Friday, July 10, 2020

I will be laboring (British, labouring) under a handicap for the next couple of weeks (British, fortnight)

More about that below.

First, though, I want to add an addendum (what else would you do with an addendum?) to my previous post about phonetic alphabets. I really don't have a single set of words that I use. They're different every time. I just pick one on the fly as the need arises. One day I might say P as in pusillanimous and the next day I might say P as in pteradactyl. On Tuesday I might say B as in bituminous and on Thursday I might say B as in Bunsen burner. I might say E as in embarrassing in June and E as in ectoplasm in July

I am nothing if not inconsistent.

I am unpredictable, not satisfied with a single answer, mercurial (M as in marsupial, E as in edamame, R as in rhododendron,....)

But getting back to the mystery expressed in the title of this post, I am getting a new pair of glasses with a stronger prescription and I decided to have the lenses put into my existing frames, which cost a bundle and are downright excellent. They will be ready in "about 10 business days" according to the optician. Until then, I can't see very well, which puts a cramp in my blogging and replying to comments because Apple is wholly inadequate to the task. What I mean by that is this: I cannot create a post or reply to comments using my wonderful and expensive iPhone11, and no, I don't know why. I have to be at my desktop computer, as I am at this moment, to create a post or reply to your comments.

Normally, this would not be a problem (except that it takes me away from the room where Mrs. RWP usually is), but without glasses I must hunch over to be very close to the screen and will get a crick in my neck if I do it for very long. Hence, this is my notice to the world of my possible impending absence temporarily. I know the world is devastated at the thought.

A prescription for new eyeglasses is a marvelous thing. Mine says on the first line "O.D. Sphere -8.25, Cyl. +2.25, Axis 155°" and on the seond line it says "O.S. Sphere -9.25, Cyl. +1.25, Axis 180°". Someone who can interpret this strange language will magically produce a new set of lenses and return them to me in my beloved frames. At that point, I expect that God will be in His heaven and all will be right with the world except if Antifa and the Marxists behind BLM have anything to say about it. Until then, I am, as they used to say in the military, SOL (the clean version of which is simply out of luck).

Your trivia fact for today is downright educational. The O.D. and O.S. in my prescription from the ophthalmologist are easily explained. O.D. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase ocula dexter (which means right eye) and O.S. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase ocula sinister (which means left eye).

You're welcome.

I'll be back in a jif. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

P as in Predicament, B as in Barbiturate, O as in Ophthalmologist

Somewhere in the back of my mind I think we may have talked about this before, long ago perhaps, but we're going to talk about it again.

Words people use to help others understand how something is spelled. Some people call them "phonetic alphabets" but that is actually a misnomer.

What brought this to the fore was an article I read recently, "It Might Be Time to Update the Old 'Alfa-Bravo-Charlie' Spelling Alphabet".

Read it. You might enjoy it.

What caught my eye was the word "Old" in the title. To my way of thinking, the "Alfa-Bravo-Charlie-(Delta-Echo-Foxtrot)" sequence is the new one, not the old one. I learned it in the U.S. Air Force, where it was called the NATO phonetic alphabet (okay, so it was way back in the sixties). The "old" one to me is the one everybody used before the sixties, during World War II: Able-Baker-Charlie-Dog-Easy-Fox and so forth.

When I say "everybody" I mean people in the United States. Of course, there was the occasional crazy divergence. I once heard comedian Shelley Berman say "N as in Newel Post" in one of his routines (unless it was "K as in Knewel Post" that he said, which would have been funnier).

I like to make up my own, the more obscure the better. You might say "B as in Boyfriend, G as in Girlfriend, M as in Merry Christmas" but I prefer to say "B as in Blitzkrieg, G as in Gargantuan, M as in Multitudinous". And therein lies the key, I think, to making oneself understood over a bad telephone connection. Use less-frequently heard words for your examples and the person on the other end of the connection will be more likely to understand.

Yeah, that's the ticket! (T as in Thermonuclear, H as in Happenstance, E as in Eucalyptus....)

Do tell us in a comment your favorite (British, favourite) ways to spell phonetically.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Fascinating, but useless

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I am not talking about myself.

No, friends, I'm talking about an article by Nicola Davis in The Guardian entitled "Scientists say most likely number of contactable alien civilisations is 36" which you can read by clicking here.

(Memo to file: I prefer headlines with initial capital letters on important words.)

The article is interesting, but not enlightening. It will introduce you to the Drake equation and the Astrobiological Copernican Principle and include paragraphs like the following:

"Under the strictest set of assumptions – where, as on Earth, life forms between 4.5bn and 5.5bn years after star formation – there are likely between four and 211 civilisations in the Milky Way today capable of communicating with others, with 36 the most likely figure."

Somewhere between four and 211. That really narrows it down. 36 the "most likely".


And the paragraph after that one states that "our civilisation would need to survive at least another 6,120 years for two-way communication."

Who came up with that figure?

It's balderdash, True "pie in the sky". A wild guess couched in a scienific cloak. As I said at the beginning, it's fascinating, but useless.

We are supposed to bow and genuflect in front of such erudition and knowledge.

If a scientist says it, it must be true.

One must be careful, though. I'm sure many scoffed at the idea of sailing west to reach the east when everybody knew that the earth was flat.

You may disagree with me in the comments. I don't mind.

So far in the month of July I have produced a post every day. I may be turning into Yorkshire Pudding.

Talk about your alien civilisation.

(P.S. - Oops, I was wrong. This is the fourth day in July but my third post. I probably have no business speaking ill of scientists when I can't even count.)

Thursday, July 2, 2020

"the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America"

Today is July the twoth second.

One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams of Massachusetts, who later became our first Vice-President under Washington and then our second President, wrote to his wife Abigail, "The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America".

He missed it by two days. Independence Day is actually celebrated on July 4, the date that the wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved.

Here it is in full. I encourage you to enlarge it (if you can -- you may have to use a magnifying glass) and read it in its entirety in the old-fashioned cursive script of the time. Even "our Brittish brethren" (a phrase used in the Declaration) and Canadian and Australian friends. It is an exercise worth doing at least once in your life.

It is much out of fashion in today's cancel culture. All the more reason.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Welcome to 2020.5

July the oneth first. The first day of the second half of the year.

And it's Canada Day to boot.

Congratulations to Red and his compatriots, all 35,585,953 of you.

That is all.

P.S. - Is it still okay to sing "the thistle, shamrock, rose entwine the maple leaf forever"?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

To err is human, to forgive practically impossible

That title is not original with me, but I liked it when I read it or heard it several years ago, and today I pass it along to you to do with what you will.

In 1711, an Englishment named Alexander Pope (1688-1744) sat down and wrote, at the tender age of 23, a little something he called An Essay on Criticism. It contains what became several famous quotations, such as "To err is human, to forgive divine", "A little learning is a dang'rous thing", and "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread".

(Note. Some readers may detect that I use British-style punctuation when it comes to quotation marks, which the British call double inverted commas, because the American way of putting commas and periods inside of quotation marks seems illogical to me. American pedants and grammarians, whoever you are, please do not send me comments pointing this out as an error. I am doing it on purpose. --RWP)

I'm not sure, but I think yesterday's post may have demonstrated all three of Pope's aphorisms. Be that as it may, I forge ahead. Inadvertently, of course.

Of course.

The post had six comments as of this morning, and I find myself agreeing with them all (except the part in Bonnie's comment about Jesus' middle initial as a child -- that seems a wholly fanciful explanation to me. How could he have had a "middle initial" when he didn't have a last name?). So I thought I would give the commenters their due and publish yesterday's comments as my post today for those readers who never bother to look at comments. You know who you are.

1. Kathy in Virginia wrote:

Very interesting.
Actually I don't say it since it seems like cursing and taking the Lord's name in vain. I hadn't heard of adding the H either.
And I didn't know there were wires around Manhattan. If one was really a devout Jew, I don't think wires strung overhead would make me think it was ok to break God's laws on the Sabbath. But I'm not Jewish, and it seems silly to me, but I'm glad the wires help them anyway.

2. Elephant's Child (Sue) in Australia wrote:

The eruv seem proof that where there is a will there is a way.
I believe that Jesus H Christ is a particularly American term - or at least I have not heard it here.

3. Terra in Oregon wrote:

The eruvs are hard to understand and allow Jews to move around more on their Sabbath and do things considered work, such as pushing a baby stroller, etc. I read about them several years ago when they wanted to put up an eruv in the San Jose area.

4. Emma Springfield in northwest Iowa wrote:


5. Bonnie in Missouri wrote:

Well, you have taught me something new. I've never heard of an eruv but then I'm not Jewish either. It does seem like the eruv is stretching their rules a bit though.

I was going to jokingly say that the "H" in Jesus H Christ was a middle initial. However I looked it up and it was his middle initial! As a child the "H" stood for Holy. Thanks to your post I have learned two things today.

6. Graham Edwards in Scotland wrote:

There are so many points on reading this and looking at the two links.

Firstly (here I go again), I've never heard of 'Jesus H Christ' so, as stated before me this may be a peculiarly American thing.
Secondly, I am atheist but I try never knowingly to blaspheme in any cultural context. It's always offensive to someone even if not someone within earshot.
Thirdly, when I was in my early 20s I had a Jewish friend and spent time with her family (she and I were not romantically involved which is a very important point). They were Orthodox. They used to employ a goy (their word not mine) to come in on The Sabbath to set and light fires in the winter and even switch the lights on and off plus anything else that was 'work'. It was worse than The Isle of Lewis when I arrived 45 years ago. That was the Free Church of Scotland though.
Fourthly, it seems to me that using obviously artificial methods to circumvent a law which was obviously thought to be stupid (otherwise the circumvention would have been irrelevant) is a blatant disregard for one's avowed beliefs and more a reflection of one's true beliefs.
That's enough. All this thinking first thing on the morning of the Sabbath is making my head hurt.

(end of comments)

Kathy is right. the phrases "Jesus H. Christ" and "Jesus, Mary, and Jehoshaphat" and even "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph" are epithets that call for exclamation points. They wouldn't be said in casual conversation; they are what are called "minced oaths", supposedly milder forms of cursing. I have never said any of them.

Sue is right. According to the article in yesterday's link, "ignorant Americans" before Mark Twain's time began saying "Jesus H. Christ" for the reason given in the article.

Terra is right, and there are more eruvs than just Manhattan and San Jose. There is a very long list of eruvs right here.

Bonnie is right about "stretching the rules a bit" (although I suppose the faithful leave it up to the rabbis to decide) but wrong about the H in "Jesus H. Christ" as I said before.

Emma is right. Not only is she right, she is also succinct. I could take a lesson from her.

Graham is right. His penultimate paragraph (the next to last one, for readers in Alabama) especially resonates with me.

Until next time, gang, don't take any wooden nickels, and not even then.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Ze time, she is zlipping away, plus a brand new word for you to ponder

At least it zeems zat way, n-est-ce pas?. Und vy, I mean why am I talking with a French German completely unidentifiable accent anyway?

So many questions, so little time.

Here's one. Actually, it's two:

Why Do People Say "Jesus H. Christ" and Where Did the "H" Come From?

Or maybe you don't say Jesus H. Christ. Maybe you say Jesus, Mary, and Jehoshaphat. My mother used to. She was Jewish.

I fear that I am rambling again.

As everyone knows, however, vhere dere's a vill, dere's an oy vey. Reading the following article should prove it once and for all. There's even a 3-minute video embedded in it. We spare no expense to entertain you.

There's A Wire Above Manhattan That You've Probably Never Noticed

An eruv, then, is either a very clever solution to what would otherwise be a most difficult problem or a way to keep the law while technically breaking the law.

But only if you're an observant Jew.

If you're not an observant Jew, or if you're not Jewish at all, you probably could or couldn't (pick one) care less.

This is not one of my more coherent posts, but enough time had elapsed since the last one that I felt another one was due.

Keep those cards and letters coming. Include money.

Monday, June 22, 2020

I don't have a master plan

Some bloggers do. Yorkshire Pudding, for instance, tries to post every single day and his titles always consist of one word. Not the same word. That would be silly. He goes on long walks through the English countryside and he always takes his camera with him, and his readers are the happy recipients of his ambulatory proclivities and his photographic skills.

Not so with me. I never know what I'm going to write about. Sometimes I'll publish several posts close together and sometimes I'll go a week or more between postings. I am nothing if not inconsistent.

It's what makes me so endearing.

I am endearing, you know. To whom is debatable. We won't go there. It could get ugly.

Today is another of those days when I have no idea what to write about. Maybe the lockdown.

What saddened me most about the lockdown was not being able to be with our children or grandchildren, but things took a turn for the better around Memorial Day and now the restraints on socializing seem to have lessened. I think I told you already that just as things began easing up, I was told by two different eye specialists that I should stop driving because of my poor vision. Even with corrective lenses, I'm currently seeing about 20/70 or 20/80, and that is downright scary. Not driving will be more of a permanent lifestyle change than any three-month pandemic-caused sheltering-in-place could cause.

One person said the wife can drive, then.

Well, no, my wife gave up driving about four years ago. So at the moment our car is just sitting in the garage and I'm having to rely on family and friends for EVERYTHING. We live out in the country, and the nearest shopping areas are four miles in one direction and five miles in another. Too far to walk or carry things at my age. I don't own a bicycle. In fact, I never learned to ride a bicycle. Roller skates are out (I'm being ridiculous now). Family are willing, but let's face it, they all work and have jobs. One son lives 12 miles away and the other about 30, and in metro Atlanta you can just about double what you think the drive time would be, so I really don't want to have to inconvenience them more than is absolutely necessary. My daughter, as some of you know, lives about three hours away in east central Alabama, which might as well be another country now.

Let's change subjects.

Bonnie's last post was about how busy June is for celebrations in her family. In our family there are 14 people (the 2 of us, the 3 children, the 3 children's spouses, and the 6 grandchildren), and our celebrations are spread all over the calendar: 2 birthdays in January, 2 in February, 2 in March, 2 in May, 2 in July, 1 in August, 2 in September, and 1 in December. There are four anniversaries: 2 in May, 1 in November, and 1 in December. When all six grands are married that will add 6 more birthdays and 6 more anniversaries. I may have to take out a federal loan to pay for all the celebrating!

Graham Edwards posted a picture of what midnight on the longest day of the year looked like on the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides of western Scotland, where he lives. You can see it by clicking here . I do hope you will avail yourself of the opportunity and look at Graham's photograph because it is a sight worth seeing. One forgets that Graham lives so far north, about 525 miles from London and almost due west of Oslo, Norway and Stockholm, Sweden. I'm sure it seems normal to him, but it is truly a phenomenon for those of us who live much farther south.

Well, I've managed to waste another perfectly good few minutes of your day, so my work here is nearly done.

It's okay to be done, as long as we're not done for.

I will close by telling you that this is my 1,865th post (since September 2007). 1865 is the year Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and the Civil War ended in the United States, although you would never believe it by events of the last couple of weeks. I read that in California and Oregon, statues of Christopher Columbus, Ulysses S. Grant, Junipero Serra, and Francis Scott Key have all been torn down in the past week by what the American major media outlets call "peaceful protesters".

I said at the beginning that I do not have a master plan. John Wilkes Booth had a master plan, and look where it got him.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

I thought I was going to have to "Revert to legacy Blogger" be able to create a new post, because there was no "New Post" to click on on the page New Blogger showed me. And I didn't want to have to "Revert to legacy Blogger" since that feature is supposed to be going away forever in late July, if notes about New Blogger are to be believed.

Eventually I figured it out, and here we are.

My theory is that everything about computers is designed to drive one insane. In what other field, in order to stop, does one press "Start"? I mean, it is crazy, n'est-ce pas?

(Note to non-French-speaking readers and everybody in Alabama: N'est-ce pas? is French for "isn't it?" or "don't they?" or "wouldn't you?" or whatever one might need it to mean in a given instance. Clever, eh wot? The French also leave out a lot of letters from their words when they speak, such as when they write "they were" in French they write ils étaient but when they say it aloud they say ilzettay and completely ignore the i, the e, the n, and the t.)

Anyhoo, now I'm here, what do I want to say? That is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Blogger or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.

Ay, there's the rub. For the whole speech, click here.

I never thought it would happen, but I seem to be getting more like Putz every day. He's a guy in Utah who hasn't blogged since 2013 who wrote nearly incomprehensible posts with outrageous punctuation. Thank God I haven't adopted his punctuation style yet. Older definitely does not mean wiser, and I am definitely older. On my next birthday, even though it is still nine months away, I will be 80. Eighty.


(Note to non-readers of the Bible, but everybody in Alabama already knows this): In the book of Psalms in the Old Testament, the word "Selah" appears every once in a while. It is a Hebrew word that means "Pause and consider" (what you just read).)

Old people do ramble, and I am definitely rambling, and saying exactly nothing so far.

So why should this day or this post be any different?

It is to laugh, n'est-ce pas?

Until next time, at ease. Fall out. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.


I was going to add, "Hey, it's Saturday morning, and I can ramble if I want to" but then I realized (British, realised) that it's not Saturday, it's Thursday<<<<<>>>>> < > < >

Putz would be so proud.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Old English ain't what it used to be (Example #17,643), plus an announcement

I ran across another of those articles that I find so fascinating and you probably find highly irritating or at best irrelevant, but I being I, I have decided to provide a link to it in the hope that you will take the bait avail yourself of yet another wonderful opportunity to broaden your knowledge.

Here's the link.

And as if one "new normal" (the post-pandemic situation) were not enough, over there in the sidebar in the section entitled "About Me" you may henceforth ignore and/or disregard the part where I wrote that I enjoy driving in the country. I would enjoy driving in the country if I could drive in the country, but I have now been told by not just one but two eye specialists that I should no longer be driving at all. My eyesight is getting worse and worse, it seems. It will be a sea-change in our lifestyle, that's for sure, as I have been the only driver in the household for several years now, ever since Mrs. RWP stopped driving several years ago.

We will have to rely on friends, neighbors, kith, kin, adult children (who live quite a distance away), adult grandchildren (ditto), unsuspecting passersby, and perhaps a few four-legged creatures to help us get to grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor's appointments, veterinarians, tonsorial establishments (barber shops, for readers in Alabama), beauty salons (for the Mrs.), and I don't know what all (which you surely know by now is an expression made famous by Andy Griffith in his comedy album of long ago, "What It Was Was Football").

That's just going to be life for us from now on. I certainly hope to continue blogging as long as I can.

To repeat something else I said recently, Brethren and cistern, pray for us.

P.S. - Just so you know, it rains on the just and the unjust, but it rains more on the just because the unjust stole the just's umbrella.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Try the new Blogger, they said. It'll be fun, they said.

And besides, the old (or legacy) Blogger is going away in late June and definitely will not be able to be reverted to after some indeterminate date in late July.

So I did.

The whole world may not have gone cuckoo, although it seems that way of late, but Blogger definitely has. I have lost my header and my sidebar photographs and I don't know what all (as Andy Griffith said way back when on the vinyl recording "What It Was Was Football").

Most to be lamented is the loss in the sidebar of Neil Theasby's poem, "Song For Lost Youth" or "Song of a Yorkshire Lad" or whatever its title was. I am so upset right now I cannot think straight.

Do not say what you are thinking, which I know as well as I know my own name is, "He must have been upset for the past several years."

I am not a totally happy camper, but I suppose I will get there eventually.

I do not like a sans-serif type font. I prefer fonts with serifs as they are actually easier for the brain to comprehend.

What I would really like is a font with seraphs.

That would be not only nifty, but just about perfect.

But I am not in a mood to experiment further at this time. I am an old dog trying to learn new tricks. Perhaps you could start a GoFundMe page in my behalf.

In the meantime, toodle-oo or cheerio or whatever floats your boat. Ta-ta is also available for a limited time.

Until next time, I remain
Your bewildered correspondent

P.S. - I have found the photographs and the poem way down at the bottom of the long list of labels. Now if I can just figure out how to move them back to where they were before this fiasco, I mean conversion, took place.

Brethren and cistern, pray for me.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Three completely unrelated subjects

Subject 1 - Proximity Has Its Advantages

I grew up in a small town (around 1,000 people) with a small high school (around 300 students). Today 75,000 people live in my hometown and it has five huge high schools, but back then it seemed like Nowheresville, USA. My town had exactly two traffic signals, one at either end of its block-long business district. I grew up exactly 14 miles from a big city, but it might as well have been 14 light years.

It was therefore only natural when the young and the restless thereabouts began yearning to seek to alleviate certain hormonal tensions with other young and restless individuals through mutual and consensual exploration that they would look to individuals near at hand instead of individuals in the city 14 light years away. Many of my peers who didn’t leave home to attend university or to seek employment elsewhere often ended up marrying one another after high school. It took me practically no time at all to come up with this list from my era off the top of my head:

1. Robert H. married Anna C.
2. Oscar S. married Mary Elizabeth N.
3. Guy Lewis A. married Gloria F. (they later divorced)
4. Ben N. married Sue N.
5. Barbara P. married Odell E.
6. Patsy H. married Roland C.
7. Louise M. married Bruce C. (they later divorced)
8. Patsy R. married Ronnal B.
9. Diane H. co-habited without benefit of clergy with Robert M.
10. Alene B. married Gene B.
11. Johnny Paul H. married Johnie Charlene S.
12. John F. married Barbara M.
13. Joe S. married Martha T.
14. Wayne W. married Carol Ann W.
15. Billy P. married Delores W.
16. Wesley S. married Linda G.
17. Kenneth G. married Carolyn W.
18. Fred S. married Judy W. (they later divorced)
19. Elmer W. married Martha
20. Margie N. married Don (they later divorced)
21. Dianne P. married Larry C.
22. Ruth Ann S. married Doug M.
23. Luis H. married Paula G.
24. Laurence W. married Donna M. (they later divorced)
25. Charles M. married Cora Faith M.
26. Glenda V. married Morris F.
27. Roy W. married Rosalie E.
28. Bonnie Gaye H. married Wayne H.

and those are just the ones I can toss off without even thinking about it. I could provide surnames upon request, but I won't. These names stir up other memories of my hometown. Anna C.'s brother Tommy was valedictorian the year after I was. Barbara P.'s and Billy P.'s dad was principal of our high school. Linda G.'s dad owned the local Mobil Oil service station with the sign of the Flying Red Horse. Fred S. eventually married three different women named Judy, and today he owns a boat named Judy, Judy, Judy that people think is named after Cary Grant. It isn't. Elmer's wife Martha earned a doctorate and became head of the mathematics department at a local university while Elmer ran an automobile repair shop. Cora Faith's dad was pastor of Central Baptist CHurch. Sometimes Diane lived at Robert's house and sometimes Robert lived at Diane's house. John and Barbara became millionaires. Several of the couples in that list have been married for nearly 60 years. I remember them all like it was only yesterday (reader Bonnie in Missouri, see what I did there?).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Subject 2 - Frustration Is Not Just A Word In The Dictionary

I do enjoy watching the television program Jeopardy! in which statements are presented in various categories and the contestants' answers must be in the form of a question. Alex Trebek has been the program's host for 37 years. I'm pretty good at general knowledge (what some call trivia, but it isn't) and can usually answer about half of the answers. There are 30 in Jeopardy, 30 in Double Jeopardy, and one in Final Jeopardy -- 61 opportunities each evening to test one's general knowledge. What keeps me flabbergasted (British, gobsmacked) are the occasions on which I know the answer but not a single contestant buzzes in. Last night it happened again when Alex said, "This book of the Bible includes the story of King Nebuchadnezzar throwing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo into a fiery furnace" and the three contestants just stood there (I do not say with their tongues hanging out) while I yelled "What is Daniel?" at the screen. Repeatedly. These were not ordinary contestants, either. They were the three finalists in this year’s awards Teachers Tournament.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Subject 3 - Why Black Lives Matter

Here's food for thought borrowed from the blog of Starshine Twinkletoes:

Monday, June 1, 2020

Dealing with doctors in the Covid era

(Editor's note. I really wasn't intending to publish a post today but then I got caught up making a longer-than-usual comment in the comments section on the post about unsuccessfuly trying to get her ear syringed over at Rachel Dubois neé Phillips's blog or Rachel Phillips neé Dubois's blog or whatever it is and decided to make it a post on my own blog as well. I do apologize (British, apologise) for the long, rambling stream-of-consciousness writing; it's more like Billy Ray Barnwell's style than mine, and if you don't know who Billy Ray Barnwell is, there's a link to him over there in the sidebar. --RWP)

I'm 79 and had a heart attack 24 years ago. Ever since, I've had semi-annual check-ups with the cardiologist, always preceded by a trip to the lab for blood work. Usually my check-up appointments are routine but three years ago I suddenly had to go into hospital and have five stents inserted into my coronary arteries, so the appointments do serve a purpose.

My most recent semi-annual was to have been in early April, but when I called a few days in advance like I always do to make sure the order for blood work was in the computer (the lab people get miffed if it isn't), the cardiologist's office said that since I had had blood work done in October I didn't need it in April as they require it only yearly, and would I like to schedule a virtual or telephone appointment instead? and when I asked is the doctor going to stick the stethoscope through the telephone to listen to my heart and lungs? the woman on the phone got downright snippy. I canceled the appointment altogether and made another one for October. Recently the covid situation has lightened up somewhat around here so when my local pharmacy wouldn't fill my medicines, medicines that one is not supposed to stop taking suddenly, I called the doctor's office again and pulled up the October appointment to late May. An NP (nurse practitioner) saw me instead of the cardiologist. When I mentioned about the blood work she said no, it's every six months, not once a year. So she put in an order and I had the blood work done the day after the actual appointment instead. Very strange way to do business if you ask me, but everything is hunky-dory as the results are available on the computer anyway.

This is a long way of saying I feel your pain, or non-pain, as the case may be.

The world has gone cuckoo, if you ask me.

(Editor's note #2. As further proof the world is going or has gone cuckoo, it has now been one year exactly as of yesterday since Frances Garrood posted anything, and it has been more than 18 months since Kate Steeds has, and the world is definitely not a better place for it. --RWP)

Sunday, May 31, 2020

East of the sun and west of the moon

Some names have appeared in pairs forever. Romeo and Juliet. Chang and Eng. Castor and Pollux. Bread and butter. Romulus and Remus. Echo and Narcissus. Elvis and Priscilla.

I am submitting two new names to add to the list: Semisopochnoi and Amatignak.

I can hear you saying it. Who?

Semisopochnoi and Amatignak are not a who. They are a what, like Scylla and Charybdis, like Sodom and Gomorrah, like the devil and the deep blue sea, like biscuits and gravy.

(Editor's note. It is only in the United States that biscuits and gravy go together. In the U.K., they most definitely do not, because an English biscuit is not the same thing as an American biscuit. In the U.K., people also call a diaper a napkin, but I don't want to go down that particular rabbit trail today. --RWP)

So what, exactly, are Semisopochnoi and Amatignak?

Semisopochnoi and Amatignak are two islands in the Aleutian archipelago in the state of Alaska. But they are more than that. They have a special relationship, as did Romeo and Juliet and those other famous pairs I named in the opening paragraph.

Amatignak has the distinction of being the westernmost place in the United States (coordinates: 51.270°N, 179.119°W). Semisopochnoi, which lies 71 miles west of Amatignak, on the other side of the 180th meridian, has the distinction of being the easternmost place in the United States (coordinates: 51.960°N, 179.772°E). There are still a few more Aleutian islands in Alaska even farther West than (or, more properly, not as far East as Semisopochnoi. If your mind is not yet boggled, you can read more about the two islands in this article.

So Columbus was right. You can reach east by travelling west. If you heard it here first, you are more than five centuries behind the times.

Perhaps next time we can explore Poppycock, Balderdash, Gobsmacking, and Thor. Are they a law firm in Cincinnati? Are they the names of Hilltophomesteader’s new baby goats? Are they just random words I threw together on a page?

Read my blog long enough and you may find out. Then again, you may not.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

After I pressed "New Post"

...I sat here and stared at the broad expanse of empty space that Blogger kindly provided. And stared. And stared some more. Suddenly I thought of a poem I wrote a while back.

Poem, Untitled

The page is blank, like my life.
All sorts of subjects flit through my mind
On the way to somewhere else
But not one settles down, makes itself
Comfortable, takes root, or starts to grow
Upward toward the light that arches
High above, beckoning all things to
Itself, not a single one.

The page is empty, like my brain.
I want to write a poem
But nothing comes to mind,
Only a formless maelstrom,
Swirling like one of the
Hundred million galaxies
Out there in the cosmos,
Moving toward the light.

Change the word poem in the title and the tenth line to blogpost and you begin to grasp my level of frustration.

Writing a blogpost and writing a poem are not at all alike. One (if the one is me) can research a particular topic for a blogpost, or one (again, if the one is me) can stumble upon an interesting subject unexpectedly, and a blogpost is often the happy result. A poem, on the other hand, often begins composing itself somewhere deep in my subconscious, slowly emerges into the part of my brain that is awake, and eventually makes its way to my fingertips and onto the page. But not always. Sometimes a poem springs full-grown like Athena from the forehead of Zeus; sometimes it creeps out, word by painfully thought-out word.

I may be exaggerating, but only a little.

That being said, take a look at this:

NASA released this updated version of Voyager 1's famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth earlier this year, in February. The original was taken 30 years earlier, on Feb. 14, 1990. (Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The original, darker, unenhanced photo, along with some words penned by astronomer Carl Sagan in 1994 that you really ought to read, can be found right here.

Voyager 1 was launched from Cape Canaveral on September 5, 1977. The "pale blue dot" photograph was taken on February 13, 1990, nearly 13 years later. Voyager 1's journey continues today, more than 30 years after it was launched. It is the man-made object most distant from earth, currently more than 13.8 billion (e9) miles, or 148.5 AU (astronomical units) away from us according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

(Note. According to what I found, an astronomical unit (AU) is a unit of length, roughly the distance from Earth to the Sun and equal to about 150 million kilometres (93 million miles). However, that distance varies as Earth orbits the Sun, from a maximum (aphelion) to a minimum (perihelion) and back again once a year. Originally conceived as the average of Earth's aphelion and perihelion, since 2012 it has been defined as exactly 149,597,870,700 metres.)

Any way you look at it, that's a long way, baby.

Suddenly the broad expanse of space provided to me by Blogger doesn't seem so daunting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

This one's for Snowbrush

At, I found this article directed at members of the clergy (many of whom, I am given to understand, have actually been ordained). I pray fervently that it is tongue-in-cheek:


1. Violate As Many Social Distancing Guidelines As You Think You Can Get Away With

There’s what the law says, and what you think you can make the law say.

As a former attorney, I’ve been trained to spot loopholes, or to play creatively with wording to get it to say what I want it to say.

So, to be an idiot, take the most expansive view you can of any and all guidelines and do the minimum required.

Besides, are the officials really going to check whether people are 6 feet apart or 5 feet apart? At 5 feet apart you can squeeze 100 more people in…and does it really make that much difference?

And sure, families are recommended to sit together, but nobody’s going to suggest friends sit apart, right? I mean really…

And wait, if they’re wearing face coverings (made by Aunt Beulah), does there really need to be 6 feet between them?

Oh, and don’t worry about the kids. Push all the kids into one room. It’s impossible to socially distance kids anyway.

2. Exercise Your Constitutional Rights But Ignore Your Responsibilities

You have rights the government can’t take away, and nobody can make you do anything you don’t want to, correct?

So, to be an idiot, exercise your constitutional rights but ignore your responsibilities. Strangely, the US government still educates citizens on their rights and their responsibilities.

In a hyper-individualistic culture, you should count on other people to exercise their responsibilities. You, after all, can just focus your rights.

And when you think about the Christian faith deeply, it has nothing to do with the responsibility to love or care for others. It’s all about you.

3. Open So Fast You Have to Close Again

The best way to have to close your church down after you re-open the doors is to become the source of an area cluster of infections and deaths that trace back to your church.

That will guarantee you lots of press (perhaps national coverage) and impress your unchurched neighbors, who, prior to COVID, were already struggling with you.

Plus, the quick open/close move probably means even more people will trust you next time you open your doors.

4. Make it Political

We live in an amazing age where everything is both tribal and partisan and therefore deeply inspiring.

Make sure you politicize human disease and suffering.

This is not only guaranteed to confuse and irritate people, it will immediately discredit you with people who vote differently than you do.

One of the best ways to instantly alienate half the people you’re trying to reach is to make the Gospel partisan.

5. Use Your Social Media Platform to Vent

This is a fantastic tactic.

Since social media gives everyone a platform, make sure you share your every emotion (especially anger, irritation, frustration, and impatience) on social media.

The best way to do this is to post something in the heat of the moment. Don’t pray about it, share it with a few trusted friends first, or sleep on it for a night or two. Definitely do not ask your spouse if you should post it.

Not only will this improve your credibility, but your impulsiveness will also deepen people’s trust and respect for you.

6. Abandon Your Online Advances And Make it 100% About the Building

Once you’re back in your building, even though your attendance will probably be much lower than you’d hoped, abandon any progress you’ve made with online church in the last few months.

Online ministry isn’t real ministry, and the people you’ve reached online don’t need the same level of care and attention as people you can see face to face.

For bonus points, pivot all of your staff-dollars back into in-person ministry.

The internet is a bit of a fad anyway.

7. Treat Online Attendees Like Second-Class Citizens

Because in-person attendance at a physical location is is the only way authentic Christians express their faith, make everyone watching online feel like they’re second-rate.

The fact that they might be older and at higher risk, struggle with some co-morbidity risks (like obesity or diabetes), might not have access to health care, are worried about their children or aging parents they’re caring for, or are even away for the weekend and wanting to connect shouldn’t deter you.

The people who aren’t in the room don’t really count.

8. Tell People Your Faith Buys You Immunity from Disease

For bonus points, make in-person attendance theological.

Even a cursory reading of scripture shows that God never lets his people suffer. The Bible has no calamity, disease, poverty or suffering in it, and when it does, God’s people never have to go through it.

So let people know that when they show up, they have immunity because they’re far more faithful than those who aren’t in the building.

(end of article)

In the comments, one person suggested this addition: "Don’t make any hand sanitizer available and for certain make sure you run out of hand soap in every restroom. Just tell people to spit on their hands and wipe them clean on your pews. That’s how Jesus healed a blind man, right?”

and another stood the article on its head, shouting most of the way:

"The concepts of this post could just as easily be applied to An Idiot’s Guide to Not Reopening. The headings could be aligned and say:

I guess the moral of all this is that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him think.

Friday, May 22, 2020

What the fork?'s word of the day today is soupçon, which is pronounced, according to the people at, soop-sawn or soop-sawn.

Either way is acceptable, so there is no possibility whatsoever of putting the em-pha-sis on the wrong syl-la-ble. There is also no possibility whatsoever of pronouncing it as the French do, with less of an N and a bit of a nasal H incorporated at the end (-sawnh or -sawnh, it's up to you), a sound that cannot be reproduced or accurately rendered on paper. goes on to say that soupçon is a noun and means a slight trace, as of a particular taste or flavor.

Ever helpful, further states that "[t]o the Frenchless, soupçon looks as if it means “soupspoon.” In fact soupçon means “a hint, trace,” from Old French soupeçon, souspeçon, literally “suspicion, anxious worry,” from Late Latin suspectiōn– (stem of suspectiō), for Latin suspīciōn– “distrust, mistrust, suspicion.” Finally, tells us that soupçon entered English in the 18th century.

I find this all very fascinating, never having suspected (see what I did there?) that soupçon and suspicion have a shared root.

Moving right along....

I do wish the French would stop dropping letters with abandon and pronouncing things through their noses. Here's an example of how English, Spanish, and French (in that order) are related using some words that start with S in English but with E in Spanish and French:

school, escuela, école
star, estrella, étoile
study, estudiar, étude
student, etudiante, étudiante
Stephen, Esteban, Etienne
Spain, España, Espagna

All righty, then.

Speaking of spoons, here's an article about forks. And here's another.

I would really like to hear your reaction to those two articles.

P.S. Telling you "here's an article" and then "here's another" reminds me of the story told of the explorer (it might have been Frank Buck) who composed a telegram to the London Zoo from Africa, "I am sending you two hippopotamuses" but started over and said "I am sending you two hippopotami" and finally sent this version: "I am sending you a hippopotamus. By the way, I am sending you another hippopotamus."

If you're looking for the tar and feathers, you will have to wait your turn in line.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

From the archives: Glimpses of truth (May 19, 2010)

[Editor's note. This post was published 10 years ago, so add 3,653 days to the 17,167 figure as it's now 20,820 and add 10 years to the 47 cited. As of today, Mrs. RWP and I have been husband and wife for 57 years. Bloggers Carolina in Nederland and Kate in New Zealand are no longer active but you may still be able to see the horse and the frog. You'll never know until you try. --RWP]

Day 1 (May 19, 1963)...

Day 180 (six months)...

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina’s horse

Kate’s frog

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

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A tale of two cities, sort of, or maybe not

I inadvertently (for readers in Alabama, that means I didn't do it on purpose) offended reader Graham Edwards of Eagleton on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides (also called the Western Isles) of Scotland by misspelling for the umpteenth time the nearby town of Stornoway. I called it Stornaway.

Bad blogger. Bad blogger.

I repent in sackcloth and ashes and vow never to do it again if it is within my power, which it should be providing my memory doesn’t go.

In his comment, Graham said, "Actually I have never lived in the town but 7 miles away. That may sound nothing to you but it means a lot here."

Graham, I know exactly what you mean. I identify. It’s all making sense now. Mansfield, the town I grew up in in Tarrant County, Texas, was 7 miles from Kennedale. There was very little, if any, interaction between the two towns.

Here is Mansfield:

And here is Kennedale:

The big blob just north of Mansfield is Arlington:

...and the even bigger blob in the center of the county is the city of Fort Worth:

Well, enough with the maps already. Things have changed a lot in Tarrant County since I grew up there. Like Topsy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Tarrant County just grew.

When I was a 9-year-old boy in 1950, the census showed that Mansfield's population was 964; Kennedale's was 1,046; Arlington's was 7,692; and Fort Worth's was 278,788. Today, seventy years later, the 2020 census is being taken as we speak. The most recent population estimates from 2018 put Mansfield's population at 70, 981 (yikes!); Kennedale's at 8,543 (significant growth but still pretty small potatoes); Arlington's at 398,112 (double yikes!); and Fort Worth's at 895,008 (triple yikes and a couple of gadzooks). All of Tarrant County is currently estimated to have 2,102,515 human beings. Next door, to the east, Dallas County’s population is 2,635,516. The entire Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is estimated at 7,573,136 people as of 2019. That is a lot of 10-gallon hats.

But getting back to Mansfield and Kennedale in the fifties, just as people in Eagleton don't want to be mistaken for Stornowayans or Stornowayers or Stornowayites or whatever they are, people in Mansfield didn't want to be associated with Kennedale either. Many outlying districts had elementary schools but sent their high schoolers to either Mansfield or Kennedale. Some of the Kennedale kids actually attended school in Mansfield, but none of the Mansfield kids attended school in Kennedale. The Mansfield Independent School District ran several school bus routes that gathered and dispersed kids from the outlying areas, and kids in our school were known by the bus they rode. There were buses for Kennedale, Rendon, Webb, Britten, Venus-Alvarado, and Sublett. Kids in Mansfield’s class of 1958 who rode the Kennedale bus included Martha Spencer, Judy Glaze, Ben Nessler, and Marshall Tyson. All of them are dead now. Martha was our class salutatorian.

Today I am proud to have known them all.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t take 70 years for the residents of Eagleton and Stornoway to appreciate one another.

Friday, May 15, 2020

The eyes have it, plus a woman from Orkney stretches the truth

Every four to six weeks for the past three years I have traveled (British, travelled) to a nearby town to receive an injection in my right eye for treatment of the wet version of age-related macular degeneration. There is also a dry version, which I have in my left eye, and it is treated by taking a pill orally every morning and every night. There is currently no real cure for either type of macular degeneration, but I can report that my left eye is definitely a happier camper than my right eye.

The doctor who does the injections has now tried four different medications. The first was Avastin (bevucizumab), the second was Lucentis (ranibizumab), the third was Eylea (aflibercept), and the fourth one is Beovu (brolucizumab).

Isn't reading other people's blogs educational?

A lot of patients receive treatments there, which involve a lot of preliminary sitting around in not one but two waiting rooms (the second one is called the dilation room) and sometimes people talk to one another. Sometimes they don't, but that wouldn't make for an interesting post.

Last month an old man in the dilation room was talking with an old woman who spoke with an accent I couldn't place. After he was called in for his turn I asked the woman where she was from originally. She said "Scotland" and I was surprised that I hadn't recognized it. She explained that she had married an American and moved here more than 50 years ago.

Ever the chatty one, I said that I had two friends from Scotland, one from the town of Auchtermuchty and one from near Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. (Note to readers: You know who you are.)

She said she had never heard of Auchtermuchty.

I mentioned that my dad's mother always said our family was descended from the Hydes of Scotland. The woman said "Who?"

It turns out she wasn't a phony Scot, she was only a bit deaf. She did finally recognize the name after I said it again, louder.

Not willing to give up without a fight, I also mentioned that my dad used to say "It's a bra brit moonlit nit to-nit" and the woman, who was growing more semi-sour by the moment, said, "We didn't talk like that in the part of Scotland where I lived." Then she said, "Actually I am not from the mainland of Scotland, I'm from the Orkney Islands." In other words, to use a phrase from poker, I'll see your Outer Hebrides and raise you an Orkney.

I, not being familiar with the Orkney Islands -- yes, Virginia, there are a few things rhymeswithplague doesn't know -- asked where they were located. She said, and this astounded me when I got home later and looked at a map, "between Norway and Iceland."

It seemed to me that she was intent on disavowing any connection to Scotland at all. I could be wrong of course. Maybe she was just the anti-social type. My map check revealed that the island in the Orkney archipelago that is closest to mainland Scotland is only 10 miles off the coast. Norway is several hundred miles to the east and Iceland is several hundred miles to the northwest.

There are other island groups about which it can more truly be said that they are between Norway and Iceland. One set is the Shetland Islands and one set is the Faroe Islands. But the Orkneys? That's a stretch.

Maybe the woman from the Orkney Islands was just bad at georgraphy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

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

When I was a boy (admittedly 70 years ago) and a devourer of maps (not literally, but I could study them for hours), the world was an entirely different place. Perhaps entirely different is a redundancy. Actually, it was the same place, but many of the names on maps are different nowadays, plus technology has advanced somewhat.

French Equatorial Africa became the countries of Chad, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon.

French West Africa became the countries of Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea (now Guinea), Ivory Coast (now Côte d'Ivoire), Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now Benin) and Niger.

You can't trust maps. Cameroon is not included as part of the green French Equatorial Africa area on the first map but it is included on the second map in the gray area. I note that the island of Madagascar is also included. Curiouser and curiouser.

Let us dispense with any more maps as they seem to raise more questions than they answer.

British West Africa became the independent countries of The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria. Until independence, Ghana was referred to as the Gold Coast.

The British Empire was far-flung and worldwide, spawning the saying that the sun never sets on the British Empire. Eventually, however, it did.

British East Africa became largely Kenya. Tanganyika and Zanzibar became Tanzania. Northern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. Southern Rhodesia became Zambia. Nyasaland became Malawi.

Belgian East Africa (formerly German East Africa) included Ruanda-Urundi, which became the countries of Rwanda and Burundi. The Belgian Congo, formerly a colony of Belgium in Central Africa, became the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

German Southwest Africa became the country of Namibia.

The list of changes goes on.

In the Western Hemisphere, British Honduras became Belize. Canada created two more provinces, one called Newfoundland and Labrador, which sounds like two provinces, and one called Ninavut, which was carved out of the Northwest Territories.

British Guiana became Guyana. Dutch Guiana became Surinam.

In Asia, India was divided at "the partitioning" into India, West Pakistan, and East Pakistan. West Pakistan became plain old Pakistan, and East Pakistan became Bangladesh. Burma became Myanmar. Ceylon became Sri Lanka.

French Indo-China became the countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. For a while there was a North Vietnam and a South Vietnam, but once again there is only Vietnam.

Even Europe was not immune. What was once Yugoslavia is now Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Slovenia, and the double-named Bosnia and Herzegovina. Within Serbia there is a partially-recognized state, the Republic of Kosovo. Czechoslovakia became two countries called The Czech Republic and Slovakia. If you go back to even older European maps you will find names like Prussia and Schleswig-Holstein and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Go back far enough and you will find a Holy Roman Empire. But I digress.

The list includes places formerly known as the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and the Dutch West Indies (now called collectively the Netherlands Antilles and individually called Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, and a few other places).

There were two places, Trinidad and Tobago, which are now one place, called Trinidad and Tobago. Go figure. Interesting facts about Trinidad and Tobago include that its capital is named Port of Spain and that its population religiously are 49.6% Christian, 18.2% Hindu, 5.7% Spiritual Baptist (this is either another redundancy or a typographical error), 5.0% Muslim, 1.2% Bahá'í, 0.9% Orisha-Shango (Yoruba), 0.3% Rastafarian, 5.8% Other, 11.1%, and Not stated, 2.2%. The statistics in this paragraph are courtesy of our old friend Wikipedia.

All this change is called progress, and perhaps the map-devouring children of today, if there are any left, will have much more progress to report 70 years from now.

P.S. - The trivia factoid of the day is that on this date in 1906, my dad (non-bio), Clifford Ray "Ted" Brague, was born in Tomah, Monroe County, Wisconsin, the youngest of the five sons of Elmer Elsworth Brague and Edith Lillian (Johnson) Brague. Dad would be 114 years old today but left us two months before his 61st birthday thanks to a horrible disease known as pancreatic cancer. It is through Edith Lillian's mother, Bloomy Jane (Cleveland) Johnson that on paper, at least, I am the eighth cousin three times removed of U.S. President Grover Cleveland, the only president to have non-consecutive terms. I like my trivia factoids to be packed with information. I am told that my posts suffer from the same tendency.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

I awoke with an old radio show from the forties and fifties on my mind. Every week on 20 Questions a panel of experts had to determine an undisclosed subject by asking no more than 20 questions of their own. One of the first questions asked was often “Is it Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?” which set me to thinking about people whose surnames are animal, vegetable, or mineral. Hence, this post.

Subsequent questions on the radio show were of the human or non-human, male or female, living or dead variety. Such questions are irrelevant for purposes of today’s post.

The only prerequisites for inclusion in the lists below are that the name is a real one (as opposed to a stage name or a fictional character) and that the person is semi-recognizable by others. This excludes Kid Rock (a stage name), Freddie Mercury (a stage name), Adam Ant (a stage name), Jim Parsley (a personal friend), Marsha Lamb (another personal friend), Violet Roach (my mother's childhood friend in Philadelphia), and Miss Edith Wildegoose (my first-grade teacher in Pawtucket, Rhode Island).

ANIMAL (avian):
David Canary (American actor)
Travis Stork (American physician)
Christopher Wren (English architect)
Lynn Swann (American football player)
Richard Byrd (American naval officer and explorer)
Stephen Sparrow (British business executive and founder of Snow Leopard Trust)
Jerome Robbins (American choreographer)
Florence Nightingale (British nurse and social reformer)
Hart Crane (American poet)
Claudia Cardinale (Italian film actress)

ANIMAL (mammalian):
Charles Lamb (English essayist)
Thomas Wolfe (American writer)
Virginia Woolf (English writer)
George Fox (English dissenter, founder of the Society of Friends)

ANIMAL (aquarian):
Hamilton Fish (American politician, governor of New York)
Sam Bass (American Old West train robber and outlaw)

Wendell Berry (American poet, novelist, environmentalist)
Darryl Strawberry (American baseball player)
Yma Sumac (Peruvian soprano with four-and-a-half octave range)
George Herbert Walker Bush (American President)
...also George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Laura Bush, Barbara Bush)
Marietta Tree (American socialite and political appointee)
Sterling Moss (British Formula One racing driver)
Marla Maples (American actress, former Mrs. Donald Trump)

Neil Diamond (American singer-songwriter)
Sharon Stone (American actress)

I'm sure there must be others that have escaped me for the moment. If you think of some, tell me in the comments!

(Note to Graham Edwards in the Outer Hebrides: This is the post that was accidentally published prematurely for a nanosecond.)

Perhaps we will explore surnames that are geographical features next.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The last time I checked

...each of us has (or had) 2 biological parents, 4 biological grandparents, 8 biological great-grandparents and so on, as far back as biology and the powers of 2 can take you. Interestingly, exactly half of each generational contingent is male and the other half is female. Fancy that. So I (and you) had 4 great-grandfathers and 4 great-grandmothers.

Today I would like to introduce you to one of my four great-grandfathers, Solomon Aarons, my mother's maternal grandfather. In this post I will be sharing information gleaned from two articles I found at, the online archives website of The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper.

The first article, "The Legacy Of 9 Jews In Civil War", was written by Andrew Hussie and appeared in the Inquirer on April 2, 1987. I will quote only those parts that pertain to my great-grandfather.

The Legacy Of 9 Jews In Civil War

In 1865 there were about 200,000 Jews in the United States.

About 6,000 of them fought for the North and 1,200 for the South.

From that small number of combatants, the legacy of nine Jewish men was born, a legacy that is told in an exhibit that opened last week at the Temple Judea Museum of Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park.

The exhibit, Keneseth Israel and the Civil War: Nine Vignettes in Blue and Gray, tells the stories of the nine through Civil War artifacts, documents, and other research materials.

The exhibit is especially moving for several of the synagogue's congregants who are among the direct descendants of the nine....

The exhibit was organized by Barbara J. Forman, the exhibit's curator and a museum docent. She spent the last year researching and organizing the project for the synagogue, which was founded in Philadelphia in 1847. She said she got the idea after discovering the military discharge papers of a 15-year-old drummer boy, Solomon Aarons, in the museum's archives.

Aarons, an early member of the synagogue, was born in England in 1846, and came to the United States shortly before the war. On Oct. 31, 1861, he enlisted in Company B, 69th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, part of the famous "Philadelphia Brigade." He saw action in every major battle of the Army of the Potomac, except Manassas. After the war, he returned to Philadelphia, where he had two sons....

(end of excerpts from the first article)

Nine years after the first article appeared, the following article by Connie Langland also appeared in the Inquirer on February 26, 1996:

Banging The Drums For One Who Did More:
Reenactors Honored A Jewish Civil War Hero

Muskets fired once, twice, three times.

A drum and fife corps played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

A rabbi prayed for the dead.

A bugler rendered Taps.

Yesterday, 131 years after he put down his drum and 94 years after he died, Solomon Aarons of Philadelphia ws remembered as a heroic drummer boy of the Civil War.

The memorial service was organized by the 69th Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantry Unit, a Civil War reenactment group, and took place at Aarons' weathered grave site at Adath Jeshurun Cemetery in the city's Frankford section.

The event was solemn but a spectacle just the same. Dozens of men in Union Army uniforms marched past rowhouses and into the cemetery. Behind them walked women in calico or widow's black, their long hoop skirts pushed this way and that by sharp gusts of wind.

"Aarons was a member of the regiment that we portray," said George Levens of Roslyn, Montgomery County. "What we are trying to do is bring to people's attention today the sacrifices these men made for their country."

The 69th Pennsylvania was a volunteer infantry unit made up mostly of poor, uneducated, working-class, Irish volunteers who fought in more than 40 battles -- and faced the brunt of Confederate Gen. George Pickett's charge on the stone wall at Gettysburg.

In that 1863 battle, 143 of 258 officers and men from the 69th were killed, wounded or captured.

"We want to honor not just the generals, but the drummer boy, too," Levens said.

In an effort to be authentic, the reenactors researched the lives of some of the soldiers. Aarons drew attention because of his religion. An estimated 8,500 Jewish soldiers fought in the Civil War, most of them for the Union.

Research by the Warminster-based 69th Pennsylvania reenactors showed that Aarons was born in London, immigrated here in his early teens, and joined the 69th at age 15. His job was to alert the troops to the commander's order through the beat -- the coded signal -- of his drum.

He served for three years and was with the 69th just four miles from Appomattox Courthouse, Va., in 1865 when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

After the war, Aarons settled in Philadelphia. His trade remains unknown, but it is known that he married, had two sons, and died in 1902 at age 55.

Yesterday, the drummer boy was honored by members of the Jewish War Veterans, as well as by the reenactors. His grave was decorated with wreaths and a small metal marker engraved GAR, for the Grand Army of the Republic.

Rabbi Eliott Perlstein of Roxboro told the gathering of about 200 people, some of them there out of curiosity, that there was value in remembering Aarons' life and the lofty principles for which he fought -- "the ideals of unity, freedom and equality for all people."

(end of article)

I am proud of my great-grandfather's service during the Civil War, but my Dad would probably say that that and two bits (25 cents) would buy you a cup of coffee. How long ago he said it is indicated by the cost of coffee nowadays.

There's a spoilsport in every crowd.

My great-grandparents Solomon Aarons and Rachel (DeWolf) Aarons had nine children in all -- five boys and four girls -- and their sixth child was my maternal grandmother, Rosetta (Aarons) Silberman. The writers of the Philadelphia Inquirer articles probably based their statements that Solomon Aarons had two sons on the fact that two of them are buried in the same plot as their parents in Adath Jeshurun Cemetery. I wrote about the nine offspring in this post.

Here is a photograph of Solomon Aarons' grave in Philadelphia:

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

This will be my 50th post of the year

...and it's not even the end of April yet, so I am on track to create 150 posts this year. It is tiring just to think about. Last year I managed to produce only 79. Whether my posts are important or trivial, fun or boring, intelligent or stupid is not for me to determine, and in any event making that determination is way above my pay grade.

Only you can make that determination, just as only you can prevent forest fires.

After not leaving the house for over a month, I have now been to the grocery store twice wearing one of the masks that our daughter-in-law sewed for us. There was no way I was going to make it there during the Exclusively Senior Citizens Hour (7 to 8 a.m.) but I managed to get there around 9:45 the first time and 11 the second time. There were remarkably few customers either time so I didn't have to be concerned about social distancing much. I also wore Latex-free disposable gloves at Mrs. RWP's insistence. I didn't have to worry about other people looking at me funny as they looked just as funny.

For those of you with inquiring minds, I did wear other things besides just gloves and a mask.

Now that you have that lovely visual in your head, I will sign off for now.

There really isn't anything to blog about today but that 150 goal is ever before me.

P.S. -- In my humble opinion, this post makes no sense at all.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Scary times here, there, and everywhere

Mother Nature must have been having a bad day.

The photo above was made around seven o'clock in the morning last Sunday (April 19th) in the town in Alabama where our daughter and her family live. It was taken in the Piggly-Wiggly parking lot (that's a supermarket chain) two blocks from our daughter's house, looking toward downtown. You can see the steeple of the First Baptist Church in the distance.

Shortly after the photo was taken, all hell (as they say) broke loose. The bottom dropped out. They're now saying it was a "Hailnado" with 80-mph straight-line winds. Not technically a tornado, but it's hard to tell the difference. Many trees and power lines are down and some houses were destroyed. The trees in our daughter's yard lost many limbs and one tree was split down the middle. Several windows in the house were broken from heavy hail, two of the cars were damaged, and the root cellar was flooded with two feet of water because the electric power went out and the sump pump stopped working. As a result, the water heater and furnace will have to be replaced. The repairman can't get the parts he needs until next week. In the meantime, our daughter's family is without electricity and hot water. Neighbors are bringing them food and letting them use their showers.

That was in Alabama. Georgia also has a problem.

Our governor is an idiot.

Brian Kemp, the 83rd governor of Georgia, has decided to re-open our state bit by bit to get the economy going again. Georgia is the first state to attempt this. The problem is that our pandemic statistics have not declined for 14 straight days as the Coronavirus Task Force stated was necessary before a state could begin a slow phasing back to what is now quaintly referred to as normal, something we may not see again for some time.

Not only have 14 days of improvement not occurred, the first establishments allowed to re-open are -- clutch your pearls, ladies -- tattoo parlours, massage parlours, beauty salons, nail salons, and bowling alleys. You know, really essential stuff. How you give a person a tattoo or a massage or a new hairdo or a manicure while maintaining six feet of social distancing between human bodies has yet to be determined.

During the shutdown, people couldn't go to church, but they could still buy liquor.

I repeat, our governor is an idiot.

This is just my opinion, of course, but it probably could be proven scientifically.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Another very interesting read least to me, is the following article I found yesterday:

English Is Not Normal

Please note, before you get your knickers in a twist, that the article is about English (the language), not The English (the people), in which case the verb would have had to be Are and not Is.

I should get extra credit for using the conditional past imperfect, or whatever it's called, in the previous sentence.

I hope I am not boring you with these articles. I just am extremely geeky and nerdy when it comes to words and language.

Those of you who want to say that the nerdiness and geekiness is not confined to just words and language, please stifle yourselves at this time.

P.S. - Two hundred and forty-five years ago today, Paul Revere made a famous ride that was made even more famous than it might have been otherwise by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with such words as "Listen, my children, and you shall hear / Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere; / On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-five, / Hardly a man is now alive / Who remembers that famous day and year." and also "One if by land and two if by sea, / And I on the opposite shore will be, / Ready to ride and spread the alarm / To every Middlesex village and farm"....

I thought you would want to know.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Shakespeare said that.

Today I want to talk about names, last names to be specific. I will give you a couple of examples from my own history that will lead you, hopefully not by the nose, into a little light reading meant to take your mind off being quarantined lo, these many days.

When Mrs. RWP's father arrived in Boston from Italy in 1917, his name was Dhimitri Kuçi, but on his grave marker in Florida it is James Cudse. His passport was Italian but he himself was from Albania. How his name got changed is a mystery. My theory is that somebody along the way -- an immigration official, an employer, a naturalization know-it-all, a friend -- suggested it as a way of dispensing with the cedilla. My future father-in-law, an easy-going sort of guy, went along with it. Nobody seems to know for sure. That still doesn't explain how the K became a C.

His wife's name was Ksanthipi in Albania (not unlike the Greek woman named Xanthippe who was the wife of Socrates) but her grave marker says Carrie. Go figure.

If you had asked my dad (non-bio) what kind of name Brague was, he would have said "Welsh" without hesitation and trotted out the family lore story, unproven, of seven brothers who came to the United States from Wales and all but one of whom moved on to Australia. This story is apocryphal at best. I always said, "Dad, with that -gue ending the name has to be French; it probably came over to the British Isles after the Norman Conquest" (which, if you didn't know, occurred in 1066 when William the Conqueror defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings).

My mother was a Silberman although it may have been Silbermann back in Germany, but it was never Silverman. My mother said (I don't know whether it is accurate) that Silberman was a German Jewish name and Silverman was Russian. In America, people always get the two names mixed up. I have said on many occasions, "Silberman, with a B, not a V" and it is darned irritating to have to do so. In fact, when I was doing family research using the 1940 census, one of my mother's brothers had completely disappeared. I found his family (Sol, Naomi, Joan, and Eileen) in the right town but spelled the other way, with a V instead of a B, by a none-too-attentive census-taker. Back in those days, census takers went house to house with a big book and wrote everything down in it themselves. None of this do-it-yourself, mail it in stuff.

Longtime readers of this blog may remember reading about the Brague River in southeastern France or the Château de Brague winery in the Bordeaux region of western France. Both of these examples bolster my theory if only in my own mind. I suppose that in Europe my surname rhymes with Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia (if there still were a Czechoslovakia), but here in the good old U. S. of A. it has always rhymed with, well, you know what.

Anyhoo, all of that is neither here nor there, except as a lead-in to the article I now present for your entertainment and reading edification:

Why 40% of Vietnamese People Have the Same Last Name

So if the readers of this blog were Vietnamese they might be Adrian Nguyen, Rachel Nguyen, Pam Nguyen, Bonnie Nguyen, Kathy Nguyen, Graham Nguyen, Red Nguyen, Sue Nguyen, Ian Nguyen, Kylie Nguyen, Michelle Nguyen, Tasker Nguyen, and Ho Chi Pudding.

Until next time, as they say in Ethiopia: Abyssinia.

Friday, April 10, 2020

I would be Rhymes With Virus if my name were Miley Cyrus

I would be Rhymes With Corona if my name were Desdemona.
I would be Rhymes With Polio if I were an ambassador without portfolio.
I would be Rhymes With Zulu if I lived in Honolulu.
I would be Rhymes With Haydn if my name were Joseph Biden.
I would be Rhymes With Moll Flanders if my name were Bernie Sanders.
I would be Rhymes With Frowning if my name were Robert Browning.
I would be Rhymes With Bordello if my name were Othello.
I would be Rhymes With Pudding if my name were Cuba Gooding.

I will stop before the mob forms.

Today is the 110th anniversary my mother’s birth.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The prefixes a-, in-, and un-, to say nothing of non-

Before we get to prefixes, I want to tell you about an exchange I had recently with our blogger friend Yorkshire Pudding.

In some of his recent posts he used the term The Plague in reference to you-know-what. I told him in a comment that every time he had mentioned The Plague in the past week it had startled me because, although I am not narcissistic in any way (yeah, right), I thought he was referring to me.

He replied as follows:

Sorry for any confusion or unintended offence caused, Sir Robert. However, my legal advisory team point out that you do not have exclusive use of the term "plague". Perhaps it would be simpler to change your blog title to "Rhymes With Vague" or "Doesn't Rhyme With Potato".

Fond regards,
Damnable Pudding

I just want to get your opinion. What do you think of his suggestion?

I would tell you what I think of it, but this is a family-friendly blog.

I’m kidding. I laughed.

Now on with the post.

Adding the prefix a- in front of a word negates it, turning the word into its opposite. Atypical means not typical, asymmetrical means not symmetrical, apolitical means not political. Since theism means belief in God, an atheist is someone who believes there is no God. If Gnostic means having knowledge, knowing, then an agnostic is someone who doesn't know.

The prefix in- also means “not”, as in indivisible (not divisible), ineligible (not eligible), inconceivable (not conceivable), indecisive (not decisive), intolerant (not tolerant), incredible (not credible), inconvenient (not convenient), and so forth.

When the word being modified begins with certain consonants, however, the prefix in- is changed into a double consonant. To name a few examples, illogical, illegible, illegitimate, illicit, immodest, immaterial, immortal, irreverent, irresponsible, irredeemable. Hillary Clinton especially liked irredeemable.

Something different happens if the word begins with p. If something is not possible we don’t say inpossible or ippossible, we say impossible. Same thing goes for improper (not proper), imprecise (not precise), impolite (not polite), impenetrable (not penetrable), impermissible (not permissible), impervious (not pervious) —- yes, friends, something can be pervious. Look it up.

And sometimes when we want to say that something is the opposite of something, we use the prefix un-, as in unacceptable (not acceptable), unbelievable (not believable), unyielding (not yielding), undocumented (not documented), unlearned (not learned), unopposed (not opposed), untold (not told), unknown (not known), unworthy (not worthy).

There is a notable exception. If something can catch fire, it is either flammable or inflammable. Both words mean the same thing. To avoid/cause (pick one) confusion, if something cannot catch fire we say it is non-inflammable. Plus there are non-starter and non-negotiable.

Go figure.

I just wonder why there are so many ways to say not.

We say regardless, but all the experts agree that we should not say irregardless. There is no such word as irregardless, despite the fact that I just typed it on my keyboard.

A little thing like experts never stopped my dad (non-bio). In a burst of ignorance and creativity, he. came up with a new word. [Note. The word that means a new word is neologism. —RWP]. Throughout the part of his life that included me, I never once heard him say either regardless or irregardless. He always said — brace yourself — ilregardless.

I think that ilregardless makes every bit as much sense as impossible and impermssible. In fact, its very existence (if only in my own memory) proves it is neither.

My dad (non-bio) was some kind of genius! What kind has not been determined.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Poetic thoughts upon waking, or Long live the Queen

I watched and listened to Queen Elizabeth's speech to her people yesterday. This morning I awoke with the words A gecko is a lizard and Gandalf is a wizard inexplicably rolling around inside my head. I arose and promptly dashed off the following:

A gecko is a lizard
And Gandalf is a wizard,
The Model T was made by Henry Ford;
A cavalry, of course, is
A place with lots of horses,
And Calvary's the place they killed Our Lord.

Elizabeth the Second
Is a force with which to be reckoned,
At 93 she's still here going strong;
Her mum bid us "toodle-oo"
Just shy of one-oh-two,
And Philip's life at 98 is long.

Her Charles and Anne and Andy
And Edward made life dandy,
Prince William added three great-grands with Kate;
And 80 years apart
Her broadcasts move one's heart.
No Tin Lizzie she, Elizabeth is great.

I think I shall call the poem "On Listening To Queen Elizabeth's Speech During the Pandemic Of 2020".

If you can think of a better title, let me know in the comments. “American Fool” is also a possibility.

A heads up to Yorkshire Pudding: No disrespect here, sir, none at all. Only great admiration.

(1925 Ford Model T Touring Car, photo by ModelTMitch, 2018. Used in accordance with CC-BY-SA 4.0)

A true "Aha!" moment, or an explanation that finally makes sense

I ran across an article by Will Oremus at Marker that is enlightening:

What Everyone's Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage

It's so simple. Why didn't anyone think of it before?

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Sad news

Our friend Tom B. -- James Thomas Brown -- expired this afternoon due to coronavirus COVID-19 after spending 25 days in hospital and 21 on a ventilator. I believe he is the sixth resident of Cherokee County to succumb to this disease. He was 69 and is survived by his wife of over 45 years, Cheryl; two daughters, Staci Brown and Mandy Brown Holcombe; two sons, Matthew Brown and Clinton Brown; and several grandchildren.

RIP, Tom Brown.

I will be laboring (<i>British,</i> labouring) under a handicap for the next couple of weeks (<i>British,</i> fortnight)

More about that below. First, though, I want to add an addendum (what else would you do with an addendum?) to my previous post about phone...