Wednesday, August 31, 2011

That Billy Ray Barnwell can sure fill up a page.

[Editor’s note: Filling in as guest blogger today is none other than our old friend Billy Ray Barnwell. Today’s post is an excerpt from his fascinating book, Billy Ray Barnwell Here: The Meanderings of a Twisted Mind, published by Truly-Godawful Books. --RWP]

......................................CHAPTER 9

Billy Ray Barnwell here, another teacher I remember from back in Not Grapevine is Mr. Steelman who taught us Chemistry, his first name was Noble or Norris or something equally weird, I don’t remember much about the Chemistry class itself except that in the lab my precipitate never would do what it was supposed to, what I do remember is Mr. Steelman got upset at someone one spring afternoon for having made the mistake of chewing gum in his class, he didn’t rant and rave the way Mrs. Lillard did in the eighth grade one time when Melvin Lovinggood sassed her and she came up the aisle to where he was sitting and screamed in his face and grabbed Melvin by the hair of his head and bounced him up and down two or three times right there in the seat where he was sitting and we all learned that when a red-headed woman gets angry she is a force to be reckoned with, no, Mr. Steelman just said in his very calm way that it wasn’t the chewing of the gum that bothered him so much, it was the smell, the gum was Juicy Fruit and Juicy Fruit made him sick to his stomach, it smelled just like a pair of old ripe socks he said, we all sniffed the air and you know what, he was right, well many years have passed since then and I have never been able to put a piece of Juicy Fruit chewing gum in my mouth since that day, it’s crazy what you remember, you would think I might remember something from the periodic table of elements, but no. I will also never forget an important lesson I learned at the feet of Mr. Ben Barber, the vocational agriculture teacher, he was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever had the privilege to know, he spoke with a slow Southern drawl, a very slow Southern drawl, it’s unbelievable how slow his Southern drawl was, and one day in class he said Boys, as you go through life you will be faced with many decisions, some are more important than others, and if you need help deciding whether you should or shouldn’t do something, or if you ever are wondering how important your decision could turn out to be in the overall scheme of things, Boys, just think of a plate full of ham and eggs, well we just looked at each other like Mr. Barber had finally gone off his rocker, but he just smiled and kept on talking, very slowly, and I have never forgotten what he said next, he said Boys, never forget when you are thinking about that plate full of ham and eggs, that on the part of the hen it may represent a commitment but for the pig it is a real sacrifice. Mr. Barber also was not a big fan of pasteurization of milk, because it didn’t remove the impurities, he said, it just neutralized their effect. Well that’s not exactly correct, what he actually said while we all sat there silently praying Dear God, please can’t you make Mr. Barber talk a little faster was Boys, if I had a big old ugly oozing boil on my arm and squeezed it into a pail of milk fresh from the cow, or if I blew snot from my nose into that pail, would you want to drink that milk? and we said no sir, we sure wouldn’t, and he said, well, if I took that pail of milk with that boil and that snot in it and instead of pouring it out I heated it up to a high enough temperature to where all the harmful bacteria in the boil and the snot are killed and can’t hurt anybody and then let the milk cool back down to where you could drink it without burning your mouth and put it in bottles and put the bottles in the refrigerated dairy case at the grocery store, now remember boys it still has the boil in it, it still has the snot in it, would you boys drink it then? and we said eeewww, no way Mr. Barber, no sir, we wouldn’t drink that milk and he said well boys, that is how pasteurization works, it doesn’t remove any of the impurities from the milk, it leaves them all in there, all it does is neutralize their effect, and we found out he really wasn’t against pasteurization, he just thought a good cheesecloth strainer could also prove useful, and you are prolly beginning to understand why all the boys who ever passed through his class and who are grandfathers by now can still remember what Mr. Ben Barber said, he really had a way with words. But he and the assistant vocational agricultural teacher, Mr. Troy Smith, could also be really hard taskmasters when the occasion demanded, for example if someone was caught in a major infraction of the rules, such as swearing loud enough to be heard by the teacher or getting caught smoking in the boys’ restroom, Mr. Barber and Mr. Smith both would say Boys, wear your widest belts tomorrow because so-and-so is going to be running the belt line and we all did because truth be told we kind of enjoyed inflicting a little pain upon a fellow student’s behind, it was invigorating in a sadistic sort of way and also very therapeutic for the rulebreaker, and sure enough the next day the class would be dismissed five minutes early and we would all file out and gather behind the gymnasium and form two lines, kind of like one of Mrs. Lillard’s spelling bees only closer together, and then we would take off our belts and Mr. Barber or Mr. Smith one would say, now Boys hold the buckle end in your hand, there’ll be no whipping with buckles, and then the offender would run as fast as he could almost the entire length of the gym between the two lines of eager boys and we really got in some good licks now and then, it made a person realize he didn’t want to break the rules too often, well not get caught anyways, and then we would all put our belts back on and come out from behind the gym with beatific looks on our faces like nothing had happened and go to our next class where one of us would take his seat a little more gingerly than the others and try to look as angelic as possible, and by the end of the day his reputation among all the students, boys and girls alike, would have grown mightily and he would have no trouble getting a date for the football game on Friday night, well the world has changed a lot since then, good is bad nowadays and bad is good, right is wrong and wrong has become right, Mr. Barber and Mr. Smith would prolly be put in jail for all the trouble they went to trying to make us into good citizens, the television reporters would definitely show up with their cameras to interview the boy’s indignant parents, we would prolly all see Mr. Barber and Mr. Smith being led away in handcuffs on the evening news, and the boy’s date for the football game on Friday night might even be one of the guys from the belt line, but we did have some good times in those days back in Not Grapevine, the lessons we learned were not always in books, and this is Billy Ray Barnwell signing off.

Monday, August 29, 2011

It’s Musical Monday I’m taking a little survey.

1. Which version of “P.S., I Love You” do you prefer:
....A. This one by Mel (The Velvet Fog) Torme (2:48) or
....B. This one by Billie Holiday (3:36)? Why?

2. Which version of “Someone to Watch Over Me” do you prefer:
....A. This one by Ella Fitzgerald (4:33) or
....B. This one by Amy Winehouse (4:37)? Why?

3. Which version of “Good Night, Irene” do you prefer:
....A. This one by Eric Clapton and friends (4:01),
....B. This one by Willie Nelson and friends (2:35), or
....C. This one by Johnny Cash (2:42)? Why?

4. Who do you think was higher during the making of the videos in question #3, Eric Clapton or Willie Nelson? On what substance? Audiences count.

5. Rank all seven artists from 1 to 7, with 1 being the artist you like most and 7 being the artist you like least.

It is against the rules to say you don’t like any of the artists.

Also, for your information, there is no such thing as Musical Monday. I made it up. Blogworld does have a Sepia Saturday and a Wordless Wednesday, though. No, I don’t know why. I have yet to find a Meatless Tuesday, but I keep looking.

If enough people like this little survey, we may do another one sometime.

HOLD THE PRESSES! I found Meatless Tuesday. Not my cup of tea. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I really saw myself the other evening

If you click here you will see Besse Cooper, currently the world’s oldest person. She turned 115 on Friday, August 26, 2011, and lives right here in Georgia. She attained the title when a woman in Brazil died in June.

In my part of the state -- the part we lump together and call “North Atlanta” -- we also have Dr. Leila Denmark, who is 113. She is currently the 7th-oldest person alive in the world. Much beloved locally, she was the oldest practicing pediatrician in the world when she retired at the age of 103 in 2001.

Compared to them, I’m still a youngster at 70.

There’s a guy about my age in England who writes a blog called Grumpy Old Ken that is usually a real hoot. Now and then, though, he makes us stop laughing and brings a tear to the eye.
A good example is this recent post of his, which includes a poem about an old man being cared for by nurses.

Ken mentioned the current state of his teeth, his eyesight, his knees, and his departing hair as signs of his own rapid decline. With me, it’s something else altogether. I could deny it until the other evening, but I cannot deny it any longer.

The other evening, Mrs. RWP and I were watching television when she suddenly said, “Would you get me a Q-tip?”

Being the helpful, thoughtful, and thoroughly obedient husband that I am, I immediately arose and walked toward the master bedroom because the master bedroom leads to the master bathroom and that’s where the Q-tips are. I thought I heard Mrs. RWP say, “Where are you going?” but I didn’t answer because she knew darned well where I was going.

I retrieved a Q-tip and brought it back to Mrs. RWP, who was still sitting in her chair watching television. I stood in front of her and held up the Q-tip. She had a quizzical look on her face.

“What is that?” she said.

“You asked me to get you a Q-tip,” I said, growing a little impatient and wondering whether Mrs. RWP was at last beginning to lose it. “Here it is.”

“I didn’t ask for a Q-tip," Mrs. RWP replied. “I asked if you would get me a few chips.”

We both had a good laugh.

It was a simple mistake.
I told myself anyone could make it.

But I'm the one who did.

In his post, Grumpy Old Ken quoted a couple of famous lines written by Robert Burns:

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”

You know what? I really saw myself the other evening.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I finally found a banjo of mass destruction (BMD)!

But not in Alabamistan.

At the movies.

Specifically, in the film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? that we talked about yesterday.

Your Honor, I enter into the record Exhibit A (4:03).

I mean, what else would you call it but a banjo of mass destruction, given how the Hudson sisters, Blanche and Jane, turned out (2:20)?

Uh-oh. On closer inspection, Exhibit A might be said to contain a piano of mass destruction (PMD) as well. That hits a little too close to home. The jury will disregard this paragraph.

But most importantly, Your Honor -- and it should serve as a warning to all parents everywhere -- we intend to show that Exhibit A reveals a man who undoubtedly meant well, a man with talent, a man with a great deal of ambition, but -- when all is said and done -- a man who was actually a Daddy of mass destruction (DMD).

One other thing, Your Honor.

Any similarity between the Daddy in Exhibit A and yours truly is purely coincidental.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Je n’ai pas la plume de ma tante

...or, for that matter, de ma mère, mon père, ma soeur, mon frère, or even mon oncle. But I can still write a post, thanks to my trusty old computer and an ergonomically correct keyboard that I bought at a neighbor’s garage sale for ten dollars. It was still encased in its original sealed plastic wrapping, and it cost its original owner $39.00 American. I bought it to lessen the likelihood of my acquiring carpal tunnel syndrome. So far it has been doing its job well.

Why do people buy things and then never use them?

Recently I bought a pair of gray trousers that still had the original tags on them at a consignment shop for $5.00 (original price: $34.00). There was a lot of brand-new clothing in that store along with stuff the proprietors want customers to think has been “gently used” but some of which appeared to have been worn by every member of that huge family on 19 Kids and Counting. I don’t know what exactly it is that The Learning Channel and Mr. and Mrs. Jim Bob (Michelle) Duggar want us to learn from 19 Kids and Counting unless it is “Do as I say, don’t do as I do,” a teaching my father also tried to pass along to me, with little success. I believe a good case could be made that TLC wants us to learn the same lesson from programs like Hoarders and Sister Wives and Toddlers and Tiaras and My Strange Addiction and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Oh, wait, that last one isn’t on The Learning Channel. It was a horror movie starring the very-long-in-the-tooth actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis some years back. I lost my head.

Just like Marie Antoinette, who was executed by guillotine on October 16, 1793. Lest we forget, so was one Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre nine months later on July 28, 1794.

I am rambling.

As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise, surprise!”

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for liberté, égalité, fraternité and all that. But I am very glad on this August 25, 2011 -- some 222 years, 1 month, and 11 days after the storming of the Bastille -- that l’ètat, ce n'est-ce pas moi.

I am gladder still that this film clip (3:04) exists.

If this post makes no sense at all, chalk it up to the guns heat of August.

Here is a picture of Robespierre in drag Marie Antoinette and friend on a bad day a couple of ladies you might recognize.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What every English schoolboy knows.

I mean besides what Daphne posted about the other day.

The significance of the following photograph will become clear later.
(Photo copyright 2010 by Billy Hathorn, used here in accordance with GNU Free Documentation License)

What every English schoolboy knows is the list of English/British monarchs, naturally. Skip over it if you like, but you may miss something interesting. I gleaned all the information, as is my custom, from Wikipedia:

House of Mercia
1. Offa (774-796)

House of Wessex
1. (2) Egbert (802-839)
2. (3) Ethelwulf (839-856)
3. (4) Ethelbald (856-860)
4. (5) Ethelbehrt (860-865)
5. (6) Ethelred (865-871)
6. (7) Alfred the Great (871-899)
7. (8) Edward the Elder (899-924)
8. (9) Ethelstan the Glorious (924-939)
9. (10) Edmund the Magnificent (939-946)
10. (11) Eadred (946-955)
11. (12) Eadwig (955-959)
12. (13) Edward the Peaceful (959-975)
13. (14) Saint Edward the Martyr (975-978)
14. (15) Ethelred the Unready (978-1013) (first reign)

House of Denmark
1. (15) Sweyn Forkbeard (1013-1014)

House of Wessex (restored, first time)
1. (16) Ethelred the Ill-Advised (1014-1016) (second reign)
2. (17) Edmund Ironside (1016)

House of Denmark (restored)
1. (18) Canute (1016-1035)
2. (19) Harold Harefoot (1035-1040)
3. (20) Harthacnut (1040-1042)

House of Wessex (restored, second time)
4. (21) Saint Edward the Confessor (1042-1066)
5. (22) Harold Godwinson (1066)
6. (23) Edgar the Etheling (1066)

House of Normandy
1. (24) William I (1066-1087), also known as Guillaume le Bâtard (William the Bastard) and Guillaume le Conquérant (William the Conqueror)
2. (25) William II (1087-1100), also known as Guillaume le Roux (William Rufus)
3. (26) Henry I (1100-1135), also known as Henri Beauclerc (Henry Beauclerc)
4. (27) Stephen (1135-1154), also known as Étienne de Blois (Stephen of Blois)
5. (28) Matilda (1141), also known as Mathilde l'emperesse (Empress Matilda) (disputed claimant)
6. (29) Prince Eustace (1152-1153) (disputed claimant)

House of Plantaganet
1. (30) Henry II (1154-1189), also known as Henri Court-manteau (Henry Curtmantle)
2. (31) Henry the Young King (co-ruler with his father, 1170-1183), also known as Henri le Jeune Roy
3. (32) Richard I, 1189-1199, also known as Richard Cœur de Lion (Richard the Lionheart)
4. (33) John, 1199-1216, also known as Jean sans Terre (John Lackland)
5. (34) Louis the Lion, 1216-1217, also known as Louis VIII of France (disputed claimant)
6. (35) Henry III, 1216-1272, also known as Henry of Winchester
7. (36) Edward I, 1272-1307, also known as Longshanks
8. (37) Edward II, 1307-1327
9. (38) Edward III, 1327-1377 (born in Windsor Castle)
10. (39) Richard II, 1377-1399

House of Lancaster
1. (40) Henry IV, 1399-1413, also known as Bolingbroke
2. (41) Henry V, 1413-1422
3. (42) Henry VI, 1422-1461 (first reign)

House of York
1. (43) Edward IV, 1461-1470 (first reign)

House of Lancaster (restored)
1. (44) Henry VI, 1470-1472 (second reign)

House of York (restored)
1. (45) Edward IV, 1471-1483 (second reign)
2. (46) Edward V, 1483
3. (47) Richard III, 1483-1485)

House of Tudor
1. (48) Henry VII, 1485-1509
2. (49) Henry VIII, 1509-1547
3. (50) Edward VUm 1547-1553
4. (51) Lady Jane Grey, 1553, also known as The Nine Days Queen (disputed claimant)
5. (52) Mary I, 1553-1558, also known as Bloody Mary
6. (53) Philip (husband of Mary), 1554-1558
7. (54) Elizabeth I, 1558-1603, also known as The Virgin Queen

House of Stuart
1. (55) James I, 1603-1625, also known as The Peacemaker King; he was also James VI of Scotland
2. (56) Charles I, 1625-1649

Between the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, there was no reigning monarch. Instead, from 1653 the following individuals held power as Lords Protector, during the period known as the Protectorate.

1. Oliver Cromwell, 1653-1658, also known as Old Ironsides
2. Richard Cromwell, 1658-1659

House of Stuart (restored)
1. (57) Charles II, 1660-1685
2. (58) James II, 1685-1688

Students, you will get extra credit for the course if you pause here to read about The Glorious Revolusion of 1688, when Parliament finally asserted the right to choose whomsoever it pleased as monarch.

3. (59) Mary II, 1689-1695
4. (60) William III, 1689-1702, also known as William of Orange
5. (61) Anne, 1702-1714

In 1707, under the Acts of Union, England and Scotland were united as a single sovereign state, the Kingdom of Great Britain. Anne became its first sovereign, while continuing to hold the separate crown of Queen of Ireland and the title of Queen of France.

House of Hanover
1. (62) George I, 1714-1727
2. (63) George II, 1727-1760
3. (64) George III, 1760-1820

It was during the reign of George III that the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain.

4. (65) George IV, 1820-1830
5. (66) William IV, 1830-1837
6. (67) Victoria, 1837-1901

House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
1. (68) Edward VII, 1901-1910

The house name Windsor was adopted in 1917, during the First World War. It was changed from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha because of wartime anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom.

House of Windsor
1. (69) George V, 1910-1936
2. (70) Edward VIII, 1936 (abdicated)
3. (71) George VI, 1936-1952
4. (72) Elizabeth II, 1952-present

[end of list]

The current occupant of the White House, Barack Hussein Obama, is the 44th President of the United States. Britain’s 44th ruler, Henry VI, reigned from 1470 until 1472. You Brits (this is directed at you who are Brits) have several centuries lead on us with 72 monarchs and two Lords Protector.

I can’t even imagine what being a schoolboy in China must be like, where there have been (according to trusty old Wikipedia) 557 emperors. Here is a partial list of Chinese monarchs beginning way back in 2852 B.C.

It occurred to me that England’s second king named Ethelred, shown in the list as Ethelred the Unready (978-1013) and Ethelred the Ill-Advised (1014-1016), was England’s version of Grover Cleveland. Grover served as both the 22nd President of the U.S. (1885-1889) and the 24th President of the U.S. (1893-1897). Benjamin Harrison, who was a grandson of William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the U.S., was 23rd President of the U.S. from 1889 until 1893, separating Grover Cleveland’s two terms. England’s version of Benjamin Harrison was one Sweyn Forkbeard (1013-1014), the son of Harald Bluetooth and Gyrid Olafsdottir and the husband of both Gunhild of Wenden and Sigrid the Haughty. I am not making this up. Check it out for yourself.

You could probably make a good argument that Grover Cleveland was also both unready and ill-advised, but I don’t know whether you could argue that Benjamin Harrison was Sweyn Forkbeard. Analogies go only so far before they fall apart.

It could also be argued that people in the British Isles have been getting Offa since the year 774.

Sharp-eyed readers may also notice that King Arthur appears nowhere in the list. If you want to read about him you will have to go elsewhere.

Did I ever tell you that through my paternal great-grandmother, Bloomy Jane Cleveland Johnson (1840-1913), I am related to Grover Cleveland? Well, I am. We are distant cousins. Very distant. He died 33 years before I was born.

If you are not yet completely exhausted from reading, you can learn more about him here.

A word to the wise: If you take everything you learned or could have learned in this post and $1.40 (plus tax if applicable) to your local Waffle House, you will be able to purchase a cup of hot java, either regular or decaffeinated, your choice.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The economy is so bad that...


(These are not original with me; I am indebted to my friend Carolyn S. for forwarding them to me.)

Things are so bad that:

I received a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

CEOs are now playing miniature golf.

Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

Angelina Jolie adopted a child from America.

Motel Six has turned the light off.

A picture is now worth only 200 words.

They changed the name of Wall Street to Wal-Mart Street.

When I called the Suicide Hotline, I got a call center in Pakistan.

When I told them I was suicidal, they got excited and asked if I could drive a truck....

Note. In the comments, Shooting Parrots listed two more good ones:

The Suicide Hotline now calls me. Collect.

I get emails from Nigeria saying a long lost relative has left me two goats and a bag of beads.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Al Gore has gone too far this time

An article this week in The Guardian begins, “It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim.”

Let me say that again, this time adding emphasis where it truly belongs: “It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim.”

Let us suppress our looks of astonishment and forge ahead.

Here’s the entire article, but in case you don’t want to read the whole thing, let me summarize.

A man named Shawn Domagal-Goldman of NASA’s Planetary Science Division and his colleagues at Pennsylvania State University have compiled a list of plausible outcomes that could unfold in the aftermath of a close encounter with Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (ETI), to help humanity “prepare for actual contact”.

In a report entitled “Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis”, the researchers divide alien contacts into three broad categories: beneficial, neutral or harmful.

Let’s skip over the beneficial and neutral scenarios and get right to the good scary stuff. Here is an excerpt from the Guardian article:

........While aliens may arrive to eat, enslave or attack us,
........the report adds that people might also suffer from being
........physically crushed or by contracting diseases carried by
........the visitors. In especially unfortunate incidents,
........humanity could be wiped out when a more advanced
........civilisation accidentally unleashes an unfriendly
........artificial intelligence, or performs a catastrophic
........physics experiment that renders a portion of the galaxy

........To bolster humanity’s chances of survival, the researchers for caution in sending signals into space, and in
........particular warn against broadcasting information
........about our biological make-up, which could be used to
........manufacture weapons that target humans. Instead,
........any contact with ETs should be limited to mathematical
........discourse “until we have a better idea of the type of ETI
........we are dealing with.”

........The authors warn that extraterrestrials may be wary of
........civilisations that expand very rapidly, as these may prone to destroy other life as they grow, just as
........humans have pushed species to extinction on Earth.
........In the most extreme scenario, aliens might choose to
........destroy humanity to protect other civilisations.

........“A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in
........ the early phases of our expansion because a civilisation
........may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it
........continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering
........the period in which its rapid civilisational expansion
........could be detected by an ETI because our expansion changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere,
........via greenhouse gas emissions,” the report states.

........“Green” aliens might object to the environmental
........damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to the planet. “These scenarios give us reason to
........limit our growth and reduce our impact on global
........ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to
........limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric
........composition can be observed from other planets,”
........the authors write.

[end of excerpt]

Yes, you read that correctly. It is particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greehouse gases because atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets.

So we are probably doomed. At best, we must live with a certain fearful looking for the invasion to begin. This is what happens when an entire generation of scientists grows up watching Star Trek on television.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that throughout this post I have retained the British spellings and punctuations from the original article. Personally, I think the conclusions drawn are the logical result of putting periods and commas outside quotation marks and spelling civilization with an s instead of a z. And Al Gore, of course.

If Klingons come, can Romulans be far behind?

(Sorry, folks, this is not a photograph of an actual alien. It is a scene from a movie called Mars Attacks.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

For my 800th post...

I have decided to dispense with words and savor the moment.

Take a deep breath. Hold it for a second. Let it out slowly.


I know what let’s do.

Let’s have another relaxing ride with Daniel Barlow! (8:30). (Don’t forget to right-click your mouse at the beginning and select Enter Full Screen.)

There, now. Let’s take a little poll. Rate the scenery in the video on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is Spectacular, 5 is Nice, but it’s not Myrtle Beach and 1 is What scenery? I feared for my life and just wanted to get back to civilization in one piece!

I found the views breathtaking, but I must admit the old tension seems to have returned.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lance Armstrong I am not

I didn’t realize what a wimp I am until I saw this video of Daniel Barlow (Putz’s son) riding his mountain bike on the Flume Trail Downhill in Ephraim Canyon, Utah (5:06).

It is scary as all get out.

And yes, it really is Putz’s son leading the way. I quote from Daniel’s blog:

“This is the video of me riding my mountain bike down on my hometown trail. My brother was a on motorbike behind me video taping me. I didn’t know he was taping me at all until he told me down at the bottom. I was showing him and his two boys some trails in Ephraim Canyon. If I’d knew [sic] he was taping me, I would get all nervous and wreck all over the place! I didn’t do too bad, did I? I love this trail. By the way, I did some of the trail work, like that big bridge right at first. Still holding up! I’ve overheard someone saying it was built by the Army Corps. of Engineers! I should be proud of myself!”

I said in a comment, “Is this really you, Daniel? Dude! It is some scary biking to this easterner’s eyes! At 4:36 it changes to a different bike and a different, smaller rider wearing a brown jacket. What’s with that?”

And Daniel replied, “Well, I was leading my brother and his two boys (they were on motor bikes and I was on a mountain bike) on this trail. They’ve never ridden the trail before and I have and that’s why I was in front. Yeah, I have ridden in the east before and in the west, there’s some scary mountain trails!”

I will now make a confession (forgive me, Snow, it’s been 70 years since my last confession). Here goes:

I never learned how to ride a bicycle. But even if I had, I don’t think I would be attempting the Flume Trail Downhill in Ephraim, Utah. Before I would do so much as walk on that trail, let alone ride a bike, guard rails would have to be installed along its entire length.

My admiration for Daniel Barlow knows no bounds. I am in awe.

I dare you to watch that video again without wincing at the narrowness of the trail and the number of sheer drops into the canyon. This time before you start, though, right-click your mouse on the screen and select Enter Full Screen to see it even better.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Imagma that!

Our old friend Putz in Utah took his family on a weekend trip to Sun Valley, Idaho, recently so that his son Daniel could do some bike riding on some awesome trails. On the way, they stopped at Craters of the Moon National Monument and looked at some lava deposits.

Here, in his own inimitable style, is Putz's account of his stay among the idahonians. (A hint to first-time readers of Putz: Just ignore his unique spelling and punctuation and read between the lines to get the full impact.)

Reading Putz’s and Daniel’s posts and seeing Daniel’s pictures reminded me of Otto Hlava, a Czech-American guy I used to work with down in Florida. After I had known him for a few months, I made up the following riddle:

Q. What is Hlava?

A. What comes out of a Hvolcano.

Otto didn’t think it was nearly as funny as I did.

P.S. to Putz: I hope this makes up in some small way for your having been dropped by sissy.

Monday, August 15, 2011

When old-timers say 3-holer, they generally mean something else

In a comment on my post entitled “I was thinking of ending the blog” Elizabeth said, “But...but...does this mean that the world will now never get to see your collection of hand-knitted tea cosies or hear your recipe for Pineapple upside down cake? Shucks....”

I replied that the tea cosies would remain our little secret and said in so many words that my pineapples are always in a more-or-less upright position, but I promised to post the recipe for Three-Holer Cake.

Making one is a great way to introduce a child or grandchild to cooking. Without further ado, here it is:

Three-Holer Cake

1-1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cocoa, unsweetened
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cold water

Measure flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt into sifter; sift twice.
Sift all into an ungreased 9-inch square baking pan.

Make 3 holes; put canola oil in one, vinegar in second, and
vanilla in in third. Pour water over all. Mix with a fork until
blended and batter is thin. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, no more. Cake is so moist it doesn’t need frosting.

[Editor’s Note. But nine out of ten grandchildren agree: Chocolate frosting is always good. --RWP]


Let me just hurry along with another post here as I don’t want to leave the one entitled “And on the seventh day, God went bowling” at the top of my blog too long, because on the blogs of people who have linked to me those words are repeated, and the way the universe works is if enough commotion is made about something it eventually will come to the attention of Almighty God Himself. That would not augur well for my continued existence or at least my status as His Fair-haired Child Who Can Do No Wrong.

However, I have nothing of note to say at this time so I will keep this post short and breathe a little prayer sigh of relief that it does its job, blogwise.

Friday, August 12, 2011

And on the seventh day, God went bowling

Is it just me, or does this artist’s rendition of the latest astronomical discovery look like a bowling ball with just one finger grip instead of three? I did not have to think long about whether God uses only his thumb or his index finger or his middle finger when he goes bowling, because on closer inspection of the photograph or artist’s rendition or whatever it is I realized that what I first thought was a finger grip is not a finger grip at all, it is a moon circling the bowling ball.

It is not even a bowling ball.

It’s the latest rage in the astronomical world, a new planet.

And it’s not just any planet, either. It was marketed to the public early today as “a coal-black, alien planet, bigger than Jupiter.” Don’t worry, it’s not in our solar system. [Note. In later editions of the story, the word “alien” was replaced by “strange”. --RWP]

Officially, astronomers have named it TrES-2b. It is in the system of the yellow sun-like star GSC 03549-02811, which is over 750 light years away in the direction of the constellation Draco.

Why don’t astronomers, when they are naming new planets or stars or whatever, use names like Marguerite or Tammy or Nostradamus or Dr. Phil instead of strange combinations of letters and numbers like TrES-2b and GSC 03549-02811? No one knows.

Here’s the entire article that Yahoo published today about the newly-discovered planet.

Speaking of the constellation Draco, here is Wikipedia’s absolutely fascinating description of it, including the fact that in Chinese astronomy (yes, Virginia, there is a Chinese astronomy) Draco is divided into two areas known as Purple Forbidden Enclosure and The Black Tortoise of the North.

And for those of you who have absolutely nothing to do and a great deal of time on your hands (apparently the sole requirements for becoming an astronomer), here is a list of the stars in Draco.

If you make it all the way through those links, I make this prediction: Your head will be spinning, just like a bowling ball (real or imagined).

Any attempts at humor (Brit., humour) and/or irreverence by me in this post are purely intentional, and I shall have to answer for them at the Day of Judgment (Brit.,Judgement).

Unless, of course, the Day of Judgment (ibid.) turns out to be another Chinese-astronomer-named area in the constellation Draco. In that case, I will not be between a rock and a hard place, or between the devil and the deep blue sea, or even between Scylla and Charybdis. I will be between Purple Forbidden Enclosure and The Black Tortoise of the North.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Figures never lie, but liars often figure

Since the summer solstice (an arbitrary date I have chosen off the top of my head), I have published 31 posts (not including this one) that have generated 173 comments in all, or 5.6 comments per post on average. The smallest number of comments on a single post was 1 and the largest number was 11.

The period from June 21 through August 4 covers 6 weeks and 5 days, or 47 days in all. I have therefore posted 0.65957446808510638297872340425532 posts per day (31 divided by 47). Let’s call it two-thirds of a post per day. Close enough for government work. I have gone, on average, 1.5161290322580645161290322580645 days between posts (47 divided by 31). Let’s call it a day and a half. Again, close enough for government work.

Over on the right side of the blog, above all those little photographs, it says I have 73 followers. The post with the least number of comments (1) equates to 1.4% (rounded to the nearest tenth of one percent) of my followers commenting (1/73). The post with the most number of comments (11) equates to 15.1% (rounded to the nearest tenth of one percent) of my followers commenting (11/73). On average, then (5.6/73), 7.7% (rounded to the nearest tenth of one percent) of my follwers chose to comment on a post of mine during the period.

All of the foregoing raw numbers are true, but all of the conclusions drawn are false.


Because fully forty-four (as in full fathom five my father lies) of the comments were from me when I was responding to the comments of others. So that skews the results.

And also because there were not 129 (that is, 173 minus 44) individual commenters. There were in reality only a few, each of whom commented multiple times. So that skews the results.

Still, sharing these meaningless statistics with all of you faithful readers who inexplicably continue to hang on to my every word provides me with an opportunity to let you see this very interesting graph as well:

The only conclusion that can possibly be drawn is that I am one mean blogger.

Friday, August 5, 2011

O res mirabilis!

The Last Supper, Buoninsegna (c. 1255 - c. 1319)

It is interesting to me that in the painting above, seven of Christ’s disciples have haloes and five do not. I wonder why the artist painted them that way.

When I was a teenager, some of us who thought we were smart/cute/funny/all of the foregoing used to sing this highly irreverent jingle to the tune of the then-current Pepsi-Cola commercial:

Christianity hits the spot
Twelve apostles, that’s a lot
The Holy Ghost and the Virgin too
Christianity’s the thing for you.

Lightning did not strike us dead on the spot, evidence of God’s great love for and great patience with not-so-smart/cute/funny teenagers.

According to the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and were fed miraculously with something they called “manna” (because they didn’t know what it was) that fell from heaven each day. They gathered up enough each morning to feed themselves for one day. If they tried to gather more than a day’s worth, it bred worms and stank. On the day before each Sabbath, on which they did not work because God had said, “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy,” they gathered enough manna for two days and it did not breed worms and stink. This is how the Israelites survived for forty years until they came to the Promised Land, which in actuality was only an eleven-days journey from Egypt. I guess GPS had not been invented yet.

According to the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth said, “I am that bread which came down from heaven” and also “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” and also “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

It’s all in the sixth chapter of The Gospel According To Saint John, which goes on to say that then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" and that Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

As people used to say back in the sixties, “Heavy, man.”

John also says that from this time many of Christ’s disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Panis Angelicus, a hymn written by Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), has been set to music many times, perhaps most famously in 1872 by César Franck for voice, harp, cello, and organ.

Here are four renditions, one by Andrea Bocelli (3:58), one by Charlotte Church (4:00), one by Luciano Pavarotti (3:42), and one by Mirusia Louwerse (5:00).

Here is the Latin text of Panis Angelicus, with doxology:

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis coelicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
Manducat Dominum
Pauper, servus et humilis.

Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
Sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
Per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.

and here is an English translation:

The angelic bread
becomes the bread of men;
The heavenly bread
ends all prefigurations:
What wonder!
The Lord is eaten
by a poor and humble servant.

Triune God,
We beg of you:
visit us,
just as we worship you.
By your ways,
lead us where we are heading,
to the light in which you dwell.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August 4 is the birthday of my son-in-law

...whom I will neither name nor show to you, in keeping with my own personal blogging policy. He’s 43 today.

According to Wikipedia, a lot of other things also happened on August 4. Here are a few of them:

70 A.D. -– The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.
367 –- Gratian, aged 8, son of Roman Emperor Valentinian I, is named co-Augustus by his father and associated to the throne.
1265 -– Second Barons’ War: Battle of Evesham, in which the army of Prince Edward (the future king Edward I of England) defeats the forces of rebellious barons led by Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, killing de Montfort and many of his allies.
1327 -– First War of Scottish Independence: James Douglas leads a raid into Weardale and almost kills Edward III of England.
1532 -– the Duchy of Brittany is annexed to the Kingdom of France.
1578 -– Battle of Al Kasr al Kebir, in which the Moroccans defeat the Portuguese. King Sebastian of Portugal is killed in the battle, leaving his elderly uncle, Cardinal Henry, as his heir. This initiates a succession crisis in Portugal.
1693 -– Date traditionally ascribed to Dom Perignon’s invention of Champagne, although he actually did not have anything to do with sparkling wine.
1704 -– War of the Spanish Succession: Gibraltar is captured by an English and Dutch fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir George Rooke and allied with Archduke Charles.
1789 -– In France, members of the National Constituent Assembly take an oath to end feudalism and abandon their privileges.
1790 -– A newly passed tariff act creates the Revenue Cutter Service (the forerunner of the United States Coast Guard).
1791 -– The Treaty of Sistova is signed, ending the Ottoman-Habsburg wars.
1796 -– French Revolutionary Wars: Napoleon leads the French Army of Italy to victory in the Battle of Lonato.
1821 -– Atkinson & Alexander publish the Saturday Evening Post for the first time as a weekly newspaper.
1824 -– The Battle of Kos is fought between Turk and Greek forces.
1873 -– Indian Wars: while protecting a railroad survey party in Montana, the United States 7th Cavalry, under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, clashes for the first time with the Sioux near the Tongue River; only one man on each side is killed.
1892 -– The father and stepmother of Lizzie Borden are found murdered in their Fall River, Massachusetts home.
1914 -– World War I: Germany invades Belgium. In response, the United Kingdom declares war on Germany. The United States declare their neutrality.
1944 -– World War II: A tip from a Dutch informer leads the Gestapo to a sealed-off area in an Amsterdam warehouse where they find and arrest Jewish diarist Anne Frank, her family, and four others.
1946 -– An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 hits northern Dominican Republic. One hundred are killed and 20,000 are left homeless.
1964 -– American civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney are found dead in Mississippi after disappearing on June 21.
1964 -– Gulf of Tonkin Incident: U.S. destroyers USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy report coming under attack in the Gulf of Tonkin.
1969 -– At the apartment of French intermediary Jean Sainteny in Paris, American representative Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese representative Xuan Thuy begin secret peace negotiations. The negotiations will eventually fail.
1974 -– A bomb explodes in the Italicus Express train at San Benedetto Val di Sambro, Italy, killing 12 people and wounding 22.
1984 -– The Republic of Upper Volta changes its name to Burkina Faso.
1993 -– A federal judge sentences Los Angeles Police Department officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell to 30 months in prison for violating motorist Rodney King’s civil rights.
2010 -– California’s Proposition 8, the ballot initiative prohibiting same-sex marriage passed by the state’s voters in 2008, is overturned by Judge Vaughn Walker in the case Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

These people were born on August 4:

1792 -– Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet (d. 1822)
1870 -– Sir Harry Lauder, Scottish entertainer (d. 1950)
1899 -– Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons, people) and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower (d. 1994)
1900 -– Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Scottish consort of George VI (d. 2002)

1901 -– Louis Armstrong, American jazz trumpeter and singer (d. 1971)

1920 -– Helen Thomas, American journalist
1955 -– Billy Bob Thornton, American actor and writer
1961 -– Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize laureate
1962 -– Roger Clemens, American baseball player
1971 -– Jeff Gordon, American race car driver

These people died on August 4:

1060 -– King Henry I of France (b. 1008)
1113 -– Gertrude of Saxony, daughter of Bernard II, Duke of Saxony and wife of Floris I, Count of Holland (b. 1030)
1306 -– King Wenceslaus III of Bohemia, Hungary and Poland (b. 1289)
1875 -– Hans Christian Andersen, Danish writer (b. 1805)
1981 -– Melvyn Douglas, American actor (b. 1901)
1997 -– Jeanne Calment, French supercentenarian, the world's oldest human on record and the only person ever to live past the age of 122 (b. 1875)
1999 -– Victor Mature, American actor (b. 1913)

August 4 is the Christian Feast Day of both Saint John Vianney and Saint Sithney, patron saint of mad dogs.

It is Coast Guard Day in the United States, Revolution Day in Burkino Faso, Constitution Day in the Cook Islands, and Johnny Cash Day in Arkansas. I have been unable to ascertain whether it is Lizzie Borden Day in Fall River, Massachusetts, however.

I thought of naming my son-in-law co-Augustus today and breaking open a magnum of Don Perignon’s bubbly, but that will have to wait until another year. I have chosen instead to end this post with a poem and one more photograph:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
Gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I was thinking of ending the blog...

...just because it all tends to run together after a while, and because of the ennui-enducing sameness of it all, and because of the never-ending need to find new topics about which to post, and because of the amount of time it takes each day and the dreariness of going through the routine over and over again and the utter and complete futility of thinking I could ever write in the first place and the...

And then I happened to review the list of visitors during the last 24 hours:

1. Novi Sad (Serbia)
2. London (England)
3. Taipei (Taiwan)
4. Eastham, Massachusetts (U.S.)
5. Mountain View, California (U.S.)
6. Warsaw, Mazowiecke (Poland)
7. Italy
8. Little Rock, Arkansas (U.S.)
9. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (U.S.)
10. Fort Worth, Texas (U.S.)
11. Jakarta, Jakarta Raya (Indonesia)
12. Council Bluffs, Iowa (U.S.)
13. Longview, Texas (U.S.)
14. Manti, Utah (U.S.)
15. Chihuahua (Mexico)
16. Tubarão, Santa Catarina (Brazil)
17. Honolulu, Hawaii (U.S.)
18. Birmingham, Alabama (U.S.)
19. Russellville, Arkansas (U.S.)
20. Strongsville, Ohio (U.S.)
21. Clayton, North Carolina (U.S.)
22. Chicago, Illinois (U.S.)
23. Hopkins, Minnesota (U.S.)
24. Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil)
25. Warner Robins, Georgia (U.S.)
26. Savannah, Georgia (U.S.)
27. Sunnyvale, California (U.S.)
28. Kristianstad, Skane Lan (Sweden)
29. Mumbai, Maharashtra (India)
30. Fountain Valley, California (U.S.)
31. Jyväskylä, Western Finland (Finland)
32. Quezon City (Philippines)
33. Carrollton, Texas (U.S.)
34. Calcutta, West Bengal (India)
35. Whitchurch, Shropshire (England)

and my heart was made happy.

That list doesn’t even include some of my regular commenters from Oregon and Florida and British Columbia and New Zealand and Australia and the Netherlands, all of whom apparently are taking a long-deserved vacation (whether individually or together, I cannot say).

And then there’s the fact that ever since I wrote the first post with fear and trembling nearly four years ago, I have managed to save most of the little flags of the countries of the world that have visited my blog. Know how many I have saved so far?


Who woulda thunk?

Of course, it isn’t about quantity; it’s about quality. Some of those folks may show up for a second or two, not like what they see, and depart posthaste, saying, “This isn’t my cup of tea.”

And that’s okay.

There will always be naysayers.

You can’t please everybody.

Actually, you can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Somebody famous said that, I think. Either Abraham Lincoln or Lady Gaga.

Everybody blogs differently. Some people post photographs almost exclusively, some people have a mixture of text and photos, and some people have mostly words. I’m in the last two groups, moving back and forth between them depending on my mood. But mostly, in my heart of hearts, I’m a word person.

My friend Rosezilla (whose real name is Tracie) down in Florida says, “A word is worth a thousand pictures,” and I tend to agree.

I will make you a solemn promise. If you continue to read my blog, I will never post photo after photo of my children and grandchildren. I will never post a recipe that contains twelve ingredients and thirty-six photographs. I will never show you any handcrafts I have made, in or out of rehab, computer-assisted or otherwise, except for possibly the occasional poem or short story.

If you don’t continue to read my blog, I make you another solemn promise:

You will never know what you’re missing.

Note. The photo on the right was selected at random from thousands of possibilities. The person in the photo is not Mrs. Rhymeswithplague nor is it a child or grandchild of ours. As to whether it might be me, I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may tend to incriminate me.

Note 2. I would like to make two exceptions to the “no handicrafts” rule, and those are Pat of Arkansas and Katherine DeChevalle who produce exquisite greeting cards and oil paintings, respectively. In fact, I am a recipient personally of their work, and am in awe of their talents and abilities. When I said “handicrafts” I was thinking mostly of knitted squares for afghans and pasted-together covers for boxes of Kleenex.

Monday, August 1, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night

People mean well, I think, and usually try to do their best. Sometimes, though, I just have to laugh.

Even during a devotional reading.

Let me explain.

Each morning for nearly a year now, I have been reading The Upper Room, a daily devotional guide published every other month by the United Methodist Church. It is printed in nearly 40 languages and reaches into more than 100 countries.

The format is simple and never varies. Each page has a title at the top, a Scripture reference, the devotional itself, and a prayer focus at the bottom of the page. For example, on July 6th the title was “Entangled in Sin” and the bottom of the page read:


On July 7th, when the title was “Keeper of Crayons,” the devotional reading began “My young son has autism, and one of the activities that soothes him is coloring...” and the bottom of the page read:


So far, so good. As I said, it is a simple format, but effective.

But then I came to the reading for yesterday, July 31st, which I am going to reproduce in its entirety for you. Readers of this blog may think of Bulwer-Lytton's 1830 novel Paul Clifford when they see the title. But that is not what made me laugh.

Read on, please.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Read Luke 8:22-25

[Nothing] in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. --Romans 8:39 (NRSV)

My daughter cried out in the night, afraid of the storm. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed. She said she was afraid that the wind might sweep her away in the darkness. I tried to comfort her as the windows rattled and the wind howled against the house.

That night, I could understand what the disciples felt as a storm came upon them on the Sea of Galilee and their boat was tossed by the waves. (See Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-35.) Now, as then, only Jesus Christ can give us peace in the midst of a storm. Calling on his name and remembering the assurances in scripture give us courage in the midst of all adversity.

As I told my daughter, “The best thing about storms is that they always pass.” And each of us can always pray, as my daughter and I did that night.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for simple prayers and for the peace you give when we are afraid of the storm. We pray as Jesus taught us, saying, “Our Father, [here was printed the Lord’s Prayer].” Amen.

Then I saw it, at the bottom of the page. The Prayer Focus. If it doesn’t make you laugh, or at least scratch your head and say “Whaat???” for a second before thinking, “Oh, I get it,” you just aren’t wired correctly:


<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...