Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘People’

The Confluence

It’s June 1994, and I’m on my first-ever raft trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. On the morning of the second day of the trip, we arrive at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. In contrast to the green water of the Colorado, the water of the Little C is a beautiful deep aquamarine, due to dissolved limestone and travertine.

The trip leaders take the passengers upstream along the north bank of the Little C to a point above a shallow set of rapids. Curiously, we are told to put on our life jackets upside down — to wear them like pants so the padding protects our butts. Just do it, the guides say.

We enter the river and form a chain, single file, 15 people long, each of us holding the legs of the person behind us. The guides steer the chain into the current, and we embark on an exhilarating 60-second ride back downstream to the confluence.

Over the next hour, we reform the chain and ride the Little C a dozen times, whooping and hollering like children. The experience is magical.

And I think to myself, this is the life.

Read Full Post »

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

Gautama Buddha

###

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

Elbert Hubbard

###

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

###

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

Herman Melville

Buddha

Melville

Read Full Post »

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)

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Tune o’ the Day

You gotta love a song that includes the line, “There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.”

According to Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, he began writing this song several years earlier, when Syd Barrett was kicked out of the band for excessive drug use and mental issues. The tune finally appeared on the album “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

Waters said the famous opening line “The lunatic is on the grass” referred not to marijuana, but to ignoring signs that ask you to keep off the grass. Waters also observed that most of us are mentally unbalanced to some degree and could easily end up meeting on the “dark side of the moon.”

No wonder this tune is a favorite of psychologists and philosophers.

Bonus fact: the laughter sprinkled throughout the song came from Peter Watts, the band’s road manager, who died of a drug overdose in 1976. His daughter is actress Naomi Watts.

Brain Damage

By Pink Floyd, 1973
Written by Roger Waters

The lunatic is on the grass.
The lunatic is on the grass.
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs.
Got to keep the loonies on the path.

The lunatic is in the hall.
The lunatics are in my hall.
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor,
And every day the paper boy brings more.

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon,
And if there is no room upon the hill,
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings, too,
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The lunatic is in my head.
The lunatic is in my head.
You raise the blade. You make the change.
You re-arrange me ’til I’m sane.

You lock the door
And throw away the key.
There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.

And if the cloudbursts thunder in your ear,
You shout, and no one seems to hear.

And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes,
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/brain-damage.mp3

Read Full Post »

Thoughts du Jour

Legacy

Savannah, Georgia, is a fairyland in the spring. The neighborhoods come alive with amazing flowering trees and shrubs — camellias, oleander, lantana, and most especially, azaleas. Countless azaleas in dozens of varieties and colors.

For nearly a century, the Smith family home was 201 Kinzie Avenue in Savannah’s Gordonston neighborhood. My dad and his siblings grew up there. My aunt lived there until she died a few years ago and the old place finally was sold.

When I think of that house, I think first of the beautiful, head-high azalea plants that encircle it. Those azaleas were so healthy and lush that every few years, they have to be pruned back to waist high.

But not until I was an adult did I learn their origin story. To the older generations, the details were well known and didn’t need repeating. When my aunt finally realized that we kids didn’t know the story, she explained.

My grandfather was a fairly well-known Savannah businessman, and when he died in the early 1950s, friends and neighbors remembered him by presenting potted azaleas to the Smith family. When planted, they completely encircled the house.

Within a few years, they had grown thick and massive, creating a multi-colored display each spring that was the envy of Gordonston.

The Smiths have moved on, but the old house is still ringed with those magnificent azaleas. A fitting legacy.

Guns and Religion

Back in 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama got in trouble for saying in a campaign speech that many white working-class Americans “cling to guns and religion” because they are bitter about the poor economy and the loss of jobs. He caught a lot of heat and eventually had to apologize, sort of, for the wording.

Actually, however, Obama was 100 percent correct, and he made an important point. Consider what he said in full:

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow, these communities are going to regenerate. And they have not.

So it’s not surprising, then, that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.


Obama blamed the situation, not the victims, but people are responsible for their own actions. Few among us are saints. People who are frightened and desperate will react badly and lash out. They can become petty and cruel and, of course, easily manipulated by people in the manipulation business.

Obama probably didn’t realize he was warning us of what was to come: the rise of Trump and the off-the-rails, nutjob Republicans of today.

The Squash Police

About a year ago, Jake and I were walking along a quiet side street near downtown Jefferson when the door of a real estate office opened, and a portly woman angrily confronted me.

“How about if I took my dogs to your house and let them pee in YOUR yard? Would you like that?” She turned and stormed back into her office.

I didn’t understand why walking a dog along a public street was so offensive or called for such histrionics, so I went into the office to inquire further.

She said her grandkids often visit the office, and they play in the yard, where Jake has been seen relieving himself.

No problem. I told her I would keep Jake away from her lawn in the future. Further, being a shrewd judge of character, I pegged her as a whiny jerk, always poised to perceive a slight.

One morning recently, Jake and I again passed the woman’s office. We were on the opposite side of the street, where someone is growing a small patch of yellow squash. As Jake snuffled around the undergrowth, a voice behind me said, “Does the dog like squash?” I turned to see the portly woman watching us from her front porch.

“The dog is walking in that man’s squash patch,” she said. “Does the dog want some squash?”

“Jake is walking near the squash patch, but not in it,” I said. “I’d say he’s about a yard away.”

I wanted to ask if she worked for the Squash Police, but I knew she has a beefy, sour-looking male co-worker, so I refrained.

Besides, I’m a nice guy. Not a whiny jerk, always poised to perceive a slight.

Read Full Post »

Quotes o’ the Day

All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.

Toni Morrison

———

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.

Thomas Paine

———

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

William Shakespeare

———

I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

Stephen Jay Gould

Morrison

Gould

Read Full Post »

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »