Saturday, December 30, 2017

A very happy new year from...

Mr. and Mrs. Rhymeswithplague:

and their children:
and their children's spouses:
and all of the grandchildren:
In fact, a very happy new year from the entire Rhymeswithplague family:
We hope 2018 will be your best year yet, a year filled with peace, prosperity, good health, and much happiness!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

...and when it goes it leaves us here, and what shall we do for the rest of the year?

If I remember correctly (which may not be the case), the title of this post is the last two lines of a little four-line poem (that's a quatrain, folks) that I learned a very long time ago:

Christmas comes but once a year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer,
And when it goes it leaves us here,
And what shall we do for the rest of the year?

Since I Google practically everything nowadays, it turns out that the first two lines were published in The Real Mother Goose in 1916 under the title "CHRISTMAS" and the whole poem consisted of those two lines alone. I have no idea where the last two lines come from that I learned so long ago (not in 1916, mind you), but learn them I certainly did.

For your information, The Real Mother Goose contains a second poem entitled "CHRISTMAS" that goes like this:

CHRISTMAS

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat,
Please to put a penny in an old man's hat;
If you haven't got a penny a ha'penny will do,
If you haven't got a ha'penny, God bless you.

I remember that poem from my childhood as well, but I never committed it to memory. Finding it again was rather like finding an old friend, I suppose, except I haven't found any old friends lately so I do not know what that feels like exactly.

In the South, Christmas is often over on Christmas afternoon. People grow tired of a decorated tree that has stood in their home since Thanksgiving, so they take it down on Christmas Day. The hardiest and most persistent of Southerners may let their tree stay up until New Year's Day, but no longer. And some Southerners are superstitious enough to insist that it come down no later than New Year's Eve. Hardly anyone celebrates Christmas all the way to Epiphany. That would be ridiculous. If you don't know what or when Epiphany is, look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls (as Rowan and Martin used to say), if you have a Funk & Wagnalls, else just Google it on your iPhone.

Cultural rot is not pretty.

One year we didn't take our tree down until February, and then only because we didn't want to be accused of having a Valentine's Day tree. Someday someone brave enough or lazy enough will start a new trend and we'll all keep our trees up until St. Patrick's Day or April Fool's Day or the Fourth of July. Maybe it will be mandated by Donald Trump as a part of Making America Great Again. Southerners would get behind that in a heartbeat.

When I was very small, Santa brought the Christmas tree as well as the presents. Christmas in our little third-floor apartment in Rhode Island always meant that a three-foot-tall tabletop tree decorated with tinsel and other shiny decorations would miraculously be standing on the kitchen table when I woke up on the morning of December 25th. I really don't know how the grownups did it back in those days. I would have been completely exhausted. Maybe they were.

Speaking of short versions of longer poems, here's another one:

THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE

Hey, diddle, diddle!
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

Actually, this is all that remains of a longer poem that Frodo Baggins said was invented by Bilbo:

THE MAN IN THE MOON STAYED UP TOO LATE

There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
One night to drink his fill.

The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he runs his bow,
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
Now sawing in the middle.

The landlord keeps a little dog
that is mighty fond of jokes;
When there's good cheer among the guests,
He cocks an ear at all the jests
And laughs until he chokes.

They also keep a hornéd cow
as proud as any queen;
But music turns her head like ale,
And makes her wave her tufted tail
and dance upon the green.

And O! the rows of silver dishes
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there's a special pair,
And these they polish up with care
on Saturday afternoons.

The Man in the Moon was drinking deep,
and the cat began to wail;
A dish and a spoon on the table danced,
The cow in the garden madly pranced,
and the little dog chased his tail.

The Man in the Moon took another mug,
and then rolled beneath his chair;
And there he dozed and dreamed of ale,
Till in the sky the stars were pale,
and dawn was in the air.

Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat:
'The white horses of the Moon,
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master's been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun'll be rising soon!'

So the cat on his fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
'It's after three!' he said.

They rolled the Man slowly up the hill
and bundled him into the Moon,
While his horses galloped up in rear,
And the cow came capering like a deer,
and a dish ran up with the spoon.

Now quicker the fiddle went deedle-dum-diddle;
the dog began to roar,
The cow and the horses stood on their heads;
The guests all bounded from their beds
and danced upon the floor.

With a ping and a pong the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
with the silver Sunday spoon.

The round Moon rolled behind the hill
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
they all went back to bed!

Personally, I like that poem better than anything else J.R.R. Tolkien ever wrote, including Elvish languages.

Since time flies when you're having fun, my post must come to an end.

See how easy it is to come up with things to do for the rest of the year?

Here is a link to Project Gutenberg's online copy of The Real Mother Goose so that you can go explore it on your own.

Friday, December 22, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Adoption day:

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches:

Tonight all three of us will schlaf in himmlischer ruh....

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Loose ends and new possibilities

A very happy winter solstice tomorrow morning at 11:28 AM Eastern Standard Time — that’s 4:28 PM Greenwich Mean Time to those of you in the British Isles — to any Druids who happen to be passing by. That’s when the sun’s direct rays will be crossing the Tropic of Cancer or the Tropic of Capricorn or whatever it is and Old Man Winter takes his turn at the helm of our ship, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.

To those of you who wouldn’t know a hemisphere from a hemidemisemiquaver, who couldn’t care less about a solstice, winter or otherwise, may I recommend instead ”a Festivus for the rest of us” that was dreamed up by the writers of Seinfeld in 1997, or perhaps Kwanzaa that was dreamed up by Maulana Karenga in 1966, or even Betty White who was dreamed up by her parents, Christine And Horace White, in the spring of 1921, nine months before she made her first appearance on January 17, 1922.

Whatever floats your boat.

As for me and my house, we’ll be observing Christmas with members of our extended family. This month two new things have happened that will change our lives significantly. Mrs. RWP and I have begun sponsoring a little boy and a little girl at a school in Kenya, and we also will be welcoming a new doggie into our household on Friday from the humane society.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A note to my adoring public

All three of you.

I'm kidding.

Or not, as the case may be.

I'M BAAAACK!

And you didn't even know I was gone. Well I was, for several days. My computer has been to the computer doctor getting its little self all cleaned up and scoured and healthy again after I was nearly scammed by some people online who posed as Microsoft/Windows Help Desk/Network Technicians, took control of my computer remotely, and tried to convince me I needed to install a firewall for only (ONLY) $1,999.99 USD or maybe $1,680.00 or maybe a mere $500.00 immediately with 12 monthly payments of an unspecified amount to follow before they would return control to me.

As Howie Mandel might say, "Deal or No Deal?"

I won't bore you with any more of the gory details, but all is now well again in our happy household for a mere pittance of $79.00 to the aforementioned computer doctor. He doesn't make house calls, though. I had to transport my little darling impersonal communications device 20 miles to his place of business and then retrieve it a couple of days later.

As good old Will Shakespeare or Christoper Marlowe or somebody once said, "All's well that ends well."

Moving right along, it appears that unless I get very busy in the next couple of weeks, my total number of blogposts in 2017 will be less than last year's total. My long, slow decline has been in progress for some time now, and it continues apace.

Right now we are smack dab in the middle of both Hanukkah and Advent with Christmas looming on the horizon (it begins December 25th and lasts, remember, until January 6th, when it is supplanted by Epiphany) and just in case I don't get back here at all, let me wish you one and all the happiest of whatever holidays you do or do not celebrate. We will probably not be sending out Christmas cards this year, but I am grateful that we have received six to date, including one from Snowbrush in Oregon and one from All Consuming in England, which correspondents should now consider themselves duly thanked in front of the whole wide world.

Oh, and I hope your St. Lucia's Day observance yesterday was a memorable one.

(Photo by Claudia Gründer, 13 December 2006, used in accordance with CC BY-SA 3.0)

Friday, December 8, 2017

With apologies to George and Ira Gershwin, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Bublé, and the entire entertainment industry

A snowy day...

...in Canton town

It had me up...

It had me down...

I viewed the morning...

with alarm...

The Stone Mountain carving...
(photo by Pilotguy251 taken 9 July 2015, used in accordance with CC BY-SA 4.0)

...had lost its charm...
(photo by Jim Bowen taken 26 January 2012, used in accordance with CC BY-SA 2.0)

How long, I wondered, could this thing last?
But the age of miracles hadn't passed
For suddenly I saw YOU (my blogging friends) there
And in snowy Canton town the sun was shining everywhere!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

So when is Hanukkah, er, Chanukah, anyway?

November is almost over. December hasn't yet begun. Thanksgiving is history and Christmas hasn't yet arrived. But not to worry. There are other days to observe or ignore, as the case may be. For example, yesterday (November 28th) was Albanian Flag Day, commemorating the Albanian Declaration of Independence on 28 November 1912 and the rise of the Albanian flag in Vlora, coinciding with the day in which Scanderbeg raised the same flag in Kruje, on 28 November 1443.


It was also the 91st anniversary of the wedding of my wife's parents, Ksanthipi Rista and Dhimitri Kuçi, may they rest in peace, who were married on November 28, 1926, in Fier, Albania.

Moving right along, in December there is St. Nicholas Day. St. Lucia's Day. Kwanzaa. Ōmisoka. Eid in some years but not others.

And don't forget Hanukkah, or Chanukah, if you prefer. The trick with this one is not saying "Happy Hanukkah" or "Chappy Chanukah" too early or too late. A moveable feast, Hanukkah/Chanukah begins every year at sundown on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev and lasts for eight days. Since the Hebrew calendar sometimes has 12 months and sometimes has 13 months, it is also a moveable feast all by itself.

According to our old friend Wikipedia, the Hebrew calendar is a lunisolar calendar, meaning that months are based on lunar months, but years are based on solar years. ... In leap years (such as 5774) an additional month, Adar I (30 days) is added after Shevat, and the regular Adar is referred to as "Adar II."

Okay. A word of explanation. We all know that the earth's yearly trip around the sun takes approximately 365.25 days and every fourth year (.25 times 4) we add in one extra day and call it a leap year. Fewer of us know that the moon's monthly trip around the earth takes approximately 29.5 days, so to use whole numbers it takes 59 days for the moon to make two trips around the earth. Accordingly, to use whole numbers, the Hebrews decided to alternate the number of days in a month, 29 one month and 30 the next, making -- voila! -- 59 days every two months. If you multiply 59 days every two months by six to get a 12-month total, you come up with 354 days. The mathematically astute among you will grasp immediately that the Hebrew calendar, being lunar, is about 11 days shorter than 365 days. Confused? Here are the names of the Hebrew months with the number of days shown in parentheses: Nisan (30), Iyar (29), Sivan (30), Tammuz (29), Av (30), Elul (29), Tishrei (30), Marchesvan or Cheshvan (sometimes 29, sometimes 30), Kislev (sometimes 30, sometimes 29), Tevet (29), Shevat (30), and Adar (29).

As we said, a year in the Hebrew calendar is around 354 days (it can be 353 or 355, but let's keep it simple). As we learned several paragraphs ago, in leap years (such as 5774), an additional month, Adar I (30 days) is added after Shevat, and the regular Adar is referred to as "Adar II." So some years have 12 months in the Hebrew calendar and some years have 13 months in the Hebrew calendar, and to make things even more confusing the year starts in the spring instead of on January 1st. It is as though the western calendar and the Hebrew calendar never, well hardly ever, coincide. Never the twain shall meet, almost.

This explains why Hanukkah/Chanukah varies from year to year. It always begins on the 25th of Kislev, but Kislev keeps jumping around for those of us who do not follow the Hebrew calendar. Last year, for the first time in a while, Hanukkah started at sundown on Christmas Eve and ended on New Year's Day. This phenomenon will not occur again until the year 2027.

For your edification, here are the dates for the eight-day holiday known as Hanukkah (or Chanukah) for the next few years:

2017: Tuesday, December 12 through Wednesday, December 20
2018: Sunday, December 2 through Monday, December 10
2019: Sunday, December 22 through Monday, December 30
2020: Thursday, December 10 through Friday, December 18
2021: Sunday, November 28, 2021 through Monday, December 6
2022: Sunday, December 18 through Monday, December 26

There is now no excuse for your wishing your Jewish friends, if you have any Jewish friends, a "Happy Hanukkah"/"Chappy Chanukah" either too early or too late for it to sound sincere.

We close today's post with a nod in the direction of one Alexander Pope, for reasons that should be obvious:

A Little Learning
(from “An Essay On Criticism”)
by Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744)


A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts;
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise!
So pleased at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky;
The eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
But those attained, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthened way;
The increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Hills peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Does Macy's tell Gimbel's?

[Editor's note. This post is adapted and expanded from an article that first appeared in Senior Life In Georgia, to whom I am indebted. The title above is my own invention. --RWP]

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away the city of Atlanta, Thanksgiving night was a special time. The Annual Lighting of Rich's Great Tree marked the beginning of the Christmas season. Back then, most stores waited until Thanksgiving was over to start advertising for Christmas. Every Thanksgiving, after nothing was left of the turkey but the carcass, and the guests around the dining room table were but a memory, over 100,000 people often made their way to downtown Atlanta to gather in the street below the 4-story glass bridge that connected Rich's Department Store's Store for Homes and Rich's Department Store's Store for Fashion. The streets were closed off, the buses and trolleys were rerouted, the lights were all turned out in and around the area (including street lights), and one level of the bridge at a time would come to life with wonderful choirs singing Christmas carols. After all levels were lit, a powerful soloist would sing "O Holy Night!" and at the climax of the song (...O night di-VINE!!!) the Great Tree on top of the bridge would spring to life in all of its glory as huge bells began to ring in the Christmas season in Atlanta! Then, all those who watched this beautiful event joined hands and sang "Silent Night" together, There was no time in Atlanta, before or since those years, when Christmas was more glorious for adults and children.

Alas, Rich's and its chief local competitor, Davison's, are no more. They were absorbed into the big northern conglomerate known as Macy's. Eventually the downtown building that had become Macy's closed its doors and the company dispersed itself to several suburban malls. The Lighting of the Great Tree still continues after 70 years, but a couple of decades ago it was moved to the roof of Lenox Square Mall in Buckhead, the most affluent section of the city. (It doesn't get more affluent than Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.) Somehow the effect is not the same. This year's event took place last Sunday, November 19th, four days before Thanksgiving. Nobody waits for Thanksgiving to be over any more -- why wait when there is merchandise to be sold, when there are customers to be separated from their hard-earned money, and when there are profits to be made? Some eager establishments start before Halloween.

So many local traditions —- Officer Don on television, the Pink Pig train ride at Rich's, Lewis Grizzard's and Celestine Sibley's newspaper columns, Ludlow Porch's hilarious radio programs —- all of them gone with the wind.

Eventually I will be too.













Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Frugal is as frugal does

Today (the day I'm writing this post, not necessarily the day you're reading it) is the 54th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, and I have not heard a single mention of it on the telly or wireless (translation for American readers: television or radio). Plenty of stuff about Judge Roy Moore and Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose and the death of David Cassidy (a.k.a. Keith Partridge) and the pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey by the current pardoner-in-chief, but nothing at all about The Day That Apparently Will Not Live In Infamy.

Moving right along....

Our household expenses have become a little lower lately, and I thought I would share the reasons with you.

1. Our monthly telephone bill hovered around $170 USD per month for some time, and part of the reason was that it included monthly payments on two Apple iPhones and an additional line for an Android G-pad. I saved $12 per month by de-activating the G-pad line since I wasn't using it all that much, and I saved (if you can call it that) another $22 per month when one of the iPhones was finally paid in full (it took only 30, count 'em, 30 months). So now our monthly telephone bill has dropped to $136 per month. In only another two or three years the other iPhone will be paid for as well and the telephone bill will drop again. I am pleased, but I have no idea whether our bill is in the high, medium, or low range as telephone bills go. Let me know what you think.

2. We had been paying $48 per quarter for once-a-week trash and garbage removal and use of a 95-gallon wheeled cart to roll it out to the curb. A couple of years ago the bill rose to $51 per quarter because I requested a second, smaller (65 gallon) cart from the company to recycle glass, metal, paper, and cardboard. Last year the company increased their rate to $54 quarterly (just because they could, citing rising costs at their end), while simultaneously notifying all customers that glass would no longer be accepted for recycling as it had become non-profitable. Pay more and get less, as it were. I hope I'm not boring you. Anyhoo, last week we received the latest bill from the trash removal and recycling people in the amount of $69.95 for the coming quarter (Nov. 1st through Jan. 31st). Turns out that the old company has been purchased by a new company that will charge $54.95 quarterly for trash removal plus $15.00 quarterly for recycling. I did what any right-thinking payer of household bills would do. I called up the company and cancelled recycling and told them to pick up their 65-gallon cart posthaste. Henceforth the recyclable stuff will go in the plastic bags with the garbage, some of which is bio-degradable and some not, but that doesn't matter one whit when it all goes into non-biodegradable plastic bags and put into a landfill. I will save $5.00 each month (times three months in a quarter equals $15 per quarter -- I was always good at math) simply by rejecting their price rise.

I could think of some more savings, but you get the picture. Thirty-nine dollars ($39.00) per month, which would have come to $468 per year, now remains in our household budget. I'm sure the environmental people will not be pleased, but I'm determined to be impervious to their criticism.

Perhaps it is a case of "penny wise, pound foolish" as we also have a new bill of $250 per month for the next year and a half as I attempt to pay to the hospital the portion of their ministrations to me last summer that our vaunted Medicare Advantage (ha!) health plan did not cover.

One step forward and two steps back.

It was ever thus.

And so it goes (and goes, and goes).

I close with what both Ephraim Levi and Horace Van Der Gelder said to Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!: "Money, you should pardon the expression, is like manure. It doesn't do any good unless you spread it around."

Friday, November 17, 2017

'Tis the season to be busy

First, the obligatory family photos of the Alabama branch of the rhymeswithplague clan, the mama in that branch being our daughter. Here she is with her older son (center) and his father, her husband of nearly 25 years:


The occasion was the Chamber Winds concert at the university our grandson attends, in which he is co-principal French Horn player at the ripe old age of 17.

Next, here is our daughter with her younger son one day later. This time the occasion was the annual winter concert in Birmingham of the All-County Bands and Choirs from Elementary, Middle, and High Schools in Jefferson County, Alabama. Our grandson was one of the trumpet players in the High School band. Our daughter, an assistant principal in a middle school, helped accompany the Elementary Choir on her flute.


The preliminary obligatories having been completed, let us now move on to other subjects.

1. Today we received our first Christmas card of the season. It came all the way from the home of Michelle, Ken, and Rosie-Roo (their dog) in merrie olde England, where Michele (also known as our blogging friend All Consuming) created it herself. In other words, it is a treasure. Here's the outside:


...and here's the inside:


Michelle created lots of other Christmas cards too, and you can see them by clicking right here. While you're doing that, I shall be trying to figure out (a) why Michelle would send me a Rorschach test for Christmas and (b) why it contains not only some very cute birds but also some bird droppings, Santa Claus sticking his tongue out, Jeff Goldblum in his signature role as The Fly, Chucky the Clown, and possibly a panoramic view of the Battle of Balaclava from the Crimean War in 1854.

2. We are taking care of our older son's dog, Chester, until Sunday evening. Chester arrived last night from his home an hour away so that the humans in his family could get an early start today on a quick trip to North Carolina to see this weekend's football game at Duke University and bring their son back home with them for the Thanksgiving holiday. Chester is a mix of Labrador and Dachshund and is a rich chocolate brown color. Here he is resting on our leather couch because he is plumb tuckered out from all the excitement.


That's enough for now. I'm plumb tuckered out too even though I haven't done very much at all when compared to this lady.

Chester sends doggy regards to Rosie-Roo.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Boo-boos in media, example #17,643

Somebody went to a lot of trouble creating this poster and putting it up on Facebook on the anniversary of last year's presidential election, but the numbers are just plain wrong:


Actually, the 2016 electoral college vote in the U.S. presidential election was:

Donald Trump 304
Hillary Clinton 227 (not 277)
Others 4

Others? You betcha. Keep reading.

As we all should know by now, the U.S. does not elect a president by popular vote. If it did, Hillary Clinton would be president. Instead, each state chooses a slate of electors who meet later in the 50 state capitals as an Electoral College that actually selects a president and vice-president.

In the Electoral College vote last December 19, for the first time since 1808, multiple faithless electors voted against their pledged qualified presidential candidate. Five Democrats rebelled in Washington and Hawaii, while two Republicans rebelled in Texas. Two Democratic electors, one in Minnesota and one in Colorado, were replaced after voting for Bernie Sanders and John Kasich, respectively. Electors in Maine conducted a second vote after one of its members voted for Sanders; the elector then voted for Clinton. Likewise, for the first time since 1896, multiple faithless electors voted against the pledged qualified vice presidential candidate.

One Clinton elector in Colorado attempted to vote for John Kasich. The single vote was ruled invalid by Colorado state law, the elector was dismissed, and an alternative elector was sworn in who voted for Clinton.

One Clinton elector in Minnesota voted for Bernie Sanders as President and Tulsi Gabbard as vice president; his votes were discarded and he was replaced by an alternate who voted for Clinton.

One Clinton elector in Maine voted for Bernie Sanders; this vote was invalidated as "improper" and the elector subsequently voted for Clinton.

Four Clinton electors in Washington did not vote for Clinton (three votes went to Colin Powell, and one to Faith Spotted Eagle).

One Trump elector in Georgia resigned before the vote rather than vote for Trump and was replaced by an alternate.

Two Trump electors in Texas did not vote for Trump (one vote went to John Kasich, one to Ron Paul); one elector did not vote for Pence and instead voted for Carly Fiorina for Vice-President; a third resigned before the vote rather than vote for Trump and was replaced by an alternate.

One Clinton elector in Hawaii voted for Bernie Sanders.

Of the faithless votes, Colin Powell and Elizabeth Warren were the only two to receive more than one; Powell received three electoral votes for President and Warren received two for Vice President. Receiving one valid electoral vote each were Sanders, John Kasich, Ron Paul and Faith Spotted Eagle for President, and Carly Fiorina, Susan Collins, Winona LaDuke and Maria Cantwell for Vice President. Sanders is the first Jewish American to receive an electoral vote for President. LaDuke is the first Green Party member to receive an electoral vote, and Paul is the third member of the Libertarian Party to do so, following the party's presidential and vice-presidential nominees each getting one vote in 1972. It is the first election with faithless electors from more than one political party. The seven people to receive electoral votes for president were the most in a single election since 1796, and more than any other election since the enactment of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804.

And now, as radio newscaster Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story.

Yours for accuracy in media,
rhymeswithplague


Thursday, November 9, 2017

I spent Saturday afternoon with a few thousand of my closest friends

...at a college football game over in Alabama. Here are some of the highlights:










For those who were wondering, our team soundly defeated the other team. The final score was 59 to 23.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The choice is up to you

In the next few minutes would you rather explore such interesting topics as:

1. Novaya Zemlya effect

2. Euler's number

3. Lemniscate of Bernoulli

4. Occam's (or Ockham's) razor

OR

Look at my beautiful granddaughter during her school's homecoming activities:











I thought so.

Here's one last photo that shows her with her dad (our oldest son), her mom (a beauty in her own right), and her big brother (who came home all the way from his university in North Carolina just to surprise her).


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Here's what I was talking about when I was talking about...

"...the brilliant reds, the dazzling yellows,
The shocking oranges of autumn, the mountains ablaze
Against a clear blue sky."

Have a peek at autumn in north Georgia!

Monday, October 23, 2017

'Round and 'round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows

[Editor's note. Being as how (I know, Americans talk funny, or perhaps that should be funnily) it's October once again -- in many ways one of my two favorite months of the year, the other being April -- I decided to reach back in the old grab-bag and pull out a post I have put up twice before, first in 2010 and again in 2013. --RWP]


Barry Manilow has never been my favorite singer, but there’s something about this particular clip that reaches way down inside me and turns me inside out.

When October Goes (4:21)

I get the almost-a-cliché metaphor about a person’s lifespan (“Oh, it’s a long, long time from May to December, and the days grow short when you reach September” and so forth), and the leaves have turned red and gold and many of them have already fallen, and flocks of geese are in the air making their way south, and my mother died in the month of October in 1957, so this time of year always makes me a bit melancholy, but still...Barry Manilow?

There’s a little quiver in his voice -- and, yes, it may even be fabricated for effect -- and he’s a little “pitchy” (translation: out of tune) in places, but when he sings this song he somehow seems on the verge of losing his composure altogether. Maybe that’s what I’m responding to viscerally, I don’t know, the fact that we’re all in this thing together and we’re all putting on some sort of act and we’re all always dangerously close to losing control and letting everybody see how we really feel, and we certainly wouldn’t want to let that happen. Would we?

But still...

Barry Manilow?

(end of repeated post)

This time, though, I thought I would do something different and end with an original poem of mine that first appeared in my Billy Ray Barnwell Here blog because, well, it is October.


October 25, 2004

Our friend Carolyn came over for lunch
And as we finished at the table
Someone said, “Let’s go for a ride!”
So into the car we piled,
Like children giddy with anticipation,
Not knowing where we were headed
But eager to be having an adventure;
And someone said, “Where shall we go?”
And we said, “We don’t know!”
And someone else said, “Name a direction!”
And because the fall thus far at home
Had been drab and disappointing,
We headed north toward the mountains, laughing.

Five hours later we returned,
Tired but invigorated,
Having been to Helen and Unicoi Gap
And Hiawassee and Lake Chatuge,
Making all of the hairpin turns
And ascending, always ascending, until
We crested and began to descend
Through another set of hairpin turns,
And all the while we oohed and ahhed
And said how glad we were that we had come,
Drinking in the brilliant reds, the dazzling yellows,
The shocking oranges of autumn, the mountains ablaze
Against a clear blue sky.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Figures never lie, but liars often figure

Here are some interesting figures that Ted Nugent, the musician who is a well-known advocate of gun ownership rights, posted on Facebook:

There are 30,000 gun-related deaths per year by firearms in the U.S., and this number is not disputed. The U.S. population was 324,059,091 as of Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Do the math: 0.000000925% of the population dies from gun-related actions each year. Statistically speaking, this is insignificant! What is never told, however, is a breakdown of those 30,000 deaths, to put them in perspective as compared to other causes of death:

• 65% of those deaths are by suicide, which would never be prevented by gun laws
• 15% are by law enforcement in the line of duty and justified
• 17% are through criminal activity, gang and drug-related, or mentally ill persons - gun violence
• 3% are accidental discharge deaths

So technically, "gun violence" is not 30,000 annually but drops to 5,100. Still too many? Well, first, how are those deaths spread across the nation?

• 480 homicides (9.4%) were in Chicago
• 344 homicides (6.7%) were in Baltimore
• 333 homicides (6.5%) were in Detroit
• 119 homicides (2.3%) were in Washington D.C. (a 54% increase over prior years)

So basically, 25% of all U.S. gun crime happens in just 4 cities. All 4 of those cities have strict gun laws, so it is not the lack of law that is the root cause.

This basically leaves 3,825 for the entire rest of the nation, or about 75 deaths per state. That is an average because some States have much higher rates than others. For example, California had 1,169 and Alabama had 1.

Now, who has the strictest gun laws by far? California, of course, but understand, it is not guns causing this. It is a crime rate spawned by the number of criminal persons residing in those cities and states. So if all cities and states are not created equally, then there must be something other than the tool causing the gun deaths.

Are 5,100 deaths per year horrific? How about in comparison to other deaths? All death is sad and especially so when it is in the commission of a crime but that is the nature of crime. Robbery, death, rape, assault are all done by criminals, and thinking that criminals will obey laws is ludicrous. That's why they are criminals.

But what about other deaths in the U.S. each year?

• 40,000+ die from a drug overdose
• 36,000 people die per year from the flu, far exceeding the criminal gun deaths
• 34,000 people die per year in traffic fatalities (exceeding gun deaths even if you include suicide)

Now it gets good.

200,000+ people die each year (and growing) from preventable medical errors. You are safer in Chicago than when you are in a hospital.

710,000 people die per year from heart disease. It's time to stop the double cheeseburgers! What is the point? If the anti-gun movement focused their attention on heart disease, even a 10% decrease in cardiac deaths would save twice the number of lives annually of all gun-related deaths (including suicide, law enforcement, etc.). A 10% reduction in medical errors would be 66% of the total gun deaths or 4 times the number of criminal homicides.

So you have to ask yourself, in the grand scheme of things, why the focus on guns? It's pretty simple: Taking away guns gives control to governments.

The founders of this nation knew that regardless of the form of government, those in power may become corrupt and seek to rule as the British did by trying to disarm the populace of the colonies. It is not difficult to understand that a disarmed populace is a controlled populace.

Thus, the second amendment was proudly and boldly included in the U.S. Constitution. It must be preserved at all costs.

The next time someone tries to tell you that gun control is about saving lives, look at these facts and remember these words from Noah Webster: "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force at the command of Congress can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional, for they will possess the power."

Remember, when it comes to "gun control," the important word is "control," not "gun."

[Here endeth the reading of the Facebook post. Yup, you weren't reading me, you were reading Ted Nugent.]

The most unbelievable figure in that piece -- my jaw almost hit the floor -- is "Alabama had 1." If that is not a downright lie, it is a whopper of a typographical error.

I did a little digging on my own. You might be interested in seeing what another group says about gun deaths in Alabama.

Here's another one.

Perhaps we are comparing apples and oranges. Then again, perhaps not.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Dream a little dream with me

Your ship finally came in and there was not a dock strike, so there are no impediments to your receiving the huge fortune bequeathed to you by your Great-uncle Alphonse. You didn’t even know that you had a Great-uncle Alphonse, but no matter. The money is indeed yours. You squeal with delight when you learn that you will be receiving one trillion dollars, but there are two catches. The terms of Uncle Alphonse’s will stipulate that at midnight tonight you will begin receiving one dollar per second, but you will not have access to any of the money until the entire trillion dollars has been transferred to you.

Care to guess when that will be? Well, you don’t have to guess because I have done the heavy lifting and figured it out for you. You may be surprised.

First, though, a word of explanation for friends in other countries: In the calculations below, I will be using American understanding of the values billion and trillion, that is, 1,000,000,000 (1e9) and 1,000,000,000,000 (1e12), respectively, and not some other definition of what those terms may mean in other parts of the world. I know. I am an ugly American.

Let's see how long it will take for you to become a trillionaire. Bear with me while I calculate.

By 12:17 AM you will have amassed $1,000 USD. By 2:47 AM you will have amassed $10,000 USD. By 3:47 AM on Day 2 your fortune will have reached $100,000 USD. And in the early afternoon on the eleventh day, you will have become a millionaire.

So far, so good. The entire inheritance should be yours in practically no time and you can begin spending it, right?

Wrong.

You will probably be surprised to learn just how far it is between a million and a billion, and how far it is between a billion and a trillion.

At the rate of $86,400 per day (there are that many seconds in a day) and a million dollars every eleven and a half days, you will become a billionaire in -- wait for it -- 31 years, 8 months. I am not even kidding. But the end is not yet. To gain access, finally, to the entire trillion dollars your Great-uncle Alphonse so generously left to you, you will have to wait a mere 31,710 years.

Editor's note. I fudged a little. To make the calculations easier, I used 365 days in a year. But we all know that thanks to Julian Assange Fellowes Lennon calendars, we add a Leap Day every four years, except every 100 years, when we don't, except every 400 years, when we do, because our earth's orbit around the sun takes 365-1/4 days, not 365. So let's adjust our answer a little. In 100 years time we will have added 24 extra days, which means that in 1000 years we will have added 240 days, which means that in 4000 years we will have added 960 days, plus ten more for those ten years in there divisible by 400. That's 970 days added every 4000 years and we're talking about 31,710 years before you can get your hands on all that money. That's nearly 32,000 years, and 32,000 divided by 4,000 is 8, so multiply those 970 extra days by 8 (I tire of all the exactitude) and assuming you are still alive 31,710 years from now, you'll still have to wait 7,760 more days or another 21 years (approximately) until you can get your hands on all that cash. --RWP

The moral of this post is simply this: Don't count your chickens before they're hatched, because it is a long way to Tipperary.

Yours from mixed-metaphor land,

RWP

Thursday, September 28, 2017

To commemorate this auspicious occasion,

...the tenth anniversary of the one and only rhymeswithplague blog, I wanted to show you the last rose of summer. which surely would remind many of you young whipper-snappers of moi.

However, I cannot show you the last rose of summer because (a) I do not have any roses and (b) my neighbors who do have roses of the popular "knockout" variety have many, many roses currently and I have no clue at this point which of them will turn out to be the last one of the year.

Therefore, I will show you what I do have, which are our encore azaleas (so named because they bloom both spring and fall) and our beautiful sasanqua camellia which blooms every year in September and October. We have had this particular bush for 13 years now. I have no idea how old it was when Phoebe E., our landscaper, planted it near our front door, but like this blog, it endures. Camellias seem to be both hardy and fragile (I think of Greta Garbo in her most famous role) but the individual blooms do not last long. The petals fall to the ground daily and are supplanted by more of their kind. This seems to me to be symbolic of blogs and bloggers in general, and I for one am happy to have continued as long as I have.

I may be gone in a moment's notice or stay around for quite a spell -- no one knows for sure -- but while I remain I intend to bloom my guts out for your reading enjoyment.


The jury is still out on whether this blog is written by a budding genius or a blooming idiot.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The world is not ending today after all, but the world as we know it is ending

So says a man named David Meade who is about as kooky as they come. Maybe kooky is too harsh a word. Loony. That's much better.

He has lots and lots of details about the planet Jupiter and the constellation Virgo and a heretofore unnoticed planet called either Planet X or Nibiru (take your pick) that has supposedly entered the solar system and will crash into the earth shortly. You can read all about this stuff somewhere else if you care to, because I will not dignify the ruse scam nonsense matter further.

Religious nuts (of which I am not one) do this all the time. The movement that became the Seventh-Day Adventist Church said Christ would return in 1844, and when He didn't they modified their doctrine a bit. The movement that became the Jehovah's Witnesses said Christ would return in 1914, and when He didn't they modified their doctrine a bit. There was a big expectation among certain people that the world would end in 1987, but they had to modify their doctrine a bit. At one point in the 1970s, some people in South Florida began moving to Maggie Valley, North Carolina to avoid the wrath to come. How that would have helped I do not know. Does anyone remember Hal Lindsay? Harold Camping?

Somehow the return of Christ and the end of the world are intertwined, or they're not, depending on where you wish to place your money.

It's all about the money.

I just checked Amazon and all sorts of apocalyptic titles are waiting for you to snap them up at very reasonable prices ($3.99, $6.99, $10.91, $11.11).

Some apocalyptic titles have to do with nuclear catastrophe instead of the return of Christ, such as Alas, Babylon which I read about forty years ago, and The Postman, which was made into a movie starring Kevin Costner, and we mustn't leave out The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Nuclear catastrophe seems much more likely in the overall scheme of things than the Planet Nibiru crashing into earth, don't you think?

This has been another semi-fascinating post to make you aware of what's going on around you that you aren't even aware of.

This post could probably benefit from a beginning, a middle, and an ending, but it is what it is.

For those of you who remember him, Putz is beginning to seem more lucid all the time.

Editor's note. An update for readers of yesterday's post. On 13 February 2017, Kim Jong-nam was assassinated. He died after being attacked by two women with VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia while traveling from Macau under a pseudonym. The death is under investigation but it is speculated that it was carried out by the North Korean government. --RWP

Friday, September 22, 2017

Today may be the equinox, but I'm definitely unbalanced

As we say in the New World, in life as in the dictionary, perspicacity precedes perspicuity.

I'm pulling your leg. We don't really say that. I do, but we don't.

In 1990, the 15 most common surnames in the United States were Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown, Davis, Miller, Wilson, Moore, Taylor, Anderson, Thomas, Jackson, White, and Harris. By 2010, according to the Census people, the 15 most common surnames in the United States were Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Garcia, Miller, Davis, Rodriguez, Martinez, Hernandez, Lopez, Gonzalez, Wilson, and Anderson. The times, they are a-changin'. Do you detect a trend? Yes, yes indeedy.

In England, the name given most often to baby boys in 2017 is Muhammed. Apparently there is a trend going on there as well.

There once lived in North Korea a man named Kim Il-sung. Kim Il-sung had a son named Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-il also had a son. American late-night television comedian David Letterman used to say that Kim Jong-il's son was Menta Lee-il, but even though he may have been correct, Kim Jong-il's son was actually named Kim Jong-un. He has been in the news a lot lately. Kim Jong-il had other sons as well, Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-chul, about whom we never hear anything at all. Apparently they are keeping a low profile.*

*One fervently hopes our own Dear Leader in Washington D.C. will do the same.

This post is not supposed to make any sense.

So far I am succeeding.

Happy equinox to you all.

Also, a very happy Rosh Hashanah.

Monday, September 11, 2017

All Irma, all the time


I'm not saying it wasn't bad in Florida, because it was, but it seems to me that just as the History Channel seemed for a while a few years ago to be the "All Hitler, all the time" channel, the news channels for the last couple of days have been "All Irma, all the time." That enhanced satellite image up there of where Irma was at 8:06 AM EDT (12:06 PM GMT) today looks really, really bad, but at this moment north Georgia is receiving only a very light rain, the long, slow kind that the grass loves.

Irma is no longer classified as a Category 4, 3, 2, or even 1 hurricane. She is a tropical storm now. Things may change by this afternoon, and probably will, but that is no reason for everybody in Georgia and Alabama and South Carolina to panic. Well, maybe South Carolina. But the 24/7 coverage the last few days of Irma's slow progress seemed to me to be more of an exercise by government officials in learning how well the populace will respond to instructions from on high.

As usual, this has been one man's opinion.

Other things were happening in the world as well, which one would never have known from watching the news channels. Twenty-four hours a day of relentless coverage of a single story, important as it may be, is not my idea of a news channel. Where was the Mexico earthquake? Where was Kim Jong Un? Where was the run-up to the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11/2001? Where was Prince George's first day of school? Where was the Georgia Tech versus Jacksonville State University football game?

And another thing: Since government in this country is increasingly a top-down effort (rather than a bottom-up effort as God and the United States Constitution intended), the Federal Government apparently sent a man to oversee fleets of ambulances to (where else?) the capital city of Florida, Tallahassee, to help evacuate the elderly and residents of hospitals and assisted-living centers in the Miami area. The announcement was accompanied by self-congratulatory pats on their own backs and speeches from government officials all around. Friends, Tallahassee is 480 miles from Miami. This is akin to having an emergency weather event in Sheffield, Yorkshire, and sending fleets of ambulances to the Isle of Lewis.

Rant over. I think. Everyone is glad, of course, that the damage done by hurricane Irma turned out to be much lower than anticipated.

In our family, however, the most important event of the weekend was that our Alabama grandson in the JSU band received a visit from his Georgia aunt and uncle:


You probably can't spot him on the field, but you can definitely enjoy the sound of the band (4:32).

Unfortunately for JSU fans, the final score of the game was Georgia Tech 37, Jacksonville State 10.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Time may pass, but some things do not change

Here's a song from 1917:

There are smiles that make us happy
There are smiles that make us blue
There are smiles that steal away the tear drops
As the sunbeams steal away the dew

There are smiles that have a tender meaning
That the eyes of love alone may see
And the smiles that fill my heart with sunshine
Are the smiles that you give to me

(from "Smiles" (1917), lyrics by J. Will Callahan, music by Lee S. Roberts)

Here is a 2017 demonstration of the above by some people I know:







From top to bottom, these photographs were made at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina; at Indian Rocks Beach, Florida; and at Orange Beach, Alabama.

Sumer (with apologies to Robert Burns) is no longer icumen in; in fact, it is a-goin' out. Nevertheless, even though Mrs. RWP and I have stayed close to home, we are also smiling.