Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Adrian Ward! Calling Adrian Ward!

...or anyone else who might be able to identify these fungi/mushrooms/toadstools/whatever-they-are that suddenly appeared in my yard this week after some rather heavy rains.

The first morning there were four, all of which shriveled in the sun and were gone by mid-afternoon. The next day nine more appeared, then 16 on the third day. I try to ignore them, but they aren't going away. In fact, they're multiplying. By the fourth day, as shown in the photograph below, there were 35.

I fear I am being invaded by alien creatures who are planning my demise, so a reply is requested at your earliest convenience.

Thank you for your prompt consideration, and may the Force be with you.



Thursday, May 17, 2018

Not only has spring sprung, sumer is icumen in

As proof, here are two views of my neighbors' rhododendrons, or maybe they are mountain laurel (the flowers, not the neighbors). I can never remember. I'm pretty sure they are rhododendrons.



In case you are wondering, I didn't go into my neighbors' yard. I stood next to the wooden fence that separates our properties.

Mrs. RWP and I are treated daily to this wonderful display outside our bedroom window. Our neighbors, whom we’ve known for 15 years, are no longer able to enjoy their lovely terraced garden. Peggy, 85, is slowly sliding into dementia. Rube, who will be 90 in September, built the entire hillside himself over a period of several years. Two months ago they moved into an assisted-living facility about four miles away. Their daughter, who is in her mid-sixties and lives in another town, took Pepper, their five-year-old miniature schnauzer, into her own home to look after.

We went to visit our friends a few days ago and it broke my heart to see Peggy holding a plush stuffed toy dog in her lap, a grey miniature schnauzer that was a farewell gift from another neighbor, and talking to it softly. Before we left, I presented Peggy and Rube with 8x10 copies of both photographs so that they can enjoy their garden this year as well.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

This just in: Yahoo News (or maybe AFP) prefers dangling participles over passive voice

I was startled today by the following link to a Yahoo News article on the Drudge Report website:

Fleeing conflict, elephants help Myanmar villagers to safety

You do see the problem, don't you? The headline has the elephants doing the fleeing instead of the Myanmar villagers.

I'm not making this up. In fact, here's the complete article, along with an AFP (Agence France-Presse) photo of one of the elephants, from which one of the villagers appears to be, well, dangling.

I thought immediately of an amusing old collection of grammar rules in which each rule violated itself. Specifically, I thought of my favorite, "When dangling, watch your participles."

What should the headline writer (I do not call him or her a journalist) have written instead?

There are a couple of possibilities. One is to write in passive voice:

Fleeing conflict, Myanmar villagers are helped to safety by elephants

However, if you are unalterably opposed to using passive voice (and I feel it in my bones that many of you are), you could simply move the misplaced modifier to its proper position in the headline:

Elephants help Myanmar villagers fleeing conflict to safety

I now close this fascinating post with a famous "droodle" by Roger Price called Four Elephants Examining an Orange:


The jury is still out on whether the orange is fleeing anything.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Emails, we get emails, we get stacks and stacks of emails, or If you want cash, go to Helen

Back in the dear, dead days beyond recall 1950s, singer Perry Como would put us all to sleep with his laid-back singing style always end his weekly television programs with a medley of songs introduced by a catchy little ditty that went "Letters, we get letters, we get stacks and stacks of letters" and here is a clip from his December 10, 1955, show to prove it. It includes "Love and Marriage", "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and "Embraceable You" (6:13). If you're not asleep by the end of it, it isn't Perry's fault.

Now that that's out of the way, I just want to say that I get emails, I get emails, I get stacks and stacks of emails, most of which are trying to sell me something. Just this morning I received one that shouted, "BIBLE BASED BELLYFAT BREAKTHROUGH". Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether BELLYFAT is one word or two words, I am wondering whether it is the BELLYFAT or the BREAKTHROUGH that is BIBLE BASED. Any help you can provide in solving my dilemma will be greatly appreciated.

And, wouldn't you just know it, I continue to be the target of obvious scammers. Here's one from a "Mrs.Helen Sheppard" who I'm fairly certain is either an unscrupulous man in Nigeria or a robot in Russia:

Greetings,Respond Immediately

My name is Helen Sheppard a widow from United States Married to late Victor Sheppard; I am in a hospital at the moment undergoing treatment for Esophagi Cancer in Switzerland. I write to you in good faith and hoping that you will understand the importance of my email.My decision to contact you is because I have been recently diagnosed with Cancer and the doctor said that I have less than 7 weeks to live.

My late husband worked with SOLHAM OIL COMPANY Benin before his death. I have been reflecting over my life in the past. It is painful that after over 21 years of peaceful marriage with my late husband, we had no child of our own that will inherit our numerous wealth. Based on this my present health condition I have decided to donate US$4.5 Million Dollars for the Less Privileged orphanage/motherless babies before I die due to advise according to my late Husband in my last dream.

Beloved i wish to see this project completed and 40% will be set-aside for your humble Assistance and 60% will be for the project. I sincerely believe you are a GOD-fearing person who can help me out and maintain my last wishes without betray.

I want you to contact me back through (email address) so i can give you the information to contact the bank where the money is deposited.

My regards,
Mrs.Helen Sheppard.



Even though I (a) appreciate that Mrs.Sheppard wrote in good faith, (b) certainly do understand the importance of her email, and (c) am definitely a GOD-fearing person, I will not be helping her out or maintaining her last wishes without betray.

The moral of this story is simple: If you want cash, go to Helen, at least for the next 7 weeks.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

I (heart) Peggy Noonan

Back in 2009 I wrote two posts called "I (heart) Peggy Noonan" and "I (heart) Peggy Noonan, part deux". Today I'm writing about Peggy Noonan again, so this post should probably have been called "I (heart) Peggy Noonan, part trois". I don't care. What I have written, I have written. A year's free subscription to my blog (folks, it's free already) if, without looking it up, you can identify the person who most famously uttered the previous sentence, and why. (Hint: It wasn't necessarily in English.)

[Editor's note. Since I didn't want to send you off on wild goose chases, please notice that I did not include links to those two 2009 posts about Peggy Noonan because the links in those posts to columns written by the aforementioned Peggy Noonan for the Wall Street Journal no longer connect to those columns. They are now forever lost in the annals of time or at least in the archives of the Wall Street Journal. --RWP]

To be clear, I don't (heart) the actual living, breathing Peggy Noonan who looked like this in a 2016 photograph by American photographer Gage Strickland:


No, friends, I (heart) Peggy Noonan's way with words. She is a wordsmith of the first order.

Wikipedia says of her, "In 1984, Noonan, as a speechwriter for President Reagan, authored his "Boys of Pointe du Hoc" speech on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. She also wrote Reagan's address to the nation after the Challenger explosion, drawing upon the poet John Magee's words about aviators who "slipped the surly bonds of earth... and touched the face of God." The latter is ranked as the eighth best American political speech of the 20th century, according to a list compiled by professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M University. The "Pointe du Hoc" speech ranks as the 58th best speech of the century....Later, while working for then Vice President George H. W. Bush, Noonan coined the phrase "a kinder, gentler nation" and also popularized "a thousand points of light," two memorable catchphrases used by Bush. Noonan also wrote the speech in which Bush pledged: "Read my lips: no new taxes" during his 1988 presidential nomination acceptance speech in New Orleans (Bush's subsequent reversal of this pledge is often cited as a reason for his defeat in his 1992 re-election campaign)."

At long last, we finally come to the reason for this particular post, Peggy Noonan's column of April 26, 2018, entitled "What Does This Moment Demand of Us?"

Happy reading. I hope you will (heart) Peggy Noonan too.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

As Little Orphan Annie used to say, "Leapin' Lizards!"

On November 28, 2014, in a post entitled "Up, up, and away...", I showed you this photo of our grandson, who was 18 at the time:


...and followed it with this text:

"He floats through the air with the greatest of ease, this daring young man sans a flying trapeze.

"Peter Pan, eat your heart out."

Turns out it runs in the family. Our grandson has a younger sister who began dancing at an early age. Here she is at the age of two:


She is almost 18 now herself. The following photo was made last month during a rehearsal of the Dream Ballet sequence at the end of the first act of Oklahoma!, in which she had the starring role of Laurey. Oh, yes, she sings and acts too.













I have included a plot summary of Oklahoma! from wikipedia at the end of this post for readers who may not be familiar with the play. I spare no expense and try to think of everything where my readers are concerned.






Here she is again a few weeks later during a dance recital program.
































To top everything off, she was chosen by her classmates to be Queen of the Prom last week.

I suppose instead of quoting Little Orphan Annie in the title of this post I could just as well have quoted what Samuel F. B. Morse said upon the invention of the telegraph machine, "What hath God wrought?"

Here's the summary of Oklahoma! I promised. It's really more of a blow by blow description:

Act I
In Oklahoma territory in 1906, cowboy Curly McLain looks forward to the beautiful day ahead as he wanders into farm girl Laurey Williams's yard ("Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'"). He and Laurey tease each other, while her Aunt Eller looks on. There will be a box social dance that night, which includes an auction of lunch baskets prepared by the local women to raise funds for a schoolhouse. The man who wins each basket will eat the lunch with the lady who prepared it. Curly asks Laurey to go with him, but she refuses, feeling that he has waited too long. He attempts to persuade her by telling her that he will take her in the finest carriage money can buy ("The Surrey with the Fringe on Top"), but she teases him about it until he says he made it up to get back at her. She flounces off, not realizing that he really has rented such a rig.

The lonely, disturbed farm hand Jud Fry has become obsessed with Laurey and asks her to the dance. She accepts to spite Curly, although she is afraid of Jud. Meanwhile, cowboy Will Parker returns bedazzled and souvenir-laden from a trip to modern Kansas City ("Kansas City"). He won $50 at the fair, which, according to his girlfriend Ado Annie's father, Andrew Carnes, is the money he needs to marry Ado Annie. Unfortunately, he spent all the money on gifts for her. Will also purchased a "Little Wonder" (a metal tube used for looking at pictures, but with a hidden blade inside) for Ado Annie's father, unaware of its deadly secret. Later, Ado Annie confesses to Laurey that while Will has been away, she has been spending a lot of time with Ali Hakim, a Persian peddler. Laurey tells her she'll have to choose between them, but Ado Annie insists she loves them both ("I Cain't Say No"). Laurey and her friends prepare for the social, while Gertie Cummings flirts with Curly (her obnoxious laugh floating in to taunt Laurey). Laurey tells her friends that she doesn't really care about Curly ("Many a New Day").

Andrew Carnes discovers Annie with Ali Hakim. After questioning Ado Annie about their relationship, he forces Hakim at gunpoint to agree to marry her. Hakim and the other men lament the unfairness of the situation ("It's a Scandal! It's a Outrage!"). Curly discovers that Laurey is going to the box social with Jud and tries to convince her to go with him instead. Afraid to tell Jud she won't go with him, Laurey tries to convince Curly (and herself) that she does not love him ("People Will Say We're in Love"). Hurt by her refusal, Curly goes to the smokehouse where Jud lives to talk with him. Curly suggests that since Jud does not feel appreciated, he could hang himself, and everyone would realize how much they care about him ("Pore Jud Is Daid"). Their talk turns into an ominous confrontation about Laurey. After Curly leaves, Jud's resolve to win Laurey becomes even stronger, and he vows to make her his bride ("Lonely Room").

Confused by her feelings for Curly and her fear of Jud, Laurey purchases a "magic potion" (referred to as smelling salts, but actually laudanum) from Ali Hakim, which the unscrupulous peddler guarantees will reveal her true love. She muses on leaving her dreams of love behind and joining the man she loves ("Out of My Dreams"), then falls asleep under the influence of the opiate ("Dream Sequence"). In an extended dream ballet sequence, Laurey first dreams of what marriage to Curly would be like. Her dream takes a nightmarish turn when Jud appears and kills Curly. She cannot escape him, confused by her desires. The dream makes her realize that Curly is the right man for her, but it is too late to change her mind about going to the dance with Jud; he has come for her, and they leave for the box social.

Act II
At the social, during an upbeat square dance ("The Farmer and the Cowman"), the rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys over fences and water rights has led to fighting, which Aunt Eller ends by firing a gun to silence everyone. Laurey is upset when she sees Curly at the dance with Gertie. In an effort to rid himself of Ado Annie, Ali Hakim buys Will's souvenirs from Kansas City for $50. Jud also contributes to this by purchasing Will's Little Wonder, knowing of the blade concealed within it. The auction starts and Will bids $50 on Ado Annie's basket, not realizing that without the $50, he would no longer have the money her father insisted he needs to "purchase" marriage with her. Desperate to be rid of Ado Annie, the peddler bids $51 to get the basket so that Will can approach Andrew Carnes with the $50 and claim Ado Annie as his bride. The auction becomes much more serious when Laurey's basket comes up for auction. Jud has saved all his money so he can win Laurey's basket. Various men bid, trying to protect Laurey, but Jud outbids them all. Curly and Jud engage in a ferocious bidding war, and Curly sells his saddle, his horse, and even his gun to raise money. Curly outbids Jud and wins the basket. Jud discreetly tries to kill Curly with the Little Wonder, but his plan is foiled when Aunt Eller (knowing what is happening) loudly asks Curly for a dance. Later that night, Will and Annie work out their differences, as she reluctantly agrees not to flirt with other men ("All Er Nuthin'").

Jud confronts Laurey about his feelings for her. When she admits that she does not return them, he threatens her. She then fires him as her farm hand, screaming at him to get off her property. Jud furiously threatens Laurey before he departs; Laurey bursts into tears and calls for Curly. She tells him that she has fired Jud and is frightened by what Jud might do now. Curly, seeing that she has turned to him for guidance and safety, reassures her and proposes to her, and she accepts ("People Will Say We're In Love (Reprise)"). He then realizes that he must now become a farmer. Afterwards, Ali Hakim decides to leave the territory and bids Ado Annie goodbye after telling her Will is the man she should marry.

Three weeks later, Laurey and Curly are married and everyone rejoices in celebration of the territory's impending statehood ("Oklahoma"). During the celebration, Ali Hakim returns with his new wife, Gertie, whom he unwillingly married after being threatened by her father with a shotgun. A drunken Jud reappears, harasses Laurey by kissing her and punches Curly, and they begin to fist fight. Jud attacks Curly with a knife and Curly dodges, causing Jud to fall on his own knife. Jud soon dies. The wedding guests hold a makeshift trial for Curly, at Aunt Eller's urging, as the couple is due to leave for their honeymoon. The judge, Andrew Carnes, declares the verdict: "not guilty!" Curly and Laurey depart on their honeymoon in the surrey with the fringe on top ("Finale Ultimo").

(end of plot summary)

Monday, April 23, 2018

They say that Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn

...but be careful or you might call the pope a potato (12:12).

Señor Wences's little friend used to say, "For you easy, for me difficult."


In the fifth grade I learned a sentence in Spanish, "Este es el gato" (This is the cat). It was the only thing I knew in Spanish for many years. One day when I was in my fifties a gang of us at work decided to go out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant. As we were being shown to our table, Paul (a temporary employee who was never offered a permanent position) called out loud enough for everyone in the place to hear,"Donde es las mujeres?" and every waiter turned to look at us. It was pretty embarrassing, and even more so when I learned that Paul was saying, "Where are the women?"

I had learned my second sentence in Spanish.

Paul was, how you say, a little loco in the cabeza.

But then, aren't we all?

I can also say "Good morning" in Albanian (Mirë mengjes), "Goodbye" in Japanese (Sayonara), "Thank you" in Portuguese (Obrigado), and "Where is the men's toilet?" in Swedish (Var finns der herrtoaletten?).

My passport expired in 1979. It's probably a good thing.