report is fake news and a hoax.

My first thought about this was of Trump’s sycophantic relationship with Putin. Trump won’t confront Putin about anything because Putin could ruin him. Putin is Comrade Trump’s banker.

My second thought was to marvel once again that Trump is “Teflon Don,” seemingly immune from being held accountable and ejected from office, as anyone else certainly would be.

The Access Hollywood tape came out, and he won election anyway. Illegally withholding military aid to Ukraine did not bring him down. Nor did obstruction of justice. Nor do daily violations of the emoluments clause.

Now Trump looks the other way while Putin offers cash to kill American soldiers. This is treasonous. Malfeasance. Dereliction of duty.

And the Republicans say nothing.

These are surreal times:

Trump’s shockingly awful and inept performance as president. The cowardly behavior of the Republicans. The fools at MAGA rallies, sitting shoulder to shoulder during a pandemic. The selfish jerks who endanger the health of others by refusing to take sensible precautions.

The oblivious crowds in bars and on beaches. The pathetic government response to COVID-19. The continuing spread of the virus in the U.S. while much of the rest of the world recovers.

I am ashamed of my country.

Trump bounty

Trump 1998

 

Imaginary World

Edmond M. Hamilton (1904-1977) was a child prodigy who entered college at 14, dropped out at 17, and began writing science fiction. He was noted for rousing space-opera-type adventure stories.

Married to fellow sci-fi writer Leigh Brackett, he signed with DC Comics in 1942 to write Superman and Batman stories. That collaboration continued into the 1960s. He was instrumental in nurturing the concept of superheros, but I won’t hold that against him.

Because science fiction was Hamilton’s life, he was bound, eventually, to write a story like the one below.

———

Exile

By Edmond Hamilton
Published in Super Science Stories, May 1943

I wish now that we hadn’t got to talking about science fiction that night! If we hadn’t, I wouldn’t be haunted now by that queer, impossible story which can’t ever be proved or disproved.

But the four of us were all professional writers of fantastic stories, and I suppose shop talk was inevitable. Yet, we’d kept off it through dinner and the drinks afterward. Madison had outlined his hunting trip with gusto, and then Brazell started a discussion of the Dodgers’ chances. And then I had to turn the conversation to fantasy.

I didn’t mean to do it. But I’d had an extra Scotch, and that always makes me feel analytical. And I got to feeling amused by the perfect way in which we four resembled a quartet of normal, ordinary people.

Protective coloration, that’s what it is,” I announced. “How hard we work at the business of acting like ordinary good guys!”

Brazell looked at me, somewhat annoyed by the interruption. “What are you talking about?”

About us,” I answered. “What a wonderful imitation of solid, satisfied citizens we put up! But we’re not satisfied, you know — none of us. We’re violently dissatisfied with the Earth, and all its works, and that’s why we spend our lives dreaming up one imaginary world after another.”

I suppose the little matter of getting paid for it has nothing to do with it?” Brazell asked skeptically.

Sure it has,” I admitted. “But we all dreamed up our impossible worlds and peoples long before we ever wrote a line, didn’t we? From back in childhood, even? It’s because we don’t feel at home here.”

Madison snorted. “We’d feel a lot less at home on some of the worlds we write about.”

Then Carrick, the fourth of our party, broke into the conversation. He’d been sitting over his drink in his usual silent way, brooding, paying no attention to us.

He was a queer chap, in most ways. We didn’t know him very well, but we liked him and admired his stories. He’d done some wonderful tales of an imaginary planet — all carefully worked out.

He told Madison, “That happened to me.”

What happened to you?” Madison asked.

“What you were suggesting — I once wrote about an imaginary world and then had to live on it,” Carrick answered.

Madison laughed. “I hope it was a more livable place than the lurid planets on which I set my own yarns.”

But Carrick was unsmiling. He murmured, “I’d have made it a lot different — if I’d known I was ever going to live on it.”

Brazell, with a significant glance at Carrick’s empty glass, winked at us and then asked blandly, “Let’s hear about it, Carrick.”

Carrick kept looking dully down at his empty glass, turning it slowly in his fingers as he talked. He paused every few words.

“It happened just after I’d moved next to the big power station. It sounds like a noisy place, but actually it was very quiet out there on the edge of the city. And I had to have quiet, if I was to produce stories.

“I got right to work on a new series I was starting, the stories of which were all to be laid on the same imaginary world. I began by working out the detailed physical appearance of that world, as well as the universe that was its background. I spent the whole day concentrating on that. And, as I finished, something in my mind went click!

“That queer, brief mental sensation felt oddly like a sudden crystallization. I stood there, wondering if I were going crazy. For I had a sudden strong conviction that it meant that the universe and world I had been dreaming up all day had suddenly crystallized into physical existence somewhere.

“Naturally, I brushed aside the eerie thought and went out and forgot about it. But the next day, the thing happened again. I had spent most of that second day working up the inhabitants of my story world. I’d made them definitely human, but had decided against making them too civilized — for that would exclude the conflict and violence that must form my story.

“So, I’d made my imaginary world, a world whose people were still only half-civilized. I figured out all their cruelties and superstitions. I mentally built up their colorful barbaric cities. And just as I was through — that click! echoed sharply in my mind.

“It startled me badly, this second time. For now I felt more strongly than before that queer conviction that my day’s dreaming had crystallized into solid reality. I knew that it was insane to think that, yet it was an incredible certainty in my mind. I couldn’t get rid of it.

“I tried to reason the thing out so that I could dismiss that crazy conviction. If my imagining a world and universe had actually created them, where were they? Certainly not in my own cosmos. It couldn’t hold two universes — each completely different from the other.

“But maybe that world and universe of my imagining had crystallized into reality in another and empty cosmos? A cosmos lying in a different dimension from my own? One which had contained only free atoms, formless matter that had not taken on shape until my concentrated thought had somehow stirred it into the forms I dreamed?

“I reasoned along like that, in the queer, dreamlike way in which you apply the rules of logic to impossibilities. How did it come that my imaginings had never crystallized into reality before, but had only just begun to do so?

Well, there was a plausible explanation for that. It was the big power station nearby. Some unfathomable freak of energy radiated from it was focusing my concentrated imaginings, as super-amplified force, upon an empty cosmos where they stirred formless matter into the shapes I dreamed.

“Did I believe that? No, I didn’t believe it — but I knew it. There is quite a difference between knowledge and belief, as someone said who once pointed out that all men know they will die and none of them believe it. It was like that with me. I realized it was not possible that my imaginary world had come into physical being in a different dimensional cosmos, yet at the same time I was strangely convinced that it had.

“A thought occurred to me that amused and interested me. What if I imagined myself in that other world? Would I, too, become physically real in it? I tried it. I sat at my desk, imagining myself as one of the millions of persons in that imaginary world, dreaming up a whole soberly realistic background and family and history for myself over there. And my mind said click!”

Carrick paused, still looking down at the empty glass that he twirled slowly between his fingers.

Madison prompted him. “And of course you woke up there, and a beautiful girl was leaning over you, and you asked — ’Where am I?'”

“It wasn’t like that,” Carrick said dully. “It wasn’t like that at all. I woke up in that other world, yes. But it wasn’t like a real awakening. I was just suddenly in it.

“I was still myself. But I was the myself I had imagined in that other world. That other me had always lived in it — and so had his ancestors before him. I had worked all that out, you see.

“And I was just as real to myself, in that imaginary world I had created, as I had been in my own. That was the worst part of it. Everything in that half-civilized world was so utterly, common-placely real.”

He paused again. “It was queer, at first. I walked out into the streets of those barbaric cities, and looked into the people’s faces, and I felt like shouting aloud, ‘I imagined you all! You had no existence until I dreamed of you!’

“But I didn’t do that. They wouldn’t have believed me. To them, I was just an insignificant single member of their race. How could they guess that they and their traditions of long history, their world and their universe, had all been suddenly brought into being by my imagination?

“After my first excitement ebbed, I didn’t like the place. I had made it too barbaric. The savage violences and cruelties that had seemed so attractive as material for a story were ugly and repulsive at first hand. I wanted nothing but to get back to my own world.

“And I couldn’t get back! There just wasn’t any way. I had had a vague idea that I could imagine myself back into my own world as I had imagined myself into this other one. But it didn’t work that way. The freak force that had wrought the miracle didn’t work two ways.

“I had a pretty bad time when I realized that I was trapped in that ugly, squalid, barbarian world. I felt like killing myself at first. But I didn’t. A man can adapt himself to anything. I adapted myself the best I could to the world I had created.”

“What did you do there? What was your position, I mean?” Brazell asked.

Carrick shrugged. “I don’t know the crafts or skills of that world I’d brought into being. I had only my own skill — that of story telling.”

I began to grin. “You don’t mean to say that you started writing fantastic stories?”

He nodded soberly. “I had to. It was all I could do. I wrote stories about my own real world. To those other people my tales were wild imagination — and they liked them.”

We chuckled. But Carrick was deadly serious.

Madison humored him to the end. “And how did you finally get back home from that other world you’d created?”

“I never did get back home,” Carrick said with a heavy sigh.

“Oh, come now,” Madison protested lightly. “It’s obvious that you got back some time.”

Carrick shook his head somberly as he rose to leave.

“No, I never got back home,” he said soberly. “I’m still here.”

Hamilton-Brackett

Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton.

 

This Just In

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE — A Manchester man faces felony charges after he chased one of his neighbors with a sword.

Police said the victim knocked on the assailant’s door to complain about loud music. The assailant became enraged and produced a 30-inch sword. He chased the neighbor down the hall and into the street, brandishing the sword in a threatening manner.

The neighbor escaped without injury. Manchester police filed charges of criminal threatening.

Sword-wielder

BUNNELL, FLORIDA — A Florida man has been arrested and jailed twice in one week for impersonating a law enforcement officer.

The 60-year-old man was first arrested after he used a fake law enforcement badge to avoid paying a $2 highway toll. Under state law, police officers are exempt from the tolls. The man was charged with impersonating an officer, jailed, and released on bond.

Days later, he flashed the fake badge a second time at another toll station. When the attendant produced a newspaper clipping about the first arrest, the man paid the toll, but was arrested for the attempt.

The second arrest earned him another charge of impersonating an officer, plus felony violation of pre-trial release. He was jailed without bond.

Toll

LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO — A 48-year-old woman faces multiple charges after she stole a car and claimed to be the pop singer Beyoncé Knowles.

Police said an officer saw her driving a vehicle matching the description of a recently-stolen car. He ordered her to pull over, but she drove away. The officer followed and confronted her when she stopped in front of her residence.

The woman told the officer she was Beyoncé Knowles. She said she noticed the keys were in the vehicle, and she decided to take it for a joy ride. She told the officer she didn’t stop when he turned on his emergency lights because she “didn’t feel like it.”

She was charged with unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, concealing identity, and resisting or obstructing an arrest.

Beyonce

 

Indelibly Etched

My dad was a career officer in the Air Force, and from 1957 to 1960, our family lived in Stuttgart, Germany. I attended a high school there for American military dependents.

Because of the place and time, life for us male students at Stuttgart High School was heavily beer-centric — the German beer being, as you might expect, of superb quality.

Further, unlike teens back in the U.S., we had unusual freedom when we ventured off-base. The Germans despised and mostly avoided us, so as long as we were smart and stayed out of trouble, we had easy access to the taverns and the beer.

I have fond memories of those days of my friends, the adventures, the occasional misadventures — but it happened a long time ago, and, sadly, much has faded from my aging brain.

Some things, however, are indelibly etched in my memory banks. I was reminded of that the other day when, alone in my car, I began spontaneously singing the chorus of the Hofbräuhaus Song, which every kid knew back in my high school days.

The Hofbräuhaus Song is a German oom-pah tune that celebrates the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall in Munich. It was written in 1935 by Wilhelm Gabriel (nicknamed Wiga), a Berliner whose other hits were patriotic marching songs for the Third Reich. Most people prefer to ignore that part.

Specifically, I belted out this refrain from the song:

In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus.
Eins, zwei, g’suffa!
Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus.
Eins, zwei, g’suffa!

Translation:

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

I pronounced every word correctly, precisely, and with the appropriate gusto. Wiga Gabriel could not have done better.

Here is the German version of the song.

And here is the English translation:

The Hofbräuhaus Song

There, where the green Isar River flows,
Where you greet people with “Good day,”
Lies my beautiful city of Munich,
The likes of which you have never seen.

Water is cheap, pure, and good,
But it thins the blood.
Far better is some golden wine.
But best of all is this:

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

There’s always some fellow there
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

You don’t drink out of a glass there.
There’s only the “big beer mug!”
And when the first mug is empty,
The waitress Reserl will bring you more.

Sometimes, his wife at home is worried
Because the man is gone so long.
But the good neighbors,
They know better!

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

There’s always some fellow there
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

Although many other cities have sights to see,
One thing is nowhere else but here:
Munich beer!
He who wrote this little song
Has for many long nights studied Munich’s beer
And sampled it comprehensively.

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
Where the kegs are always flowing.
One, two, drink up!

There is always some brave fellow
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

———

For details about the Hofbräuhaus, a truly marvelous institution, here is Rick Steves with an overview.

In summary, I may forget what I had for lunch yesterday, but the main chorus of the Hofbräuhaus Song is still fresh in my mind, 60 years later.

Eins, zwei, g’suffa!

Hofbräuhaus crowd

Many kegs are still being emptied today at the Hofbräuhaus.

 

The Questions…

1. What is an anemometer?

2. In ancient Rome, what color signified that you were of high status?

3. What was the “Notre Dame Shift“?

4. What dice game from the 1950s was invented on a yacht as a game to be played on a yacht?

5. What is the world’s longest international border?

The Answers…

1. A device, dating back to the 1400s, that measures wind speed and direction. The term comes from the Greek word anemos, which means wind.

2. Purple. In those days, purple dye was made from snails, which was an expensive process, so wearing purple indicated you were a big shot.

3. It was a football strategy used in the 1920s by Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne in which all four backs went in motion prior to the snap. The opposing teams were bamboozled so completely that the Shift was banned from college football — a victim of its own success.

4. Yahtzee, of course. The game was dreamed up by a wealthy Canadian couple as a way to entertain friends aboard their yacht.

5. The border between the U.S. and Canada, which is 5,525 miles long.

Anemometer

Border

 

Tune o’ the Day

In 1987, Pink Floyd released “A Momentary Lapse of Reason,” the band’s first album after founding member Roger Waters quit in a huff in 1985. The new album was David Gilmour’s chance to show his creative stuff and poke Waters in the eye.

Gilmour used the album to take Pink Floyd in a more political direction. An example is On the Turning Away,” which laments how humans ignore the suffering of others.

The song did well, the album was popular in the US and UK, and most critics liked it. Waters, of course, opined that it stunk.

While that was going on, Waters sued Gilmour and the rest of the band over the legal right to the name Pink Floyd. Late in 1987, in an out-of-court settlement, Waters backed down. No doubt he was compensated handsomely.

Momentary

On the Turning Away

By Pink Floyd, 1987
Written by David Gilmour and Anthony Moore

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won’t understand.

“Don’t accept that what’s happening
Is just a case of others’ suffering,
Or you’ll find that you’re joining in
The turning away.”

It’s a sin that somehow,
Light is changing to shadow
And casting its shroud
Over all we have known,

Unaware how the ranks have grown,
Driven on by a heart of stone.
We could find that we’re all alone
In the dream of the proud.

On the wings of the night,
As the daytime is stirring,
Where the speechless unite
In a silent accord,

Using words you will find are strange,
And mesmerized as they light the flame.
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night.

No more turning away
From the weak and the weary.
No more turning away
From the coldness inside.

Just a world that we all must share.
It’s not enough just to stand and stare.
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away?