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Posts Tagged ‘People’

The Questions…

1. The Taser stun gun was developed in 1974 by NASA researcher Jack Cover. “Taser” is an acronym for what?

2. It’s probably no surprise that Americans eat more food on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. What day comes in second, consumption-wise?

3. What is the longest-running show in Broadway history?

4. For which Granny Smith is the apple named?

5. Who is the Prudence in the 1968 Beatles song “Dear Prudence”?

The Answers…

1. Jack Cover’s childhood hero was the fictional character Tom Swift. Taser is loosely based on the book title Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle. Cover added an A to make TSER less confusing.

2. Super Bowl Sunday.

3. The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The show opened in 1988 and still is performed eight times a week today.

4. Maria Ann Smith, who operated a fruit farm in Australia with her husband. In 1868, she discovered a “chance seedling” that arose from a pile of discarded apples and propagated it. She died in 1870, but left behind numerous trees for future cultivation. Experts think the Granny Smith is a hybrid of the Paradise apple and the European crab apple.

5. Prudence Farrow, the younger sister of Mia Farrow. The Farrow sisters were in India with the Beatles in 1968 studying Transcendental Meditation. Prudence was so dedicated to practicing TM techniques that she rarely socialized. John Lennon wrote the song to try to get her to lighten up.

TASER

Prudence

 

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Rogues’ Gallery

The word pandemic comes from the Greek words pan, meaning all, and demos, meaning people. I didn’t want to know that either.

———

So… the world is in the grip of a global pandemic that might be our undoing, and we have to depend on the Trump Administration – a veritable rogues’ gallery of corrupt and incompetent villains to save us.

My first thought when Trump got elected was clear and simple, and I’ve expressed it often on this blog: electing this orange gasbag was a tragic mistake, and it will not end well for us. Nothing has happened yet to change my mind.

For God’s sake, take a look at the bunch in charge.

First, of course, there is Donald Trump, self-styled playboy, former TV show host, and a failed businessman, who, as you know, inherited his wealth, lost millions during the 1980s and 90s, filed for bankruptcy several times, and eventually began taking loans from Russian oligarchs. He is, and long has been, owned by Vladimir Putin.

You can count on Trump to boast, bully, and BS his way through any situation he faces. He lacks the skills, qualifications, or temperament to be President, but there he sits.

Then there is Vice President Mike Pence, former congressman from Indiana and former governor of Indiana, whose lone skill is being a professional conservative politician. He was an early supporter of the Tea Party movement and is a long-time opponent of legal abortions.

Pence believes being gay is either a choice or “learned behavior.” He has emerged as the administration’s ass-kisser-in-chief, one of the most appalling sycophants ever.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, another Republican hardliner, has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee and a zero percent rating from Planned Parenthood.

At his confirmation hearing in 2018, when asked if he could avoid being a “yes man” to Trump, Pompeo said he had been Employee of the Month at Baskin Robbins twice (!?). When Trump personally attacked members of the FBI and the State Department, Pompeo said nothing.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is a former hedge fund manager and investment banker best known for aggressively foreclosing on homeowners. After Sears went bankrupt, the company sued Mnuchin for “asset stripping” during his tenure on the board of directors. Mnuchin’s priorities: weaken the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act and cut corporate taxes.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, another Republican insider, was a senate staffer and later chief of staff at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank. More recently, he was a lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon. Yes, Trump’s Secretary of Defense is a former lobbyist for a defense contractor.

An especially egregious member of the Cabinet is Attorney General William Barr, who, when he was AG to Bush No. 1, convinced Bush to pardon six officials who pulled off Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scheme. Look it up. Barr also pushed to increase the national rate of incarceration.

You may recall, too, that Barr lied to us about the Mueller Report and was held in criminal contempt of Congress for ignoring subpoenas. He is a political hack who has no shame about serving as Trump’s personal lawyer instead of Attorney General.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt is a former energy industry lobbyist whose clients included Halliburton and the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Yes, the man charged with protecting America’s natural resources is a former lobbyist for the petroleum industry.

Predictably, Bernhardt has defended the reversals of environmental regulations instituted by the Trump Administration. In 2019, he was caught using national park entrance fees in ways Congress specifically had forbidden.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is another example of the long line of Republican politicians who use their positions to enrich themselves. In 2003, he signed an executive order that prohibited state officials in Georgia from accepting gifts worth more than $25, yet, as governor, he accepted over $25,000 in gifts.

As Governor, he was slapped with ethics complaints 13 times. In 2004, he bought $2 million worth of land near Disney World from a developer he had appointed to Georgia’s economic development board.

Former investment banker and now Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is known as the “King of Bankruptcy.” He was skilled at buying failed companies, stripping them of their remaining assets, and selling off the remnants.

In the 1980s, when Trump’s three Atlantic City casinos faced foreclosure, Ross convinced the bondholders to back off and give Trump more time. In 2018, reports surfaced that his business partners had accused him of stealing $129 million.

Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, was an attorney who specialized in helping large corporations fight federal labor and financial regulations. “Suing the Government? Call Scalia” read a 2012 headline in Bloomberg News.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is the former president of the drug manufacturer Eli Lilly and a former lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry. In the 1990s, he spent two years working for Ken Starr on the investigation of the Clintons’ real estate investments (the Whitewater thing).

While at Eli Lilly, Azar tripled the price of insulin. He is an opponent of Obamacare, claiming that the “free market” can best meet the country’s health care needs. Yes, a Big Pharma executive and lobbyist is in charge of Health and Human Services.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was a successful and respected neurosurgeon until he spazzed out and turned to Republican politics. He quickly proved himself to be an airhead, ill-informed on most subjects.

Carson is the guy who, in 2017, was caught spending $31,000 on a dining set for his office. In 2019, at a meeting about transgender persons in homeless shelters, Carson warned of “big, hairy men” infiltrating women’s shelters.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is a veteran Republican politician married to Mitch McConnell. Her father is a Chinese shipping magnate, which creates a spectacular conflict of interest that should get her booted from office. Her department has tried regularly to cut funding for shipping companies that compete with the family business.

In 2018, Politico reported that in her first 14 months in office, Chao had 290 hours of “private” appointments; her underlings said the meetings were labeled private for security reasons.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette was a top lobbyist for Ford Motor Company and more recently a member of the Louisiana Mineral and Energy Board. Brouillette is a strong believer in the Trump policy of maximizing the use of fossil fuels and rolling back regulations that are bothersome to the oil, coal, and natural gas industries.

The cost of wind power and solar power may be dropping rapidly, but Brouillette, he’s a big fan of fossil fuels. And nuclear power, too.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is so wrong for the job that the Republican-dominated Senate barely confirmed her. The vote was 51-50, with Mike Pence having to break the tie. DeVos is a rich socialite and a seasoned Republican fund-raiser. She made her name among conservatives by advocating charter schools and vouchers and opposing the traditional system of public schools. So, naturally, Trump made her Secretary of Education.

DeVos is married to the former CEO of Amway. Her brother Eric Prince is the former Navy SEAL who founded Blackwater USA, which is its own sordid story.

Another Republican insider, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie worked on Capital Hill for several Republican senators. Raised in North Carolina, Wilkie is dumb enough to have stated publicly that the Confederate cause was “honorable.” He also said people who opposed slavery during the War of Yankee Aggression were “enemies of liberty.”

Wilkie got in trouble at his confirmation hearing for misleading Senators about “lost cause” speeches he gave to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and similar groups.

The acting Director of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, has a background of working for Republican senators and lobbying firms. As Chief of Staff to former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, he was involved in shaping Trump’s repulsive family separation policy.

In February, the State of New York sued the Trump Administration because Wolf is penalizing the state for its “sanctuary” immigration policies.

And don’t forget White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, one of the most rabid conservatives in public life. He is a bomb-throwing tea-partier and a member of the Freedom Caucus. When Hurricane Sandy whacked the eastern seaboard in 2012, he voted against the disaster relief package. He strongly supported the government shutdown of 2013 as a way to get rid of Obamacare.

For years, Meadows’ official biography claimed he held a Bachelor of Arts degree. After that was revealed to be untrue, he changed his bio to read Associate of Arts. Meadows was fined $40,000 by the House Ethics Committee for failing to address sexual harassment allegations in his office.

———

I repeat: the world is in the grip of a global pandemic that might be our undoing, and we have to depend on the Trump Administration – a veritable rogues’ gallery of corrupt and incompetent villains – to save us.

Maybe these are, indeed, the end times.

As I write this, I can hear one of the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefings in progress on the TV set in my living room. Later, I will check CNN or MSNBC to learn what happened and find out what falsehoods Trump spread today.

At the moment, I can vaguely hear Trump’s voice. I assume he is BSing and pontificating about something, careening from thought to thought.

Perhaps he is berating a reporter, or maybe taking a shot at Obama for something. Winging it as usual, stream of consciousness style.

This moron is the President. God help us.

Trump et al

 

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More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time…

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The Song of Wandering Aengus*

By William Butler Yeats

Yates-WB

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

* In Irish mythology, Aengus is the Love God. This poem tells the story of Aengus and the beautiful Caer, who appeared in his dreams, and for whom he searched for years thereafter. https://bardmythologies.com/aengus-og/

———

I Am

By Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Wilcox EW2

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)

I Know not whence I came,
I know not whither I go;
But the fact stands clear that I am here
In this world of pleasure and woe.
And out of the mist and murk
Another truth shines plain
It is my power each day and hour
To add to its joy or its pain.

I know that the earth exists,
It is none of my business why;
I cannot find out what it’s all about,
I would but waste time to try.
My life is a brief, brief thing,
I am here for a little space,
And while I stay I would like, if I may,
To brighten and better the place.

The trouble, I think, with us all
Is the lack of a high conceit.
If each man thought he was sent to this spot
To make it a bit more sweet,
How soon we could gladden the world,
How easily right all wrong,
If nobody shirked, and each one worked
To help his fellows along!

Cease wondering why you came
Stop looking for faults and flaws;
Rise up to-day in your pride and say,
‘I am part of the First Great Cause!
However full the world,
There is room for an earnest man.
It had need of me, or I would not be

I am here to strengthen the plan.’

———

The Peace Of Wild Things

By Wendell Berry

Berry-W

Wendell Erdman Berry (B. 1934)

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

———

I’m Nobody! Who Are You?

By Emily Dickinson

Dickenson-E

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-1886)

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you — Nobody — too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! They’d advertise — you know!

How dreary — to be — Somebody!
How public — like a Frog —
To tell one’s name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Bog!

———

Ode 1.11

By Horace

Horace

Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC – 8 BC)

Leucon, no one is allowed to know his fate.
Not you, not me. Don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers
In tea leaves or palms.

Be patient with whatever comes.
This could be the last winter,
Or the Tuscan Sea could be
Pounding these rocks for many more.

Be wise, tend your vines,
And forget about long-term hopes.
Time flies, even as we talk.
Seize the day, trusting tomorrow as little as possible.

 

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The 1966 song “A Hazy Shade of Winter” by Paul Simon is a poet’s lament about the passing of time and his “manuscripts of unpublished rhyme.” The changing of seasons is a metaphor for the cycle of life, lost opportunities, and all that. Another pretty ballad that is bleak in tone.

Two decades later, The Bangles were asked to contribute a song to the soundtrack of “Less Than Zero,” a movie about drug addiction and wasted lives. The Bangles already performed Simon’s song regularly on stage (shortened to “Hazy Shade of Winter”), so it was the natural choice.

But at the recording session, oddly, their record producer objected to the line “Drinking my vodka and lime.” The Bangles accommodated him by shortening the verse that included itwhich deleted the reference to the poet. These lyrics were cut:

Funny how my memory skips
While looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme,
Drinking my vodka and lime.

If the deletion irritated Simon, and it probably did, I expect the royalties made up for it. The Bangles’ version was a much bigger hit than the Simon and Garfunkel original.

Bangles

Hazy Shade of Winter

By The Bangles, 1987
Written by Paul Simon

Time, time, time,
See what’s become of me…

Time, time, time,
See what’s become of me
While I looked around
For my possibilities.
I was so hard to please.

Look around.
Leaves are brown,
And the sky
Is a hazy shade of winter.

Hear the Salvation Army band
Down by the riverside.
It’s bound to be a better ride
Than what you’ve got planned.
Carry a cup in your hand.

Look around.
Leaves are brown,
And the sky
Is a hazy shade of winter.

Hang onto your hopes my friend.
That’s an easy thing to say,
But if your hopes should pass away,
Simply pretend
That you can build them again.

Look around.
Grass is high.
Fields are ripe.
It’s the springtime of my life.

Seasons change with their scenery,
Weaving time in a tapestry.
Won’t you stop and remember me.

Look around.
Leaves are brown,
And the sky
Is a hazy shade of winter.

Look around.
Leaves are brown.
There’s a patch of snow on the ground.

Look around.
Leaves are brown.
There’s a patch of snow on the ground.

Look around.
Leaves are brown.
There’s a patch of snow on the ground.

 

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Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.

— Desmond Tutu

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Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.

— Marcel Proust

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I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

— Douglas Adams

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Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it.

— Anne Lamott

Lamott-A

Lamott

Tutu-D

Tutu

 

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

Virginia is the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents, the most among the states. Seven presidents were born in Ohio, five in New York, four in Massachusetts, and the remaining presidents were from 17 other states. Six states have produced none.

During the Apollo 14 moon mission in 1971, astronaut Alan Shepard brought out a folding 6-iron and drove two golf balls into the lunar distance. He shanked the first drive, but the second traveled about 200 yards. Shepard got the okay of his NASA bosses in advance.

Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady of the United States from 1933 until 1945. In 1935, she began writing “My Day,” a syndicated newspaper column about issues of the time. The popular column was published six days a week until 1961, when the schedule was changed to every other day due to her failing health. Her last column appeared in 1962, two months before her death.

In days of yore, humans measured time with the clepsydra or water clock. Clepsydra is Greek for water thief. The device measures the flow of water through an opening, and marking on the container show the passage of time.

Two versions existed: one measured outflow, and one measured inflow. Their accuracy was… fair to okay. The pendulum clocks that replaced them in the 1600s were much more accurate.

Clepsydra

The real name of lead singer Bono of the rock band U2 is Paul David Hewson. “Bono,” he says, is derived from the Latin word “bonavox,” which means good voice.

La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles is a seep of natural asphalt. Because the tar preserves the bones of the unlucky animals who died there, La Brea has been a fossil excavation site and a popular tourist attraction since the early 1900s.

“La Brea” is Spanish for “the tar,” so technically, “The La Brea Tar Pits” means “The the tar tar pits.”

When the first president of Israel died in 1952, the Israeli prime minister asked Albert Einstein to become president. Einstein would have to relocate to Israel, but would be free to continue his scientific work. Einstein said he was “deeply moved,” but declined on grounds that he lacked “the natural aptitude and the experience” for the position.

The “Temple of a Million Bottles” in Thailand is a complex of buildings constructed by Buddhist monks to keep beer bottles out of landfills. The original temple was completed in 1986. Today, the site consists of 20 buildings and some 1.5 million bottles. The monks use green and brown bottles for the construction, and they use bottle caps to create mosaics.

Temple

Commercial coffee growers raise two varieties of beans: Robusta and Arabica. Robusta accounts for 30 percent of world production. It is hardier, easier to grow, harsher in taste, and higher in caffeine. The other 70 percent of plants are Arabica, which require more attention, but produce a higher-quality brew.

Robusta is used to make instant coffee, and cheaper brands mix it, to varying degrees, with Arabica. Lesson: check the label and go with Arabica.

When the singer Pink (technically, P!nk) was a young teenager, her friends teased her by saying she looked like Mr. Pink, the character played by Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs. She reacted by embracing the name and later used it professionally. Her real name is Alecia Beth Moore.

In 1960, while performing Verde’s La Forza Del Destino (The Force of Destiny) at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, baritone Leonard Warren suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and dropped dead on the stage.

His last words were the opening lines of an aria that begins “Morir, tremenda cosa,” which means “To die, a momentous thing.”

“The world’s narrowest house” is the Keret House in Warsaw, Poland, built in the four-foot space between two adjacent building. It consists of three levels containing a bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchen. The structure is considered an art project because it doesn’t fully meet building codes.

Keret House

 

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Magic Mud

In 1920, in a baseball game with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians batter Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitched ball. Witnesses said Chapman apparently lost sight of the ball, because he made no attempt to move or duck.

Hours later, he died. Chapman is the only major league player ever killed in this manner.

The condition of the ball was considered a factor in Chapman’s death. In those days, pitchers were expected to “break in” new baseballs, which are glossy and slick and hard to grip. Pitchers rubbed the baseballs with anything handy — dirt, mud, spit, tobacco juice, shoe polish. They nicked the leather with blades and roughed it up with sandpaper.

As a result, game balls varied widely in condition. They could be damp. They could wobble in flight. Worse, they tended to be dark and mottled in color, making them harder to see.

After the Chapman incident, Major League Baseball was motivated anew to find a way to season new baseballs without the negative side effects. Nothing surfaced.

Finally, in the late 1930s, a third-base coach for the Philadelphia Athletics, Lena Blackburne, found a solution that wasn’t quite magic, but came close. His method is still used today by every MLB team and most minor league and college teams.

Blackburne grew up in Palmyra, New Jersey, a small town on the Delaware River just north of Philadelphia. He knew from his childhood that the river mud near Palmyra is unique. It has an unusually smooth, creamy, clay-like consistency and holds minimal moisture. He decided to try the mud on a baseball.

Blackburne found that a tiny amount of the river mud — one finger dipped in the stuff — was enough to spread over a baseball and work the magic. The mud seasoned the leather, eliminated the gloss, and slightly roughened the surface, all without discoloring the ball. Baseballs looked the same before and after treatment.

Blackburne’s rubbing mud was an instant hit with the Athletics. Word soon spread around the league, and other teams began asking Blackburne for a supply of the river mud.

At that point, Blackburne officially went into the business of selling Lena Blackburne’s Baseball Rubbing Mud — Baseball’s Magic Mud.

Experts say the mud gets its characteristics from the type and amount of clay in the soil and the chemistry of the river. The Delaware is a “blackwater” river, rich in iron oxide, and it flows through highly acidic soil.

It’s also a fact that mud from anywhere along the river won’t do. Blackburne found that only along about a one-mile stretch of the river do ideal conditions for the rubbing mud exist.

Blackburne kept the location secret. He confided only in his friend John Haas, who became his partner in the business.

The process Blackburne and Haas developed was to collect the mud in buckets, run it through a strainer to remove leaves and other debris, add water, and let it sit in large cans.

Periodically over about six weeks, excess water was drained, and the mud was strained several more times. When no water remained and the mud was perfectly smooth — reduced to the consistency of cold cream or pudding — it was ready to be packaged.

Blackburne and Haas prepared the mud over the fall and winter and were ready to supply the teams the following spring. By the 1950s, every team in baseball was rubbing the magic mud on every baseball.

The mud was a big deal for baseball, but certainly not a money-maker for Blackburne. The market is limited, and a couple of containers will last a team all season. Blackburne’s enterprise was a service to the game and a labor of love.

(Each team needs about two one-pint containers of the mud per year. In 1981, a container sold for $20. The price today is $100. The mud business currently nets about $15,000 to $20,000 per year.)

Blackburne died in 1968 and left the company to Haas. Haas continued the business, still keeping the location secret. When he retired, his son-in-law, Burns Bintliff, took over.

Like Blackburne and Haas, Bintliff ran the mud business in his spare time, holding a job elsewhere to pay the bills. Eventually, he passed the business along to his son Jim, who runs the company today.

Jim Bintliff and his wife Joanne both worked for a small printing company and ran the mud business on the side. Joanne said they were married five years and had two children before Jim finally revealed to her the secret location where the mud is collected.

Eventually, their youngest daughter Rachel is expected to take over the business — if demand for the mud continues.

In 2016, MLB asked the equipment manufacturer Rawlings to develop a ball that didn’t need rubbing mud — a ball that is broken-in and ready to use upon delivery. The rubbing mud, they said, is a hassle for equipment managers, and Mother Nature could decide to stop making it available.

Rawlings continues trying to create a pre-seasoned baseball, but so far has struck out. Pitchers are accustomed to the feel of Lena Blackburne‘s Magic Mud, and the chemists and engineers at Rawlings haven’t been able to replicate that feel to the players’ satisfaction.

Mud is mud,” said Mike Thompson, Chief Marketing Officer at Rawlings. “But, obviously, mud isn’t mud.”

Meanwhile, Jim Bintliff has been working on another angle for the business. The mud, it seems, works just as well on a football. Many NFL teams now place regular orders.

Mud-1

Jim Bintliff at work.

Mud-2

 

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