Things I Know

  • The injuries an enraged adult chimpanzee can inflict on a human being are horrifying, literally horrifying.  And because that’’s so, I do not want to watch, listen to or read news that goes into gruesome detail about what happened to Charla Nash.  Saying what happened to Ms. Nash was and is horrific is quite true and quite enough.  And when radio and TV stations broadcast a recording of the 911 call from the owner of a chimp that went berserk in Connecticut the other day, I tuned to something else.

  • It’’s generally a bad idea to give a little kid an opportunity to lie.  Let’’s say you hear a crash and walk into your living room.  In the room, there’s a five-year-old kid and a broken lamp.  If you ask the kid, “”Who did this?”” is the kid going to say, “”I did!”?”  Not unless the kid is George Washington and the lamp is a cherry tree.  Same thing, although he’’s no kid, with NY Yankee super star Alex Rodriguez.  Did he cheat?  Is he still cheating?  If the answers are yes, and no, in that order, it’’s all we should expect.  Asking for the gory details is creating the opportunity for Mr.  Rodriguez to lie and the general consensus is that he hasn’’t been entirely truthful since word leaked out that he used steroids.

  • I’’m going to miss the division of General Motors that came up with the GTO.

  • You do not have a constitutional right to go through life un-offended.  Nobody does, but a lot of people seem to think they do.

  • People who live in California don’’t eat pretzels so much.  I’’ve been to several stores in the Sacramento area, including the ubiquitous Arco gas station, where you could buy beer and soda, but they didn’’t sell pretzels.  If you ask me, beer and soda without pretzels seems contrary to the Natural Order.

  • If you have a brick-and-mortar business and a website, you should put the address of your business on your website—on the home page.  The phone number too.

  • Unique doesn’t mean rare.  It means only.  So, the expression “”very unique”” has been very high on my list of pet peeves for a very long time.    Incidentally, if I ever own a dog or a cat, I think I’’ll name it Peeve.   I had a dog as a kid for a short time.   The dog’s name was “Socrates of Hicksville.”  That always seemed unwieldy to me.  We called him Socks because he had four white feet.  I liked Socks, but I didn’’t like taking care of him.  So I gave Socks away rather than take care of him which I didn’’t want to do or have him be neglected which I didn’’t want either.

  • Perhaps my favorite color is plaid, but I’’ve decided I’’m over-using the phrase. ““’I’’m of two minds.”” and I hereby resolve to knock it off.  Or maybe not.

  • You can buy one share of common stock in the company that owns the New York Times for less than it costs to buy one copy of the Sunday Times.  Except, of course, the news stand doesn’’t charge broker’’s fees.

  • I’’m planning to live forever and, so far, that’’s working out.  So, I don’’t want to receive any money from the government’s economic stimulus cargo (it’’s too big to be a package) because I don’’t want anyone to think I’’m a shovel-ready project.

  • I’’m trying to introduce a new expression into English.  You know that ASAP means ““As soon as possible,”” right?  Well my new expression is MSTHP.  It means “”Much sooner than humanly possible.””  For the sake of brevity, I’’m willing to accept MSTP, “”Much sooner than possible.””  Use it.  Pass it on.


Today is the one-year anniversary of the Sisyphus Project.

I started this blog to entertain myself.  So far, that’’s working.  I’’ve also occasionally entertained my friend Richard who has seen fit to mention my blog in his and to comment on my blog more than any other reader.  Of course, once would be more than any other reader, so if you want to chime in too, please do.

I’’m kind of amazed that I do have some readers.  Without doing anything to promote the blog, I get around 1,500 hits a month.  I know that’s fewer than 1,500 individual readers, but it’s a lot more than the four or five people I’’ve told about the blog I’’m writing.  I even found a blog whose author I don’’t know that linked to this one.

I haven’’t done anything to promote this because it’’s a hobby and I’’m paying for it out of pocket.  If a lot of people started reading it, I’’d have to pay more and then I’’d have to try to figure out a way to make money on it.  So while I am a twit, you won’’t find me pushing myself on Twitter.

I judge the first year a modest success.  I’’m a modest guy, so that’’s okay.  The truth is, I have a lot to be modest about.

While nobody is clamoring for the Sisyphus Project to continue, I believe I will continue writing about things I’’m interested in, things that frustrate me, and things I find funny.  But unlike Sisyphus, I won’’t do it forever.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • “The Insider,” is a TV show that primarily covers the world of entertainment.  Tonight they led with the Chimpanzee named Travis that mauled a woman in Connecticut this week, blinding and disfiguring her for life.  I know Travis was in at least two commercials some years ago, but will someone please tell me what’’s entertaining about that vicious attack?  My wife and I changed the channel.

  • How’’s the stock market doing since the economic stimulus cargo became law?

  • I take medicine that affects the way some foods taste to me.  I hope it’s the medicine, but this year Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies don’’t taste quite as minty or quite as chocolaty as they used to.  Is it the medicine, or does it seem that way to you too?

  • Comedian Bill Engvall asked a question so profound I’’m repeating it here because it needs answering.  How did fish acquire a taste for worms?

  • Have you seen the Food Channel TV show, “Ace of Cakes?”  Has it occurred to you that this is a TV show about cake decorating that doesn’’t really show you how to decorate a cake?

  • When I make a doctor’s appointment, instead of asking for the first appointment of the day, would it help if I asked for the first, first appointment of the day?

It’s The Stupid Economy

It’’s troubling that nobody in the House or Senate read the economic stimulus cargo (it’’s too big to be a package) before voting on it last Friday.  Remember, if it were all in hundred dollar bills, it would be over 8,500 tons of US paper money.  If it was so important to pass it quickly, why did President Obama wait until Tuesday to sign it?  Based on the length of the bill (over a thousand pages) it’’s doubtful President Obama read it either, before signing it into law.

Congress and every state legislature with which I’’m familiar works on the committee system.  Members are assigned to committees and they and their staffs become well informed or even experts on the type of legislation their committee regularly considers.  Members who are not on the committees tend to rely on colleagueswho are on the committee to determine how they’’ll vote.

In Congress, it would be unusual for everybody to read a bill that the members were voting on, but it’’s also unusual if nobody does.  In the case of the stimulus cargo, nobody had time.  The bill was made available eight hours or so before the voting started.  Even if a Congressman or Senator divied up the bill and distributed it to staff to analyze, the time involved was too short.  And the only reason to vote on it Friday was to give opposition no time to build.

It can’’t be as good as its strongest proponents say it is, and I certainly hope it’’s not as bad as its harshest critics opine.  I hope it works too.  My son is among those currently unemployed.  But two old adages come to mind and either or both of them make me concerned.

A camel is a horse designed by a committee, and two things you should never watch being made are sausage and laws.

Today the President announced a program for homeowners in or near foreclosure.  I’’m of two minds on this.  The first is I’’m already paying for my house and I don’’t want to help pay for anyone else’’s.  The second is that when I eventually retire, I’’d like to be able to sell my house and move to a smaller one someplace warmer.  And, while it’’s easy to buy a house someplace warmer for a lot less than they cost last year, in present conditions it’’s also harder to sell my house and my house is worth a lot less than it was a year or two ago.  So if propping up the mortgage market to cut down on foreclosures works, then it should drive the price of housing back up since there won’’t be many foreclosures on the market.  That, I’’d like to see. 

Valentine’s Day Inspiration

I’’m of two minds about gifts.  For me, as a recipient, only the thought counts.  Nobody likes me enough and has enough money to give me anything I can’’t afford to get for myself, so it’’s the thought that counts.  Plus, my grandmother told me that when I was a young boy (I was never little) and she was crazy.

But when I give someone else a gift, I want it to be something that I like and that they like too.  I think I’’m bad at selecting things that meet both criteria.  Once in a while I succeed, but not often.

Valentine’’s Day is a holiday for retailers.  Gifts are pretty much obligatory.  Guys can always wimp out with flowers or one of those heart-shaped boxes of candy.  Most women also appreciate jewelry.  You can cheat and buy your wife or girlfriend some lingerie.  I say that’’s cheating because both of you know lingerie is a present for you too.  For this Valentine’’s Day, however, I was inspired.  I bought my wife a present she loved and laughed at.  She has a great laugh.

My wife is a little odd.  She’s been with me for a long, long time so even if she started out normal, some of my odd would have to have rubbed off on her and I have more than enough odd to spare.

Two weeks ago she told me she had a really weird dream.  She was right.  She told me she dreamt she had a chocolate candy turkey and I ate it on her.  She dreamt that she was so mad at me that she decked me.  This dream is weird for a number of reasons.  First, I don’’t recall ever inviting a chocolate turkey into the house.  Second, I wouldn’’t take something of hers without asking.  Third, we don’’t fight.  We argue; every married couple argues and we probably argue less than average.  But fighting would not prove who’s right; it would only prove who’s stronger.  Neither of us ever has or would hit the other with anything stronger than a love pat.  I’’m about six feet tall and she isn’’t.  I weigh over two hundred pounds and she doesn’’t, by a long shot.  I’’m a lot bigger than she is.  It’’s obvious who’’s stronger.  The only way she could knock me down is by running me over with the family car.

So the dream was absurd because of the turkey, out of character for both of us and physically impossible.  As the lady said, it was weird.  It also inspired me.  That’s right.  I bought my wife a rafter of chocolate turkeys for Valentine’’s Day.

Chocolate bunnies are traditional for Easter and you might find a chocolate turkey around Thanksgiving, but where, you may ask, did I find chocolate turkeys at Valentine’’s Day?  The Internet of course!  That’’s also where I found out the correct term for a group of turkeys is a rafter.  If I had thought of it sooner, I would have saved some money on express shipping, but it was still a reasonably priced gift.  If I do say so myself, it was inspired.  In fact, I have said so myself, twice.  This morning, I was rewarded for my inspiration with my wife’’s musical laughter. 

Things I Know

  • Friday is the safest day on which to have Friday the 13th.  If it happens on a Sunday or a Monday, Friday the 13th could last all week.  That’’s not my idea.  Walt Kelly thought it up and put in the mouth of Albert the Alligator in the late and very much lamented comic strip Pogo.

  • We need to find another term for the stimulus package.  The word package doesn’’t make you think of something big enough.  How about stimulus shipment or stimulus cargo?  The Feds have been throwing the term billions about for so long that it’’s lost the ability to shock us.  We’re nearly immune to being shocked by the word trillion too.  So we need to find another way to describe large amounts of money.  The US House and Senate have apparently agreed on a $789 billion stimulus package.  If it’’s all in $100 bills, that’s between 8,500 and 9,000 tons of paper money!  That’’s a little bigger than a package, don’’t you think?

  • Senator Schumer, I care about the pork in the stimulus bill and I bet I’’m not alone.

  •  I don’’t know which way is up.  Well, when I’’m awake I do, but I used to have a job that required me to get up at 2:30 AM and when that alarm clock went off, I grabbed my bed to keep from falling up many, many times.

  • The flaw in the space-time continuum has apparently been mended.  I arrived on time for my 7:00 AM appointment at my endocrinologist’s office, having been told that 7:00 AM was the first appointment of the day when I made it.  If you recall, I’’m always on time, the doctor never is, although the last time he was early, not late, which screwed everything up and caused me to worry about the continuation of life as we know it.  Today, the doctor saw me around 7:30.  Why?  He saw the other first appointment of the day first.

  • “Where To Retire” magazine, in its current issue, says the cost of living for retirees in San Francisco is “Well above average.”  From what I’ve seen when I’ve visited that lovely city, it should say the cost of living in San Francisco is “Oh my God!”

Happy Birthday George

If George Washington were alive today, he’’d still be dead!   I mean, it’’s his birthday, and he’’d be 277 years old, for God’’s sake.  What’’s that you say?  George Washington’s birthday isn’’t until February 22nd, you say.  Wrong.  George Washington wasn’’t born on his birthday.  He was born on February 11, 1732.  If you don’’t believe me, try believing your own eyes.  Here’’s a picture of the relevant page from the Washington family bible.

How is this possible?  Religion and politics.

The Julian calendar came into effect in 45 BC at the insistence of Julius Caesar.  It had a 365 day year with leap year every four years.  The trouble is our Earth goes around the Sun slightly faster than that.  Not much, but a little.  So in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull decreeing a new calendar which became known as the Gregorian calendar even though he didn’’t invent it.  I don’’t presume Julius Caesar invented the Julian calendar either.  By that time, the Julian calendar was about 10 days out of synch with the celestial orbit of the earth.  The Gregorian calendar has the same 365 days and the same leap day every four years, except that if a year is evenly divisible by 100, but not by 400, it isn’t a leap year.  So, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years although 2000 was.  Doing away with another leap year every one thousand years would make the Gregorian calendar even more accurate, but it isn’’t yet 500 years old, so we don’’t have to worry about that for a while.

If you have surmised that Pope Gregory XIII was a Roman Catholic, you are correct.  If you recall your history, you also know that 1582 came after Henry VIII made England a Protestant nation.  In fact, it came after Henry VIII all together.  So, England, and when it came into being, the British Empire did not embrace the Gregorian calendar until September of 1752, and by that time the two calendars were 11 days out of synch.  I told you the difference was small.  Returning to America’’s first President, George Washington was born as that bible says on February 11, 1732.  So, between his 20th and 21st birthday, the calendar was changed, 11 days were added and his birthday became February 22nd.  But he was born on February 11th.  I already asserted that and proved it.  Now, I’’ve explained it.

That concludes the educational portion of this blog item. 

Now on to the burning question:  How come I know that (and lots of other similarly useless information), but I don’’t know anything that would make me tons of money?  One ton of US currency (if it’s all in $100 bills) is around $9 million, so I could probably make due with a single metric ton.

Things I Know

  • I used to think the name of the last bank left standing would be  I now think it’’s likely to be

  • With all the billions being thrown around in Congress these days, I can only thank God we’’re not Great Britain.  You see, here in the good old USA, a billion is a thousand million.  In Great Britain, a billion is a million million.  That’’s a big difference.

  • The late Illinois Republican Senator Everett Dirksen is famous for having said, “”A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.””  Only problem is he probably never said it:

  • Here’’s why a city like Seattle or London can be crippled by snow that other cities like Chicago or Albany would consider insignificant.  If you bought enough equipment to deal with six inches of snow and you got that much snow once every twenty years, you’’d use the equipment once and it would then rust and rot.  The next time you needed it, in an average of twenty years, it would be broken beyond repair and you’’d have to buy more.  So in areas where it doesn’’t snow much, they don’’t have a lot of snow removal equipment.  After all, snow does melt.

  • An MRI is a large and very noisy machine.  They charge a lot to stuff you in one and its main purpose is to cause your nose to itch.

  • Village elections in New York State are held on the third Tuesday in March.  This year, that date is also St. Patrick’’s Day.  A while back the state legislature, in its extremely finite wisdom, passed a law that says if the election would fall on St. Patrick’s Day it will be moved to March 18th.  As an American of Irish descent, I don’’t know whether to be flattered they want to honor St. Patrick and Irish Americans or offended that they think we’ll have too much to drink before, during and after voting.

  • I told my wife that I would never have married her if I had known what her mother-in-law would be like.

  • Capital One, the credit card company that’’s also a bank, sends me multiple credit card offers each month.  On the back of each envelope it says “”Please recycle.””  Hello!  If you want to save the environment, mail me fewer credit card offers. 

  • A while back, I said the best invention of the twentieth century was mixed vegetables with no lima beans in them.  Now that our kitchen remodel is complete, I have to say that sliding shelves for your pots and pans are right up there.   I’’m not going to try to evaluate the best of the 21st century until we have more of the century to go on.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • Did you hear the audio of the conversation between pilot Chesley Sullenberger and the LaGuardia tower as he was ditching flight 1549 in the Hudson river last month?  Basically, it boils down to save my life now, panic later.

  • Has Christopher Lambert ever been in a good movie?

  • The janitor in the office building where I work rolls a large trash barrel up to each waste basket in order to empty it.  He takes the barrel to the waste basket, not the other way around.  So, it seems to me that moving my waste basket from where I put it would be extra work.  But he never puts it back where I want it.  Why is that?

  • The birth of octuplets in California raises some troubling questions.  Why would a single woman who already has six kids want more?  If you know you won’’t abort any of the implanted embryos, why have so many implanted?  I mean having eight more kids at the same time is dangerous to both the mother and the children; any of the nine may develop serious health problems as a result.  And if it’s dangerous to the mother, then she was risking the welfare of the six children she already had.  Both fertility treatments and post natal care of octuplets are very expensive.  I’’d like to be assured that this family, mom and her parents, have the resources to handle the expense.  I’’d rather not see taxpayer funds expended on what appears to me to be an ego trip.

  • Is there a category in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most credit card offers received by one person over a specified period of time (like a month or a year)?  If there is, how do I apply for recognition?

  • Haven’’t paid your federal income taxes?  Maybe you’re qualified for a cabinet-level appointment in the Obama Administration?  I was being considered to be secretary of the Department of Redundancy Department until they found out I had paid my taxes.

  • Someone on the radio used an expression I hadn’’t heard in a long time:  “smart as a whip.”  Aren’’t whips inanimate objects?  Isn’’t a whip exactly as smart as a box of rocks?

An Earlier Plane Crash

When flight 1549 crash landed in the Hudson River last month, everyone praised the pilots’’ skill and rightly so.  It was in the news everywhere.  Was it a big deal to the world when a small plane crashed near the end of a runway Mason City Iowa a little after 1:00 AM fifty years ago today?  To kids everywhere in the USA, yes, it was.  To the world at large, not really.  Is it a big deal that today is the 50th anniversary of that plane crash?  To a few senior citizens who really care about music, yes it is.  To the world at large, not really.

The plane carried a rock ‘‘n’’ roll icon, Buddy Holly, and two other hit-music makers with a lot of promise, Richie Valens and J.P, Richardson, otherwise known as the Big Bopper.   Most of the news coverage of that event was broadcast on radio stations that played rock ‘’n’’ roll.

There is no birthday for rock ‘’n’’ roll and anyone who tells you they know what the first rock ‘’n’’ roll record was is blowing smoke.  Rock ‘’n’ roll evolved.  But by 1971, Don McLean would call February 3rd 1959, ““The Day the Music Died.””  He wrote, recorded and sold millions of copies of a song by that name that chronicled the music from the day of the plane crash to the time the song was written.  The chronicle had some very obscure references and people became obsessed with what the song meant. 

The music was aimed at teenagers and commercial rock ‘’n’’ roll was at most five years old when that plane crashed, so nobody in the news media was old enough to have grown up with the music.  Very few people in the media liked the music.  Imagine what kind of media coverage John Lennon’’s death would have garnered if nobody who worked for TV network news operations or major newspapers liked his music.

Holly, far more than the other two, was an influential figure in rock history.  He wrote and produced his own music before that was common.  His style influenced future rockers.  Tommy Roe and Bobby Vee are just two.  The Beatles and Rolling Stones recorded his music.  Why do you think the Beatles called themselves that?  Holly’’s band was the Crickets.  Holly was in the first group of inductees to the Rock ‘’n’’ Roll Hall of Fame.

But we’’ve come full circle.  There are very few people in the media today who know and like his music.  Many of the ones who weren’’t old enough to be hired when he died are old enough to be retired now.  And advertisers are interested in younger audiences because they’’ve been told it’’s hard to influence senior citizens with commercials and print ads.  So nobody is programming to the people who do care.

In the biggest broadcast market in the USA, there is no longer a radio station that features music from the 1950’s.  WCBS FM used to and DJ Bob Shannon who knows a lot about that music did a nice tribute to Holly and the others today at noon.  In the process, he laid out some of the ways Holly influenced other musicians.  But as an example of how little notice was paid to the anniversary, no cable TV outlet saw fit to broadcast the 1978 movie ““The Buddy Holly Story”” today.  Nobody scheduled “”Peggy Sue Got Married”” either.  The movie isn’’t about Buddy Holly, but the plot is kind of inspired by that song.

So the 50th anniversary of the day the music died passed with a lot less notice than yesterday got for being Ground Hog Day.

Things I Know

  • The supermarket near my home had a sign explaining one of their policies.  It included the line, ““Sorry for the inconvinance [sic.].””  In the bakery of the same supermarket, they had a super-sized cookie for sale on which was written the message, “”Super Ball XLIII.””  Maybe it’’s some sort of world-famous dance and I’’m the only person who hasn’’t heard about it.

  • Today is Super Bowl Sunday.  I don’’t care.  I don’’t even watch it for the commercials.  Tomorrow is Ground Hog Day.  The official ground hog, Punxatawney Phil, always sees its shadow at the appointed time because of TV lights, so we still have six weeks of winter to go.  However, Baseball Spring Training starts in two weeks and gasoline prices are on the rise, therefore warm weather must be near.  Keep the faith!

  • My house is nearly finished.  I have a little spackling to do and some staining.  I have to build radiator covers too, but I’’m really close to done with what I started last June.  Whew!

  • I’’m not trying to be a chauvinist, a feminist, or any other kind of “ist” here except a pragmatist.  If a plane crashes or needs emergency evacuation for any other reason, I don’’t want to hear about “women and children first,” the way we did when US Airways Flight 1549 ditched in the Hudson River.   Preferences slow down the evacuation process.  Of course, if anyone is injured, disabled or a child too young to fend for itself, help them.  Don’’t leave them to die.  Otherwise, I want whoever is nearest the exit to get out so that the second person can get out and so on.  That’’s the fastest way and the fastest way is the only sensible way.

  • Nobody likes criticism, but everyone wants to know where they stand.

  • If you are making a speech and you say, “”So in conclusion,”” or anything else that coveys the idea you are wrapping it up, say one more thing and either take your seat or open it up to questions.

  • When I was a teenager, I made two mistakes:  I thought I was the only person that awkward; and I thought I’’d get over it.

  • It is a good thing that different people like different things.  Otherwise, there would be shortages and really long lines.  And, as punctual as I am, it’’s still unlikely I’’d be at the front of one of those lines.