Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Quote of the day, the week, the century

...comes from former Vice-President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden, who told a crowd in Derry, New Hampshire, yesterday:

“Anybody who can go down 3,000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well...Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God’s sake!”

With all due respect, sir, I disagree. The aptitudes are completely different.

It's rather like saying, "Anybody who can drive a car can learn to be a nuclear physicist."

"Anybody who can bake a chocolate cake can learn how to design a municipal waste treatment facility."

"Anybody who can put one foot in front of the other can conduct a great symphony orchestra."

In each instance, including Vice-President Biden's, the first skill does not preclude the second, granted, but neither is it a guarantee of achieving it.

Plus, anybody includes a lot ot people.

You heard it here first.

Color me skeptical.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Ever the pedant, I continue

Did you know that natives of Miami, Florida, say "Miam-uh" and natives of Cincinnati, Ohio, say "Cincinnat-uh" and natives of Missouri say "Missour-uh"?

Well, they do.

Atlanta, Georgia, has a street named Ponce de Leon but it is not pronounced “PONT-suh day Lay-OWN” or even the way speakers of Castilian Spanish might say it, “PON-thuh day Lay-OWN”. No, friends, the street in Atlanta is pronounced “PONTS duh LEE-on”.

People all over the world say “Hew-ston” when they’re talking about the largest city in Texas, but Houston Street in Atlanta and Houston County in Georgia are both pronounced “House-ton”.

I kid you not.

My mother referred to Houston, Texas, as “You-ston” but she was from Philadelphia. She and Donald Trump both call (or, in her case, called) very big things “yuge”. He is from New York but he did receive a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Maybe going there affected his speech.

For those of you who travel to Texas, I can assure you that you will be laughed at or at least be looked askance at if you put a “Wax” in Waxahachie. It’s “Walks”.

Natchitoches, Louisiana, where Steel Magnolias was filmed, has only three syllables and they are pronounced ”NACK-uh-tush”. Its sister city, Nacogdoches, Texas, is pronounced “Nack-uh-DOACH-es” however.

People who live in Boca Raton in Palm Beach County, Florida, say “Boca Ruh-TONE” but many other people say “Boca Ruh-TAHN”.

Residents of New Orleans do not say “Nawlins” despite what you may have been told. They say "Noo-AW-lins". No one should ever say "new-or-LEENS". Residents of Baton Rouge say “Batten Rouge”. Please remember when you mention the state where those cities are located that it was named for Louis, not Louise.

In Kentucky, the town of Versailles is pronounced “Ver-SAYLES”, not at all like the one in France. Don’t even attempt Louisville.

When you go to Egypt say “Kye-ro” but in both Cairo, Illinois, and Cairo, Georgia, remember to say “Care-oh” instead.

In Peru, the city of Lima may be “Lee-muh” but the city in Ohio is “Lye-muh”.

I could go on and on. La Jolla, California, is pronounced "La HOY-a" just the way Spaniards would say it. Des Moines, Iowa, is pronounced "Duh Moyn" just the way the French would NOT say it. In Illinois, Des Plaines is pronounced "Dess Playns".

But I grow weary, so I'm pretty sure you do also.

I will make a real attempt to be less pedantic in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Speaking of Edgar Allan Poe and simple English, and Beethoven, and an earworm

Here's a poem that Edgar Allan Poe wrote:

Annabel Lee
By Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

It was many and many a year ago
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Talk about your simple English, even a child can understand every word of this poem with the possible exception of 'coveted' and 'sepulchre' and 'dissever'.

We had to memorize it back in Mr. D.P. Morris's class in Mansfield, Texas, over 60 years ago and then, one by one, stand up in front of the whole class and recite it. I personally feel it was a horrible thing to make 17-year-old boys and girls do. We could have been scarred for life. [Editor's note. I'm not talking about having to recite it. I'm talking about having to listen to it being recited by others 30 times. --RWP]

One thing I know. They don't make teachers of English or, for that matter, writers of poems like they used to.

Either yesterday or today is Beethoven's birthday. No one seems to know for sure. He was definitely baptized in a church (Baptists would say "sprinkled") on December 17, 1770, but he may have been born one day earlier. Whichever is correct, and I guess we'll never know, next year will be his -- wait for it -- semiquincentennial.

I had an earworm in the night, one of those times when lyrics of a song play over and over and over in your mind for hours. Last night and into the dawn it was "He's got jelly beans for Tommy, colored eggs for sister Sue; there's an orchid for your mommy, and an Easter bonnet too".

I'm a little slow getting into a Christmas mood this year. I wonder why.

Friday, December 13, 2019

A little light reading to stay out of trouble on Friday the 13th

KISS isn't just a boomer-generation rock group.

(Photo copyright by KissBoy25, 9 March 2013, used in accordance with CC-BY-SA-4.0)

It’s also an acronym: Keep It Simple, Stupid1.

Let's examine a song of the season:

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.
Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say,
"Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee,
"Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer,
You'll go down in history."

For purposes of this analysis, let's ignore the word 'Rudolph' because it is a proper noun (a name), and let's treat the hyphenated 'red-nosed' as two separate words.

The song has 87 words in all. When you ignore 'Rudolph', which occurs four times. 83 words are left. Let’s also omit duplicated words. 'The' appears 4 times in all. Take away 3 of them and we’re left with 80 words. Other words that appear more than once are red (2), nosed (2), nose (2), reindeer (5), and (2), you (3), it (2), say (2), him (2), and they (2). When all of the duplicates are removed, we’re left with 68 unique words, and of those 68, 57 have one syllable and 11 have two syllables.

But Rhymes, you say, that song is for children. Of course it is going to be simple.

Here’s the point: English is simple and direct, so use it as much as you can instead of big words borrowed from Latin like obfuscation and peripherally and obsequious and transcendentally and imperturbable.

Let’s look at Shakespeare. Here's a portion of Hamlet’s soliloquy:

To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.

Twelve and a half lines of deep thought and only four words with more than two syllables -- outrageous, opposing, consummation, and devoutly.

That's English.

I could give you many examples of simple but profound English. The 23rd Psalm in the King James Version of the Bible. The Lord's Prayer in the New Testament.

Here is the complete text of the address Abraham Lincoln gave at the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln was not the main speaker for the dedication. Edward Everett, a well-known orator, was the chief speaker and spoke for two hours. Lincoln’s speech consisted of 272 words, lasted 2 minutes, and became known as one of the greatest speeches ever made by an American president. No one remembers what Edward Everett said.

Would we remember what Franklin D. Roosevelt said if instead of saying "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" he had said, "The sole contributing factor to our trepidation is, per se, trepidation"?

Would we remember what John F. Kennedy said if instead of saying "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" he had said, "Be not inquisitive regarding benefits an individual citizen might derive from one's natal government authority; be inquisitive regarding what an individual citizen might contribute to his or her natal government authority"?

Would we remember what Richard Nixon said if instead of saying "I am not a crook" he had said, "The undersigned does not concede to having the slightest modicum of felonious tendencies in his personality profile"?

Would we remember an old proverb if instead of saying "Too many cooks spoil the broth" we said "A plethora of individuals possessing culinary skills can produce a deleterious effect on the bouillabaisse"?

I think not.

There's always an exception that proves the rule, though. Would we remember Edgar Allan Poe if instead of saying "the tintinnabulation of the bells" he had said "chiming" or his cask contained Ripple instead of Amontillado?

Therefore, as much as possible, eschew obfuscation.

In other words, keep it simple, stupid1.

1No offense is intended to any reader personally. It's just a word that completes the acronym.

I wonder if Gene Simmons's mother ever told him to keep it simple.

(Photo copyright by KissBoy25, 9 March 2013, used in accordance with CC-BY-SA-4.0)

She should have.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Mummy's favourite

The other day, when I mentioned Prince Andrew in this post, his name was followed (inexplicaby, to Americans) by a veritable alphabet soup of letters, specifically:


These may be obvious to any stiff-upper-lipped Brit, but I shall now reveal to the rest of the world just what the heck all that stuff means.

They are his medals.

One by one, they are:
  • KG - Knight of the Garter
  • GCVO - Grand Commander of the (Royal) Victorian Order
  • CD - Best as I can figure out, the Canadian Decoration
  • ADC(P) - Aide-de-camp (personal) to the sovereign

According to the Daily Mail (a staid, demure publication not unlike our own Wall Street Journal or New York Times)...

...Prince Andrew actually has (or had, as of 2011) seven medals. The others are the South Atlantic Campaign Medal (Falklands War), the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (given to Royal Family and trusted members of her household), and the New Zealand Commemoration Medal (1990). The Canadian Decoration mentioned in the earlier list was awarded in 2001.

You can read about them, and other fascinating stuff about the royal family, here.

Please do. There are a couple of lovely photos of the Queen when she was younger. The photos of Andrew are a bit bewildering. In one he is positively beaming, but in another he is glaring ominously at the camera. Perhaps he is thinking of his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, or wishing he were somewhere more pleasant, like a private island in the Caribbean.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Before it slips my mind completely

...I wanted to share with you that Kathy, a fairly new reader hereabouts, corrected me after I said that America's first Thanksgiving occurred at Plymouth, Massachussetts, in 1621.

It didn't.

I mean, it occurred, but it wasn't America's first one.

According to this fascinating article in The Washingtonian, that honor goes to Berkeley Plantation, a settlement on the James River in Virginia, in the Year Of Our Lord 1619.

So we shouldn't be remembering the Mayflower, we should be remembering the Margaret. We shouldn't be thinking of William Bradford, we should be thinking of John Woodlief. And we shouldn’t have eaten turkey, we should have eaten oysters and ham.

Unfortunately (or, as regarding our need to eat oysters, fortunately), Berkeley Plantation was destroyed by the Powhatan Indians in 1622.

Not very neighborly, not very neighborly at all.

Mr. Rogers would have been so disappointed.

This post is part of my effort to make it through December 7th without mentioning Pearl Bailey.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Apropos of nothing, or Odds and Ends R Us

Now that Prince Andrew Albert Christian Edward, Duke of York, KG, GCVO, CD, ADC(P) has been thrust into the public eye recently as a result of his having associated with the late, unlamented Jeffery Epstein and has also been relieved of his public duties (a.k.a fired) by his mum, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (full name Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor-Mountbatten), the royal family is on everyone's minds, tongues, and radar screens.


But I do have a question. I know that within the family the queen was called Lilibet as a child, but what was Princess Margaret called? Meg? Maggie? Hey, you?

Inquiring minds want to know and I am sure my many loyal U.K. readers (they constitute a plethora) will be rushing to inform me.

Again, NOT.

I once read a slim volume entitled Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be A Kappa Kappa Gamma. The reason, divulged breathlessly within, was that she smoked cigarettes in public.

They say that Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis smoked like a chimney, but it was always in private.

It may be a beautiful day in Mr. Rogers's neighborhood, but it is a slow week in mine. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas isn't here yet, in spite of what the retailers are telling you. There are three whole weeks left until Christmas.

In our family this month, one grandson celebrates his 22nd birthday, one son and daughter-in-law celebrate their 28th anniversary, the same son and daughter-in-law just returned from a 10-day trip to Israel, and another grandson is moving to Africa. None of them is called Lilibet, to my knowledge.

I read that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, former Prince of Greece and Denmark, a sort of modern-day equivalent to Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, has also stepped away from public activities. It's about time, in my opinion. The man is 98 years old, for crying out loud.

There are a few days of note in December. There's St. Nicholas Day on the 6th, and there's Pearl Harbor Day on the 7th, and there's Beethoven's birthday on the 16th.

If the world were not so PC these days (politically correct), I would trot out an old joke I used to tell annually, Did you hear about the guy who was half black and half Japanese? Every December 7th he attacks Pearl Bailey.

Well, I thought it was funny.

Today no one even knows who Pearl Bailey is or, more accurately, was.

If I asked you to name four actresses who played Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! on Broadway, could you do it?

I can. Carol Channing, Ginger Rogers, Betty Grable, and Pearl Bailey. In the film version, however, Dolly Levi was played by Barbra Streisand

Today's young folks don't recognize any of those names except maybe Barbra Streisand. I know. I watch Jeopardy! five nights a week and am constantly amazed at the number of questions that no contestant knows the answer to. There is either no response from any contestant —- crickets — or the lone contestant who hazards a guess is astoundingly wrong. The other night in a category called "The Kennedys" the clue was a photo of a very old, very wrinkled Ethel Kennedy receiving a medal at the White House and the contestant who buzzed in said, "Who is Caroline?"

I'm not even kidding.

The phenomenon on Jeopardy! continues. On tonight’s episode, after being shown a photo of Carol Channing the lone contestant said, “Who is Phyllis Diller?”

Sometimes I wonder how Alex Trebek keeps a straight face.

I see that Prince Charles has passed Edward VII as not only the oldest Prince of Wales but also the longest-serving Prince of Wales.

My favorite line in Hello, Dolly! is near the end when Horace van der Gelder tells Dolly Levi, "Money, you should pardon the expression, is like manure. It doesn't do any good unless you spread it around."

I also remember when Barbra Streisand played Fanny Brice in Funny Girl and Fanny's mother, played by Kay Medford, was getting nowhere trying to dissuade Fanny from her infatuation with gambler and general ne-er-do-well Nicky Arnstein (played by Omar Sharif), and Fanny said, "But Ma, I love him". Her mother said, "Fanny, love him a little less. Help him a little more."

I'm rambling.

I do a lot of that, and more and more as time goes by. Eventually I will do less and less of it, and then you will stop hearing from me altogether.


In closing, and I know it can't come soon enough for some of you, I have one question left.

Anybody know what the Princess Royal is up to nowadays?

Monday, December 2, 2019

Thanksgiving is not just one day a year, or Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch

Our church has around 300 people attending currently, up from around 100 just a couple of years ago. There are about 40 in our general age range (somewhere between Social Security and Death). We have a monthly social event called Prime Timers, which I think is a much better name than The Over-The-Hillers or The Not Long For This Worlders or The One Foot In The Gravers. Some months we have a lunch at the church followed by table games or a songfest; sometimes we go somewhere in the church vans. In October they went to a restaurant in Jasper and drove up into the apple country in North Georgia. In November we were honored with a Thanksgiving Feast at the church on Heritage Sunday. In December we usually make a trip to a nice restaurant for a nominal fee which couldn't possibly cover the true cost. Last year, for example, we went to Buca de Beppo (Italian) and paid $5.00 each for an absolute banquet.

This year our director, Tammi, a lovely woman in her late fifties whom we have known since she was 13, announced that we will be going to Mellow Mushroom (pizza) next week. She asked that each person going contribute $9.00 to help cover food, games, prizes, decorations, and so forth. She always does a bang-up job and we appreciate her leadership. I don't think the Prime Timers are included in the church budget; I think Tammi volunteers her time and covers much of the costs herself. I could be wrong. Either way, she is a gem.

On the way to church every Sunday morning Mrs. RWP and I usually stop at Burger King for a quick breakfast of sausage, egg, and cheese croissants and hash-rounds (potatoes). Sometimes we have French Toastix with maple syrup instead. Yesterday we also stopped at our bank's ATM and withdrew $20 to give to Tammi. She wasn't at church this week, though, because her day job -- executive chef at an assisted-living/memory care facility -- needed her to work this weekend. Since the place she works is just a few blocks from the church, we drove over there before deciding where to eat lunch on the way home (Sunday is not a day of cooking at our house).

Ellie stayed in the car since I was just popping in and popping out. The facility's dining room is just off the main lobby area and it was full. Sunday dinner was in full swing. I knew Tammi was busy but I told the receptionist in the lobby that I needed to see Tammi and she went to get her. When she came out she was dressed in gleaming white like the angel she is. I gave her our money and was surprised to hear her ask, "Would you and Ellie like to eat with us?"

"Oh, no, we didn't come here to eat, we came here to give you the money," I said, adding, "but thank you very much for offering."

"Well, can I fix you two boxes to take with you?" she said, and I was quite surprised to hear myself saying, "That would be wonderful!"

She disappeared into the back and returned in a jiffy with the boxes, and we were on our way.

So as things turned out we didn't go to a restaurant after church yesterday. We took our boxes home and our little dog Señorita Juanita Rosita Conchita Abigail, Abby for short, was happy to see us earlier than usual. We dined royally on juicy chicken breast smothered in onion gravy with brown rice and green beans, and it was delicious.

And even though I'm sure some of my readers will not agree, God is good.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Post-Thanksgiving reflections

This past Thursday, November 28th, the fourth Thursday in November, was Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Canada's Thanksgiving Day occurs on the second Monday of October, which fell this year on October 14th. Ours used to vary between the fourth and fifth Thursdays in November when people referred to Thanksgiving as occurring on the last Thursday in November. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt, our 32nd president, it was nailed down to the fourth Thursday of November by Congress in 1941. I do not know if other countries observe a Thanksgiving Day, but if your country does, tell us about it and its origins in the comments.

America's first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Lucky thing, too, as Squanto, a local native American (formerly known as an Indian) who taught the settlers from Europe how to plant and raise crops, died in 1622. In 1789 our first President, George Washington, issued a proclamation concerning a day of thanksgiving, and Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, issued another proclamation in 1861. In other words, it's a long-standing tradition here, even though for many it is merely a day for family get-togethers, big meals, and marathon watching of football games on television.

My blogger friend Linda asked what we were thankful for besides the usual stuff people say. I replied that I am thankful for indoor plumbing including flush toilets and hot and cold running water, because I grew up without them. I am thankful that we no longer live in a state that had 30-degrees-below-zero temperatures and icicles that reached from the roof to the ground. I am thankful for food in the refrigerator and a car that runs. I said that I was thankful that my children and grandchildren are in church and not in jail.

When my blogger friend Emma asked us to name things we were thankful for, I left the same list but added that although I did not put it on anyone's blog, I am also thankful for the air I breathe and the warmth of the sun. I am thankful for blue sky and green grass. I am thankful for the wonderful wife and companion who has walked beside me for 56 years. I am thankful for my little dog, a Chihuahua-Terrier mix whose name is Señorita Juanita Rosita Conchita Abigail, Abby for short. I am thankful for good health and for enough money to put gasoline (British, petrol) in that car.

I'm thankful for many things I cannot put into words.

And of course I am thankful for you.

What are you thankful for? Keep in mind that if the editor (that would be moi) considers any part of your answer to be rude, lewd, lascivious, or as appealing to one’s prurient interest or political leanings it will not be published.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Freddish and my reality

In this very interesting article in The Atlantic magazine about Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood fame, he is reported to have been very careful about how he spoke to children and what he said to them. People who worked with him on his television program dubbed his approach "Freddish" and eventually produced a pamphlet entitled "Let's Talk About Freddish".

According to the pamphlet, there were nine steps for translating something into Freddish:
  1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. ​​​​​​
  2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.
  3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in “Ask your parents where it is safe to play.”
  4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.
  5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.
  6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.
  7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.
  8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.
  9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.
Few of us are that scrupulous, but it should give us all pause and food for thought.

My dad didn't talk like Mr. Rogers. Sometimes he called me "Dummkopf" when he was particularly exasperated.

I ended up being named valedictorian of my graduating class. I think he was more surprised than anybody.

Sometimes, out of the blue, he would show me his hands and say, “The Navy trained these hands to kill”. Sometimes, for no reason at all, he would talk about the Medes and the Persians, or Ur of the Chaldees. Sometimes, as if to remind himself that a tirade may have gone on too long, he would quote Jesus Christ, "Whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea".

It was hardly ever a beautiful day in my neighborhood.

If you had asked me back then if I loved him, I would have said, "No". I feared him. Today I think I can say that I love him. I have definitely forgiven him. With the passage of the years, especially after I had children of my own, I came to understand what he was trying to do (raise me to be a good man, point me in the right direction). He did the best he could with the tools at his disposal. He was honest, hard-working, and very difficult to live with.

If you think old Rhymeswithplague is a bit loopy at times, perhaps you can begin to understand why.

Even though it is almost six minutes long, I hope you will watch this video clip of the 1997 Daytime Emmys when Fred Rogers received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the 10 seconds of silence he gave us, I thought about my mother and one or two other people. I did not think about my father.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

I learn a new word, which leads to other thoughts

Dictionary.com, which I use frequently, includes a "word of the day" every single day (naturally). A few days ago the word of the day was oppidan. I had never heard of it.

adjective [op-i-duhn]
of a town; urban.

I think I have a better-than-average vocabulary. I know words like defenestrate and quotidian. I know that the accent on the word indefatigable comes on the third syllable, not the fourth. Oppidan was a new one on me.

My education is sorely lacking in many ways, some more obvious than others, but we won't go there just now.

The Dictionary.com people always explain their word of the day. Here is what they said about oppidan:

Oppidan derives from Latin oppidānus “of a town,” from the noun oppidum “town.” Oppidānus didn’t just describe any town, though: it was used of towns other than Rome, which was referred to as urbs “city,” specifically the capital city of Rome. Due to this distinction from Rome, Latin oppidānus could have the pejorative connotation of “provincial, rustic.” The adjective form of urbs was urbānus “of the city,” source of English urban. Another city-based adjective English gets from Latin is municipal, from mūnicipium, a town whose residents had the rights of Roman citizens but which otherwise governed itself. Oppidan entered English by the mid-1500s.

We've all heard the old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away".

My dad used to say that an onion a day keeps everyone away.

Here's what I think. I think a new word a day keeps the cobwebs away.

The older I get, the more I think it.

Where I live is not urban, suburban, exurban, or rural. It is certainly not oppidan in the sense of provincial or rustic. I live at the very edge of what Atlanta's city planners refer to as urban sprawl. I like to say that eastern Cherokee County, where I live, is very much like the hem of the garment of the high priest in ancient Israel as described in both the 28th and 39th chapters of the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, because as you go around the hem of the high priest's garment there's a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, and as you go around eastern Cherokee County there's a farm and a subdivision, a farm and a subdivision. We have heavy traffic on our roads, and we have horses and cows between our subdivisions. Well, we don’t, but you get what I’m saying.

Were you familiar with the word oppidan?

Remember, it's a sin to lie in the comments.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Keeping the wolf from the door, or The past is not dead, it's not even past

It was 20° F (almost minus 7° C) here this morning. The birdbath was a solid block of ice.

Winter is making an early appearance this year. The door from our kitchen to our patio is a bit drafty, which we never notice unless the air is cold. Last night I used hand towels to plug the door frame. It's easy peasy. All you have to do is fold three or four hand towels in half vertically, then take a table knife from the kitchen drawer and use it to poke them into the gaps from the top of the door to the bottom. It works like a charm. I also pushed something across the bottom of the door as a barricade against the winter air. The windows in this house are okay without help from me.

Something else we do every winter around here is put duct tape over every electrical outlet that is not being used.

I do not live in a hovel, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. It's much better than my childhood home out in Texas, where every time it rained we had to use every pot and pan and bowl in the house to catch the leaks from our corrugated tin roof.

I'm not kidding. It still amazes me after all these years that sometimes I don't know it is raining unless I look out the window because we can't hear the rain hitting the roof.

Things were very primitive in my old home, which consisted of four rooms and a path.

If you don't know what that means, get an old person who grew up in the country to tell you.

I must end this post or I will become depressed, but you get extra points if you spotted the quotation from William Faulkner.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Today is November 9th

...which reminds me that another thing that differentiates the U.S. from much of the rest of the world is the way we write the date.

Let me explain. Today, as I started to say, is November 9th in the wonderfully positive year of 2019 (I'm hallucinating about the qualities of the year) and we in the U.S. would write this on our slates (anybody remember slates?) as 11/9/2019 and not be reminded of anything. The rest of you, for the most part, would write it as 9/11/2019 and not be reminded of anything either.

But an American seeing 9/1l on a page is suddenly reminded of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when nearly 3,000 people died and two very large and prominent buildings in New York City came crashing down, all 110 stories of them.

We write dates as mm/dd/yyyy and you write dates as dd/mm/yyyy.

There are other things that separate us.

We drive on the right side of the road and you drive on the left side.

We either simplify or mangle spelling, depending on one's point of view, by writing favor, honor, neighbor, maneuver, theater, center and so forth. You write favour, honour, neighbour, manoeuvre, theatre, centre and so forth.

We say to-MAY-to and you say to-MAH-to.

We never mix peas and mashed potatoes together on a plate and you do it all the time.

I could go on and on.

We are different, and yet we are so very much alike.

Here are some things that unite us.

We both put our trousers on one leg at a time. (Note. I once heard a chap say, “Burt Reynolds puts his pants on the same way you and I do” and the second chap said “Yes, but he gets to do it more often.”)

Moving right along....

If someone pricks us, we bleed (Shakespeare pointed this out as well).

We laugh, we weep, we mourn, we dance.

There is nothing new under the sun, drones in the sky notwithstanding.

This post is as jumbled as most of the ones I write.

You should be used to it by now.

Tell me in the comments some other ways we are different and some other ways we are alike. Remember to keep it clean as this is a family blog.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

If your nose runs and your feet smell, you're built upside-down

I don't think I have used that line as a post title before, but if I have, well, I just used it again.

The line is not original with me. Some comedian said it years and years ago, and when I heard it I filed it away in my brain for future reference, like E=mc2.

Speaking of comedians, George Carlin used to have (I say used to because he is no longer with us) a routine called "The Seven Words You Cannot Say On Television" that was either hilarious or vile depending on your upbringing. Nowadays those words can be heard frequently on television, read frequently in books and newspapers, seen frequently on all sorts of social media sites except this blog, and heard coming out of the mouths of people with poor vocabularies everywhere except possibly in church.

I always thought George Carlin was funniest when he was doing things like pointing out that we drive on parkways and park on driveways.

But I don't want to talk about George Carlin. I want to talk about Spike Jones and the City Slickers.

If somehow you missed Spike Jones and the City Slickers (a novelty band from back in the 1940s and 1950s), your education was sorely lacking..

Let's remedy that. Here's The Man On the Flying Trapeze (3:06). Once you hear it, you will never forget it.

For those of you who never click on links, here's a fairly accurate (I do not say perfect) transcript of the clip:

Ohh honce I was wappy uh, once I was sappy, uh
Sap I was wunsy no, no
Once I was happy, but fow I'm norlorn, uh
Lorn I fow now, uh, sigh on lie nigh, uh
Nylons are free, no, no, now I'm forlorn

Like an old goat, oh no, not a goat, that's an animal
Like an old coat that is tornered and tat, uh, teetered and torned
Uh, tattered and tipped, uh, tap with a toupee, uh, ripped

Left in this wide world to sleep and to snore
Uh, to weep and to mourn
Betreaned by a jade in her means
No, bemeaned by a trade for some jeans
No, bejeaned by a teen with some jade
No, betrayed by a maid in her teens

He floats by his hair, ooh, not by his hair that would hurt
Speaking of hair, a man came up to me today and said
"Doodles, your hair is getting thin"
And I said, "Well, who wants fat hair?"
That's a killer!

He floats through the air with the aidest of grease
With the latest of fleas, uh, with plates full of cheese
No, no, with the birds and the bees, uh, he can't miss

The manning young dare, uh, the daring young mare
He's not a horse, that's silly, he'd break his neck
The fanny young Dan, the danny young fan
He's an awful old ham, uh, he's a young fellow 'bout my age

You know, a funny thing happened
A man came up to me and said
"Doodles, Doodles, did you leave home?"
I said, "I left home"
He said, "Did you put the cat out?"
I said, "I didn't know he was on fire!"
That's a killer!

The daring young man on the flapping tripeze
Uh, treezing triflaps, uh, trying flip flips, uh, flipping triflop
Uh, flapping trivalve, horizontal bars

His grations are axle, no, his actions are horrible, no
He's very good, all girls he doth please
But, my wuv he hath lollen astay
No, the dove's in the hayloft away
No, I'm on the road to Mandalay, no, hey hey hey
No, now, did you hear about the owl that married a goat?
They had a hootenanny.
That's a killer!

He's the man on the flying trapeze

(end of song)

You can find lots of other Spike Jones versions of songs like You Always Hurt The One You Love, Cocktails For Two, Laura, and so forth online.

But your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to go learn as much as you can about Mischief Night, Guy Fawkes Day, and Bonfire Night, and then talk about them on other people's blogs, maybe this one.

I'm kidding.

Sort of.

This post will self-destruct in five seconds. (No, it won't, however much you may wish it would.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

I know we can't really trust Wikipedia

...because it can be changed so easily by anybody, but click here for just about everything you could ever want to know about Halloween.

It may take you from now until next Halloween to read it all, but I will guarantee you this:

You will learn a few things you didn't know.

This post was prompted by Tasker Dunham, who left this comment on the previous post: "Don't know why we imported this custom from you anyway."

You didn't. We imported it from you.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Mini-rant and request for feedback

Halloween approaches. We do not observe it, but I read an article earlier today from Fortune magazine about the giving of candy. It got my dander up, made my hackles rise, and other expressions of displeasure.

Here it is if you want to give it a go.

I can't explain why but for some reason it made me absolutely furious.

To me, it had a Marie-Antoinette-like "Let them eat cake" air about it.

It might as well have been written by a dentist. It definitely was written by someone with more money than he or she knows what to do with.

Am I over-reacting? Tell me what you think.

Or just call me Scrooge and get it over with.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Chocolate mousse is like what??

Back on September 28th, in a short post entitled "A short post is still a post" I shared the following with you:

The three hardest things to say:
1. I’m sorry
2. I need help
3. Worcestershire Sauce

which elicited from you, my vast reading public, what for this blog is quite a few comments, 12 or 13, or as we say here in the colonies, "a right smart amount".

Just yesterday it elicited another one from my old friend Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe, from whom I had not heard in some time. She said, "Why bother saying 'Worcestershire Sauce' when you could say 'Henderson's Relish'? Far tastier and from an infinitely superior county” (meaning Yorkshire) and then congratulated me on having reached my 12th, or silk, blogging anniversary.

Blogging is so educational. As I had never heard of Henderson's Relish, I looked it up.

I received a shock of inestimable proportions and replied to Elizabeth as follows:

"Elizabeth, I am not familiar with Henderson's Relish. Another name for Worcestershire Sauce in the U.S. is Lea & Perrins (the two men who, I discovered in my reading, invented Worcestershire Sauce in 1837). Live and learn. I also learned just how little I know when I read that Henderson's Relish is very similar to Worcestershire Sauce but without the anchovies. I had no idea that Worcestershire Sauce contained anchovies. You have furthered my education. Reading that Henderson's Relish is very similar to Worcestershire Sauce but without the anchovies was rather like reading that chocolate mousse is very similar to trifle but without the mustard. I am still in shock."

I want to ask readers who don't live in the U.K. two questions:

1. Have you ever heard of Henderson's Relish or am I the only one living in a vacuum?
2. Did you know before reading this post that Worcestershire Sauce contains anchovies?

I want to ask readers who do live in the U.K., in the interest of science, of course, to prepare two trifles, one with mustard and one without, and report your findings to us. Anchovies are optional.

As we also say in the colonies, "Don't knock it until you've tried it."

(Both images used in accordance with CC-BY-SA 3.0)

(Above image used in accordance with CC-BY-3.0)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

I also identify as Jonathan Swift

I want to share a couple of facts with you and then, like Jonathan Swift, make a modest proposal.

Fact 1:. The current population of the United States of America is around 330,000,000 living human beings plus, of course, an indeterminate number of dead ones who manage to vote in every election. At some point after the next decennial census (for readers in Alabama, that means a census that occurs every 10 years) takes place next spring we will have a more exact number to report in the living human being category.

Fact 2: According to a study released by George Mason University in 2018, the “Medicare for All” plan pushed by Senator Bernie Sanders and endorsed by a host of Democratic congressional and presidential hopefuls would increase government health care spending by $32.6 trillion over 10 years. Several other studies have been completed since then, and all are in the same ballpark, give or take a few trillion dollars here or there. To make our calculations easier, let's round that $32.6T to an even $33T.

Anybody guessed where I am going with this? No? Read on.

After learning those two facts, I had an "Aha!" moment that resulted in this Modest Proposal that I now present for your consideration:.

Whereas Our Glorious Leader is so busy doing things of great importance like pulling troops out of Syria and trying to avoid impeachment and trying to decide where to host the next G7 summit without violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution that he doesn't need to worry his pretty little orange head over a little thing like administering $33 trillion for healthcare, and

Whereas the 435 members of the United States House of Representatives and the 100 members of the United States Senate are also so busy doing things of great importance like trying to impeach Our Glorious Leader and criticizing him when he does such things as suddenly pulling troops out of places like Syria and scheduling G7 summits at his very own hotel in Miami, Florida, thus violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, and we mustn't forget constantly fundraising to ensure their own re-election to the aforementioned House of Representatives and Senate that they have no time for such minor things as creating new laws and government agencies and finding ways to pay 33 trillion dollars for their constituents' healthcare without enraging said constituents, and

Whereas the author of this document noticed how evenly 33 trillion dollars can be divided among 330 million people, and

Whereas our government leaders can create as many postage stamps, certificates of citizenship, coins, and pieces of paper currency as they wish and no one can do anything to stop them,

Therefore, be it resolved that every living human being in the United States of American be given one million dollars ($1,000,000 USD) and let him or her take care of his or her own darned healthcare henceforth, even now and forever.

(end of proposal)

There, I did it and I'm glad, and if you think this proposal is bad, you should read the one Jonathan Swift made back in 1729.

P.S. —- Oops, I made a little boo-boo in my math. Giving 330 million people a million dollars each equals 330 trillion dollars, not 33 trillion dollars. You’ll be receiving only a hundred thousand dollars, not a million dollars, and it has to last for ten years. That’s only ten thousand dollars per year, which may not cover some people’s healthcare expenses. Best we not reveal the mistake and let them give us the full million dollars proposed. Besides, government estimates are so notoriously low that the actual cost may end up being 330 trillion dollars anyway, so all’s well that ends well.

P.P.S. —- As Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois said many years ago, “A few billion here, a few billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

I identify as a Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer

I remember reading some years ago that when a man and a woman are alone together in a room — the very premise shows how many years ago it must have been — there are six people present:

1. The man he actually is.
2. The man he thinks he is.
3. The man she thinks he is.
4. The woman she actually is.
5. The woman she thinks she is.
6. The woman he thinks she is.

Wow, that’s quite a crowd in that room.

At some point between then and now, however, the earth must have shifted.

Today, according to the self-styled movers and shakers, you can be anyone you wish.

The DailyMail.com website for October 14, 2019, had the following headline:

Awkward! Chelsea Clinton emphatically states a person with a beard and a penis can 'absolutely' identify as a woman, while mom Hillary shuffles and looks conflicted as she blames 'generational' differences for not being as open to trans rights

That is not the first paragraph of the article. That is the headline.

Without burdening you further about the article -- you can go read it for yourself if you have a mind to -- I would like to make the following observation.

You can identify as anything that suits your fancy -- a woman, a man, a French poodle, a purple popsicle. The list of possibilities is endless. That is your right as a free moral agent. Have at it. Be my guest.

Whatever you want to identify as is fine with me -- a Douglas fir, a lake in the Adirondacks, a Doberman Pinscher, a medium-sized courgette (that's U.K.-speak for zucchini) -- anything at all.

But here’s the thing. Identifying as a zucchini or a whatever doesn't mean you are one.

As Popeye the Sailor Man may or may not have once said, "You are what you are, and that's all that you are."

He couldn't live without his can of spinach. Lucy couldn't live without Ricky Ricardo. Kim Kardashian can't live without her Kanye. It takes all kinds.

As to how I (or we) should treat people with different-from-the-mainstream ideas, the Golden Rule should always be kept in mind: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Many people’s credo seems to be Do unto others before they get a chance to do unto you.

Some groups, like Antifa on the one hand and neo-Nazis on the other, carry this idea to extremes and physically attack anyone who disagrees with them they perceive as standing in the way of accomplishing their agenda.

How I (or we) should treat Antifa or neo-Nazis is a topic for a different post.

This post is too discombobulated to win a Pulitzer Prize, but on the off-chance that the selection committee picks me, tell them to send the money to Tahiti, which is where I identify as currently living.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Hasenpfeffer Incorporated

This post serves as a sort of filler to keep you occupied while I am trying to think of what to blog about next.

For your edification and reading enjoyment, here is your very own link to a fascinating article from the website mentalfloss.com entitled "Thirty-Eight Wonderful Words With No Equivalent In English".

If you watched Laverne and Shirley in decades past, you will understand the title of this post when you finish reading the article.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I thought of a fifth adjective

...to go with terrifying, horrifying, shocking, and devastating (my personal list of turn-off “click bait” in internet headlines).

That word is -- drum roll, please -- heartbreaking.

Moving right along, Mrs. RWP received a mystery bouquet this week. It wasn't from me. Here are sides A, B, and C:

So now you know that in addition to every argument having two sides, every bouquet has three. That's not really true. I just wanted you to see the flowers from different angles to get the full effect.

The bouquet contained some wonderfully fragrant lavender flowers that I didn't recognize, so I called the florist's shop to find out what they were. "Stock," the woman who answered the phone said, after checking with the floral designer. I had never heard of stock before, but I have led a sheltered life.

I suppose that statement alone makes this post truly shocking!

It turned out that the vase of beautiful flowers was sent by our son-in-law in Alabama, just because he was thinking about Mrs. RWP. His timing could not have been more perfect to lift her spirits. The bouquet arrived the day before the anniversary of the burial of our niece, Mrs. RWP's brother's daughter, who died suddenly of heart failure last year at 53 in North Carolina. Our Alabama son-in-law had no way of knowing that, so it made his thoughtfulness extra special.

Here is a photo of our daughter and her husband at last Saturday's football game at their alma mater, Jacksonville State University, where this year both of their sons play in the marching band show at half-time.

After 26 years of marriage, our daughter and son-in-law are still apparently very happy. If they are not, they are hiding it very well.

My daughter looks so much like my mother that it is almost scary. It is not terrifying, horrifying, shocking, devastating, or heartbreaking, but it is definitely scary.

Until next time, I remain
Yr faithful correspondent,

P.S. -- Because it rained last Saturday, the band marched without their plumed hats. My two grandsons are plainly visible in the two photos below, one in each photo.

Friday, October 4, 2019

And another thing....

I get really tired of seeing what are supposed to be news articles on the internet that include the words terrifying, horrifying, shocking, or devastating in the headline. Just report the facts and eliminate the click-bait. We, the readers, will decide whether we are terrified, horrified, shocked, or devastated.

This is my 1,777th post, the second post in my thirteenth year of blogging. I hope to have many more posts and many more years of blogging. It would also please me no end to have more readers.

But even if that never happens, I am completely satisfied with us -- we few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters. Shakespeare didn't say "and sisters" but Shakespeare was stuck back there in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and I am an enlightened 21st-century person.

Besides, and I haven't told you this previously, my middle name is Henry, so I have no compunction whatever about mangling some lines from Henry V.

As my mother used to say, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

She was always saying things like that. She was a regular Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.

She would say, "Faint heart ne'er won fair maid."

She would say, "Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds."

She would say, "A soft answer turneth away wrath."

She would say, "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride."

It was very educational and even inspirational growing up around my mother.

My dad, on the other hand, would say, "Wish in one hand and spit in the other, and see what you get the most of." Sometimes he didn't say "spit" but the word he used rhymed with "spit".

How did I get on this subject? Oh, yes, thinking about how nice it would be to have more readers.

Today is also the 62nd anniversary of my mother's death, which probably explains why I am thinking about her.

I shall now bring this post to a close and hope that you won't be terrified, horrified, shocked, or devastated by it, although you may choose to be if you so desire.

See you next time, which will be my 1,778th post, the third post in my thirteenth year of blogging.

Until then, spread the word. If you spread it, they will come.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

This post is revolutionary.

I mentioned at the end of my last post that my next post would be revolutionary, and it is. It says so right there in the title. To learn why, continue reading.

What I am about to tell you is not what makes this post revolutionary, though. What I am about to tell you merely documents a recently-acquired pet peeve of mine to go along with all the other pet peeves I already have.

I don't know if it happens in England or Australia, but more and more Americans are confusing the words where and were in their writing. I roll my eyes, I clench my teeth, my jaws tighten every time I encounter it, but to date my actions have had absolutely no effect on my fellow countrymen (and women).

It shouldn’t be that difficult, people.

As every speaker of English should know, “were” is the past tense of the verb "to be". Surely you remember conjugating verbs:

I am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, you are, they are show the present tense of the verb "to be" in first person singular, second person singular, third person singular, first person plural, second person plural, and third person plural, respectively.

I was, you were, he/she/it was, we were, you were, they were show the past tense.

I shall be, you will be, he/she/it will be, we shall be, you will be, they will be show the future tense.

Some people no longer differentiate between shall and will, but we oldtimers who were taught well still do.

I could also speak, if time permitted, of the present perfect (I have been, you have been, etc.) and the past perfect (I had been, you had been, etc.) and even the future perfect (I shall have been, you will have been, etc.), but it does not.

Time is precious.

As I was saying, more and more Americans write sentences like “We where late to the festivities” and “I don’t know were I left my car keys.“ I see sentences like these quite frequently.

I’m not kidding.

There are two reasons, in my opinion. First of all, in old western movies, people with frontier accents were always saying things like “Whur did y’all git them there horses?” A lot of people in America still talk like that, except today they say things like “Whur did y’all git that there iPhone 10?”

So the word where has been mispronounced on this side of the pond for a very long time.

And second of all, people also drop the H sound from the WH combination so that the words where and were have become American homonyms (words that sound alike but are spelled differently) when they are not. For the record, I was taught back in antediluvian times to pronounce WH words as though they were spelled HW (hwat, hwere, hwich, hwen, hwy, hwether, and so forth) because they originally began with “hw” in Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon.

I use the HW sound in all the words mentioned previously, but I have never used it in who, whom, or whose. I don’t know why. I just don’t. I say hoo, hoom, and hooz. I don’t spell them that way but I do say them that way. It’s quite inconsistent of me, I know. But I have heard a woman on television say “to hwom” on more than one occasion. I could tell you her name but I won’t.

As I said at the beginning, absolutely none of any of that makes this post revolutionary.

Here’s what makes this post revolutionary.

It’s my 1776th post.

What could be more revolutionary than that?

(Declaration of Independence, a 12-by-18-foot (3.7 by 5.5 m) oil-on-canvas painting created by John Trumbull in 1819, hangs in the U.S. Capitol rotunda and depicts activities that occurred in Philadelphia in July 1776.)

Saturday, September 28, 2019

A short post is still a post

Here's my find of the day and perhaps of the month.

The three hardest things to say:
1. I’m sorry
2. I need help
3. Worcestershire Sauce

P.S. -- Happy 12th blogging anniversary to me.

P.P.S. -- My next post will be revolutionary.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Let's clear the air (spoiler: this post is about impeachment)

...and let's begin by saying, "No, Virginia, there is probably not a Hyman F. Suddfluffel, PhD."

If you're scratching your head and muttering "Huh?" under your breath, read on.

The following appeared on my Facebook page today. I had not encountered it before.

By: Hyram F. Suddfluffel, PhD, (Political Science)

I have a degree in Political Science, and I am a card-carrying Libertarian. I've been studying politics and political history for the past 30 years. My specialty is U.S. Presidents. That said, I hope that the House of Representatives impeaches Trump. Let me tell you what will happen next!

1. The House can pass articles of impeachment over the objections of the Republicans, and refer to the Senate for trial.

2. The Senate will conduct a trial. There will be a vote, and the Republicans will vote unanimously, along with a small number of Democrats, to not convict the President. Legally, it will all be over at that point.

3. However, during the trial, and this is what no one is thinking about right now, the President's attorneys will have the right to subpoena and question ANYONE THEY WANT.. That is different than the special counsel investigation, which was very one-sided. So, during the impeachment trial, we will be hearing testimony from James Comey, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr, Glenn Simpson, Donna Brazile, Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, Christopher Steele, Hillary Clinton, John Brennan, James Clapper, and a whole host of other participants in this whole sordid affair and the ensuing cover up activities. A lot of dirt will be dug up; a lot of truth will be unveiled. Finger pointing will occur. Deals will start being made, and suddenly, a lot of democrats will start being charged and going to prison. All this, because, remember, the President's team will now, for the first time, have the RIGHT to question all of these people under oath – and they will turn on each other. That is already starting.

4. Lastly, one more thing will happen, the Senate will not convict the President. Nothing will happen to Trump. Most Americans are clueless about political processes, the law, and the Constitution. Most Americans believe that being impeached results in removal from office. They don't understand that phase 2 is a trial in and by the Senate, where he has zero chance of conviction. Remember, the Senate is controlled by Republicans; they will determine what testimony is allowed -- and **everything** will be allowed, including: DNC collusion with the Clinton campaign to fix the election in favor of Hillary, the creation of the Trump dossier, the cover up and destruction of emails that very likely included incriminating information. They will incriminate each other for lying to the FISA court, for spying and wiretapping the Trump campaign, and for colluding with foreign political actors, especially George Soros. After the Senate declines to convict the President, we will have an election, and Trump will win. It will be a backlash against democrat petulance, temper tantrums, hypocrisy and dishonesty. Even minorities will vote for Trump, because, for the first time, they will see that democrats have spent 2+ years focused on maintaining their own power, and not doing anything at all about black murders in Chicago, homelessness, opioids, and other important issues that are actually killing people. And, we will spend the following four years listening to politicians and pundits claim that the whole impeachment was rigged.

So let's move on to impeachment.

Hyram F. Suddfluffel, PhD

I immediately did a DuckDuckGo search (I no longer use Google) on the name Hyram F. Suddfluffel, as it sounded made up, like Jubilation T. Cornpone.

Lots of hits came up, the most interesting of which is a long article at heavy.com called "Hyram F. Suddfluffel: The Origin & What’s True about the Viral Impeachment Post". I recommend that you read it before continuing.

There are several most important things to remember.

The most important thing to remember is that it is not important whether Hyman F. Suddfluffel exists. Come on, people. Noms de plume have been all the rage in writing circles for a very long time. I mean, Mark Twain was not his real name, you know. George Eliot (remember Silas Marner?) was really Mary Anne Evans. George Orwell was really Eric Arthur Blair. I could go on, but you get my point.

The most important thing to remember is whether the information in what heavy.com calls "the Viral Impeachment Post" is true.

Some of it is, and some of it isn't.

The most important thing to remember is that impeachment in the House of Representatives does not mean removal from office. A conviction in the Senate would mean that.

The most important thing to remember is that removal from office would not mean that Hillary Clinton becomes president. Vice-president Mike Pence would become president.

And the last most important thing to remember is this:

Take a deep breath and keep breathing.

But perhaps the most important most important thing to remember: Switch from Google to DuckDuckGo.

Monday, September 23, 2019

As the world turns, these are the days of our lives

...but we are definitely not the young and the restless. This week, a few days before the autumnal equinox, our firstborn turned 55.

We are old.

But you knew that.

A couple of days later one of our smoke alarms started chirping. I hauled our five-foot ladder out of its comfy place in the garage and brought it into the front hallway. I knew the smoke alarm needed a new 9-volt battery and I thought I had one in the kitchen drawer where we keep miscellaneous things. Rummaging through the drawer, I found a cheese grater, clear plastic salad tongs (the tongs are clear plastic, not the salads), wooden skewers for cooking, two screwdrivers, a hammer, a yellow plastic funnel, a package of Disposable Latex Gloves, and (voila!) some batteries -- AA batteries, AAA batteries, C batteries, D batteries, and finally a 9-volt battery. I returned to the front hall with my prize.

After ascending the ladder -- Mrs. RWP was afraid I would fall off -- and removing the contraption from its ceiling bracket, I realized that I had no idea what to do next. It was still attached by wires to the ceiling and I didn't know how to disengage the wires. I also couldn't see from my angle how to open the contraption and replace the battery. I decided to call my second child who lives about 20 minutes away.

He said he would come over and take care of it, and he did. I tried to watch closely enough to be able to do it myself in the future. He had bought a 9-volt battery on the way over, which was a good thing because the one I had found in the miscellaneous drawer was a tad out of date.

More than a tad, actually.

I am not, repeat, not a hoarder. If I were a hoarder, we would have drawers and drawers full of miscellaneous stuff instead of just one, and the rooms would be impassable for all the clutter, and the sink would be piled high with dirty dishes. I have watched television. I know.

So life goes on and the world keeps turning.

Thanks be to God.

In five more days this blog will be 12 years old. Next year we might have a bar mitzvah.

Monday, September 16, 2019

A musical foray (see what I did there?)

One of my all-time favorite pieces of music is the hauntingly beautiful Sicilenne Op.78 by the French composer Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924).

In the-online-reference-source-that-must-not-be-named I learned that there have been many different arrangements of the piece for various instruments. Specifically, "[T]he cello and piano and full orchestral versions of the Sicilienne have been recorded many times. There are also recordings of arrangements, not by Fauré, for bassoon and piano; cello and guitar; cello and harp; flute and guitar; flute and harp; flute and piano; guitar and orchestra; solo guitar; solo harp; oboe and piano; panpipes and piano; saxophone and orchestra; saxophone quartet; tuba and piano; viola and piano; vocal ensemble; and voice and harp."

Also, oddly, "[T]he cello and piano version is in G minor in 6/8 time. It is marked andantino with a metronome mark of dotted crotchet = 50. The full orchestral version, also G minor, is marked allegretto molto moderato. The playing time of the piece is typically between three and a half and four minutes."

For the musical novice, andantino means kind of slow, but not too slow, and allegretto means kind of fast, but not too fast.

All righty, then. Let us coninue.

I would like for you to listen to just three of the various arrangements and tell me your reactions afterward.

1. Here is a beautiful arrangement of it for orchestra and flute featuring James Galway on flute (3:59).

2. Here is an arrangement of it for flute and harp. Although it is beautiful to listen to, it was difficult for me to watch because of what can only be described as the helicopter movements of the flute player. From 2013, here are Olga Zmanovskaya on flute and Elizaveta Bushueva on harp (3:43).

3. I find this one most moving, but then I like the instruments involved. It is for cello and piano (3:54).

I bet you thought we were through.

I lied.

4. For blog readers who are more visual than aural, here is a fourth clip I want you to watch. It is like looking at a piano roll on an old-time player piano (4:18). I hope you like it.

Now we're done.

At least I didn't subject you to the tuba.

Be sure to give me your opinions in the comments.

Monday, September 9, 2019

What's wrong with this picture?

"Nothing," you may be tempted to say.

You would be wrong.

On Saturday afternoon, as we (Mrs. RWP and I) were sitting in our house watching television, we heard an odd sound.

"What was that?" said Mrs. RWP.

"Oh, I bet the wind has picked up the patio umbrella again," I answered. We occasionally find it in our back yard after a particularly stiff breeze has blown through. The problem, I think, is with its base, which is filled with sand and into which one is supposed to stick the umbrella. Ours is cantankerous and often spits the umbrella out with the help of the wind.

I got up to look and, sure enough, the umbrella was missing.

First I looked to the right.

Then I looked to the left.

Then I looked even further to the left.

No umbrella in sight. Where could it have gone? It must have blown around the corner of the house, farther away than it has ever blown before. I decided to go find it and bring it back after a good talking-to.

I took a few steps off the patio and this is what I saw:

I was shocked. How did it get up there? I viewed it from another angle:

I am 78 years old. I don't do roofs any more. Even if I did, the longest ladder I have is only eight feet long. Besides, if I tried, I would never hear the end of it from Mrs. RWP.

What to do? Mrs. RWP wanted to call our son or grandson to come from 12 miles away and get it down.

I rejected this idea as being too time-consuming.

In just a couple of minutes, while we were wondering how to proceed, another gust of wind returned the intrepid explorer to the ground. I retrieved it and put it back where it belongs but forgot to take a final photograph. Here's one from a while back:

I have decided to give our patio umbrella a name since it has proved itself to be almost human. I can't decide between Griselda and Magellan. I am unsure of its gender, so Francis/Frances Drake is a possibility.

I'm just glad the pole didn't go through one of our windows.

While the view from the roof of the Rhymeswithplagues of Canton, Georgia, USA is unimpressive, nothing to write home about, the view from the roof where the Yorkshire Puddings of Sheffield, England, UK are currently vacationing in Orebic, Croatia looks like this.

Today I thought I heard Griselda/Magellan quoting the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (604 BCE - 531 BCE) to one of the patio chairs, and what he or she said was, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Watch out, Croatia. Keep your eyes peeled for an unexpected visitor.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

When dangling, watch your participles

I, the great Rhymeswithplague, Lord Protector Of My Little Corner Of The World And Master (Usually) Of All I Survey, have a confession to make.

While reading through the previous post this morning, I discovered that I had created and actually published a sentence containing a dangling participle.

Lo, how the mighty have fallen.

The offending sentence was this:

"After sailing through the Panama Canal a couple of times on his way to places like Oregon and southern California and Florida and the icy waters off the coast of Greenland, his last duty assignment in the Navy happened to be Quonset Point, Rhode Island."

That is simply impossible. My dad's last duty assignment in the Navy, Quonset Point, Rhode Island, never sailed through the Panama Canal even once, let alone visit Oregon, southern California, Florida, or the icy waters off the coast of Greenland.

Do you see the difference? My dad did those things, not his last duty assignment in the Navy, Quonset Point, Rhode Island, but since the subject of the sentence was the latter, that's what the participial phrase at the beginning is modifying.

Here are some ways I could have written the sentence better:

  • After sailing through ...icy waters off the coast of Greenland, the man made his way to his last duty assignment in the Navy Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
  • After the man sailed through the Panamal Canal a couple of times...coast of Greenland, his last duty assignment in the Navy ....
  • After sailing through the Panama Canal to ...the coast of Greenland, he was assigned to....

At least he was the one doing the sailing in those versions, which is only fitting and proper.

On a website called softschools.com, I found these amusing examples of dangling participles:

1) Speeding through the tunnel, the station came into view. (the station was not speeding through the tunnel, a person was, on a train presumably.)

2) Broken into pieces, I swept up the glass. (the person was not broken into pieces, the glass was.)

3) Forgetting all about class, the weather was perfect at the beach! (the weather did not forget all about class, the person who went to the beach did.)

4) Making my bed, the stuffed animals were on the floor. (the animals are not making the bed)

5) Petting his head, my dog enjoyed my company. (the dog is not petting his own head)

6) Wishing for a pony, the farm was a magical place for me. (the farm is not wishing for a pony)

7) Walking through the woods, the trees were magnificent. (the trees are not walking)

8) Freezing our hands off, the snow was fun to play in. (the snow is not freezing its hands off)

9) Reading quickly, the book was too exciting to put down. (the book is not reading quickly)

Nine examples are more than enough. It borders on overkill.

By now, dear reader, you know what is wrong with the title of this post (and if you don't, you haven’t been paying attention: it is not you who are dangling, it is your participles).

Which example of a dangling participle tickled your fancy the most?

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Eighty years ago today (unless it's already tomorrow where you live)

...the War To End All Wars To End All Wars began when a few people of the German persuasion entered Poland on September 1, 1939, without so much as a "by your leave".

That is your bit of history trivia for the day.

Eighty years ago tomorrow -- by which I mean September 2, 1939 -- was a date I thought for many years was an important one in my family's history, until I discovered that it wasn't.

Let me explain.

(Spoiler: This is going to be another post about my parents, all three of them.)

I thought September 2, 1939, was the day my parents got married. The truth is a bit more complicated.

As far as I know, my biological parents never married. They met in New York City where both of them had moved to find work, my mother from Pennsylvania and my father from Rhode Island. At some point after they met, I was conceived. At some point after I was conceived -- I'm not sure just when -- he returned to Rhode Island and she went there too. Whether they went together or she followed him there, I have no idea (I do not mean to sound like Yoda from Star Wars, speaking backwards and all, but it simply cannot be helped). I was born on March 18, 1941, but my biological father, hereafter known as "the sperm donor", was not present. I discovered by doing research many years later that on March 11, 1941, one week before my arrival, the sperm donor joined the United States Army and left Rhode Island and my mother's life forever. She stayed in the same city for several years, the city where his family lived, but I have no idea if there was any contact between them. Although she had earned a college degree that qualified her to teach in elementary school, my first recollection of where she worked was at a Coats & Clark Thread factory.

I do remember being about 3 and hearing, one time and one time only, one of my nursery school teachers call my mother “Mrs. M———-“; I believe my mother had assumed this title without benefit of clergy in an attempt at respectability in a day when the term “single mother” had not yet been coined and being one was held in low regard.

The man who raised me was living more than a thousand miles away in Iowa with a wife of his own. In December 1942 he joined the United States Navy and served until World War II ended in 1945. At some point during his term of service, his wife in Iowa divorced him. After sailing through the Panama Canal a couple of times on his way to places like Oregon and southern California and Florida and the icy waters off the coast of Greenland, his last duty assignment in the Navy happened to be Quonset Point, Rhode Island. At some point around 1945 a mutual friend introduced him to my mother and the rest is history. I must have been about 4 when they met but I have no memory of him then except for seeing him a few times wearing a white sailor suit.

As an adult I discovered through research that they were married on September 2, 1946, in Seekonk, Massachusetts. The only birth certificate I have ever had was issued about this time also, just before I began public school, when one would be needed. It shows Clifford Ray Brague as my father, which is impossible based on what I have shared with you in this post. I don’t think he adopted me officially, but I became Robert Brague that day.

After completing my first year of school, we moved from Rhode Island to Texas. As far as I or anyone else knew, they had been married since 1939. September 1940 would not have worked for public consumption because I was born, remember, in March 1941.

He told me one time “I gave you a name”.

I know they meant well and did everything for what they considered good reasons, but a line of Sir Walter Scott’s comes to mind:

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

All the principals have been gone for a long time now. My mother died in 1957, my birth-certificate dad died in 1967. I discovered through further research that my biological dad/sperm donor died in 1977 in New Jersey. He married and had a family after the war. I have chosen not to contact them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

I'm not saying it is and I'm not saying it isn't

...but the time for stopping this blog may be drawing near. One never knows. One just tries to go with the flow, and some days the flow is more like molasses (British: treacle) than spring water.

It's a long, long time from May to December, and the days grow short when you reach September.

So I've heard, and I partially believe it.

All three of my children are now over 50 years of age. My six grandchildren have all graduated from high school. Two of them have finished college and the other four are actively pursuing their degrees.

My new puppy is three already.

Time flies when you're having fun.

Ellie and I are working on Year 57 of The Rhymeswithplague Chronicles.

I have some very faithful readers whom I don't want to disappoint. Snowbrush in Oregon, Emma in Iowa, Pam in Washington State, for example. There are Kylie and Sue in Australia, Neil and Michelle in England, Adrian and Graham in Scotland. Red in Canada leaves an occasional comment, and so do Frances (England) and Kate (New Zealand). That nice lady in British Columbia used to, but she hasn't dropped by lately. Gary in England comments every once in a while. Elizabeth in England stays in touch via Facebook these days because the blogger gods continue to throw roadblocks in her path.

Not a huge crowd -- and there are others I'm forgetting, I'm sure -- but a faithful group who have enriched my life by hanging in there.

Not literally, of course. Figuratively.

Do send me a photo if you are hanging in there literally. I'd love to see it.

Some were here for a season but have vanished. Carol in Cairns. Carolina in Nederland. Daphne. Silverback. Helsie. Dr. John. Putz.

Some have shuffled off this mortal coil (to coin a phrase) and some have not shuffled off quite yet but neither have they checked in lately.

As Yul Brynner in the role of the King of Siam in The King and I so famously said, "Is...a puzzlement!"

Today I am waxing nostalgic and wondering what the future may hold.

I'm counting on the future being bright, at least for a while yet.

Stay tuned.

In closing, I want to say that I do understand that three, count 'em, three posts in a whole month do not a scintillating blog or a bestseller make.

If you think this is the most boring post you have read in a very long time, kindly keep it to yourself.

No, tell me. At least I'll know you're there.

Monday, August 19, 2019


Here are the words to the song "From A Distance" written in 1989 by Julie Gold:

From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snow capped mountains white
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight

From a distance, there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace
It's the voice of every man

From a distance we all have enough
And no one is in need
And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease
No hungry mouths to feed

From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace
They're the songs of every man

God is watching us, God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance

From a distance you look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
What all this fighting is for

From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
And it's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves
It's the heart of every man

It's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves
This is the song of every man

And God is watching us, God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance
Oh, God is watching us, God is watching
God is watching us from a distance

[end of song lyrics]

Listen to Bette Midler sing it here (4:33) if you like.

Take a breath.

Now read a poem I wrote a few years ago:

Table Grace With Musings Afterward
by Robert H. Brague

“God is great, God is good;
Let us thank Him for our food.
By His hands we all are fed.
Thank you, Lord for daily bread. Amen.”
Okay, everybody, dig in!

.....God is deaf, God is blind
.....To the ills of humankind;
.....While we struggle here below,
.....Seraphim fly to and fro before his throne
.....Crying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.
.....Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
.....Glory be to Thee, O Lord, Most High.”


.....Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.
.....Secula seculorum,
.....World without end,

Please pass the butter.

.....And the angel said, “Hail, Mary, full of grace,
.....The Lord is with thee.”
.....(Closer than your next breath,
.....Nearer than a heartbeat.
.....With thee With thee WITH thee WITH thee...)

More coffee, anyone?

.....How is it
.....That a God so pure, so holy that He
.....Cannot look upon sin,
.....A God so high, so lifted up that His train alone
.....Filled an ancient temple,
.....Has turned from His headlong march in the opposite direction
.....And looked upon me?
..........(I believe in the Holy Spirit…)

.....How is it
.....That His single gaze pierced through
.....My carefully constructed armor?
..........(The holy catholic Church…)

.....And how, finally, is it
.....That His eyes, aflame like
.....Hot coals from an altar, yet filled with
.....Indescribable tenderness,
.....Can see everything and still, in the seeing,
..........(The communion of saints…)

Cream and sugar?

.....It is not for us to know the times and seasons…
..........(The forgiveness of sins…)
...............Credo in unum Deum.

.....Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face…
..........(The resurrection of the body…)
...............Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine.

.....Then we shall know even as we are known.
..........(And the life everlasting.)
...............Deum Verum de Deo Vero.

,,,,,Neither do I condemn thee: Go and sin no more...
..........He knows. He loves. He forgives.
...............It is enough to know for the present.

Does anyone want dessert?

[end of poem]

Take another breath.

Julie Gold is not a theologian. Neither am I.

I’m fairly sure Bette Midler is not one either.

We are merely people with different perspectives.

What’s yours?

<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...