Friday, August 28, 2015

People to care about

While so many people sit around reading about, and watching tv shows dedicated to promoting the wonderfulness of someone named Kylie Jenner, who just turned 18 and has accomplished so very much, another woman turned 18 this summer and has done something worthwhile. 

You remember the story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012 for trying to become educated.  Since then, she's been working on expanding educational opportunities and was also the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize. She celebrated #18 this summer by opening a secondary school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, near the border with Syria.

Follow her!
Yousafzai was on a school bus in northern Pakistan with her classmates when she was attacked three years ago. She's been living in England with her family ever since.  

She has set up a nonprofit organization called The Malala Fund to help support the school, which will educated over 200 girls between the ages of 14 and 18. 

"I am honored to mark my 18th birthday with the brave and inspiring girls of Syria. I am here on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict. Their courage and dedication to continue their schooling in difficult conditions inspires people around the world and it is our duty to stand by them. On this day, I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region and the world — you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria's children. This is a heartbreaking tragedy — the world's worst refugee crisis in decades." - - Malala Yousafzai
Not her.
This summer, in a speech in Norway, Malala said, "My life of being a child will come to an end. I think there's no limit of age ... to speak of children's rights," she said. "My father has been doing it as a teacher and I will continue to do it as a woman. As an adult, you can be the voice of children."

I remind young people, middle-aged people and my fellow old-timers that it's always the right time to do something good for others.  One way to start is to be more concerned with the activities of others doing good than with bosomy media personalities whose sole gift to the world seems to be continuing to breathe.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Of all the airports in all the towns in all the world...

How many times has this happened to you?

You're at the Beijing Airport and you get stopped by security for trying to bring a bottle of imported cognac onto the plane in your carry-on.  Airport security, ever mindful of the threat that French brandy carries with it, tell you you can't bring it on the plane.

Do you...
a) let them throw it out?
b) walk off into the mist with Captain Renault, sibilantly whispering, " Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship"?
c) guzzle it all right then and there?

That's what happened to a traveler identified only as Miss Zhao recently, as she attempted to board her transfer flight.  She slammed it all back, which did remove the cognac from the
bottle, but created the new problem of what the cognac did to her.

She "went right wild," as the old expression goes.  She was movin' to the groovin', yelling all out of her head and going flippo. Eventually, she passed out, landing on the floor in the manner of billions of other inebriates have done over the centuries.

And the Chinese authorities decided that the floor was the best place for her, as she would have been a security risk to herself and others had she boarded the plane.
I'd rather have a can of beer,
s'il vous plaît 

They took her to an infirmary in the airport where a doctor checked her out, and later that evening, her family came to get her and bring her home. 
I hope it was really good cognac!

By the way, here at the BWI Airport outside Baltimore, so far this year, security has collected 7 handguns that 7 people thought would be a good idea to take on the plane with them.  

But not one bottle of cognac, so at least we have that going for us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Carry on!

When I was a skinny guy years ago, they came out with cargo pants, the invention of which must rank up there with mp3 players and digital cameras as the greatest things ever.  No longer did I need to have my 4 pants pockets stuffed til Toledo with all I carry around (wallet, pocket knives, change in a little leather carrier, bandana, off-brand Purell, cell phone, pocket calendar and so forth is the current census)!  Now, there are six pockets to a pair of cargo pants or shorts, so I'm set unless it's a dress-up occasion, when a suit comes out of mothballs, but at least with that, there are jacket pockets to load up.

I'm one of those hyper-prepared fellows, so I have to have everything with me all the time.  And in my long-ago school days, anyone, male or female, who carried their stuff - books, notebooks, lunch, gym gear, extra socks - would have been hooted back to the playground, or beyond.

But now they are the thing, all the kids seem to have them, and I admit to a certain jealousy, because they surely make lugging all your kit and kaboodle around much easier.

It's the one with "Stairway to Heaven"
The question still comes up...all summer long I saw guys walking the roads near here with backpacks on.  So, is this a thing now?  I know these dudes had their video game controllers with 87 games and their iPads and laptops and Sunny D drinks and chips with them.

School is back in session now, and I guess I'll see that studious girl who lives up at the top of our court coming home from the bus stop.  The poor young lady carries so much in her backpack, she looks like the guy on the Led Zeppelin 4 album, climbing that stairway...

It's not too late for me to get in on the backpack fun, doggone it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

This and that about thoughts

It was great that three Americans visiting France were able to overpower a gunman on a train.  They, along with a Briton, received France's country's highest honor yesterday.

Spencer Stone, 23, Alek Skarlatos, 22, and Anthony Sadler, 23, three friends on a European vacation, and British businessman Chris Norman, 62, were awarded the Legion d'Honneur by French President François Hollande at the Elysée Palace.

Thorne in my side
Another great aspect of this for me, as a lifetime lover of words and languages, was that news reporters trotted out the word "thwart" as in, "American heroes thwart terrorist...details on NewsCenter 87 next!" Thwart, meaning to stop someone or prevent something, dates back to the 13th Century.

It strikes me that a lot of cool words begin with "th." Thrice comes to mind.  We all say, "I tried to call you twice last night" but who ever says "I called you thrice, so you must not have been home"?

Thud. Thong. Thump. Thirst. Thorax. Throes. Thrives. Thirsty. Thermos. Thieves. Thrombus.  Thronged.

David Letterman used to say that any word with the "k" sound was funnier than any other word that mean the same thing. I am all for using th- words as thoroughly as I can. And of course, you can find plenty more of them in any Thesaurus.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The hand that rocks the cradle also predicts the weather

I don't care who you are, what you drive, what you have for breakfast, whether you get enough exercise or whether a trip to the BuySumMor for more Ho-Hos leaves you drained and gasping. Whether you're rich as hell or poor as a churchmouse, unless your name is Dolly The Sheep, you had a mother.  You know, a woman who carried you around for nine months of gestation.

In my case, as I am fond of saying, my mother never had morning sickness until after I was born.

But seriously, folks, all of us sitting here doing whatever we're doing were born of women who deserve at least a little thanks for the ride.  It's not easy carrying another person for 3/4 of a year, although I do know a guy who has been carrying his brother-in-law since 1977.

So, since we all took Biology and Family Living classes, why is anyone shocked to see that a pregnant woman looks pregnant? And that a woman about to give birth to twins looks like she has two little babies in her womb until the time is right for them to come out and join us?  And, in case no one has noticed the calendar has flipped over a lot since the 1950s, women don't wear those maternity gowns like Lucy Ricardo did, the tent tops that tried to curtain off the area of interest.

Katie Fehlinger is the meteorologist at Channel 3 in Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love, and she has had about a bellyful of snarky remarkys about the fact that she is in the family way.

Viewers have been kindly sending insults her way, now that we live in this era of telling anyone on earth how we feel about them without even needing a stamp.  She gets Facebook feedback and emails saying such sweet things as "you look like a sausage in casing."

How precious!

Someone else stopped watching reality shows long enough to sit down and type out "Sticking your pregnant abdomen out like that is disgusting" to Katie, and she has had enough of this, and spoke her mind.

"All of a sudden, it was a like a flip switched for me," she told the Philadelphia Daily News. "I just felt the need to get it off my chest. I just had to say something."

Ms Fehlinger, pregnant with her first two children, got on Facebook and address the haters directly:

"Frankly, I don't care how 'terrible' or 'inappropriate' anyone thinks I look," Fehlinger wrote. "I will gladly gain 50 pounds & suffer sleepless, uncomfortable nights if it means upping my chances to deliver 2 healthy baby girls.
"Now it's about more than aesthetics. I want these babies to have the best start possible. And that hopefully means my belly that 'looks like it's about to explode!' will continue to grow the next few weeks," she added.
In her remarks, she noted that it's not just Neanderthal men making the hurtful comments, and also said that since she will get 12 weeks of maternity leave, she wants to spend every minute she can with the kids AFTER they're born!

Is that so wrong?  I don't think so.  And reading her page, I haven't seen any of the smart Alexes and Alexas piping up with their "Go away and hide" advice for Katie, who wrote, "I say let's raise a Shirley Temple to swollen feet, stretch marks, nausea, all the extra pounds and the dark circles! They're badges of motherhood. And for those of you who think that's 'disgusting,' remember a woman went through the very same thing to bring YOU into the world."

When it comes to babies, people can be positively infantile.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday rerun: Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Cheap

It's funny how every time some tv or movie director wants to give us the ambiance of a quiet evening out under the stars, they always dub in the sound of crickets.  I don't know about the crickets who inhabit your neighborhood, but here around the Lazy 'C' Ranch, we don't hear them outside until mid-July, the earliest.  And even then, they stay pretty quiet until after dinner, unlike the chattering birds who start howling every day just before 5 in the yawning.

And tell me, how many nights have you lain awake, wondering why people like me fret about the correct past participle of "lie" just how doggone hot it is outside?  So, you get up; it's 3:22 AM, since you were going to get up soon anyhow, and you get about two feet across the bedroom floor when you find that thumbtack you dropped the other day.  Bare feet are the best thumbtack-finders you'll ever need. Hopping like a person with a thumbtack sticking out of their foot, you get down to the kitchen, to check the thermometer.  But by this time, you don't really even care that much what the temperature is outside.

Friends, there is an easier way. Just count the chirp of a cricket for 14 seconds - and you've got your watch right on your wrist! - and then add 40! So, if you count 30 clicks in those 14 seconds, the temperature outside is 70°! What could be easier?  That's for Fahrenheit.  The formula for telling the current Celsius temp is somewhat more confusing, which could not be more appropriate.

Buddy Holly & The Crickets
This is all explained scientifically somewhere, buthere's a link to the Old Farmer's Almanac - so popular with all of us old farmers - that will let you listen to crickets chirping.   We don't know why crickets chirp more frequently as the temperature rises, but don't worry.  Crickets don't know why we can't rub our legs together and make a noise, unless we're wearing corduroy pants.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, August 22, 2015

So, in case you were wondering, yes, bumblebees have to tinkle just like anyone else.  In an emergency, they just let it fly, as this one is doing, but normally they prefer to go to a BP station.
The other night after the Mets and the Orioles played, Cuban émigré Yoenis Céspedes of the Mets (formerly of the A's, Red Sox and Tigers) showed that he knows the best seafood in the world is right here in Baltimore, and sometimes it's even better in those little neighborhood crab joints with chips hanging on the wall. He looks very happy to be photographed, am I wrong?  
Is there anything sadder than Dodg-'Em cars at an abandoned amusement park?
They don't usually perch and allow their photos to be taken, but this is what a hummingbird looks like really close up.
Authentic American School Lunch from the 1990s.  And do you see anything GREEN on that tray?  
One of my father's many talents was lettering, and this is a sign he made at the behest of his supervisors at Baltimore Gas and Electric in 1936. Apparently, people were fooling around on the ladders and sliding poles where he worked, which was then a power plant and is now The Power Plant. I don't imagine people in the 1930s flying down the sliding poles or using the ladders inappropriately, yet here is the proof that scalawags existed even then.
Some dude whose girlfriend is named Gabrielle took the time to fold pages from a book and spell her name.  The "why" I understand; the "how" puzzles me.
The good people at Nabisco, in the mid-60s, encouraged people to decorate their crackers with caviar, cheese and finely-cut vegetables.  All that is fine.  Racist caricatures were stupid then and still are, though.