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Posts Tagged ‘Miscellaneous’

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Olympus Mons, an extinct volcano on Mars, is 16 miles high, almost three times taller than Mt. Everest.

● In the 1970s, future pop star Madonna Ciccone dropped out of college and moved to New York City. She took a job at a Dunkin’ Donuts, but was fired on her first day for squirting jelly filling on a customer.

● April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day.

● In 1850, a French violin maker invented the octobass, a stringed instrument designed to produce ultra-low sounds, including sounds that fall below the range of human hearing. The octobass has three strings and is some 12 feet tall. Today, the only octobass not in a museum is owned by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

● In 2013, Russia changed a long-standing law that classified all beverages with less than 10 percent alcohol by volume as soft drinks. The change thus classified beer as an alcoholic beverage in Russia for the first time.

● One teaspoon of healthy soil (e.g., soil enriched with compost) easily can contain six billion microorganisms, doing their thing to decompose organic matter and free up nutrients for reuse. To put six billion in perspective, the current human population of the planet is 7.9 billion.

● Your body contains about 1.3 gallons of blood. Blood cells make a full circuit of your vessels in about one minute.

● The screaming hairy armadillo, so named because it squeals like crazy when handled and is hairier than other armadillos, is native to central and southern South America. It is the smallest of the armadillos, adults being about a foot long. They live in underground burrows and eat plants, bugs, lizards, and an occasional mouse.

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This Just In

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Biologists with the Fish and Wildlife service found a live baby turtle in the stomach of a 15-pound largemouth bass and extracted it unharmed. The turtle, not the bass.

The biologists were in the Everglades catching bass for research when they noticed that the stomach of one of the fish was moving. They carefully opened the fish and discovered the turtle. After determining that the turtle was uninjured, they released it into the water.

KHARTOUM, SUDAN — A Boeing 737 en route to Qatar was forced to return to Khartoum for an emergency landing after a stowaway cat appeared in the cockpit and could not be subdued.

The cat, believed to be a feral stray, emerged from hiding 30 minutes into the flight and caused a major uproar, including attacking the pilot. When crew members were unable to capture or corner the cat, the decision was made to turn back.

Officials said the aircraft had been cleaned the night before the flight. They assume the cat slipped inside and found a concealed space to sleep.

DOLGELLAU, WALES — In January, a border collie was sold at auction for $38,893, setting a new world record for the sale of a trained herding dog.

The dog was a one-year-old named Kim who, according to her trainer, has the skills of a three-year-old. Kim was purchased by a farmer in Staffordshire.

The previous record was $26,088, set last October with the sale of Henna, another female border collie from Wales.

Kim’s trainer said, “She was doing everything. She worked cattle and sheep, and she was ready for any trials or farm work for anybody.”

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The Questions…

1. What was the full name of baseball great Babe Ruth, aka the Bambino, aka the Sultan of Swat?

2. How long does it take to hard-boil an egg?

3. What is the largest organ in the human body?

4. What eye color is most common among humans?

5. What is the rarest color of M&M chocolate candies?

The Answers…

1. George Herman Ruth.

2. Seven minutes.

3. The skin.

4. Brown.

5. Brown.

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In 2000, the song “Things Have Changed” from the movie “Wonder Boys” won Bob Dylan both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for best original song. Dylan said he wrote it because he sympathized with the protagonist in the 1995 novel of the same name.

The story is a black comedy about an author and college professor (Michael Douglas) having an epic midlife crisis. His wife has left him, and his mistress is pregnant. His first novel years earlier was critically acclaimed, but the widely-anticipated second novel eludes him.

He smokes so much weed that he suffers regular blackouts. He is responsible for the death of his boss’s dog. His life is a mess and getting worse, but he soldiers on.

Dylan’s song is a succession of images about hopelessness, futility, and impending doom. It’s a great fit — even though the story somehow stumbles to a happy ending.

Things Have Changed

By Bob Dylan, 2000
Written by Bob Dylan

A worried man with a worried mind.
No one in front of me, and nothing behind.
There’s a woman on my lap, and she’s drinking champagne.
Got white skin. Got assassin’s eyes.
I’m looking up into the sapphire-tinted skies.
I’m well dressed, waiting on the last train.


Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose.
Any minute now, I’m expecting all hell to break loose.

People are crazy, and times are strange.
I’m locked in tight. I’m out of range.
I used to care, but things have changed.

This place ain’t doing me any good.
I’m in the wrong town. I should be in Hollywood.
Just for a second there, I thought I saw something move.
Gonna take dancing lessons, do the jitterbug rag.
Ain’t no shortcuts. Gonna dress in drag.
Only a fool in here would think he’s got anything to prove.


Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff, too.
Don’t get up, gentlemen. I’m only passing through.

People are crazy, and times are strange.
I’m locked in tight. I’m out of range.
I used to care, but things have changed.

I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road.
If the bible is right, the world will explode.
I’ve been trying to get as far away from myself as I can.
Some things are too hot to touch.
The human mind can only stand so much.
You can’t win with a losing hand.


Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet.
Putting her in a wheelbarrow, and wheeling her down the street.

People are crazy, and times are strange.
I’m locked in tight. I’m out of range.
I used to care, but things have changed.

I hurt easily. I just don’t show it.
You can hurt someone and not even know it.
The next sixty seconds could be like an eternity.
Gonna get low down, gonna fly high.
All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.
I’m in love with a woman who don’t even appeal to me.


Mr. Jinx and Miss Lucy, they jumped in the lake.
I’m not that eager to make a mistake.

People are crazy, and times are strange.
I’m locked in tight. I’m out of range.
I used to care, but things have changed.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/things-have-changed.mp3

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As you no doubt are aware, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were Depression-era Texas lovers who went on a murderous crime spree, emerged as folk heroes, and ultimately were gunned down by the law.

It occurred to me recently that I really knew very few details about the infamous duo. I haven’t seen the 1967 movie with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in decades, and I’m pretty sure Hollywood was loose with the facts anyway. Ergo, I decided some research was in order to get to their real story.

How did Clyde end up as a murderer on the lam? He was easy to figure out. He was a runty kid from a poor family who grew up being bullied and mistreated. His older brother coaxed him into becoming a thief, and things quickly went south. Clyde was doomed to crash and burn.

Bonnie’s trajectory was not so transparent. She seems to have been bright and talented and had, by most accounts, a normal childhood. But at age 16, she dropped out of high school and married her boyfriend. He turned out to be abusive and a cheat, so she left him. Soon thereafter, she met Clyde.

Here, for your edification, is more of their story.

———

Clyde Champion Barrow was born in 1909 to a rural farm family in Telico, Texas, the fifth of seven children. When he was a boy, the farm failed due to drought, and the family moved to Dallas. Clyde learned to play guitar and saxophone and hoped to become a musician.

However, under the influence of his older brother Buck, Clyde became a shoplifter, then a car thief, then an armed robber. By 1929, at age 20, he was on the run from the law.

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in 1910 in Rowena, Texas. Her father died when she was four, and her mother and the three children moved to Dallas to live with grandparents.

The diminutive Bonnie (4’ 11”) was an attractive girl who dreamed of becoming an actress. She earned academic honors in school and was interested in poetry and literature.

In 1926, during her sophomore year, Bonnie quit high school and married classmate Roy Thornton. When Roy began to abuse her physically, Bonnie walked out, moved back to her grandmother’s house, and got a job as a waitress.

In January 1930, when Clyde and his small gang of thieves were trying to elude the police, a mutual friend introduced him to 19-year-old Bonnie. The attraction was immediate. Bonnie declared that Clyde was her soulmate. They became inseparable.

But only for a few weeks. Clyde was arrested for auto theft, tried, convicted, and imprisoned.

A short time later, Bonnie smuggled a pistol to Clyde during a visitation period. On March 11, 1930, Clyde used it to escape with several cellmates. They were captured a week later, and Clyde was sentenced to 14 years at hard labor.

He was sent to the notorious Eastham Prison Farm near Huntsville, Texas. Clyde called Eastham “that hell hole” because of the sadistic guards, the heat, the overcrowding, the grueling work details, and the repeated sexual assaults he endured from another inmate.

Bonnie and Clyde exchanged numerous love letters throughout 1931, a regular theme being the hope that Clyde would get an early release. In February 1932, in an effort to get excused from field work and possibly get transferred to another facility, Clyde faked an accident in which two of his toes were cut off. Thereafter, he walked with a limp and had to remove his shoe while driving.

Ironically, unknown to Clyde, his mother had convinced a judge to grant parole to ease the overcrowding at Eastham, and his release already was being processed.

Also ironically, Bonnie was injured in a car accident the following year that left her with a limp, as well. During a car crash, battery acid spilled onto Bonnie’s leg, causing third-degree burns that never fully healed. Thereafter, she walked with a limp and at times had to be carried.

Two weeks after Clyde was separated from his toes, he was free and reunited with Bonnie. Initially, he tried to go straight, taking a job at a Dallas glass company. But law enforcement officers who had pursued him in the past pressured the company owners until Clyde was fired.

Probably resigned to the hand he was dealt, Clyde formed another gang, this time with Bonnie at his side. They robbed banks, gas stations, and assorted small businesses across Texas.

A few months later, Bonnie was captured when a robbery went wrong. While in jail for two months pending trial, she wrote poetry, most of it about her relationship with Clyde.

After her release in late 1932, Clyde killed a police officer and a store owner, and the gang quickly left Texas.

In early 1933, Clyde, Bonnie, and one of the gang members hid out in Joplin, Missouri, at the home of Clyde’s brother Buck. Soon, suspicious neighbors notified the police, who came to investigate. The fugitives escaped, and two police officers were killed.

Left behind was an undeveloped roll of film that Bonnie and Clyde had taken of themselves. The pictures were printed in newspapers around the country, along with sensational stories about the couple’s exploits. Bonnie and Clyde became national celebrities.

In January 1934, Clyde orchestrated a jailbreak at Eastham to free a childhood friend. One prison guard was killed, and several inmates escaped. One of the escapees, Henry Methvin, joined Clyde’s gang.

On April 1 near Grapevine, Texas, Clyde and Methvin shot and killed two Texas highway patrol officers. Days later, with a posse in pursuit, Methvin killed a police officer in Oklahoma.

The gang fled to northern Louisiana to hide out at the Methvin family farm. Frank Hamer, the former Texas Ranger leading the posse, learned of their whereabouts and made a deal with Henry Methvin’s father: the elder Methvin would lure Bonnie and Clyde into a trap in exchange for amnesty for Henry.

On May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde came upon the elder Methvin on a rural road, standing beside his supposedly stalled truck. When they stopped to help, Hamer and his six-man posse opened fire on the couple from the nearby woods with a barrage of more than 130 armor-piercing bullets.

The coroner’s report said Bonnie was shot at least 26 times, Clyde at least 17 times. The bodies were so damaged that they would not hold embalming fluid. Bonnie was 24. Clyde was 25.

Immediately after the ambush, with the bodies still slumped where they fell, souvenir-hunters descended on the site. Before police stopped them, one man tried to cut off Clyde’s ear, another his trigger finger. Someone in the crowd stole a lock of Bonnie’s hair and snipped off a piece of her dress.

For several decades, the blood-spattered, bullet-ridden sedan in which they died made the rounds of carnivals and state fairs nationwide. In the 1970s, it was housed at a Nevada racetrack, where, for a dollar, you could sit inside and have your photo taken.

Currently, the car is on display in the lobby of Whiskey Pete’s Hotel and Casino in Primm, Nevada.

The Barrow gang committed dozens of robberies and burglaries between 1930 and 1934, as well as 13 murders. Bonnie participated in numerous armed robberies, but I found no claims that she shot or killed anyone.

Among the poems Bonnie wrote in 1932 while in jail was “The Trail’s End.” Two weeks before her death, she gave a copy of the poem to her mother. It is not especially artistic or memorable, except for the closing:

Some day they’ll go down together
they’ll bury them side by side.
To few it’ll be grief,
to the law a relief
but it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.

———

You can read “The Trail’s End” in full here.

Bonnie’s mother would not allow the couple to be buried together. Bonnie’s grave is at Crown Hill Memorial Park in Dallas. Clyde was buried at Western Heights Cemetery, also in Dallas, next to his brother Buck.

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The Questions…

1. When British anthropologist Jane Goodall went to Tanzania in 1960 to study chimpanzees, she initially found the animals to be fearful and unapproachable. What did she do to gain their trust?

2. What is the only U.S. state that borders just one other state?

3. What does HTTP stand for?

4. Who was the only U.S. President who was a bachelor while in office?

5. What species of fish is the fastest?

The Answers…

1. She passed out bananas to demonstrate that she wasn’t a threat.

2. Maine, which borders only New Hampshire to the south. Its northern border is with the Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, and the Atlantic Ocean is to the east.

3. HyperText Transfer Protocol.

4. James Buchanan, who served in office from 1857 to 1861. His niece served as hostess for White House events.

5. As a group, the billfish are the speediest for sure. Blue marlins have been clocked at 80 mph, sailfish at nearly 70 mph, and swordfish at over 60 mph. A few years ago, researchers found that swordfish have a gland in their heads that secretes oil to reduce friction as they move through water.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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