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Pix o’ the Day

Quotes o’ the Day

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

Gautama Buddha

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A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.

Elbert Hubbard

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I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all, I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.

Agatha Christie

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It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.

Herman Melville

Buddha

Melville

Sylvester Graham

I’ll bet you didn’t know that the graham cracker is named for a crusading American preacher, teetotaler, and vegetarian who neither manufactured the crackers nor profited from them. The story is interesting and rather unexpected.

He was Sylvester Graham, born in Connecticut in 1794, the 17th child of a 70-year-old minister and a mother with serious mental issues — which became overwhelming when the minister died.

Accordingly, young Sylvester was raised by a succession of relatives. In one case, the relative ran a tavern where Sylvester was put to work. Seeing alcohol use up close led him to abstain from using, and to vehemently oppose, booze.

In his late 20s, having worked as a farm hand and a teacher, Graham enrolled at Amherst Academy to become a minister. He was expelled when classmates claimed he “improperly approached a woman.”

Humiliated and devastated, Graham had what was described as a nervous breakdown. He moved to Rhode Island and recovered with the help of a woman he later married. In 1828, he began studying theology privately and found work as an itinerant (traveling) Presbyterian minister.

During this period, Graham became involved in both the temperance movement and vegetarianism. He concluded that eating meat was as bad as drinking alcohol for the body and soul and as detrimental to families and society.

Like most in the temperance movement, Graham believed that sex, physical pleasure, or anything that triggered lust should be avoided. He urged people to eat only plants (as had Adam and Eve), chill out, drink pure water, and avoid impure thoughts. Sex more than once a month, he said, was excessive.

To maintain health and prevent disease, he promoted an austere lifestyle, including sleeping on a hard bed, taking cold baths, and exercising vigorously. The Graham Diet consisted of bland, simple foods — whole grains, fruits, and vegetables — eaten in small quantities twice a day. Meat, alcohol, tobacco, and spices, even black pepper, were forbidden.

Because of fears related to a cholera epidemic sweeping the world at the time, his message resonated with the public, and his notoriety spread.

Graham was troubled by the common practice of using chemical additives in food, especially bread, to hide spoilage odors. He urged people to make their own bread at home from plain, whole-wheat flour, coarsely-ground and unsifted, that contained no spices of other additives.

In 1837, he published Treatise on Bread and Bread-Making and began lecturing in Boston and New York City. In the foreword to the book, he wrote:

Thousands in civic life will, for years, and perhaps for as long as they live, eat the most miserable trash that can be imagined, in the form of bread, and never seem to think that they can possibly have anything better, not even that it is an evil to eat such vile stuff as they do.

I have thought, therefore, that I could hardly do society a better service, than to publish the following treatise on a subject, which, whether people are aware of it or not, is, in reality, of very great importance too the health and comfort of everyone.

Grahamism became a nationwide movement. Soon, various companies were marketing graham flour, graham bread, and graham crackers.

Alas, in the end, Graham violated his own teachings and paid the price.

In 1851, at age 57, he became ill at his home in Massachusetts. His doctor diagnosed the problem as weak blood circulation. To stimulate it, he convinced Graham to eat meat, drink alcohol, and submit to a series of opium enemas.

Graham submitted to the new regimen and quickly died.

Outraged that one of their own had fallen off the wagon so dramatically, vegetarians and members of the temperance movement nationwide denounced and disowned Graham. (Apparently, no one thought of renaming the cracker.)

Sylvester Graham believed that his place in history was secure, and he once predicted that, after his death, his home in Northampton, Massachusetts, would become a national shrine.

That didn’t happen. The house is occupied today by Sylvester’s Restaurant, which is, indeed, named for Graham, but has a decidedly un-Graham-like menu.

Sylvester’s offers a range of rich, lavish homemade breads, awash in spices, that take pains to be the opposite of bland.

It also serves a salad topped with a bacon cheddar cheeseburger patty, a char-grilled hamburger covered with muenster cheese, and tacos.

Sylvester Graham (1794-1851)

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● In 1965, astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich aboard the Gemini 3 spacecraft. The sandwich broke apart in the weightless environment and sent crumbs floating around the cabin. Today, astronauts regularly make sandwiches while in orbit, but they use tortillas to solve the crumb problem.

● The average adult cat sleeps 15-20 hours per day. The average adult dog sleeps 12-14 hours per day.

● At the time of his death, Charles Dickers was writing a novel entitled The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Mr. Drood disappears in the story, but Dickens did not get far enough to explain what happened.

● The mammal with the longest lifespan is the bowhead whale, which can live more than 200 years. Bowheads live in Arctic waters and are known for using their massive skulls to break through the ice.

● In 1892, Paul Hubbard, the quarterback of the football team at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, invented the huddle. Gallaudet is a private college for people with hearing impairments, and the players communicated with hand signals. Standing in a tight circle blocked the other team from seeing what was being signed.

● Machine-spun cotton candy was invented in 1897 by a dentist and introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair as “fairy floss.” In 1921, improvements were made to the spinning machine (ironically, by another dentist), and the name “cotton candy” was coined.

● The fastest land animal is the cheetah, which can run at up to 75 mph.

● The world’s smallest known vertebrate is Paedophryne amauensis, a species of frog native to Papua New Guinea. Averaging .3 inches long, the frog was discovered in 2009 by herpetologists from Louisiana State University.

This Just In

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK — A small floral bowl purchased for $35 at a yard sale was identified as a Chinese “lotus bowl” from the early 1400s and sold at auction for $721,800.

The person who hit the jackpot found the porcelain bowl at a Connecticut yard sale last year and sent photos to various experts to determine if it had value.

Officials at Sotheby’s auction division said the bowl dates back to the Ming Dynasty and is only the seventh located to date.

RATHDRUM, IDAHO — A border collie that went missing after being ejected from the family car in an auto crash later was found herding sheep at a nearby farm.

For hours after the collision, the Oswald family searched unsuccessfully for their border collie Tilly. Finally, they asked the sheriff’s office for help and posted an alert on social media.

Several days later, members of the Potter family noticed that an extra dog was herding sheep on their farm, which is located about a mile from the site of the car accident. They turned the dog over to the sheriff’s office, and Tilly was reunited with his family.

Tilly’s owner, who said the dog will “herd anything,” believed Tilly was just taking advantage of an opportunity.

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OHIO — A North Ridgeville police officer removed a raccoon from a local home after the animal ransacked the kitchen and fell asleep in the dishwasher.

Patrolman John Metzo responded when the residents returned home to find the damage and the sleeping raccoon, which apparently entered the house through a bathroom window. The raccoon was removed without injury and released.

Metzo is known as the department’s “absurd animal call officer” after previously encounters with a cow and a kangaroo.

This is the Life

Headwaters

It’s a sunny Saturday in July in the Northeast Georgia mountains, sometime in the late 1980s. I am day-hiking the Jack’s Knob Trail, heading up the southern slope of Brasstown Bald.

Moments earlier, I reached Chattahoochee Gap, the junction with the Appalachian Trail. The Gap also is the source of several seeps and springs that constitute the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River.

I fill my water bottle from one of the crystal-clear pools, drink deeply, spread out my lunch on a shaded boulder, and think to myself, this is the life.

Them or Us

John Keith Laumer (1925-1993), a former diplomat in the Foreign Service, published hundreds of science fiction novels and stories starting in the late 1950s until a stroke left him incapacitated in 1971. He recovered after several years, but critics say his work was never the same, and his career did not rebound.

Laumer tended to create fictional universes and write a series of stories, sometimes 15 or more, within that universe. He was known for the “Bolo” series, about military tanks that become self-aware after centuries of upgrades, and the “Retief” stories, about a space-faring diplomat who cleans up messes his bosses leave behind.

Laumer had a reputation for writing either breathless adventure stories or over-the-top comedies. The short story below is, as you will see, in the latter category.

———

A Bad Day for Vermin

By Keith Laumer
Published in Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1964

Judge Carter Gates of the Third Circuit Court finished his chicken salad on whole wheat, thoughtfully crumpled the waxed paper bag and turned to drop it in the waste basket behind his chair — and sat transfixed.

Through his second-floor office window, he saw a forty-foot flower-petal shape of pale turquoise settling gently between the well-tended petunia beds on the courthouse lawn. On the upper, or stem end of the vessel, a translucent pink panel popped up and a slender, graceful form not unlike a large violet caterpillar undulated into view.

Judge Gates whirled to the telephone. Half an hour later, he put it to the officials gathered with him in a tight group on the lawn.

“Boys, this thing is intelligent; any fool can see that. It’s putting together what my boy assures me is some kind of talking machine, and any minute now it’s going to start communicating. It’s been twenty minutes since I notified Washington on this thing. It won’t be long before somebody back there decides this is top secret and slaps a freeze on us here that will make the Manhattan Project look like a publicity campaign.

“Now, I say this is the biggest thing that ever happened to Plum County — but if we don’t aim to be put right out of the picture, we’d better move fast.”

“What you got in mind, Jedge?”

“I propose we hold an open hearing right here in the courthouse, the minute that thing gets its gear to working. We’ll put it on the air — Tom Clembers from the radio station’s already stringing wires, I see.

“Too bad we’ve got no TV equipment, but Jody Hurd has a movie camera. We’ll put Willow Grove on the map bigger’n Cape Canaveral ever was.”

“We’re with you on that, Carter!”

Ten minutes after the melodious voice of the Fianna’s translator had requested escort to the village headman, the visitor was looking over the crowded courtroom with an expression reminiscent of a St. Bernard puppy hoping for a romp. The rustle of feet and throat-clearing subsided and the speaker began:

“People of the Green World, happy the cycle —”

Heads turned at the clump of feet coming down the side aisle; a heavy-torsoed man of middle age, bald, wearing a khaki shirt and trousers and rimless glasses and with a dark leather holster slapping his hip at each step, cleared the end of the front row of seats, planted himself, feet apart, yanked a heavy nickel-plated .44 revolver from the holster, took aim and fired five shots into the body of the Fianna at a range of ten feet.

The violet form whipped convulsively, writhed from the bench to the floor with a sound like a wet fire hose being dropped, uttered a gasping twitter, and lay still. The gunman turned, dropped the pistol, threw up his hands, and called:

“Sheriff Hoskins, I’m puttin’ myself in yer pertective custody.”

There was a moment of stunned silence; then a rush of spectators for the alien. The sheriff’s three-hundred-and-nine-pound bulk bellied through the shouting mob to take up a stand before the khaki-clad man.

“I always knew you was a mean one, Cecil Stump,” he said, unlimbering handcuffs, “ever since I seen you makin’ up them ground-glass baits for Joe Potter’s dog. But I never thought I’d see you turn to cold-blooded murder.”

He waved at the bystanders. “Clear a path through here; I’m takin’ my prisoner over to the jail.”

“Jest a dad-blamed minute, Sheriff.” Stump’s face was pale, his glasses were gone and one khaki shoulder strap dangled — but what was almost a grin twisted one meaty cheek. He hid his hands behind his back, leaned away from the cuffs. “I don’t like that word ‘prisoner.’ I ast you fer pertection. And better look out who you go throwin’ that word ‘murder’ off at, too. I ain’t murdered nobody.”

The sheriff blinked, turned to roar, “How’s the victim, Doc?”

A small gray head rose from bending over the limp form of the Fianna. “Deader’n a mackerel, Sheriff.”

“I guess that’s it. Let’s go, Cecil.”

“What’s the charge?”

“First degree murder.”

“Who’d I murder?”

“Why, you killed this here… this stranger.”

“That ain’t no stranger. That’s a varmint. Murder’s got to do with killin’ humerns, way I understand it. You goin’ to tell me that thing’s humern?”

Ten people shouted at once:

” — human as I am!”

” — intelligent being!”

” — tell me you can simply kill —”

” — must be some kind of law —”

The sheriff raised his hands, his jowls drawn down in a scowl. “What about it, Judge Gates? Any law against Cecil Stump killing the… uh…?”

The judge thrust out his lower lip. “Well, let’s see,” he began. “Technically —”

“Good Lord!” someone blurted. “You mean the laws on murder don’t define what constitutes — I mean, what —”

“What a humern is?” Stump snorted. “Whatever it says, it sure-bob don’t include no purple worms. That’s a varmint, pure and simple. Ain’t no different killin’ it than any other critter.”

“Then, by God, we’ll get him for malicious damage,” a man called. “Or hunting without a license — out of season!”

” — carrying concealed weapons!”

Stump went for his hip pocket, fumbled out a fat, shapeless wallet, extracted a thumbed rectangle of folded paper, offered it.

“I’m a licensed exterminator. Got a permit to carry the gun, too. I ain’t broken no law.” He grinned openly now. “Jest doin’ my job, Sheriff. And at no charge to the county.”

A smaller man with bristly red hair flared his nostrils at Stump. “You blood-thirsty idiot!” He raised a fist and shook it. “We’ll be a national disgrace — worse than Little Rock! Lynching’s too good for you!”

“Hold on there, Weinstein,” the sheriff cut in. “Let’s not go gettin’ no lynch talk started.”

“Lynch, is it!” Cecil Stump bellowed, his face suddenly red. “Why, I done a favor for every man here! Now you listen to me! What is that thing over there?” He jerked a blunt thumb toward the judicial bench.

“It’s some kind of critter from Mars or someplace — you know that as well as me! And what’s it here for? It ain’t for the good of the likes of you and me, I can tell you that. It’s them or us. And this time, by God, we got in the first lick!”

“Why you… you… hate-monger!”

“Now, hold on right there. I’m as liberal-minded as the next feller. Hell, I like a nigger — and I can’t hardly tell a Jew from a white man. But when it comes to takin’ in a damned purple worm and callin’ it humern — that’s where I draw the line.”

Sheriff Hoskins pushed between Stump and the surging front rank of the crowd. “Stay back there! I want you to disperse, peaceably, and let the law handle this.”

“I reckon I’ll push off now, Sheriff,” Stump hitched up his belt. “I figgered you might have to calm ’em down right at first, but now they’ve had a chance to think it over and see I ain’t broken no law, ain’t none of these law-abiding folks going to do anything illegal — like tryin’ to get rough with a licensed exterminator just doin’ his job.” He stooped, retrieved his gun.

“Here, I’ll take that,” Sheriff Hoskins said. “You can consider your gun license canceled — and your exterminatin’ license, too.”

Stump grinned again, handed the revolver over.

“Sure. I’m cooperative, Sheriff. Anything you say. Send it around to my place when you’re done with it.” He pushed his way through the crowd to the corridor door.

“The rest of you stay put!” a portly man with a head of bushy white hair pushed his way through to the bench. “I’m calling an emergency Town Meeting to order here and now!”

He banged the gavel on the scarred bench top, glanced down at the body of the dead alien, now covered by a flag.

“Gentlemen, we’ve got to take fast action. If the wire services get hold of this before we’ve gone on record, Willow Grove’ll be a blighted area.”

“Look here, Willard,” Judge Gates called, rising. “This — this mob isn’t competent to take legal action.”

“Never mind what’s legal, Judge. Sure, this calls for Federal legislation — maybe a Constitutional amendment — but in the meantime, we’re going to redefine what constitutes a person within the incorporated limits of Willow Grove!”

“That’s the least we can do,” a thin-faced woman snapped, glaring at Judge Gates. “Do you think we’re going to set here and condone this outrage?”

“Nonsense!” Gates shouted. “I don’t like what happened any better than you do — but a person — well, a person’s got two arms and two legs and —”

“Shape’s got nothing to do with it,” the chairman cut in. “Bears walk on two legs! Dave Zawocky lost his in the war. Monkeys have hands.”

“Any intelligent creature —” the woman started.

“Nope, that won’t do, either; my unfortunate cousin’s boy Melvin was born an imbecile, poor lad. Now, folks, there’s no time to waste. We’ll find it very difficult to formulate a satisfactory definition based on considerations such as these. However, I think we can resolve the question in terms that will form a basis for future legislation on the question.

“It’s going to make some big changes in things. Hunters aren’t going to like it — and the meat industry will be affected. But if, as it appears, we’re entering into an era of contact with… ah… creatures from other worlds, we’ve got to get our house in order.”

“You tell ’em, Senator!” someone yelled.

“We better leave this for Congress to figger out!” another voice insisted.

“We got to do something…”

The senator held up his hands. “Quiet, everybody. There’ll be reporters here in a matter of minutes. Maybe our ordinance won’t hold water. But it’ll start ’em thinking — and it’ll make a lots better copy for Willow Grove than the killing.”

“What you got in mind, Senator?”

“Just this:” the Senator said solemnly. “A person is… any harmless creature…”

Feet shuffled. Someone coughed.

“What about a man who commits a violent act, then?” Judge Gates demanded. “What’s he, eh?”

“That’s obvious, gentlemen,” the senator said flatly. “He’s vermin.”

On the courthouse steps Cecil Stump stood, hands in hip pockets, talking to a reporter from the big-town paper in Mattoon, surrounded by a crowd of late-comers who had missed the excitement inside. He described the accuracy of his five shots, the sound they had made hitting the big blue snake, and the ludicrous spectacle the latter had presented in its death agony. He winked at a foxy man in overalls picking his nose at the edge of the crowd.

“Guess it’ll be a while ‘fore any more damned reptiles move in here like they owned the place,” he concluded.

The courthouse doors banged wide; excited citizens poured forth, veering aside from Cecil Stump. The crowd around him thinned, broke up as its members collared those emerging with the hot news. The reporter picked a target.

“Perhaps you’d care to give me a few details of the action taken by the… ah… Special Committee, sir?”

Senator Custis pursed his lips. “A session of the Town Council was called,” he said. “We’ve defined what a person is in this town —”

Stump, standing ten feet away, snorted. “Can’t touch me with no ex post factory law.”

” — and also what can be classified as vermin,” Custis went on.

Stump closed his mouth with a snap.

“Here, that s’posed to be some kind of slam at me, Custis? By God, come election time…”

Above, the door opened again. A tall man in a leather jacket stepped out, stood looking down. The crowd pressed back. Senator Custis and the reporter moved aside. The newcomer came down the steps slowly. He carried Cecil Stump’s nickel-plated .44 in his hand.

Standing alone now, Stump watched him.

“Here,” he said. His voice carried a sudden note of strain. “Who’re you?”

The man reached the foot of the steps, raised the revolver and cocked it with a thumb.

“I’m the new exterminator,” he said.

Keith Laumer

Adios

Just for kicks, I collected a sampling of headlines in which victims of COVID, largely vaccine deniers of the conservative persuasion, expressed “regrets” about not getting vaccinated. In some cases, the regrets were reported by family members after the victim croaked.

I know it would be charitable of me to feel sympathy and compassion for these folks. But, speaking as someone who is thrice vaccinated for COVID, and, as an intelligent adult, trusts science and medical authorities and other genuine experts, I feel sympathy and compassion only for the family members and other victims of the bonehead vaccine deniers.

To the multitudes of sick and deceased people represented by the headlines below, I simply say “adios, gente estupida.”

Here are the headlines I rounded up.

———

Hospitalized right-wing radio host in ‘very serious
condition’ regrets not being ‘vehemently pro-vaccine’

Alpharetta police officer recovering from
COVID-19 regrets not getting vaccine

Texas anti-mask organizer dies from COVID-19

‘I feel foolish’ — Florida mom shares regret
about not getting COVID-19 vaccine sooner

Alabama mother who lost son to COVID says
not getting the vaccine is her biggest regret

Man regrets snubbing vaccine
after ‘staring death in the eyes’

Anti-vaccine activist and QAnon
supporter, 64, dies from COVID

North Dakota man regretted not getting
vaccine before dying of COVID: family

Alabama man and wife who posted anti-vaccine
videos on YouTube are both dead from COVID

EMT stricken with COVID-19 and
pneumonia regrets declining vaccine

Infected Texas doctor regrets not getting vaccinated

Conservative U.S. radio host and
vaccine skeptic dies of COVID-19

Mom regrets not getting family vaccinated
after 13-year-old daughter is put on ventilator

Man who spent four months in hospital with COVID-19 and had
double lung transplant said he regrets not getting the vaccine

California woman, 40, who said she was ‘unmasked,
unmuzzled, unvaccinated, unafraid’ dies from COVID

Talk radio host hospitalized with COVID
regrets vaccine hesitancy, brother says

Israeli anti-vax leader dies from COVID-19

4-year-old girl dies of COVID after
unvaccinated mom contracts virus

Florida dad regrets not getting vaccine
after daughter, 15, dies of COVID-19

Family pleads for people to get vaccinated
after 45-year-old father dies from COVID-19

Unvaccinated high school coach dies of COVID

Anti-vax radio host who mocked AIDS
victims dies of COVID-19 complications

Husband of GOP state representative
declines vaccine, dies of COVID-19

The Questions…

1. What is globophobia?

2. What is the difference between a meteor, a meteoroid, and a meteorite?

3. How many time zones does the world have?

4. What is the world’s oldest rainforest?

5. What is the Neon Boneyard?

The Answers…

1. Fear of balloons.

2. A meteoroid is a chunk of material passing outside of Earth’s atmosphere. If it enters the atmosphere, it becomes a meteor. A piece that reaches Earth’s surface is a meteorite.

3. 24.

4. The Daintree Rainforest in northeastern Australia. It is an estimated 180 million years old, 10 million years older than the Amazon.

5. A museum in Las Vegas, the final resting place of retired neon signs from the city’s past, many of which are historically significant.