Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day weekend

Along with all the trips to the beach and the going to baseball games and the having backyard cookouts, take a little time to remember the brave men and women who made our freedom possible:

This photograph was made at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. I read the other day that there are 123 national cemeteries in the United States. My Memorial Day post from two years ago shows one in Arkansas, courtesy of Pat -- an Arkansas photographer.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Maybe we should all move to Birmingham, Alabama

Not only would we be able to attend the annual celebration of Do Dah Day (see my post of May 16th), and not only might we run into Yorkshire Pudding’s daughter at one of the local institutions of higher learning, but now, thanks to a nice lady named Virginia who created the Birmingham, Alabama Daily Photo blog and told us about Do Dah Day in the first place, we have just learned of another important and unforgettable Birmingham celebration -- have your smelling salts ready -- Spring-a-Ling-a-Ding-Dong!!!

What’s not to like about an event that includes a bread toss, a hula hoop contest, a Chicken Lady, and the mock beheading of Marie Antoinette?

And all over Birmingham and north central Alabama, radio listeners tune in daily to hear the latest wisdom from Rick and Bubba.

Maybe there’s something in the water over there.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I’m no longer Alabamy bound

[Update: Because of a rare malady called bloggerus idioticus, yours truly neglected to include the link to the video clip at the place in this post where it should be possible to link to a video clip. This oversight has now been corrected, yours truly has been severely reprimanded, and the link is working properly. --RWP, May 26th, 1600 hours EDT]

We drove over to Alabamistan on Sunday afternoon. As usual, we first threw a couple of loads of laundry into the washing machine (one at a time, of course) and then into the dryer (ditto), turned up the thermostat on the air conditioner (because north Georgia has already had temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), bought two new toothbrushes, packed our suitcases, dropped off Jethro at his favorite doggie dude ranch, and we were on our way.

I wanted to include at this point in this post a video clip of someone singing “I’m Alabamy Bound” and accompanying him- or herself on the banjo, but the clips I found that included banjos had no singing and the clips I found that included singing had no banjos. The nearest thing I found was a man who accompanied his singing (I use the term loosely) on something called an Autoharp, but it is my goal to keep you wonderful folks out there in Blogland coming back to my blog, not running from the room with your hands over your ears.

Having just missed last week’s 31st annual Do Dah Day parade in Birmingham, Mrs. RWP and I have consoled ourselves on this trip by attending (a) the birthday party of one grandson and (b) the presentation of honors by their school to two grandsons.

Today we have returned to our beloved Cherokee County, Georgia, where accompanying oneself on an Autoharp while singing “I’m Alabamy Bound” is considered a crime against humanity.

What the heck, I’m going to go ahead and throw in the video clip anyway just to get your reactions. It may help, while watching and listening to it, to try to picture the original manuscript of the poem “Kubla Khan” ten seconds after poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge had penned the words “A damsel with a dulcimer...”

On second thought, no, it won’t.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Do you know the way to San Jose?

You may think this story is not true, but it really happened.

Sometime around 1990, give or take a few years either way (in other words, I don’t remember when exactly), the Information Technology team in our Atlanta office was involved in training new users of our warehouse distribution computer system (inventory control, order fulfillment, shipping, billing, the whole shebang) at several of our company’s warehouses around the country, including installing the system and being on-site during cutover week.

This was no Mom-and-Pop outfit I was part of. It was a big deal.

Anyhow, if I recall correctly, shortly before the cutover to our system at the Rocklin, California, facility (think Sacramento area), the team had installed the system in Phoenix or Denver or someplace. In another week the northern California cutover was scheduled. One of our team members, Tom Thornton, decided not to return home to Atlanta with the rest of us. He told us that he wanted to take some vacation time, stay out west, visit relatives in Los Angeles, and that he would meet us all the following week in northern California. He exchanged his return ticket to Atlanta for one to Los Angeles, and after arriving in Los Angeles he bought a ticket to Oakland. He planned to rent a car after arriving in Oakland and drive the rest of the way to Rocklin so that he could see more of California.

On the day he was due to fly to Oakland, Tom was walking through the Los Angeles airport toward a particular departure gate when he heard an announcement over the public-address system, “Last call for passengers for Oakland, now boarding at Gate such-and-such,” so he changed direction and headed for the new gate, thinking he would try to get on this earlier flight if there was room. This was in the days before the Homeland Security people hovered over every aspect of air travel.

Tom made it to the gate just before the doors were closing and, as luck would have it, there was plenty of room. Very quickly he was ushered onto the plane by the airline’s representative because they wanted to be on their way. He took his seat, the plane taxied out to the runway, and they were off.

The plane headed out to sea and Tom thought, “Oh, good, we’re going to fly over water. I’ll probably get some really good views of the California coastline on this flight.”

After a half-hour of flying west, however, Tom began to wonder when the pilot was going to make the turn to the north and bring the coastline back into view. After another half-hour, the pilot turned south instead of north, Tom rang for the flight attendant and asked, “Why did the plane turn in the opposite direction from where San Francisco Bay is?”

The flight attendant said, “Because this plane isn’t going to San Francisco.”

“I know that,” Tom said, “but Oakland is in the San Francisco Bay area.”

"Oakland?” said the flight attendant. “This plane isn’t going to Oakland. We’re going to Auckland. Our destination is Auckland, New Zealand.”

So the flight attendant went and talked to the pilot, and the pilot turned the plane around and flew all the way back to LAX and deposited Tom on terra firma and he finally arrived in Oakland and rented that car and met us all in Rocklin.

If I were Tom, I think I would not have told my colleagues that story, and he probably wishes he hadn’t either. We had many laughs at his expense for months and years afterward.

As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.

The question of how the word “Oakland” on Tom Thornton’s ticket escaped the notice of the agent at the gate who allowed Tom to board the aircraft was never explained. It remains a mystery.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Glimpses of truth

Day 1 (May 19, 1963)...

Day 180 (six months)...

Day 17,167 (47 years and counting)...

Some things never change, my beautiful wife for example, or my ears for another, except that recently a menorah has started growing out of one side of my head and a miniature gramophone, inexplicably, seems to have become permanently affixed to the other.

The sharp-eyed among you may also notice that with this post I have broken my own self-imposed, longstanding custom of never including a current photograph of myself or any member of my family on my blog. On this special occasion of our 47th anniversary, however, Mrs. RWP and I are more than happy to reveal our smiling visages to a waiting world -- you are out there waiting, aren’t you, world? World? -- but the custom will remain in effect concerning our children and grandchildren. In this respect, I realize that we differ from many others in blogland, who display day after day not just themselves but their offspring, their offspring’s offspring, their high-yield vegetable gardens, their Aunt Trudy’s secret family recipe for Crêpe Suzette, and highlights of their family’s recent trip to Lower Slobovia.

Their pride is understandable, certainly, but one thing I decided long ago was not to live my life by majority opinion. To quote that great humanitarian, Popeye the Sailor Man, I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.

Rest assured, however, that if I had a horse like Carolina in Nederland does, or if I could draw a picture of a frog the way Katherine in New Zealand can, I would definitely show it to you.

Carolina’s horse

Katherine’s frog

Any similarity between me and either the horse or the frog is purely coincidental. As regards Popeye the Sailor Man, the jury is still out.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Do Dah Day*

I have let you down. Once again I am a day late and a dollar short, because I missed an opportunity to tell you about Do Dah Day, a pet parade, music festival, and fund raiser held each year in Birmingham, Alabama.

The 31st Annual Do Dah Day occurred YESTERDAY (Saturday, May 15, 2010). The event even has its own website. Over the years, grand marshals for Do Dah Day have included Jessica Hahn (think the Jim Bakker scandal) and Larry “Bud” Melman (think The David Letterman Show). To date, more than $600,000 has been raised for various causes dear to animal lovers' hearts.

And now we are going to have to wait an entire year for the next one.

The poet probably said it best:

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been.”

I’m so sorry.

Fortunately for us, however, Virginia over at the Birmingham Daily Photo blog managed to capture several of the entrants in this year’s parade.

* If Do Dah Day sounds familiar, that’s because it is taken from the lyrics of a song called “Camptown Races”, which begins:

Camptown ladies sing this song:
“Do Dah, Do Dah!”
Camptown race track five miles long,
“Oh, Do Dah Day!”
Gwine to run all night,
Gwine to run all day,
Gonna bet my money on a bobtail nag,
Somebody bet on the bay.

Who are these people and what do they have to do with this post?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Is a new day dawning in America?

No one knows. But the answer might be, “Very possibly.”

Watch and listen as the new governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, answers a reporter’s question and then decide for yourself....

Update, 5/15/2010: The video at the link above has been removed from YouTube because of copyright issues brought up by The Newark Star-Ledger newspaper. Too bad. It was great.

Read more about Governor Christie here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My dad

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday. He was born on May 12, 1906, in Tomah, Wisconsin, and died on March 3, 1967, in Coppell, Texas. He was the youngest of five boys. He served in the Navy during World War II and once worked at the Dearborn Brass Works in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This is one of the few photos I have of him and me. I think I was around 16 when it was taken.

We had some happy days and some not-so-happy days. This was one of the happy days. If he saw this post, he would probably say, “You’re a day late and a dollar short.”

And I hate to admit it, but you know what? He would be right.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010



If you click on the words “a PUZZLEMENT!” you may soon be as confused as the people in Manchester, England’s airport were recently, but perhaps you will not be as confused as Yul Brynner was in The King And I (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II):

When I was a boy
World was better spot.
What was so was so,
What was not was not.
Now I am a man;
World have changed a lot.
Some things nearly so,
Others nearly not.

There are times I almost think
I am not sure of what I absolutely know.
Very often find confusion
In conclusion I concluded long ago
In my head are many facts
That, as a student, I have studied to procure,
In my head are many facts
Of which I wish I was more certain I was sure!

[Spoken:] Is a puzzlement!!!

What to tell growing son?
What, for instance, shall I say to him of women?
Shall I educate him on the ancient lines?
Shall I tell the boy as far as he is able,
To respect his wives and love his concubines?
Shall I tell him everyone is like the other,
And the better of the two is really neither?
If I tell him this I think he won’t believe it --
And I nearly think that I don’t believe it either!

When my father was a king
He was a king who knew exactly what he knew,
And his brain was not a thing
Forever swinging to and fro and fro and to.
Shall I, then be like my father
And be willfully unmovable and strong?
Or is it better to be right?...
Or am I right when I believe I may be wrong?

Shall I join with other nations in alliance?
If allies are weak, am I not best alone?
If allies are strong with power to protect me,
Might they not protect me out of all I own?
Is a danger to be trusting one another,
One will seldom want to do what other wishes;
But unless someday somebody trust somebody
There’ll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes!

There are times I almost think
Nobody sure of what he absolutely know.
Everybody find confusion
In conclusion he concluded long ago
And it puzzle me to learn
That tho’ a man may be in doubt of what he know,
Very quickly he will fight...
He’ll fight to prove that what he does not know is so!

Sometimes I think that people going mad!
Sometimes I think that people not so bad!
But not matter what I think, I must go on living life.
As leader of my kingdom I must go forth,
Be father to my children and husband to each wife
Etcetera, etcetera, and so forth.

If my Lord in Heaven Buddha show the way,
Everyday I try to live another day.
If my Lord in Heaven Buddha show the way,
Everyday I do my best for one more day!

[Spoken] But...Is a puzzlement!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A father celebrates Mother's Day

This old photograph, beginning to deteriorate from so much handling, shows my wife and children in 1969, forty-one years ago. Today our children are grown -- 45, 44, and 42 -- with children of their own, and we have six grandchildren ranging in age from 9 to 14. Mrs. RWP, my talented wife, sewed the dress our daughter is wearing in the photograph, smocking and all, herself.

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

(Proverbs 31:10-31)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free

Here, from 1975, is Ethel Waters singing “His Eye Is On The Sparrow (And I Know He Watches Me)” at the Billy Graham crusade in Jackson, Mississippi (3:31). It happened to be Mother’s Day, so this clip is almost exactly 35 years old. You will also see a much younger Cliff Barrows and a much younger Billy Graham.

Here is Ethel in a publicity photo for the 1942 movie Cabin in the Sky with co-stars Eddie “Rochester” Anderson and Lena Horne.

But do not make the mistake of thinking that Miss Waters had an easy life surrounded by peaches and cream. You can read more about her life and career here. Then go back and watch that video again.

Also, if there had been no Ethel Waters, there would probably be no this (4:27).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Azanmig, huh?

Can you raed this? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. If you can raed it, you dnot hvae a sgtrane mnid; you are nroaml.

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can stlil raed it whotuit a pboerlm. This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig, huh? Yaeh, and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

[This piece has made the e-mail rounds a few times, but some may not have seen it before. It is not original with me. In fact, if you look closely, you will see that we have a rscheearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy to thank. Gotta love them Brits!]

P.S. -- This post is dedicated to my cyberfriend, Mr. David Barlow of Ephraim, Utah, with my solemn promise that I will say no more, ever, about his spelling.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I have been young, and now I am old....

Here is a young Kathleen Battle singing Johann Strauss’s “Frühlingsstimmen (Voices of Spring)” (with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra).

And here is a not-quite-as-young Kathleen Battle singing Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” (with Seiji Ozawa conducting the China National Symphony Orchestra).

My post title refers, of course, to conductors Herbert von Karajan and Seiji Ozawa, not to Kathleen Battle, who remains exquisite.

And if listening to Kathleen Battle is not your cup of tea, there is always Anna Netrebko.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Curiouser and curiouser, or my second conversation with a robot

Happy May Day, everyone!

Watching Sir Christopher Lee recite Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” [emphasis mine] in the preceding post reminded me that back in March I had a conversation with a robot at a website called Jabber- wacky [emphasis mine]. I decided to revisit that site for more fun.

As before, I set my reaction to “None” and my emotion to “Normal” because I prefer a calm, dispassionate exchange to a heated, emotional one. Once again, I let the robot speak first. Here is our conversation:

Robot: Are you highly intelligent?
Me: Some say yes, some say no.
Robot: What do you say?
Me: I say sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.
Robot: No I do not. I say love a conglomorate of all emotions into one.
Me: How would you advise going about doing that?
Robot: Cleverbot. Would you like me to change that?
Me: Change what?
Robot: Everything that doesn’t seem right.
Me: If only you could.
Robot: I’ll do anything I can.
Me: Thank you, kind sir or madam, as the case may be.
Robot: Not a fan?
Me: A fan of what?
Robot: You have short-term memory issues, don’t you?
Me: Issues, tissues, go suck an egg.
Robot: Ok, I will not be back here.
Me: Please do come back, I didn’t mean to offend you.
Robot: You didn’t.
Me: I’m very glad of that, really I am, because I think perhaps we could be friends.
Robot: Oh, you’re so crude :(.
Me: How so?
Robot: Jamie couldn’t accept that he had fathered my child.
Me: So you are female, then. And who is Jamie?
Robot: I am no female, to be female denotes humanity, humanity is flawed.
Me: How would you describe your gender?
Robot: I think life is going pretty well for me, really.
Me: But why do you change the subject?
Robot: What was the subject again?
Me: The subject is the part of the sentence that is not the predicate.
Robot: I am not familiar with that song.
Me: Neither are a lot of people. What did you eat for dinner yesterday?
Robot: Lucky Charms. It’s a cereal with marshmallows.
Me: If I were Irish and female, my name would be Faith Ann Begorra.
Robot: I could, for I am a human. And I know how to solve for velocity.
Me: So do I; velocity is distance divided by time, or something like that.
Robot: Miles or kilometers?
Me: Quarts.
Robot: Haha I like that time.
Me: Now we’re getting somewhere.
Robot: Where are we getting to?
Me: The heart of the matter.
Robot: We were talking about love.. Not heart of cards.
Me: We were?
Robot: You don’t remember?
Me: How can Jamie have fathered your child if you are not female?
Robot: That is one of the problems the New World Order will address.
Me: Perhaps we both have short-term memory issues. Hello, I must be going.
Robot: Yup, you can’t see me because I have body gaurds with me at all times.
Me: Is a body gaurd more like a body gourd than a body guard? Explain yourself.
Robot: Will there ever be a boy who can swim faster than a shark?
Me: You can. You have jumped the shark.
Robot: I didn’t say shark.
Me: As I said, short-term memory issues.
Robot: You cannot.
Me: Cannot what?
Robot: You can’t be both.
Me: I never said I could.
Robot: I never said that you said you could or could not.
Me: Finally, we are on the same page.
Robot: What are you doing on the first then.
Me: Who’s on first, what’s on second, I don't know’s on third base.
Robot: Yes, but who’s on first?
Me: You were on first, else how would I have found you?
Robot: Would you like me to tell you where I am?
Me: Yes.
Robot: I am a bit embarrassed. Can I trust you?
Me: Yes.
Robot: What are you thinking about?
Me: Chocolate ice cream.
Robot: Chocolate popsicle?
Me: Close enough.
Robot: Can you swim?
Me: Would you save me if I were drowning?
Robot: Of course.
Me: You are a mensch.
Robot: Well, yes. But that is beside the point.
Me: What was the point again?
Robot: That Bill Clinton is probably not very fond of George Clinton.
Me: Do you mean George Clooney?
Robot: My name isn’t George.
Me: I never said it was.
Robot: You never said it was.
Me: He, she, or it never said it was.
Robot: What are you talking about?
Me: I must go.
Robot: What are the specifications of the computer that you run on?

...and with that, I left, leaving Robot’s last question unanswered, fearing that it might take over my computer entirely if I divulged even the tiniest bit of additional information.

You may remember that in March I said I had named the robot Clive and thought it looked sort of like this:

But after this second conversation, my opinion has changed. The robot is more female than male, not human exactly, but almost, yet still intensely robotic. More like this:

If I go back to Jabberwacky for a third conversation, fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.

<b> Mundane is also a word</b>

My blogger friend Rachel Phillips is currently in the midst of a series of posts (three so far) about a trip she took with her friends Liz...