Things I Know

Twenty-one-year-old Nazi sympathizer James Fields drove into a crowd, injuring 35 people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville VA last August has been sentenced to life plus 419 years in prison.  It was a heinous crime, and I’m okay with burying him at the prison to ensure he serves that part of the sentence that takes effect after he dies.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a young radical, elected to Congress in November, replacing a long-time incumbent.  She worked very hard to get there, and probably benefitted from circumstances such as changing demographics and her predecessor, Rep. Joe Crowley, not taking the primary challenge seriously.   Still, she is a freshman member of Congress, so I’m surprised at all the news coverage she is getting.

My wife won’t give me any hints as to what to give her for Christmas.  I’ve already taken her on two expensive trips this year (to California and to London) in lieu of presents.  I’d like to take her to Hawaii for Christmas, but I can’t afford that.  I’ve always been taken by the lyrics to the Beach Boys Christmas song.  You know, “I want to spend Christmas on the Kona coast of Hawaii.

When I was a sophomore in college, I was a dj on my college radio station, I read my letter to Santa to my listeners.  I said, “Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is a doll.  Her name is Karen and she’s 18 years old.”  Santa must have been listening, and I must have been very good.  I got everything on my list!  She was already my girlfriend for about a year.  Not right away, but eventually we married.  If I wake up on Christmas morning, she’s still here, and still the love of my life, I’ll be completely satisfied.

I’m pleased that I managed to find the last day on which it was over 50 degrees in weeks to put up my Christmas lights.

Could You Tone It Down, Please?

I have a dear friend, a man I’ve known most of my life.  I was best man at his wedding.  He would have been best man at mine too, but he was in the military and Uncle Sam didn’t choose to make him available.

He’s not the only friend I have who posts lots and lots of anti-Donald Trump messages and memes on Facebook, but he does it more than anyone else I know, and he does it to the exclusion of almost anything else about his life.

Keeping in mind that I didn’t vote for President Trump either, I can’t help wondering what my friend thinks he’s accomplishing.  He started making these posts before Trump won the election.  He has between two and three-hundred friends on Facebook. 

I’m willing to wager real money that every single one of his Facebook friends is well aware of his opinion about Donald Trump.  God knows I am!  Whether we agree with him or not, I’m pretty sure he hasn’t changed any of those people’s minds.  But I’m pretty sure he has annoyed a lot of his friends, me included, by doing this.

I knew him when we were both sixteen.  At that time, I used to argue a lot with the girl I was dating.  We argued mostly about religion.   She didn’t convince me of anything, but I did convince her to find another boyfriend, so I won, right?  My friend knew very well how traumatic that breakup was for me.  As a result of that teen aged heartbreak, I refuse to argue with anyone about any faith-based belief.  Religion and politics are at the top of the list of things I won’t argue about. 

I certainly won’t argue with him about this.  He’s entitled to his opinion.  The problem is I know his opinion, yet he has repeated it to me multiple times a day, every day for more than two years.  I would, as I’ve said, like to know what he thinks he’s accomplishing.  I also wish he’d post a few things about the rest of his life.  We live very far apart, so we don’t get to see each other, or to talk nearly as often as we’d prefer.

Finally, a New One!

First, I didn’t think of this until after sunset, but happy Hanukkah to my friends who celebrate and to my reader too, in case he or she celebrates.

Also, let me add my voice to those people remembering former President George H.W. Bush.  He’s the only US President I ever got to speak with, and it was long before he was President.  I interviewed him on TV when he was Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  As so many other people have said, he seemed like a decent man to me.

Did you miss me?  It’s been what?  Six weeks or so?  I didn’t miss me.  Where was I?  First, I took Saint Karen (she must be a saint to put up with me) to London to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Then, we both got sick.  If you’ve known the same person as long as I have known Saint Karen, you may also run out of ideas for presents.  In lieu of presents, I’ve taken her on two trips this year, in the Spring to California, and in the Fall to London.

This was our second visit to London.  We liked it in 2014, so we went back.

Everybody knows in Britain they drive on the left side of the road.  But in the Thames, the float on the right side of the river.  I asked, and captains on British Airways flights sit on the left side of the plane too. 

Travel is exhausting.  Here are a few observations you may not get from a travel blog.

Recommend:  Basil’s sandwich shop on a side street in Tower Hill.  Saint Karen and I stopped there early in our stay to get sandwiches.  I went back a second time, about a week later, and by myself.  One of the guys behind the counter said hello and asked how my wife was.  Another of the countermen told me the first time I was there I had dropped a five-pound note.  He gave it back to me, so my second sandwich was paid for with found money.  Friendly honest people making good food.  Can’t ask for a lot more than that.

The national sport of England isn’t football.  It isn’t cricket either.  From my observation, it’s jay walking.

If cars drive on the right, pedestrians should walk on the right.  If cars drive on the left, pedestrians should walk on the left.  Why?  So if they’re walking close to the curb they can see on-coming traffic.  But in London, as in Manhattan, there is no general consensus as to whether pedestrians should keep right or left.

In both the USA and the UK, most hotels, and motels I’ve stayed in, the bathroom is arranged  so a man must watch himself urinate.  This happens so often, I believe it must be deliberate, but I have no idea why.

One thing I hate about air travel is the guy who is blocking the aisle while taking a long time to arrange his things in the overhead, and the seat.  I encountered such a man on the flight over.  He kept urging me to move past him.  He is large, I am large, but the aisle is anything but.  So, I couldn’t get past him, but it didn’t make him speed up his process by even one second.

We bought London Passes.  They offer discounted admission over a limited time period to all sorts of tourist attractions.  They worked seamlessly, but I’m not sure we saved any money because we don’t have the stamina to see more than two or three attractions a day.  If you’re going to get a London Pass, pay attention to the directions on their website.  The office isn’t easy to find.

On our first trip to London, we stayed in Southwark (the W is silent), not near a tube station.  This time, we stayed north of the Thames, near a tube station.  That worked better, but still room for improvement.  If you can, either stay at a hotel where you can do your own laundry, or one that has a laundry nearby.  Our hotel offers “laundry service,” but washing and ironing one dress shirt costs more than $9.00!  I don’t know about where you live, but the place I take my shirts at home costs $2.00 if you can’t be bothered looking for a coupon.  I bought a bottle of laundry detergent.  It paid for itself after I’d washed two pair of socks.

I wish both St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey allowed photography inside.  They’re both absolutely beautiful.  However, if Westminster is so Gothic, how come it doesn’t own a black t-shirt?

Have you ever seen something, and realized you wanted it both badly and immediately?  On Wednesday, outside St. Paul’s, I saw a restaurant with a sign in the window that said, “potage de poulet.”  For those of you who don’t remember three words of high-school French, it means chicken soup.  I ordered it, but they were out.  So, for the rest of the trip, I went around London looking, unsuccessfully, for down-home chicken soup.  When we got home, I had some, also a large soft drink with lots of ice.

There’s a decent barbecue restaurant on Tower Hill, so why not an American-style deli?  There are restaurants claiming to be American-style delis.  Their claim is dubious. 

We ate British food too.  I’m diabetic, so as much as I’d like too, I shouldn’t really eat a full British breakfast.  I like meat pies, but maybe because I’m not a drinker, I haven’t been impressed with the pubs I’ve found.  One, down the street from our hotel, advertises it serves breakfast until noon, which is fine, except it opens at 11:00 AM, so what’s the point? 

The hotel we’re staying in is nice.  It advertises as a business hotel.  A few things strike me as odd.  Two of them are probably building-regulation stuff.  There’s no electric outlet for the hair dryer in the bathroom.  They do have a deep, wonderful bathtub, but the faucet has such low flow that it takes 30 minutes to fill it up, so the water cools off some while you’re filling it, so a nice.  A hot soak is, therefore, out of the question.

Our room has a king-sized bed, which is great, and uncommon in British hotels.  As a business hotel, it could use a few more electrical outlets in each room (especially on both sides of the bed and at the desk.  Some USB ports would be nice too.  It could also use access to better cell phone signals.

We had a good time, but three days before we planned to go home, we both came down with a nasty bug.  We’ve coughed so much we kept each waking each other up.  When we arrived back in the good old USA, and caught our ride home, we dropped our bags in the living room, got in our own car and headed for one of those urgent care clinics.  We thought we had the flu.  How silly of us.  We both had pneumonia!  We’re fine now.

That was the only vacation we’ve ever been on where both of us were sick at the same time.  I don’t recommend it.  Still, we had a nice time in London and I expect we’ll travel again in 2019. 

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

The Saudi government Friday gave its version of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey almost three weeks ago now.  Did you hear it?  Did you believe it?  For me, that’s a yes and a no.  In that order. 

Did you see Kanye West at the White House?  I saw the video.  I can act as unhinged as anyone.  When do I get my private audience with the President?

Election day is barely more than two weeks away.  Most candidates pledge to work to lower taxes.  I vote for candidates who pledge to lower taxes.  So, how come my taxes never go down?

There’s a series of commercials for RXBAR on TV, featuring rapper Ice-T.  They are memorable commercials, but did you notice what the spots were selling?  I had to Google them to find out.

Lost and Found

My wife and I have a symbiotic relationship which has two major components:  she’s adorable, and I adore her; I lose things, and she finds them.  Except sometimes in the lost and found department, neither of us finds what I’ve lost, and rarely, I find it.  I don’t find it because she asked me where I had it last.  She does that frequently.  It’s one of the few things about her that annoys me, because if I knew where I last had my lost object, it wouldn’t be lost.  Would it?

I used to have an old bookshelf stereo system.  For the last few years,  it languished in my garage, getting dirty.  I dragged it out and wiped it off for college reunions.  We set it up in the lobby of the dorm our class stayed in, and I used it to play music popular during the time we were in college.  I was a deejay, both on radio and in a local disco, in my college days, and have enough songs from that time to play them for the whole three-day weekend without ever repeating one.

Our most recent reunion was in June of last year.  I brought the stereo, and the music, as I always do.  But the stereo was broken.  The volume control no longer worked consistently.  The unit had a remote control too.  Would that work reliably to set the volume?  I couldn’t know, because I couldn’t find the control. 

At the end of the reunion, rather than lugging it home, I gave the old stereo to the current students who had helped herd we old, cranky alumni around.  Not too generous of me because as I said the unit was old, I never used it, and it was broken.  Some students, especially at a university with an engineering school, are capable of fixing what was wrong with it, so they were happy to have it.

Why do I bring this up now?  I found the remote yesterday.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

My bank charges a significant premium on the exchange rate when I purchase foreign currency from it.  If I charge a purchase in a foreign currency, my credit card company adds a much smaller amount to the exchange rate when  converting that purchase to US dollars.  But the credit card company and the bank are the same company.  Why do you suppose they do that?

I have an even number of feet, and an odd number of socks.  How did that happen?

When you fly British Airways, does the captain sit in the right-hand seat in the cockpit?

Why does the outside of a toilet get so dirty?  Nobody I know tries to dirty the outside of one.

Why is it that when I sneeze, I almost always sneeze three times in a row?

Have you had your flu shot yet?  I got mine yesterday and you really should.  Two years ago, my wife and daughter had public-facing jobs.  I don’t.  I got a flu shot.  They didn’t.  They got sick for a week or so.  They gave it to me too, but I got sick for only two days. 

Kavanaugh

Here’s the problem with many, if not most accusations of sexual assault.  Especially when the accusation surfaces years later, there is little or no proof available, and little or no defense possible.  I’m inclined to believe almost all the women who make these accusations, if for no other reason than they are usually put through hell, especially if they accuse a prominent public figure.  There are, however, some occasions where I lean toward believing the person accused, especially if I have known that person for a long time.

One case that has nothing to do with politics is the family doctor we saw for many years.  He was a man who delivered both of our children, and the first to suspect that there might be something wrong with our daughter’s heart.  One day, out of the blue, a drug-addicted woman charged that this doctor had sexually abused her.  He said, in his defense, that he had refused to provide her with prescriptions for the pills she wanted to fuel her addiction.  He claimed she made the accusation against him for vengeance.

That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?  At first, we believed the doctor, until other women came forward and he was charged with several crimes.

Now to the political elephant in the room, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  First, Christine Blasey Ford came forward and claimed that Kavanaugh assaulted her when both were in high school.  Although Professor Ford has called for an FBI investigation, I remain doubtful that this accusation can be proved.  It’s possible it happened.  History also tells us that many women don’t come forward for many years after such an event.  The fact that she called for the FBI is in her favor.  I’m sure she knows that telling lies to the FBI is a felony, whether you’re under oath and whether you’re being investigated for a crime.

It’s also possible that someone who is politically motivated to the extreme might come up with a story like that to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination or at least to postpone Senate approval until after the mid-term elections, which are now fewer than six weeks away.  The idea behind such a strategy is that perhaps the Democrats will take control of the Senate, and therefore have the votes to keep Kavanaugh from being seated on the nation’s highest court.  I’m not saying Professor Ford did that.  I’m saying lawyers could advance that theory as at least creating reasonable doubt.

But, now, two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, have come forward leveling accusations against the nominee.  At least one of them is also calling for the FBI to investigate.  If you’re not impressed with that call, go two paragraphs up, and reread it.  I also saw this morning that Brett Kavanaugh’s lawyer now says Kavanaugh, who still denies all the accusations, may have met Professor Ford at some point in their distant past.

I can’t quote you the number required, but clearly, the more women who come forward, the more troubling and the more likely the accusations of sexual misconduct are to be true.

To all the people who say the accusations can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, at this point at least, that’s true.  However, this isn’t a criminal trial that requires the unanimous vote of 12 jurors.  It’s a Presidential appointment pending before the U.S. Senate.  That requires 51 out of 100 votes.  Moreover, all of those votes can be based on opinion, or on something unrelated to these accusations. 

What disturbs me is how many people are taking one side or the other based on whether they believe Kavanaugh will rule on cases before the court in a way that agrees with their political beliefs, not on whether he did what he’s accused of.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear from Doctor Ford Thursday morning.  I hope everyone on the committee listens to and considers testimony from both sides.

Things I Know

Did you watch Aretha Franklin’s funeral on TV?  Emotional, wasn’t it?  She was a world-renowned musician.  Many of the people on the dais were too.  So, what struck me about the event was how bad the sound was.  It cut out often.  There was a 60-cycle hum throughout.  That means the sound equipment wasn’t properly grounded.  Whoever operated the sound board didn’t always shut off mics that weren’t in use, so extraneous noise was included in the audio feed.  And, worst of all, the main mic on the podium made noise when anyone touched it.

It’s been possible for decades to make a mic that doesn’t do that.  Just look at an EV 635A.  I used one of those almost 50 years ago, and Electro-voice still makes them.  It’s designed for speech, not singing, so I don’t suggest they should have used one, but there must be a better mic for the purpose than whatever it was they did use.

As for the content of the program, I think it could have used fewer speeches and more Shirley Ceasar.

As an Optimum cable subscriber, I’m a week away from losing my access to Newsday.com, the website of Long Island’s major newspaper.  So, I checked into what’s necessary to get free access until the end of the year. I may do it, but I’m not happy about it. First, I must give them my credit card info to get it for free. I’m sure that’s so if I forget to cancel by New Year’s Eve, they’ll charge me rather than turning it off. Second, and I’m going to call Newsday about this, it looks as if after the free trial, my wife and I will have to pay separately for access to the website. Either that, or both of us share the one sign in. If we do the second, can we view it on two devices at the same time? And third, just for web access, it costs more than the NY Times! I don’t know if it’s going to go over like a lead balloon, but it doesn’t look to me as if it’ll take off like a helium-filled balloon either.

Speaking of the NY Times, the anonymous op-ed piece about resistance to the President inside his administration astounded me.  I think it’s extremely likely that the identity of whoever wrote it will be found by the FBI, the NSA, the Secret Service, or some federal agency in short order. 

I don’t think it’s possible (and it would certainly undermine democracy) to remove President Trump from office under the 25th Amendment.  If the Vice President and the Cabinet, or the Vice President and Congress tried to remove him that way, he could assert that he is fit to continue.  If anyone attacks Donald Trump, he does fight back.  That we know.  So, he would claim he is able to continue.  Then, it would take a two-thirds vote of both houses to remove him.  I don’t see that happening.

President Trump said on Twitter a few weeks ago that making basketball star LeBron James look smart isn’t easy.  I disagree.  If I had the choice of spending four years in college or beginning immediately to amass what is now a nine-figure fortune, I’d probably do exactly what Mr. James did.  It sounds like a smart decision to me.  Plus, whenever I’ve heard him on TV he sounded intelligent.  Moreover, he certainly deserves credit for all the charitable work he’s done, including starting a new school in his hometown of Akron Ohio this year.

Things I Know

Yosemite Valley has been evacuated due to smoke from wild fires surrounding the park, and to allow the valley to be used to stage fire-fighting efforts.  It’s sad.  Yosemite is among the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I was lucky enough to go back last May.  I know fires are a natural part of the ecosystem in that area.  Still, I hope the park isn’t badly damaged and that nobody is hurt or killed fighting the blazes.

Professional writers who ply their trade in the English language really need to learn to write.  From today’s article about Serena Williams on the NY Post’s website: “Williams returned to competition this season after missing more than a year while pregnant.”  I was going to say, “Poor girl,” but she’s 36, so poor woman.  No human being is pregnant for more than a year.

The NY Daily News’ parent company, Tronc, announced it is laying off half its editorial staff including cutting the sports department by more than 70 percent.  I don’t have access to reader surveys, but I’m guessing that before this week, more people read the Daily News for its sports section and comics than for its news coverage and editorials.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the Daily News is long for this world.

The NY Mets announced that left fielder Yoenes Cespedes needs surgery on both heels and recovery will take at least 8-10 months.  This issue developed after Cespedes returned for one game after two months on the disabled list.  Having established a new category of MLB roster, the one-day abled list, one wonders why Cespedes and the Mets haven’t taken care of this mess much earlier.  Apparently, he’s had heel problems since before the Mets acquired him years ago.

If you are a man who wears suits, when someone takes your picture, you should button the suit jacket.  Leaving it unbuttoned will make you look heavier than you are.  If nobody has, someone ought to tell President Trump that.  If someone has told him that, it wouldn’t be the only advice he’s received that it would be good for him to pay attention to.

It strikes me as somewhat ironic that the Food Network’s show “Good Eats” runs occasional commercials within the show for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

July 11, was the anniversary of my discharge from the US Army.  It was for a little over five months, the happiest day of my life.  It was superseded by Christmas Eve that same year, when Saint Karen (who must be a saint to put up with me) agreed to marry me.

Obviously if the 11th was the anniversary of my Army discharge, the 12th was the anniversary of the day I went into the Army.  When I got home from basic training, my girlfriend (later to be canonized) walked right past me on the railroad station platform.  She didn’t recognize me because I had lost 42 pounds in the two months I was away.  I’m sure she’ll recognize me this September, because there’s no way I’m going to lose 42 pounds this year.

I spent a lot of second full weeks in July in Boy Scout camp.  I don’t do that anymore, but I occasionally miss it.  I don’t miss the food.  Nobody goes to Boy Scout camp for the cuisine.  I do miss the kids, the activities and the other adults though.  If I miss it, why did I stop going?  I really can’t sleep on those cots or on the ground anymore.

Things I Know

Thursday, another maniac shot his way into a place, this time a newsroom in Maryland, killing five people.  Clearly one thing that would help the rash of these shootings is bullet-proof thoughts and prayers.

Dan Ingram died this month, at 83, of side effects from Parkinson’s Disease.  He retired from radio about 15 years ago.  In his time, he was the best top 40 DJ I ever heard.  He was great at adlibbing.  It was Dan who dubbed the lower level of the George Washington Bridge the Martha Washington Bridge.  Think about it.

He was also in demand as a voiceover artist.  Even if you don’t live in New York, where he made his mark in radio on WABC and WCBS FM, you’ve heard him on commercials.  If you grew up in New York from the 60’s to the early 2000’s, and you make it to the beach this summer, “Roll your bod,” in Big Dan’s honor.  RIP Kemosabe.

We went to California in May, so I was looking at hotels around the airport in San Francisco to stay at the night before we came back.  Last time we went, I waited too long to do that.  Even if your bio clock is on east-coast time, getting up at 3:30 AM in Sacramento to get to SFO in time for a 7:30 AM flight is a bummer.  Maybe seven years ago, we stayed at the Inn at Oyster Point, and liked it a lot.  So, I was disappointed to find out that it closed last year.  We only stayed there once, so maybe that’s why it closed.

I have a simple solution to one problem with Yosemite National Park.  If you get there after around nine in the morning, parking at the visitors’ center is pretty hard to find.  Simple solution:  valet parking!

I find when browsing reddit that you can almost always skip the first paragraph of each post.  Usually the second paragraph too.  You can thank me later.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

Now that Spring is finally here, and grass is being mowed, wouldn’t it be nice if they made lawn-mower handles more adjustable, so tall people could use them whithout bending over, thereby not develop back pain in the process of tidying up the yard?

How cold has Spring been where I live this year?  Well I have some pictures of my lilacs from six years ago when they were in full bloom on April 20th.  On May 3rd this year, they haven’t bloomed yet.

Does anyone reading this know of a good way to get rid of English ivy, or how to destroy wild onions?  I’d like to kill the ivy without annoying my lilacs.  My onion problem is so bad this year, I’m thinking of renaming my family home “Vidalia Acres.”

What can I get Saint Karen (who must be a saint to put up with me) for her birthday, and Mother’s Day?  They’re always close together and sometimes fall on the same day.  I usually get her separate presents.  Twice before, I’ve gotten her one big, combined present for the two events.  Once, I bought her an iPad, and the other time, a 60” tv for the living room.  Unless someone has a better idea, and even if they do, this year, I’m getting another combined present:  I’m taking her to California to visit our son.

I was telling one of my doctors about all the muscle pain I’ve been experiencing.  He started complaining to me that he’s sore all over too.  Do you know what that means?  I think it means I need to find a younger doctor.

Things I Know

I spent part of my life in government and in media.  Consequently, I’ve met a lot of important and/or famous people.  Today, I received one of those Facebook friend suggestions, based on knowing someone who is also connected to that person—Markus Elliot Zuckerberg.  First, I don’t know Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook.  I can’t see why he’d have a personal interest in me.  I doubt I know anyone who does know him.  And, since the Markus Elliot Zuckerberg who was suggested as a friend to me had only 60 followers on Facebook at the time, I’m not convinced that it’s THE MARK ZUCKERBERG.

The African nation of Tanzania has just required internet content-providers to register and pay a fee equal to $920 American dollars.  That’s roughly an entire year’s income for the average person in Tanzania.  The government is cracking down on information it considers obscene, and information critical to its strongman-President John Magufuli.  The law seems designed to allow the government to prosecute anything on the internet it doesn’t like.  Obviously, the Tanzanian government can’t enforce this against anyone outside the country.  With VPN and other such technology to allow people on line to mask their location, I wonder if they can even enforce it inside Tanzania.

I read somewhere that the visitors to the website of the NY Daily News have dropped by close to fifty percent since the paper put the website behind a paywall.  I’m sure that’s a factor, but the paywall at the NY Daily News, like the paywall for many other newspaper websites, is very easy to circumvent.

Another factor must be how annoying nydailynews.com is to use.  The only thing most people hate that isn’t included on the website is a portal page.  There are popups that block content, distracting videos in the middle of articles, auto-playing audio and video, banners that cover articles or parts of articles.  You get the idea.  I’m sure there are worse websites, but frankly I can’t think of one.

If you search for the cheapest places tourists can visit, one thing that will strike you is nobody agrees on their entire list or on which one is least expensive.  I can’t find it again, but one of the lists I found earlier this year said the least expensive tourist spot in the world was Damascus, Syria.  Even if that’s true, it’s true for a reason and I know I won’t be visiting war

Hints for Redditors

For the uninitiated, reddit.com is a website that hosts communities of people interested in just about anything.  There’s a lot of interesting stuff there, if you can find it.  Semi-organized chaos is the way I look at it.  Redditors are what people who use the site call other people who read and post to the site, especially post.  You have to create an account to post.  Subreddits are the individual groups gathered under the reddit umbrella.  I have no idea how many there are, but there are lots and if you want to start your own, go ahead.

I haven’t posted on reddit, but I do read several subreddits.  If you want to read or post to reddit.com, here are a few hints for you, from me.  You can thank me later, or not.

Nobody cares if you’re posting via your cell phone.  Stop saying that.

Nobody cares if you’re posting from your regular account, a burner or throwaway account either.  You can stop saying that too,

If you make a mistake in formatting, don’t say you’re sorry, fix it.

If you think your post is too long, saying you’re sorry makes it longer still.  Instead, make it shorter.  If your post is more than half background, that’s where you can start making it shorter.

Don’t promise me something is relevant.

If you’ve written “but I digress (or I’m rambling)” eliminate that phrase and whatever you wrote just above it too.

Spelling correctly is good.  Maybe you could write your posts in a word-processing program with a spell checker, then cut and paste them into reddit.  Almost everyone on reddit who means “altar,” as one example, writes “alter” instead.  They’re not the same thing.

Punctuation would be your friend if you let it be.  I’m talking about things like periods, commas, quotation marks, apostrophes, hyphens.  They’re all good, and would make your posts more readable.

Anagrams, and jargon are both bad unless you’re trying to restrict your audience.  The people who already know will be fine with them, but new readers won’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

If you take those suggestions, reading reddit will certainly be easier for me.  So, thank you.

Things I Know

In case you’re wondering why TCM is running the movies it is today, it’s Doris Day’s birthday.  She’s 96.  In honor of the day, please don’t eat any daisies. 

Christine Shawcroft is a member of the British Parliament and was, until recently a member of the executive committee of the Labour Party, the largest out-of-power party in the UK.  She resigned from the executive committee recently over a controversy where she supported a local Labour Party candidate who had previously written a holocaust denial article.  The British Labour Party has been troubled because some members have been accused of anti-Semitism.  Ms. Shawcroft has been replaced in her leadership position by comedian Eddie Izzard. 

Saint Karen (who must be a saint to put up with me) and I have only spent a few days in England in our lives, but we approve of this substitution.  Worldwide, we believe, there are way too many clowns in politics, so we view comedians as a step in the right direction.

My local bagel store was open on Sunday, so it didn’t surprise me that they wished me Happy Easter.  For those who don’t understand the joke, bagels are ethnic food associated with Jewish people.  Easter Sunday was two days after the first night of Passover.  Observant Jews are prohibited by religious dietary laws from eating leavened bread during Passover.  Therefore, on this Easter Sunday, it was very unlikely for the owners, staff, or customers at the bagel store to be Jewish.

Let’s Get Ready to Stumble

Here’s the level to which political discourse has sunk in this country.  Two septuagenarians, one the former Vice President of the United States, and one the sitting US President, are now arguing with each other in public about which could have and/or would have kicked the other one’s ass in high school.

When I was in high school, I was the fat kid.  I’d like to sit on both.

Maybe Vince McMahon can promote this ass-kicking contest as a pay-per-view, once Trump leaves office, provided they both Biden and Trump are still alive then.

Elsewhere on the political discourse front, actress Cynthia Nixon has announced she’ll mount a Democratic primary challenge to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Christine Quinn, former President of the New York City Council, called Nixon “an unqualified lesbian.”  If she’s saying Nixon isn’t qualified to be governor, she may have a point.  As far as I know, Ms. Nixon has never run for public office and never run any large organization.  If she’s saying Nixon isn’t qualified to be a lesbian, first, what has that got to do with being Governor, and second, how exactly does one become a qualified lesbian?  Ms. Quinn has apparently reconsidered, and apologized for her remarks, saying sexual orientation should have no bearing on anyone’s qualifications for public office.  So Christine Quinn and I do agree at least on one thing.

Things I Know

It’s hard for me to believe I’ve been writing this nonsense for ten years now.

I had a colonoscopy recently.  They put you to sleep for the procedure, but the anesthesiologist laughed, and conceded I had a point when I told him they should give anesthesia during preparation for the test.  The protocol my doctor told me to follow to prepare involved taking two-weeks’ worth of laxatives in two hours.  Ugh.

Lesson learned:  ethylene glycol is poison, but polyethylene glycol is a laxative.

Still, I’d rather have a colonoscopy than colon cancer, so I took the test as an outpatient at the local hospital.  Two days later, I got a clean bill of health, and a thank you note.  Who sends a thank you note to a patient who just had a colonoscopy?  New management I guess.  My wife had inpatient surgery at that hospital in 2016 and 2017.  We got bills for those, but no thank you notes.

I never thought the comic strip Beetle Bailey was funny before I served in the Army.  Once I did, I became a fan.  I just learned that Mort Walker, Beetle’s creator, died in January at the age of 94.  RIP Mort Walker.  Did anyone play Taps?

We’re going through a nor’easter here.  Not the worst one we’ve seen.  Concurrently, they’re going absolutely nuts about the “Beast from the East” over in the United Kingdom.  I heard that -10 C is the coldest it’s been in Wales at this time of year since 2001.  For our friends in Minnesota, that’s 23 F, plus 23!  Someplace, I believe in Scotland, got half-a-meter of snow.  For our friends in Oswego NY, and Truckee CA, that’s about 20 inches.

Look it up on a map.  You’ll be surprised how far north London is.  They say Britain doesn’t usually experience that kind of weather because it’s warmed by the Gulf Stream.  Fine.  But Long Island is warmed by the Gulf Stream before England is, and we got 15 inches earlier this year.  While that kind of snow doesn’t happen every year on the US East Coast, it’s hardly unusual.

Our son found a postcard on line that includes a picture of our home, circa 1915.  The house has changed surprisingly little.  103 years ago, the road was unpaved, the trees looked just planted, and there were no utility poles.  When the weather eases up, I’m going to try to take another picture from the same vantage point.

 

Parkland 3

At a time when a bomb in an Army in-processing center was a credible threat, I did search for a bomb in one.  I had nothing to help me find one but my eyes, and nothing to protect me if I did find one but the clothes I wore.  Today, possessing the wisdom that comes with age, I view what I did as foolhardy, rather than brave.  I would like to think I’d have rushed that Florida school the other day if presented with the situation, but I can’t honestly be sure I would.

I am aware that it’s their job—what they signed up for.  Broward County sheriff’s deputies at Parkland school should have confronted Nikolas Cruz.  I wish they would have, but I’m pretty sure the deputy stationed at the school, and the first ones who responded weren’t properly equipped to even try.  Keep in mind too that former deputy Scot Peterson said he thought the shooter was outside the school.

Most cops these days carry Glock 9mm handguns equipped with a 17-round magazine.  A round in the chamber (not the safest thing to do), makes 18 shots.  With a second clip, 35.  Put that against a crazy school shooter equipped with a semi-automatic rifle (maybe even automatic), and who knows how many higher capacity magazines.  Add to it that you don’t know exactly where the shooter is, you don’t know whether the shooter has body armor, but you do know you don’t have it. 

Remember also that shooting what you aim at, especially when under pressure is hard.  The other night where I live, cops and perps exchanged fire at close range near midnight and nobody hit anyone.  And a rifle is more accurate than a pistol, even at relatively close range.

I’m sorry, a single armed police officer, security guard or even several, won’t solve the school violence problem.  Even with a handgun, they really aren’t equipped to address an active shooter.  The school-shooting problem is multi-faceted, and we must face that fact.  Additional cameras inside schools would help security to figure out a way to confront the shooter more safely.  Yes, improved mental health screening, and treatment will help.  But, they won’t take the place of additional gun control, which—face it—is necessary.  Saying we shouldn’t ban or control some firearms because most gun crimes are perpetrated with handguns is nonsense.  Three lefts make a right:  two wrongs don’t.  If background checks exempt private sales, internet sales, and gun-show sales, background checks are basically window dressing.  Maybe some properly trained, armed teachers might help, but armed teachers come with additional problems.  What if school security shot, and killed a young-looking teacher who was trying to take out a shooter?  What if some kid overpowered a teacher in class and started shooting up the place with the teacher’s gun?  What if a female teacher carried her piece in her purse, put it down, and someone grabbed it?

I hate it when people suggest there’s one, single and simple solution to school shootings.  It’s much more complicated than that.  As they grew up, I always told my kids that if what they were doing wasn’t working, they ought to try something else.  Clearly, thoughts and prayers haven’t worked.  Just as clearly, it’s time to try a bunch of something elses.

Parkland 2

I got one reason why a lot of gun control advocates want to ban AR-15 assault rifles, and are less concerned about other semi-automatic weapons.  It’s a good one too.  It seems the AR-15 is the weapon of choice for a lot of the people who have perpetrated these awful mass shootings.

I suppose it has something to do with the military appearance of the weapons and the mental deficiencies of the sick people who perpetrate these disastrous crimes.

By the way, have you read about Nikolas Cruz’ defense attorney?  Florida does have the death penalty.  Methods of choice are lethal injection, or electric chair.  Her only hope for the kid is an insanity plea, but on TV she sounded sympathetic to him, talking about the impulse control of a 19-year-old perp.  At 19, he’s an adult and responsible for his actions.  The Catholic church says children know right from wrong in second or third grade and that’s when Catholic children are supposed to start going to Confession.  I was a lot younger than 19 when I came upon an attempted suicide.  My life would have been easier if the victim had succeeded, but I knew turning around and leaving was wrong.  I called 911.  That person did survive. 

Impulse control my ass!  There’s a huge difference between shoplifting a candy bar and killing 17 people.

Speaking of atrocious things happening in the USA, have you noticed how many news articles there around recently about teachers involved in inappropriate and/or illegal sexual conduct with their students?  There’s even one teacher who is suing claiming that the law against teachers having sex with their pupils is unconstitutional because it singles out teachers without mentioning other occupations.  Is this happening more and more often, or are we just hearing about these incidents more?  How do these people not realize that their actions will ruin their students lives and their lives too?

Parkland

If there’s a reason that assault rifles like the AR-15 are more dangerous than other semi-automatic rifles (for example: do they take larger magazines?) then I’d appreciate knowing.  Otherwise are all the calls to ban assault weapons just something people want to do as a symbol?

For the record, I don’t own a gun and never have.  I am familiar with them.  My dad was a cop.  When he was, he owned two pistols.  When he stopped being a cop, he sold both.  Like the 70’s TV detective, Mannix, and long before him, my dad wore his off-duty revolver (a snub-nosed 38) in the small of his back.  Doing that will eat a hole in the back of your car’s driver’s seat.  I always wondered why Mannix never had that problem.

As an MP, I used a pistol in my work.  Both in the Army and at Boy Scout Camp, I fired other weapons too.  I’m not a good shot, and never had the desire to own a gun myself.  I’m also for more gun control, provided it will help.  Clearly, we need something to help.  Just as clearly, I am at a loss what to do.

Thoughts, prayers and condolences aren’t going to do a lot to help all the dead people in Parkland Florida.  This problem, the 18th school shooting in the U.S. so far this year (more than two a week), requires far more than platitudes. 

After the fact, people said Nikolas Cruz was the one person they thought might shoot up a school.  He’s not the first school shooter that was said about.  So closer monitoring of potential problems is probably part of it.  Something like the way the FBI keeps track of possible terrorists.  I know that’s not the only answer.  I’ve read that the FBI was aware of Cruz 5 months ago.  Better mental-health treatment could be part of it too.  While nobody was paying attention, prisons seem to have become the most prevalent source of mental health care in the USA.  That’s wrong and needs to be fixed too.

I don’t have a solution, or even something I’m sure will improve things.  Since I don’t, I wish someone did.  I do know thoughts, prayers and condolences aren’t getting the job done.  Clearly, it’s time to try other things.

Things I Know

A couple of lessons learned. 

Review your home and car insurance occasionally.  When my car insurance renewal arrived with a 7.5% increase, I asked my broker about both my auto and my homeowner’s policies.  They requoted, and between the two saved me around $2,500 annually.  If your current broker can’t help you, get another estimate.  The savings could be very substantial.  Conclusion:  review these more often that I’ve  been doing.

I expected to receive a new camera body for Christmas, and I did.  So, I should have bought a spare battery and charger for it, before it arrived.  That way, when I opened the present, I would have a fully-charged battery, so I could use the new camera right away.  And, if I didn’t get the new camera, I could always have return the extra battery and charger.  No harm, no foul.

Kudos to Biddeford, the people who make electric blankets.  I have a dual control model that’s four or five years old.  One of the controls broke.  I called Biddeford about buying a new control.  Instead, they sent me a new one, free of charge.  They told me it would take up to three weeks to get here, but it didn’t.  It only took 11 days.

Democrats have been in charge of the top offices in New York’s Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead, for a month now.  So far, nothing terrible has happened, and I don’t expect anything will.

On the petty side, the newly elected Town Clerk arrived to find her office stripped of furniture and computer equipment.  A town-owned car was also missing.  That situation, which never should have happened, has been corrected.

An employee of the Town of Hempstead was riding an elevator at Town Hall, recently.  Another passenger in the elevator asked him what he did for the town.  His answer: “As little as possible.” Even Especially a smart ass should probably take the time to learn what the newly-elected Town Supervisor looks like.

Supervisor, Laura Gillen, says she’ll have a performance audit of snow removal during the recent storm.  Makes sense for the new management to see how things are going and whether they can be improved.

Blessings Counted

We’ve had some pretty bad weather around here lately.  Not the worst we’ve ever seen locally, and since we’ve also been elsewhere, not the worst we’ve ever experienced.  I could have easily handled the 3-6 inches of snow we expected.  The 15 inches we did get, not so much although it was powder.

But we managed, as we always do, in part because we have some nice neighbors who help with the snow.  The youngest son next door is about 20 and he owns an ATV with a plow.  He zips around the neighborhood taking care of sidewalks and other snow he finds.  The neighbors across the street have a big snow blower.  They also chip in.  Still, we were snowed in on Thursday night.  So, I went out to try to clear about six feet from the end of my car to where the driveway meets the street.  I got half of it done at night, and started again Friday morning, but the driveway apron was another story.  The municipal plow came through and the driveway apron was icy.

I started, but decided I couldn’t complete it in time for my daughter to get to work or for me to keep my doctor’s appointment.  So, we cancelled both, and I soaked away my aches in the tub for a while.  The folks across the street showed up and finished the job.  I thanked them, and offered to add to the kids hot-chocolate fund, but their mom turned it down, saying they were just paying a kindness forward.

It’s great to have nice neighbors who think of you.

Speaking of people who think of you, our daughter-in-law is from Bulgaria.  We visited there after she married into our family.  It’s a very interesting place, with lots of history.  We met her family, all of whom seemed lovely, and treated us wonderfully well.  Over the weekend, her grandfather told her he was worried for us after the storm, and if he had our phone number, he’d call us (a third of the way around the world) to make sure we were okay.  Isn’t that a lovely thought?  Our daughter-in-law pointed out, however that it wouldn’t be very practical since we don’t speak Bulgarian and he doesn’t speak English.

So, in the past few days, we’ve received kind thoughts from across the street, and around the world.  Two weeks ago, my sweet wife got me a new camera.  As it says on the t-shirt, “Life is good.”

Things I Know

In addition to being copyrighted 2009-2017, sisyphusproject.org is also copyright 2018.  Happy New Year.

Here’s how to think about what a long life 94 years is.  Rose Marie, the singer, comedian and actress probably best known for her role as a comedy writer on the Dick Van Dyke Show, died recently at the age of 94.  She started her career as a child in vaudeville as a singer.  She sang for three U.S. Presidents, the first of whom was Calvin Coolidge.

Between the two of them tonight’s Mega Million drawing and tomorrow’s Powerball will total at least $801 million.  If you’re wondering what you’ll do if you should happen to win both, you probably don’t have to concern yourself.  The odds of two events happening is calculated by multiplying together the odds of wining each of them.  So, the odds of winning Mega Millions tonight and Powerball tomorrow night are roughly one in 85,800,000,000,000,000.  That’s one in 85.8 quadrillion to one against.

If I should win both, I will still jump on my bed.

Things I Know

At Christmas time, remember, it’s not the gift, it’s the thought that counts.  We’re getting a new water heater for Christmas.  I didn’t think about that.

BTW, the phrase “Hot-water heater” is redundant.  If the water was already hot, why would you need to heat it.

Last night, a couple of hours after I ate, I went into the kitchen to clean up.  My wife had already put away the half a tomato I didn’t use when I made my sandwich.  I told her that’s one reason I love her, and one reason she wants to murder me in my sleep.  She laughed.  As long as she laughs when I say something like that, I figure I’m still safe.

Also, last night, I ordered something for her from LL Bean.  Their website told me it would arrive on January 2.  No problem.  I didn’t order it until Christmas Eve eve.  Retail workers and package delivery workers deserve holiday time too.  But, the same website told me that if I paid an additional $15 for express delivery, the package would come on January 2 instead.  Hmmmmm.  What would you do?

There’s a tv commercial for Optimum Cable showing soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, accidentally locking himself out of a hotel room.  Then a female housekeeper shows up to let him back in, takes a picture of him in his underwear, posts it on social media, and the pic goes viral.  Funny, I suppose, but in real life a hotel housekeeper who posted a photo of a famous guest in his or her underwear would be fired.

It was funny to hear Democratic Senators complain about not having time to read the Republican tax reform plan.  Funny because the Republicans made the same complaint about the Affordable Care Act years ago when the Democrats rammed that through Congress without giving anyone time to read the bill.  What’s sad is both complaints were accurate.

It looks like I shouldn’t vote for a Republican or a Democrat.  My income taxes went up substantially to pay for Obamacare.  I live in a high-tax state, so my federal income taxes will also go up because of the limit on state and local tax deductions contained in the new tax reform bill.

My wife told my daughter the other day that my mother called her when I was first in the Army to tell her (my girlfriend at the time) my address.  Saint Karen (who must be a saint to put up with me), told my mom that she would number the letters she had already written each day since I went in (this was pre-email in case you’re wondering).  I asked Saint Karen how it was that I told my mother my address before I told her.  She said I did tell her first. 

That’s just one reason why Saint Karen should have been the public relations person in our family.  Instead, I did PR for 20 years or so.  Another reason she should have done it is because she’s a genius at not answering the question you ask her.  I, on the other hand, will answer you directly if you ask the right question. 

What do I mean by not answering the question?  Q:  Do you want to go out to dinner?  A:  I’m tired.  Okay, but that doesn’t tell me whether you’re willing to go out to eat, does it?   

Examining That Horse’s Mouth

You’ve heard the expression, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” haven’t you?  A horse’s teeth wear down over its lifetime, so examining a horse’s teeth is one way to evaluate whether the horse is young or old.  I other words, the expression arose to admonish people not to evaluate gifts based on how much they cost. 

On the Today Show this morning, the cast was asking what the worst gift you received is.  

I’ve mentioned here before that one of the earliest memories I have of my grandmother is her telling me in her kitchen that it’s not the gift, it’s the thought that counts.  Since I was 4 or 5 years old at the time, I thought my grandmother was nuts.  At that age, my parents, my grandparents, and any of my numerous aunts and uncles could easily afford to get me lots of things I wanted but couldn’t get for myself on my allowance which I believe was a quarter a week.

As an adult, of course I realize my grandmother was right, just not for a kid of kindergarten, or pre-k age.  Maybe I value the thought so much because there are still people who could buy me something I can’t afford for myself, but I don’t know anyone with that much money, so it isn’t going to happen.

The Today Show question caused me to recall two gifts I thought at the time were terrible.  Each actually turned out to be among the most useful things I’ve ever received.  My father’s older sister and her husband, my Aunt Catherine and Uncle Charlie were childless, and they were very generous at Christmas to me and my sister.  They were, for example, responsible for most of the electric trains I had when I was a kid.  One year, and one gift, stands out in my mind.  I think they gave me something else too, but they once gave me three or four wooden clothes hangers.  They were good hangers, the curved kind where the pants hangers unhook at one end, so you put your pants on them, closed the hanger and the pants wouldn’t slip off.

I have to think they got me something else too, but I don’t remember.  I do remember how disappointed I was and at my advanced age, I hope I didn’t show it, but I’d bet I did.  Obviously, as a kid, I wanted toys or money.  The thing is, my aunt and uncle passed away many years ago, but I still have those hangers.  I’ve bought and paid for more of them too, and they still hold clothes in my closet every day.

Second disappointing present came from the other side of the family.  I was 17 at the time, so I hope I was better able to conceal my disappointment.  My mother’s sister, my Aunt Mary, came to the party my parents held to celebrate my graduation from high school.  She gave me a leather Dopp shaving kit.  It could hold all my toiletries for when I traveled.  At 17, I was more sophisticated than when I was 12.  I didn’t want toys or money.  I just wanted money.  I’m not going to tell you that I still have it, but in college, in the Army and in my travels through adulthood, I used it a lot more than any other gift I ever received, except those hangers.  I wore it out after constant use over 20 years or more.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

My Daughter came up with an important question over the four-day weekend.  Can vegans eat beefsteak tomatoes?  She must get it from her mother.  God knows I’m completely normal.

Among the things Amazon recommends I buy this holiday season is an RF transmitter, and six receivers I can attach to my key chain and other things they think I’ll lose.  I agree I’ll lose my keys, but how to they think I’m going to find the transmitter?

Google is a proper noun, so obviously it’s capitalized, but how about when it’s a verb?

What do you want for Christmas?  I’m easy to buy for because I’m a photographer, and I collect music.  It’s hard to buy music for me because I have so much, so a gift card is appreciated.  But as far as photography is concerned, I do have a new body on my wish list.  A new camera body, that is, although come to think of it, I could use a new body to replace the one I currently live too.  It’s kind of wearing down in places.

Things I Know

The first time my wife complained she was getting older, I told her, “That’s good.”  When she asked why I said that, I replied, “Because if you were still seventeen, you wouldn’t have anything to do with me.”  With the recent news about Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore, I realize there’s another reason why it’s good she’s getting older.  If she were still seventeen, I wouldn’t have anything to do with her either.  I was interested in a 14-year-old girl once myself.  Until 32 days after my 16th birthday when she turned 15.  In my opinion, 14 and 32 don’t add up to anything but creepy.

A t-shirt I saw recently read, “I have CDO.  It’s like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order, like they should be.”  At first, I thought that was funny.  Then I realized it ought to say, “as they should be.”

I tried Uber on a recent trip to Boston.  I do wish they used bigger cars.  We had a Toyota Corolla and a Mazda 3.  I don’t know about elsewhere, but if you call for an Uber in Boston, you’d better be ready to go.  The two times I used them, they showed up in a minute or two. The only glitch was the first time, their computer told my phone that Pedro was showing up in a Honda Odyssey, so when Jing showed up in the Mazda 3, I didn’t realize it was for me.

I’m happy for Mavis Wanczyk, the Massachusetts woman who won more than $750 million in the Powerball lottery in August.  But, by coming forward right away, she didn’t follow the recommended procedure of getting financial, and legal advice before claiming the prize.  I hope she manages that new-found wealth prudently, using it to benefit herself, and whatever good causes she believes in.  She does seem to have achieved the privacy I’d certainly want if I won.  There doesn’t seem to be anything else in the news about her since then.

I couldn’t stop the robocall urgent public-service announcements about my current electric bill, so I switched land-line phone carriers from Verizon to Altice.  Why?  Verizon wanted to charge me about $15 a month extra for caller ID while Altice reduced my cable and Internet bill by $10 a month when I signed up for phone service too.  Maybe I could get a similar deal if I switched to FIOS for cable and internet, but there are several reasons I want to keep Altice, including News 12, and retaining my email address.

Saint Karen, who must be a saint to put up with me, just asked our daughter if she wanted to split some zucchini sticks.  It’s okay.  After all this time, she knows I don’t like zucchini.  Joking around, I told her that if she split them they’d cook faster.  Then, I said, “I’m clever that way.”  She laughed, and said she married me because I’m clever.  I told her I married her because I’m clever too.

The other day, I saw a BMW headed north on Long Island’s Meadowbrook Parkway, doing the speed limit in the left lane.  I’ve never seen something like that before.  I always imagined that if a person in a BMW was observed driving at or below the speed limit, someone from Stuttgart would show up and confiscate their car.

Baseball

I know it’s beyond my control, but it’s not okay with me that Major League Baseball is over for 2017.  After all, baseball causes warm weather, and I don’t like to be cold.  Don’t believe me?  They play baseball all winter in the Dominican Republic and it never gets cold there.  On the plus side, it’s only a little over three months to pitchers and catchers.

It was also fine with me that the Astros won the World Series.  After all, I root for the Mets, and whoever is playing the Dodgers.  Since the Astros played the Dodgers, I’m fine with the outcome.  Still, I could really do without games that last 5 hours and 17 minutes, using 14 pitchers.

The series reminded me of something though.  My uncle (my mother’s brother) was married to a woman who was the oldest daughter in a large family.  At least one of her sisters was younger than me, and younger than some of my aunt and uncle’s kids (my cousins) too.  The sister’s name was Paige.  If you’re following closely, you’ll realize that means my cousins had an aunt who was younger than they were, but not related to me at all.  I was interested.  She was petite, which is my Kryptonite, and I thought she was cute.  She wasn’t much of an intellectual though.  When I learned her name, I quoted a Mark Twain line from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.”  I told her she wasn’t big enough to be a paragraph. 

Much like Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Paige was not amused. That’s when I learned it’s possible to strike out on only one pitch.

Things I Want (Or Need) to Know

Did you miss me?  Saint Karen (who must be a saint to put up with me) retired and I took a little while off from the Sisyphus Project.  We went to Boston, we went to the Poconos, we went to the Delaware Water Gap to see Fall colors, because when we went the only Fall color where we live was green.

Did you vote?  I hope so.  You can still complain if you didn’t vote, but still, you should vote.  And, it’s more important to vote in local elections than in the Presidential election.  Local elections have fewer voters, so each vote is a bigger percent of the total.

Why is everything more expensive in an expensive hotel?  Five dollars for a cup of coffee, not a fancy, Starbucks-style coffee drink, a simple cup.  And valet parking was convenient, but it was almost three times as expensive as parking in a public garage.

Speaking of expensive hotels, why don’t they offer services that are common in less expensive places?  Specifically, free breakfast and free Wi-Fi. 

I went to the men’s room in the Burger King across from Boston Common.  There was no urinal, so I lifted the seat to take care of my needs.  A question arose when I finished.  Was I supposed to put the seat back down, or since it’s a men’s room, should I have left it up?

Why doesn’t the Lupus Foundation or Big Brother and Big Sister contract with local governments to collect all their trash?  I understand charities are exempt from the federal no-call law.  Because each has a worthy purpose, I’m less inclined to be rude to the people who call on their behalf to advise us they have a donation truck in my area.  Still, I think both are seriously overdoing their telemarketing efforts by a long shot.

Things I Know

Lesson learned: 

If your birdbath falls over, check as soon as you notice to see if something made it turn over, because recently deceased racoon is a lot more pleasant to clean up than racoon that’s been dead, in hot weather, for most of a week.  I’ll spare you pictures. I spared me pictures too because I didn’t take any.

Theories you’d think are true confirmed to be true:

Rotten racoon doesn’t smell very good.

As you might expect, Raid for flying insects doesn’t kill maggots.

Maggots can’t swim in water heavily laced with chlorine bleach.

Things I Know

President Trump’s recent attacks on Attorney General Sessions suggest he may be trying to bully Sessions to get the Attorney General to fire Robert Mueller, former FBI director, and recently appointed special prosecutor.  Mueller is charged with looking into possible Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, and any collusion that may or may not have occurred between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.  Firing Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox didn’t work well for President Nixon.  Just Google “Saturday Night Massacre.”  Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney Ruckelshaus both resigned over Nixon’s order to fire Cox.  It didn’t work too well for Robert Bork either.  He actually fired Cox, but was later denied confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Let’s not overlook the positive aspect of OJ’s parole. Once he’s out, his tireless search for the real killer can resume.

A Honda dealer on Long Island, Babylon Honda, is advertising on TV its “exclusive” vehicle exchange program.  According to dictionary.com, one meaning of the word exclusive is, “Shutting out all others from a part or share.”  To me, that means Babylon Honda is the only car dealer in the world that is both willing to sell you a new car, and willing to accept your old car as a trade in.  Either that, or only a select few dealers do.  I doubt both.

Lake Montauk at the eastern end of Long Island’s south fork isn’t a lake.  It’s a harbor that opens to Block Island Sound.  But it’s called that because it was a fresh-water lake until about 90 years ago when a developer blasted a channel to turn it into a salt-water port.  I’m sure that if the EPA had existed back then, a permit would not have been issued.  Still, on a sunny summer afternoon, there’s almost nothing I like better than sitting on the deck of Gosman’s Restaurant at that harbor, enjoying lunch and watching the boats going in and out.  The restaurant is good.  Its location is stellar!

My wife was supposed to retire Friday, so I was invited to her office where a small party including coffee and cake were planned to mark the occasion.  She put off her retirement for another few weeks, but she still got cake.  It just wasn’t her cake.  After she changed the date of her retirement, another worker in her office decided to retire Friday instead.

Things I Know

In solidarity with all the dogs in my neighborhood, I’m planning to spend tonight hiding under the bed, thankful that except for licensed professional displays, all forms of fireworks are illegal where I live.  Just imagine how noisy the evening of the Fourth of July would be if anyone could buy firecrackers.

I’ve read on a couple of internet forums that certain Nissan Frontier trucks have a known problem.  They have a transmission cooler inside the radiator.  As the trucks age, some of those coolers leak, allowing engine coolant into the transmission.  That requires an expensive transmission rebuild.  Concerned, I checked my aging truck.  It has an external transmission cooler.  That means a leaking cooler won’t brick my transmission, and I don’t have to add an external cooler, because my truck already has one.  Money saved!

Things I Know

Sometimes, you just can’t win.  I took my old GPS unit with me when I went on a 500-mile trip two weeks ago.  On the way home, it took me 14 miles out of my way because I hadn’t updated its maps in about three years.  So, this week, before I went on a 300-mile trip, and in preparation, I tried updating the GPS.  The update failed, and in the process bricked the GPS.

Yes, I can use my phone as a GPS, but the display is uncomfortably small, and the phone eats batteries when used that way, plus it gets really hot.  I have to decide whether to get a new car that has GPS, buy another GPS unit, or confine myself to going places I already know how to get to.

I went to the Barrett-Jackson car auction in Connecticut this week.  I like old cars.  I could pay for some, but far from all the ones for sale there, but I have no place to keep one, so I just look, and take pictures of them.  I like taking pictures too.   But about half the cars at the auction are displayed in a parking garage at the Mohegan Sun casino, and resort.  That garage is brighter than it was last year, but it’s still a difficult place to photograph cars.  Frankly, it’s not a great place to examine cars you might want to buy either.  If I go back next year, I must remember to bring my big-boy Speedlite.

Driving from Uncasville CT to New York the other day, traffic was really bad.  So, I found myself wondering if people who live in Connecticut have jobs, homes, and families like the rest of us, or if they just drive aimlessly on I-95, and the Merritt Parkway.

If you haven’t been to Connecticut recently (as I hadn’t), you may be as surprised as I was to learn that they have finished I-95 east of New Haven.  I went to Binghamton NY two weeks ago, and was not surprised that they haven’t finished NY Rte 17.  I’ve been driving that road since I was 17, and I’ll probably die before it’s completed, if it ever is.

Earlier this month, I played radio dj for two hours.  It’s been a long time.  My first dj stint since college.  When I was paid to be on the air, I was doing news.  I’d say playing music on the radio is easier than it used to be.  The records are longer, the bathroom is much closer to the studio than it was at the last place I worked, and you don’t get to talk as much.  Still, I don’t think it’s as much fun.

The Proposed Laptop Ban

All of the reporting I’ve seen on proposed expansion of the laptop ban says they’re thinking of banning everything larger than a cell phone.  This, of course, would ban iPads and Kindles.  More important to me, it would ban digital cameras.

I could put my cameras (plural) and laptop in checked baggage.  They all fit in a backpack designed for the purpose.  However, they are all fragile and airplane baggage isn’t always (or even usually) handled carefully.  They are all portable, easy to steal since I can’t lock them up due to existing TSA baggage regulations, and once stolen they are easy to sell.  They aren’t necessarily easily replaced either and worst of all, each costs more than any US airline is willing to reimburse me if they are lost, stolen, or damaged.

I suppose this leaves me with two alternatives, if there really is an increased threat of bombs:  don’t fly; or insure and ship  that package to wherever I’m going ahead of time.  In this case, fortunately for me, I don’t fly nearly as much as I use my cameras. Unfortunately, if I want to go to Hawaii, or back to Europe, I can’t drive there.

And, does banning these things to the cargo hold ensure our safety?  What about the danger of fire from all the additional lithium-ion batteries in the cargo bay?  Can any bombs hidden in portable electronic devices be detonated remotely?  If so, shouldn’t we be lining the cargo holds of all commercial aircraft with Faraday cages?

Things I Know

For a long while now, the pop-up flash on my camera wouldn’t pop up.  I finally figured out why and fixed it.  I noticed that there appeared to be something in the crack between the camera body and the flash.  I cleaned it out with an Exacto knife and a little alcohol on a swab.  Then, the flash did open, and fire.  What was keeping the flash stuck closed?  Best guess is a drip from a chocolate ice cream cone.  New rule:  don’t eat a chocolate ice cream cone while your camera is hanging around your neck.

It’s larynx, not larnyx.  For some strange reason, the name of an organ we use to produce speech is among the most mispronounced words in the English language.

When the Colgate toothpaste TV commercial says, “80% of bacteria aren’t even on teeth,” it’s trying to make the point that bacteria lodge elsewhere in your mouth too.  But all I can think is that’s true.  A lot of the bacteria are in sewage treatment plants.

City fathers in Seaside Heights NJ have banned smoking on the beach.  Good.  I don’t smoke.  Second-hand smoke bothers me, but for me that’s not the real problem at the beach because the beach is outdoors, and it is a breezy place.  What bugs me is too many beaches look like the ashtrays that look like butt-filled cans of sand you often see outside elevators.  Cigarette butts are litter.

I’ve seen this word misused so many times, most recently earlier this month on the website of a major newspaper.  Your kids are your descendants.  They are not your ancestors.  Relatives who came before you are ancestors, not the ones who came afterwards.

If you’ve seen the current TV commercial for Pennington grass seed, you may wonder what the music behind the spot is.  It’s a song called “Tall Cool One,” by a group called the Wailers.  Not the Robert Plant song and not the Bob Marley Wailers either.  It was popular, but not a huge hit.  It reached #36 in the Billboard top 100 way back in 1959.  Whenever someone makes a TV commercial using a song that’s too old to play on the radio, I wonder why.  Are they trying to sell to people old enough to remember the song?  If that’s the case, it didn’t work for me.  I recognized “Tall Cool One” immediately, but instead of deciding to buy some grass seed, I went to my reference books to find out if it was whalers, or Wailers.  It was the second.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

It’s a boy!  April, the internet giraffe, finally gave birth at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville NY.  Owners of the animal park announced they’re going to have a naming contest for the newborn baby giraffe.  Can Spotty McSpotface be far behind?

I recently watched a rerun of the PBS special, “50 Years with Peter, Paul and Mary.”  In all the years I’ve watched and listened to them, I only just noticed that the three of them sang into two microphones.  Peter had his own, but Mary and Paul shared one.  Why?  They could easily have afforded a third.

Have you ever seen the TV show “Expedition Unknown?”  Do you think Josh, the host, will ever find what he’s looking for at the start of an episode?

I like pepperoni, either on pizza, on Triscuits, or with scrambled eggs, but to me it tastes more like salt than pepper.  I know saltaroni sounds stupid.  Still, whenever I have it, I do wonder why they call it pepperoni since it doesn’t taste much like pepper.

BTW, if you like pepperoni, but aren’t fond of salami, don’t order pepperoni pizza in Pernik Bulgaria.  The pizza was good, better than I expected, but what they think of as pepperoni tasted like salami to me.

Have you seen the TV ad for gradsoflife.org?  Big deal.  I got through high school without a car, phone or computer too.  In fact, I also got through college without a phone or a computer.  Just to be clear, I think the cause is a good one, but I’m not impressed with the TV ad.

The supermarket tabloid, “US Weekly” said recently that Donald Trump and his wife don’t sleep in the same bed.  Whether that’s true or not, whose business is it?

Things I Know

It’s Palm Sunday, and I know what that means. I have one week to clear away all the stuff I have stored on the dining room table, and put the Christmas tablecloth away.

My friend, Richard (not Feder) and no longer of New Jersey, let alone Fort Lee has resumed blogging.  His blog is recommended by my blog.  You’ll find a link to the Riklblog below and to the right. I’m happy to see he has resumed writing it. 

I’ve complained previously that the audiologist I visit has no regard for punctuality.  Six days after my last visit, I received a post card telling me it was time for me to come in for a checkup.  Why did it come six days after my visit?  Because it was mailed three days after my visit.

I had two teeth pulled on Monday.  If I think of something that having teeth pulled is better than, I’ll let you know.  The oral surgeon gave me antibiotics to stave off infection.  But the pills are the biggest I’ve ever had.  I think they kill germs by crushing them to death.

If my daughter was right that the tooth fairy brings people my age dentures instead of money when we lose teeth, then she is late—very late.

The new principal at Harrisburg HS in Harrisburg PA reportedly suspended almost half the student body recently because those suspended had at least five unexcused absences in a nine-week period.  She has a point.  Going to school is important for learning.  It’s also an important discipline to learn because only showing up for a job when you feel like it will get you fired in the real world.  Public schools don’t have a lot of options for disciplining students either.  Still, if I understand correctly, the punishment for not going to school is not being allowed to go to school.  A lot of those kids are probably thinking, “Great!”

Too Much Is Too Much

I don’t have anything for the truck Big Brother and Big Sister is sending around, on Tuesday. I didn’t ask for a call back about a back brace. No, Diane, I don’t want my chimney cleaned, and if I did I wouldn’t use a company that violates federal law to try to sell me its services. I don’t need the interest lowered on my credit cards. What CVS/Caremark considers a courtesy call, I consider harassment, especially when I get two of them in half an hour. I can’t recall the last time I used the word plethora in a sentence, but there is a plethora of robocalls afoot today. Be careful, folks.

Time to Leave

Just after Nassau County NY Executive Ed Mangano, a Republican, delivered his state of the county address on Monday, Republican members of the Nassau County Legislature called on him to resign.  Mangano was arrested last October 20th on federal corruption charges.

Mangano said that his party’s members of the County Legislature have supported him from the day of his arrest until today and that their change of heart is motivated by political posturing.

He’s right.  But they’re right too, finally.  I would have liked it better if they were right before last November 1st.  Republican members of the Nassau County Legislature, what took you so long?

Perhaps the GOP legislators revised position came about because last week, Hempstead Town Councilman and Deputy Town Supervisor Edward Ambrosino was arrested and charged with evading something like 250 thousand dollars in income taxes on legal fees he received.  I’m guessing here that with two prominent officials facing federal charges GOP officials are concerned that it will impact this November’s election.  

Ambrosino should step down too. Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino did replace Ambrosino as Deputy Supervisor promptly, and also called for his resignation from the town council.  Ambrosino should listen to Santino.

Sadly, accusations of political corruption, and non-political corruption tied to politicians in New York State are neither isolated nor restricted to one party.  There’s a long list of public officials, on Long Island, in Albany, and in both parties, who have been convicted or have federal charges pending against them.

To be sure, unless and until these people are convicted or enter a guilty plea, they have a constitutional right to be presumed innocent.  Still, if a U.S. Attorney formally accuses you of a crime, your chances of getting acquitted are very small—much less than ten percent.

Someone elected to public office is said to occupy a “position of trust.”  It’s hard to trust someone who’s charged with a felony.  It’s also hard to be a leader when your followers stop following you.  So, I think elected officials should be a special case.  Yes, you’re presumed innocent until proven guilty, but if you are an elected official who is charged with a crime, I believe the honorable thing is to resign and concentrate on preparing your defense.

Things I Know

Keith Palmer is the British police officer who was killed in a terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge, and the British Parliament.  I know that British police have a tradition of going unarmed, but as the world is today, I’m surprised that all the police at a likely terrorist target such as the British Parliament are not armed.  Some are, but Palmer wasn’t.  If he had a gun, he might be alive today.  Arming all members of the security detail at Parliament is now being discussed.  It’s a smart move.

I think all terrorist attacks are awful, but Wednesday’s attack on the British Parliament was a little more personal for my wife and me than others we’ve heard of.  Three years ago, Saint Karen (she must be a saint to put up with me) and I were at the very location where the attack took place.

To be clear, the Republican proposal to repeal, and replace Obamacare didn’t fail because it cut too many benefits for American taxpayers.  It failed because members of the conservative, Republican, Freedom Caucus wanted more cuts. 

Considering that House Republicans has voted to repeal Obamacare multiple times a year for years, I was surprised that they didn’t have a workable alternative they could agree on ready to go back in January. 

Now, there’s talk of moderate Republicans in Congress trying to work with moderate Democrats instead of with the right wing of their own party.  I worked for Congress many years ago.  It would be nice to return to a time when Republicans and Democrats were people who disagreed with one another, not mortal enemies who must be battled to the death.  I don’t know how that stance evolved, but it’s not good for the country, and as far as I can see, it’s not good for Republicans or Democrats either.

My wife wanted me to put gas in her car, but I had to check whether I won the lottery first.  I told her if I was super rich, I might get a different car that already had gas in it instead.  I did win the lottery, but only a dollar, so I filled her car up with gas as she asked.

My daughter has a plan to show appreciation to her friends, and relatives if she wins a multi-million-dollar lottery.  She says she’ll gift those people with a nicely framed photo of her with the giant check.  I told her she didn’t really need to have the pictures framed, but she insists she’s a class act.

I’m sure Staples, the office supply store, knows what items make the most profit per square foot of retail space.  Still, it seems odd to me that there are dozens of office chairs in every Staples store I visit, but no desks.  I’d rather not buy a desk on line because I can’t tell how sturdy it is and if I find parts broken as I try to assemble it, repacking it to return to an on-line seller is a huge pain.

www.pseudodictionary.com is a website that contains words people have made up over its years in existence.  You must spell out the word, provide a definition, and use it in a sentence, just like vocabulary homework in high school.  I discovered the website recently and contributed three words I’ve made up, and used in this blog.  I used my real name in submitting these words, so if you can figure out which words, you can unmask me.

Occasionally, when I’m bored, I use the internet to look for people I used to know.  Unless they are or were very important in my life, I don’t try to reconnect.  I’m still good at being nosy, but need to practice to retain proficiency.

I’ve mentioned a few times here that I remember one high school girlfriend not because she was important to my life, but because I managed to humiliate myself in her presence more than I usually did with girls I dated.  The last time I wrote about her was last Christmas Eve when baking cookies reminded me that she sent me a care package of cookies during my Freshman year in college.

At that time, I hoped she and her husband were well and happy.  In my nosy, bored searches, I’ve since learned that her husband, Bill, passed away about two years ago.  Bill was a high school friend too, and we attended the same college.  My wife and I haven’t seen them in decades, but I’m still sorry to learn that he died.  I hope enough time has passed that Leslie’s memories of him are mostly of the good times, not of the grief she must have felt as he slipped away.  Even though I now know where she lives, I’ve changed my mind, and won’t be sending her any homemade cookies.

Maybe I’ll stop looking for people that way because sometimes I learn things I really don’t want to know.

I’m having a couple of teeth pulled tomorrow, so I wondered aloud at the dinner table whether the tooth fairy brings money to people my age.  My daughter said she didn’t.  According to my daughter, people  my age who lose teeth receive dentures from the tooth fairy, not cash.  She must get it from her mother, because God knows I’m completely normal.

Pathologically Punctual

I admit I am pathologically punctual, and although I understand how people get behind in their schedules during the day, I don’t understand how people in the medical profession are consistently late for their first appointment of the day.  Most people, anyway.  Every dentist I’ve ever used has been extremely punctual, throughout the day.  If you’re not on time when you start, you’ll never be on time.

Maybe I should have stayed in broadcasting.  At least there, I ran into some people who valued and understood the fact that they must be on time.  When I was on the air, broadcasting news, it made a difference if I was five seconds late starting.  If I was five seconds late finishing, I’d get cut off by a computer.

Case in point is Monday, when I had an 8:00 AM appointment to see an audiologist.  I was there at 8:00 AM.  The door was locked.  I phoned.  No answer.  The receptionist arrived a few minutes later.  No apology.  The audiologist came in at 8:10 and saw me at 8:15. No apology there either.  Not only that, but the audiologist seems completely unaware of time.  When I left the office, she told me to enjoy the rest of winter.  I already did that:  Monday was the first day of spring.

Things I Know

If, like me, you are Irish-American, diabetic, and planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, be advised that corned beef and cabbage won’t do bad things to your blood-sugar level.  Potatoes and soda bread are another matter.

I saw a commercial for Scott’s Turf Builder lawn fertilizer.  The ad said now is the time to apply Turf Builder to my lawn.  I went outside to do just that, but I can’t find the lawn right now.

From prior to the recent snowfall, I’ve never seen this before, and I bet you haven’t either.  It’s a legally parked UPS truck.

Spam

This is supposedly where the idea of electronic communication being called spam comes from.

If you run your own blog and are new to it, feel free to welcome comments if you will.  However, I suggest you moderate the comments, and if you get one that doesn’t appear to relate to anything you’ve written, don’t publish it. 

What some spammers do is send out what seems like a real comment to test a blog.  Then, if the comment gets published, they start with the spam for Viagra, Cialis, etal.  I made that mistake at least once, and now I get at least one comment an hour that has nothing to do with what I’ve written. 

It’s too bad the people who do this never check back to see if the spam messages they send get published.  They won’t get published here.  Regular comments are more than welcome.  Spam comments aren’t welcome, and won’t get published, even if they are accompanied by spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam and spam.

Things I Know

This just in, the minority leader of the U.S. Senate, New York Senator Charles Schumer, has called for a special prosecutor to investigate Russian Dressing.

I should have mentioned this much sooner.  I apologize.  Alan Colmes, the liberal political commentator, passed away recently from cancer at the age of 66.  Best known for the Fox News TV show, “Hannity and Colmes,” among the many places Alan hung his hat was talk radio station WABC, where he was called Alan B. Colmes.  His middle initial wasn’t B, it was S.  Early in both of our careers, I was the newsman on his Sunday music show on a now defunct Long Island radio station.  “Nice,” is a word anyone who ever knew him, including me, would use to describe him.  He was also kind and gracious to those of us he passed on his way up.  Condolences to his family and RIP Alan S. Colmes.

There are lots of local elections coming up for villages in New York State later this month.  Some New York villages vote at other times though, so if you live in a New York village, call village hall and ask.  I know there are people who only vote in national elections and people who don’t vote at all, but your vote counts most in the smallest jurisdictions because each vote is a larger part of the total in a more local election.

The League of Women Voters has accomplished a lot toward civic awareness even beyond its initial purpose of encouraging American women to participate once they could vote.  Because village elections are coming up, I attended a League of Women Voters candidate forum last night.  If I could bet every man, woman and child in the United States that I’ve attended more League of Woman Voters forums than they have, I’d win more than I’d lose, a lot more.  Still, nobody runs a more boring forum than the League of Women Voters.

It was meant to be.  I collect popular music.  Mine is a medium-sized collection of around 8,000 songs.  Joel Whitburn’s “Top Pop Singles” is a reference book that lists every song that made the Billboard top 100 charts.  My copy is a paperback and covers 1955-1993.  I’ve used it a lot over the last 24 years, and a paperback book that’s 24 years old is likely to be falling apart.  To nobody’s surprise, mine is.  So, I looked on line and found a hardcover version that covers 1955 through 2012.  It’s not the latest edition and it was on sale for $48.94, including tax and shipping.  I happened to have an Amazon gift card with a balance of guess how much?  $48.94!  I ordered the book.

Baseball causes warm weather.  I’ve told you that before.  So, when your team’s games are on the radio, please put the game on in your car and drive around with the windows down.  It will do a lot more toward making the weather warmer than waking up some dumb groundhog in early February in Pennsylvania.

Oscar Night in America

I don’t think it was a setup, or fake news if you will.  After all, the screw up on announcing the Oscar for best movie cast PricewaterhouseCoopers in a bad light.  The reputation of any of the giant accounting firms is important (as in worth a lot of money) to them, so I doubt PWC would go along with a fake announcement.

It might have been a legitimate mistake.  Mistakes do happen, or so I’ve heard.

On the other hand, perhaps “La La Land” won the popular vote, but “Moonlight” carried the Electoral College.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

Can you believe that nine years of this nonsense passed on Friday, without notice?

Has the website Floridaman.com ceased operation?  Looks like it.  It’s a website that chronicled the adventures of some of the idiots who do idiotic things in Florida.  First, they didn’t post anything for four weeks.  Now, if you type the URL, there’s a note for the domain owner to contact the ISP.

Burger King, in its recent TV commercials has been touting its breakfast Croissan’wich made with “100% butter.  I don’t understand.  Wouldn’t a Croissan’wich made with 100% butter be butter, rather than a Croissan’wich?

There were 19 slices of bacon in each of the last three packages of Oscar Mayer bacon consumed in my family.  I don’t know about you, but when I have bacon for breakfast, I usually eat six slices, because I have no self-control, and six is the number that fits comfortably in my largest frying pan.  Depending on the size of your frying pan, and your level of self-control, you may eat anywhere from two slices up.  I don’t know anyone who has enough self-control to eat only one slice of bacon.  But all this leads me to one question:  do the people who sell Oscar Mayer bacon know that 19 is a prime number?

Amanda Knox claimed she had a lesbian experience in an Italian prison.  Why on earth did that qualify for the front page of the NY Daily News?

Do people who live in Australia refer to the United States as “up over?”

Are the chickens who manufacture the eggs we eat for breakfast trying to discourage us from eating them every day?  The reason I ask is there are seven days in a week, but eggs are sold in multiples of six.

What if there’s a guy with a heavy Indian accent, and a very American sounding name who actually does work for Microsoft support?

I’ve been battling a miserable cold.   You know, the kind where you go to bed and sleep, but in a couple of hours, you wake up basically drowning because of post-nasal drip.  This made me realize that post-nasal drip is a misnomer.  Shouldn’t it be pre-nasal drip, since it comes out before it gets to your nose?

Things I Know

I seem to be late mentioning this most years, but material posted to Sisyphusproject.org is copyright 2008 – 2017.  All rights reserved.

This isn’t a complaint, by any means, but I have noticed that the lady on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s 2017 swimsuit issue isn’t wearing a whole swimsuit.

The Powerball jackpot this Saturday night is $349,000,000!  And, since Monday is a holiday, if any of us win, we can’t collect until Tuesday.  Just in time, I have a new plan.  If I win, I will jump on the bed, but that won’t be the first thing I do.  First, I’ll giggle all day Sunday, and all day Monday as well.

Black Sabbath recently performed its “Final Concert” in the pioneer heavy-metal band’s hometown of Birmingham, UK.  So many performers have had much-ballyhooed final appearances, and then continued appearing, that I hereby propose a new law:  Once you’ve charged extra for a final appearance, you are no longer allowed to charge admission to any other shows you give for the rest of your life.  Maybe Black Sabbath will never do another concert, who knows?

I don’t want to stamp out live shows.  I want to do away with faux final appearances.  For example, I don’t know how many final appearances Barbra Streisand has made so far, but she’s got at least nine shows scheduled in 2017.

My wife and daughter both have jobs meeting the public.  I don’t.  I got a flu shot.  They didn’t.  All three of us got the flu.  But between Tamiflu and the fact that I got a flu shot, I was only sick for 48 hours.  They were sick for a week or more.  Flu shots and Tamiflu are both great stuff.  I recommend them highly.  My wife told me that if she doesn’t get a flu shot on her own this fall, I should drag her by the hair to get one.  I want her to get a flu shot, but me dragging her by the hair is never going to happen.

Congratulations to our son, and our daughter-in-law.  They are in contract to purchase their first house.

It might change in the future, but for now, I’m making a conscious effort not to discuss President Trump too much.  I didn’t vote for him, but he did win the election.  I do hope he calms down.  If he’s going to be the leader of the free world, he’s way too sensitive to criticism and way too defensive.

Post Game Analysis

So, which Super Bowl ad did you like best?  I liked Peter Fonda’s ad for Mercedes AMG.  I think you have to be a certain age to like that commercial, which I am.  I believe you must be wealthy for it to have the desired effect; I am not.

Ground Hog’s Day in Punxsutawney

What’s the point of Ground Hog’s Day? 

I’m talking about the day, not the movie, which is kind of funny.  Doesn’t Punxsutawney Phil always see his shadow because of TV lights?  Punxsutawney Phil is a fraud too, because according to Google Maps, Gobbler’s Nob is actually just outside the boundaries of the borough of Punxsutawney.  Also, the same map shows Punxsutawney is not far from Alaska, so it should be cold there at this time of year.  I mean Alaska, Pennsylvania, of course. 

I’ve been to western Pennsylvania, more than once.  I was tired of Winter before it started.  I’d like Spring to start soon too, but to the best of my knowledge, Spring has never showed up  in Punxsutawney, PA, in early February.

So, what’s the point of Ground Hog’s Day?

Things I Know

Sally Yates, acting U.S. Attorney General, instructed the Justice Department not to defend President Trump’s executive order restricting entry of people coming from seven predominantly Muslim countries.  She must have anticipated she’d be fired, and she would have been out of a job soon anyway.  So, as an action, it wasn’t very effective, but as a statement it was.  Being fired for not doing what the boss wants is pretty standard.  There are lots of jobs where being right is no excuse.  I’ve had more than one of those myself, although nowhere near as high profile.

For an added perspective on the President’s immigration restrictions, try listening to talk radio from  overseas.  LBC from London is an interesting one and they’ve been discussing this a lot lately.

If the restrictions were have even a pretense of making sense, shouldn’t they at least include Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia? 

Almost everyone now agrees it was wrong for the US Government to confine Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II.  The fact that so many people do agree with the President’s ban on people entering the US from those seven countries makes it easier to understand why a lot of people agreed with locking Japanese Americans away something like 75 years ago.

Bernard Baruch, James Schlesinger and Daniel Moynihan, among others have observed something I’m paraphrasing because I can’t quote all three.  You’re entitled to your opinions.  You’re not entitled to your own facts.  Kelly Ann Conway talked about alternate facts on ABC last week.  There’s no such thing.  You can put forth different facts to support different sides of an argument, but you can’t cite different facts about how many people attended President Trump’s inauguration.  Crowd figures are estimates, so different sources can have different numbers, but the fact that fewer people attended President Trump’s inauguration than President Obama’s first inauguration is indisputable.  There are photos that show the later crowd was much smaller.  And the President of the United States has more important things to worry about anyway.

President Trump moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, aka The Trump House, on January 20th.  I’m kind of surprised he hasn’t had it painted gold yet.

If you hate some of your friends ranting endlessly about President Trump on Facebook, I recommend an add-in for the Internet Browser Chrome called Social Fixer.  It enables you to filter Facebook content so you don’t have to read all that stuff.  I don’t object to, or argue with anyone about, their political views. Everyone is entitled to them. What I hate is the same people telling me, and all their other friends how much they approve/love/dislike/hate Donald Trump multiple times a day, every day since last year in June.

For the record, I didn’t vote for him either. I also objected to the people who did that with respect to Secretary Clinton, but they have mostly stopped. By now I know what my political-rant Facebook friends think of President Trump. Whether they admire or despise him, it’s equally annoying. I also believe they aren’t changing anyone’s mind.

If the same people express the same views to the same audience repeatedly, and endlessly, it becomes annoying, even if I agree. Admittedly the political issues are more important, but if you told me multiple times every day for the last eight months that you hate asparagus, I’d be annoyed with you and I’d want Social Fixer to include an asparagus filter, although I hate asparagus too.

On an entirely different and much lighter subject, two weeks to pitchers and catchers.

#My President, #Yours too

The other day, I heard Sean Hannity on the radio saying it was wrong to try to delegitimize President Elect Trump.  He was correct.  It is wrong.  Come noon on Friday, Donald Trump will be your president and mine, even if you, like me, didn’t vote for him.

However, those people who kept the birther argument about President Obama going for most of his presidency were trying to do exactly the same thing, and that was wrong too.

Famed editorial cartoonist Herblock always used to depict Richard Nixon with an overly exaggerated five-o’clock shadow.  When Nixon was elected President, Herblock drew a cartoon of him in a barber chair, getting a shave.  He said every newly elected president was entitled to a free shave.  He continued to object to many of President Nixon’s policies, but didn’t depict him as needing a shave again.

I’m sure I will disagree with many of President Trump’s actions, but does still wanting to respect the office of President really make me a codger?

Things I Know

My sister is an elementary school teacher.  Recently, they had an active shooter drill at her school.  The kids were worried that it was real, not a drill, so she told them that if it was real, the principal had special code words to use to alert the staff to that.  She also told the kids she has a baseball bat she calls “Duke” for anyone who attacks the school. 

You may think Duke is no match for a school shooter.  Don’t be so sure.  During her years on earth, my sister, even without Duke, has mugged two muggers, and beat up a guy who tried to rob the ice cream store she used to work at as a teenager.  She punched one mugger in the face, and pushed the other one down the stairs in a New York City subway station.

What’s at least as scary as my sister is that kids that young understand, and ask intelligent questions about school shootings.  Even one school shooting was too many, but we’ve had so many that little kids are aware of them.

My local TV news told us about a new study that says any amount of exercise will “lower your risk of dying.”  Sorry, nope.  Exercise may increase your chance of living longer, but you will still die eventually, so your risk of dying remains the same:  100%.

I stayed a Boy Scout leader long after my son reached his 18th birthday.  Consequently, I have more technical outdoor gear than a lot of people my age.  This weekend, with temperatures under 20 degrees and more than 8 inches of snow on the ground, I got dressed to go shovel it.  As I did so, I noticed that one set of my thermal base layer was made in Honduras.  Don’t know why I never noticed it before, but when I did, I asked myself what people in Honduras know about the need to keep warm.  I didn’t have an answer, so I selected a different thermal base layer.

New word department.  If someone is acting so stupid that it’s really funny, they’re being imbisilly.

Here’s an example of why I say my wife, Saint Karen, must be a saint to put up with me.  We both battling a nasty virus for two weeks after Christmas.  It gives us stuffed noses, chest congestion, and a really awful, hacking cough.  Immediately after I failed at an extended effort to cough up a lung or two, she started coughing.  When she was finished, I looked at her, feigned annoyance and asked, “Why must you repeat everything I say?”

Our department of unnecessary detail hears from the NY Post which recently wrote a headline, “Columbia Professor Found Dead After Writing Suicide Notes.”  Well, he could not have died first, could he?

Things I Know

Our not the smartest thief department has read the news reports of a robbery at the Walgreen’s drug store nearest my home.  The thief reportedly escaped with 15 tubes of toothpaste, brand not specified.

Note to the UPS driver blocking my street the Thursday before Christmas:  I know UPS requires its drivers to always park illegally, still, if you’ve got to talk to my neighbor for several minutes, blocking both my driveway and the street while doing so, I have a problem with it.  In the future, if you park at the curb in front of my house so I can get by, I promise I won’t report you to your supervisor.

In case you encounter a moose while wandering around Alberta Canada, here’s the official government advice.  

Phone companies have the technology to block robocallers.  I don’t know what percentage of phone company revenue comes from robocallers, but I’m guessing the money is why the providers of telephone service don’t allow land-line customers to block them.  So, here’s a suggestion.  If you cancel your land line, tell the telephone company that their refusal to provide a tool to block robocallers is the reason.  If enough people do that, maybe it will move the companies to help us block them.  It’s a thought, and a hope, anyway.

It would be wrong, but reasonable to assume that everyone’s nether regions are in the Netherlands. 

I have a lot of problems dealing with CVS Caremark with respect to mail-order prescriptions.  It seems to me that every error that they make is in their favor too.  Here’s one thought to improve their customer service:  Calls I make typically take an hour or more, including being placed on hold several times for prolonged periods.  So, I suggest they get a second piece of hold music.

Actor Alan Thicke passed away in mid December, after suffering a heart attack while playing ice hockey.  My daughter commented that if you must die, many Canadians would prefer to die playing hockey.

According to all the supermarket tabloids, Tarek and Christina’s marriage appears to be at an end, so maybe HGTV should change the promos it’s currently running for their show, Flip or Flop.

Cookies are for Christmas

chocolate-chips-12-22-16

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been writing this blog for almost nine years now.  The third story I ever told here was about a high-school girlfriend named Leslie.  I was reminded of that blog post, and of Leslie the other day because I have been baking, and eating too many chocolate chip cookies leading up to Christmas. 

The cookies reminded me of Leslie because when I was a Freshman in college, long after we broke up, she sent me a box full of delicious, homemade cookies.  She didn’t want to rekindle something between us that had never really caught fire in the first place.  She said she felt like baking, and didn’t want the cookies to go to her hips.  So, she sent them to my hips, instead.  I gained a few pounds eating those cookies.  I’ve also gained two or three pounds eating the cookies I made this week. 

Leslie and her husband invited Saint Karen (who must be a saint to put up with me) and me to their place in New Jersey during the first year we were married.  I don’t think I’ve seen them since.  While I hope they are well, and have had a happy life, I don’t know where they are.  If I did, I’d send the cookies I made this week to Leslie’s hips so I wouldn’t eat the rest of them.

Revenge is sweet; so are cookies.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

Since the first night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve coincide this year, who’s going to anchor the TV news tomorrow night?

Now that the electoral college has voted, how soon after he takes office before one of the sore losers begins impeachment proceedings against President Trump?  I didn’t vote for either one of them.  Still, I hope the level of sore losing exhibited by many Clinton supporters proves unfounded.  I already think it’s unprecedented, at least in my lifetime.  I suggest it’s time to stop name calling, and to save the criticism for things he proposes and things he actually does.

Do the people who want to do away with the electoral college want to do away with the U.S. Senate and allow Congressional district lines to cross state lines too?  I mean that would only be consistent, right?

Have the people who want to do away with the electoral college considered that it would require an amendment to the US Constitution, and amending the Constitution isn’t a one person-one vote proposition either?  It requires ratification by two thirds of the states.  Does anyone think Utah, Nebraska, Montana, or either Dakota among others would ever vote to abolish the electoral college?

Joan Baez has been elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Isn’t that all the evidence you need that the place needs to change its name?  No quarrels about her as a musician or as a cultural figure.  But I am unaware of any song she’s ever sung that would be considered rock.

What’s the point of security cameras when the images are usually so blurry you can’t recognize anyone in the picture or read a license plate either?

Bath sheets are about 80 percent larger than bath towels, so why do they cost twice as much?

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

How does one judge progress on the comment front?  This week, most of them were still plugging drugs for the treatment of erectile disfunction, but one was for Propecia, which is a treatment for baldness.  I spared you all of them.

A Southwest flight en route from Philadelphia to Orlando was diverted recently when a woman passenger gave birth in the air.  I couldn’t help wondering if the new mom had to buy a seat for the kid, and whether that airline charges an in-flight birth fee.

As the holiday season is upon us, I’m compelled to ask, if the President of the United States is the most powerful person in the world, what the hell is he doing pardoning turkeys?  And why do the media cover it?

Also since the holiday season is upon us, isn’t egg nog redundant?  What other kind of nog can you drink besides egg nog?

Woodbury Commons is a large outlet mall, north of New York City, near where NY Rte 17 joins the New York State Thruway.  During the holiday season, you can take a helicopter from Manhattan to the shopping center and back for the low, low price of $390.  If you can afford that, why are you shopping at an outlet mall?

Why is the second “C” in Connecticut silent?

Do you like creamy or tangy coleslaw?  I like tangy.  The only time I eat creamy is to taste it to find out if it’s tangy.

If mice is the plural of mouse, shouldn’t hice be the plural of house?

My wife watches the Animal Planet show, “My Cat from Hell.”  I was walking through the living room during the opening shot of the host, Jackson Galaxy, driving along.  You could only see the interior, but obviously, a convertible and obviously old, because it has vent windows.  I took one look and asked, “Why is he driving such an old Lincoln?  When he parked, you could see it was a ’57 Lincoln convertible.

But that’s not my question.  What I want to know is how I can instantly recognize the interior of a sixty-year-old car, but I don’t know anything that would make me a ton of money, or remember the name of anyone I met yesterday?

Things I Know

Today is Thanksgiving for every turkey that survived yesterday.

Aretha Franklin took four minutes and thirty-five seconds to sing the National Anthem at the Lions-Vikings game on Thanksgiving Day.  Anyone who takes more than one-and-a-half or two minutes to sing that song is showing off more than singing.  Still, even at age 74, Aretha Franklin sings wonderfully.  She’s a national treasure and has, no need to show off.

Our founding fathers did not want to develop a governmental class in this country.  They expected people to come into government and then leave.  George Washington was elected President in 1789.  Donald Trump was elected in 2016.  There’s no way to tell at this late date of course, but I bet our founding fathers would be astonished that it took 227 years for a President to be elected who had no governmental or military experience.

Social Fixer is an extension for the Chrome internet browser.  It is better than nothing for ridding your Facebook wall of endless comments your friends insist on continuing to make, whining or gloating about the recently concluded Presidential election.

Things I Know

The NY Post reported on Sunday that Melania Trump and ten-year-old Baron Trump will not be moving to the White House in late January, so that Baron won’t have to change schools during the school year.  That’s kind of common when someone takes a new job during their child’s school year.  Still, if the report is true, it would not be a good idea to assume that the Secret Service and the NYPD are delighted.

I got 43 comments on my “Not My President” blog item.  All of them were trying to sell us Cialis or Viagra, so I spared you.  Comments are welcomed.  Spam isn’t.

My daughter voted for Hillary.  Her reaction to Trump’s election, “But you need two years of experience to be a receptionist.”

I get so many snail-mail ads for Verizon FIOS TV that my phone bill occasionally slips through the cracks.

One of the silliest Christmas gifts I’ve seen on sale this year is a down-insulated skirt.  I can see how that might make it a little warmer to sit down on a cold surface, but all skirts are open on the bottom, which is what makes them skirts after all.  And, because they’re open on the bottom, I don’t see how the skirt being insulated does much to insulate the person wearing it.

Irrelevant Popular Vote

To those people who say Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, and, therefore, should be our next president: that’s irrelevant.  It’s a little like saying that the Cleveland Indians should have won the World Series because the Cavs had more three pointers than the Cubs.  The World Series wasn’t determined based on basketball prowess, and the race for President didn’t hinge on popular vote. 

In addition, please consider this.  If the contest were for popular rather than electoral votes, the two candidates would have campaigned differently.  The outcome might have been the same or different, but I guarantee you that one way or another the vote totals would have changed.

You may ask why.  It’s simple, the two candidates’ campaigns would have concentrated more on population centers.  In 2016, New Hampshire with its three electoral votes was a battleground state.  With such a small population, do you think either candidate would have spent any time in New Hampshire if it were the popular vote that counted?

Except for a small handful of states that have changed the way they distribute electoral votes (Maine is one), in all the other states, whichever candidate wins the popular vote in the state gets all the electoral votes.

So, under the current system, Hillary Clinton got all the electoral college votes from California, Illinois, and New York; Donald Trump got nothing.  If the popular vote counted, Hillary would have gotten the majority of votes from these three states, but votes Trump received would have counted too.

Then, there’s the issue of voter motivation.  If you think your candidate is going to win in a landslide, you might not bother to vote.  If you think your candidate has no chance, you might also stay home.  If the national vote totals counted, you’d be more likely to vote for your candidate, even if the other candidate were stronger where you live.

The founding fathers deliberately created a system that didn’t rely solely on the popular vote.  The Electoral College is one example.  The Senate is another.  They intended to limit the strength of the masses and to increase the influence of the less populous, more agricultural states.  Should we change it?  Maybe, but it’s not easy, and it would take a long time.  It would require a constitutional amendment.  Should we also change the Senate for the same reasons?  Would that ever pass the Senate?

Had popular vote counted in the just completed Presidential election, the vote totals would certainly have changed and the change would not have guaranteed that Hillary Clinton would now be President-elect.

#NotMyPresident

On Wednesday, after the election, I posted on Facebook my hope that people would stop hectoring each other about politics, at least for a little while.  That post attracted two of my friends who hectored each other about politics in the comments.  So, I guess it’s over, but it’s not over.

President-elect Donald Trump was heavily criticized for saying he might not accept the result of the election.  He’s not saying it was rigged anymore, is he?  And he has accepted the result too.  Secretary Clinton and President Obama have also accepted it.  The President is meeting with the President-elect at the White House today.

To be clear, I didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton.  But the people who disturb me are the ones who have taken to the streets demonstrating, and perhaps even rioting.  Among the things they chanted, and a hashtag on the internet, “Not My President.”  Well, not yet, but effective January 20th, when he moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, and renames it the Trump House, yes he will be.

One of the things America has always been rightly proud of is its peaceful transition of power.  Let’s keep it that way, please.  Give the guy a chance.  Even if you did vote for him, you won’t like everything he does as President.  It’s the nature of the job.

His impact on the country is likely to last beyond his Presidency because there’s one vacancy now, and there are a lot of old judges on the Supreme Court.  With a Republican-controlled Congress he shouldn’t have any trouble getting one appointee through.  It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he’ll get to appoint two or three justices before the end of his first term. 

As for the rest of it, if he screws up terribly, the American people will have a chance to thwart him by changing the House and Senate in just two years.  For most of the past eight years, Congress and the President have been battling each other constantly.  It might be nice to have the two bodies largely in agreement, if only for a short time. 

That is, by the way, the beauty of a parliamentary system. The prime minister and the parliament agree.  There’s usually some compromise involved because countries that have parliaments often have multiple political parties, so instead of one party being in charge it’s often a coalition.  In the event the parliament and the prime minister disagree significantly, they don’t wait for the next election.  They hold a vote of no confidence, hold a new election and vote for a government that will agree.

Election 2016

Here’s the thing.  Never in American political history have two more unpopular people run as major-party candidates for the Presidency.  I have a theory about why issues played practically no role in the campaign.  Each candidate set about trying to convince the voting public that the other was more unlikable.  So, the Presidential campaign was even more about personal attacks than it usually is.  If you wonder why political campaigns often descend to the level of personal attack, the answer is simple:  they work.  So, by the way, does pandering.

Back when I was on Congressional staff, I made a satirical political radio commercial that was never intended to air, and never did.  It was to be played at a victory party, if there was one.  The commercial said, “Vote for me because my opponent is a son of a bitch and I’m a really swell guy.”  Because of the tone of the 2016 Presidential campaign, I’m surprised that my idea wasn’t used this year.

I always vote.  I only missed one time, when I didn’t live where I was registered.  I’ve even voted by absentee ballot in a school board election.  This year, I don’t know what to tell you.  I will vote tomorrow, but right now, I think I’ll skip the first office on the ballot. 

In a few months, maybe I can make a ton of money selling bumper stickers that say, “Don’t blame me:  I didn’t vote for either one.”

Things I Know

Over the weekend, every Democrat on the national political scene called FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress, “unprecedented.”  What may have happened is unprecedented.  The FBI exposes crimes, and possible crimes all the time.

Comey is in a damned if you do, and damned if you don’t situation.  He revealed the possible existence of new, previously concealed emails from Hillary Clinton.  Remember, that’s possible existence, not existence, or at least not existence yet.  If there’s nothing there, he’ll possibly have influenced the Presidential election.  If he didn’t reveal them, and they prove to be something, he would be excoriated for a cover up. Remember too, nothing that’s covered up ever stays covered up.

I know that Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner are both public figures, but how can anyone, even two anyones, have 650-thousand emails on one laptop computer, and why would two high-level government officials share one laptop for work?

To be clear, I am a person who always votes.  I once voted by absentee ballot in a school board election, but I’m so appalled by the choices we face next week that I may not cast a vote for President this year.

There will be baseball in Cleveland on Tuesday.  I’d like to see the Cubs win the World Series, but more than that, I would have hated to see the Indians win it at Wrigley Field.

Dos Equis beer has a new most interesting man in the world.  He can tie one hand behind his back with one hand tied behind his back.  I guess a new most interesting man makes sense; they shot the old one into space a while ago.

I am astonished that Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and their cohort were acquitted recently on charges stemming from their occupation of federal land in Oregon last year.  I can’t fathom what the jury could possibly have been thinking, or whether they were thinking at all.

Things I Know

Last week, I was observing to my wife that even though the election was only three weeks away (and now less than two), we hadn’t heard a word from either New York Senator Charles Schumer, or his opponent, Wendy Long.  The thought was hardly out of my mouth when a deluge of commercials began for Senator Schumer, including one featuring a guy I used to work with, Jeff Veatch.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto were indicted last week on federal corruption charges.  If they did what they’re charged with doing they may have thrown the Republicans running in Nassau County, NY under the bus.  More than that, they may swing the majority in the New York State Legislature from Republican to Democratic too.  Republicans only hold the majority because of a coalition with some rebellious Democrats.  Only one or two seats changing hands could repaint the entire picture.  Damage is done even if they’re both acquitted because their trials will take place long after the election.

Five women I went to high school with wished my wife and me a happy wedding anniversary recently on Facebook.  Saint Karen (she must be a saint to put up with me) and I have similar senses of humor.  We each thought perhaps they were all thinking, “Better her than me.”

A year ago, around this time, I complained about how much the Nissan dealer charged me to replace tire pressure monitors.  I replaced two of them in two months.  At least one more has failed, but I haven’t replaced it.  I’ve decided to live with the warning light lit up.  After all, I have two tire gauges and the two of them together are much less expensive than the inflated (Sorry.  I couldn’t help myself) price the dealer charges for one TPMS replacement sensor.  But, I probably will replace the two remaining sensors soon, when I need new tires on the truck.

I’ve been informed that the idea of having Charlie Sheen throw out the first pitch in a Cleveland World Series Game was widely discussed on sports talk radio in Cleveland.  The consensus was that Sheen’s antics as the character Ricky Vaughn in the movie “Major League” were funny.  Sheen’s antics in real life, much less so.  I just thought it would be funny.  I also think it would be funny to have Bob Uecker in the broadcast booth for a little while during a game.  Uecker was the Cleveland play-by-play announcer in the same movie. Uecker is 81 and retired, so I don’t know if he would be interested, or able to do that, but it would also be amusing.

World Series

No prediction from me, but I do hope the Cubs win.  Generally, I root for two teams, the Mets, and whoever is playing the Dodgers.  The Cubs beat the Dodgers, so I hope they beat the Indians too.

With respect to the Indians, I hope that somebody who works for the team thought to invite Charlie Sheen to throw out the first pitch in one of the Cleveland home games.  If they do invite him, of course they should give him an Indians jersey with 99 on the back.

charlie

Things I Know

I’ve been away and I’m going to fill you in or bore you to death.  Your choice.  But first, I’d like to deal with a couple of events that happened while I was gone.

And speaking of gone, I don’t think baseball will be quite the same with Vin Scully gone.

When John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo bank testified before Congress, I found myself guessing that many employees didn’t come up with the idea of opening fraudulent accounts without some boss, or bosses pushing them toward it.

The Presidential debate didn’t change my mind.  I still don’t like either of them.

Gary Johnson is never going to be elected President running on the Libertarian Party ticket, but he sure didn’t help getting his ideas out there with his recent foreign policy goofs.   East Korea Gary?  Really?

Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me) and I have been vacationing in Florida.  I’d like to move there, but our vacation has made me reexamine things.  Saint Karen thinks Florida is too hot.  That’s nonsense.  Our house in the New York metropolitan area isn’t air conditioned.  It’s hard to find a house in Florida that isn’t air conditioned.  So, if we moved there, she’d enjoy AC and I’d be cold all the time because she turns it down and I turn it up.  Something to bicker about.  Not something new, because we generally don’t bicker now.

New theory:  Florida is so much warmer than a lot of other places because they have fire-breathing dragons there.

dragon-fire_edited-1

We spent three nights at the Portofino Bay Resort Hotel in Orlando, FL.  It’s one of the hotels associated with Universal Studios Florida theme park.  It’s nice, but it’s expensive.  A few minor things went wrong, but the hotel stepped up to fix them just fine.  Things always go wrong from time to time, so isn’t how things get fixed the real test?

Lindsay at the concierge desk was able to switch my reservation for the Blue Man Group show from Thursday night to Friday night, with no extra charge to me.   I was hoping to take a nap before a Thursday night show, but we had a late check in and without a nap, I was too tired to go.  So, kudos to Lindsay.  The late check in, by the way, is one of the things the hotel stepped up to make amends for.

The Blue Man Group was very good, but extremely noisy.  Before the show, they tell you to turn off all electronic devices.  In case you’re wondering, unless you’re profoundly deaf, you can include hearing aids in that.

This isn’t a complaint about this hotel, but about the hotel industry in general.  Services that are common at lesser hotels frequently carry additional fees at full-service ones.  I have never heard of a hotel where the rooms cost over $200 a night that provided a free continental breakfast.  And, honestly, luxury hotels, free WiFi is almost a basic human right by now.  You don’t charge for cable TV anymore, so stop charging for high-speed internet.  Less expensive hotels don’t, and your Internet isn’t any better than theirs.

We’re on vacation to lift my wife’s spirits.  She had surgery recently.  But, because of the surgery, she didn’t think it wise to ride the roller coasters.  If you’re not going to ride roller coasters, I’d say there isn’t a lot for you at the Universal theme parks.  Also, in late September, the hours are short and they have a separate Hallowe’en event with separate admission after the day’s attendees are turned out.  Admission to the theme parks is costly too and I didn’t like that separate second admission at all.

More on our travels next time.

Facebook Friends

How do Facebook and Linked-In come up with all the people they think you might know?

Both of them have suggested I might know the woman I took to my high school senior prom.  I do, but we stopped dating about five months after I graduated from high school.  She introduced me to my wife the first of three times we met before I noticed.  Since I was dating her at the time, I didn’t pay any attention to the lovely Saint Karen (who must be a saint to put up with me).  My wife teased me about that for years.  I only see her at my wife’s high school reunions where we always seems to sit together at the Saturday night banquet.  I wind up saying how nice her parents were to me, and apologizing all over again for being such a jerk when I broke up with her. 

I was a jerk, which is why I keep saying I’m sorry about that.  I have nothing against her.  I hope she has nothing against me too, but I’m pretty sure neither one of us feels the need to share our deepest Facebook thoughts with the other.  Curiously, Facebook has never suggested I might know the woman I took to my high school junior prom, but I do.  I’d describe the current state of my family’s relationship with her and hers as Christmas-card friends.

The reason I bring this up now is that last week, Facebook suggested I might know singer Billy Joel’s first wife.  Where in the world did they get that from?  Did Facebook suggest she might know me too?  I haven’t received a friend request from her, and I haven’t sent one to her either.  We have met, long before she met Billy, but I’m sure she wouldn’t remember.  In grade school, I was friends with one of her older brothers.  I used to go over to their house where we would play with his model trains and I would read “Tales from the Crypt” comics.  My mom wouldn’t let me buy those, so I read them at his house. 

How closely do people’s paths have to come before Facebook suggests them as possible friends?  I have either met or known someone who has met four New York governors, one Nevada governor, one Virginia governor, a California governor, four (now that I think about it, maybe five, and maybe even more) U.S. Presidents and one of the richest people in the world.  None of that has ever done me any good at all.  Some of those people have since passed on, but perhaps things would be different for me if Facebook had only suggested that the rest of us become friends.

Things I Know

During the Olympics, I keep wondering when Michael Phelps is going to forget and dive into that pool still wearing his headphones.

The AP reported on August 11, that 70 prominent Republicans had signed a letter to the Republican National Committee asking it to stop helping Donald Trump.  We should also see a letter asking Donald Trump to stop helping Hillary Clinton.

A man in Georgia was arrested recently because he lost his temper at his wife.  In doing so, he yelled at her, spit on her and prevented her and their daughter from calling 911.  According to the wife, he had a history of violence against her.  What set him off?  She made a grilled cheese sandwich with three slices of cheese, when he wanted two.

“A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.”  That’s Hillary Clinton’s strongest argument against a Trump presidency. Trump’s impulsiveness is a big concern to a lot of people.

Have you seen the TV ad the Clinton campaign is running?  The one that features Donald Trump saying nice things about her, including that he thought she’d be a good president.  If I were her, I am not certain I’d run any other.

I don’t think Mrs. Clinton succeeded in redefining herself at the Democratic National Convention and I don’t think Trump has tried to redefine himself.  I don’t think either of them can.  These are probably the two best known and least liked major party candidates ever to seek election to the US presidency as non-incumbents.  Also the oldest.  Whichever of the two is elected President will be older than any previous US President beginning his or her first term.

I’d really like to return to the political system where we didn’t hear much from the major-party presidential candidates between the conventions and Labor Day.

Last year, my phone company, let’s call it Horizon, okay? Anyway, Horizon wouldn’t repair my copper, land-line phone service, so I was forced to switch to Horizon’s fiber-optic service, or switch to my cable system’s phones which are also fiber-optic.  I am aware of the benefits of fiber, but I didn’t want to switch because of the main disadvantage:  fiber-optic phones depend on the electric utility for power while copper phones have independent power.  I lived through Sandy and had no outside power for four days, but my phone still worked.  I’m not complaining about the power, by the way.  The local electric company worked round-the-clock to fix things, and a lot of people suffered much worse damage than I did.  Some of those houses are still uninhabitable.  Last month, my phone’s battery died.  It’s not a little one.  The battery would probably start my lawn mower.  I was not happy.  Horizon sent me a new battery for free and sent it overnight.  I was happy about that, because sometimes the best description for Horizon service of its equipment in customers’ homes is “glacial.”  But, this battery is supposed to be serviced by the customer, and since that’s true, it would be nice if the wires connecting the battery were a little longer, the battery compartment was a little bigger and the battery cover was easy to put back on.  I finally got the battery connected. I had to grow a third hand to do it, but I haven’t figured out how to reattach the cover yet.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

Have you seen the new Liberty Mutual Insurance commercial that tells you that you already know what winning an Olympic medal is like?  No, I don’t.  Frankly, I’d rather the young lady call me Brad and that isn’t my name.

What’s the most clichéd question in the world?  I think it’s asking a really old person the secret of their long life.  Al Roker asked Tony Bennett that on the Today Show recently, on his 90th birthday.  Al (and everyone else), the secret to a long life is don’t die.  It really is that simple.

Do empty, light-weight, plastic garbage pails set at the curb cause strong winds?  That’s my working hypothesis, anyway.

If English made any sense, wouldn’t great and meat rhyme?

Superstitious is a word.  I know that.  What about stitious?

You may wonder why I say my wife, Saint Karen, has to be a saint to put up with me.  Well, last night, I told her that if I have made her even half as happy as she has made me over the years, she is one lucky woman.

The latest Jaguar commercial starts out, “Being British, it’s not in our nature to boast.”  Isn’t that a boast?

How long has it been since you last saw a reel-type lawnmower that doesn’t have a motor?  Every power mower at my local Home Depot is a rotary. I bet more than half the people alive today in the United States haven’t even seen a reel-type mower that does have a motor.  They cut grass better than a rotary mower does, but they don’t cut certain kinds of common weeds at all.  I’m guessing that’s why they fell out of favor.

The Food Network’s website has a feature called “50 states, 50 pizzas,” in which they say they have discovered the best slice in every state.  Is it wrong for me, as a person from New York, to maintain that some states don’t have a best slice?  I’ve been to Alabama.  I haven’t tried BLT From Trattoria Centrale: Birmingham, Alabama, but it doesn’t sound good to me.

Are UPS trucks even capable of parking legally?

Things I Know

Donald Trump urging the Russians to try to find Hillary’s missing thirty-thousand emails.  It was funny, it got Hillary’s emails into the news again, and the Russians didn’t need Trump to suggest it.

The Democrats blaming the Russians for the DNC email leaks.  If the Russians were responsible, that was wrong.  Foreign nationals and foreign governments are not supposed to try to influence US elections.  But, blaming the Russians was an attempt to change the focus of the story.  Nobody denied the facts revealed in the DNC email leaks.  Bernie always wants to be left, but he was right that the DNC was against him.

Bill and Hillary Clinton each get paid a lot of money to make speeches.  Still, I bet they did their speeches this week in Philadelphia for free.

Rep.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz seems to have been fired from her job as Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee.  So, she resigned, effective at the end of this week.  When I was in radio, we used to call that leaving by mutual consent:  the boss said, “you’re fired,” and you said, “If that’s the way you feel about it, I don’t want to work here anymore.”

It’s fun to see that both the Republicans and the Democrats have party unity issues.

Protestors at the Democratic convention seem to me to be louder than the ones at the Republican convention.  What do you think?

In order to appeal to younger voters, my daughter suggests the Republicans call their 2020 convention “Republicon.”  She’s trying to tack con onto the word Democrat too, but hasn’t come up with a euphonic way to achieve that.  Democon would work, but it could also mean a convention of pollsters.

With the recent departure of Roger Ailes from Fox News, and reports that he’s being paid some $40 million to depart, I’m reminded once again that the highest paid job in network TV appears to be leaving your job.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that leaving your job in local radio is more likely to cost you money than to make you any.

Sprinkles (or if you prefer, Jimmies) come in different colors, but they’re all the same flavor.

If you’re going to pull off to the side of the road, pull off to the side of the road.  Don’t park with the rear end of your car stuck so far out into traffic that you choke two lanes of traffic down to one.

It’s one thing to run a red light.  It’s quite another thing to get angry at me and the other driver who just managed to avoid hitting you when you ran the red light.

If a road crew fills a pothole, it would be good if someone, maybe a supervisor, came by later to see if the thing sank and needs to be filled some more.

If they don’t repave Main Street in Hempstead NY, south of Front Street pretty soon, I’m going to stop driving on it until someone else agrees to pay for the damage to the suspension on my car.

The spell checker I use now says ginormous is a real word.  Egantic, though, still isn’t.

GOP Convention Short Takes

For the first time since I was eligible to vote, I don’t know if I’m even going to vote for President this year.  Like many people, I’m not keen on either the Democrat or the Republican candidate.  This is reflected in the fact that both of them have extremely high negatives in voter polls.

One of two things happened the other night when Ted Cruz spoke at the Republican Presidential Convention.  He may have been the guy lots of people consider him to be–someone who insists on being right and on sticking that in your face.  Or he took a tremendous political gamble, one which will only pay off if Donald Trump goes down in flames, but will kill Cruz’ political career if Trump is elected and goes on to a successful presidency, and may kill Cruz’ career anyway.

Either way, the polite thing to do would have been to pass on speaking at the convention. I understand not supporting someone who made personal attacks on your father and your wife.  I wouldn’t either.  Still, in my opinion, what he did was the equivalent of having a fight with the birthday boy, showing up at the party anyway, and defecating on the birthday cake.

I’m not going to watch gavel-to-gavel coverage of Philadelphia either, but if I have any opinions on what goes on there, I’ll let you know here.

Things I Know

It was hard for me to believe, but Trevor Noah said something funny the other day.  I’m not in the demographic the Comedy Channel is targeting with the Daily Show, so they probably don’t care, but I just don’t find Mr. Noah. Funny.  YMMV.  But the other night, he was joking about breaking into Donald Trump’s house.  He said it was easy to defeat the alarm system because the password was TRUMP.

I told Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me) a terrible joke.  Those are the best kind.  I think it was, what do you call a patronizing criminal who is going downstairs?  You know, a condescending con descending.  She made a face, that face.  Before she could say a word, I said, “You knew long before you married me.”  She admitted that’s true, and that’s one of the reasons I love her.

This morning, while we were both looking for my wallet, she said I was driving her crazy.  I told her I’m pretty sure she’s immune.  After all, it has never taken me this long to make anyone else nuts.

I recorded CBS Sunday Morning on my DVR.  I started watching it 18 minutes after it began.  By fast forwarding through the teases and the commercials, it took me 41 minutes to catch up. 

We need to try again to understand the meaning of the word “after.”  NY Post headline: “Man injured after suicide attempt at mall.”  I’m just guessing here, but the suicide attempt is probably what caused him to be injured.  Man injured by suicide attempt at mall, would be more accurate. 

I’m disappointed.  While I came up with the pun “electile dysfunction” all by myself, I Googled it afterwards and found lots of other people came up with it both independently and before I did.

Addenda

It has been called to my attention that another Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, expressed her hope that George H.W. Bush would be elected over Michael Dukakis in a 1988 pre-election letter to Senator Barry Goldwater.  To be bipartisan about it, I think that was inappropriate as well, but Justice O’Connor’s statement wasn’t made public for many years after that election.

Too many people in this country judge public figures’ actions by whether they agree with the public figures’ politics.  I wish that wasn’t so.

I’ve been challenged too by someone who says the judicial canon I quoted yesterday doesn’t apply to the U.S. Supreme Court.  I am not a lawyer or a judge and I don’t know whether that person is a lawyer or a judge. I don’t know if the canon applies or not.  I just think Justice Ginsberg’s statement was both inappropriate, and contrary to her own political interests.

I also think the Senate should have held hearings on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the court, and that the Supreme Court over at least the past 40-50 years has become entirely too political.

My penultimate comment is that Mr. Wolfson’s tweet which I quoted yesterday had a heart-shaped emoji between I and RGB.  The software used to publish the blog somehow managed to remove it.  I’m sorry about that and don’t know how to fix it.

Above all, I know (not think) that my opinions on this or any other issue don’t matter to people in power.  My opinions are my own.  They are given here freely and worth what you paid for them.

Stepping Over the Line

Hon. Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, a justice of the US Supreme Court, said in a newspaper interview that she would consider moving to New Zealand if Donald Trump became president of the United States.  It was first reported in the NY Times, but I saw it in the NY Post.  I have never heard of any federal judge, especially a member of the Supreme Court, saying anything like this.  Why?   Because it’s specifically prohibited by Code of Conduct for United States Judges.  This is from the website uscourts.gov: 

“Canon 5: A Judge Should Refrain from Political Activity

(A) General Prohibitions. A judge should not:

(1) act as a leader or hold any office in a political organization;

(2) make speeches for a political organization or candidate, or publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office; or

(3) solicit funds for, pay an assessment to, or make a contribution to a political organization or candidate, or attend or purchase a ticket for a dinner or other event sponsored by a political organization or candidate.

(B) Resignation upon Candidacy. A judge should resign the judicial office if the judge becomes a candidate in a primary or general election for any office.

(C) Other Political Activity. A judge should not engage in any other political activity. This provision does not prevent a judge from engaging in activities described in Canon 4.”

This judicial canon applies to all federal judges, part-time, full-time and retired with exceptions made, under certain circumstances, for retired federal magistrates and retired federal bankruptcy judges.  It does apply to members of the US Supreme Court.

It’s astonishing that any sitting Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court would publicly oppose a candidate for President of the United States.  It’s also astonishing that Justice Bader-Ginsburg would consider this course of action.  If Trump were elected and she abandoned her post it would be antithetical to her political beliefs and interests.  It would allow a Republican President to appoint another member of the U.S. Supreme Court.  For the record, I’d be appalled by her statement if she had endorsed Donald Trump instead of saying she’d consider moving to New Zealand if he were elected.  This country, since its inception, has prohibited federal judges from participating in electoral politics.

I haven’t researched it thoroughly, but the last Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court that I recall participating in electoral politics is Arthur Goldberg.  He resigned from the court before running against incumbent governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York in 1970.  He lost.

What surprises me more than anything else about this is that it hasn’t created a public outcry.  I am glad to hear that she has been criticized for the comment by some political commentators and especially heartened by a tweet from Howard Wolfson who was an aide to Hillary Clinton and to NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Wolfson tweeted: 

“I  RBG but I don’t think our Supreme Court justices should be publicly offering their opinions about POTUS candidates.”

Good on Mr. Wolfson.  This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  The Justice has crossed a line she should not have drawn.

Collecting

Yesterday, I received a letter dated late last week from a collection agency.  Let’s call the agency Confluent Collection Company.  That’s not its name, but it’s far enough away from its name that I believe firmly that libel and slander laws don’t apply here.  Plus, what I’m saying is true and it’s a nice alliteration.  Anyway, I think the alliteration is nice. 

The letter said I owed someone else some money, so I should pay them.  Actually, it said I owe Ken’s Hospital $20, and maybe I do.  Who knows?  I certainly couldn’t tell from the letter because it didn’t give an account number, a patient’s name, a date of service, or any other detail than the collection agency’s account number and an amount, $20. 

This is a fault of many collection agencies, sending you a demand letter without giving you enough information for you to tell whether you actually do owe the money.  If I sent you a letter and it said you owe Frank some money (with no explanation at all), so you should send it to me, would you?  If you would, please send me your address and I’ll send you such a letter.  I won’t, however, guarantee in that letter that you actually do owe Frank any money. 

What happens, if you don’t know, is that frequently corporations sell their debts to a debt collector for some percentage of the original amount and the debt collector gets to keep anything they can collect.  Frequently, the sale is just a spreadsheet with no documentation.  Less frequently, I hope, the debts are invalid or beyond the statute of limitations for debt collection.  If you should receive such a demand, do not admit to the debt.  Ask for proof.  If you receive proof and if you owe the money, by all means, pay it.  That’s what I do.

On Tuesday, I got a letter dated three days before the one from the collection agency.  This one was from Ken’s Hospital telling me that I owed them $40 and I should pay it.

Following my own advice, I called Confluent Collection Company to ask them to send me documentation of the debt so I could determine if I owed it.  I called the number on the letter I received yesterday.  I didn’t reach anyone.  I didn’t even reach an automated phone attendant.  What I got was a recording, several minutes long, containing various ads, and telling me I won a free, five-day cruise.  Don’t fall for that one, by the way.  At the end, it told me the number I called (from the letter I received yesterday) had been changed.  Seething, I called the other number.  Same damned thing, except I didn’t stay on the line long enough to find out if the number had been changed again.

I steeled myself for the loathsome task of writing a snail-mail letter, but before that, I called Ken’s Hospital (actually, I called Ken’s Hospital’s parent corporation) to find out if and why I owe them $40.  After minor problems with their automated phone attendant, I spoke to a very pleasant woman named Noreen.  She answered my questions.  She explained what it was all about.  I now understand that I do $20 and may owe the other $20.  Noreen said she would send me the documentation.  If I do owe all the money, I will send them all the money sometime next week.

Noreen was also able to tell me that the other $20 was the account that had been sent for collection.  She said she’d remove it from collection.  Good job, Noreen.  I did explain to her that I objected to being notified I owed money without being told by the collection agency what money or given the opportunity to find out what money.  I also said if they were going to send me a collection notice over the 4th of July weekend, they ought to give me time to sober up and answer them before submitting it to a collection agency. 

Minor mistake on the part of Ken’s Hospital’s billing department to go along with my minor mistake in not paying them promptly.  I usually do pay my bills quickly and if I miss, I usually catch up the next month because it was an oversight on my part.

As an aside, as far as I’m concerned, Ken’s Hospital is one of the best hospitals on the planet.  If you get sick or injured, I hope you have a place as good as that one to get treatment.

There are two lessons collection agencies should take away from this.  If you want someone to pay you money, tell them what it’s for, not just who it’s for.  And, if you don’t tell them what it’s for, but you do give them a phone number to find out, let them find out at that phone number.  Maybe there’s a third lesson.  I was so offended by the phone response that I will never buy anything from the companies that were advertising on that reverse robocall.

The lesson you should take from this is that if you receive a collection notice, find out what it’s for before you pay them.  If they can’t tell you what it’s for, don’t pay them.

Old Cars

'60 Edsel Ranger L

I really like old cars.  I have since they were new.  So, on Thursday, I saddled up and went to the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.  Even attending the auction without registering as a bidder is fairly expensive, especially considering what it costs to attend a local cars and coffee or show and shine event.  They’re usually free.  But you’ll hardly ever see a wider selection of cars.  I went to one of their auctions in Scottsdale AZ years ago.  This is the first one they held at Mohegan Sun. Uncasville, CT is a lot closer to where I live than Scottsdale AZ.

The auction staff and the casino staff were cheerful and helpful.  If I could offer two suggestions for improvement, the first would be more signs.  My son has a superior sense of direction.  When he was four years old, he could tell you how to drive to his grandparents’ house—eight states away.  I think he would have gotten lost inside the casino while trying to find the cars before they went on the auction block.  My second suggestion would be to find a different place to exhibit a large portion of the cars instead of using one of the casino’s parking garages.  That place was too dark to really display the cars well. 

You don’t think of Ford as building extremely rare cars.  But a 1960 Edsel convertible is extremely rare.  Ford built only 76 of them and around 3,000 total 1960 Edsels in any body style.  Before closing down the failed brand, Ford only built 1960 Edsels for about five weeks.  This isn’t an Edsel convertible, though.  It’s a Ford that was changed into an Edsel later in life, or what collectors call a clone.  

I’m a casual fan, not an expert, but it fooled me.  When you go to a Barrett-Jackson auction and look at the cars before the bidding starts, most of them have a detail card attached to the passenger side of the windshield.  This car didn’t have such a card when I saw it on Thursday.  It was properly described in the catalogue and on line.  I haven’t checked whether it crossed the auction block yet, but I’m sure that when it does, or if it has, it was also properly described too.

Still, until I looked it up more than 24 hours after I took this picture, I was pretty excited to think I had seen an actual, real-life unicorn.

Things I Know

There are a little over 6,600 commercial, FM radio stations in the United States.  Tonight, between 10 PM and midnight, I’m going to be on one of them.  Which one is up to you to figure out.

In California this week, two judges were reelected and the fact that they were makes you question democracy.  One was the judge in Santa Clara who recently sentenced a rapist and star athlete at Stanford to six months in jail.  The other, in Orange County, was reelected despite having admitted to having sex in the office with an intern and with an attorney who had cases before his court.  I call both of these events electile dysfunction.

A man in England, Richard Huckle, has been sentenced to 22 life sentences for raping children in Malaysia.  I’m okay with that.  The article I read said he’ll have to serve a minimum of 25 years in jail.  25 years for 22 life sentences?  I’m not sure which, but if one of those is right, I have to think the other is wrong.

My Daughter has a good idea.  Have you ever watched the TLC TV show “Cake Boss?”  They have several shops in the New York area.  One of them is a few miles from our house.  My daughter wants to go in there and find out if they can make her a cake that looks like a cake.

These days, my wife usually hits the hay around 10:00 PM.  I usually go to bed around 1:00 AM.  When we started dating as teens, she would let me hang out at her house, sometimes until 1:00 or 2:00 AM.  It just occurred to me that she married me so she could get some sleep.

I’m not necessarily claiming credit here, but the most recent TV spot for Burger King’s nuggets does tell you what in them.

66 SS 4 Sale 2

I’m trying to convince my wife, Saint Karen, that I’m a saint too because I didn’t bring this car home from a local cruise night.  It’s for sale and it’s a ’66 Chevy Impala SS with a 396 cubic inch engine.  Not buying it, though, didn’t take as much willpower as she thinks:  it’s an automatic.

When I was a Freshman in college, her parents allowed my then 16-year-old girlfriend to travel 250 miles to visit me for a weekend.  I was surprised all those years ago, but astonished recently when I learned they did not let her go on her high school senior trip a year later.  Her parents really liked and trusted me.

I keep a few packets of duck sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, and mustard around the house.  You know, the ones you get with your take-out food orders.  But I never keep extra Arby’s Sauce around.  If I ask for five please give me five, but if I ask for one and you give me five, four of them are going in the garbage. 

 

Somebody at New York’s DMV Needs to Think

On the 19th of May, I went on line to renew the license plates on my truck.  They expired on May 31.  It’s great that you can renew on line.  They tell you it can take ten days to get the new registration, Amazon can deliver in two, but at least they allow you to download a ten-day, temporary registration in case you don’t get the renewal on time.  Both of these are good things.  My registration did arrive on time, also a good thing. 

This morning, I wanted to put the new registration on my truck, but I couldn’t find it.  That’s something I’ve come to expect.  I lose things frequently.  My fault. 

While I was looking, I decided to print out that downloaded temporary registration, so I could go to the gym.  I’m a pretty literal guy, so I expected that the 10-day temporary registration would expire ten days after the old, permanent one did.  Wrong!  That’s when I found out the ten-day temporary expired on the 29th, two days before the old, permanent registration.  What good is that?  How would that have helped me if the new registration hadn’t arrived on time?

Fortunately, I did find the registration.  I mean, it would have been terrible if I had to walk a mile to the gym, wouldn’t it?

Remember

Memorial Day first became a holiday (originally known as Decoration Day) in the northern states after the Civil War.  The Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans’ organization for those who fought for the North first declared it to be May 30th in 1868.  Its name gradually changed to Memorial Day and eventually came to represent Civil War veterans from both sides and later from other wars. 

I was surprised to learn that Memorial Day wasn’t adopted as the official name of a federal holiday until 1967.  The law that changed the date of Memorial Day and three other holidays to Mondays was enacted in 1968 and took effect in 1971.

Memorial Day has become a lot more than just remembering the troops who died in our nation’s wars, but because it is still that, this image is from Gettysburg National Cemetery.

Civil War Graves

Things I Know

It’s been cooler than usual in April and May where I live.  I’m going to plant tomatoes this weekend.  The danger of frost is past, but the ground may still be a little cool for tomato plants to thrive.

I guess Mother’s Day was also breast-cancer awareness day for major league baseball.  I’m against breast cancer and in favor of breast-cancer awareness.  Still, the uniforms in the Mets-Padres game were ugly.  They made me pine for the Padres’ old brown ones.

I don’t begrudge breast cancer research a dime.  I have contributed myself from time to time, but from the publicity it gets you’d think breast cancer was the number one cause of death among women.  It isn’t.  Lung cancer and heart disease cause more deaths than breast cancer does.

I may need to get a new doctor.  My test results came back and now this doctor is trying to tell me I’m completely normal.

Over the years, I’ve asked lots of questions here, some of them serious, and some meant as jokes.  One of the serious ones came four years ago when I wondered whether noise-cancelling headphones would help with my tinnitus.  Since the last time I looked into it, sound therapy has become helpful, but not a cure for tinnitus.  Certain frequencies generated by special hearing aids help cancel out the annoying ringing of tinnitus.  So, while noise-cancelling headphones won’t help, there are now hearing aids that supposedly will.  I can hear without hearing aids, but because of the tinnitus, and because of some high-frequency hearing loss, I don’t hear people well if there’s a lot of background noise.  I’ve ordered a pair of hearing aids designed to help with both.  If they work well, I may review then here in the future.

Here’s an update on my Panasonic bathroom fan.  I have replaced it, with another Panasonic fan.  So, I’ve bought three of them in eight years.  The one in my upstairs bathroom still works.  I have mixed feelings about the fans.  They’re high quality, very quiet, and Panasonic makes more than one fan that will fit in my existing opening which is a little over ten inches square.  On the other hand, they’re very expensive, the light kit on mine (not the bulb, the fixture) failed after eight years.  The ballast for the light isn’t easily replaceable and neither the ballast nor the light fixture is available from Panasonic anymore.

The light in my new fan is bright enough that I can probably grow tomatoes in there now.  But, I won’t.

I have a compressed disc in my neck, and I tore both rotator cuffs for the second time after I’d already had surgery to repair each one.  I guess what I’m saying is working over my head is painful.  So, I didn’t replace the fan in the ceiling myself.  It annoys me to pay someone else to do something for me that I know how to do.  Still, the electrician did a bang-up job, took about half an hour and cleaned up after himself.  Good job there.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

Have you noticed that when Burger King advertises “Ten nuggets for $1.49” on TV, the commercial doesn’t say a word about what’s in the nuggets?  Do they, for instance, contain chicken?

My only deductions are real estate taxes, mortgage interest, and charitable contributions.  So why does it take so damned long to do my taxes?

If you’re not supposed to pick at scabs, why do they itch so much you have to scratch them?

Why don’t babies have freckles?

Why is knowing a thing or two better than being a know it all?

Wouldn’t sock sizes make a lot more sense if they corresponded to shoe sizes?

Things I Know

The masthead photo here changes from time to time.  The end of April and beginning of May is time for cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  It’s a really beautiful exhibit.  If you’re in the area, you should go.

Austin Texas school officials have decided to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary School.  They opened the renaming process to public suggestions.  After Boatie McBoatface was shot down even though it was the popular choice for the name of a new and expensive British research ship, you’d think everyone knew this is a bad idea, but nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!  In the race to rename the school in Austin, Donald Trump came in first and Robert E. Lee came in second.  Adolf Hitler got eight votes.  A commenter on the website Deadspin.com came up with the cleverest thing I’ve heard on the topic.  Someone who identifies as Yusuf-Darba chimed in with, “Say what you will about Adolf Hitler, but he did kill Hitler.”  And, here I’d lived my entire life until today thinking nobody could say anything good about Hitler.  How wrong was I?

I’ve mentioned before that it’s a bad idea to screw up on a slow news day, but it’s okay to die on one.  I should have pointed out that if you’re famous, you shouldn’t die on the same day as someone who is substantially more famous.  Since I didn’t point that out before, I’m doing it now.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Lonnie Mack or Joanie Laurer.  RIP to Joanie, Lonnie, and Prince as well.  Yes, Prince was a great talent and an important cultural icon.  But I have to question whether his death deserved over a third of the NBC Nightly News.

Speaking of Prince, he apparently died without a will.  Nobody is happier about this than the tax man.  Even if you don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars, if you expect to have anything left over when you die, a will is a very good idea.

This blog doesn’t have a copy editor.  It could use one.  Most writing would be improved by copy editing, certainly mine.  I am incapable of catching all my own mistakes, although I’m good at catching those of other people.  I occasionally catch a mistake I made in this blog a long time ago, and when I do, I correct it.  Yet copy editors are laid off at news and publishing organizations more than any other people involved in the process of publishing.  People argue that correct grammar and spelling don’t equal intelligence.  That’s true.  What they indicate is attention to detail and if someone doesn’t care enough to get them right, what’s their attitude toward facts?

I’ve recently started paying attention to radio talk shows and TV news from outside the US.  BBC TV news is easy to find on cable.  Lots of radio stations stream.  Today, I listened to stations in Dublin, Ireland, London, UK, and Sydney Australia.  Their perspectives are considerably different from ours.  It’s educational.

Things I Know

Happy birthday, April 21st, to our son, and to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.  Even though they share the same birthday, and you’ve never seen them together, they are not the same person.

In the European Union, Google has been hit with anti-trust charges in part because it requires Google apps to be installed on all Android phones.  What gripes me about Android phones is all the apps that come with the phone, and can’t be uninstalled.

When Ted Cruz criticized New York values back in Iowa, I’m sure he thought (as most of us did) that the New York primary wouldn’t be important.  He finished third statewide.  In at least one CD, New York’s 16th in Westchester, he finished fourth, behind Ben Carson.  Didn’t Carson drop out of the race?  Yes, he did, but he dropped out too late to be removed from the New York ballot.

Big shout out and many thanks to Deputy Inspector Christopher Ikone, NYPD.  I had a nice chat with Inspector Ikone at the NYPD exhibit at this year’s NY Auto Show.  I mentioned to him that my dad was a cop, showed him a picture and asked if he knew what the collar brass, BHS, stood for.  He didn’t, but said he’d look into it for me.  In less than a week, I received an email and a phone call from the Inspector.  He had found a few things about my father, and enclosed scans of them with the email.  He apologized that there wasn’t a lot about my dad in NYPD records, but Dad was a cop a long, long time ago so that’s okay, and certainly no fault of the very helpful Inspector.   I was absolutely delighted with what Inspector Ikone sent me.  I thanked him both profusely, and privately.  I just wanted to mention it again in public.  Incidentally, all those years ago, BHS stood for borough headquarters squad.

From the Daily News website on Saturday, April 2, 2016:  “Shane Thompson, 43, a Navy veteran deep-sea diver, was exploring the treacherous cavern underneath the Blue Hole, a popular diving spot known for its crystal clear waters off the coast of New Mexico.”  Not to diminish Mr. Thompson’s death or his life, but what coast of New Mexico?  Doesn’t anyone edit, or fact-check anything anymore?  New Mexico, as most people know, is landlocked.  Thompson actually drowned in a cave in a lake.  At least the article didn’t make the same mistake.

The early bird may get the worm, but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.

Effective in June, the word internet will no longer be capitalized, according to the new edition of the Associated Press style book.  I hereby jump the gun.

Vote

Consider, if you will, presidential primaries.  For the first time in recent memory, the New York primary means something, especially the New York Republican primary.  So let’s consider the New York primaries.  Why not?  They take place next Tuesday.

There was a time when presidential primaries were winner take all.  It only took a plurality, if there were more than two candidates, for the winner to get all the delegate votes in that party’s presidential primary.  The trend has been to change that, but the way New York has changed it is particularly odd to me.  The rules are a little different in the Democratic and Republican primaries in New York and I’ll talk about the GOP primary which means a little more, because if someone else does really well, it might keep Donald Trump from winning the GOP nomination on the first ballot in Cleveland this summer.  Polls suggest Trump will be the winner in New York, but that’s why we have elections, isn’t it?

While it’s no longer winner-take-all, it hasn’t progressed to one-man-one vote either.  It might even turn out to be less equal than the winner-take-all way of allocating delegates.  You see, in New York the delegates are apportioned based on election results in each congressional district.  That’s where direct representation falls apart.  Some congressional districts are heavily Democratic and some are heavily Republican.  Let’s say in a heavily Democratic district in New York City (District D) there are 500 votes cast in the GOP primary and in a heavily Republican district somewhere upstate (District R), there are 5,000 Republican votes cast.  Assume then that in District R, Donald Trump gets 2,600 votes.  He then gets all three delegates from that district.  If he gets 2,400 votes, he gets two of the three and Cruz or Kasich gets the other one depending on who finishes second.  In District D, maybe Cruz gets 260 votes.  He then gets three delegates.  That’s three delegates for 260 voters vs. three delegates for 2,600 voters. 

All other things being equal (and they’re not) it would make sense for the GOP candidates to concentrate on heavily Democratic districts and the Democratic candidates to concentrate on solidly Republican areas.  Who thought this system up?  Did anyone think it up?  If someone did, it’s plain to me that they didn’t want New York’s delegates apportioned based on the total vote each candidate polls.  If they wanted that, the votes would be counted statewide.

If you live in New York and are a registered Republican or Democrat, please vote on Tuesday.  New York doesn’t have open primaries, so you have to be registered in a political party to vote in its primary.  When you go into your local polling place, please vote for the candidate of my choice, or the candidate of your choice, but vote.  And if your party is a minority in your congressional district, then your vote counts all the more.

600

“Half a league, half a league, half a league onward.  Into the valley of death rode the 600.” –Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This is the 600th blog entry to the Sisyphus Project. That’s 600 in roughly 8.1 years.  I think we’re pretty much on target.   I started this to entertain myself, and it does that.  I sometimes try to inform, and also to make occasional jokes that other people find funny.  You’re the judge of whether I achieve those goals.  I said I’d write about my frustrations, but also about other stuff.  I’m still doing both. Perhaps I’m not quite as frustrated as I used to be because I don’t have THAT job anymore.  One thing that has surprised me is I don’t write as frequently as when I was employed full-time.  Since I have more time, I thought I would pontificate more.  But I just don’t.

Usually, my posts consist of random assertions, and/or questions.  When I rant on a single topic, it’s most frequently about politics, and/or government.  Still, I’m trying to go light on the 2016 Presidential contest.  Is this really the best that the USA can come up with in the way of major-party candidates?

I was recently able to restore some of the format elements of the blog, including a title picture I’ll change once in a while, and the list of three blogs I endorse.  One caveat on the recommended blog list: my friend Richard’s blog is still entertaining, and well worth your attention.  He just doesn’t post in it very often anymore.

Going forward, I’d like to propose a holiday this year.  It will be one day (or preferably a three-day weekend) when no media in the United States mention Donald Trump, or any member of the Kardashian/Jenner tribe.  It’s a desirable goal, and an achievable one as  well.  After all, we don’t hear about everything Paris Hilton or Charlie Sheen does anymore.  I suggest we do it in August.  We could all use a three-day weekend in August.  Let’s work on that, shall we?

I’m the kind of person who can’t help doing math in his head.    Because of that, this sign caught my attention. 

Parking

It’s at a parking lot on 34th Street in Manhattan, just east of Ninth Avenue.  No, I don’t know why an hour of parking costs more than two half hours.  That’s the thing about the sign that caught my attention in the first place.  There was nobody around I could ask.  My best guess is this particular parking lot has hours that contain more than 60 minutes each.

On TV news last night, I heard that the majority leader of the New York State Senate, “. . . prides himself on being open and transparent.”  I pride myself on being opaque.  I feel very strongly that if I were transparent, that would be disgusting.

I can’t wait for the baseball season to begin.  Tomorrow, I won’t have to. I had hoped to attend Baseball Spring Training, and catch a few games in March, but my wife felt she had to work.  I’d rather be with her than at a ballgame, but that’s about the only thing I’d rather do.

I still haven’t hit the lottery, so I have yet to hire an editor or proof reader.  I go back from time to time, to correct past mistakes I’ve made.  Lately I’ve been working on apostrophes, and Oxford commas.  If you should find a mistake, you’re more than welcomed to keep it to yourself.

Things I Know

March 22 is National Goof Off Day.  Who decides these things anyway?  I looked it up on Google and one of the links was to a list of 28 things to do on National Goof Off Day.  Doesn’t that miss the whole point of the day?  Should there even be 28 things to do?  Well, I clicked on the link and it doesn’t work anymore.  That is more like it!

I have an older, expensive Panasonic bathroom light and fan.  That’s kind of redundant because all Panasonic bathroom fans are expensive, but they’re premium fans, very quiet and made of quality materials.  The light stopped working.  It’s the fixture, not the bulbs.  The fixture is modular.  It would be simple to get the old one out and plug in a new one.  Except, the part is no longer available.  If I was the Tsar of building supplies, I’d make the ceiling opening for bathroom fans in standard sizes, the way the openings for various electric boxes are standard sizes.  I dread replacing the whole fan because the openings aren’t standardized and because a lot of them aren’t easy to install without access from above and mine is in a first-floor bathroom of a two-story house.  Sometimes, replacing a bathroom ceiling fan involves replacing the bathroom ceiling too.

Also, you can’t read the model number of this bathroom fan unless you remove the light, and even then, it’s not easy to read.  The location of that all-important model number is a bad design, Panasonic.

I’ve been telling my kids since they were kids that if what they’re doing isn’t working, they ought to try something else.  So, I approve of President Obama easing diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. Of course, Cuba’s record on human rights isn’t good, but the US has imposed restrictions of one sort or another on Cuba since October of 1960.  Clearly they haven’t worked to get Cuba to do some of what we want in more than 55 years, so we might as well try something else.

The automatic ice maker in our freezer stopped working.  There was ice in it.  The machine just wouldn’t push the ice into the bin below it.  I messed with it without success.  My wife tried to pry the ice loose too, also with  no immediate results.  But, about an hour later, it worked. For the first time in two days, it dropped the ice into the tray.  Ninety minutes later, it did it again.   Maybe the ice maker was just constipated.

If for no other reason than to clean it, there should be an easy way to get the sliding-drawer freezer out of the larger combination refrigerator-freezer.  There isn’t.  Being easy to remove the drawer would also make it easier to replace the ice maker if that should be necessary.  There still isn’t.

It’s nice that my wife, Saint Karen (who must be a saint to put up with me), takes my word that I’m a prince.  After all, I wasn’t a frog the first time she kissed me.

Every time I go back over the blog items I’ve written since I started this blog in 2008, I find at least one typographical error.  When I find ’em, I fix ’em, but I find new ones every time.  To be fair to me, some of them were caused when my Internet host changed the software and messed up a lot of the apostrophes.  To be fair to the Internet host, the software change didn’t cause all of them, by any means.

Things I Want (Or Need) to Know

If there’s one thing I don’t understand about St. Patrick’s Day, it’s green bagels.  Can you explain them?

Can you remember the last time you went twenty-four hours without reading or hearing the name of a Kardasian/Jenner pseudo-celebrity in the media?  I can’t, but I’d like to.

I haven’t received any email spam trying to sell me either Cialis or Viagra in ages.   Have you?

Does anyone you know or anyone who reads this follow the directions on the shampoo bottle and wash and rinse their hair, and then do it again immediately?

Similarly, is there anyone who owns a box of Q-tips, or any other cotton swab for that matter, who has never used them to clean the wax out of their ears?  The directions on that box say don’t do that.

Things I Know

We’ve already got Spring Training and now we have a crocus.  I’m pretty sure it’ll be warm before long.

First Crocus

With an ad premiering tomorrow night, Dos Equis beer is abandoning Jonathan Goldsmith in his role as the most interesting man in the world and taking its advertising in a new direction.  I’m guessing the ads are being changed because Dos Equis thinks the public has lost interest.

New research seems to indicate that certain carbohydrates, such as  bagels and pretzels increase your risk of getting lung cancer.  I have been  known to inhale pretzels,  but even I know you’re not supposed to do that, and now I guess I’ll stop in the interest of health.

Other new research indicates that dying significantly reduces your risk of getting cancer.

Things I Know

It’s not a big deal, but it was a pleasant surprise.  The reclining handle on my old La-Z Boy recliner broke last week.  I contacted the nearest dealer and they’re sending me a new handle, for free.  The recliner is easily 10 and maybe as much as 15 years old.

The weather forecast for this week and next shows daily high temperatures in the New York area over 50 degrees.  The heather is already in bloom:  time to keep an eye out for the first crocus of 2016. 

It must have been Doris Day’s birthday over the weekend or something.  TCM ran the old movie “Send Me No Flowers.”I came home while my wife was watching it.  In case you’re unfamiliar, Doris’ husband, played by Rock Hudson of course, is a hypochondriac.  He thinks he’s going to die and sets about trying to find an ideal second husband for her.  I told Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me)  that if I should die before her and if she decides to remarry, I won’t try to pick out a second husband for her.  Why?  Because she did such a spectacular job picking a first husband that I figure she’s up to the task. 

We’re way overdoing Presidential debates.  The candidates probably agree, scheduling them to attract the smallest audiences.  This week, the Democrats had one opposite the final episode of “Downton Abbey.” Still, all the personal attacks aren’t really helping me to decide who to vote for in November.

With all the proper nouns MS Word’s spell checker knows, I’m kind of surprised it doesn’t know Downton.

 In addition to being a saint for putting up with me, Saint Karen is a saint for other reasons as well.  Last week, I asked her if she knew where the tickets we had left over from our last visit to Disney World are.  We were there in 2005.  She knew. Each pass has three days left.  I want to go back.  I’d like to go right after Easter, but Saint Karen doesn’t know if she can get off work then.  I’m not sure it’s the happiest place on earth, but it is fun and since we have three days of prepaid admission, I’m ready.

The jar I keep loose change in is almost full.  That means about $200.  I’m thinking of adding another $100 and buying a wide-angle lens for my camera.

A few years back, during one of my rants about doctors who are perpetually late, I noted that someone owned the web domain www.punctualdoctor.com.  At the time, I said they hadn’t figured out how to use it yet.  Apparently they never did.  When I checked a week or two ago, you could have bought it for ten bucks.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

What’s the largest number of hosts it’s possible to have on one TV show?  And, has the Today Show reached that number yet?

The Bugatti Chiron is the about-time replacement for the Veyron.  When it was released, the Veyron was the fastest road car in the world at around 230 mph.  The Chiron is reputed to hit 260 mph.  My question is, where?

Have you seen Quicken Loans’ TV commercial for Rocket Mortgages?  Isn’t that exactly the kind of thinking that precipitated the real estate crash nine years ago?

Miss Dior Fragrance has a TV commercial out that uses Janis Joplin, Big Brother and the Holding Company singing “Piece of My Heart.”  I’m always in favor of playing Janis Joplin’s music, but when it’s associated with Miss Dior Fragrance, I can’t help wondering if the perfume smells like bourbon or weed.

Things I Know

I complained here back in October about how expensive tire pressure monitoring sensors for my 2008 Nissan Frontier pickup truck are.  They are expensive, but it turns out it’s worse than that.  The dealer I had repair the truck marked up the parts by something like 30-35% over what the same dealer charges at retail for the same part at their parts counter in the same building.  I told the service manager that’s the reason I will never do business with them again.

If I go to a local garage, they mark up the parts above what I can buy them for.  It makes sense.  They can’t carry a lot of parts for every vehicle they might have to repair.  They have to pay someone to order them.  They have to deal with a parts supplier who will deliver them the same day, and there are a couple of other reasons as well.  But if I go to a parts store and buy the part myself, they don’t charge me more than retail.  For an auto dealer parts department, the ancillary costs are built into what they sell the parts for at retail.  So, for me anyway, a dealer service department charging me 30-35% for walking back and forth to the parts counter is outrageous.  I won’t pay it again.

I was right about Ben Carson’s chances of becoming the Republican Party’s nominee for President this year.  It looks like I was wrong, very wrong, about Donald Trump’s prospects though.

Nominations to the US Supreme Court are very political.  Depending on who’s confirmed, the current vacancy can turn the majority on the court from relatively conservative to much more liberal.  I don’t think it’s right to obstruct any president’s nominations for the U.S. Supreme Court, not a Democratic president and not a Republican president either.  But what’s going on now over a replacement for Justice Scalia isn’t new.  In fact, a previous Republican president’s nominee who was scuttled by a Democratic majority in the Senate had his last name turned into a word in the dictionary.  Three lefts make a right.  Two wrongs don’t.

As I write this, I’m watching a Spring Training baseball game on TV.  You should watch or listen to baseball in March as often as possible.  Baseball causes warm weather and observing it here in the north will help to warm things up.  Just wait and see.

Leap Year

Whose idea was it to add a day to February in Leap Year? I know it’s the shortest month, but it is still February, so it should be as short as possible. Next time, in 2020, let’s add an extra day to June instead.

Things I Know

The Sisyphus Project, in addition to being copyrighted for 2008 – 2015, is also copyright 2016.  All rights reserved.  Additionally, some of the blog posts contained herein are only suitable for immature audiences.  You’ve been warned, again.

If it’s as cold in New York tonight as they say it’s going to be, I have a plan.  When I go to bed, I’ll turn my electric blanket all the way up to broil.

Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, a lot of popular singing groups were named after cars.  Thanks to the Super Bowl commercial, I now know that Buick has a new convertible called the Cascada.  To the best of my knowledge, it’s the first car named after a singing group.

A sign of inflation:  In early January, I went to an ATM at Penn Station in New York City and it gave me $50 bills.  Before that, I had never gotten anything larger than a $20.

You may recall that I bought a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport last summer.  It has all-wheel drive.  One advantage of having all-wheel drive is when you get two feet of snow as we did recently, you don’t have to take advantage of the all-wheel drive and go out in it.  You can still stay home and turn up your electric blanket.

Another advantage is in snow, I spin my wheels a lot less often with AWD than I do in a 2WD Nissan pickup truck.

I visited Europe in May, 2014.  I’d like to go back some day.  Although I didn’t notice at the time, from what I’ve read since, wearing white sneakers is a sure sign in Europe that you are an American.   I doubt if I’ll pass for a local anyway, but if I do go back I’ll consider getting the sneakers I wear in black or brown so I can fit in better.

If I visit Europe again, I’ll buy a wide-angle lens for my camera and I’ll probably leave my tripod home.  You can’t use a tripod inside any of the historic buildings I visited in London, and it’s a couple of pounds less weight for me to carry around.  The wide-angle lens will be useful for landscapes and for building interiors. 

Things I Want (Or Need) to Know

Is New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation Presidential primary as important as news coverage would have you believe?  Will anyone who is currently running for President of the United States visit New Hampshire again this year?  How about for the rest of their lives unless they run again in 2020?

Who ever thought Groundhog Day would be a believable annual event?  Has Spring ever arrived in Pennsylvania in the middle of February? 

Does anyone here know how many blocked numbers you can maintain on a Samsung Galaxy S5 phone?  I block every robocaller who calls my number and I’m hoping there’s no limit.

A national drug store chain lied to me.  I got a robocall from them.  It said, “This is a courtesy call from (insert name of actual national drug store chain here) for (insert my daughter’s name here).  To continue, press any key.”  I pressed the hang up key and it didn’t continue.  Why?  When I get an emergency robocall from the county I live in, hanging up on them doesn’t make them hang up on you.

I love my Weber gas grill.  It’s expensive, but everything about it reeks quality.  Except for one thing.  Why can’t Weber put decent wheels on it?  And, since they don’t, why doesn’t Weber, or someone else, sell decent wheels for a Weber grill as an accessory?  I don’t move mine often, but every time I do, I wish it had better wheels.

Things I Know

He’s wrong, but it may help Ted Cruz to criticize New York in the rest of the country and it doesn’t hurt him in New York.  There’s no way in hell Cruz will win the New York Republican primary and if he does get the GOP nomination, there is also no way in hell he will carry New York in November.

I believe it was so windy this morning because I put my light-weight, plastic garbage can at the curb last night.  I’m sorry.  And, many thanks to my wife, Saint Karen, who has to be a saint to put up with me.  She got up before me this morning and managed to chase the can down before it disappeared from the neighborhood.

My daughter has an idea for a new TV show.  She says TLC should have a show about people trying to recover from eating disorders, gain weight and live healthy lives.  She calls it, “My 60-Pound Life.”  She must get it from her mother, because God knows I’m completely normal.

I had an idea for a reality TV show too.  I suggested one about a family that sits around in their family room, watching TV.  My daughter tells me there has already been a show like that.

Don’t schedule an appointment with your diabetes doctor right after the holidays.  If you do, your blood tests will reveal an A1C level higher than what you usually get.  I’ve learned my lesson.

I found out what happens if you accidentally put too much milk in your scrambled eggs.  Try not to do that.

During the recently passed holiday shopping season, I purchased all gifts on line from our living room couch.  I haven’t been to a shopping mall in a months.

Just once, on a TV real estate show, when the prospective house buyers say they want space in which to entertain, I’d like them to say it needs a stage, professional lighting, a killer sound system, lots of parking and a satellite uplink.

Powerball

For many years now, I’ve advocated making silly plans for what you would do if you win a big lottery.  Yes, it’s fun to dream about being suddenly rich, but my reasoning is that the chance of winning is so low that making serious plans is a waste of time, unless and until you win.

So, there’s no need to figure out in advance whether you’d pay off your nephew’s college loans, or what charity you’d contribute to, or what the goal of your personal charitable foundation would be, or what university you’d endow a professor’s chair at in order to leave your name around after you die, or where you’d move, or how many new cars you’d buy.

I have had other silly plans, but for years, I have usually maintained that if I win millions of dollars in Powerball or Mega Millions, I’ll get someone to carry my bed outside and then, I’ll jump on the bed.  Yes, I know that I’d break the bed if I jumped on it, but jumping on the bed was fun when I was a kid and if I had millions of bucks, I wouldn’t care if I broke my bed.  I’d just get a new one. Tonight, however, is different.  As I write this the Powerball jackpot is expected to be $800 million.

Absolutely nobody has asked me if I’ve changed my silly plan to accommodate the largest jackpot in US History.  Still, in response to zero interest from the general public, I am here to announce that I have changed my plan.  Tonight’s Powerball jackpot is so big that if I win, I will jump on two beds.  Maybe three.

Christmas 2015

Every year at Christmas, my friend Dick Summer uses his blog to tell Christmas stories sent in by readers and by people who remember listening to him on the radio.  By the way, if you remember Dick from his distinguished career on the radio, he’ll be a guest on WBZ in Boston on Christmas Eve around 10 PM.  I lifted this Christmas story directly from Dick’s blog, but I don’t think he’ll mind, because I wrote it.  Merry Christmas, everyone.

I still remember my grandparents Christmas traditions. My cousins and I would build our blanket fort under the dining room table. The tree filled the little, unheated sunroom off the living room, unheated so that the tree wouldn’t dry out so fast. The tree had bubble lights on it. Remember those?

We always had turkey and my grandmother’s turkey always had more legs than any turkey was ever born with. I don’t know whether she purchased extra legs, or claimed that the largest wing joints were legs. We had pumpkin pie too, but my aunts and uncles always raved over my grandmother’s plum pudding which she doused in brandy and set afire before bringing it to the table. That stuff was disgusting–worse than fruit cake. I don’t know how anyone ate it. 

I was still a little kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old and I don’t know how the issue came up, but I do remember my grandmother sitting me down in her old, dark kitchen and telling me: “It’s not the gift, it’s the thought that counts.” I also clearly remember thinking at the time that my grandmother was crazy. I had an allowance, maybe it was a dime a week, maybe a quarter, but it certainly didn’t allow me to buy any of the cool toys I lusted after. It wasn’t even enough to keep me in caps for my official Lone Ranger six shooters. I didn’t care what people thought about me, I wanted the cool presents any adult I knew could get for me, but I couldn’t get for myself. 

I’m older now than my grandmother was when she told me that, and today I know she was right–not for little kids, but certainly for adults. The fact is, I have everything I need and a lot of what I want. Nobody likes me enough and has enough money to get me anything I can’t afford to get for myself. I’m sure there are people who have enough money to do that. I’m equally sure I don’t know any of them. When my friends take to Facebook to send me Christmas greetings, I like it. When my junior prom date sends me a Christmas card, it warms my heart. Things would be quite different for me without the life’s lessons I learned from her. I doubt I would have been open to my wife if I hadn’t failed miserably to get back together with Miss Prom Date about five months before I met the woman I’ve spent my life with. 

I think about what my grandmother said that day every Christmas, and any time I remember her. It’s not crazy once you grow up. It really is the thought–not the gift that counts.

Thank God for New York

There’s a joke among people who don’t think much of the State of Alabama, that the state’s motto is, “Thank God for Mississippi.”  It’s supposed to indicate that yes, Alabama is bad, but Mississippi is worse.  I’m not taking a stand.  I haven’t been to Mississippi.  I’ve spent some time in Alabama, not enough to know a lot about it though.  My observations tell me that Alabama has its good and its bad points, like pretty much everywhere else.

People who live in Illinois, or New Jersey, or anywhere else with a reputation for political corruption, have to be saying to themselves these days, “Thank God for New York.”  Why? Because New York, it’s state legislature in particular, makes other states look good by comparison.  In 2014, Sheldon Silver was Speaker of the New York State Assembly and Dean Skelos was Majority Leader of the New York State Senate.  Each was indicted for political corruption, Silver in February and Skelos in May.  Each lost his leadership position.  That’s not automatic in New York.  But they remained in office as an Assemblyman and State Senator.  Each was convicted too.  Silver on November 30th and Skelos on December 11th.  Silver was charged with using his political power to line his pockets to the tune of $4 million.  Skelos used his power to line his son’s pockets, getting his son highly paid jobs in which he wielded his dad’s political influence either with the state or with Nassau County.  Upon felony conviction, each was removed from the legislature.  That is automatic.  Considering their age, Skelos and Silver could each spend the rest of their lives in prison, but while in prison each will collect a state pension.  The exact amount hasn’t been made public, but it’ll be around $100,000 a year.  Not too long ago, the state pension system was reformed so that elected officials convicted of corruption do lose their pension, but it only applies to recently elected officials and Silver has been in Albany for 40 years, Skelos for 30.

The convictions themselves are terrible, but what’s worse is they aren’t unusual.  I am not sure my count is accurate, but I believe that makes five legislative leaders convicted and removed from office in 15 years.  Some newspaper editorials are hailing the most recent convictions as an avenue to legislative reform.  Maybe so, but please reread the first two sentences of this paragraph.  They give me reasonable doubt.  In fact, one State Senator was quoted in a newspaper as saying he had doubts that new laws were necessary, because the leaders were convicted of violating existing laws.

Power in New York State is unusually centralized. .  The leaders of each house have close to dictatorial control of the legislature.  The leaders aren’t subject to term limits, committee chairmen are weak and revolts against leadership are unheard of.  Budget negotiations take place between the Governor and the two legislative leaders and they are frequently described as, “Three men in a room.”  The fact that two of the three have been convicted in one year has lead to public speculation that  the third man in the room, the Governor, or senior members of his staff may soon be implicated in corruption as well.  I have no idea.

I suppose increasing the power of the rest of the legislature would help.  Meaningful power for committee chairmen and term limits for the Speaker and the Majority Leader would be a beginning.  I wish I knew what would help.  With five leaders shot down in 15 years, I hope somebody knows how to fix it and I hope somebody does fix it.

Things I Know

My last post to this blog garnered five comments over two days from “Bradley.”  The comments were all links I didn’t follow.  I’m almost certain that “Bradley” is a spam bot.  I welcome both new readers and comments on my blog, but the comments are moderated to spare me and my reader the annoyance of spam bots.

According to a TV report I saw this morning, a man flew from California to New York, went to his estranged wife’s house, and shot her sleeping boyfriend five times, killing him.  The perpetrator plead not guilty, claiming self defense.  I am not a lawyer and I haven’t stayed in a Holiday Inn Express in a year and a half, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t going to work.

Our anniversary trip to Washington was a success. We drove to DC, retrieved our daughter-in-law from Dulles Airport and went out to dinner at a nice restaurant on Saturday night.  I’m not being paid for the endorsement, but it’s the second time we’ve enjoyed dinner this year at Ristorante La Perla on Pennsylvania Avenue just before you enter Georgetown.

We apparently got married at a good time of year to do things.  There are usually baseball playoffs on our anniversary, for instance.  Our niece got married on the day before our anniversary.  And this year, the day after our anniversary was the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington.  We thought we might go to the Smithsonian for a while on Sunday before heading back home.  But the marathon ran right past the museum, so we decided to avoid the area and just head home.

The trip down and back in our new Hyundai was comfortable.  The EPA estimated highway mileage for the car is 24 and we did 25, so I’m happy with that.  We could probably have done a little better if we had gone less than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.  Of course, if you drive under the speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike when traffic volume permits you to go faster, you’ll get run over, so we didn’t do that.

One disadvantage to owning an SUV, CUV or minivan is no trunk.  So, if you give your car over to valet parking, you can’t leave anything in the trunk because those vehicles don’t have trunks.

Things I Know

My wife and I usually celebrate five-year-incremental wedding anniversaries by taking a trip.  Five years ago we went to Las Vegas and ten years ago, to Disney World.  Our daughter-in-law has to be in Washington next week for a conference.  Our son flew here a couple of days early to visit.  So, instead of a more elaborate trip, my wife and I will join our daughter, our son and his wife in Washington on Saturday night for a family dinner.  On the day our son called and told us he was coming, I was looking into taking my wife to London for a week.  So, even though a weekend in D.C. isn’t cheap, this is saving me a ton of money.

My wife usually drives our new Hyundai.  Most people get less than the EPA estimate for around-town gas mileage.  So does she.  I’ll be driving it to Washington and I’ll be interested in seeing what kind of gas mileage it gets on the highway.

Silver, gold, ruby, sapphire, diamond?  Why are there no traditional wedding anniversary presents for guys?

Last night, I found an anniversary card that tells the woman recipient that marrying her is the smartest thing her husband ever did.  Of course, I bought it.  I’ve been saying that to so many people for so long now that even Hallmark knows.

While our son is here, I’m going to get him to help me carry two old, metal radiator covers out to my truck so I can recycle them.  I never liked them and I recently replaced them with wooden covers I built myself.  I stained them to match the wood trim in the house and they look much nicer than the old ones.

It now appears that Paul Ryan will be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.  It’s hard to imagine why he wants it.  The Republican caucus in Congress is fractured.  A sub-group, the Freedom Caucus, is very conservative and disinclined to compromise, so being Speaker is a job that is a lot like herding kittens.  Plus, since he ran for Vice President in 2012, it’s reasonable to surmise that Ryan has designs on the White House.  The last Speaker of the House to become President was James K. Polk who was President from 1845 to 1849.  Polk was, in fact, the only Speaker to go on to be President.  It’s an awfully high ranking dead-end job, but if Ryan becomes Speaker and wants to be President, his most likely way to achieve the Presidency is if both the President and Vice President die.  It’s relatively little known that the Speaker is next in line to the Presidency after the Vice President.

If California Congressman Kevin McCarthy withdrew from the race to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives to keep rumors of an extra-marital affair from becoming widely known, that didn’t work very well at all.  For the record, I read those rumors in the newspapers, as most people did, and have no idea whether they’re true.

Verizon wants you to update the software on your computer that interacts with your Verizon cell phone.  So, they send updates, a lot of updates.  And, in the lower right-hand corner of your screen, a little dialogue box appears urging you to install software that’s been downloaded.  The box doesn’t tell you what software or carry a Verizon logo.  Until I found out what it was, I would never touch it, even though it nagged me.  I did update once, but it’s still nagging me.  I can tell it to install later, and it asks me again multiple times a day.  Eliminating the nagging is more important to me than updating the software.  If Verizon doesn’t change its ways soon, I’ll just uninstall the software to end the annoyance.

I used to think I had made two mistakes in high school:  I thought I was the only person that awkward; and I thought I’d get over it.  Turns out I made three.  I also thought I’d eventually be too old for pimples.

Things I Know

It should go without saying around here, but let’s go Mets.  Okay?

I’ve got a solution to the California drought.  All we need to do is get everyone in the state to wash and wax their cars on the same day.

A deranged young man shot up a community college in Oregon.  Nine dead, not including him.  In Tennessee, an 11-year-old boy got his father’s shotgun from an unlocked closet and murdered his 8-year-old neighbor because she wouldn’t let him play with her puppy.  I don’t pretend to know the answer.  I hope someone smarter than me knows what to do to make this situation better.  But I do know what I’ve told my kids since they were little:  If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else.  More mental health initiatives might help.  Holding gun owners responsible if they don’t secure their guns from their kids might help too.

From the latest Arby’s TV commercial:  “Bacon is a present pigs give you when you’re good.”  I never thought of it that way before, but, yeah.

It’s hard to imagine living a better life than baseball great Yogi Berra who passed away last month at age 90.  He served in the Navy during World War II, aboard one of the small rocket boats that bombarded the French coast on D-Day.  He was one of the best catchers ever to play the game, a fabled bad-ball hitter, tremendously clutch, managed both the Yankees and the Mets to the World Series, played and coached in more World Series than anyone else, was married for over 60 years, was successful in business too.  Although his funeral was in Montclair, NJ, Timothy Cardinal Dolan traveled from Manhattan to celebrate Yogi’s funeral mass.  Considering what baseball players make these days, it’s astonishing to realize that Berra was never paid more than $65,000 as one of the best players around.  And the unintentionally funny way he twisted the language kept him in the public eye even after he retired from baseball.

It probably helps Garmin technical support to reply automatically to emails, based on key words.  But, their replies would be more useful if they had some human read the requests before answering.  I got a lengthy answer from Garmin recently.  Lovely.  It contained lots of information, except it didn’t answer either of my questions.

Also, a suggestion for Garmin:  If someone is trying to get to Washington, D.C., I think it would be good if the software would accept that, as well as “District of Columbia” when it asks for state or province.  It took me a while to figure that out when looking for directions on my next trip.  I know how to get to D.C., but I don’t go very often, so I still need help navigating around once I get there.

I recently bought a lightly used 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.  The Sport has five seats.  The Santa Fe minus the sport has seven.  So far, I like it just fine and my wife likes it too.  She drives it more than I do.  But, if you’re an obsessive-compulsive type who needs to make sure locks are locked, you might not.  The front doors have a button and a handle.  If you have the proximity key with you, the button locks and unlocks the car, while the handle unlatches the doors.  The hatch just has a button that locks, unlocks and opens the hatch.  So, if you close it, lock it and want to be sure it’s locked, touching the button to try to open the hatch unlocks and opens it, provided of course the proximity key is in your pocket or purse.

The car came with a free trial of Sirius/XM radio.  I’m not sure how many channels it has, but I basically listen to two.  I like it, but don’t spend enough time in the car to justify paying what it costs to subscribe.

I’ve gotten pretty used to the proximity key to unlock, start, and lock the car.  However, when I leave the car, I still try to pull the non-existent physical key out of the ignition.

Do you know what a counter-balanced hood is?  It’s a car hood that uses springs to hold it open, instead of propping it up with a rod or stick.  The Hyundai has a counter-balanced hood.  I don’t remember if I bought the last car I owned with a counter-balanced hood in 1987 or 1980.

My 2008 Nissan Frontier has generally been reliable, but when it hasn’t been, the dealer has been good, but the parts that have broken are expensive.  While it was still under warranty (thank God!) a seatbelt sensor failed.  To replace that, you have to replace the whole seat assembly.  That just reeks of poor design to me. You ought to be able to fix something without replacing other, expensive things that don’t need fixing.  In the past two months, I’ve had two tire pressure sensors fail.  The dealer charged me $115 each for the sensors.  And the dealer’s shop manual says it takes an hour to replace one.  I didn’t stand and watch, but I doubt it does.  I’m not sure if that’s the going rate for sensors.  I couldn’t find any OEM sensors, but I found some in the range of what they cost for other cars, around $40 each, and the most expensive one I found outside my dealer’s shop was about $80.  I know tire pressure sensors have been required on new cars for more than a decade, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.  Each one (and a car has four) is a lot more expensive than a tire gauge (and you only need one of those).  Plus, even with the sensors, you still need a tire gauge to tell you whether the tire is actually low on air or if one or more of the sensors is broken.

If the tire pressure sensors on my Nissan truck continue to fail at the rate of one every two months, I’ll be selling it and getting something else before the end of this year.  I hate buying cars and generally keep each one way longer than the average driver does, so if I buy two cars in one year, that will be a record for me.  One a decade is more typical behavior on my part.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

I hope the Mets clinch the National League East pennant today, but will they?

When the Pope said mass before 20 thousand people at Madison Square Garden, how many ushers did they need to pass the collection plates?

Why do I have to tap my cell phone three times to turn it off?  If I could turn it off by mistake with only one tap, I’d need just a second tap, not a third, to turn it back on.

Why does fixing the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) on my Nissan Frontier cost so much more than it would cost to buy a tire gauge?  And, don’t I need the gauge anyway to see if the TPMS is broken or if my tires really are low on air?

Text messaging costs the telephone company almost nothing to provide.  Yet, the phone company charges for it and doesn’t charge for it the way any other company charges for its merchandise and/or services. The phone company the person who receives the messages, not the person who sends them.  If I had to pay to send text messages, it wouldn’t bother me:  paying to receive them does.  As far as I know, this is the only instance in the world where someone who didn’t order something from a private business has to pay for it.  What makes the phone company so special in that regard?

Speaking of the phone company, I got a letter from them telling me I have to call them to make an appointment because they’re changing our whole area over from copper to fiber.  Should it bother me as much as it does that they don’t seem to know they already changed me over to fiber?

Daily News

There’s an old riddle:  What’s black, and white, and read all over?  Because  people who hear, rather than read, it will think red not read, many people who’ve never heard the riddle before don’t come up with the answer which is, a newspaper. Today, thanks to technological advances, newspapers are suffering.  Black, and white,  and red still means a newspaper if the red is the kind of ink most of them buy by the barrel for their accounting departments.  It’s no trade secret that the NY Daily News has been bleeding money for years.  Recent reports say the paper loses more than $20 million a year.  The owner, Mort Zuckerman, has been trying to sell it for quite a while, without attracting a buyer who’ll pay a price he can live with.

Within the past week, the NY Daily News laid off a huge number of its brand-name writers, the people who made the paper what it was.  Sports columnist Mike Lupica has a lucrative contract, but reports say he’s gone as soon as it’s up.  Eight other sports writers including Filip Bondy and Hall of Fame baseball writer Bill Madden are gone.  So is David Hinckley who has covered broadcasting for the paper since I was a broadcaster, music writer Jim Farber and others.  When historians said a Roman legion was decimated, they meant one of ten members was killed.  This is worse than that.

In fact, laid off is really the wrong term for it.  Laid off used to mean that when business got better the company wanted to hire these workers back.  The Daily News has fired the writers who created its personality, most of what its remaining readers  bought the paper for.

I did my little bit to help.  I have it delivered to my house on a daily basis.  My wife still reads it, but I hardly ever do.  Like so many people these days, I get a lot of my news and information from the Internet.  I certainly don’t have an answer for the Daily News.  Even in a city like New York where almost everyone commutes to work on public transportation and people used to read newspapers on the subway, circulation is falling.  People have their noses buried not in a paper, but in a phone, an iPad, some other tablet, or they’re listening to some kind of MP3 player on ear buds.  Ad revenue for newspapers has sunk too because basically all auto, real estate, movie and classified advertising has moved from daily newspapers to the Internet.  A lot of people who used to work at the NY Daily News don’t anymore.  It won’t surprise me and I’ll be sad when it happens, but I think pretty soon nobody will be working at the Daily News and what was once New York’s largest circulation newspaper will be no more. 

Things I Know

If you want to run for Congress in New York, next year, you should probably declare by next month at the latest, in other words, a month before this year’s election.  Why?  Because nominating petitions go out in March and party primaries are in June.  So, the Presidency is no longer the only office you have to start campaigning for prior to the year you hope to be elected.

If you’re 45 minutes late when you call to tell me you’re going to be late, I already know that.

Just one guy’s opinion, but if I had Mavis Staples on my new TV show (and I don’t have her on and don’t have a new TV show or an old one either) I wouldn’t put her on as a cameo and last. I could certainly have her close the show, but if I did that it would be as a featured act and she would get billing.

I enjoyed Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.  I thought the first two nights of his new Late Show on CBS were kind of shaky though.  Too much of what was supposed to be funny wasn’t funny to me.  That’s to be expected.  I think I’ll give him a couple of weeks to settle in before I watch again.

If you answer the phone after one or two rings and nobody is there, it’s a robocaller that guessed wrong on how long it would take you to get to the phone.  When that happens, my warped mind thinks they’re selling quiet.  Since I used to be on the radio, I don’t want any dead air.  My sister is a librarian.  They should call her.  Librarians can always use a little more silence.

Things I Want (Or Need) to Know

According to the website of the NY Daily News: “A 24-year-old mother is in custody after her two young children were found barefoot, dirty and living in a wooden shipping crate in an underground cave on the eastern edge of Kansas City, Mo.”  This is, of course, a terrible way to treat children.  Still, I must have missed something.  What kind of cave isn’t underground?

 Hungary doesn’t want refugees from the Middle East and the refugees just want to pass through to get to Germany. I know you’re supposed to register when you enter an EU country, but still why is Hungary keeping the refugees from leaving?

Every time I buy medicine at my local CVS drug store, they ask me for my date of birth.  Is it too much for me to expect them to send me a birthday card?

Do you know what a TPMS warning light is, or what it’s warning you about?  It’s a system in all late model cars that tells you if the tires are under-inflated.  If it comes on, you should check the tires, inflate them if necessary and get the system serviced.  It doesn’t bother me if you don’t know that, but the one in my truck is on.  It was on for two months and I’ve repeatedly checked the tire pressure.  It’s fine, so I called the dealer.  What bothers me is the woman who answered the phone  in the service depart didn’t know what it is.  The other things that bother me are I had it fixed, two months later, it broke again, and these things cost a lot more than a tire gauge.

Prince William is bald.  Kate isn’t.  Why don’t they make him wear the silly hats?

Have you ever installed a new electric box and found the hole in the drywall was too large for the box to fit snugly? I didn’t do that, but the electrician I hired did, and hid it.  The outlet is seldom used so it’s long past the time when any complaint would seem legitimate.  There are two kinds of electric boxes:  new work boxes are attached to the studs before the wall board or paneling is installed; and old-work boxes fit in a hole in wall and use ears on the outside and little, moveable tabs on the inside of the wall to keep the box in place.  If the hole for a new work box is too big, you can buy an over-sized cover plate.  If the hole for an old-work box is too big, they don’t make a box with bigger ears and tabs.  You have to fix the wallboard.

How do you make the hole for an old-work box too big anyway?  You don’t measure them.  You hold a box up to the wall and trace around it with a pencil.  Then, you cut along the lines.  Maybe that’s why they don’t make an box with big ears and tabs to fix it.

Things I Know

Rowan County KY clerk Kim Davis isn’t having her religious beliefs violated. She is in charge of issuing marriage licenses in that area and says her religious beliefs forbid her to sanction gay marriage. Fine, but the law requires her to issue the licenses, so she should do that or quit her job. If I had a job that required me to work on the Sabbath and my religious beliefs forbade that, I could quit my job. That’s what she should do if that’s what she believes.

GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is going all out to support Ms. Davis, urging her release from jail where she’s being held for contempt of court.  Huckabee says you should obey laws if they’re right.  In the past, civil disobedience meant violating a law you thought unjust and willingly accepting the consequences.  I’m kind of torn,  Should I vote for Huckabee because he thinks we should ignore laws we disagree with and suffer no consequences, or should I vote for anyone but Huckabee because he thinks we should ignore laws we disagree with and suffer no consequences?

No matter what the weather maven on TV is telling you, today is not the last day of summer.  There are still about two weeks left.  Don’t let them rob you of the beach.  If your schedule permits, for instance if you’re not stuck in school, keep going to the beach until the weather is too cool for you.

I should know better than to upgrade iTunes without reading reviews. I hadn’t updated that software in a long time, and this summer, I installed version 12.2.0.145. I like the list view and the ability to sort by any of the columns on display that existed in the version I was using.   I didn’t note what version I was using before. I found how to restore the list view for all my music, but either that view is missing from playlists or I can’t find it. So, I officially hate iTunes version 12.2.0.145. I rolled it back, but not to the exact same version I was using.  Can any of you readers suggest another good program I can use to play music on my computer? I have Media Monkey too and I’m not really happy with it either.

If anyone reads this with any regularity, they know I call my wife Saint Karen because I figure she must be a saint to put up with me. She just walked into the living room and asked me if I put new light bulbs in the range hood over the stove. I told her I had placed my hands on the hood and said, “Heal.” Then I said, “Worship me, or at least put up with me.” She said she could put up with me for a little while longer, so I guess we’re still good.

The lovely Saint Karen and I took a ride out east on Long Island at the end of June and again in August. We went to Montauk and had lunch at Gosman’s Restaurant which is on the west side of the entrance to Lake Montauk. By the way, Lake Montauk isn’t a lake, it’s a harbor. It’s been years since we’ve been there, too many years. The cuisine is simple, fresh and mostly seafood. On our first visit, we had a lovely waitress from Ireland. The check indicated her name is Anna. It’s more expensive than it used to be (lunch for the two of us was $66 plus tax and tip), but on a sunny summer day, there’s really no place I like to be more than sitting outside at Gosman’s under an umbrella, watching boats go in and out of the harbor, and enjoying lunch with my wife.

The problem is that it now takes about three hours on a weekday to drive from where I live to Montauk.  Since it’s Labor Day and still warm, maybe we’ll make another attempt in a week or two.  I know there’s no really good solution to traffic on Long Island’s south fork, but it would help if they widened State Rte 27 to four lanes for a mile or two after it merges with 27A by the diner just east of Southampton Village.  The two roads come together and merge into one two-lane highway.  Big bottleneck!

Last month, Citibank cancelled my Master Card because I hadn’t used it in a long time. Fair enough. No complaint here about that. But, four weeks later, they sent me a mailing inviting me to apply for another Master Card with a special, introductory rate.

I’m Back

This site has been broken for a couple of months and I didn’t have time to fix it because Saint Karen was sick.  If a new reader should happen along, Saint Karen is my wife and I call her that because I figure she has to be a saint to put up with me.  What she had isn’t supposed to be serious, but it is surgery and I certainly took it seriously.  She’s better now and she’s recuperating.  By that I mean the surgical scars have healed and she’s no longer sore, but she does still tire easily.

However, Saint Karen isn’t just more important to me than anything else in my life.  She’s more important to me than everything else in my life.  So, if she needs my attention or care or even if she just wants it, she comes first.  I’m not sure where the Sisyphus Project comes, but it isn’t first and when Saint Karen calls, everything else gets short shrift.   Anyone who doesn’t like that can complain to me.  Once said complaint is received, I promise I will ignore it.

The blog/website isn’t completely fixed yet, but it is now legible and all posts are accessible.  That hasn’t happened in quite a while.  I have managed to restore the ability to post at least some photos, but I still have to work on improving the layout and features of the space.

Things I Know

The Daily News website on Friday announced that Jimmy Fallon was hospitalized after surgery. I’m just guessing here, but he was probably hospitalized for surgery and then remained hospitalized afterward. Get well Jimmy.

I hope this doesn’t happen to you. I installed the Chrome browser on a computer at work. Then I signed in to my personal Google account to gain access to my list of favorites. To be clear, a lot of those favorites have to do with my work. When I was done, I signed out of my Google account and erased my browsing history before closing Chrome, but not uninstalling it, and signing off the computer. Next time I used Chrome on that computer, without signing into my Google account, I was alarmed to see that all of my favorites, not just the business-related ones, were shown in the browser. Don’t know if I did something wrong or if Chrome is programmed to act like that, but it’s something to keep an eye out for.

“It’s a free country, which is why we should take down the flag that says it isn’t.”–Larry Wilmore.

On the other hand, when Apple removed a game from its app store because it contained a Confederate battle flag, I think they went a little overboard because it was a Civil War game. By the way, that flag which is now so controversial was not the official flag of the Confederate States of America. It wasn’t even the battle flag of all the Confederate troops. It was the battle flag for the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, in other words, General Lee’s army.

Here’s a map of all the states I’ve been in, courtesy of maploco.com. I think it’s pretty impressive, considering that I’ve never had a job which required me to travel extensively. I’ve been a couple of miles from Mississippi, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but I didn’t go out of my way to cross those borders just to say I’d been there.


Create Your Own Visited States Map

Oooohhhhhh, What He Said!

I don’t have any problem with President Obama’s appearance on comedian Mark Maron’s podcast. For those who missed it, the President said, “Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”

I don’t have a problem with it because he’s right. It is impolite to call someone that and the fact that it’s impolite, or even the fact that we’ve elected an African American President, and reelected him, doesn’t mean there’s no more racism. Also, please note that while President Obama said an offensive word, he didn’t call anyone that.

I do have a small problem with people who say, “the n-word, the f-word or the s-word.” If we know what all of those things are, why aren’t the substitute phrases just as offensive as actually saying the words? Plus, that structure is illogical. Based on the number of pages starting with each letter in a dictionary, there ought to be two or three times as many s-words as either of the other two, but there is only one of each.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

The late radio commentator Paul Harvey used to observe that people who did terrible things often did so to become famous. Then, he wouldn’t use their names in his radio reports. So, did you see the pictures of the Charleston mass murderer? The one that caught my eye was the scrawny kid wearing a shirt from Gold’s Gym. Since racism and anti-Semitism often go hand in hand, I hope he has learned that Joe Gold, sometimes credited with popularizing body building and the founder of Gold’s Gym, was Jewish.

You have to wonder not what, but whether Joyce Mitchell was thinking. She’s the 51-year-old former employee of New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora NY. Mitchell is charged with aiding two convicted murderers to escape from the 170-year-old prison. What positive outcome could she possibly have envisioned? I’m guessing that if they had gone together to kill her husband, the two escaped murderers would have killed her as well.

You also have to wonder whether the two convicted murderers who escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility are more comfortable hiding out in the woods and scrounging for food over the last two-and-a-half weeks than they would have been if they didn’t escape.

And, if you wonder what Dannemora and the now infamous prison are near, the answer is they aren’t near anything.

In my house, furniture like bookcases and bureaus that you place against, but don’t attach, to the wall wind up with a lot of dust on their backs. But the wall behind the furniture doesn’t have the same problem, or at least doesn’t have it any near as badly as the furniture does. Why? Is there good physics behind that?

Am I being unreasonable? I assume that any company unethical enough to violate the federal no-call law to sell me something will also be unethical in dealing with me if I buy from them.

Have you seen the TV commercials for Liberty Mutual Insurance that are shot near the Statue of Liberty? If so, what’s a torque ratio? I’ve never heard the phrase before.

Optimum cable has a very cute commercial for their multi-room DVR service about an older sister and younger brother signing a formal peace accord. Funny, but obviously fiction.

A security officer was shot and the two gunmen responsible were killed during an incident in Texas a while back at a Muhammad cartoon contest. No question that Muslims are offended by any representation, even a respectful one, of the Prophet. Also no question that in the US the contest was legal. Still, who thought it was a good idea?

Now that Heinz is making mustard, shouldn’t they change it to 58 varieties? Also, now that Heinz makes mustard, I suppose it was inevitable that French’s should make ketchup and they are.

What’s up with major league baseball players and beards? Do any of them look good?

Father’s Day

My father was a remarkable man. He shouldered far more responsibility than most people would want. As the oldest son, he shouldered it beginning when he was 10 years old and his father died. He quit school at the end of eighth grade to support his mother, brothers and sisters. He married pretty late in life and continued to support his mother until she died.

He didn’t complain when his wife spent a great deal of her time and effort caring for her father, even though it meant that they were separated by 30 miles or so for weeks on end. He gave up the job he loved, he was a cop, at my mother’s request and never had another job that was as good. I’m aware of some of the sacrifices he made for my sister and me, but I’m pretty sure I don’t know the half of it. He had an incurable disease and I think he could have survived at least a little longer, but gave up, while he was in the hospital, near the time when his hospitalization insurance expired because he didn’t want to be a burden.

He died when I was 22 years old. He didn’t get to see me or my sister graduate from college, get married or have children. He liked young children a lot better than he liked most adults. He understood that children like whimsy. He would have loved grandchildren and they him. When he was a school bus driver, he’d ask little kids on the bus questions like whether they were married and what kind of job they had, just to make them laugh and relieve their nervousness over this new thing called school.

One memory I have of him is that when we were little if we said he was handsome, he’d insist he was pretty and we’d argue about it until we were laughing.

Because he passed away before I had a family, I never spoke with him about the responsibilities he assumed every day until he died. I couldn’t ask, because I didn’t understand or appreciate them. And because we never had that discussion, I can only speculate about why he did what he did, so I still don’t understand, but I sure as hell appreciate them now. I only hope that he saw himself they way I now see him: a remarkable man.

Things I Know

Donald Trump for president will at least be interesting. I’m actually surprised he declared since he has flirted with running both for the presidency and for NY governor before. Mr. Trump certainly has name recognition, although a lot of it is negative. He may be too brash and too blunt for politics and the way he goes on the attack when anyone criticizes him suggests he may have too thin a skin. For now, I think he has very little chance of getting the nomination, but he has accomplished an awful lot being him, so I’ll wait and see what develops.

All the news from Dannemora NY about two convicted murderers escaping from the Clinton Correctional Facility reminds me of a story. Back when I was a radio reporter a convicted murderer was brought from Dannemora to NY Supreme Court in Riverhead to testify in someone else’s trial. Another radio reporter, not me, I swear, walked up to said murderer, stuck a microphone in his face and sang out a question: “How are things in Dannemora?” He sang it, of course to the tune of the Irish ballad, “How are things in Glocca Mora?” from the Broadway show “Finian’s Rainbow.” I don’t think he got any kind of answer other than a scowl and you can’t show a scowl on the radio, but we all thought it was funny.

Clinton, by the way, at 170 years old, but it is only the third oldest prison still in use in New York State. Auburn and Ossining (popularly known as Sing Sing) are older. The first state prison in New York, Newgate, built in the 18th century, was north of New York city in Greenwich Village, so being sent there was called being sent up the river. Thus the origin of that phrase. Sing Sing was built to replace Newgate, which no longer exists.

From the NY Daily News’ website a while back:

“Thomas Brennan, 25, and his girlfriend face an array of charges in connection with the death of Scott Stephen Bernheisel last month. A man and his girlfriend were arrested Sunday night in connection with the alleged murder of a man whose rotting body was discovered in a leather suitcase near Philadelphia International Airport last month, according to reports.”

They are alleged murderers, but it’s not an alleged murder: The corpse had been bludgeoned and stabbed. I know the first commandment of journalism is, “Though shall always remember the allegedly.” Still, in my opinion, the Daily News overuses the word.

Rachael Dolezal: It would be great if what race we were never mattered, but we’re not really there yet, are we?

I like old cars and occasionally go to local show and shine events. On Friday, driving home from one, I was behind a ’57 Chevy. They don’t build ’em like they used to. Compared with modern cars, the taillights on a shoe-box Chevy are tiny, and dim. Plus, the high-mounted center brake light on newer cars does make a difference. ’57 Chevy convertibles are pretty valuable cars. If I owned one, after what I saw on Friday, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t drive it at night.

Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) sure doesn’t sound like he’s from New England.

Things I Know

Bob Schieffer retired last weekend. He’s 78 and said he wanted to go while he could still do the job. And since he can, he’s moving on to a fellowship at Harvard for the next three semesters. I hope I don’t have to tell you who Bob Schieffer is, but in case I do, he was a reporter, anchor and host of Face the Nation since beginning at CBS in 1969. Did you know how he came to national attention? He was a newspaper reporter in Dallas TX when President Kennedy was killed and it was Schieffer who interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother and drove her to the police station where her son was being held.

We’ve lost a lot of TV programs recently. Chelsea Handler, Craig Ferguson, Don Imus, Dave Letterman, Bob Scheiffer and soon John Stewart. Steven Colbert is gone too, but he’s coming back as Letterman’s replacement. Scheiffer may not have been the most entertaining, but he was the most informative and probably the most informed too.

They’re removing all the padlocks, some 45 tons of them, from the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris. About a decade ago, people started putting locks on the bridge’s railings to symbolize their love. Last year part of the bridge railing collapsed, causing authorities to decide to remove them and to revamp the bridge so they can’t be put back.

When I was in London last year, there were a few padlocks on the Millennium pedestrian bridge across the Thames too. I wondered why they were there, because I hadn’t heard of the Paris tradition. Now, I know.

Former NY governor George Pataki is never going to be President of the United States. He’s never going to be the Republican nominee for President either, despite declaring his candidacy last week.

Donald Trump isn’t either. In fact, Trump has flirted with entering politics as a presidential or gubernatorial candidate enough times that nobody should consider taking him seriously in that regard unless and until he actually does go through the process of officially declaring his candidacy.

Things I Know

My wife’s high school reunion is coming up in August. We’re going. I sent in the check and it cleared. We went to the same high school, two years apart, so unlike some married couples, there will be people I know at her reunion. In fact, there will be women I dated in high school at her reunion. Before the story I often tell about how I met my wife and noticed, by being a volunteer chauffer at a high school play rehearsal, we were introduced (and I didn’t notice) by one of my girlfriends. I like high school reunions, because I get to see some people I liked in high school and, because it’s not high school anymore, I get to like some people I didn’t like in high school too.

There was a very cute and outgoing toddler in the supermarket the other day. I remarked to his mom that all cute little kids had to step up their game thanks to Reilly Curry.

Another example of fail on the part of Amazon.com’s search function, this one particularly egregious: I searched for Samsung blu ray player and sorted it by price, lowest to highest. I wanted a Samsung because I bought a Samsung TV and think the Samsung remote will probably work well with both of them. The first Samsung blu ray player I turned up in that search was on page 255 of 291 pages of search results. I imagine it would have turned up sooner if I sorted by relevance, but I wanted to find the cheapest one and thought that would be an effective way to search. It wasn’t.

I saw a list recently on the Internet that purports to contain the top ten professions for psychopaths. There was no attribution, so I have no idea how accurate it was. However, I have held four of those ten jobs, so maybe it’s right on target.

Things I Know

Ronald Nelson, an 18-year-old high school senior from Tennessee, turned down all eight Ivy League colleges to attend the University of Alabama this fall. Nothing against the Crimson Tide, they do have a great football program, an honors college and their alma mater is the same tune as Cornell’s. Plus, my son and one of my nieces are grads. Still, the reason he said he chose Alabama is he got more financial aid and didn’t want to accumulate a huge student-loan debt. Maybe it was a sensible decision. One that wasn’t: the article I read suggested he applied to at least 14 colleges. That costs a pretty penny too.

Proms have changed a lot since I was a kid. Mine was held in the high school gym. Today, where I live, a prom must be held in a catering hall. I took my date and another couple to the prom in my car. Today, a limo is de rigueur. One school in Connecticut raised the ire of parents and students when it announced it is enforcing a dress code, but announced it a week before the prom, which is long after all the girls have purchased their dresses. The dresses are different too. Many are backless or have slits exposing a leg.

Invitations are different as well. One guy created a fictional crime scene with himself as a corpse and said he was dying to go to the prom with his girl. Another baked his prospective prom date a fancy cake with the word “Prom” on it. One more posted a video of himself skydiving, carrying a sign with the same word. At least the fad of seniors inviting celebrities to the prom seems to have passed its peak of popularity.

I attended high school shortly after the earth cooled and early in my senior year, I experienced a bad break up, so I stopped dating for a while. I wanted to go to prom, so I started again, dating two girls at the same time which was unusual for me. I asked one of them, a junior, to the prom and she said yes, but then called me and told me her parents would not let her go.

So, I asked the other, a sophomore. Did you know that the roots of the word sophomore are Greek and essentially mean wise fool? Neither invitation was elaborate. Both, in fact, were phone calls. When I asked the second girl she said, “Well, it’s about time. How many other girls did you ask before you asked me?” Since she asked, I told her, “Only one.” I have an excuse for my boorish behavior; I was a 17-year-old boy.

I don’t think a senior prom is a life-altering event, but maybe mine was. From that point, I dated my prom date exclusively for seven or eight months. During that time, she introduced me to a classmate who eventually became my wife, Saint Karen, who must be a saint to put up with me. I’ve told a different story about how I met my wife and both are actually true, because when my prom date introduced us, Saint K made no impression on me at all, but when she finally did impress me, the other girl who introduced us was also a friend I met through my prom date.

I bought my wife, Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me), a big TV for the living room. It’s a combination birthday and Mother’s Day present. Every once in a while, her birthday and Mother’s Day coincide, but not this year. Still, I don’t usually buy combo presents. But, it’s a REALLY big and therefore expensive TV. I’m considering mounting the TV on the wall, or buying a piece of furniture to put it on. Since we often watch TV in a reclining chair, the furniture would ideally be tall enough so that it appears above my big feet when I’m reclining in said recliner. If you haven’t tried to find something like that on line, you’d probably be surprised at how hard it is to find out how tall a piece of furniture is on a sellers website. Kudos to Raymour and Flanigan, a big furniture retailer in my area. You can filter their selections using a range of heights and a range of widths too.

Skelos

Newspapers reported over the weekend and this morning that Dean Skelos, indicted Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, would be ousted today from his position of power. This, after Skelos received a vote of confidence from the Senate’s Republican conference just last week.

There is, unfortunately, a lot of history with regard to indicted legislative leaders in New York, and that history suggests that Skelos’ ouster following his indictment was bound to happen. So, one has to wonder why he sought the confidence vote last week, when he had to know he would face the end of his leadership very shortly. The confidence vote just prolonged the agony and the bad publicity.

There are a couple of other things one has to wonder as well. First, why doesn’t the New York State Senate have a rule governing what happens when the Senate Majority Leader is indicted? There should be a rule. Skelos is the fifth Senate Majority Leader in a row to be indcited while in office. And, second, since five New York State Senate Majority Leaders in a row have been indicted, why would anyone want to succeed Skelos? Why are at least two people vying for the position?

Things I Know

According to several newspaper reports about the soon to be released documentary “I Am Big Bird,” Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who plays Big Bird, was supposed to be on the Challenger space shuttle that exploded killing its entire crew back in 1986. Some PR genius thought it would spark children’s interest in the US space program if Big Bird flew on the Challenger. It was only after NASA determined that the costume would not fit on the shuttle that the idea was dropped and Spinney’s place was taken by teacher Christa McAuliffe. The Challenger explosion was a disastrous setback for the space program and a tragedy for those killed and their families. Not to diminish the impact of those deaths in any way, but can you imagine the space program even continuing if millions of kindergarten kids had watched Big Bird explode, live on TV? Sometimes a PR stunt that would be good if it worked would be so bad if it failed that it just shouldn’t be considered at all.

I want to buy my wife a new TV for her birthday, but figuring out which one isn’t easy.

When I’m in the market for a hat to keep the sun off my head and face, as I am now, I’d like to know how wide the brim is and what kind of sweatband it has. Both of those things are missing from the description of most hats I see on line. I want to know about the sweatband because if it’s stiff, wearing the hat for a while will give me a headache.

Honestly people, go to the DMV, get the driver’s license booklet and review the correct way to make a left turn. If you’re in the left lane when you start your turn, you’re supposed to be in the left lane when you finish. Similarly, if you’re in the right lane when you start, you should be in the right lane when you’ve finished. If you didn’t do that on your driver’s test, that’s why you flunked.

Yesterday, I was at the intersection of two four-lane roads. The one I was on had two left-turn lanes. I was in the right-most of the two because I wanted to get all the way over to the right soon after turning. The SUV to my left made its left-hand turn across four lanes of traffic, cutting me off and all without signaling! What’s more common and what I experienced earlier in the week, was someone making a right turn across three lanes of traffic and winding up in the left lane. Again, cutting me off as I tried to make a left at the same intersection, but headed in the other direction.

Most people do this wrong. It’s wrong because the intersection can handle cars heading in opposite directions turning at the same time if it’s done correctly. But it’s done wrong many more times than it’s done correctly. In fact, I assume (and you should too) that all drivers are going to make these turns much wider than they’re supposed to. If you assume everyone is going to do it wrong, you’ll save a lot of money on collision insurance.

Things I Know

It didn’t occur to me until I saw a picture of the US Capitol being used as a backdrop on the news set at CNN, but there’s scaffolding all around the Capitol Dome and CNN hasn’t bothered to use an up to date picture. Since I noticed that, I’ve seen a lot of other articles in print and on the Internet use an older picture, sans scaffolding. The scaffolding is there because the dome is undergoing a multi-million dollar restoration that will be completed sometime next year.

My lawnmower has an electric starter with a rechargeable battery. The battery has worn out, so I opened the case to get a part number. On the battery it says BP3-12. I trotted off to the Toro dealer to buy a new one and he said he couldn’t tell what battery it needed unless I knew the model number of the mower. I don’t know where on the mower that’s hidden, but I do know it’s hidden. So, I went on line and found any number of replacement batteries based on the number printed on the battery. Instead of installing a new battery this afternoon, I have to wait till it’s delivered on Friday.

I understand that manufacturers use parts created by subcontractors, but they ought to be able to provide a replacement part based on the part itself, rather than the piece of equipment the part belongs to. I had a similar problem with an Andersen window. Took the sash balance into an Andersen dealer who told me he needed the sash, not the part. Again, I was able to order it on line based on the part.

I understand needing the VIN on a car (not VIN number, the n stands for number). Cars have lots of options and sometimes changes occur during a model year. But you ought to be able to find a replacement part for a lawn mower or a window if you have the part. You can too, you just can’t get it from a dealer.

The Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre NY has a religious TV channel called Telecare that can be found on channel 29 of my cable system. The other day, while switching from TLC to HGTV, I came across what is probably the single most boring show on TV. They had a priest reciting the rosary. I have nothing against praying, but I don’t think someone reciting the rosary is compelling television.

A 26-year-old guy from Oregon communicated on-line for two years with a 24-yaer-old Alabama woman, then moved across country to meet her for the first time and live with her. She led him outside, had him sit at a table and close his eyes, then fractured his skull with a baseball bat. She said she did it because she didn’t want to be his girlfriend.

When I was in high school, I dated a girl once or twice. I liked her, but apparently it wasn’t mutual, so when I called for a date, she had her mom tell me that she’d gone to some exotic locale with her airline-pilot father for the weekend. This happened several times before I caught on.

Either of these women could have just said no. I know I would have accepted that and I suspect the poor guy from Oregon with the fractured skull would have too.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West made Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. So, either it’s not a very serious list, or God help us it is. Which?

What happened to all-night diners. Years ago, they were ubiquitous around here. But I gave my daughter a ride to the airport in the predawn hours this morning and all the diners I encountered were closed at 5:00 AM. One of them still hadn’t opened at 6:00.

The Transportation Safety Administration announced recently that they collected $675,000 in loose change from people who forgot to pick it up or deliberately left it when they went through security at airports policed by the TSA. I have a jar on my dresser that contains my loose change. When it’s full it has about $200 in it. What size change jar does the TSA have on its dresser if it holds more than half a million dollars?

Would the world in general be a better or a worse place if when anyone lied their pants actually did catch on fire?

If polling companies are going to use computers to telephone me and conduct opinion surveys, is there a computer program I can get to answer them? Until I find out, I’ll just hang up. Also, is there a way I can get telephone pollsters to stop calling me? Some of them are really salesmen and even if they’re not, I don’t want to talk to them either.

I wonder if anyone in the world follows the oil-change recommendation on a 4 cylinder, 2008 Nissan Frontier pickup. The owner’s manual specifies 3,750 miles. Who can remember that? I do 4,000, but oil-change intervals are getting longer. I could probably easily get away with 5,000 and either four or five is a lot easier to remember than 3,750.

Why are green seedless grapes almost always more expensive than the red ones?

I’ve seen it several places, so I can’t attribute it, but it’s an important enough question I thought I’d repeat it here. If Apple or Google does create an autonomous, or self-driving automobile, will it have windows?

Things I Know

Editing just isn’t what it used to be. On its website this morning, the NY Daily News describes the Arizona cop who hit an armed felon with his patrol car as “a former NYPD veteran.” I guess the article cleared the redundancy desk at the paper, but got lost between there and the copy desk.

As you may have sumarized based on the occasional mistake I make, this website doesn’t have a copy editor, but I hope the Daily News still does. If you send me too much money, I promise I’ll use some of it to hire one.

I have to assume that Bruce Jenner wants his personal life all over TV and supermarket tabloid rags, because if he’d like to keep his private life private, he’s doing it wrong.

Northeastern University in Boston needs to find a bigger venue for its graduation ceremonies. When my nephew graduates on May 8th, he only gets four tickets for family and friends. So if a graduate has even one sibling and his mother and father have both remarried, all of their immediate family can’t see their achievement celebrated in person. On the other hand, I don’t really need an excuse to visit Boston for a weekend. I can do that anytime I want. And this proud uncle doesn’t have to sit through another two-and-a-half hours of boring speeches. There is that.

Brits are right. Americans should call soccer “football” and find another name for American football. “Running into people” is too long for a name, but I’m sure the NFL could come up with something, maybe even something starting with “F” so they don’t have to change their initials as well. After all, kicking is a very small part of American football and an integral part of what we call soccer.

There’s an ugly statue of the late TV star Lucille Ball in her hometown in upstate New York. Citizens of the town are correct that it doesn’t look anything like her. There’s a campaign on to replace it or to at least replace the head. But why now? The statue has been there for six years.

I stumbled across a website that discusses the meaning of people’s names. It said that the name Thomas means twin. My daughter said she already knew that, but what she couldn’t find is a name that means other twin. So, she thinks if you have male twins they should both be named Thomas.

Things I Know

Happy Passover to my Jewish friends and Happy Easter to my Christian friends. If you celebrate something else at this time of year, I hope you enjoy that too. In fact, I hope you enjoy them whether we’re friends or not.

With all the controversy lately, especially in Arkansas and Indiana, over how to protect a mythical baker from providing a wedding cake to Adam and Steve, there’s one thing I don’t believe anyone has mentioned. As far as I know, baking a cake doesn’t violate anyone’s religious beliefs except possibly if you’re Jewish and it’s Passover.

You’ve no doubt heard the expression, “Dirt cheap.” Lately, not so much. Amazon.com informed me recently that I can buy from them a 15-pound bag of earthworm castings (that’s worm manure to you Bunkie) for roughly $20 including shipping. I think I’ll pass.

l can’t help doing math in my head. Sometimes, this makes me notice something almost nobody else would notice. I was browsing on line to find a place I can rent next March so I can go to baseball Spring Training. One place I located rented for $149 a night or $1,100 a week. Since 9 times 7 is 63, I know the answer has to end in 3, but the question is how much am I saving at $1,100 a week? Nothing. A week costs $57 extra although I have no idea why. Seven times $149 is $1,043. Don’t think I’ll rent that one.

The warranty on any car you own is longer for certain pollution controls and safety items than it is for other things. The check engine light was aglow on my truck and after pulling the code, I took it to the dealer because it was part of the emission system. I had to sit around an uncomfortable waiting room for over three hours, but the repair was free.

In case the New York International Auto Show was expecting me today (I go almost every year, usually on opening day), I’m still coming, but the easiest way for me to get from Penn Station to the Javits Center is to walk and it’s supposed to rain. Expect me Monday when it’s not supposed to rain instead.

And speaking of rain, if April showers bring May flowers, by the end of next week, we should be ready for more flowers than you can shake a stick at. I’m not 100 percent sold on the idea that April showers do bring May flowers anyway. In my experience, April showers tend to bring mildew and black mold.

Things I Know

On this, the last day of the month, I would certainly like to see the lamb that March is supposed to go out like. But snow is predicted today in some parts of the NY Metropolitan area.

I don’t think it’s too late to snow around here once Spring rolls around because I remember it did snow during the Mets’ home opener in 1996. I should know. My daughter and I were there and we left in the second inning.

The controversy over Indiana’s new religious freedom law baffles me. Mr. or Ms. Baker, gay couple doesn’t want you to marry either one of them, they just want you to make them a cake and they’ll pay for it too. So, don’t get hitched to either of them if you don’t want to, but if you’re business is selling cakes to the public, gay people are public too.

My to do list has some things on it that are going on five years old. So, today, I’m starting a don’t do list, if I get around to it.

I hope you had a happy St. Patrick’s Day. Did you try my recipe for Irish coffee? I have it black with no coffee.

I just streamed the movie “Mr. Sherman and Peabody” on Netflix. In case you’re wondering, Mr. Peabody’s first name is Hector. It was never mentioned in the cartoons or in the movie, but it was revealed once in a promo.

Rumer Willis, Charlotte McKinney, and Michael Sam are on the new season of the TV show Dancing With the Stars, but they haven’t changed the name of the show to eliminate the word “stars.” I don’t watch it, so I don’t know if any of them have been voted off yet.

After all the negative publicity (and all the former-ness) former Congressman Anthony Weiner achieved from texting a woman named Sydney Leathers a while back, you’d think that no politician would ever contact Ms. Leathers over the Internet again. You’d be wrong about that. Just ask Indiana State Representative Justin Moed, otherwise known to Ms. Leathers as “bitchboy.”

I think Winthrop University Hospital is a bad name for a good hospital because the hospital isn’t affiliated with Winthrop University, but rather with Stony Brook University. I couldn’t find it on their website, but I presume the “Winthrop” part is the name of someone who donated a considerable amount of money toward the hospital. While the school has been around since the 1860’s, in the hospital’s defense, the school changed its name to “Winthrop University” in 1992, after the hospital assumed its present name. So, there is that.

You’re not supposed to make cell phone calls while driving, unless hands-free (the calls not the driving), I know that. But you’re not supposed to park in the right-turn lane at the exit to Home Depot to make a phone call either, even if you put your flashers on.

In most villages in New York State, the real property tax assessment roll becomes final tomorrow. That’s an April Fool’s joke if I ever heard one.

Things I Know

Amazon.com’s recommendation algorithm never ceases to amaze me. You’d be amazed too if, like me, you had purchased AC Delco 24ACD Clear Vision Wiper Blade with Wear Indicator. I usually run down to the auto parts store for those, but they were on sale. Since I bought them, among many odd things, Amazon.com has suggested that because I did, I should also purchase toilet paper (several brands), moisturizer, cleaning wipes, and gummi bears, among other things. Some of them I can understand if the algorithm picked up the word “wiper” without any context, but some of the ones I haven’t written down are beyond my comprehension.

While listening to the Moth Podcast, I learned that there is such a thing as the Astronaut Hall of Fame. It seems unnecessary to me because I think they should all be in it.

Lesson in writing from the NY Daily News website on recently: “An overweight arsonist who said his clothes were allegedly stolen at Riker’s Island is headed to prison after being sentenced Monday.” The first commandment of journalism is, “Thou should always remember the allegedly,” however, here, it’s unnecessary. As long as the man actually said that, “alleged” is redundant. I, on the other hand, tend to over-use parenthetical phrases.

Department of all-too-common mispronunciations: it’s pundit, not pundint; there’s only one a in masonry; repeat after me – – double-u, not dubba-ya; there are two c’s in Arctic and Antarctic and there are also two t’s in Antarctic; jewelry, not jew-la-ry; and of course nuclear isn’t Nuc-U-lar either. I’ve given up on February because Feb-U-Ary has been going on for so long that it’s now considered a second acceptable pronunciation. The NBC Handbook of Pronunciation has been out of print for decades, but you can still find one, even a new one. Surprisingly, right now on Amazon, a new one in paperback is much more expensive than a new one in hard cover.

And as long as I’m examining pedantry in a pedantic manner, MS Word’s spell checker thinks Antarctic should be capitalized, but doesn’t particularly care if I capitalize Arctic.

The popularity of streaming services, downloadable MP3 files and file sharing have reduced the market for music CD’s. If anyone’s wondering whether streaming has or will substantially reduce the market for movies on DVD, just check the catalogue of Oscar winner Julianne Moore. Hardly an overnight success, Ms. Moore has been in lots of movies. a few aren’t even available as DVD’s, but very few are available to stream on Netflix. So, there’s still a big market for DVD’s, especially since lots of people would rather watch a movie at home than go to a theater to see one.

I don’t usually sign Internet petitions, but I signed this one.

I suppose some Presidents’ Day sales offered substantial savings, but we only got $30 off the new sofa we bought. I’m happy for my wife though. She was satisfied with a sofa we saw at the first store we stopped in. Usually, she has to visit multiple stores before making up her mind.

I was unable to add a date to a photo I put up on Facebook because the photo is older than I am.

Disillusionment has set in because I learned that most of Munich Germany’s famous Oktoberfest is in September. Since I spelled October the German way, I would spell September the German way too, except September is both the English and the German way, although it’s pronounced differently in the two languages. Of course, March Madness lasts well into April, so I guess there’s a precedent of sorts.

I’ve been saying for years that if I should win one of those big lotteries, you know, Powerball or Mega Millions, I’d jump on the bed. I found out watching Nancy Giles’ CBS Sunday Morning report last month that there are people at a mattress factory in San Francisco who are actually paid to do that. I don’t know about you, but being paid to do it would take a lot of fun out of it for me.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

Today is the seventh anniversary of the Sisyphus Project. I haven’t had anything profound to say in the last seven years, so why should I start now?

Another incidence of who do they think they’re marketing to. Expedia ran a commercial on Valentine’s Day showing lots of couples kissing. The ad went on to say that if you booked a room through Expedia.com on Valentine’s Day, they’d give you $50 off. My problem with the ad? The soundtrack is “This Is the Night For Love” by the Valiants. The song is 56 years old! What demographic are they trying to reach here?

I have the same complaint about the Bank of America’s current TV commercial which uses “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton as a sound bed. Exactly what demographic are they marketing to?

Cho Hyun-ah, granddaughter of the founder of Korean Air and a vice president of the company, was sentenced in Seoul to a year in prison because of an incident at Kennedy Airport last December. You may remember news reports that she threw a tantrum when she was served macadamia nuts in a bag rather than a dish, confronting the cabin crew and ordering the plane to return to the gate to throw one crew member off the plane. According to a NY Post article attributed to the Associated Press, “The court said Cho was guilty of forcing a flight to change its route, obstructing the flight’s captain in the performance of his duties and forcing a crew member off a plane.” I don’t think what she did was right, but I do wonder how she gets to go to jail in South Korea over something she did in New York.

Do you have a memory foam mattress? If so, do you know what memory foam remembers? I know I don’t. Nancy Giles asked that question recently on CBS Sunday Morning and I wished so fervently that I had thought of it, I brought it to you to see if we can solve the mystery together. If I thought for a moment that memory foam mattresses were digital, I’d ask what kind of memory they had, and how many MB, but I don’t.

Things I Know

If you’re off TV for six months, network executives expect the audience to forget you. I’d be more surprised than ever if Brian Williams returns to TV in his former role as sole anchor of the NBC Nightly News after his six-month suspension is up in August.

Otto Von Bismark, the first Chancellor of Germany in the late 19th century, once said, “Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made,” except, of course he said it in German. Still, I was in a market the other day that was selling sausage at $13.99 a pound and I do wonder what the hell is in that.

I’ve arrived at a new way to think of one of my pet peeves, the phrase “Very unique.” To repeat myself, unique doesn’t mean rare, it means only. So, if something is unique means there’s only one, then it follows that if something is very unique it doesn’t exist at all.

If your mechanic gets a Ferrari before you do, it’s time for a new mechanic.

Montana State Representative David Moore of Missoula made national news when he tried to get the state of Montana to outlaw yoga pants, claiming they’re too revealing. His effort failed and Matt Lauer on the Today Show said it was kind of a stretch.

An editorial in the Long Island newspaper Newsday called recently to make the New York State Legislature full-time, increase legislators salary and bar outside income as a way to fight corruption. New York State legislators salaries were last raised in the 1990’s and something needs to be done to fight corruption. Since former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was criminally charged, former Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (a Democrat) was convicted of trying to bribe his way into being the Republican candidate for Mayor of New York. Still, Newsday’s editorial board should know, but didn’t mention, that giving the New York State Legislature a raise can only be done for the next session. In other words, legislators elected last year can raise the salaries of legislators elected in 2016, but not before that. New York’s state constitution mandates that, so while it could be changed, a constitutional amendment can only pass the legislature in two consecutive sessions. Therefore, amending the State Constitution to give legislators a raise or to bar them from making outside income, would take longer.

You may have read newspaper or Internet reports or heard on TV or radio that a house trailer in Amagansett, Long Island, is for sale for $1.1 million. That’s misleading, deliberately misleading in my view. What’s for sale is the land the trailer sits on which is roughly .4 acres. The land is worth what a buildable lot in Amagansett close to the ocean is worth. It’s worth that, plus what it costs to remove the trailer. You can build a 4,000-square-foot house on that parcel. If you want the trailer, and who would, you can probably have it for free as long as you get it off the lot.

My shoulders hurt, as usual. I was wondering if I could blame the nuns I had in Catholic grade school instead of myself, but I decided not. First, they hit me with a ruler on the hands, not on the shoulders and second, I was talking.

He never worked under just one name, as some other singers have, but if you look up the name “Waylon” in Google, you get over seven million hits. The first nine, and lots of the rest, refer to Waylon Jennings. In case you didn’t know, Waylon was a protégé of Buddy Holly and was on the Winter Dance Party tour with Buddy in February 1959. Buddy and Waylon chartered a light plane from Clear Lake, Iowa to the next tour stop. Waylon agreed to give up his seat on the plane to J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper). Buddy told Waylon he hoped he would freeze on the tour bus and Waylon told Buddy that he hoped the plane crashed. It did, in the pre-dawn hours of February 3rd, killing Buddy, J.P. and Richie Valens as well as their pilot. Years later, Don McLean wrote a song about it and called it “The Day the Music Died.” Because of his off-handed remark, Waylon felt responsible for the crash for years. He even gave up performing for a while because of it.

The Life of Brian

George Washington probably did lie from time to time. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he never chopped down the famous cherry tree or any other. But, when George was alive, there was no Internet and there were no cell-phone video cameras.

Brian Williams, anchor of the most popular network newscast for the past ten years, “misremembered” his role in flying around in helicopters in a war zone in 2003. Then he repeated what he misremembered multiple times, in public and on TV. If you are a television news anchor, you are selling a few things. The most important of these (in no particular order) are your good looks, the personality you project on TV, your ability to read out loud in a pleasant speaking voice and your credibility. Can you misremember something? Sure particularly if the something you misremember is insignificant to you. I am unsure if my wife and I attended a wedding for the woman I took to my senior prom or whether we attended a wedding of another high school friend and that prom date was a bridesmaid. If I were shot down in a helicopter though, I’m pretty sure I would remember that, accurately.

One lie diminishes Brian’s credibility. Now, everyone in the media is out looking for other lies he might have told and several media outlets claim to have discovered some. And of the some, a subset seems significant. Did Brian Williams misremember or lie about whether he rescued one puppy or two from a fire? Who cares? Did he have to be rescued from possible gang attack in a stairwell of the hotel he stayed in during Hurricane Katrina? Did he see a corpse float by the same hotel? If they didn’t happen, did he report those things on TV? Those things reflect on whether he’s a good reporter or a good story teller. We know he’s a good story teller. He’s been a charming guest on the Late Show and the Tonight Show. A good story teller has to be entertaining, but to be a good reporter, we have to be sure we can believe him.

So on Saturday, he said he had decided to remove himself from his newscast for a few days. I have no personal knowledge of this, of course, but if he did decide, I suspect it was at the suggestion of his superiors at NBC News, NBC, or even its parent company, Comcast. When that kind of suggestion comes down, there’s always the possibility that if you don’t do what’s suggested, said suggestion will be imposed upon you. If Brian’s self-imposed hiatus lasts more than “a few days” I won’t be surprised.

Have the ratings tanked in the few days since the controversy erupted? Will ratings fall off this week with Lester Holt in the anchor seat? Is there anybody else on the horizon who could quickly take Brian Williams’ place? How much money would it cost the company to keep him, vs. how much it would cost to eat his recently signed multi-million contract is a big consideration. You can also be sure lawyers for the company and for Williams are looking into how much they would have to pay him to go away.

Do I think the few days Brian Williams will be away from the anchor chair at the NBC Nightly News will be more than a few days? Yes. In fact, even if he does comeback, I believe there’s a good likelihood that he won’t continue in his current role for very long afterwards. A lot of prominent media analysts are calling on him to resign. I’m not a prominent media analyst so nobody has consulted me on the matter.

Things I Know

I neglected to mention this earlier, so pardon me, but the Sisyphus Project is copyright 2015, as well as 2008-2014.

It also contains material that may be unsuitable for adults or other people with a modicum of maturity. I should probably have warned you about that years ago.

I want to like Comedy Central’s new Nightly Show with Larry Wllmore, but whether it’s a live audience or a laugh track, they find it a lot funnier than I do.

If you are responsible for making the payments on more than one student loan through Navient, the company’s bill collector tells me it cannot split a payment. If you’re on the hook for four years of loans, and using your bank’s on-line bill pay feature, I’m told you have to send four separate payments. I berated their computer programmers and suggested they switch to Quicken, which can handle split payments. BTW, four years ago, Navient’s predecessor, Sallie Mae, could handle split payments. Progress, I guess.

Sheldon Silver is out as Speaker of the NY State Assembly and Governor Cuomo was “shocked” to learn of the charges of corruption against him. There have been questions and rumors about Speaker Silver’s possible ethical lapses and involvement in outside law firms for years. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara now says he has proof Silver accepted bribes and kickbacks. It remains to be seen whether Bharara’s proof will stand up in court, but Governor Cuomo being shocked reminds me of Captain Renault in the movie “Casablanca” being shocked that there was gambling going on in Rick’s Place.

If the reports I’ve read about the terrible train accident in Valhalla NY a week ago on Tuesday night that killed six people are true, it was entirely avoidable, and having not been avoided, the woman driver whose car the train plowed into could at least have saved herself. First, you can drive over railroad tracks, but you should never drive on to them. In other words, don’t get on the railroad tracks if you can’t proceed across the tracks without stopping. Second, if you do get stuck on railroad tracks and there is a train coming, you exit your car and run toward the train. Why? Because when the train hits your car, both the train and the car will hurl in the direction the train is going. If you run to where the train just was, at least you won’t get hit by flying debris from the collision.

In addition to the Super Bowl, Sunday’s TV programs included the Puppy Bowl, the Kitten Bowl, the Lingerie Bowl, and the Fish Bowl. My next genius idea for TV programming is the Cereal Bowl. I figure we’ll have a bowl of corn flakes getting soggy and a bowl of Rice Krispies making that noise compete against each other.

The recorded voice on the phone said, “Hello. This is not a sales call.” I can’t tell you what kind of call it was though, because that’s when I hung up.

If you are a telemarketer or a survey operator, it’s bad enough from my perspective that you’re calling me at all, but when you call, at least be prepared to talk to me. If I say to you, “You called me. Talk,” you’d better have something I want to hear and say it fast or I’ll hang up.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses ever proselytize at the homes of other Jehovah’s Witnesses by mistake?

If you get a blood transfusion, do you have to bring them some orange juice, so they’ll have it to give to the people who are donating blood?

Have you seen those commercials on TV where the car salesman tells you that if you have $200 and a job, he can put you in a new car? I’m not picking on one dealer. Lots of them do it. They do it with loans that may last longer than the car does. Subprime car loans are an increasing problem that may eventually bite the economy in the ass in much the same way the subprime mortgage crisis did back in 2008. If you have a job and only $200, you don’t belong in a new car, unless it belongs to someone else.

Over the weekend, my wife was making lunch and she asked if I wanted some bacon. I found myself wondering if there are really multiple answers to that question.

I know they’re all repeats because Tommy passed away late last year, but Click and Clack on NPR’s “Car Talk” asked an interesting question recently: Have you ever seen a UPS truck legally parked? I know I haven’t.

I’m not adding to my collection of CD’s as fast as I once did, but I got four or five new ones for Christmas and when I went to put them away, my CD storage was full, again. Every time I go to Ikea to buy something else to hold them, the store has discontinued the last thing I bought. In this case, it was an inexpensive wall-mounted metal rack. You can still find them on Ebay, but if you want them, you’ll pay about ten times what Ikea used to charge for them. If demand exceeds supply by that much, why did Ikea stop making them? I think the next time I want a CD cabinet, I’m going to have to make it myself. One made of wood will be heavy enough that I should probably mount it to the wall using French cleats.

I’ve been listening to a lot of old time radio. You’d be surprised how many of the radio dramas from the thirties to the fifties are available for free as MP3 downloads. One thing strikes me. A lot of people on those shows spoke English in a way different from what you and I are used to hearing. It’s an accent closer to British English than anything I hear today. Did a large group of people actually speak like that, or was it something they affected to be on the radio?

Corruption in New York

You don’t want ANY U.S. Attorney crawling up your ass. You especially don’t want the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York there. The Southern District of New York is one of the highest profile posts in the U.S. Justice Department. Slouches don’t get sent there. And’ it’s Preet Bharara, not Preet Bahara. It’s an Indian name and it isn’t that hard to pronounce. Seriously.

New York State government, especially the state legislature, has a problem with corruption–a big problem. I hope I didn’t miss any but as far as I can recall, six members of the New York State Legislature have been formally charged crimes having to do with corruption in the last six years. The latest is Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly. Silver has reportedly submitted his resignation as Speaker effective tomorrow after more than 20 years on the job, because of the charges against him. He has been accused of accepting millions of dollars from law firms, doing no legal work for the money, and using his public position to benefit the law firm and himself. In other words, bribes and kickbacks. He’s 70 and, if convicted, he could be spending the rest of his life in jail. He’s also one of the three most powerful political office holders in the State of New York, so if he tries to swing a deal, who knows who else he could bring down.

In addition to Silver, I can also think of three other former Assembly Speakers in New York and one Senate Majority Leader who have been charged with crimes, Perry Duryea wasn’t convicted, and neither was Stanley Steingut. Mel Miller was convicted of something that had nothing to do with his Speakership. Across the aisle in the State Senate, Joe Bruno was first convicted, then the law was thrown out by the US Supreme Court, then he was tried again and acquitted, but it cost him millions of dollars. Then it cost the taxpayers of New York over two million because the people reimbursed that much of his legal expenses. In New York in my lifetime, we’ve also had Governor Eliot Spitzer and his prostitute. And then there was Sol Wachtler, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals who did 15 months in jail because of threats he made toward a former lover.

The New York State Legislature doesn’t work like most representative bodies. It is controlled almost 100 percent by the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader. State budget negotiations in New York don’t involve committees of both houses. They involve the “three men in a room” that Bharara referred to in his news conference. The Governor and the leaders of both houses take care of it personally and the two houses of the legislature go along with their leaders or they are disciplined.

A lot of people have been calling New York the most corrupt state in the nation. It could very well be. I don’t follow politics in other states and as far as I know, in recent experience, Illinois only had a governor who tried to sell a US Senate seat after President Obama was elected back in 2008.

I’ve spent my career as an appointed, not elected public official, but to be elected or appointed where I live, you have to be active in politics. I’ve never been in a high enough echelon to encounter any of the corruption we’ve all been reading about lately, but I guess I am a politician and I think it’s not a perfect system. There’s more than one thing that needs to change, but corruption is at or near the top of the list.

My father-in-law used to say often and loudly that, “All politicians are crooks.” That’s not true. A lot of them are really trying to improve society and a lot of them are also in it for power rather than money. I finally got fed up with with my father-in-law and told him that he was welcomed to think whatever he wanted to think, but if he said all politicians are crooks again in my house, he would not be welcomed in my house anymore. Still, it often seems as if the old joke about car dealers applies here. The dishonest ones are giving the other five percent a bad name. It’s been my contention that the American public gets much better government than it deserves or has any right to expect, considering the low level of public interest and participation.

When U.S. Attorney Bharara announced the charges against Sheldon Silver, he advised the public to “stay tuned” for further developments. Since he implied more is coming, if you’re a corrupt politician in Albany, my advice to you isn’t to stay tuned, it is to quake in your boots.

Things I Know

I have a part-time job. Most part-time jobs are a few hours a week. Mine is a few weeks a year, and a few hours from time to time otherwise. I just finished the few weeks a year, so I’m back.

Ernie Banks has passed away. Mr. Cub was the embodiment of those things we’d like to believe are right about baseball. In his honor, let’s play two.

Bullying is pretty much constantly in the news these days. Out of curiosity, I recently Googled the guy who bullied me in high school. One day, for no apparent reason, he chased me through the halls of the school. When I got around a corner, I stopped and when he rounded the same corner, he found me with my hands clenched together. He was running full-speed ahead when I hit him hard in the stomach, as if I were batting right handed. He didn’t bother me a lot after that. Unless there are two of him (and his last name is unusual), he couldn’t attend his class’s 10th high school reunion because he was doing time for selling a little marijuana–two tons of it!

My car insurance covers damage to rental cars. So does the insurance most people carry on their own cars. The only reason I can think of why you would want to buy the insurance they sell at the car rental counter is if you intended to trash the car. Last time someone asked me if I wanted to buy rental car insurance, I told the woman that if I bought it, I’d really, REALLY use it.

It’s really kind of frightening how little privacy there is in the world. Every once in a while, I try to locate someone I knew in the past. I recently located the second girl I ever dated. Women are harder to find than men, because most of them still change their last names when and if they marry. Not to narrow it down too much, Shirley is married and lives in Connecticut. I’m just proving something to myself and I’m not going to look her up. If I were ever to run into her, my only thought is I’d say I was sorry for acting like a jerk in the way I broke up with her. My only defense for acting like a jerk then is (and you have to admit it is a good defense) I was a 15-year-old boy.

A recent survey by the Oklahoma State University department of agricultural economics found that more than 80% of respondents favor a government-required label on all food containing DNA. Every living thing contains DNA. I’m telling you this because based on the result of that survey, a lot of people don’t know it.

I like the Barrett-Jackson collector car auctions. I try to watch them when televised and I’ve even been to one a few years ago. Since Speed Channel went out of business, I don’t like the TV show as much as I used to. First, having different parts of it on different channels is a pain, especially when I don’t receive all the channels. I’ve always thought it could be a better TV show if they had a few features about special cars, but they’re more likely to highlight bidders than delve deeply into a car. And recent trends toward emphasizing social media and hiring people who don’t know much about the cars for the telecast are bad. I don’t have any research to prove this, but I think people who watch this on TV are mostly interested in the cars.

You can’t tell it from shopping where I live, but you can still buy Lifesavers roll candy. Around here, they only sell the pouches of big, individually wrapped Lifesavers. If you want the rolls, you may have to order them on line.

I am not one of the 100,000,000 Americans suffering from . . .whatever: I’m one of the 300,000,000 Americans suffering from robocalls.

Woe’s Tale

Sad on-line shopping tale. I’m a photographer. A hobbyist, not a pro, but I have almost enough equipment to make a pro think I’m a pro too. One more lens and one more speedlite ought to do it. The other body I have my eye on will probably overdo it. If I ever win a big lottery, I’ll buy Canon lenses until the money runs out. And I’ll hire someone to carry all this stuff for me too.

So, I ordered a small quantity of drawstring bags on line. I want them to hold and protect things like spare camera batteries, the battery charger and wireless flash triggers. The bags come from China. It took the vendor seven weeks to ship me the wrong ones, too small and too thin for my purpose, but at least they shipped nine times as many as I ordered. There is that. It took three weeks and two email exchanges to get them to agree to ship what I actually ordered. Since the mistake was not mine, I asked for expedited shipping. They didn’t say no, but they didn’t do it either. They said expect them in six weeks. Shipping costs more than the bags, so they don’t want the wrong ones back. That would be cool except I have no use for what they’ve already sent me. Six and three and seven equal sixteen, don’t they? Three-and-a-half months for some little bags. I hope I still like to take pictures by the time they get here.

Things I Know

I don’t want to be Debbie Downer here, but if you file quarterly estimated federal income taxes, today is the deadline for your fourth quarter filing. I’ve already mailed mine. Have you?

We visited the Library of Congress in Washington DC over the weekend to see the copy of the Magna Carta from Lincoln Cathedral on display. This is one of the four copies dating from 1215 known to still exist. It’s amazing to see a written document, 800 years old. It’s displayed to protect it, but the way it’s displayed makes it hard to read and hard to photograph. Can’t read it anyway. It’s in Latin and the writing is surprisingly small.
The Jefferson Building of the Library is amazingly ornate and beautiful. It also hosted an exhibit on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was extremely informative as well. The Magna Carta exhibit closes on January 19th.

Sunday, January 11th, was a day when some New Yorkers took to the subway, wearing no pants. They did wear underwear, just no pants. I’ve been living for two weeks in this climate with no winter coat, making do with layers and a windbreaker. If I were going to ride the New York City subway sans pants, I’d pick a much warmer day for it.

I’ve never met the writer Larry Doyle. Among other things, he used to write a blog in Huffington Post, but I don’t read the Huffington Post regularly. I came across one piece of his work on a recent rebroadcast of the NPR show, “This American Life.” The episode is called, “It’s Never Over.” If you’ve ever been dumped by someone you dated and thought of as the love of your life, download this podcast, or go to Larrydoyle.com, find and read the piece he wrote in 1990 called, “Life Without Leann.” I’m sure it won’t appeal to everyone, but I found it hysterical! I found out that Larry did finally discover love with someone else. I have too.

I hate to say anything nice about Navient, but at least this month, they didn’t call me before the end of the grace period. And, perhaps, if they knew the maker of the loan was not going to pay in December, calling me before the end of the grace period was a way of alerting me so I wouldn’t pay late fees. That would probably be a good idea, but the call sounded too bill-collector for my tastes and for the fact that I wasn’t late.

Update on my jacket. The good folks at the sportswear company have agreed to send me a warranty replacement for the jacket that suffered unusual wear on the right sleeve. Mistakes happen. A reliable company deals with mistakes and stands behind its merchandise. If this one follows through (and I believe they will), I’ll let you know which company it is when I receive the new jacket.

Since it’s going to take another five to ten business days to get the coat, I am doing without a winter coat for essentially the entire month of January. Let that be a lesson to me. If another coat ever needs warranty replacement after one season of wear, I should return it in the summer, not after Christmas.

Things I Know

I would probably procrastinate if I only could get around to it. I bought a new winter jacket for the 2013-2014 season. I wanted a warmer one than I had and the new jacket was warmer, but it started to wear out in a few months. I should have tried for a warranty replacement during the summer, but I didn’t until after Christmas. I’ve always been pleased with the brand I bought, so I hope they’ll replace it, but in the meantime, it’s January and I’m cold.

I like to call the bank I deal with, “Bank of a Large and Powerful Country.” That’s not its real name. The computer program they use to answer the phone has been modified since last time I called. I don’t know when it was modified because I don’t call them a lot, but it now wastes a lot more of my time than it previously did. So, I guess that’s new and improved.

It really annoys me that when I call the bank, the phone robot tells me the balances on all my accounts. I wouldn’t mind if it asked if I wanted my balances, but it doesn’t give me a choice. This wastes time because first, they do send out statements unless you ask them not to, and second, as I understand it, a few people now have computers in their homes and this thing called the Internet, so they can look that up on line. My cable company does the same thing and it annoys me for the same reason.

But, what bothers me most about my bank, and my bank isn’t unique in this, is when I call someone at the bank who is designated a “specialist,” but doesn’t know basics about their operation. I asked a loan specialist why the balance on my home equity line of credit doesn’t go down a little more each month I make a regular payment on the same day. She said it was because of the variable interest rate. The loan has a variable interest rate, but the rate hasn’t changed so that isn’t and can’t be the answer. Whether you’re interested or not, I covered the real reason in my blog post on Friday.

I frequently berate the advertising industry for making commercials that appeal to the wrong demographic. For example, Eartha Kitt, singing a song from the very early 1950’s in French, to sell Vodka, when Vodka is associated with Russia and they probably can’t sell a huge amount of Vodka to people over 75. However, I do not do that with respect to the latest Honda commercials. Using Stretch Armstrong and Skeletor as spokesmen to sell Hondas to people in their 30’s and 40’s is positively brilliant!

Things I Want (or need) to Know

If my elf on a shelf takes a picture of itself, is that picture a shelfie?

What would you like to do differently in the new year? I think I’ll finally paint the walls in our master bedroom. My wife picked out a lovely shade of blue. I also hope to repair the back porch before I fall through. And now that I know how to build radiator covers, I have five more to create, but I’ll probably paint them instead of staining them. It’s a lot less work and I can make them out of less expensive material if I paint them.

I called my bank to ask why, if I make the same payment every month, the balance goes down some months a little less than it did the month before. Let’s call the bank, “Bank of a Large and Powerful Country.” The nice lady on the phone said it was because the loan has a variable interest rate. It does, but it hasn’t changed, so that isn’t the answer and she doesn’t seem to know it can’t be. After a few questions, we figured out it’s because the interest accrues daily. That means there’s a little more interest charged in 31-day months. My mortgage doesn’t do that, but my home equity loan apparently does. I know the people who answer the phones, even if they’re called “specialists” aren’t the highest level of the bank’s employees, but should I be concerned when I have all my money in the bank and I call up and have to explain what they’re doing to them so they can answer my question?

Should I also be concerned that changing banks wouldn’t help that situation?

Why does Flo, the advertising image of Progressive Insurance dress like a baker in all the TV commercials? I know why bakers wear white (it doesn’t show if you spill flour on your clothes), but why does an insurance salesperson need a white apron?

What is the purpose of an app that will add pictures to the contacts in your phone? If I have both a picture of you and contact information about you, wouldn’t I already know what you look like?

Things I Know

You can stop the automated “courtesy calls” from CVS drug stores by calling 1-800-SHOPCVS. I did it today and I only hope it works. After one, or MAYBE two calls, it crosses the line from courtesy to harassment. You have to listen to the whole top-level menu and then select other choices, but the option is in there.

One reason car dealers and manufacturers advertise so heavily that you should give someone a car for Christmas is that December is a slow month for buying cars, since people usually spend their money on less expensive presents.

If you got a fruitcake for Christmas, I didn’t give it to you. So, please don’t give it back to me next year.

Speaking of cake, in case you’ve ever wondered, bakers wear white because it doesn’t show flour stains. It does, however, show chocolate.

I recently made two roundtrips to Manhattan by automobile, a distance of 28 miles each way. One leg into Manhattan took about 45 minutes. The other three legs, one in and two out, took roughly one hour and 45 minutes each. I have driven to Manhattan twice in the last week. Also twice in the last 20 years. If I had to go every day, I wouldn’t consider driving.

Here’s a money-saving tip: If you have two cars and one EZ Pass, make sure you don’t leave the EZ Pass at home if you should drive to Manhattan. A roundtrip through the Queens Midtown Tunnel carries a $15.00 charge for tolls if you don’t have an EZ Pass. I hope I don’t have to explain how I know that.

We took my daughter to Manhattan to consult with a prominent neurosurgeon, Doctor Jeffrey Wisoff, at NYU. It’s easy to see why he’s prominent. He was very professional, spent almost an hour with us, went over her condition with us in great detail, and in language we could all understand. If I needed brain or spinal surgery, I would certainly want Dr. Wisoff on the list of doctors to consider engaging to do it. Our visit was frustrating, however, because our daughter’s neurologist thought her symptoms could be addressed by an operation and while nobody wants to have that kind of surgery, we were hoping Dr. Wisoff could help and he said her symptoms aren’t caused by something he can address. Now, we have to explore other avenues to try to figure out what’s wrong.

One great thing about living in the New York metropolitan area is access to some of the world’s outstanding hospitals, not one, some. You’ve got Weill Cornell, Columbia Presbyterian, NYU Langone, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Hospital for Special Surgery and many more. There are superior hospitals in other places as well, but I think New York has the highest concentration of them in the entire country, maybe the world.

Speaking of health care, my mother was the kind of person who would cancel a doctor’s appointment because she didn’t feel well.

A Season of Change

My father was sick when I got out of the Army. His illness was the reason I had been stationed thirty miles from home for my last year. That Father’s Day, my sister and I bought him a room air conditioner to help him breathe during the hot, humid summer. Father’s Day was just before I was discharged, so I didn’t have the money to pay half, so I bargained with my sister. She paid 80 percent of the price. I said I would give her enough money to make up the balance of my share before she went back to college. When the time came, I renegotiated the deal. I told her she could have the money I promised her, or if she waited until Christmas, I’d give her a TV instead. The TV cost more than twice as much as the money I owed her.

She waited.

My dad, the retired cop, was a school bus driver. But when school opened, he was too sick to work. He was 61 years old and he was dying. He was basically bedridden so I bought a TV set he could watch in his room, where the air conditioner was running to help him breathe. He did die, in October, four days after his 62nd birthday.

I didn’t want to, nor did I, forget my dad, but I changed a lot of things so remembering him and being without him wouldn’t be quite as painful. Among them I bought a new car, repainted the inside of our house, changing the color of every room, and instead of Christmas dinner at home, I took my mother, my sister and my girlfriend to dinner in a fancy restaurant on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, I went to my girlfriend’s family home, got down on one knee in her living room and asked her to marry me. She said yes.

Since it happened at her family home, her family knew about it right away. She and I went to Midnight Mass where she held her diamond ring up to the lights to watch it sparkle and I enjoyed watching her sparkle. I’d say I enjoyed her reaction as much or more than anything else I’ve enjoyed, ever. We shared our good news with a few friends we saw at mass, but I didn’t tell my mom and my sister until the big Christmas Dinner.

My father’s slightly used TV became the one I promised my sister. I’m not sure if it was because the TV was used, but I also bought her a record player. Added to the stuff she normally carried back and forth to college in Chicago, she couldn’t carry a TV and a record player too. So, I put her, her luggage and her Christmas presents in my little car, picked up my fiancé and all three of us drove off to the windy city.

From October to December, the end of my Dad’s life to the beginning of my lifelong commitment to my wife, I don’t think I’ve ever gone through more changes in a shorter period of time before or since. But all of that is why it was my most memorable Christmas.

Things I Know

Christmas is better with little kids around. I have adult children and no grandchildren, so if kids are here at Christmas, I have to wait for them to wake up. When I first became a father, I never thought that day would come, and now that it’s here, I’m honestly not crazy about it.

I don’t really need anything for Christmas and anything I really want costs more than the people who love me can afford to give. My camera equipment is Canon and while I don’t really have a need for the $16 thousand lens, all Canon stuff is pricey.

I love my wife, Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me), more than anything and she’s in the same boat I am. Neither one of us is big on spending extravagantly on gifts. For less modest gifts, frankly, I have bought enough of them over the years that I’m really out of ideas.

Since I have adult children and no grandchildren, one thing I could use for Christmas is a new Christmas tradition.

Just for the record, when I said I wanted a Vette for Christmas, I meant Corvette, not Chevette.

I paid Navient before the penalty date and they didn’t call me again, so I didn’t call them as I said I might either, because I don’t like to be frustrated, so why should I talk to Navient if I don’t have to?

Here, by the way, is my advice to Navient, not that they asked for it. If I were the maker of a loan and the cosigner was paying that loan, on time as required, I’d send the cosigner a monthly statement to make sure those payments continued apace.

My friend and former colleague, Wes Richards, had a nice turn of phrase in his blog last week. He said the Long Island newspaper, Newsday, is a shadow of its former shadow.

Things I Know

Today’s Patti’s birthday. We dated for a while in high school and I still have a soft spot in my heart (or maybe it’s my head) for her. Even though she hasn’t done anything influential in my life since she was 17 and I didn’t appreciate it then, she really was a big influence on me and how I grew up. Neither of us wants to drop our spouse and run off together, but I do wish her well and like to hear that she’s doing okay. I didn’t remember her date of birth from when we were kids, but I asked her years ago when we reconnected as adults. She told me, but said she would not tell me how old she was. She’s roughly 13 months younger than I am. If I could subtract one from 16 to get her age when we were dating, I can subtract one from my current age to figure out how old she is now. But I promised her I wouldn’t tell her unless she asked. She hasn’t asked, so I won’t tell. Still, happy birthday Patti, and many more.

I’m on the federal do not call list. I didn’t put myself on the list because I’m gullible and want to avoid buying anything someone calls me up and offers to sell me. I did it as a favor to myself because I find telemarketing annoying. That’s true. But I also did it as a favor to telemarketers, since there is no way in hell, and no way on God’s green earth that I will every buy something from a telemarketer, so why should I waste their time either?
Peter called me tonight to try to sell me solar panels. I told him that if he could tell me exactly how many times I had asked his company to never call me again this year, I’d listen to his pitch. He didn’t even try to guess. I didn’t bother telling him that I don’t believe his name is Peter, but I don’t believe it.

I know charities are exempt from the list, but I don’t give to charities that call me for donations either. I don’t because for the most part, I don’t know if the people who are calling me are who they say they are and I don’t know whether their charities are legitimate either.

If I want to donate to charity, I research it first to see if the charity is putting my money to a use that I approve of. Mostly, the ones that do the most telemarketing spend most of their money on more fund raising. That’s not a use I approve of.

I like Baskin Robins ice cream, but the store in my neighborhood isn’t very good at making milk shakes and despite the sign behind the counter, they don’t make malteds at all. The last milk shake I bought at that store will be the last milk shake I buy at that store, but they were good about giving me my money back when I took one sip and complained.

Navient Correction

The company’s statements do list the separate address for cosigners to send payments to. I said in my most recent blog post that they don’t. It wasn’t prominent enough for me to notice it, but the separate address is there.

Pardon the Profanity, but Navient

I’ve expounded here before about Sallie Mae’s collection practices. A little while back, Sallie spun off her student loan business to a new company called Navient. What the hell does Navient mean? Did you know that people are paid large sums of money to think up company names? But I digress. In my opinion, Navient’s collection practices are just as dumb as Sallie Mae’s were.

I find myself back in the business of paying a student loan I cosigned for. The economy is still tough for some people. Don’t cosign loans. Loan companies and banks are in the business of deciding who can pay them back and who can’t. If the loan company or bank doesn’t think the person who is trying to borrow money can pay it back, they’re probably right. They are, after all, the professionals in that business.

The statement from Navient says the payment has to be received by the 18th of the month to avoid late fees. That means, in case you are slow, or Navient (which I think is probably the same thing), that the loan payment will begin incurring late fees on Friday. So, why should I rush to pay it a long time before Friday? This is a trick I learned from mortgage companies when I was a tax collector. Mortgage companies generally pay the property taxes for mortgage holders and they generally do that on or near the last day of the grace period. I have instructed my bank’s automated bill paying program to take care of it on the 15th. So, naturally, I got a robocall on the 14th.

This is annoying for a few reasons. There’s no option on the robocall to talk to a human being. The options the robocall does offer don’t fit my situation. The robocall comes at a time when I can’t call them and talk to a human being because the human beings aren’t at work today. The website they refer you to in the robocall isn’t correct, so it has to redirect you to another website. It doesn’t say so on the loan statement, but the address for cosigners to pay is a different PO Box than the address for loan makers to pay. I don’t know if that’s going to be a problem, but I’ll probably find out tomorrow. I say that because I don’t have nearly enough frustration in my life, so I’ll probably give Navient a call then.

I just hope and pray that the automated phone attendant that picks up my call doesn’t tell me my call is important to Navient, because I’m sure it isn’t.

Things I Know

Former New York Governor George Pataki is testing the waters for a Presidential run in 2016. It’s the fourth time in the past five election cycles that Pataki has done this. He sat out 2008 when George Bush ran for reelection. In my political opinion, Governor Pataki has absolutely zero chance of gaining the GOP nomination, but his chance of becoming the Republican vice-presidential nominee are about ten times greater than that.

In case you’re wondering, I do know what ten times zero is.

The Bath Bus Company in Great Britain is running an experimental bus on bio-methane, made from decomposing human feces and food waste. I’m sorry, but that gives me a mental picture of a bus in which all the seats are toilets.

If you weigh yourself on the kind of scale they have in a doctor’s office, the kind where the weights slide across a beam, you may thing the scale is accurate, but maybe it isn’t. First, when it’s set to zero, the beam has to be adjusted so it balances. Second, the post has to be plumb and the base of the beam has to be level. The scale can’t be on a carpeted surface either. The scale in my doctor’s office said I gained seven pounds in the last two weeks. To do that, I’d have to eat an additional 1,500 calories for each of those 14 days. I know Thanksgiving was in there, but still I can’t see how that’s possible. But then, I noticed from my seat on the examination table that the scale isn’t plumb and level. I probably put on two or three pounds, but not seven!

I’m starting another effort to change American culture. Let’s all get behind it. Beginning when you reach the age of 70, instead of receiving your birthday cake at a party or a special dinner, everyone should be entitled to birthday cake for breakfast. After all, 70 is getting up there and life is short so, as the saying goes, eat desert first.

I get a kick out of seeing someplace I’ve been on TV. When the “Dark Water” episode of “Doctor Who” aired recently, showing Cybermen bursting out of the doors of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and head south along Sermon Lane toward the Millennium Bridge was one of those times. I understand that scene is also an homage to another time Cybermen marched down Sermon Lane during a previous invasion when Patrick Troughton played The Doctor.

Now that they have legalized pot in Washington DC, the Congress has a better excuse than it has had previously.

Vaunted Ivy League institution, the University of Pennsylvania (no not Penn State, that’s a different school) will soon offer a course entitled “wasting Time on the Internet.” Surprisingly, to me anyway. I can’t find the course available for download so it can be studied at your home or in your place of business.

Amazon.com has a new feature for members of its paid Prime service. In addition to two-day shipping, free videos and a kindle lending library, they now offer free, on-line storage for an unlimited number of still photographs. Since I have around 500 GB of pictures, I decided to try it as a backup. It’s a good deal, but I don’t like the execution. I like the large thumbnails used to display the pics, but uploading is kind of slow. Plus in Amazon’s cloud storage, the pictures are displayed by date taken or date uploaded. Nothing else. I have organized my pictures mostly by subject or event. If I could display my file storage tree on Amazon’s cloud, I’d like it better. I have a lot of pics of friends and family and I’d like to be able to locate that folder in the cloud. You can upload pictures to Flickr too (also slow) but on Flickr, you can create sets of pictures which is better. But I use Flickr for pictures I want to share, not for general storage.

Thanksgiving Advice

Thanksgiving is a time when we gather together as families to give thanks for what we have, stuff ourselves with food and, in many cases, argue fruitlessly. If, in addition to or instead of stuffing yourself with food, you overindulge in alcohol, the fruitless arguments may turn angry, or even violent.

Maybe I overdo it and maybe you can find a happy medium, but especially among family and close friends, I do my best not to argue. I have my reasons. First, I was raised in an alcoholic family. If you have an alcoholic loved one, you know that arguing with them doesn’t do a lot of good. Second, when I was 16 years old, I was in 16-year-old love with a 15-year-old girl. We argued a lot, mostly about religion. She didn’t convince me of anything, but I convinced her that she should find a new boyfriend. Third, I’ve spent a lifetime in government and politics. In my experience, arguing about politics is about as fruitful as arguing about religion. You have about as much chance of convincing me to change my political beliefs as the Jehovah’s Witness who came to my door yesterday had of converting me to her religion: none.

So, I’d suggest that for a happy Thanksgiving, don’t overindulge in alcohol and don’t let any family arguments get out of hand. If you must, you can also watch football. I know that’s what I’m planning to do, except for the football part.

Stop It! Just Stop It!

As a country, America needs immigration reform and we’ve needed it for at least 40 years. What President Reagan did back in the day helped a little, but it wasn’t enough because it didn’t do nearly enough to regulate our borders. What President Obama did on Thursday night wasn’t enough either and for the same reason.

Our immigration policy should try to keep families together and it should concentrate limited resources on deporting the people President Obama prioritized. It should also try to keep more people from coming here illegally. But the way the President moved forward pretty much guaranteed continued polarization between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. We used to have polarization within the legislative branch too, but not anymore since beginning in January, both houses will be controlled by Republicans.

During President Obama’s administration, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have distinguished themselves by attempting to cooperate and compromise. I don’t know who started it, but the fact that it’s been going on for so long means the American public should do one of several things, none of which can happen for two years.
The voting public, what’s left of it since turnout in the last election was at record lows, should either elect a Republican President in 2016, elect a veto-proof Republican Congress (both houses) or elect a Democratic President and a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. Perhaps President Obama thinks that by escalating the war with Congress, he can bring about the third option. If he does continue the war with Congress he will ensure his legacy as a less than effective President, perhaps the least effective since Jimmy Carter. And if that is what he’s thinking, his strategy could very easily backfire.

President Obama missed an opportunity to try to get along with Congress. The extreme members of the Republican Party need to realize that since they are no longer the minority, they have to try to govern too. They can’t just throw bombs. For example, if the first action of the Republican majority of both houses of Congress is to try to repeal Obamacare, that will fail. Over the past two years, the House has wasted a lot of time passing dozens of such resolutions which never even came up for a vote in the Democratic Senate. Republicans are a majority, but they are far from a veto-proof majority. If they retaliate for the President’s usurpation of legislative power, by trying to repeal Obamacare again, the President will veto the bill. To quote Otto Von Bismark (except he, of course, said it in German), “Politics is the art of the possible.” Recalling a doo wop hit of the 1950’s, everyone in Washington these days seems to try the impossible.

As I said, I don’t know who started it. I also don’t care who started it. But if it’s going to stop, somebody has to try to stop it and even if you agree with the President’s policy, what he did Thursday night threw an accelerant on the fire. If ours was a Parliamentary system of government, then the existing government , not the one that takes office in January, would have been turned out due to failing a vote of confidence. And it would be a lack of confidence in both parties, not one or the other.

Things I Know

A zoo in the Philippines is allowing visitors to be massaged by some big pythons. The snakes are supposedly not aggressive and the zoo management says doing this will help zoo patrons learn more about the snakes. I think I’ll just read a book, watch a documentary, or check out a couple of websites if it’s okay with you.

Two female school teachers in Louisiana are the latest I’ve read about in a disturbingly long line of teachers having sex with students. There was another one, this one male, in Brooklyn in September. Are these things happening more often or being reported more often? For the record, the most any of my high school teachers did for me in the romance department was introduce me to a Sophomore girl in his homeroom who I took to my senior prom.

Sophomore, in case nobody else has told you has Greek roots and basically it means wise fool.

The Yankees aren’t in the post season for the second year in a row. The Mets didn’t make the post season for what? I think it’s the third two-years in a row in a row. The Mets won-lost record was slightly better this year than last, five games better. But that’s nowhere near the ninety games GM Sandy Alderson said they could win this season. They didn’t fall off a cliff in the second half either and I suppose that’s a small step forward. They played mediocre baseball almost all season. They finished tied with the Braves for second place, but that’s 17 games back of the Nationals and nothing to brag about either. Some baseball pundits are saying they’re only two players away from contending. I don’t believe that, but they could break 500 next year. Hope does spring eternal.

What do we know so far that the Mets are planning to help improve next year? They’re going to move the outfield fences in again (second time since the stadium opened) to help Curtis Granderson hit seven more homeruns.

The Department of Great Lines hears from Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. When the NFL’s biggest sponsor, a brewery, said the NFL needed to be more active in combatting domestic violence and child abuse, and the NFL said it is formulating new measures, Stewart said the NFL “succumbed to beer pressure.”

My memory isn’t quite as good as it once was, but if “Don’t touch my Dart” isn’t the stupidest advertising campaign I’ve ever heard or seen, it’s got to be second.

I’m building new radiator covers for my 100-year old house. I bought a pneumatic nail gun to help with the construction. I finally got around to trying it. By using it, I figured out a couple of things the instructions didn’t tell me, but I didn’t make any major mistakes. It works, and I didn’t nail myself to anything. One tip: to make attaching moldings around the edges of the opening you cut in the plywood, you used to make the cabinet, it helps to make the opening big enough to fit the nail gun into.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

I have just learned (and am baffled to know it) that you can buy camouflage lingerie. I’m baffled because if you went to the trouble to wear sexy lingerie, wouldn’t you want your significant other to be able to find you?

Since I don’t get a new cell phone every two years and since I do let my contracts expire, how come my monthly phone bill doesn’t get reduced by the amount of the cell-phone subsidy I’m not using?

If you’re old enough to remember the TV show “Dukes of Hazard,” you recognize the car in the TV commercial for autotrader.com. Did you notice they never show the roof?

Have you seen the commercial for the Infinity Q50? The one that says, “Its instinct to protect leaves you free to drive.” It’s about what they call driver assists, things like warnings when someone’s too close to the side of your car. I’m all for safety features in cars, but the commercial, to me, seems to suggest the Q50 will help you if you are a habitual distracted driver.

When hair stops growing on top of your head, why does it start growing out of your nose and ears?

Birthday Boy

Today’s my dad’s birthday. He passed away many years ago and he was born many years before that. I don’t think of him every day, but on days like today, his birthday, or next Wednesday, the anniversary of his death, I do remember him, fondly.

I told you last month that I encountered my Dad’s ghost while out driving around. My dad didn’t hear too well and he didn’t hear the clicking sound when his turn signal was on, so he sometimes drove around doing what comedian Jerry Seinfeld once described as a perpetual left.

I found another manifestation of his ghost. Here it is.

41 Olds Coupe

It’s not my dad’s favorite car, but it is very much like it, a 1941 Oldsmobile coupe. I saw this black one at a recent car show. My dad owned one of these; his was blue. He loved it too. In fact, when it died, he kept it parked at the side of the house for a couple of years, hoping to figure out a way to get it back on the road.

Structure

Have you seen the TV commercials about converting your structured settlement to cash? J. G. Wentworth is probably the heaviest advertiser in this business, it certainly is where I live, but it’s not the only company doing it. Peachtree is another, but it’s not the only one either.

If you don’t know what a structured settlement is, you probably don’t have one. So, I’ll explain. Let’s say you’re hurt in a car accident, you sue and an insurance company agrees to pay you money. To quote Doctor Evil, let’s say the amount is “One Million Dollars.” Only, let’s say they get to pay it not in a lump sum, but over an agreed period of time, perhaps 20 years. That arrangement would be similar to the way a top lottery prize is paid, only you have a better chance of being in a car crash than you do of winning Powerball or Mega Millions, so pay attention.

Why would you agree to that and why would the insurance company? Well, you might agree because you’d get more money in the long run. That may or may not be a good thing. We can discuss that farther down the page. You might also agree if it saved you money on taxes. In the first place, some settlements of this kind aren’t taxable and in the second place the calculation is more complicated than you think, so it could appear to save you money on taxes without really doing so. I could discuss that too, but I’m not an actuary and I only want to bore some, not all, of the people who read this. Last, and the reason most individuals would like a structured settlement is because you fear you would squander the money if you got it all at once. Squandering a large sum of money can be fun, but if you got the money and need it to pay for long-term medical treatment, that isn’t the time to do it. In that circumstance, a long-term settlement is probably the best thing for you.

The insurance company likes it because it costs them less money. There are formulae to calculate the present value of a future stream of income, or you can beat it to death with a spreadsheet. But if the insurance company could earn 5 percent on its money and put $1,000,000 aside, it could pay you $50,000 a year for 20 years and at the end of that time, it would still have the million dollars. To pay you that money, again assuming a 5 percent rate of return, it would only have to put aside around $625,000 to pay you over 20 years and have nothing left. But that’s not even how the insurance companies think. If they put aside $625,000 for you and the other $375,000 for themselves, again at a 5 percent rate of return, at the end of 20 years, you would have $50,000 a year for 20 years, there would be nothing left of the $625,000 set aside for generating that income because in addition to the interest, the insurance company would pay the rest of the money to you out of the principal in that account. What about the other $375,000? Thanks for asking. At the end of 20 years, that would be worth almost $948,000! Your mom was wrong about what you should be when you grow up. You should have been an insurance company.

Okay, so how do these companies that convert structured settlements to cash work and how do they make any money? I mean, they’re in business to make money, aren’t they? Yes, they are. And there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing as long as you understand what you’re doing when you do business with them. In the example I gave above, they buy the $50,000 annual income stream, or what’s left of it, for less than $625,000, or what’s left of that. The difference between what they pay you and what the insurance company put aside to pay them is their gross profit.

If you want a lot of money up front instead of a structured settlement, I suggest you take a lump sum payment instead of an annuity, even if the lump sum appears to be less money. After all, you can invest the money too. But if you’ve already opted for a payout over time, and your circumstances change, your job is to get the highest price you can for that income stream. So, go into this kind of transaction with your eyes open and go in understanding the math, or accompanied by someone who does.

Blue Cloud

In the car blog, Curbside Classics, someone started a thread of stories about running out of gas. I contributed a couple, but here’s another. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up and my parents sacrificed a lot for the kids, including sending me to private school from 3rd to 6th grades. They were generous to us, at least as generous as their means allowed if not more so.

One way my dad was generous was he let me drive his car pretty much whenever I wanted to as long as he didn’t need it for work. During the school year, he even paid for the gas I used. As I said, we didn’t have a lot of money, so when the gas gauge on our old Plymouth (is there any other kind of Plymouth but an old one?) broke, it stayed broken.

If your gauge is broken, the simplest way to handle it is to fill up every 200 miles. Most cars have a cruising range greater than 200 miles. In fact, I believe that unless you had a ’72 Buick Electra and only drove it a mile at a time in the winter, that would work. Personal experience tells me a ’72 Buick driven under those circumstances has a cruising range of approximately 52 miles on a full 26-gallon tank. I hope I don’t have to explain how I know that.

Once, I was going someplace and when I got behind the oblate circle that was the steering wheel of that Plymouth, I thought it needed gas. Dad insisted it was fine. I think he was kind of low on cash, but I didn’t push it. I got in and drove about two blocks before it ran out. If I had gas money, the Blue Cloud (it was red, but it burned oil, a lot of oil actually) still would not have made it to the nearest station.

I’m sure I was as callow as any teenager who ever walked or drove the face of the earth. But after my first year in college, I couldn’t afford a second, so I got a job in a wholesale bakery. That was hot, hard work, but it was unionized and the starting wage for someone with very few skills was quite good. The overtime was good too. I worked something like 15 or 16 months that year.

I was single, living with my parents for free and not supporting my own car. My folks wanted me to save money to go back to school and I did that. I banked at least half of every paycheck I received. But I tried to show some appreciation too. My dad was still paying for the car insurance, but I don’t think he put another dime in that car during my year in the bakery. I bought him a battery, a carburetor, a four tires. I also put a speaker in the package shelf so I could blast my tunes from the AM radio. I don’t think Dad ever needed to put gas or oil in the Blue Cloud for a year.

Other than the bank and the Blue Cloud, what else did I spend money on that year? I met this super-cute, super-nice high school senior. She wasn’t a saint yet because she hadn’t put up with me long enough, but her name was and still is Karen.

Did Ya Miss Me?

I don’t know if or when you discovered that you couldn’t access this blog. I found out on September 20th. Since then, if I tried to access the site, I got a blank page, but now, I’m back. Not only back, but I’m delighted to see that I didn’t lose any content.

I’d like to thank a lady named Leofe at my ISP’s help desk for helping get me get the blog back up. I couldn’t have done it without her. I’ve never talked to anyone with that name before but this lady certainly knew her stuff and was very pleasant about it. If I have any future tech problems, I’ll be sure to use phone support because email support didn’t work very well for me although I’m sure those people tried too.

I’m no tech genius but as far as I can understand it, the theme being used on the website became incompatible with some software update and once that happened, no more website. So, I put up a new theme. I’m not entirely satisfied with the layout yet. I’d like to return to the picture of a raven, but it won’t fit on this theme. In the near future, there may be subtle or comprehensive changes in the existing layout.

But, I am back and I will resume posting about my off-kilter view of the universe later this week.

Things I Know

Ray Rice, a professional football player, is bigger and stronger not only than the average woman, but than most above-average women too. An average man is bigger and stronger than an average woman. An average man could probably beat up an average woman anytime he wanted to. Beating someone up, man or woman, doesn’t prove who’s right or wrong: It proves who’s stronger which usually isn’t in dispute. So, a man beating up a woman is a particularly despicable form of bullying. The good thing is most men don’t only not want to beat up a female companion, they can’t want to.

I agree with the people who say the NFL didn’t take domestic violence seriously enough, but it looks like the NFL has learned its lesson. I certainly hope so.

LRD. I have named a disease that’s existed for centuries, but never had a name before. LRD of course stands for Liverwurst Reflux Disorder.

So, now NATO is going to have a rapid response force. I hope the powers that be are bright enough to figure out a path somewhere between the over-zealous mutual-defense pacts that started WWI and the appeasement that started WWII, in order to avoid WWIII.

I keep hearing that Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer. It hasn’t been warm enough this summer for it to end, so I’m not going to accept its unofficial end. In fact, I may not accept its official end either. I know I’m still wearing white shoes.

After the news reports of hackers making nude photos of celebrities public, David Letterman asked his audience if they spend a lot of time taking nude selfies. If you’re not already glad there are no nude photos of me on the Internet, you should be. I know I am. I don’t take nude selfies because I have a mirror and I wouldn’t share them if I did.

Homework: Do it.

In my misspent youth, I was a champ at avoiding homework. Mom, I did it in study hall, honest. No, I didn’t do it at all. I hated homework because I didn’t need to do any homework in grade school through high school in order to learn the material. But nobody told me what I needed to know about homework. It’s not just about learning the subject matter, it’s also about learning how to work. And, since I hardly ever did homework, by the time I got to an Ivy League University (which will remain far above Cayuga’s waters) everyone was smart, all the courses I took were hard, I couldn’t coast and I was lost. I did know that downtown was down the hill, but otherwise, lost.

Homework: Do it.

But first, did you have vocabulary workbooks in high school? I did and I hated them. I have an extensive vocabulary, but I was interested in getting an even bigger one, so whenever we had vocabulary homework, I actually did open the workbook and look at it. If I recall correctly, the senior vocabulary book was a lovely, pale shade of blue. I often had mixed feelings after looking at the homework, because I usually knew all twenty words for the week so I didn’t learn any new words (bad), but I didn’t do the homework either (good). If there was a word I didn’t know, I would look it up and copy the definition into the book, but I wouldn’t write the other 19 definitions, and I always planned to ad lib the sentence I was required to write. And I hardly ever fell back on the old standby, “The teacher asked us to spell complementary.”

Homework: That’s how I did it, if I did it.

My English teacher had a pretty good idea what I was doing and when she caught me at it, she would deduct points from the weekly vocabulary quiz. She got up to deducting 20 points, but 80 is still a passing grade, so I was cool with it. And then, shortly after the beginning of our senior year, Janet transferred into our school from Dallas TX. She came in on vocabulary lesson day , so Mrs. Teacher had Janet look on with me until she could get a workbook of her own. I opened the book to the correct, blank, page. I don’t remember the word she asked me to go over, but I picked up the book and read the correct definition from the blank page. Then, I read the sentence I had not written down on the adjacent blank page. Both the definition and the sentence were correct, but both pages were blank and Janet found that funny. She laughed.

So, Mrs. Teacher came over to see what Janet was laughing at–my blank book. Another 20 points down the drain. I told Janet that as long as she got me in trouble, she might as well go to the school dance with me that Friday night, and she did. I’d like to say it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, but it wasn’t. Nobody’s fault, we just didn’t click. But, that’s not the reason I now advocate for homework.

To reiterate, I got into a great college and couldn’t do the work because, while I was smart enough, I had never bothered to learn how to study. I never needed to before. I dropped out of college. It was bad, but it wasn’t a total loss. I did go back eventually. I learned to work eventually too, and while I was out, I did meet my wife, so I wouldn’t change that for the world. If someone had told me back then that doing my homework was important for me in learning how to work, I don’t know if it would have helped me, but I’m telling you this story in case it does help someone else.

Things I Know

President Obama is neither my favorite nor my least favorite president. Criticizing him for announcing that he doesn’t have a plan to deal with ISIS is fair. Criticizing him for wearing a tan suit is ridiculous!

Newsmax TV is running a radio ad for a poll it’s conducting. It asks, “Can Doctor Ben Carson win back the White House from OBama?” First, President OBama won’t be running in the next presidential election. Second, While Doctor Carson has taken up writing and politics after a distinguished career as a neurosurgeon, I don’t think he has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting nominated, let alone elected president.

We have so many people in jail in this country that we really should make both mental illness and non-violent drug crimes public health problems rather than criminal justice problems. I suppose locking up a few of those people is justified, but not all of them.

While out for a drive this week, I encountered my dad’s ghost. The guy who was in front of me in traffic had his left-turn signal on for about three miles and he hadn’t turned left by the time I got around him. Wrong kind of car, but definitely my dad’s driving style.

So the fraud guy from alleged Microsoft Support (which is a scam and has nothing to do with Microsoft), called again tonight. I advised him to take a stool softener. You can probably figure out why I said that. I also told him not to call again, and didn’t say please, but I still think he will.

I know this isn’t going to stop the calls, but just to be clear, I don’t buy anything from telemarketers. Doing so would only encourage a practice that needs no encouragement. I also don’t donate to any telemarketers who call alleging that they represent charities. First, like the sales calls, it only encourages a practice that needs no encouragement, but there are other reasons too. If you call me out of the blue, I have no idea if you are who you say you are and I usually have no background on the charity. I’m not that responsive to political telemarketers or people I’m already doing business with who try to sell me more stuff over the phone. I have no trouble saying no. I just took the trouble to get on the federal no-call list because I find all these calls annoying.

Classmates.com is a little nuts in the way it markets its service. I just received an email from them asking me about a guy who started in my high school after I graduated. Don’t know and don’t care. I suspect most guys don’t know or care about guys who weren’t even in school with them. If I were running their marketing campaign, I’d ask girls about guys who graduated up to two or even three years before they did and I’d ask guys about women who graduated up to two or three years after them. If I weren’t happily married, I might be very interested in some women who graduated from high school a year or two after I did.

According to several stories I read on the Internet (so it must be true) Jell-O sales fell by 19 percent between 2009 and 2013. I bet people don’t buy a lot of Junket anymore either. In fact, I was surprised to learn they still make that.

Ray Dean, recently retired police chief in the small Long Island village of Westhampton Beach received a retirement bonus of something like $400,000. It was for accumulated, unused vacation and sick time over his 15 years in the job. He’s been criticized for that and I don’t know why. The Village mayor and trustees who entered into the contract that required these payments deserve the criticism. If someone wanted to give me an overly-generous employment contract, I’d accept it, wouldn’t you. Current mayor, Maria Moore, to her credit, says the she and the present board of trustees will make sure the next chief’s contract isn’t anywhere near as generous.

By the way, did you know that according to New York State law, if a municipality gives its police a raise, it must also raise the salary of its police chief by at least as much as the dollar amount of the highest raise given to any of the policemen? According to one interpretation of that law, you can’t pay a new police chief less than you paid his or her predecessor either. That, to use the applicable technical term, is nuts.

Attention Geico Gecko: Bullwinkle’s last name isn’t “Winkle.” It’s “Moose.” Full name, Bullwinkle J. Moose. If I ever knew what the J stands for, I’ve long-since forgotten.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Nadal Hasan, the army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood Texas in November, 2009 has written to ISIS asking to become a citizen of that group’s Islamic state. Can we now travel back almost five years and finally describe Doctor Hasan’s attack as a terrorist incident?

Isn’t the last weekend in August too early to be Labor Day Weekend?

August 20th was National Radio Day. I listened to the radio that day as I do every day. Why didn’t anyone on the stations I listened to mention that?

Would I be violating any trademark or copyright laws if I were to sell “Free Jessa” t-shirts?

Does the color of sprinkles make any difference in their flavor?

Why does Facebook think I need to see so many ads for Toyota RAV 4s?

So, I keep getting this robocall and the guy with a beautiful, sonorous, radio announcer voice that reminds me of my old friend and colleague Allen Shaw intones, “Don’t hang up! This is not a sales call.” What kind of call is it? I don’t know because that’s when I always hang up.

Who Review

I’m about as big a Doctor Who fan as anyone who doesn’t dress up in costume and attend conventions, so I watched tonight’s season’s premiere with the new Doctor, Peter Capaldi with great anticipation. I thought the acting was fine, but the script a little weak.

Every Doctor, when he regenerates emerges a little befuddled, but usually, by the end of the first episode, they have gotten themselves together. Peter Capaldi as the doctor seemed more befuddled than usual and befuddled for a longer period of time. As a result, I thought the premiere of the new season of Doctor Who was a little on the slow side. And, honestly, the dinosaur didn’t really add anything at all as far as I’m concerned.

But Clara was the real confusing one for me. During the Matt Smith era, we learned that Clara had existed through time for the purpose was of saving the doctor. She’s even shown once with William Hartnell’s first doctor. So, why was she so confused by Smith’s regeneration and so unaccepting of Capaldi as the Doctor?

I’ve been a big fan of Doctor Who since the program first appeared in America on PBS with Tom Baker as the Doctor. Like I’m sure everyone else, I like some Doctors better than others. Capaldi’s Doctor seems less approachable than either Smith or Tennant. I think it’ll take a while to warm up to him, but I’m perfectly willing to give him a chance. I do hope the next villain is more menacing and that the Doctor has a more direct role in resolving the next story arc.

Licensed to Drive

Back in June, on the anniversary of my high school graduation, I mentioned that I hardly remember anything about that supposedly milestone event. I also don’t remember the first time I kissed a girl. It must have been the first girl I dated and I don’t remember why we stopped seeing each other either. I do, however, remember taking my driver’s test; I remember that very clearly.

I was 17 and in dress rehearsals for a school play, so I had grey hair. I took the test in the family car, an ancient Dodge that can most kindly be described as a bomb! No steering wheel cover, no horn ring, no inside door panel on the passenger side, passenger door banged in, and the muffler was going, so it resonated inside the car rather obviously, even worse if I had the windows up. I had them down, all of them, in November, in New York.

Inspector gets in the car, checks my paperwork, looks at me and says, “How old are you? I told him I was 17 and since he didn’t ask why I had grey hair, I didn’t tell him. But he shoved his clipboard toward me and said, “Sign this!” so I did. Then, he noticed the steering wheel and asked if I could blow the horn. I said I wasn’t sure because I never had to. I blew it though, so he had to look for some other excuse. He noticed the absence of the passenger door panel and consequently the door handle. He asked, “How do you get out of this thing?” Wordlessly, I gave him the door handle. He didn’t ask for the handle to roll up the window, so I didn’t give him that. As I said, you could hear the bad muffler better if the windows were up.

I passed the first time I actually took the test. I always thought it was because the instructor wanted to be sure he never had to ride in that old Dodge again.

On top of all that angst, when the license came in the mail, the family car was parked in front of the house, but I walked to where I had to go that day, three miles away, because the car wasn’t properly insured for me to drive it. And the first girl I asked out once I had the license said yes, but her dad wouldn’t let her in a car alone with a boy he hadn’t met, so my dad had to drive us.

Things I Know

Don Pardo died. He was 96. Absolutely a household voice, although not a household name. Still, if you know anything at all about media, you didn’t just ask, “Don who?”

Arcadia publishing has made a success of publishing trade paperback books consisting mostly of photos of local areas. The series is called “Images of America.” The newest one is “Ithaca Radio” by Peter King Steinhaus and Rick Sommers Steinhaus with an introduction by Keith Olbermann. Ithaca NY is home of a highly regarded college curriculum in broadcasting at Ithaca College’s school of communications and one of the most professional college radio stations you’ll ever hear at Cornell’s student-owned and run WVBR. Because of that, a lot more successful broadcasters have passed through Ithaca than most radio markets of its size. I passed through Ithaca radio myself and I bought the book when it came out last week. If you worked in Ithaca radio or if you just follow the medium, I think you’ll like the book and, no, you won’t find a picture of me in it.

Two young Amish girls were kidnapped last week near Oswegatchie, NY. Fortunately, the girls’ abductors were arrested and the girls returned to their families. If like me, you’ve lived in New York most of your life and never heard of Oswegatchie, you may wonder what it’s near. It isn’t near anything.

If you’re interested in cars, as I am, you probably agree with me that the Woodward Dream Cruise and the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance should never take place on the same weekend.

A 1962 Ferrari 250 GT which was expected to bring a record price last week sold for only $38 million. A record price for a Ferrari 250 GT, in case you’re thinking of getting one for yourself or a friend, would be somewhere north of $52 million.

Things I Know

“Never wear sandals on a farm.” –Robin Williams. RIP Robin Williams. You made everyone laugh.

Frankly both Israel and Hamas are wrong in the current Middle East conflict. I’m not going to get into which side is more wrong, but with respect to the current issue, if you’re going to sit around firing rockets at someone, you should expect them to shoot back.

James Brady, President Regan’s press secretary, died on August 4th, at the age of 73. He was gravely wounded when John Hinckley tried to assassinate Regan. Bullets fired by Hinckley hit both Regan and Brady. Brady’s injuries were permanent. I didn’t know Mr. Brady, but I did talk to him on the phone a couple of times when I worked in the House of Representatives and he worked for Senator Roth of Delaware. After his shooting, Brady worked hard for and became a living symbol in efforts to pass stricter gun control laws. RIP James Brady.

There’s a radio commercial for B&H Photo, a huge camera and electronic store in New York. In it, his co-workers are planning a “surprise retirement party” for Bob. This suggests, at least to me that in addition to the party being a surprise to Bob, his retirement is also a surprise to him.

I was watching a rebroadcast of the 2010 Mark Twain Award ceremony, the one that gave the prize to Tina Fey. Jennifer Hudson is really talented singer. Still, In my opinion, nobody but Aretha should sing “Respect.”

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

The phrase “duck-billed platypus” is kind of curious to me. Is there any other kind of platypus?

Suppose for a second, that you only wanted to eat half a package of Keebler’s Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies. How would you get the plastic tray back into the bag without ripping the bag or breaking the tray or its contents? I know I could just eat the entire bag of cookies, and I am able to do that if I have enough milk in the house. However, I’m not supposed to.

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the purpose of camouflage uniforms for baseball games. The uniforms are ugly, and besides, you can still see the ballplayers.

Why does the cost of renting a car have so little to do with the cost of the car?

I wanted to go sit on a beach for a week or two in October, but my wife can’t go with me because it’s a busy time of year at her job. I won’t go without her so the beach will have to wait. Where can the two of us go for a long weekend that’s not too far from New York City?

I don’t want to go to Florida in November because the weather can be iffy for the beach then. I would like to go in March, for baseball spring training, but vacation rentals and hotels are more expensive in Florida then. So the question would be, can we afford that?

Things I Know

Two 19-year-old junior hockey players for the US Hockey League’s Lincoln Stars were arrested because they allegedly had sex with a 15-year-old girl in a hotel room in Morehead MN, recorded event and then shared the recording. Here’s advice you may not get anywhere else. If you do commit a felony, make sure to record it and share it with as many people as possible. Be certain to post it on the Internet too. That will make it so much easier for the police to catch and prosecute you. Since I mentioned the team’s name, I should point out that the team has quite properly suspended the two players indefinitely.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of the world that when Orlando Bloom swung on Justin Bieber in Ibiza, Spain, it was international news. Because of his age and his past public behavior, I don’t expect Justin Bieber to behave like an adult, but Orlando Bloom is in his late 30’s, almost twice Bieber’s age.

So, I was looking through a bunch of books and I came across one by a professor, a woman with a very unusual first name. How unusual? I’ve only met or heard of one person in my entire life with that name. We went to school together from third to sixth grade. So, I Googled the author. Then, I Googled the first name. The first nine results for the name were the author. One of those turned up an email address. I dropped her a line. She answered. Yup, it’s her. I doubt we’ll ever get together, but it’s nice to know that one of my old classmates has had a successful career in academia.

Based on my experience riding in cars, both as a parent and as a child, “Don’t make me come back there,” is among the very best advice I’ve ever received or given.

Saint Karen (my wife who must be a saint to put up with me) received a mailing from Barclay’s Bank, offering her a black Visa card. Said Black Visa Card is made of stainless steel (patent pending, believe it or not). Since most cards are now swiped or used on line and not imprinted, I don’t know how important that is. I do know if I were a merchant, the black one wouldn’t impress me. It has some benefits that are good if you travel a lot and have a lot of problems while traveling, a lot. But the interest rate is nothing special and it has an annual fee of $495! So, thanks, but no thanks.

The nice thing about getting robocalls on my cell phone is that I can (and do) hang up on them without even answering them.

Some wag on TV said there’s a new word, precrastination, that means getting something done too early. Procrastination never made me any money, so I’m coining another new word: amateurcrastination.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

I’m an adult male. I graduated from college more than a decade ago (a lot more) and I have never played basketball in a way serious enough for me to have a team uniform. I went shopping for shorts recently. I wanted two kinds, running or workout shorts for the gym and cargo shorts for the street. Would it be too much bother for clothing manufacturers to include the inseam length on men’s shorts? To me, shorts that hang below my knees are longs and I don’t like to have to hold every pair to my waist in a nearly fruitless quest to find shorts that are shorter than longs.

Hanes now sells underwear in resealable bags. Why?

Hanes isn’t the only company that now makes underwear without tags, but it’s the only company I’ve seen make a big deal of it in TV commercials. In the commercials, Hanes claims it’s done away with annoying tags. I am not a garment-industry insider, but tags in underwear have never annoyed me and I suspect the real reason for the trend away from tags is it makes manufacturing underwear slightly less expensive.

Have you see the latest TV commercial for Subway’s pulled pork sandwich? Extra pickles, sure, but who the heck puts lettuce on a pulled pork sandwich?

Why is it necessary for people to set off firecrackers on the 4th of July? I think aerial fireworks are beautiful, especially the biggest shows like the one Macy’s puts on each year, but what’s the deal with firecrackers? To me, all they do is keep people awake and scare dogs. Also, get off my lawn!

Why are Social Tea cookies so expensive and how come they never go on sale?

Wal Mart is running TV ads touting its “all natural” steaks. Fine. As opposed to what? Those plastic steaks that all the other big box stores and supermarkets sell?

Pope Francis excommunicated the Mafia. Makes sense, but how come it didn’t happen a long, long, long time ago?

A Prescription for Disaster

Honestly, I’m grateful to have good health insurance, incorporating a good prescription drug plan. I realize a lot of people don’t have that. My wife has an identical plan. Each of us gets family health insurance through our employer. So in one instance, my insurance is too good because I have two accounts.

We switched prescription drug providers in January and the new one has a slightly smaller benefit in that if you get a prescription for a maintenance drug (one you’re supposed to take every day) you’ve never taken before, they send you a 30 day supply instead of a 90 day supply. I suppose this makes sense because if you have unbearable side effects, you won’t have to thrown away a lot of medicine. It does cost me a little more for a new drug though because they charge me a co-payment for each prescription filled, not for the number of pills I receive.

But my problem is that with two accounts all my prescriptions seem to wind up being new whether they are new or for drugs I’ve taken for anywhere from three to 20 years. Let’s say I take Victoza for diabetes and I’ve been taking it for three years. I’d prefer to take no drugs at all, but I am a diabetic and I don’t want to die so Victoza isn’t the only prescription drug I take every day. I got a 90 day supply of it in April and my doctor wrote a replacement prescription in July. They decided to fill the replacement prescription from my other account and charge a co-pay for 30 days worth instead of 90 days worth. In the case of Victoza, the co-pay is substantial so doing this raises their costs and my costs too.

They’ve also started giving me incorrect information about the problem. They told me my doctor wrote a prescription for a 30-day supply. In fact, they told me he wrote two prescriptions for a 30 day supply. No he didn’t. I asked them for a copy of what he sent them. They sent me one prescription for a 90 day supply, but they now insist it’s a new prescription, so they’ll only give me 30-days worth. I’ve spoken to at least seven customer service representatives Some of them have promised to clear it up. Some of them have actually helped me for one prescription. Some of them have told me things that just aren’t true. Are they lying? Maybe, or maybe they’re just repeating misinformation someone else put in the computer. In my career, I’ve had more than one job where being correct is not an acceptable excuse. It’s frustrating, believe me, but it doesn’t compare with being insured, being right and having that not be an acceptable excuse either.

I’m currently experiencing this problem with two of my medicines. I’ve experienced it with other medicines too, just not right now. I can only think of three possible explanations, but I hope there are others. My three are jaw-dropping incompetence on the part of everyone I’ve dealt with at the mail-order pharmacy, deliberate fraud, or a combination of the two. If they were jaw-droppingly incompetent across the board, I figure they would have hired someone who could solve the problem, just by mistake. I was told on July 8th that one of my problems would be straightened out and my doctor was told on July 17th that the other one would also be fixed. Sunday night, according to their website, the first problem is more messed up than ever. I’m scheduled for two renewals on Wednesday. The second problem isn’t even in the pipeline.

While they have yet to solve the problem, they finally did cause me to lose my temper on Thursday. I’m not proud of myself, but I certainly feel I had plenty of justification. Sisyphus would understand. He wouldn’t approve, but he would understand. Looks like I’m going to have to call them again. I dread that. Exactly what I’m going to call them this time, I haven’t decided yet. I wish SSG Mebane was still around. My old drill sergeant could certainly think of something creative to call them. He thought of enough creative things to call me when I was in Basic Training.

I’m not going to give up. I have written to the chairman of the NY State Senate’s Health Committee. If that doesn’t work, I guess I’ll check in with the consumer reporter for one or more of New York’s TV stations and also shame them by name right here in this blog. If you’ve read this blog for more than say four days, you may already be able go guess. Right now, if the readership of this blog is in the single digits, the digit I have reserved for my mail-order prescription provider is a middle one. Maybe two middle ones.

Things I Know

I just dare CVS Caremark to send me a customer satisfaction survey.

It’s not that I want to talk to telemarketers, live or robocalls. I don’t. But, if you’re not ready to talk to me when you call me, don’t call me. I’ll say hello once and hang up if nobody says anything back. I’ll also hang up as soon as I determine that it’s a telemarketer on the other end of the line, but first, I’ll tell them not to call me again.

With Bastille Day just passed, I was disappointed to learn that people in France don’t call it that. They call it La Fête Nationale (National Celebration) and commonly le quatorze juillet.

I had a dream that if I ever won a big lottery prize, I’d buy all the seats at Citi Field for one game and attend a major league ball game by myself. However, with as bad as attendance has been at Citi in this baseball season, I would no longer have to do that to do that.

The Mets played very well in the last week or two before the All-Star break, so I hope they don’t live up to their long history of fading in the second half.

I’d seriously like it if you could sort music libraries in iTunes by more than one category. For instance, it would be good to sort the song list first by artist and then by song. You could do that in MusicMatch a hundred years ago, so iTunes should be able to catch up.

Public Ridicule

Did you ever hear of Andrew R. Rector before the last week or so? Probably not, unless you watched the April 13 baseball game between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Rector is a guy who fell asleep in the stands. His image was broadcast that day, but unless you already knew him, you didn’t learn his name.

That name came up because this is the month in which Rector filed suit in New York State Supreme Court, seeking $10 million in damages from ESPN, Major League Baseball and the Yankees. I heard he sued the ESPN announcers, John Kruk and Dan Schulman too, but the article in the NY Times didn’t mention that, so maybe what I heard was wrong. Rector was mocked on Twitter, on Youtube and in other Internet venues, but unlike the bar in the old TV show “Cheers,” everybody didn’t know his name.

But they do now. The Streisand Effect is what journalists, public relations professionals and Internet wags call it. The Streisand Effect is when someone tries to censor, or block, or remove something from the public record (especially the Internet) and instead, the effort to remove it attracts attention to it. It’s named after famed entertainer Barbara Streisand who tried in 2003 to have certain aerial photos of her Malibu beachfront home removed from the internet by suing for $50 million. I know Wikipedia isn’t always an authoritative source, but according to Wikipedia, before the lawsuit, fewer than 4,000 people had seen the pictures on the Internet. Afterwards, more than 400,000.

If you’re interested and haven’t looked at the NY Times website too often, you can read about the Rector lawsuit here. The article says Rector claims people made fun of him everywhere he went because he was shown asleep at the game. In my opinion, the lawsuit will cause Mr. Rector to be ridiculed much more than his falling asleep did. If he was teased about that, no doubt the teasing had died down since the incident happened in April. Filing the lawsuit dragged the whole thing back into the public consciousness and Identified him by name to the public at large. His name hadn’t been widely known before. While I am not a lawyer, I firmly believe the lawsuit should and will be dismissed as frivolous. For just one thing, why is he suing the Yankees? They made stadium seats comfortable enough to sleep in, that’s true, but they won the game, 3-2, so they at least tried to keep Rector awake.

Things I Know

The phrase “The Fourth of July,” and the phrase “Independence Day” have the same number of syllables. If we could get everyone to call it Independence Day, we could change it to always have a three day weekend out of it.

At the end of June, General Motors announced another 7.6 million cars. The General has now recalled 28 million vehicles since January 1 of this year. That’s more cars than it sold in the past seven years combined. If this trend continues much longer, the General will run out of cars to recall that it manufactured. I predict when that happens, General Motors will start recalling Fords and Chryslers too.

Gold dust plants are susceptible to fungus. I didn’t know that until all the ones in my back yard started turning black while I was in Europe.

I’ve been listening to downloads of an old-time radio called “Broadway Is My Beat.” I don’t know why I like it. I’ll give it a slight break because the show, from the early 1950s predated the Miranda decision, but there’s almost no correct police procedure in it, beginning with the fact that before NYPD headquarters was at 1 Police Plaza, it was on Centre Street which is way downtown, not on Broadway between Times Square and Columbus Circle. Plus, very few people in New York used florid language like that in New York City in the early 1950s and I’m pretty sure not a single one who did was a police detective lieutenant like the lead character in the show, Danny Clover.

Twitter, with its 140 character limit, gave me the idea for a website where everything had to be a haiku. But someone else had an idea for haiku.com before I did. It’s not exactly restricted to haikus, but it’s similar to that.

Now that July is here, I suppose it’s time for end of summer and back to school sales.

The Mets are now 10 or 11 games under .500. And while we’re contemplating that, let’s remember that they usually fade in the second-half of the season.

Primarily Speaking

So, after the Congressional primaries are over, in New York’s 4th CD, it’ll be Democrat Kathleen Rice vs. the former Chairman of the Nassau County Legislature, Republican Bruce Blakeman. Since leaving the legislature a long time ago, Blakeman has made two unsuccessful runs for higher office. I have no inside knowledge of this or any other race, but at a guess, I’d say Blakeman’s name recognition is much lower than Rice’s.

The seat is already in Democratic hands. It’s open because nine-term incumbent Carolyn McCarthy is retiring. Voter enrollment leans Democratic too, but it is winnable for Republicans because the number of voters who aren’t registered in one party or the other is larger than the difference between Democratic and Republican tallies. At this point, and without the benefit of polling data, I’m guessing that Blakeman has to be considered the underdog.

While I’m sure the local GOP hierarchy would be happy to gain the seat in Congress, I don’t think Republican powers that be would be unhappy if Rice won this election. Why? Because that would mean an election for Nassau County District Attorney unencumbered by a three-term incumbent. As a general rule, incumbents have a built in advantage when seeking reelection.

Republican primaries are pretty unusual in New York, but this year, not so much. On Long Island’s east end, Republican State Senator Lee Zeldin defeated insurgent George Demos to win the GOP nomination in the 1st CD. He now faces an uphill battle against six term Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop in the fall. Because Zeldin is now a two-term State Senator, he ought to do better than he did the first time the two squared off in 2008 when Bishop beat the then novice by 50,000 votes. Still, as the race begins I’d call Bishop the favorite.

Upstate, in the 22nd CD, Republican State Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney didn’t duplicate Dave Brat’s surprise win against Eric Cantor in Virginia. Like Brat, Tenney is more conservative than the incumbent she challenged. Republican Congressman Richard Hanna outpolled Tenney 53-47% . A six point difference isn’t considered particularly close. The 22nd CD covers eight counties in the Syracuse area. There is no Democrat running in the November election, so Hanna’s primary victory is tantamount to election.

In New York City, 22-term Harlem Congressman Charlie Rangel claimed victory in an Democratic Primary against challenger, State Senator Adriano Espiallat. The City Board of Elections hasn’t declared a victor because absentee and affidavit ballots have yet to be counted. Unless you were in the North Korean Army during the Korean war, if you’ve ever met Charlie Rangel, he has charmed you. Once one of the most powerful men in Congress, Rangel’s influence has diminished as his later years have been marred by ethical problems. The ethnic nature of his district has also changed. Once almost exclusively African-American, Hispanics now make up the majority of the voting population. If Rangel is reelected, he is expected to wrap up his career and not seek reelection in 2016.

If you live in New York and like primaries, there are still lots of possibilities. Party nomination for state offices are up for grabs in September.

Graduation Day

I’m pretty sure today the anniversary of my high school graduation. I won’t tell you which anniversary. It was supposed to be such a milestone event in our lives and I’m not even 100 percent sure of the date. I don’t know about you, but I remember hardly anything about mine. I don’t remember a heck of a lot more about my graduation from college. High school graduation day was hot and sunny and by the end of the ceremony my face was the same red color as my mortar board and gown. The last graduate to walk got a huge round of applause because he was last, so it was over.

Do you remember anything your graduation speaker said? I don’t. I do know he went on to a distinguished career in education, but his reputation was tarnished by scandal years after he passed away.

I remember a little more about the party my family had afterwards than I do about the ceremony. I can describe in great detail what my girlfriend wore to that party. I wonder why that sticks in my mind. We broke up before the end of the year. I also remember what she and her parents gave me as a graduation present, a Bulova watch, and an extremely generous present it was too. The only other present I remember came from my Aunt Mary. It was a Dopp shaving kit.

I was disappointed, but it wound up being so practical, and so useful over such a long time that I gave my son something similar when he graduated from high school, and I explained why. He didn’t say, neither did I, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t any more enthusiastic to receive a shaving kit for graduation than I was.

Things I Know

I get in trouble for nothing a lot. Since it happens frequently, I’m going to try to figure out how to get paid for it.

Insomniac that I am, I often go to bed hours after my lovely wife. This means I occasionally change for bed in the dark and Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me) leaves my night clothes on my pillow. Since I only need my glasses to find my glasses, I usually put them in the same place every night, on top of my armoire. Recently, I couldn’t find my glasses and Saint Karen found them in our bed. That means I took my glasses off while changing, laid them on the mattress and didn’t put them where they belong. It also means I was lucky I didn’t crush them in my sleep. More importantly than either of those things, it clearly means I shouldn’t go to bed when I’m tired.

I wondered why Bruce Blakeman is running TV ads for New York’s fourth Congressional District so far away from the general election. Then, I realized, voters in the 4th CD, NY are looking forward to the rarest of rare events, a Republican primary. It’s tomorrow, June 24th.

“All dictators should know a rigged election should be like a pleasant spring day — high 60’s, low 70’s.” –John Oliver

I have a scar a couple of inches long on my forehead. It’s there because the doctor cut off something else that used to be there. But when anyone asks me what the scar is from, I tell them it’s from my lobotomy.

I was unable to stifle ambition, so I dragged out my step ladder and changed the two burned out bulbs in the overhead fixture of our upstairs bathroom. Each bulb costs $7. Hopefully they’ll last a while. Now, it’s a lot easier to read in the bathtub than it was yesterday. It’s still difficult to read in the shower, but not because it’s dark in there. It’s not.

Going to the gym is good for something. A few years ago, I couldn’t lift my biggest room air conditioner, the one for the master bedroom into the window. Now, I can.

The community in which I live stopped paying to allow residents to carry their own trash to the local dump. I used to like to dispose of building debris from my remodeling projects that way, but now that I can’t, so I should probably sell my pickup truck.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

The Kentucky Derby is 1.25 miles. The Belmont is 1.5 miles. The Preakness, the one in the middle of the quest for the triple crown, is shorter than either at 1.1875 miles. I’m no expert at horse training or horse racing. Still, I can’t help wondering if winning the triple crown would be easier or harder if the races got progressively longer. In other words, if the Preakness was 1.375 miles, would it help or make things more difficult?

Who’s idea was it to design one of my room air conditioners so you can’t remove or install the air filter while the unit is in a window?

When Kim and Kanye got married last month, why did Kim get top billing when at least Kanye has some talent?

The display on a cell phone is programmed to tell whether you’re holding the phone horizontally or vertically, right? So, why can’t they make a cell phone that won’t record video in portrait (vertical) mode? Or at least one you have to override in some way in order to record video that way.

Whatever happened to Bill? We’ve had the same phone number in our last two homes. We like it and when we moved nearby, we kept it. We used to get calls all the time looking for Bill. We believe the reason is that Bill’s phone number was one digit different from ours. But it’s been quite some time since we’ve received one of those calls. Did Bill move away? Did he pass away? Did he just get tired of getting a lot of wrong numbers looking for me and change his number? I’d like to know.

Cesar Alvarez, 26, a make high school teacher in the Bronx, NY, was arrested after he took a 16-year-old female student on two dates during which he reportedly plied her with alcohol. The girl’s parents complained when she came home drunk. What I don’t understand is why didn’t they complain when she went out with her teacher, who is ten years older than she is?

Things I Know

I just watched the Johnny Depp Lone Ranger movie. I don’t think it’s supposed to be a comedy. I suppose that’s good since it’s not funny. But the one funny thing about it is it’s not good either.

If you have a good camera, you probably don’t need to bring a tripod on your European vacation, unless you want to take really sharp pictures of landmarks at night, or include yourself in the pictures. The places you would like to take pictures indoors with a tripod probably won’t let you take pictures with or without one, so you can save a kilogram or two and leave the tripod home.

If you have a big boy camera and a big boy flash unit and you bring them to a wedding, bring extra batteries for both to the wedding too. I knew that before, I just didn’t do it in Bulgaria.

Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me) and I were walking through first class on the way to our seats in a lesser part of the plane. This particular plane had those little compartments in first class that embrace one or two seats and keep the well to do from having to share an armrest. Some of the seats face the rear of the plane and my wife, who is prone to motion sickness, said she wouldn’t want to fly facing backwards. So I told her she was exceptionally fortunate that she didn’t marry a rich man.

Want to lose about five pounds? Go to Europe for two weeks. That’s what I did. A lot more walking than I’m used to and way fewer snacks between meals.

My friend Wes Richards claimed recently in his blog that the most important sentence ever written in the English language could well have been “See Spot run.” If he has a point there, it isn’t his only one. You can find his blog by Googling, or even Binging “Wessays.”

If I understand correctly, Sears and Land’s End finalized their divorce in April. However, I was in a Sears Store in Garden City NY in early May and they have a bigger display of Land’s End clothing than I’ve ever seen before, especially women’s’ clothing. Also, as of this writing, if you mail order something from Lands End, you can still return it to a Sears store if you need to send it back. For the record, my wife ordered a dress that didn’t fit. Sears took it back with no problem of any kind.

I recorded 700 Sundays, the Broadway one-man show starring Billy Crystal the last time it was on HBO. When I watched it, he said something I found really profound about meeting and beginning to date his wife. “You never let ‘The One’ get away.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard better advice in my life.

To me, it just makes sense that the bigger the coin is, the more it should be worth. But, before I get on England about that, I have to get on the US for its coinage that doesn’t work that way either. However the British could help us tourists out a little bit. Since I am unfamiliar with their coinage, I would have found it helpful if the value of each coin was listed on both sides.

Memorial Day 2014

I took this picture at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington VA about a year and a half ago. To me, it’s a fitting reminder of exactly what we’re supposed to pause and remember today.

Unknown for Blog

Comment Policy Change

I don’t know if I changed it inadvertently, or if the folks at Word Press did during one of their software updates, but until today, you had to be a logged in user of Word Press to comment on the Sisyphus Project. However it got that way, you no longer have to log in to post a comment. The comment block does require some information, including an email address that won’t be published. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have to be a real email address. I’m absolutely sure I won’t be verifying them.

I hope this will increase the number of comments and commentators.

All comments are moderated because I don’t want you to know how much money my friend’s cousin made last month working part-time from home on her laptop. A panel of moderators has been carefully selected by me. It is my blog, you know. This panel consists of me. All decisions made by the moderators are both arbitrary and final.

I’ve Been Traveling in Europe

I always wanted to say that, but now that I have, it seems kind of stuck up, doesn’t it?

Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me) and I went to London and then on to Bulgaria. The new masthead on the blog is a picture of one of the legendary ravens of the Tower of London. Chris Skaife, the Yeoman Warder who served as our tour guide, is also the master raven keeper at the Tower.

Chris Skaife for Blog

According to tradition, if the ravens leave the Tower, the British Monarchy will fall and so will Britain. Chris claims that his official title is Raven Lunatic. I swear. He said that. And, if you look for him, he does have a Twitter account, @ravenmaster1.

More later, but I was in Europe just long enough to become unaccustomed to the time zone for the Eastern United States and I haven’t been back long enough to become re-accustomed to it.

Things I Know

Rarely will an incumbent politician run attack ads against his or her opponent, especially very early in the campaign. It helps the challenger gain name recognition and implies that the incumbent takes them seriously. Some PAC is running ads attacking Rob Astorino, the Republican nominee to face Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic incumbent governor of New York. And it’s even stranger because Astorino is about 30 points behind Cuomo in recent polls.

it was really bush league for Yankee fans to boo Robinson Cano roundly during every plate appearance of his first trip back to the Bronx since signing with the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees weren’t willing to match what the Mariners paid Cano. The difference between the two offers was in eight figures. Even if you were as rich as a Major League Baseball star, you wouldn’t leave that much cash on the table either.

It’s hard to keep the story of the racist owner of the LA Clippers basketball team straight when the owner and the NBA commissioner are named Sterling and Silver respectively.

Talk about disillusioned, according to this this, Murphy didn’t formulate Murphy’s Law.

Kudos to the NY State Department of Taxation and Finance. I got my state tax refund in fewer than two weeks after I filed. The IRS is no slouch either. I received my federal refund before the end of April as well.

When I drive a car regularly, after a while I cut a hole in the driver’s side floor mat because of the way I move my feet while working the gas and brake pedal. You can’t buy just one floor mat though, so if I want mine to match, I have to buy two for the front and one for the rear. That can cost $150 or more. Being cheap, I took the mat to an upholstery shop and they’re sewing a heel pad on just the driver’s side mat. They’re doing it for a lot less than $150 too.

If I call my bank with questions about my accounts, they ask me a bunch of security questions. All of the security questions except one would be available to someone who found or stole my wallet. The one that isn’t is, “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” They have my wife’s maiden name wrong.

When CD players were first introduced, many of the early ones had a random play feature. Consumers didn’t like that because a random selection could play the same song more than once before all of them had been played. Really random is hard to achieve, but that’s beside the point in this instance. CD makers retooled and came up with a shuffle program. It would play all the songs in a different order each time, but it wouldn’t repeat any of the songs until all of them had played. I have a 10 CD player in my old minivan. It plays all the songs before it repeats, even if you shut the car off from time to time. To get it to reset, you have to play all the songs or remove and reinsert the CD magazine. I bring this up because iTunes shuffle button seems to play some songs more than once before playing all of them. ITunes says shuffle, but appears to means random. It would be both nice and not much of a software problem if you could choose between random and shuffle.

I recently had minor surgery on my forehead under local anesthetic. My wife, the lovely Saint Karen (she has to be a saint to put up with me) told the women she works with that on the occasion of that surgery she felt comfortable calling me a numb skull.

The doctor’s office had a lot of storage compartments labeled with what they contained. One of the compartments was labeled Xylocaine. That reminded me of two things: I’d still wonder how they come up with names for all these drugs; and I did once meet famous jazz musician Lionel Hampton.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

So, since Catholics traditionally name their children after saints, will we now have a rash of boy children named John XXIII and John Paul II?

Have you seen the HGTV show “Love It or List It?” Do you think Hillary will ever learn to add some extra money to her budget for contingencies?

When did they stop having a children’s section, complete with a matron, in the movie theater?

Recent headline on the NY Post website: “Columbia Student Reveals Secret Life as a Male Gigolo.” Other than male gigolos, is there any other kind?

And, here’s another one: “Flier busted at Newark airport with Soviet-style AK-47, ammo.” Aren’t al AK-47s Soviet style?

When I buy a new cell phone for $200, with a new, two-year contract, part of the cost of the phone is built into the contract, right? So, how come you don’t get a price reduction if you don’t get a different phone when the contract is up? Why doesn’t at least one carrier offer that as an option as a way to lure in new customers?

Do cell-phone processors “wear out” shortly after you’re eligible for an upgrade? My Droid X is an antique, I grant you that, and it sometimes takes more than a minute to connect and place a call, although the rest of the phone works fine. When that happens, I empty the cache and it helps for a while, but the guy in the Verizon store told me it’s because the processor is wearing out. I did political public relations for more than 20 years and so I’m an expert in bullshit, but even I am not sure if bullshit is what I was hearing from the guy at the phone store.

Things I Know

I shouldn’t be, but I am astonished at the news coverage People Magazine is receiving for naming the most beautiful woman in the world. Actress Lupita Nyongo is beautiful, but who’s most beautiful is a matter of personal preference and the whole idea is too trivial to deserve all the ink and all the electrons it’s getting.

Even banks don’t make much money on the float anymore. My school taxes are due by May 10th. My bank pays them through my mortgage escrow. My bank sent in the payment on April 9, a full month early.

I appreciate credit card loss and fraud prevention efforts. However, when I call my bank, all the security questions they ask me would be available to anyone who found or stole my wallet.

Also regarding credit card security, I can use my credit card in any other business I’ve ever encountered, twice in one day, but I can’t use it to get gas for both cars at the station nearest my house on the same day.

Had a couple of ultra-sound tests aimed at reducing the risk that I’ll have a stroke like the one my friend had recently. The tests got me thinking, tinnitus is bad enough, but you’d be hard-pressed to hear anything else if you could hear your blood circulating inside your body.

It’s bugged me since I bought my new laptop in December that when I plug in my earphones, it pings and puts a dialogue box on the screen telling me I plugged them in. Today, after four months, I finally figured out how to stop that.

I like old cars, I’ve been to one Barrett-Jackson auction and I watch them on TV when I can. Usually, I record them and watch later because I can’t sit in front of the TV all weekend. I don’t like the company’s new TV deal. They used to be on Speed Channel, but that was taken over by Fox Sports and the auctions now move around from Fox Sports 1 to Fox Sports 2 to the National Geographic Channel. First, I don’t see why these auctions fit with the rest of the programming on any of these channels and second, I don’t get Fox Sports 2.

TV production of Barrett-Jackson auctions hasn’t improved with the new deal and there is room for improvement. They could do a better job photographing the cars, an occasional short feature on a car or a car owner wouldn’t hurt either. They also need to work harder on incorporating social media. And, while April Rose is pretty, I think pretty is her major contribution to the event.

Hanging around for hours while what the surgeon cut out goes to pathology and before he or she finishes the operation is both annoying and boring, well, maybe tedious is a better word than boring, but the concept behind Mohs surgery is a clever idea and if it keeps my skin cancer from recurring, I’m all for it.

Don’t Die If You Can Help It.

I’ve known a lot of people for a long time. Like most of us, people have drifted in and out of my life. Nobody can keep everyone they like close to them for their entire life. I know I haven’t been able to. I’ve located some old friends and tried to rekindle relationships. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m no stalker, but these are people I like. I want them in my life if they want me in theirs.

My longest-tenured friend almost died last week because he’s a monumental idiot. I want to use stronger language than that, but friend. I say longest-tenured because I have friends who are older than he is, but he and I have never lost touch since we first met and we’ve known each other so long, neither of us can remember meeting for the first time. I’m guessing we met at a school bus stop in middle school.

I love the guy like the brother I never had. I was best man at his wedding. He would have been best man in mine, but he was in the service and couldn’t get there. We’re not as close as we once were because we’ve lived a continent apart, pretty much since he got out of the Navy and I got out of the Army. Still, when he’s called me up and asks me for something, I’ve always done it and I can’t conceive of him asking me to do something I wouldn’t do. Unlike some of my crazy relatives, he’s only called me in the middle of the night once and he was sober when he did it.

He had a stroke. No, I don’t know how big it was, but even a small stroke is a medical emergency. It’s not just a sprain and it won’t buff right out like a scratch on your car might. If you think you had a stroke, get to the emergency room. If your wife thinks you need to go to the emergency room, go to the emergency room. If your daughter who is close to graduating from nursing school thinks you need to go the emergency room, go to the emergency room. These are the people who love you most. They have your best interest at heart even if nobody else does. It’s probably a bad idea to drive yourself and you may not be able to handle a car, but get to the emergency room.

He didn’t ask for my advice and he didn’t follow his wife or daughter’s advice until it was nearly too late. He did survive the emergency craniotomy. It was needed to stop the bleeding in his brain and it was performed in a community hospital because taking him to the nearest big university hospital would have killed him. He now has a plate in his head. My dad had a plate in his head almost a hundred years ago. That’s well-established technology. He’s home now and recovering slowly.

I haven’t really got an ending for this, but I’m glad as I can be that this wasn’t the end of him.

Things I Know

Since the final four is nigh, perhaps this is the best time to remind readers you can’t go swimming in a basketball pool.

If you eat too much comfort food, it’ll make you uncomfortable.

I was really disappointed when I found out eating Thin Mints won’t make you thin. I ate them all anyway.

The phone rang. I answered it. The recording said, “Hello, this is a courtesy call from CVS Pharmacy. To continue, press any key.” I pressed the disconnect button and it didn’t continue, so that wasn’t true.

We keep our money in a big bank. Let’s call it “Bank of a Huge and Powerful Country” shall we? That’s BHPC for short. In reading Internet articles, I sometimes see stories of bad customer service involving them, but I’m usually quite satisfied, especially with my local branch. However, the credit card division is a little wonky. My pet peeve is that I can go to the grocery or the Home Depot twice in one day and charge both trips on my credit card, but I can’t buy gas for both of my cars on one day at the station nearest my house. I have to use different credit card accounts for that.

Anyway, I’m going out of the country soon, so I called BHPC and asked if they had cards that work out of the country and don’t charge a foreign exchange fee. They do. They said they’d send me one and told me when. I said I’d buy the tickets from here to out of the country before that with my other card. Then I did that and BHPC turned down the charge. Ticket broker sent me an email instructing me to call them and straighten it out. The email didn’t include that company’s hours of operation, so naturally I called three minutes after they closed.

Spring is here and glaciers have receded from around my Long Island home. When they did, I found two home-delivered newspapers, one from February 3rd and one from the 13th. The snow blower found another one, so I have no idea what the date was on that one.

I am in favor of instant gratification in certain circumstances. I’m even willing to pay a reasonable premium for it. The “right-now fee” for USB cables is too high though. I went to several stores on Friday and Saturday. They all asked for about $20 for one USB cable. You can buy one for two dollars or less from monoprice.com. I decided I could wait.

On “Face the Nation” recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry used a great word I’d never heard before, kleptocracy. I knew what it meant the moment I heard it (which is what makes it a great word); government of thieves. He used it to refer to the recently ousted government of Ukraine. And it’s not new word either. The dictionary I consulted said it was first used in 1819.

On an episode of “Ask This Old House” I saw a month or two ago, Tom Silva showed a homeowner how to get an over-sized box spring upstairs. He cut the bottom frame of the spring in half and folded it. I prefer the method I used in my first apartment on the second floor of an old house. We took out a second floor window and brought it in over the porch roof.

I am suggesting a new medicine. Since everyone now talks about flu-like symptoms instead of the flu, we should have flu-like shots instead of (or in addition to)flu shots. I had it all last week and now I feel like I should get a refund for my flu shot. I still have a cough so bad that I pulled a couple of muscles coughing. The rest of my symptoms have gone, but I still have to cough, only now it hurts, a lot. If you’re going to pull a muscle coughing, pull a back muscle. You can lean against a wall when you cough and that helps some. Quite naturally, I pulled a front muscle and I haven’t discovered anything to ease the pain of that.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Did you watch the opening pitch of the Major League baseball season from Australia? It came a little after 4:00 AM where I live. Because the game was in Australia and because I know about the coriolis effect, wanted to see if curveballs break the other way south of the Equator.

You know what nunchucks are, right? I do too, but whenever you hear the name, don’t you get a picture of a chain holding two rulers together?

I was really, really sick for pretty much all of the past week. So were my wife and daughter. Maybe I brought it home from my recent road trip to Ithaca, NY. Now, I find myself wondering, can we all get a refund for our flu shot?

Does Jimmy Fallon’s audience always shriek “Wooooooo” instead of cheering or applauding? I hope not because it hurts my ears.

If the man of the house doesn’t watch much television, does he still get to control the remote?

What happened to the proposed NFL rule change to prohibit football players from using the “N” word on the field? And isn’t the NFL the league that’s brewed controversy because one of its owners refuses to consider changing the team name many people also regard as offensive?

The $400 Million Plan

I have maintained for years, some of them right here, that nobody should make serious plans for winning a big lottery, the reason being that your chances of winning aren’t serious unless and until you win. Instead, I advocate making silly plans for winning the lottery.

Powerball tonight is $400 million, so we need a new silly plan. We have one and not a moment too soon! It’s from my daughter who says if she wins she’ll use at least part of the money to establish a charity to assist destitute Nigerian princes. This is the same young lady who says if she wins she may send out for a pizza.

It’s really nice when you see yourself reflected in your children. Me, I’m still fixated on jumping on the bed. However, if she wins or if I do, you may never read it here. If I had $400 million, the one thing in the world I would not try to acquire is notoriety.

Things I Know

Two of the nation’s largest cable providers are merging when Comcast acquires Time Warner. A company spokesman will come to your house to explain the deal a week from Tuesday, sometime between 9 AM and 7 PM.

US Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy found five stray puppies at the Sochi Winter Olympics. He’s trying to arranging to take them home to Colorado with him. You may have heard that Olympic organizers were euthanizing Sochi’s stray dogs. Instead, they should have just given one to each Olympic athlete.

Let’s say you get a phone call and there’s nobody on the end of the line, but if you wait 10 or 15 seconds, someone picks up. A computer is calling your phone number because it anticipates that the person who’s making all these annoying telemarketing calls is about to finish with his or her previous victim. It improves there efficiency and allows them to annoy more people per hour. If a telemarketer calls me before they’re ready to talk to me, I hang up, This is actually more efficient, because if they call me when they’re ready to talk to me, I have to wait for them to talk before I hang up.

Not only does the groundhog always see his shadow because of TV lights, but it’s cold around here for more than six weeks after groundhog day. It’s cold in Pennsylvania where the official groundhog is located longer than that too.

I believe gossamer toilet paper in public rest rooms is a bad thing. Ultra narrow toilet paper is something else we should all band together to battle to the death.

An important new medical study has proven that eating a lot eggs does not increase your risk of heart disease. But, all the bacon you eat with those eggs will do you in.

Sometimes luck trumps stupidity more than once in the same driving situation. Last summer, I was headed south on a two-lane road. An idiot kid on a bicycle was headed north in the middle of the southbound land. I slowed to a crawl. At the last minute, he turned to his left and rode by my passenger-side door, while flashing me a gang sign. He sure showed me, didn’t he? At the same time, the guy in the Chevy Suburban following me sped past me on the right shoulder. I wasn’t signaling a left turn: there wasn’t any place to turn left. Both the kid and the driver were lucky they didn’t create a kid and bike sandwich on two trucks with no mayo. If somebody slows down in front of you for no apparent reason, perhaps there is a reason and you just can’t see it.

Snow plows are typically wider than the trucks they’re installed on. I was reminded of this last week when I was almost hit head on by a snow plow. The truck was in its lane, but the plow was considerably over the double yellow line.

“Procrastinate now, don’t put it off.” Ellen DeGeneres said that in a recently rebroadcast TV special and it’s still good advice.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

The Super Bowl is over and pitchers and catchers report this week, so can we start talking about baseball now? And, no, I don’t want to talk about college basketball in the meantime.

What do you call Tater Tots once they grow up?

If my neighbor’s dog wanders near my property line, is it okay if I bark at the dog?

We’re going to Europe this Spring. So, this raises two questions. How much additional camera gear can I buy using the trip as my excuse before my wife has a fit? And how much of this new camera gear can I get her to carry? After all, I’m about maxed out myself. I could easily spend another $3,000 to $6,000 on more camera stuff and spending more than the cost of the trip wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.

Could a Tyrannosaurus Rex pick its nose?

If not, did they pick each other’s noses?

If it’s possible to be prone to infection, is it also possible to be upright to infection?

Things I Know

We’ll have six more weeks of winter. The groundhog always sees his shadow because of TV lights.

I hope you know that the people who phone you claiming to be from Microsoft Support are really scam artists. You have my permission to hang up on them. Anyway, Gary from the so-called Microsoft Support called last week. I told him I was glad he called because it gave me the chance to ask if he had accepted the Lord, Jesus Christ as his personal God and Savior. He asked me what I was talking about. If he doesn’t know, I sure don’t, so I hung up on him.

Since I’m not a football fan, I’ll be so glad when the Super Bowl is over.

Justin Bieber should be embarrassed for his recent run in with the law in Miami. First off, you should never drink and drive. You might spill it. Second, street racing is very dangerous and you shouldn’t ever do that either. But if I ever get picked up for speeding in a Lamborghini, you can bet I’ll be driving a hell of a lot faster than the 60 mph the Bieb was accused of driving in Miami.

If you buy a Dell computer from any other company but Dell, the first thing you should do is register it on line and check when the warranty expires. I recently bought two Dell computers. The first one broke in three weeks. That happens, but it was both new and out of warranty. I sent it back to Amazon.com and they were great about it, so great that I bought another Dell from an Amazon seller and the warranty on that one started three weeks before I bought it. Dell customer support adjusted it for me, but Dell ought to find a way that it doesn’t need adjusting. Either that, or it should stop selling computers through third parties.

I’ve got to say this computer came with less bloatware than I’m used to seeing on new PC’s.

However, attention Dell: I know I plugged in the headphones. Stop warning me about it.

Also, attention Microsoft: I stopped some programs in the start menu from launching when they want to; Windows didn’t. So, warning me about that way too many times is annoying, not helpful. And that’s an annoyance Microsoft has gone back and added to versions of Windows earlier than 8.1 I’m not sure how many earlier versions, but as far back as Vista anyway. At least give me a check box that says don’t show this to me again.

I’m getting used to Windows 8.1. It boots a lot faster than Vista did, that’s for sure. I know there’s a screen with all the apps on it, but I’d still like the restored start menu to contain a list of installed programs. I know I can get rid of the lock screen too and I plan to look up how to do that soon. This is not a telephone, it’s a laptop.

Microsoft will let you remove software like Office from one computer and install it on another, but the third computer, they don’t like so much. Understandable. So, when my first new computer lasted less than a month, I had to call them to install Office on my replacement. They let me. They let me with so little hassle that they didn’t even ask me why. So, if they’re not going to ask you why, I don’t think they should make you call at all.

A company called Cyberlink has a media suite that wound up on my new laptop. It might be good. I don’t know. But it bothers me to buy it frequently during my free trial period. It was doing that every time I booted my laptop. So, I went into my startup menu and found five Cyberlink programs set to start every time the computer does. I disabled them all. If it still finds a way to annoy me every time I start the computer, I’ll uninstall them all. Aggressive sales tactics like that can be self-defeating. They certainly are if you try them on me.

Catching Up

Amazon.com refunded my money for the computer that didn’t have a warranty as it said it would. On the day I received the credit, I bought another computer from Amazon. I couldn’t get exactly the same model, but I bought one similar. I hope this one has a warranty. One thing you can say about them is their reputation for stellar customer service seems to be deserved.

If you haven’t received a Christmas card from me yet, you probably aren’t going to get one.

Take down your Christmas lights. You were supposed to turn them off on Tuesday.

In addition to the Sisyphus Project being copyrighted 2008-2013, it’s also copyright 2014.

Shopping for Tech

Before I get down to the reason for this post, I’d like to observe that this is the 500th post to the Sisyphus Project since we began in 2008.

We now return to our irregularly scheduled program.

I don’t think I’ll mention the computer company because it was much easier to contact the merchant than to try to get around the computer company’s website.

I bought a new laptop computer from Amazon.com. It came on December 3rd and I liked it until December 23rd when it started randomly crashing. The crashing got worse until Thursday, December 26th when it crashed and wouldn’t restart unless I “refreshed” Windows. Doing that took hours and wiped out all of the programs I installed after I got the machine.

After refreshing, it crashed again and wanted me to refresh again. So, I went to the computer company website and entered the number on the bottom of the computer to get warranty service. However the website told me that the new computer I’ve had for 23 days is out of warranty. Boo for the computer company.

But, hooray for Amazon.com. Kudos too, if I ever figure out what a kudo is. I contacted Amazon and they issued me an RMA. The new laptop goes back as soon as I figure out a way to delete the confidential information I had put on it in the past three weeks.

Things I Konw

Speaking of Clarence and Dudley as I was yesterday, the same child actress played the little girl in “the Bishop’s Wife” and Zuzu of petals fame in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The weatherman got our hopes up needlessly last night. It snowed for a little while, but just flurries. Nothing stuck. If you live on Long Island and want a White Christmas, my advice is, listen to the song. Drifters or Bing Crosby, doesn’t matter to me.

Dear Santa, when I said I’d like a couple of CD’s for Christmas, I meant the kind with money in them, not the kind with music on them.

CBS News’ Charles Osgood has a beautiful voice and an engaging on-air personality. He either is one himself or employs top-flight writers on both radio and TV as well. And occasionally he proves on CBS Sunday Morning that he can also play the piano. But with all that talent, he demonstrated once again on the Sunday before Christmas with his rendition of “The Christmas Song” that one thing he can’t do is sing.

Plus, “The Christmas Song” is the wrong thing for anyone to sing. Nat King Cole recorded it four times, so as far as I’m concerned, “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole is the fourth best Christmas record ever. And third, and second and first too.

Not being able to sing is the only thing I’m confident Mr. Osgood and I have in common.

While I wasn’t sure if yesterday was Seasons Eve or Holidays Eve, I am sure today is Christmas Day. So, if you’re British and you celebrate Christmas, have a happy one. If you’re not British and you celebrate Christmas, have a Merry one. If you don’t celebrate Christmas at all, or if you do, I also hope you have a happy and healthy New Year.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Is today Holidays Eve or Seasons Eve? Which ever it is, I hope you have a happy one.

While watching traditional Christmas movies I find myself wondering, do all angels have odd names like Clarence and Dudley?

I don’t really consider “Bells of St. Mary’s” to be a Christmas movie although it is traditionally shown at this time of year. If you recall, Sister Benedict is found to have TB and they decide to send her to the desert. That’s what they did before antibiotics were widely available. But still, didn’t they know that TB was contagious and transmission was airborne by the time the movie was made? I ask because Sister Benedict continues to interact with the kids for a while before she leaves the school.

I almost feel bad for the people who call me telling me they’re from the Windows support center. How awful must your life be if you work in a call center in India, presumably for the Indian minimum wage if they have one, and all day long you call people and try to get them to bite on what you know is a fraud? I keep telling them I know it’s a fraud and they keep calling back.

I also ask them if they know how many hits you get on Google if you use it to look up the following three words, “Windows, telephone and scam.” Last time I looked them up it was about 58 million.

McDonald’s is switching to another brand because the new head of the Heinz ketchup company is a former top executive of Burger King. I didn’t know there are other brands of ketchup besides Heinz, did you?

Isn’t sleeping in the top bunk bed dangerous? I mean, doesn’t it leave way too much room for monsters under your bed?

GPS units are amazing, but one thing I don’t understand: Why does mine want to send me home a different way than it took me to my destination?

Since young and tongue rhyme, why aren’t they spelled similarly?

Since slaughter and laughter don’t rhyme, why are they spelled similarly?

The word “wound” has two meanings, so do lots of other words, but why is this one pronounced differently depending on what it means?

Things I Know

Our new daughter-in-law and our old son sent us a lovely Christmas centerpiece. We’ll have it on the table at Christmas dinner.

A Wal-Mart worker in Deerfield Beach Florida shot up the car of a second Wal-Mart worker when the second worker was chosen employee of the month. Either that explains why he wasn’t selected in the first place, or ensures he won’t be selected next month either: maybe both.

My wife has decided to establish a telephone call center here in America and have it specialize in making annoying telemarketing calls to people in India.

This led me to plan a directory of the names and addresses of local Jehovah’s Witnesses so the rest of us can go to their homes and knock on their doors at inconvenient times.

Here’s why non-Yankee fans don’t like Yankee fans. The Yankees offered Robinson Cano somewhere between $160 and $175 million depending on which source you read. The Seattle Mariners offered Cano $240 million. And some idiot Yankee fans calling sports talk radio stations criticizing Cano for not signing with the Yanks. How can he go wrong? He gets all that extra money and an extra month off since the Mariners don’t usually work in October.

An atheist doesn’t believe in God. A big box retail store doesn’t believe in closing, at least not during the Christmas season.

Since Hanukkah and Thanksgiving took place at the same time this year, a wag suggested that we should all eat latkes instead of turkey. Not possible. There’s no such thing at a leftover latke. Not even at my house and I’m not Jewish.

According to the Fort Myers News Press, the human cannonball with the Cole Brothers circus retired after his final performance on December 1st. In other words, he was fired and then he quit.

Things I Know

We have one more thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Our son got married recently. We hope our son and our daughter-in-law remain thankful for each other for the rest of their lives together.

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincide this year. It won’t happen again in my lifetime and according to most sources I’ve seen, it won’t happen again in the lifetime of anyone on the planet. I’m glad that Thanksgiving and Yom Kippur never coincide. Imagine having to gorge yourself and fast at the same time.

No news is good news, unless you have to report the news on a holiday.

Andersen windows are a plus if you’re buying or selling a house. I have them in my house. Renewal by Andersen is the replacement company that specializes in installing them. I think the installation company is related to the manufacturer, but I’m not sure about that. They have a commercial running that says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that no matter where you live the temperature is unlikely to reach -20 degrees. Then it says the windows are tested from 180 to -20 degrees. But honestly, there are plenty of places in this country where the temperature does hit -20 degrees. I’ve been colder than that in upstate New York and in Chicago and believe me I’m never going to do it again. The record low temperature was recorded in Antarctica and it was -128.5 degrees! There is, however, no place where the outdoor temperature hits 180 degrees. Not even close. The recognized world record highest temperature is 134. There was a higher reading taken in 1922 in Libya, but it was later determined that the reading was inaccurate. So, while I’m convinced that Andersen windows are quality products, that commercial doesn’t convince me of anything.

The Google doodle for Thanksgiving is proof positive that there’s a lot more bandwidth than there used to be. It’s both animated and accompanied by a soundtrack. I didn’t time it, but it must be a minute or more long.

Big brother may not be watching me, but Google certainly is. On my birthday, the Google doodle on my computer (and I presume only on mine, not yours) was a birthday greeting to me.

Laptops are harder to repair or upgrade than desktop computers. On my laptop, the hard drive is nearly full, the CPU is frequently computing at or near its limit, there’s one balky key on the keyboard and the left mouse button went out yesterday. So, now I have to decide whether I get a new laptop on Black Friday or on Cyber Monday. I also have to decide what kind and that’s hard because various trade surveys disagree about which are the most reliable makes. And, I hope I still have my disks for MS Office.

Things I Know

There are two big historical events to remember next week, the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination. I was going to call it “The Kennedy Assassination, but his brother Bobby was also killed by an assassin so there were two Kennedy assassinations.

If you get a call from a guy with an Indian accent who uses an Americanized name like Jack or Roger and he tells you he’s from Microsoft Windows Service Center, or some other official sounding group, it’s a scam. Don’t fall for it. I just put the words “windows phone scam” into Google and came up with 58.7 million hits. I told the latest one that if he knows what is happening with my computer he must be with the NSA and that I’m running Linux so leave me alone. Maybe that will stop the calls. Nothing else has.

If you head west across the George Washington Bridge and intend to pick up NJ Route 4 West, your Garmin Nuvi will tell you that exit 72A is on the left, even after it’s on the right. So watch out, or you’ll wind up in Oakland, California when all you want to do is go to Paramus, New Jersey.

Also, someone ought to tell the lady inside that little GPS on my dash that the “W” in New York State Route 9W doesn’t mean the road heads west. It means the road is on the west side of the Hudson River. So, its name is Route 9W, not Route 9 West.

If I were in charge of the world, the New York State Thruway and the Northway would be I-95 because they head north and south. The road that heads east and west through Connecticut would have another name, maybe I-80, since it doesn’t go north and south. It’s confusing because east-west interstate highways are supposed to end in zero, like I-40, I-80 and I-90. So, the phrase, “head west on I-95” if used for any extended period of time, ought to be an oxymoron, except there’s Connecticut and part of Rhode Island too.

Things I Know

My family drinks a lot of soda. We usually buy two-liter bottles of brand name soda (Saint Karen favors Coke and I like Pepsi, so we buy both) and we only buy it on sale. How much is a lot? We’re not going to drink all of it soon, but we currently have something like 21 gallons in the house.

In New York State, it’s a little known fact that it’s illegal to park within 15 feet of an intersection. I know this fact is little known because it may be the single most violated law in New York. One of the largest groups of offenders is school crossing guards where I live. Many of them park so close to the intersection that you can’t see around them to be sure it’s safe to go proceed.

When it comes to insomnia, I much prefer difficulty falling asleep to difficulty sleeping through the night.

The strangest license plate I’ve seen in quite a while was a white Cadillac CTS 4-door station wagon with the NY license plate “COUPE.”

Since I bought a GPS, I find myself driving around, not following its directions, to see if I can get it to lose its temper and start screaming at me. And speaking of a GPS, don’t store an address in yours under the name “Home.” If you do and someone steals it, they’ll think you probably have other valuable electronic devices and they’ll know where you live too.

Groupon stopped sending me email offering me discounted stuff. I don’t mind because they never sent me anything I wanted to use, but I didn’t even notice when they stopped. This leads me to believe that email isn’t a really good marketing tool, except for the fact that it’s virtually free.

Speaking of email marketing, I believe CVS drug stores should be allowed to give people six-foot-long register receipts or tons of emails, but not both. I also find courtesy robocalls from CVS to be annoying rather than courteous.

Things I Know

If you plan on going trick or treating this Thursday and taking your dog with you, please do me two favors. Don’t feed your dog chocolate. Believe it or not, chocolate is poisonous to dogs. If they get enough, it can make them very sick or even kill them. And also, please don’t dress your dog up in a costume. I can’t imagine they like that.

I used to live about 30 miles from where I live now and when I moved, I didn’t change dentists. If I drive from here to the dentist, I pass a lot of things named after dead people. On that particular route, I knew (or at least met) all the dead people stuff is named after. I view this as encouraging because I’m still here even though they’re not.

Attention Amazon.com: If I buy a bottle of oil specially designed to lubricate paper shredders, the most likely reason for that purchase is that I have a paper shredder, not that I think I might buy a shredder. Therefore, it isn’t really necessary for you to recommend about 50 different shredders to me. Please stop it.

I seem to be harping on Amazon searches and recommendations. I think I’ll restrain myself on those topics at least for a while.

Jet Blue has a new TV commercial. At least it’s new to me. It touts the fact that they give you a full can of soda, instead of pouring a half can into a plastic cup as so many other airlines do. Okay, but I’ve never been denied a full can on another airline if I ask for it. The last time I flew from San Francisco to New York I flew Delta and got two cans of soda. I don’t think any airline lets you keep the cans and turn them in for a deposit though.

I am so old I remember when headlight lenses were made of glass and you didn’t have to polish them from time to time so they’d be clean and/or transparent enough to let the light shine through. In fact, I’m so old I remember when replacing a headlight cost less than my local car wash charges to polish one for you.

I used to think and I’ve said on this blog previously that the monorail that takes you around San Francisco International Airport is free to users. It’s not. Last time I was there, I rented a car. Various taxes and fees on the car added an astounding 46% to my bill. Twenty dollars of that went to pay for the monorail.

While I was on vacation, I splurged and bought a GPS. I certainly don’t need one where I live because I know the area as well as anyone, but on the West Coast, it was a Godsend. When I fly into SFO if I head north, I’ll come to the Golden Gate Bridge eventually. With the GPS, I arrived at the Golden Gate directly. Big difference! It’s not perfect, but it is surprisingly accurate. One thing I noticed though is there must be some margin of error for the altitude readings. Government flood maps say my house is 15 feet above sea level. The GPS says 28. Out west they occasionally have an altitude sign along the highway. The GPS didn’t agree with any of them, but was never off by more than one or two-hundred feet. And, of course the biggest advantage of a GPS over a map is you never have to re-fold the GPS.

Things I Know

We vacationed recently in California. We flew into San Francisco, rented a car and headed for South Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area. Yes, we hit Donner Pass and yes we crossed the border and visited Carson City NV.

In the area we traveled through, a majority of the people observe the speed limit pretty closely. This is unsettling to someone who’s used to driving in New York and New Jersey.

If I lived in a tourist area of California I wouldn’t trust the pedestrian in crosswalk laws as much as they do, because I’d assume there are too many out of state drivers for that.

Pretzels are more available in South Lake Tahoe than they are in Sacramento.

I couldn’t find rye Triscuits, Social Tea cookies or Good and Plenty candy in South Lake Tahoe. They have other kinds of Triscuits and the other things may be there, but I couldn’t find them.

Raley’s supermarket had some gorgeous looking fresh peaches, so I took a chance and tried them. But, it was late September, so they were mealy.

Every supermarket I’ve ever shopped at in California is nicer than any supermarket I’ve ever shopped at where I live.

The view of Emerald Bay from the overlook on Rte 89 is about as pretty as anything I’ve ever seen.

I told my daughter I had an idea to open a fast-food, Mexican restaurant in the area and call it Tahoe Bell. Someone thought of that joke before I did. A little way out of the town, headed toward Placerville, there is a place called the Tahoe Bell Grill.

Considering my destination, I thought it would be funny if the rental car company gave me a Chevy Tahoe, but they gave me a Ford Explorer. I liked it except for the MyFord Touch which is too complicated to use while driving if you’re not familiar with the car.

I’m not the only person who does this because at Taylor Creek Recreation Area near Lake Tahoe, I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt that said, “I put ketchup on my ketchup.” But it did make me realize that, in addition to putting ketchup on my ketchup, I also put ketchup on my t-shirts.

Back on the East Coast, it would cost me $169 plus tax to have Verizon visit my home to repair a telephone wiring problem inside my house. This was a powerful incentive for me to learn three things: Home Depot has the best price in my area for surface-mounted modular phone jacks; my house is old enough that the red and green wires are still line #1; and yes, I do remember how to do that myself after all.

On CBS Sunday Morning, they recently did a piece about the comic Billy Crystal. In it he said that if there is a heaven, when he dies, he and his wife will be the age when they first met, she will walk by in a bikini and they can start all over again. I like that. But I don’t know Billy Crystal’s wife, so I’ll be very happy to settle for mine.

Having someone come in to refinish the hardwood floors in your house is more work than moving. Why do I say that? In each case, you have to all the furniture out of the area. But when you move from one home to another, you have a moving van to put the furniture in. And when you’re done moving from one place to another, you don’t have to vacuum everything in the house, including the ceilings and the windows. But the floors do look nice.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

It’s been far too long since I posed a bunch of questions that need asking here, so:

Is there such a thing as a closet claustrophobic?

I went for a physical and wound up wondering how I can tell whether the doctor is caring for my health or just running up the bill. They rolled in an EKG machine. Okay, but I had that done in June and asked the other doctor to report the results to this one. They wanted blood. Okay, but I had that done last month, so I brought in the lab results. They read the three pages and wanted more tests. They also urged me to get a whole lot of other tests. I do have diabetes, but I see a specialist for that, so I tend to think some of the tests this doctor wants are really overkill, but I have no way of knowing.

The BBC announced during the summer that actor Peter Capaldi is the twelfth Doctor in the long-running series “Doctor Who.” But there have been 17 other actors who played the Doctor on television, three of the additional five served mostly as fill-ins for the prime doctors, but two of them (John Hurt and Toby Jones) appear to be future doctors. One, Peter Cushing, is famous for appearing in horror movies, played the Doctor in a couple of bad 1960’s movies. How come none of them count?

Don’t you just hate it when you call to make an appointment, get a recording, the recording tells you to call back during regular office hours and it is regular office hours?

“In” is a prefix that reverses the meaning of the word it precedes, right? So, famy must be a word, mustn’t it? I’ve heard of infamy, but I’ve never heard of the word famy. Have you?

Since an abductor is a muscle in your leg, why is kidnapping someone called an abduction?

Now that the guy who founded Amazon.com bought the Washington Post, how soon before the newspaper will be delivered via UPS and frequently in too large a box? Also, will same-day delivery cost extra?

In my continuing quest to improve the English language, shouldn’t the word “Swedish” have two e’s in it?

Reach Out and Touch

Rent-a-car

Are new cars too complicated to give to car rental customers? The question lept to my mind when I rented a car in San Francisco last week. Travelocity had a really good deal going on the Ford Edge, so I rented one for our trip through Travelocity, but from Avis. Of course, when I got to SFO, Avis didn’t have any Ford Edge’s, but Nancy at the rental counter came through for Avis with flying colors. She gave me a Ford Explorer. Not having the car you thought you reserved is an industry-wide problem, not one unique to Avis. The Explorer was, as you can see from the picture I snapped, black. It had a grey leather interior. It didn’t have every option Ford offers, but it had plenty. It had a proximity key. That’s a thing that looks like the power door lock key fob on your old car. The difference is when you get into the car with the proximity key in your pocket or purse, you just step on the brake and push the start button. I didn’t know that. I needed a guy from Avis to show me how to start the car.

It had MyFord Touch. That’s Ford’s touch-screen operating system. It’s complicated. When we started out, I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the radio. After driving from San Francisco to Sacramento with a side trip to Sausalito, I stopped to work it out. Don’t you dare work it out while you’re driving. That’s got to be even more dangerous than texting behind the wheel. I’ve read that the system crashes more than it should. It only crashed once for me. But it’s so distracting that you might crash if you’re not careful. Time was when you turned the radio on and adjusted the volume with a knob. You could change stations with a knob too, or push a button to scan for stations. Those functions are now on a touch screen and they’re not on the top level menu either. Same thing with the heat and A/C. All the controls are on the touch screen device and none of the settings I wanted are on the top level.

A lesser version of the entertainment system has a mini stereo plug so you can plug any kind of MP3 player into the radio and use the car’s speakers. The upgraded system this car had comes with USB inputs, RCA inputs (including video) and an SD card reader. But if you get that, you lose the mini stereo plug. The inputs are in a cubby hole at the junction of the dash and the console and the cubby has a door on it. The inputs are sufficiently inaccessible that you really shouldn’t try to use them while driving either. I didn’t ask Ford, but they may think that’s a safety feature. It’s not. Most people who rent cars are unfamiliar with the controls of the cars they rent and people will try to use those inputs while driving. It’s human nature. Plus, when you do stop to figure them out, that cubby isn’t illuminated, so a flashlight will come in handy. I have a little one in my camera bag. You can ask to borrow it if you want. I won’t lend you mine, but you can ask. You can’t even slip that SD card into the slot by feel, or get it out either, at least not easily.

While we stayed in Sacramento, I managed to get the radio presets to display four stations I like there. When in the Lake Tahoe area, I relied on an SD card for music. On the way back to San Francisco in the pre-dawn hours to catch an early flight, I wanted to listen to KCBS for traffic reports. I had, by that time, learned how to tune the radio directly to a station I hadn’t pre-set, but doing it while driving felt dangerous to me, so I had my wife do it. I lost count of how many times you had to touch the screen to get to that station. It was at least five and maybe as many as eight. For me to do it would have required stopping or having an accident.

I think the self-cancelling turn signals were computer-controlled too. Although they worked by the traditional lever rather than by the touch screen, in nine days I never did get the feel for the difference between signaling a turn and signaling a lane change. I was also unable to get the windshield washer to work. I’m not sure if that was because I couldn’t figure it out or because the car was out of fluid.

I believe Ford has had this system for three years now. I’m sure they’re working on making it more driver-friendly. It’s pretty logical. I was able to figure out most of what I needed to know without consulting the Explorer’s 586 page owner’s manual. But there are many functions I’d like to perform while driving that struck me as dangerous to do at 65 mph when you had to look and not work by feel.

I shudder to think how much more complicated the car would be if it had built in GPS. I brought my own and Ford isn’t the only company with computer problems. When I mounted my GPS, plugged it in and turned it on at SFO, the GPS thought it was still in the New York metropolitan area. Therefore, its directions to the Golden Gate Bridge were shall we say unnecessarily complicated.

I’ve just spent six paragraphs complaining about an electronic systems in a car so complicated that the car has a 586 page owner’s manual. And I really liked the car. It was quiet, roomy and comfortable. I loved the back-up camera. It has a warning system to tell you when you get too close to whatever you’re backing toward. Even though it’s pretty damned big, it carved the corners quite well in the winding road between Placerville and S Lake Tahoe. It wasn’t over-powered. Even though it was big, it averaged 21.6 mpg over roughly a thousand miles of driving. I left it at SFO thinking Avis had done me a favor giving me what must be a nicer car than the one I reserved. The difficulty I had with it was Ford’s fault, not Avis’. If I owned one, I’d probably love it in a week or two once I had the MyFord Touch set up to my liking, but trying to pick one up at an airport after lunch, hop in it and do 200 miles in it before dinner, that I didnt like so much.

I wasn’t about to sit in a garage and read a 586 page book before I started the car. In fact, I was on vacation, so I wasn’t about to read any 586 page book once I got off the coast-to-coast flight. While you could download the book to read on the plane, that isn’t really practical, because while you know what kind of car you hope you’ll get at the rental counter, I have never gotten what I asked for when I made a reservation.

Maybe what we need is a car designed only for the rental market. It could and should be simpler than what’s available to people who buy cars or lease them for an extended period of time. If you have followed my blog for any period of time, you know I want to call it an “Or Similar.”

Think Silly

I’ve mentioned before that people who make serious plans for winning huge lotteries annoy me. Why? I mean, after all, I buy lottery tickets myself. But I realize how bad the odds are and I understand that buying a ticket doesn’t make any significant difference in your odds of winning. I mean 0 in 175.2 million and 1 in 175.2 million are very close to the same thing. Unless, of course, you do win.

I use the opportunity to win (minuscule as it is) as a way to amuse myself. Mostly I tease my wife, Saint Karen, (who has to be a saint to put up with me) about how cheap I’d be if we won. At one time we lived in an apartment and our upstairs neighbors were noisy. My plan if I won at that time was to send the neighbors on vacation so we could have a little peace and quiet.

But with Powerball at something like $400 million tonight, and Mega Millions roughly $145 million since nobody won last night, I have just come up with a new way to be silly about plans to win. Yes, I will still jump on the bed because that would be fun and I could afford to replace the bed which would clearly break if I jumped on it. However, here’s the new part: If I win Powerball tonight, I will take a small part of the money and put it in a trust fund to guarantee the payments in perpetuity. Then, I will make the necessary arrangements so that when I pass away, I can be buried in a rented tuxedo. That’s it, dear reader. Now, it’s your turn to come up with a silly plan. If you do, I’d welcome your comments.

Buy a ticket or not, as you please. But if you do buy a ticket, make a silly plan. Buying a ticket is really entertainment, not investment. Now, if either you win or I do, then and only then it’s okay to come up with a serious plan to make sure you don’t run out of money and even to make sure that some of the money does good in the world. Just don’t make those serious plans until you win. And, if you win and still want to jump on the bed, take it outside first. I wouldn’t want a newly minted multimillionaire to hurt or kill himself by hitting his head on the ceiling.

Things I Know

We just booked a flight and a condo rental in California because our son is getting married to his fiancé (who else would he marry anyway?). The wedding is at the end of the month. Among the reasons I rented this condo is the on-line listing told me it has a king-sized bed and three televisions.

The first time I flew in a plane that offered extra legroom for a fee, it was Jet Blue and it cost $15 per seat. I’m tall while my wife and daughter aren’t. Still, for $45 for the three of us more comfort to me on a cross-country flight was worth it. This time, while searching for a flight, I checked both Delta and Jet Blue. The going rate seems to be around $90 per seat now. $270 for three of us so I can have extra legroom is more than I’m willing to pay.

I haven’t had enough summer yet! But while I may be in a distinct minority among American men, I have had more than enough football.

It’s already September, so eat fresh peaches while you still can.

I don’t know how long this has been true, but you can buy Ikea Swedish meatballs frozen in a pouch. Yet, the lingonberries and the cream sauce come separately and you have to put them together yourself.

From where and how much it hurt, I thought I had partially torn a tendon in my knee on Friday during the strenuous activity of stepping out of my truck. However, it’s getting better and tendons don’t do that, so I guess I just pulled a muscle.

The plural of man is men. Right? Anyone who has ever served in the U.S. Army, and I suspect in any other branch of the US Armed Forces as well, knows that the plural of “men” is “mens.”

I don’t like to bring up phlegm, but that’s another English word whose spelling needs to be revisited.

The Rigors of Travel

We don’t travel a lot as a family, but when we do, I like to stay in a suite hotel or in a rented vacation home or condo. The Internet has made vacation rentals a lot easier with sites like Homeaway and VRBO. But these sites don’t allow me to filter the results the way I want to.

If you rent a room in a hotel, the first thing they tell you is what size and how many beds you have. Two queen-sized or one -king sized bed are a couple of examples of what’s available. For a condo or vacation home rental, if the size of the bed is there at all, it’s buried. But most of the condos and homes I’ve seen have one queen-sized bed in the master bedroom. The place we rented in Florida last year didn’t have a king, but it did have two queens which is almost as good.

Every hotel I’ve ever stayed in has heavy drapes or window coverings that allow you to keep the room dark enough to sleep in. I’ve seen lots of rentals that have blinds or shades, but no drapes at all. I guess it’s one less thing to dust, but I’d like to stay asleep for a while when I’m on vacation. We even rented a cabin in Tennessee once where the bedroom was a loft and there was a huge wall of windows bringing in the morning sunlight, right in your eyes.

Most hotels these days have flat-screen televisions too, but not all of the rentals do and a lot don’t make it clear. Or if they are equipped with flat-screen television, they haven’t updated the pictures to reflect that.

If you want to rent me a condo or home for my vacation, I’d like a website that offers more filters. I want to know what size the beds are. If there’s more than one bathroom, is one en suite? How many TV’s are there, what type, what size and where. I want flat screens with one in the living area and one in each bedroom please. I also need to filter the search results based on whether there’s Wi-Fi and whether there’s access to a hot tub or pool. And can I please filter for things I don’t want as well?

No smoking is a must for me. Stale tobacco smoke is the only thing I can always smell. If I’m swimming laps in a public pool, I can even tell if the person I’m swimming behind is a smoker. Is your rental pet friendly? It’s not that I’m not, but I don’t know what the dog or cat did, where it did it, or how well it was cleaned up. I’m not quite as reliable at smelling cat pee as I am at smelling stale smoke, but it’s pretty close. So, please don’t let me bring the dog or cat I don’t have.

And, since I frequently am unfamiliar with the places I visit, I’d like to know roughly where the unit is located. I can get a hotel’s address pretty easily, so knowing where the rental unit is before I book counts a lot too.

Why has this all come up at this particular time? Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me) and I will be traveling to Lake Tahoe pretty soon. I don’t think it matters much whether we’re in Nevada or California. The lake isn’t that big, so we can go from one state to the other rather quickly. I’ve checked maps and flight schedules so I can tell you that Lake Tahoe isn’t particularly easy to get to from where we live. But, it will be worth the effort.

Why are we doing this? Our son, the lawyer, is getting married. We’ve met the bride to be last year and she seems very nice so we’re quite happy to welcome her to our family. We will signify that by actually showing up for the nuptials. Our adult daughter will be there too.

Our son is older than I was when Saint Karen and I tied the knot, but he does take after me in at least one respect so I hope his bride takes after his mother too. We already like her, no doubt, but we don’t know the bride to be well enough to know this going in. Nevertheless, I hope he’s marrying a saint just like I did. You see, I’m pretty sure she’ll have to be a saint to put up with him too.

Things I Know

Anthony Weiner, in case you haven’t heard, is a candidate for Mayor of New York. Do you think that Sydney Leathers isn’t attractive enough to risk a career on? Do you believe Olivia Nuzzi, the former campaign intern who wrote a damaging article for the NY Daily News should have honored her non-disclosure agreement? Should Barbara Morgan have watched her mouth when talking to a reporter? Is Huma Abedin, Weiner’s wife, enabling his behavior? Do you believe Abedin should stand by her man or divorce him? Whatever your opinion is about Weiner sending pictures of his penis to women, both while he was in Congress and since he resigned after his behavior made him famous as the peter tweeter, let’s all try to remember that candidate Weiner’s behavior is the worst part of this scandal and that the women surrounding him don’t really deserve to be savaged by the media.

The newest TV commercial for Swiffer cleaning products is pretty insulting to older people if you ask me.

According to Buzz Aldrin (who should know) a Saturn V rocket’s mileage on takeoff was 7 inches per gallon. Since what made Mr. Aldrin an historic figure happened a long time ago, perhaps I should explain that Mr. Aldrin was the second human being to set foot on the moon.

Things I Know

It turns out I’m probably already eligible for sainthood. I thought you needed three miracles, but you only need two.

We already knew that Kim and Kanye named their child “North” to go with Kanye’s last name of “West.” So, I was hoping that Kate and William would name their new rugrat “Chrysler” to go with their last name of “Windsor.” For a future King of England, George is so unimaginative. He’ll eventually be George VII. Even King Corey or King Jody would be better in my opinion.

I had a remarkably unpleasant experience with the Bank of America’s World Points credit card reward program. When I complained, the program’s representatives didn’t help me, but promised to refer my problem to the bank for response within 48 hours. I didn’t get any response so I don’t know if the customer service rep that made the promise actually referred me as she said she would. A week later, I called the Bank of America’s customer service number (as opposed to their travel reward number) and a representative there named Claire was extremely helpful and resolved the issue to my satisfaction. There are two lessons to be learned here: check elsewhere to see if the reward deal your credit card is offering is actually a good deal; and if you are unsatisfied with the first response to your complaint, escalate.

Nobody goes to Boy Scout camp for the cuisine and I lost three pounds just by being there for five days last week.

It was very hot in Rhode Island last week. Sleeping wasn’t unbearable though, because I kept the windows open and the walls too. And also because I didn’t bring my zero-degree mummy bag to camp.

I suggest that Classmates.com revise the way it tries to drum up business. From time to time the website sends me emails about the activities of both men and women who graduated from high school before I did. I’m not interested. I might be interested in the activities of women who graduated from my high school a year or two after I did though. I’m not super-interested because I married one of those. And women might be interested in what’s up with men who graduated a year or two before they did. Maybe even three years would work.

If my suggestion on this or any other matter makes you money, post a comment here and I’ll get in touch to tell you how to send me money.

Things I Know

I’m off to summer camp for a few days, but I have to find a new doctor. When I show up at my doctor’s office in shorts and a t-shirt announcing that I’m there for my summer camp physical, I don’t even get a chuckle anymore.

Paypal sent a guy in Pennsylvania a statement saying he had over $92.2 quadrillion in his account. That’s a lot more than the World Bank estimated the entire world economy was worth in 2012, so it was probably a mistake. Too bad, because the guy said he had a good plan for the money. He said he’d pay down the US national debt and then buy the Philadelphia Phillies if he could get a good deal.

I know Bill Cosby has an earned PhD in education. However, he’s a comedian and his recent appearance on the Today show had nothing to do with his academic discipline, so when the Today Show cast called him Doctor Cosby throughout the interview about his internet survey of favorite sweaters, it just sounded odd to me. I always thought that other than MD’s, DO,s and DDS’s, one didn’t use the term “doctor” outside the university or college setting.

If you are impeding the flow of traffic in the left lane on an interstate highway, move to the right or speed up, but not both.

Most cars today have cruise control. If you’re on a limited access highway and traffic is light enough to safely permit its use, please use it. I want to maintain a steady pace and I hate having to speed up and slow down because people who have cruise control don’t use it where appropriate.

There must be 20 resistance exercise stations at the gym I use and no two are the same. I’d guess that the vast majority of people who use each of those machines do something other than what the directions say.

I’m also doing cardio on an elliptical trainer. My goal is to become so fit that they can’t get my pulse high enough during a stress test. I believe I have a long way to go. I’m not even sure the goal is in sight. The peculiar thing about the exercises is that when I stop for a few days, the inactivity hurts my cardio fitness much more than it hurts my strength.

Things I Know

I sometimes marvel at the possible contacts Linked In comes up with. I haven’t even told Linkedin.com that I’m married, but the last time I looked, the business networking website suggested I might know my wife’s boss. I also received an invitation to connect from a guy I haven’t contacted since the mid-2000’s and before that we were both beginning our careers. Of course, I accepted. My very favorite recommendation was they thought I might know the woman I took to my high school senior prom.

A man in Somerset England robbed another man who installs security cameras for a living, with predictable results.

I don’t think I’ll go see the new Lone Ranger movie, but from the reviews I’ve read, it should be viewed with giblet gravy and cranberry sauce.

There’s a report today that Tom Seaver will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at next week’s All-Star game in Citi Field. Really? Was there another candidate?

Before balloting was closed off, I decided I would vote for my favorite players for the MLB All-Star Game which is now a week away. But they want way too much information about me at the MLB website, so I passed.

I can get my annual car inspection anytime during the month when the old sticker expires. However, if I want my health insurance to pay for an inspection of me (read a physical), I have to wait the entire 365 days.

I wish people on TV would stop saying it’s hot when it isn’t. It was humid on Sunday in NY, but the temperature was in the low 80’s. An overnight low of 99 in Death Valley is hot: a daytime high of 81 or 82 in New York isn’t.

I’ve never had a job where I got scheduled performance reviews. I think I’d like one though. Nobody likes criticism, but everyone needs to know where they stand. If a boss doesn’t like something about the job you’re doing, it’s difficult to correct it if you don’t know what it is.

Health insurance eligibility is now sufficiently complicated that even my health insurance carriers can’t tell their employees which one takes precedence.

I’m teaming up Coinstar and Amazon.com to painlessly fund my music collecting. If I get an Amazon gift e-card instead of cash, Coinstar doesn’t charge a fee for counting all the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in my jar. When the jar’s full, it’s always over $100. If I got a bigger jar, I’d have trouble carrying it. So, I got an Amazon e-card for redeeming my pocket change and spent some of the money on CD’s and some of it on camera accessories.

In the area where I live, various supermarkets frequently put small cans of tuna fish on sale. They never discount the big cans. So, if you buy tuna on sale, it’s always cheaper per unit to buy it in small cans. Also, your cell phone probably contains a calculator. Use it while grocery shopping.

Things I Know

I like to take pictures. Sometimes, I take good ones, like the one at the top of this blog. I took that. I’m trying to learn Photoshop Elements 11. I have the software and I have a book. I’ve looked up tutorials on youtube.com too, but I’d like to find a tutorial that would take you through the program while beginning at a place that will allow you to start editing photos right away. That way, you don’t forget the first thing you learned while picking up the seventh. I’m open to suggestions.

By the way, the biggest step you can take to gain a reputation as a good photographer is to not show anyone your bad pictures.

If you live on the west coast, the nearest Dunkin Donuts store is not in Missouri anymore. It’s in Salt Lake City Utah.

If I ever open a funeral home, I’ll call it Mammoth—that’s Mammoth Undertaking.

I didn’t watch the Discovery Channel while Nik Walenda was wire-walking across the Grand Canyon. It was a risk-reward thing for me, as it was for Mr. Walenda. Of course, for him, the potential for both risk and reward were much greater. I would have hated to see him die on live TV, but I would have been only mildly pleased to watch him succeed, so I didn’t watch. But one thing I did like: during the crossing, someone tweeted that not only did the video remind him he was afraid of heights, it also reminded him that he was afraid of widths.

I don’t follow professional hockey at all, but congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on their Stanley Cup victory. The NHL has the coolest sports trophy tradition ever, though. Each player on the winning team gets custody of the cup for a while. They can take it home, or take it out to parties, just to show it to their friends. I imagine you could score a free beer or two if you showed up at the local sports bar with the Stanley Cup.

There’s an old joke among IT workers that if you search Google for the search term “Google” something awful will happen. You’ll break the Internet or send Google into a programming loop from which it cannot exit, or get a screen of death in some color other than blue. None of those things will happen, but you will get over 10 billion hits, so don’t do it unless you’re looking for something to read for several lifetimes to come.

Speaking of the dreaded blue screen of death, it’s been about a year-and-a-half since I looked for the t-shirt on etsy.com and progress has been made. You can now buy on etsy, and maybe elsewhere too, “Blue Screen of Death” T-shirts in 18 colors (it used to be 14) but still only three (it used to be three) are shades of blue.

And, it’s been a lot more than 18 months since I’ve seen a real blue screen of death in its native habitat. Do you think they are extinct?

Remember when M&M candies advertised that they melt in your mouth, not in your hands? Well, now Hershey’s has a product called Air Delight and Hershey’s advertises that it melts fast while you’re eating it. I wish somebody would make up their mind.

Things I Know

If you think you can get a carpet cleaned, ripping one up after it’s been on the floor for years and years will convince you otherwise. Last one I ripped up had at least enough dirt under it to fill a good-sized flower pot.

I was looking at car rentals on Priceline.com, a company that could stand to update its website. According to Priceline, examples of a premium or luxury car in my neighborhood include Mercury Marquis, Lincoln Town Car and the ubiquitous “Or Similar.” Fine, except I can’t think of any other large, rear-wheel drive, American-made cars that haven’t been manufactured in two (Town Car) or three (Marquis) years.

So it has been proclaimed throughout the land that Kim Kardasian’s daughter is named North West. At least the child won’t grow up directionless. It has also been proclaimed that her nickname will be Nori. Perhaps that will be reconsidered since Nori is Japanese seaweed.

My wife, Saint Karen, who has to be a saint to put up with me, can blink, but she can’t wink. She can stick out her tongue too, but she can’t roll it.

I’ve seen Home Depot stores all over the country. Most of them have overhangs at the front of the store. Generally, the stores keep shopping carts and hand trucks under the overhang. Not the one where I usually shop. They keep gas grills, plants, sheds, etc., under there and they take up dozens of parking spaces in the lot storing the carts. They use enough of the parking spaces this way that it’s getting to be a hassle to shop there.

Flikr was recently revamped. I’d like to suggest another improvement. You can drag and drop pictures from your computer to your browser to upload them to Flickr. I’d love it if you could drag and drop pictures within Flickr to rearrange them both in your photostream and in your sets.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

If I were in charge of Microsoft Excel, I’d make the height and width of the cells in the spreadsheets in the same units. Then, if the column width was 6 and the column height was 6, each cell would be square. It’s so logical I wonder why Microsoft doesn’t do that.

Shouldn’t we say “mathematic” (no “s”)? I mean we use the word as singular, not plural.

Here’s a question for car companies. You’ve already designed the hook that’s over the back window so it won’t accept a coat hanger. Why don’t you just eliminate the hook on both sides of the car and make yourselves maybe an extra dime of profit? I know you wouldn’t make the car a dime cheaper, so I didn’t bother to suggest that.

Do you like to stick your head out the window of a moving car? Neither do I, so why does your dog like it so much?

If I can find and buy a race horse named “Nobody,” can I clean up on stud fees when nobody wins the Triple Crown?

When toddlers try on a new (for them) curse word for the first time, they always pronounce the word clearly and use it in the correct context. I wonder where they get it from, don’t you?

Why is it you can modify some Facebook posts, but only delete others?

Where did I leave my car keys? No, really. Exactly where? I know they’re in the woods somewhere near Stony Point NY and I know I’ll never find them, but those car keys and those remote key fobs are mad expensive—more than a subsidized smart phone.

Things I Know

If you net $370.8 Million in the Powerball lottery the way Gloria MacKenzie did, I imagine it would be pretty hard to squander that much money. However, if you’re 84, as Gloria MacKenzie is, I think you should try hard to do so. Mrs. MacKenzie lives, or maybe used to live in Zephyrhills, FL, which is near Tampa. Her son is from Jacksonville, which isn’t near Tampa. Her new attorneys are also from Jacksonville. That leads me to speculate that she is probably relying at least in part on her son to help her plan for the money. I say more good luck to her and to anyone she chooses to be generous to as well.

When my wife heard that the winner is 84, she said, “I hope she has a lot of relatives.” I said, if she didn’t before, she probably does now.”

My daughter deserves to win the big prize in a lottery because she has a good answer to the news conference question, “What are you going to do with the money?” She says she’d reply, “Well, I was thinking about getting a pizza.”

News that the current director of the FBI is retiring soon lead me to wonder how much the FBI director earns. He is a public official, so his salary must be a public record, but in the few minutes I’ve spent looking for it, I couldn’t find it.

“Anyways” isn’t a word.

I get more and more junk mail, or if you prefer direct marketing mailers, that are too thick to put through even a pretty good shredder without opening them. I even got one recently that had two paper clips in it to prevent me from shredding it. Okay direct marketers, you win. I’ll open your junk mail before I shred it, but you still can’t make me read it.

I emailed Linked In, the business networking website, with a suggestion for change. I got two responses, one quickly and the other 13 days later. Neither one was anything more than generic and neither one gave me any confidence that the website will adopt my suggestion.

A guy came up to me in the library the other day and said hi. I had no idea who he was. I may have mentioned that I have a terrible memory for names. My wife tells me I learned her name the third time we met. Turns out the guy who said hi is the man I sold my old Chevy to something like 25 years ago. The car served him well until he wrecked it four years later. So, he didn’t remember me for doing something awful to him. I was flattered and said so.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Yanira Maldonado, a 42-year-old Mexican-born American citizen, was released from jail in Mexico on Friday. She was charged with smuggling drugs after 12 pounds of marijuana was found under the seat where she was sitting on a bus. Her release came after surveillance video of the bus station showed she wasn’t carrying a package when she boarded the bus. That’s fine, but why did it take a week to look at the video?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is running for reelection. Have you seen his campaign commercials? If you’re the incumbent and if you’re ahead in the polls, isn’t it unusual to attack your opponent by name, especially six months before the election? Doesn’t that contribute to her name recognition and put her on a more equal footing with the governor in the mind of the public?

Have you ever named your car? My sister used to call our old Jeep “Jeepy Girl.” Not sure why. I have only named one car, a clapped out Plymouth we called “Blue Cloud.” The car was red, but it burned A LOT of oil.

If you sign up for a cell phone contract and get a new phone, the cost of the phone is subsidized, right? So how come if you let the contract expire and don’t renew or get another phone your monthly bill doesn’t go down once the subsidy for your old phone is paid off?

How do Linked-In and Facebook decide who they suggest I might know? I haven’t shared my contacts with either one. Both thought I might know the woman I took to my senior prom. That was a long time ago and while I’m grateful that she’s one of the people who introduced me to my wife, I really only see her at my wife’s class reunions. Linked-In recently told me I might know David Einhorn, the billionaire hedge fund guy who is probably most famous in this area for trying to buy into the NY Mets. I was in a group of 20-25 people introduced to him at a ball game, but I wouldn’t say I know him and I’m a thousand percent sure he wouldn’t say he knows me.

Things I Know

You can freeze cream cheese, but I don’t recommend it because it louses up the texture.

While Spring cleaning and before you take everything in your attic and garage to the curb or to the dump, you should know that a working 1976 model Apple 1 computer was auctioned recently for 516,000 Euros which translates to about $668,000. My mom probably threw one of those out along with my comics and my Lionel trains.

Internet advice can be funny. I was reading camping forums to find out how to repair the netting on my tent. I left the tent in my garage over the winter and despite the fact that it doesn’t look like an acorn, squirrels nibbled on it. Someone on one of the forums suggested I could repair the holes in the netting by using small patches made out of squirrel pelts.

Because I went to a meeting on Wednesday morning, I wasn’t home when the Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped by. I respect their religious beliefs; I wish they respected mine and left me alone after a few polite no’s.

I hate to watch really dark movie scenes on TV. Generally when that happens I can’t see much.

A newly released scientific study proves conclusively that anything anyone enjoys is harmful either to the person who enjoys it, whoever provides it, or both. Moreover, having made that determination, no more scientific studies need be conducted ever.

I was going to start a Twitter account to promote this blog but the twitter handles Sisyphus and Sisyphusproject are taken although neither one is used very often (like in years). I can’t complain though. I have Twitter account I only use to sign into a couple of websites I visit frequently.

Amazon.com’s search function continues to puzzle me. I searched for Canon Lens under electronics, sorted them by price highest first, and the third item that came up was a Leica lens. I searched for a particular song with a two-word title under MP3 music. The first song title was the 107th item on the list. Amazon does many things amazingly well, but its search function continues to be weird and unsatisfying.

Mother’s Day

If you’ve complimented or flattered me by reading all, some, or most of what I’ve written on these pages over the past five years, you may have noticed that I’ve fondly remembered my father on Father’s Day. You may also have noticed that I haven’t done the same for my mother on Mother’s Day.

Still, I hope you have fond memories of your mother. Even better, I hope your mom is still alive and you can tell her you love her. And, if you have a mother or if you are a mother, I hope you have a happy Mother’s Day.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

What should I get my wife for Mother’s Day? Frankly I’ve run out of gift ideas, not just for that but for anything. To balance things out, I’ve run out of gifts I want to receive as well.

When Queen Elizabeth dragged Prince Charles with her to the ceremonial opening of Parliament on Wednesday, my daughter wanted to know if it was bring your children to work day in Great Britain.

Is Martha Stewart being paid for looking for a date using Match.com? The website has experienced tons of publicity and a surge in membership, so I assume so, but if she is being paid by someone other than the Today show when she appears there to promote the search, I think it should be disclosed.

Why are there no B batteries?

I always confuse the word artisan with the word artesian. So, sometimes I wonder how cheese could ever be able to come out of the ground without benefit of a pump, or with for that matter.

Where did I park my car?

Don’t you need a gun and a mask to charge that much for a new ignition key and a new remote for your car? Admittedly they weren’t new cars, but I’ve owned more than one car that cost less to buy than the dealer wants for a new key and fob for my five-year-old truck.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

I’m all for recycling plastic, so why can’t they make the little numbers inside the triangles on the bottoms of the plastic containers big enough to read?

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend and a dog is man’s best friend. Is that unfair to men or women?

Every spring I wonder, shouldn’t the plural of crocus be croci?

Do you understand the show “Deadliest Catch?” I don’t. When I was growing up, nobody wanted to catch crabs.

Isn’t that Marshall Efron doing the voice of the cartoon general in the TV commercials for The General Insurance?

Why is my kitchen exhaust fan just as noisy on low speed as it is on high?

Are pancakes really so hard to cook that we need the Flip Jack pan?

Why are we supposed to tip the newspaper delivery guy? When I was a paper boy, I bought papers wholesale and sold them for list price. A tip, if I got one was a little extra for the convenience of getting the paper delivered to the door. These days the newspaper delivery person is an adult working from a car, very early in the morning. And, the cost of newspaper home delivery is higher than the price printed on the newspaper. So, they’re being paid more than retail for their service, right? Therefore, why are we also supposed to tip?

Things I Know

If you absolutely need to be miserable for three or four minutes, it’s really, really hard to beat a George Jones song. If you don’t like country music, that may not matter to you. If you do like country music, you already know they held his funeral at the Grand Old Opry, you could watch it live on more than one cable channel, stream it on the Internet, or listen on satellite radio. And the place was packed!

Evidently, the people who programmed MS Word aren’t big fans of country music. I say that because they think “Opry” is a misspelled word.

Don’t turn left off a busy main street into a side street if there’s no room to pull all the way out of the intersection.

If there’s a long line on the street waiting to turn right into a fast food drive-in window or a carwash, you have no business trying to turn left to cut that line.

If there’s a left turn lane on a ground-level street or a deceleration lane on a highway, please get all the way into it before turning. I just hate it when people hang the rear of their car out of those lanes so as to both occupy the turn or deceleration lane and also block the free flow of traffic.

Using the word magniloquent to describe someone’s speech or writing is in and of itself magniloquent.

Things I Know

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the Boston bombers’ mother says she regrets ever moving her family to the United States. We regret it too.

When I met my wife’s parents it was no big deal. She was still in high school. I went to their house to pick her up and take her to a movie. We said hello. If you start dating someone as an adult it can be more momentous. My son is going to meet his girlfriend’s parents and it involves a trip to where they live in Europe.

I was talking to a psychiatrist I know the other day and he said that the bombing at the Boston Marathon and the positive test (possibly a false positive) for the deadly poison Ricin on mail to the President and a US Senator were crazy. He should know, right?

The proliferation of fees in the airline industry continues. My friend Wes Richards has now proposed a fee collection fee. Just brilliant! I fear Wes will now become the head of a major airline as a result and if the fee collection fee gets implemented and Wes gets royalties for this idea he will soon be the only person able to afford to fly commercially.

Myself, I’m working on the fi-fo-fum fee.

If you use Facebook, you know that every once in a while your news feed will say one of your friends commented on an issue and so did 415,773.134 other people. Fine. But if you’re interested in what your friend said about that issue, you might click on it. And there’s no way you can find your friend’s comment among the 415,772.134 others. If you click on one of those through your friend, I think Facebook should take you to the page, but highlight your friend’s comment.

Our obsession with celebrity has gone too far. It’s been reported, far more widely than necessary, that when pop star Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank house while in Amsterdam on a European concert tour earlier this month, he signed the guest book, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” In case you’re not a young teenage girl, a beleiber is someone who’s a fan of Justin Bieber. Some people went nuts criticizing the kid. Maatje Mostart curator of the museum didn’t. She retained some perspective. While acknowledging that the remark was insensitive, she said, “He’s 19. It’s a crazy life he’s living, he didn’t mean bad… and also it’s nice that he made the effort, he didn’t have to come.” That’s about the size of it and that’s about the amount of coverage this gaffe deserves.

Things I Know

If someone tells you this April 15th is the 100th anniversary of the federal income tax, that’s not exactly true. The feds have been collecting income taxes for the past 100 years, but first, there was also an income tax during the Civil War and second, in 1913, your federal income tax deadline was March 1st, not April 15th.

I understand that telling a prospective employer what you make on your current job us a stronger bargaining position than telling them what you made on your last job. Still, I went on a job interview recently where the salary offered was well below the pay grade of the responsibility of the job opening. So, I withdrew myself from consideration. I’m willing to work for less than I used to make, but not for less than what the job typically commands.

The NY Post website on Wednesday had an article headlined, “One-Third of Air Force Including Blue Angels Grounded by Sequester.” Okay, except the Blue Angels are the Navy’s aerobatics team. The Blue Angels have been cancelled too, but the Air Force’s aerobatics team is called the Thunderbirds, so the headline should have said something about the Thunderbirds and so should the article.

If you have a car with a keyless entry system, don’t lose your keys. At the dealer, the remote for my truck costs around $100 without programming. I’ll be searching on Ebay in the next few days for a cheaper solution. Not only the remote. The key also has a transponder and has to be programmed to the car by a dealer or a locksmith with a reasonably expensive piece of equipment to do the job.

How come Jay Leno calmed down about being replaced by Jimmy Fallon? Money is my guess.

Like a lot of people, my garage is full of junk and I can’t park a car there. So, I don’t go into it much in the winter time. I went in on Saturday. I knew the car wasn’t parked there. I didn’t know the dead squirrel was, but now I do.

Apostrophe Catastrophe II

For reasons I can’t explain, when the most recent update of the blogging software I use stripped some, but not all the apostrophes from the entire five years of the blog, it stripped out some, but not all of the quotation marks in the blog as well.

The last time I wrote about this, I said there was a limit on how far back I could go and edit the blog entries. I have discovered, however, that the most recent update of the blogging software also removed the limit on editing. So, I can now go back to the very beginning to correct and edit entries. I can go through all five years of entries and correct them for proper use of apostrophes and quotation marks after all.

Since I can, maybe I will. But, don’t count on it happening quickly.

Things I Know

I just figured out how to improve U.S. relations with the People’s Republic of North Korea. America should set up a good barber school in Pyongyang. Let’s face it, Little Kim’s haircut won’t win a prize anytime soon.

The actor Daniel Craig, famous for playing James Bond, made a seven-minute appearance at the NY International Auto Show during press previews on Wednesday. He arrived at the Javits Center in a Land Rover, on behalf of that company, stayed for 7 minutes and didn’t say a word. He was reportedly paid one million dollars. I could never do that. Nobody who knows me thinks I could possibly go seven minutes without uttering a word.

So I was watching a show called Prime Nine on the MLB cable channel and it was about what the show’s producers consider the nine best seasons of all times for individual pitchers. Of course, one of the nine was Sandy Koufax in 1965. The film clip they showed was of his perfect game in September and calling that game, 48 years ago, Vin Scully. Other than Koufax’s performance, what’s remarkable is Vin Scully. If you had gone back another fifteen years, a Dodger film clip might have had Vin Scully doing play by play. If you get one from next Monday or later, it might still be Vin Scully, but the chances are lower because Mr. Scully doesn’t do every game anymore. He still does home games and a few road games in states neighboring California. And, he is 85 years old!

Verizon wireless sent me an email suggesting I spend $4.99 on two cleaning wipes for my cell phone. That’s not going to happen.

Things I Know

50’s and 60’s singing idol Bobby Rydell was a no-show for his appearance at Dick Fox’s Doo Wop Extravaganza at the NYCB Theater in Westbury NY last night. Jay Black, former lead singer of Jay and the Americans filled in for him. According to the concert’s MC, Emil Stucchio (who is also lead singer of The Classics) Rydell had open-heart surgery earlier in the week. Rydell, who is 70 years old, had a double organ transplant last summer, receiving a liver and a kidney. I hope Bobby Rydell makes a complete and speedy recovery.

Note to doo wop singers: If you didn’t have THAT operation when you were nine years old (and aren’t you glad you didn’t?) you can’t sing falsetto at 70 or 60 or even 50. Hire a woman to sing the high notes.

Occasionally, someone says something extremely profound about something else that’s not profound at all. Case in point, Smokey Robinson, legendary lead singer of the Miracles on early group harmony: “When you learn a Moonglows’ record, you learn the background vocals before you learn the lead vocals.” Smokey said that on the recently rebroadcast PBS special “Doo Wop Discoveries.” True. I know when my son was a toddler, if he sang along with some music I was playing, he’d sing the harmony parts. And I also know I love me some Moonglows’ records.

“The National Association of Realtors supports maintaining homeowner tax incentives.” If this ad’s purpose is to convince Congress, or to convince the general public, I think it’s an awful ad. Do you know what they’re talking about? I don’t think many people do. “Homeowner tax incentives,” means you can deduct the interest you pay on your home mortgage from your income taxes. Whenever Congress talks about closing loopholes in the tax code, that’s one of the issues they’re addressing. Are you more interested now? I thought so. And you would have been more interested earlier if the ad explained that.

Every once in a while you run across some really strange pricing. Here are two examples.

First, if you ride a bus in Nassau County NY, you can pay with a lot of coins or you can pay with something called a Metro Card. The fare, in coins, is $2.25. On the card, it’s $2.50! I know that acquiring and carrying 18 quarters for a daily, round-trip commute is a bit of a burden, but I can’t see why anyone would use the card.

Second, we use a lot of ketchup in my house. My daughter puts ketchup on baked chicken and I put ketchup on ketchup. Since we use so much, we buy a lot. Recently, in the supermarket, a humongous bottle of brand-name ketchup (is there more than one brand name of ketchup?) cost $6.49. What do I mean by humongous? 1.43 kg. Strange pricing was in effect, so two humongous bottles held together by a white plastic thingy cost $5.99. Which should I buy, one for $6.49 or two for $5.99? Not $5.99 each, $5.99. Oh the stress of making decisions.

Apostrophe Catastrophe

I’m at least as smart as the average person and since I possess a master’s degree I’m reasonably well educated. Still, I do make mistakes; everybody does.

I haven’t, however, made as many mistakes in the use of apostrophes as there are in this blog. I usually write it in MS Word, then cut and paste it into the blog. When I do that the blog software sometimes indicates spelling mistakes involving apostrophes. In the past I haven’t corrected those and they have appeared as I intended them to when I make blog posts. While my blog has its own domain name, the ISP I use runs blogs through WordPress software. I presume WordPress uses a different character for the apostrophe than MS Word does. Since the recent WordPress upgrade, a lot of my apostrophes have mysteriously disappeared. This isn’t going to work. I will not pay ransom for any of my missing apostrophes, not even the ones I love most.

There’s a limit on how long after posting I can fix mistakes so at this point I won’t go back and try to fix all the apostrophes I’ve accumulated over more than five years of blogging. I know there’s no such word as whos and when I wished our Irish-American President a happy St. Patrick’s Day, I wrote it as President O’Bama, not President OBama.

Since I’ve discovered this problem, in the future I will correct the blog entries for apostrophes once they’re imported from MS Word. So, please forgive the apostrophe stupidity you may encounter if you read previous blog posts. A few of the mistakes are probably mine, but most of them have been injected by the most recent upgrade to WordPress. We will now move forward and not look back at catastrophic apostrophic mistakes.

Calling the Bank

I have a problem and I’m pretty sure it involves either information downloaded from my bank or the software I run on a PC that uses that information. You see, when I download bank information it shows up on my PC with check numbers attached, even if the transactions aren’t checks. Moreover, the inserted numbers don’t necessarily relate to each other or to existing numbers for transactions that are checks.

I have another problem with my bank. When I use Google Chrome, I can’t transfer money from one account to another.

About the first problem, I’ve called the bank and the software company and each blames the other. When that happens, I get frustrated and give up until I have another problem. I called the bank about the second problem and decided to address the first again for probably the fourth or fifth time.

The first lady I talked to in customer service was very nice and she asked an intelligent question. She wanted to know whether I could transfer money between accounts if I used another browser. I tried it and the answer was yes. So, I had a work-around, but the customer service rep wasn’t able to solve the problem if I use Chrome. Next, she put me on hold to talk to another customer service rep about the download v. software problem.

The bank, by the way, has a problem too. Both when I called in the first place and when I waited on hold for the second rep, I learned that my call is important to the bank. I also learned that even though my call is important, they don’t hire enough customer service reps to answer calls promptly, even if you are a preferred customer and call on the preferred customer special telephone line.

The second lady was also very nice and also unable to solve my problem. I still wind up with transactions that have check numbers even though they aren’t checks. However, unlike the people I’ve talked to in the past at the bank or the software company, this lady opened a case, gave me a case number and said someone will call me back. I hope so and we’ll see.

While I was on hold, waiting for the second rep and listening to awful music at extremely low fidelity, I figured out the answer to my first problem for myself. Is there anything I do differently, I asked myself, when I use Chrome as opposed to the other browser? Yep, there is. In Chrome, I’m running an anti-tracking extension called DoNotTrackMe. So, I shut it off and, lo and behold, I could transfer money again. Frankly, I’m surprised that the extension prevents me from transferring money between accounts, but doesn’t prevent me from accessing the bank website or any other functions of my accounts, but that is the way it works.

Solving the problem by myself makes me feel better about myself, but also makes me a little less confident in my bank.

Things I Know

Happy to be back. Did you miss me? I did.

Apparently, the blog was down for the past couple of days because WordPress which supplies the software this blog uses, was updating its programs. I don’t know what happened to the old layout and I don’t have time to mess with a new one right now, but I will fix it soon, I promise.

Things I Know

Happy St. Patrick’’s Day. On the holy day, you may wish to try my recipe for Irish coffee. I recommend drinking it black, with no coffee.

Just to restate my Irish qualifications: My dad painted the first legal green line up Fifth Avenue for a St. Patrick’’s Day Parade. Before New York City took over, a bunch of guys got drunk and painted the line green on a voluntary basis. I once met one of the guys who used to do that too.

And I also wish our Irish president, Barak O’’Bama a happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I don’t believe I have any particular influence in local politics, but the Sisyphus Project hereby endorses Robert T. Kennedy for mayor of Freeport NY in the election to be held on March 19th. I recommend his running mates, the Unity-Home Rule candidates on Row B as well. As far as I know, most villages in New York State hold elections for mayor, trustee and village justice on the third Tuesday in March. So, if you live in a village in New York State and if your village is having an election on Tuesday, please vote. Turnout in these elections is usually low, so your vote means more in these elections than it does in Presidential elections.

I hope Pope Francis is successful in leading the Catholic Church more in the direction of helping the poor. I also hope he cracks down even further on child abuse among certain members of the clergy.

My wife made sauerbraten and potato pancakes for dinner. She told our daughter that if there were any potato pancakes left over, she’d freeze them. Our daughter replied, ““Mommy, you’re cute.”” She had a point. There weren’’t any potato pancakes left over. I’’ve never seen, or even heard of leftover potato pancakes, have you? And, if there’’s even a smidgen of justice in the world, there is no such thing as leftover potato pancakes. Nor, should there be! Actually, our daughter has two points: Mommy is cute too.

If the Girl Scouts find this out, they’ll probably raise the price of their cookies, but some commercially baked cookies sell for more in your supermarket than the Girl Scouts charge for their cookies. However, I think packages of grocery-store cookies generally weigh more than packages of Girl Scout cookies. If Social Teas weren’’t the most expensive cookies I like, I’’d probably eat a couple of boxes of them a day!

Speaking of Girl Scouts, they almost made a terrible mistake. They only tried to sell cookies to my wife, not to me. However, I tracked down a Girl Scout and managed to buy another five boxes of Thin Mints.

Dennis Rodman’’s trip to North Korea went exceptionally well since shortly after he returned to the USA North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

One of the biggest questions of 2013 so far is who’se baby is going to get more publicity when it’’s born, Kate’’s or Kim’’s?

I’’m not a big fan of reality TV and I’’ve never seen the show “Fashion Star,” but I did see Nicole Richie on “Today” this morning. I know her father is famous and that she and Paris Hilton became famous for being famous, but how can she be a featured player on a TV show if she’s as inarticulate and stammers as much as she did on “Today?”

Why did Jody Arias take the witness stand in her murder trial? She’’s the 32-year-old Arizona woman accused of stabbing Travis Alexander multiple times. The NY Daily News reported, “Prosecutors claim she killed Alexander in a jealous rage, stabbing and slashing him 27 times, slitting his throat and shooting him in the head.” She says self-defense. It’’s almost never a good idea for a defendant to take the witness stand because it allows prosecutors to ask questions on cross examination that would not be permitted otherwise. Based on news reports, I don’’t think she’’s helping herself and she’’d stand a better chance with the self-defense claim if Alexander hadn’’t been stabbed 27 times. Generally, a lot of stabs and/or a lot of shots indicate rage was an element of the crime.

On the TV show “Pawn Stars,” I think I saw someone pawn something once, but I don’t believe I’’ve ever seen anyone buy anything at the store. Still, the time Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me) and I drove past the store in Las Vegas, there was a line to get in, so someone must be buying their stuff.

Whenever there’’s a big storm, the weather forecasters on TV keep talking about “The Eurpoean model.” Who is this European model? Heidi Klum? And why would a European model know anything about meteorology.

Things I Know

The TSA announced new rules about knives on planes. The new rules take effect on April 25th. Most of the reporting I’’ve read said it’’ll be okay to bring your Swiss Army knife on a plane after that date. However, if you read deeper into the articles they say the maximum length of a blade allowed will be 2.36 inches. I have a Swiss Army knife. If you measure only the sharp part of the blade, it’s about a tenth of an inch too long. If you measure the entire part that sticks out of the handle, it’s even longer. So be careful taking your Swiss Army knife on a plane, even after 4/25. Also, I wondered who has a tape measure you can use to measure 2.36 inches, but I’’ve decided they really mean 6 cm.

If you subscribe to Norton Internet Security, you may want to turn off the automatic renewal feature. Norton told me when my subscription was due to expire, but they charged me for a renewal more than two weeks before the expiration date. Also, shop around. You can get their product (which I have used for years and like) a lot more cheaply than the price they sell it to you for. If you should have a problem, Nathan, the chat guy on Norton’s website is a computer, not a person. I contacted the company through Facebook and their Facebook team consists of real people I found very helpful.

Obviously, the Dolan family that owns Cablevision is a lot more skilled at making money than I am. They’re worth billions of dollars because of the company Charles Dolan founded. However, the current TV commercial for Cablevision’s Optimum cable service is exceedingly dumb. If you don’t live in an area served by Cablevision, the commercial claims that Optimum’’s 800 number is so similar to the 800 number of singer Michael Bolton that Bolton is getting a lot of calls meant for them. Why would Bolton have an 800 number? Why would he make it public? And, why would he ever answer a publicly known 800 number himself?

I missed National Banana Cream Pie Day which was March 1st, but I have big plans to make up for that.

I’m glad I only learned that March 3rd was the date of the World Naked Bike Ride after it was too late to participate because it’’s way too cold for that in early March where I live.

In this economy, someone must have money. I was at the Garden State Mall in New Jersey and I know they’’re building a parking garage in part of the parking lot, but the rest of the lot was jammed, in the early afternoon on a weekday.

I believe it’’s true throughout New York State and know that on Long Island most village elections will be held on March 19th. There are fewer than two weeks to go. Vote early, vote often and vote for the candidate of my choice.

I haven’t done a blog item on things I want (or need) to know in quite a while. I have to work on that.

Things I Know

Today is the fifth anniversary of the Sisyphus Project. If, like my friend Richard (formerly from New Jersey) you have been with us from the beginning, or very near the beginning, then you may be a glutton for punishment, but you have my sympathy.

When a movie star on the red carpet at tonight’’s Oscar award ceremony is asked, ““Who are you wearing,”” just once, I’’d like her to say, “”It’’s from the sale rack at Kohl’’s”.” I didn’’t have that desire until Nancy Giles planted it in my mind when I watched her commentary on CBS Sunday Morning today.

I listen to the radio more than most people. I keep it on all night and listen on a pillow speaker when I’’m having trouble sleeping, which is most of the time. I just bought a new one; a Sangean CL-100. I’’ve only had it for a couple of nights, but so far, so good. I live in an area with lots of radio stations and it picks up the ones I like. On the first night, the display was too bright, but that’’s adjustable. I don’’t need the weather radio feature unless I move to Florida. That might happen if I can convince my wife, Saint Karen, who must be a saint to put up with me. I thought about buying a radio that would accept SDHC cards and play the music or podcasts on them. But this radio is less than half the price and it does have an auxiliary input, so I can make it play music from my MP3 player or my phone. The clock on mine doesn’’t seem terribly accurate, but it can reset itself from information broadcast by many radio stations. My biggest problem so far is that the display isn’’t large enough for me to read it in the middle of the night without my glasses.

The Sangean replaces a teenage Grundig Yachtboy 400. I like one thing better about the Sangean. It has a much lower center of gravity so it’’ll be harder to knock over at night. But if the Yachtboy was still being manufactured, I’’d buy another one. The Yachtboy is a good receiver and very sturdy. I’’ve owned it since around the turn of the 21st century. I’’ve dropped it several times. Two of those drops submerged it in water. After it dried out and I replaced the batteries, it worked just fine. It still works just fine except for one important thing: the earphone jack is now intermittent. So, if I want to listen to the radio all night, I can’t rely on a pillow speaker. Therefore, the Yachtboy gets retired to a secondary roll.

Things I Know

If you agree to sign a nominating petition to get some candidate on the ballot, please print your name legibly. I know nobody has a legible signature these days, but apparently the majority of people can’’t print legibly anymore either. If you attended the same grade school I did, I can assure you that Sister Mary Knucklebuster wouldn’t be pleased and neither would Atilla the Nun.

Got a call Friday night from a woman claiming to work with (not for) National Grid. She was intent on asking me if I heated my home with natural gas, so intent that she asked me again after I answered the question. The way she acted, I smelled scam, so I insisted she get to the point. She insisted on sticking to the script so I hung up. Sounded like a scam call to me and there are two I’’m aware of. In one, they ask for your social security number and bank routing number so they can enroll you in a program where the feds will pay your heating bill. In the other, they want to give you a new account number and a new place to send your payments. Don’’t fall for either. Never give personal information (especially personal financial information) to someone who calls you out of the blue and verify by contacting the company yourself if someone calls and wants you to send your money to a new place.

The recently-completed, much-publicized python hunt in the Florida Everglades yielded only 68 snakes. Either pythons are less of a problem in the Everglades than people thought, or they’’re very good at hiding.

Cable TV’s Biography Channel ran a show about Shirley MacLaine. I watched because she’’s the only movie star I’’ve ever talked to. I did that during Senator McGovern’’s campaign for President. She was an active supporter and sometimes campaigned with the candidate. The show said she’s 5′ ’7″” tall which surprised me so I looked it up and several other sources agree. When I met her, she struck me as tiny, but I guess I was so taken by her approachability and genuineness that I must not have noticed that she was standing lower down a slope than me, or maybe I was on a curb and she was on the driveway.

I stumbled upon an Internet list of the 16 most stressful airports in the USA. I’’ve flown in and out of 11 of them, so I guess I have some catching up to do.

I like my orange juice with pulp in it. I thought only kids who are picky eaters liked it strained, but I’’m almost certainly wrong. I base my judgment on the stock at local supermarkets. I was in one last week that only had strained juice. OJ with pulp wasn’’t even for sale. Of course, I prefer chocolate bars with no almonds in them and there, I’’m in the minority as well.

“Women have to grow up because guys need some kind of adult supervision.” Dick Summer said that and I think it’s kind of profound.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

I understand the need for security with respect to credit card accounts. I even appreciate it. Still, why can I use the same Visa credit card account twice in one day at the Home Depot a mile or so from my house, but my wife and I can’’t fill up our cars at the gas station three blocks from our house on the same day?

Since preposterous is a word, why aren’’t posterous and postposterous words as well? And yes, I know that posterous is a website that was sold to Twitter and is closing down in April, but it’’s still not a word and that’s preposterous.

In real estate, why do short sales take a long time?

The spam filter on my blog bounced a comment from one-third of my commenters (Richard formerly from New Jersey). Therefore, I shut off the spam filter. So, now I get spam comments. You don’t see them because the comments are moderated. For your comment to appear here, it has to meet two requirements: no spam; and no flaming. Why do the spam comments show up in posts I made months or even years ago? Is it just to create mischief? It doesn’’t seem to me that most people who visit blogs go through all the back posts in order to find spam.

When’’s the last time Paris Hilton was in the news? I don’’t want her back, I just wonder.

Happy New Year

Why were they talking about Chinese New Year this morning on Channel 2 in NY? I know the festival lasts two weeks, but wasn’’t the actual date of the Chinese New Year last Sunday? In any event, when you write checks from now on, be sure to write year of the snake, and to stop writing year of the dragon. And, have a happy new year.

Things I Know

Another tremendous product idea to serve a desperate need: teeth blackener for snowmen.

Naming blizzards is lame, unless it’’s a Dairy Queen blizzard of the month. I have enough trouble remembering when the blizzard of ‘’78 happened. I’’ll never be able to remember when Nemo hit.

Whenever I see one of those cable shows about ancient aliens or aliens yet to come, I’’m reminded of the old “Twilight Zone” episode in which the pretty assistant runs up to the ramp where her boss, Mr. Chambers, is getting on a flying saucer and she tells him that the alien book, “To Serve Man,” is a cookbook.

On the other hand, we already know there is no intelligent life on this planet, so we might as well look for it elsewhere and consequences be damned.

Speaking of extraterrestrial life, there’’s an alien-invasion movie called “Battleship” all over cable this week. It came out last year and it’’s kind of fun. It’’s not great, or believable, but it’’s kind of fun. One of the viewer-reviewers on Netflix said the movie had great special effects and a script written by a six-year-old in crayon. That’’s pretty accurate. No explanation about faster-than-light travel or faster-than-light communication, or the aliens blocking some kinds of wireless communication, but not all, or getting here and planning to rely on our equipment rather than theirs to call home, or sending only five ships to conquer a planet, or how a screw-up who broke into a convenience store and got caught can join the Navy, become an officer, continue to screw up and still get promoted twice in a relatively short period and in peacetime. There’’s more to object to in the plot, but the special effects make the movie and in the end, the senior citizens come through, the humans win and the hero gets the girl so like I said, kind of fun. Let’’s call it two stars (out of five), okay?

I didn’t have any further problems with the old Toyota’s thermostat. I had my friendly neighborhood mechanic change it, so the only problem I have is paying the bill.

Oh, and saving the best for last, happy Valentine’s Day. I’m sure that as long as I continue celebrating them with my wife all of mine will be happy.

Spring Training

blog-stadium.jpg

It’s Spring Training, so pack up your Slinky and send it to Arizona or Florida. Of course the good folks in Port St. Lucie Florida have changed the name back to Traditions Field because Digital Domain went bankrupt last year about the time I took this picture. Since Baseball causes warm weather, Spring Training is a great sign. Once the games come on the radio, drive around with the game on and your car windows down to help spread the warmth north more quickly.

Are They On Drugs?

So, toward the end of last year, my wife and I got new cards from our health insurance for our prescription drug benefits. We also got a lot of literature from the same program and I thought the literature said we weren’’t really eligible for the new program.

So, I called the program and on my first call, they said yes we were eligible and no, we weren’t eligible, at the same time. That’s both answers in one call. Last week, I called again and was assured by a very nice lady that we were eligible. So, this week, I went on line and tried to change my profile with the mail-order pharmacy we use so that it would be consistent with the new plan.

The on-line system didn’’t mind my name, but it didn’’t like my birthday, my prescription benefit member number, the prescription number, or my relationship to myself. Now, I could live with it not liking the member number and the prescription number, but I’’m almost certain that my birthday hasn’’t changed and that I’’m still related to myself in the same way I have been since I was born.

In previous phone calls I’’ve been given yes and no as answers in the same phone call and just yes. Today, I talked to Sandy and learned that Sandy isn’’t a bad word. I kind of thought it was because the floods last October devastated a neighborhood only a few hundred feet from where I live. Sandy said no, neither my wife nor I are under the new plan. We’’re both under Saint Karen’s old plan (she has to be a saint to put up with me). So, if you’’re keeping track, that’’s one yes, one no, and one yes and no. Being under my wife’’s old plan is a change too because before this she and I had separate old plans.

Without a request from me or any notice to me, all of my prescriptions were transferred to my wife’s plan. There’’s really no challenge in making me confused, so there’’s really no reason anyone should try.

I hope that it’’s all straightened out now, but last week, I also ordered a couple of prescriptions from a local drug store under the new plan. So, I also kind of hope what happened today is wrong. We’’re fortunate in having good prescription drug insurance, but we seem to have four plans between us and the trick is figuring out who pays what.

Are you confused too? Then, you understand perfectly and my job here is done, except for one last thing. Sandy said that according to her computer our prescription drug insurance doesn’t expire until 2099. I hope we don’t either.

Things I Know

Ancestor doesn’t mean the same thing as descendant. They’re opposites, or antonyms. Your relatives who came before you, like your father and grandfather are your ancestors. Your relatives who come after you, like your children and grandchildren are your descendants. Lately, I’ve been seeing the word ancestor used to mean both far too often, especially with respect to the recently discovered remains of England’’s King Richard III.

If a TV show I’m watching comes out with another story about Manti Teo’s fake girlfriend, I change the channel. But this coverage has given me an idea. I’m going to keep a list of TV news stories that I don’t consider news. If the list gets long enough soon enough, I might even post it here. Stay tuned.

I thought there’d never be a harder car thermostat to change than the one in a 1986 Ford Taurus. It’s hard because it goes into the block horizontally so it’s hard to keep everything in place while you bolt it down. But there is at least one harder one and it’s on my 1991 Toyota Corolla. First the drain pug for the radiator is inaccessible: you have to remove a plastic cover in order to get at it. Second, it’s very hard to drain the radiator without getting antifreeze up your sleeve. Third, the housing for the thermostat is shaped so that you can’t get a 12 mm socket wrench to sit on it well enough to use a socket wrench to loosen the bolts and remove the housing. Then, I had to go get a haircut. So, if there are additional problems with the thermostat, I’ll let you know once the project resumes.

If you’re driving 30 mph slower than the flow of traffic in the middle lane of a limited access highway, you’re definitely causing a traffic jam and you might cause an accident. The accident you cause might even be fatal to you! Don’t just pull into the right lane, get off that road as soon as you can and drive on one where you’re more comfortable keeping up with traffic. That thought occurred to me when I nearly rear-ended the driver of a very slow-moving gray Toyota last week.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Has the Super Bowl pre-game show started yet?

It’s not football, but are you on Team February or Team Febyouary?

Are garbage trucks designed to maximize the noise they make?

I have never seen the TLC reality TV show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” but I have seen the promos and they make me ask, is it shown with subtitles?

There’s a book called ““Dreams of My Real Father”” that claims President Obama’’s real father was a poet named Frank Marshall Davis. The book also says that Mr. Davis was a communist and that the President’’s mother posed for nude photos some of which were published in fetish magazines. The book is controversial and you can find lots of material on the internet claiming to debunk it. I don’’t know whether anything in the book is true, but if Mr. Davis was President Obama’’s father, that would be proof positive that the President wasn’’t born in Kenya. Wouldn’’t it?

Do you think real estate in New York and San Francisco is expensive? Have you heard about the guy in Paris France who lived in a 17 square foot apartment with a ceiling slanted so he couldn’’t stand up everywhere in the room? The rent was 330 Euros or about $442 a month and he lived there for 15 years before running afoul of building codes that say an apartment must be at least 97 square feet and have a shower.

Someone has asked you at some time to “keep an eye out” for something or someone, haven’’t they? But, if you actually did take your eye out so you could keep it out, wouldn’’t that make it harder (rather than easier) to see?

Things I Know

I know a lot of businesses were hurt very badly as a result of Hurricane Sandy. One company, however, is reaping lots of benefits: Pain-In-The-Ass Inc., makers of robocalls.

Some newspaper websites have links at the end of their articles. Some of the links are to other articles in their paper and some links are even sponsored. So that’’s how I noticed that there is a lifestyle website called mydailymoment.com. I suppose some people will find it interesting, but I didn’t. However, it did leave me wondering if there is a website called mydailymovement.com for people obsessed with their colons and GI tracts. Thankfully, no.

It should be obvious to any professional writer that I write this blog solo, with no independent editor. I make the occasional mistake and once in a while I repeat myself without realizing it. I also repeat myself deliberately. You try writing a blog for going on five years without ever quoting yourself. The reason I bring this up is if you use WordPress to produce a blog you can’’t edit the entries forever. I don’’t know how far back you can go, but I wasn’t able to correct a mistake I made in an entry from three or four years ago. An editor would have caught it when I wrote it, but it took me a while.

Hey, maybe if I hit a big lottery jackpot I’’ll hire an editor for my blog.

In New York State, most village elections are pretty sedate. Some candidates run unopposed. I think I remember a story about a guy who won because he wrote his own name in and nobody else bothered to vote. I’’m not sure that was in New York. However, the election on March 19th in New York’s second-largest Village, Freeport seems like it’’s already contentious. It’’s been in the newspapers and on TV already and nominating petitions don’’t have to be submitted for another week or more.

Barrett-Jackson did sell that 1953 Willys Jeepster at their auction in Scottsdale AZ. They never responded to my email claiming there is no such thing and I didn’t hear what they said about it on TV because I didn’t see it sold on TV. I’’m recording the auction so I can fast forward through the parts I don’’t care about. It saves a lot of time over watching all the extensive coverage in real time. If you like cars, you have to go to that auction at least once in your life.

If you can’’t fly around on a broomstick, but you play Quidditch anyway, you are definitely a nerd. Or, maybe not, if you’’re too stupid to be a nerd.

Comment Policy

If you have your very own blog, here’’s something to watch out for. It may take a while because I’’ve had my very own blog for almost five years and this just happened to me.

I don’’t do anything to publicize my blog because I pay for the bandwidth myself, I don’t want to pay more, and I write this more to entertain myself than for any other purpose. Nevertheless, the number of hits I get each month has continued to grow. It’’s now around eight thousand. Also, the first time I ever Googled the phrase “”Things I Want (Or Need) To Know,”” I got 8 hits. Most recently, I got 899,000. I’’ve even had one re-post that I’m aware of.

I am entertaining myself, I have a few readers and I’’ve had three legit commenters (I’’d like more). Two of them are friends who also blog. In the third instance, I stayed at a nice hotel in South San Francisco, not far from SFO, two or three years ago and while there, I lost the battery cover off a radio I travel with. I asked the nice people at the hotel to look for it and if they found it to return it to me. They looked for it, found it and returned it. I went into my blog, said thanks and said they were nice people. I got a comment from management thanking me (more proof that they are in fact nice). Oaf that I am, I managed to delete that one instead of posting it. Sorry about that.

It’’s been a while since I last talked about how I handle comments. Recent developments dictate that I do it again. Last week, I got two complimentary comments from people who seemed to speak English as a second language. They seemed odd, because the comments were very general and came in response to something I wrote 14 months ago. Still, I published them. Who likes compliments? I do. Who knows the difference between compliment and complement? Not me, so I look it up each time I use either one. Now, I think that perhaps those two comments last week were from a spambot trying to see if the comments would be posted. If I’’m wrong about that, I’’m sorry and I will continue to publish comments similar to those.

The software I use to post this blog gives me a good idea where the hits come from and I’ve known for a while that some of my hits are from spambots. Why do I think that last week’s comments may be fake? Because after I posted them, I got another bunch of comments, all of which seemed like spam. So, I didn’t post those. If I should ever receive a comment that seems like Spam rather than spam, I won’’t publish that either, but I reserve the right to eat it.

If you read my blog, enjoy it or hate it, agree with it or disagree with it, feel free to comment. I doubt that I’’ll edit your comments although I won’’t allow flaming. I know that spambots don’’t actually read blogs, but just for the record, all comments on this blog are moderated. If a comment seems like spam to the panel of judges I use to vet these things, it won’t be posted. The panel of judges consists of me. Decisions of the judges are arbitrary and final: It is, after all, my blog.

Things I Know

You’’re thinking Miss America shouldn’’t be from New York; she should be from some southern state. But it’’s okay. The new Miss America, formerly Miss New York, was raised in Alabama.

New York City may have the strictest handgun control laws in the entire USA, but cannon control is a different story.

I guess Barrett-Jackson isn’’t going to change the listing on lot 849 for their auction that starts today in Scottsdale AZ. It’’s for a 1953 Willys Jeepster and there isn’’t any such thing. They do have a picture of it up now and they didn’’t acknowledge my email about it. But on another auction site, the sellers explained that it was first sold and titled in 1953, hence the appellation. I don’’t know when the car will go across the block, but I’’d like to hear what they say about it on TV. Maybe I’’ll try to record the entire auction. I can’t sit there and watch it all as it happens. I went once, a few years ago, and had a great time. It took me two days to see what I did see and I could have stayed another day, but just going was one of the many things Saint Karen puts up with in order to be married to me. Putting up with me so well and for so long is what qualifies her for sainthood in my book.

I won’’t be hurried through my doctor’’s appointment because you’’re 15 minutes late for the first appointment of the day. I was on time and I didn’t overbook. So, don’t try to rush me through: I won’’t stand for it.

So, I went to the Hayden Planetarium in Manhattan the other day. Actress-comedian Whoopi Goldberg narrates the sky show these days. I wondered why. She reads fine, but she’’s not acting really and she’’s not funny in it. Maybe, because I was once air talent, I found myself distracted by the fact that she has an accent and a slight sibilant s (but I suppose the sibilant could be caused by the microphone). As much as I like her in other roles, I thought a more experienced narrator would be better at narration. My wife suggested that perhaps she was chosen because she played a character named Guinan in the Star Trek Next Generation TV series. Maybe.

If you go to the sky show at the Hayden Planetarium, you will be impressed, but don’’t sit in the front row unless you like having a crick in your neck. The visuals are spectacular, but I found the sound track too loud.

The planetarium is attached to the American Museum of Natural History. Mike, a security guard at the American Museum of Natural History is the most gregarious and friendly guy I’ve met in a long time. I enjoyed talking to him.

I have to imagine that when the Museum of Natural History was established museum exhibits were quite different. I say that because a different building would make it a lot easier to take pictures of the exhibits, especially the dinosaur skeletons.

I haven’’t been there in a long time and the T-Rex skeleton is now a lot less imposing in stalking mode than it was when they had it reared up at full height.

I go to Manhattan maybe once or twice a year, so I don’’t use the subway much. I expected that when I went up to street level at the 50th Street stop I’’d be at 50th Street, but I wasn’t. I was at 48th St.

More and more of the websites I visit have autoplay videos on them these days, and I HATE autoplay videos.

I have a great idea for a new reality show on the Travel Channel. I don’’t have a title for it, but the idea is you have a bunch of contestants cook for Andrew Zimmerman (the host of “Bizarre Foods”). Whichever contestant cooks food that Zimmerman eats the most of (or likes the best) gets eliminated, until the last contestant standing is the winner.

My blog received a nice comment from someone this week. I wasn’t certain what prompted it though because it was attached to a blog entry from over a year ago. If you have a comment, I’’d like to hear from you too.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

When do you take down your Christmas decorations? Or do you leave them up all year?

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This year, trying to look organized, I took ours down on January 7th. Yes, I am bragging.

Have you seen the TV commercial for Progressive Insurance where a guy is juggling three chain saws? Would it surprise you if Progressive doesn’t issue policies that cover chain-saw juggling?

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” So how come you start losing strength many years before you die?

Have you heard the radio commercial for ROKU, the inexpensive device to make your TV Internet enabled? My daughter has one and she likes it. I have nothing against the device, but I think the commercial is strange. It suggests you should sit around and watch TV while other people achieve important things. Is that a selling point? And anyway, some of the things they suggest others will achieve have already been achieved. Mars rover? Been there, done that. Battery-powered battery charger? The have those. I can even charge my cell phone from my laptop.

Veal, meatball and chicken Parmesan. Why are they called that when they have Mozzarella cheese melted all over them, not Parmesan cheese?

Speaking of cheese, since the people who make Cheez Whiz spell cheese the way they do, why do they spell whiz correctly?

Things I Know

I’’ve already alerted Barrett-Jackson about an error on their website for their upcoming Scottsdale AZ auction, but I thought I should alert you as well. To the best of my knowledge, there’’s no such thing as a 1953 Willys Jeepster. They have one listed as lot 849. That might explain why there’’s no picture of the vehicle on the website. So far, Barrett-Jackson has neither changed its website nor acknowledged my email. This particular car was sold at the Silver Car Auction in Reno NV last August where they also listed it as a 1953, but in the text of the ad, they also called it a ’48 and said they were calling it a ’53 because that’s when it was first sold. I still say fewer than 20,000 were made between 1949 and 1950 and the last ones were sold as ’51 models. I also still maintain there’s no such thing as a 1953 Willys Jeepster. I wonder if the owner is really selling this car at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale. There’’s no picture on the Barrett-Jackson website and the car is also listed for sale in another company’s auction in Palm Springs in February.

Since I’ve ranted in this space before about strange choices in music used to produce commercials, let me say here and now, if I made Cheez Whiz, I’’d hire Carla Thomas to sing in my ads.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. The light switch just inside the door to my den has always been hard to locate in the dark. Today, I installed a switch with a little light inside of it. It’’s so easy now. Problem solved.

If I ran amazon.com, I wouldn’t know what I’’m doing, but in my opinion, whoever put together their search function doesn’’t either. I searched the recommendations they made for me for computers. I got only 15 items, one of which was a netbook. None of the other recommendations were computers of any kind and the netbook was #6.

Another issue with Amazon.com’s search function. I looked for electric can openers. I sorted the results by average customer review. Only one item on the first page was an electric can opener. Two of the first three listings wouldn’t open cans at all.

On the other hand, some Amazon.com customer reviews are absolutely priceless. You’’ve got to check these reviews out: hilarious!

Hormel, makers of Spam the meat (or is it meat byproduct?), has announced plans to buy Skippy peanut butter, not a jar, the whole company. That makes me afraid you’’ll soon be able to buy pre-made peanut butter and Spam sandwiches in your local supermarket.

You’’re not supposed to pay retail for camera equipment and hardly anybody ever does. Nevertheless, if you own even a semi-elaborate camera, you’’ll never have any trouble coming up with ways to drop several hundred dollars.

There’’s a running joke in my family about plot development. Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me) likes soap operas and I don’’t. Sometimes, we’’ll sit in the living room and she’’ll be watching a soap while I’’m ignoring the TV and surfing the Internet. Someone on the soap will ask another character in what some would call a very dramatic manner (but I call over-acting) why they did something. I’’ll look up from my computer screen and say, “”Plot development.”” Over the years, my whole family has come to give those two words as an answer to why lots of things are going on either in entertainment or in real life. One of the soaps did it again and I said, “”Plot development,”” again and then I said that just once I’’d like a character on a soap opera to say, “”Plot development,”” too right there on the TV screen, during the show and without breaking character. We both think that would be funny.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

This isn’’t a question, but since it’’s my first blog post of 2013, the Sisyphus Project is copyright 2008-2013.

Is there a way to get a refund for unused credit from Google Voice? Most Google Voice services are free, but there’’s a small charge for overseas calls. From where I live to Shanghai, for example, costs two cents a minute. When my son and daughter were in Shanghai in 2009, I paid ten dollars in advance for the charges I would incur. But I didn’’t use it all up before they both came back. So Google Voice has had a small amount of my money for a year and a half. I’d like it back, but if there’’s a way to get it, I couldn’’t find it. I’d even be happy if I could transfer the credit to Google Music.

If someone wants a new car at Christmas time, can they get anything they want, or does it always have to be a Lexus?

Have you seen the new commercial for the Google Chrome web browser? As a music bed, it uses Louie Lymon & the Teenchords’ recording of “I’’m So Happy.”” If you were 15 when that recording was made, you’re 72 now. It makes me wonder again about the science of advertising, because I I’’m guessing the music bed distracts at least some older people who might otherwise pay attention to the commercial and I also think it might make some younger people change the channel. So, I repeat a question I’’ve asked before in similar circumstances: who exactly are they marketing to anyway?

Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? The instructions for the elaborate flash unit my wife bought me are 39 pages long. I have some reading to do.

Around this time of years, the military sends video recordings to TV stations of soldiers from the station’s’ areas who are stationed in a war zone and sending holiday greetings back home. Some stations run them and some don’’t, so you may never have seen them. All the ones I’’ve seen this year address their families and wish them “happy holidays.” I have no objection to that phrase. I celebrate Christmas, but you can celebrate whatever you want and I hope you both celebrated and enjoyed. However, if you’’re speaking directly to your family, shouldn’’t you know what holidays they celebrate? If you do, why not be specific?

Things I Know

Happy New Year.

I’’m enjoying the special New Year’’s Eve programming on Speed Channel: a rerun marathon of last January’s Barrett-Jackson classic car auction.

When I wished Rachel from Card Holder Services would stop calling me, I should have been more specific. Apparently there’’s a new woman voicing the robocalls, and what I really meant was I wish nobody from Card Holder Services would ever call me again.

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new, heavily advertised movie opening soon: It’’s called “”Last Stand.”” In it, he plays a sheriff. I can’’t be the only person who hopes there’’s a British guy somewhere in the movie who keeps calling him governor.

I had a problem with a Sansa Clip Zip. It started acting unpredictably with a micro SD card in it, differently depending on which card. The folks at Sansa were pretty good about taking it back and replacing it.

I’’m making a lot of progress: I used to just have trouble going to sleep, but now I also have trouble staying asleep.

Facebook recently suggested I might know Olivia Newton John: I don’’t. I understand that some of the recommendations are based on career or mutual friends, but I have no idea where that one came from. Maybe left field.

If you want to keep your sliced lemons and limes from turning brown, try rubbing the cut surfaces of the citrus with the freshly cut surface of an apple.

Christmas Presents

This Christmas, I got a Canon 430 EX II flash to go with my semi-fancy Canon DSLR. I also have two zoom lenses for the camera. The reason all this is just semi-fancy is I have a semi-pro camera body, not a super-duper one. It’’s not the best Christmas present I ever got; maybe it’’s second though. First, is the joyous reaction I got from my wife on Christmas Eve so long ago she wasn’’t my wife and she hadn’’t even been canonized as Saint Karen yet (she has to be a saint to put up with me).

I got her an engagement ring and while she was not surprised, she was thrilled. I wasn’’t surprise either, when she said, “”Yes.”” And I don’’t know if I was delighted or thrilled; maybe both. The reason I say she was thrilled is we went to midnight mass and she sat in church, holding the ring toward various light sources to see it sparkle. I was thrilled watching her sparkle too.

I don’’t really remember being overjoyed at receiving any toy from my childhood, but I do remember two Christmas presents I wanted very much, one of which came as no surprise and the other of which was both great and awful.

No surprise: I wanted barbells for Christmas. I thought, mistakenly as it turned out, that I could and would use them to turn myself into a sleek, muscular specimen. My dad had what we now call COPD, a very bad case of it. He couldn’’t do much in the way of physical labor. My mom came home one night and asked me to bring a box from the trunk of her car into our house. The box was no bigger than a foot on a side, but it was the heaviest thing you can imagine in a box that small. What’’s that? Weight plates for a barbell set. It’’s not easy to gift wrap the bar for a barbell set, but my help wasn’’t needed to get that into the house. Still, if you should receive a one-cubic foot box that weighs 100 pounds or so, it’s probably plates for a barbell.

Great and awful: At a time when very few people had home tape recorders, my Uncle George had a nice one, and, he let me use it when I was at his house. But, he lived 60 miles and three tolls from me and I was too young to drive. I wanted one of my own. I told my parents that while Uncle George’s recorder was a good one, newer models of the same brand had a reputation for unreliability. But I was a teenager, so what the heck would I know? My folks bought me a tape recorder, the unreliable model of the same brand Uncle George owned. When I opened the box, the case was cracked. It did work, but the case was cracked. I got the cracked piece replaced, but my machine was at least as unreliable as its reputation. I had it repaired again, and again, and again until I got tired of the effort and became a broadcaster so I wouldn’’t have to pay for tape recorders anymore.

I hope you were pleased with whatever you got for Christmas, or at least pleased with the thought behind it. The thought is, after all, what counts. I also hope you have a great New Year celebration. I won’’t be in Times Square on New Year’s. When my dad was a cop, he hated that duty so much he passed that distaste on to me and I’’ve never had any desire to go.

Things I Know

Click this link and scroll down the page past the wrist watch to see a mechanical worm made in 1820 which sold recently for about $415,000!

You should leave your Christmas lights up until the 12th day of Christmas. No cheating and taking them down this week or on New Years Day.

Some year, I’’ll put up my Christmas lights (or at least test them) in time to get replacements for the ones I discover aren’’t working well anymore.

One of the reasons I like the movie ““Miracle on 34th St.”” so much is that as a kid I wanted a fire truck that squirted real water too. I remember looking at one in a toy store, but I don’’t remember if I ever got one.

One of the reasons I dislike the colorized version of the movie ““Miracle on 34th St.”” is that the colors are too warm. Another is that there are places in the movie where the interior shot is in color, but you can see through the window that a black and white world exists outside.

I found out when I plugged in my Christmas lights that both electrical outlets on my front porch were dead. When I went to replace them, I also discovered that the circuit breaker labeled by my electrician as controlling the outside outlets doesn’t control them. I don’’t know what that one does, but the one labeled ““Living room ceiling fan” does control the outside outlets. It also controls the living room ceiling fan and frankly, that surprised me. So don’’t depend on the labels, test the circuit too.

If you are replacing GFCI outlets, you will probably need to reset them after you turn the power back on and before they start working. That bit of information may save you from a panic attack some day.

It would be nice if you could replace a light switch or an outlet using only one screw driver. I needed three different sizes for my GFCI’s.

As long as we’’re talking electricity, I had a three-way CFL bulb in the lamp where I usually sit to read. It’’s been crackling for a few minutes when I turn it on for months now. Today it stopped doing that when it burned out and tripped my #5 circuit breaker. That breaker also controls the TV in my living room, so I don’’t know if Ralphie shot his eye out this year or not.

Those CFL bulbs, by the way, don’t last in my house anywhere near as long as the literature suggests they should.

Patti celebrated her birthday a week ago today. She’’s one of two girlfriends I had in my youth whose birthday I recall. Well, I was 19 when I started dating my wife, so one of three. I remember Patti’’s because of difficulty. Her birthday is a week to the day before Christmas. When I was 16 years old, I had to come up with two presents for a 15-year-old girl in one week. Difficult!

Cookies

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I don’t do elaborately decorated Christmas cookies. Chocolate chips are fine for me. My recipe for holiday turkey is obviously a joke, but my recipe for chocolate chips isn’t. I start with the recipe on the back of the package of Nestle’s chocolate morsels. The recipe calls for 3/4 cups of white sugar and 3/4 cups of light brown sugar. Instead, I use 1-1/2 cups of dark brown sugar. If I have it in the house, I’ll add a tablespoon of heavy cream to make the end product more chewy.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

In the wake of the horrendous school shooting in Newtown CT., can we please concentrate on the innocent children and the heroic school personnel who lost their lives like Dawn Hochsprung and Victoria Soto? I’’d like not to direct any attention or notoriety toward the shooter who probably did what he did at least in part to spread his name all over the world.

When children play with their food, do they keep score? If they do, who wins more often, the kids or the food?

Have you seen the Capital One commercial with the little girl who doesn’’t want fifty percent more cash? How did they get any child that age to say yes so many times?

You never got that pony for Christmas and you never will because how can Santa possibly gift-wrap a pony?

I’ve told you some of my Christmas stories over the last several years. Do you have any you’’d like to share? Or Hanukkah stories, or Festivus stories, or stories from any other holiday that’’s celebrated this time of year?

Are what used to be known as broken families now the norm? Basically all of the made-for-TV Christmas movies I’ve seen this year are about single moms, widows, widowers, orphans, etc., and none of them about what we used to call nuclear families.

Things I Know

On Saturday, December 15, 2012, I watched a TV commercial that informed me there are 12 shopping days left until Christmas.

I hate to disagree with Michael Jordan, but tags on my Hanes underwear never annoyed me.

Handel’’s Hallelujah Chorus isn’t a Christmas song, but it’’s played a lot around Christmas time. As a teenager, most of my friends were in the high school chorus, so I can’’t listen to it without hearing the following three words,” ““Brillo soap pads.””

Bumper sticker seen on a Cadillac Escalade: “”Support your local repo man, —miss 2 payments.””

Never one to go out of my way to catch the latest releases, I watched “‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”’ (both parts) recently. I saw them on TV, not in a movie theater, but large parts of the movies were so dark that I couldn’t really see what was going on and might as well have listened to them on the radio. I guess I’’ll have to read the books if I want to understand what happened.

So, Billy uses his Dell Ultrabook to take a picture of the sky and sends Charlotte the jpeg as a present for the holidays. He also sends a recording of his voice saying, “Happy holidays Charlotte.” First, I know it’’s the thought, not the gift that counts, but sending your girlfriend a jpeg as a present is mighty cheap. Second, if you were dating Charlotte, wouldn’’t you know whether she celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah or Festivus?

Alabama did win the SEC football championship (of course), so the Crimson Tide will face the Fighting Irish in the BCS championship game on January 7 and my son was wrong, the Tide’s season didn’t end with the Texas A&M loss. This is a tough one. My grandmother was one of those Irish immigrants who rooted for Notre Dame even though she never went to college and didn’t even know anyone who went to Notre Dame. I do know two Notre Dame graduates, however, my son and one of my nieces are Alabama alumni, so Roll Tide.

The Inflationary Blueberry

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If just one blueberry costs $2.79 at my local greengrocer, think how much a whole pie will cost. This kind of pricing makes me glad I have six blueberry bushes in my back yard, but the price of berries will probably go down before my bushes start to bear fruit again next July.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Who is this Fiscal Cliff guy who’s mentioned in every TV newscast these days and why is everyone afraid of him?

What do you want for Christmas? Or since it starts this weekend, what do you want for Hanukkah?

At Christmas time, the airwaves abound with commercials where someone says, ““He went to Jared,”” when some guy buys some romantic jewelry for his girlfriend. Okay, but wouldn’’t, ““He went to Tiffany’s,”” be even more romantic?

There’’s another TV spot for TD Ameritrade, an on-line stock broker. The commercial, apparently designed to appeal to active adults, features a sky diver. It also features a music pad that comes from a TV show from 1955, once again prompting the question: what demographic are they trying to sell to anyway?

While walking along the sidewalk the other day I passed a tanning salon. In the window, they had a big poster of a pretty young woman in a white bikini getting a spray tan. If you wore a white bikini to get a spray tan, wouldn’t it stain the suit? And, if the spray tan doesn’t come off of you in the ocean, would it come out of the bathing suit in the wash?

Why does Bed Bath & Beyond even put expiration date on those 20%-Off-One-Item coupons they distribute everywhere? I used one on Tuesday that expired about 19 months ago.

Did you hear about the terrible crash between a parade float and a freight train in Midland Texas in November? Several people on the float were killed. I don’’t know what other contributing factors were involved, but it serves as a reminder that you should never pull on to railroad tracks if you don’’t have room on the other side to move off the tracks immediately.

Rutgers has agreed to join the Big 10 athletic conference, becoming its 14th member and raising the question, isn’t it time for the Big 10 to change its name?

Things I Know

I visited the Victoria’s Secret store at the local mall today. It’’s very economical to shop there because if I buy a present for my wife, it’’s also a present for me. They had Christmas music blaring in there. I complained twice to the young sales clerk waiting on me about how loud the music was, but I don’’t think she could hear me.

There must be a couple of new people here once in a while because the number of hits on the site is increasing slowly, but steadily. So, in case the newbies are wondering what the hell I was talking about in my most recent diatribe about Powerball, I’’ll explain. When lottery prizes get big a staple of TV news coverage is to interview people as they buy tickets and ask them what they plan to do with the money. Everyone has plans to give it away. Nobody should think about that because the odds of winning are so bad buying a ticket doesn’’t really improve your chances, unless, of course, you win. So, when a lottery prize gets huge, I think up silly stuff to do with the money if I win. Freeing the shopping carts is my latest silly idea; nothing more and nothing less.

I heard on the news today that your chances of winning the big Powerball prize are smaller you’re your chances of winning an Oscar. And you’’re not an actor, so those chances are remarkably slim.

Since Kansas State and Oregon both lost their football games two week ago, Alabama is #2 in the latest college football rankings, back from #4 when the Tide lost to Texas A&M three weeks ago. So, perhaps my son was wrong that the Alabama season was over (meaning they had no chance to play for the BCS championship. It depends on who wins the SEC championship game.

I’ve never seen it done, but I believe it’’s at least theoretically possible for someone to buy a week’’s worth of groceries in a supermarket without ever blocking an aisle or having their path through an aisle blocked.

They ought to make shoes for mowing the lawn that are absolutely smooth on the bottom. Then, if you stepped in something, you would just wipe it off instead of digging it out of the tread on the soles of your sneakers or work boots.

Hostess brands going out of business makes me a little sad. No more Twinkies, no more Hostess cupcakes (well, no new ones anyway. The ones that exist are rumored to last forever if nobody eats them) and no more Wonder Bread. And, no more jobs for over eighteen-thousand bakery workers. I never made them, but the only union I ever belonged to was the American Bakery & Confectionery Workers Union. There is so little about that Union on the Internet that I have to assume it went out of business a long time ago. That’s okay because I retired at age 19 and if I had to find my card so I could go back to work, I couldn’t if my life depended on it. It’’s hard work under bad conditions. I worked at it for one year and I can tell you, you don’’t ever want to catch bread coming out of the oven in five-loaf pans.

So, around my birthday, someone called from the life insurance company that holds my policy. She said it’’s been a long time since anyone has reviewed my policy with me and she’’d like to come by when it’’s convenient within the next couple of weeks. I said, “I’’m really not interested in a sales pitch unless it will save me money,” and she hung up.

I saw a TV documentary recently about prohibition. It struck me as extremely similar to our modern day drug wars and just as futile. According to CBS Sunday Morning, 100 million people in the USA admit having tried marijuana and in Colorado on Election Day, more people voted to legalize pot than voted to reelect President Obama.

New Powerball Plan

One of the supermarkets in my town does something that really annoys me. They have a right to do it and I have a right to be annoyed. It doesn’’t annoy my wife, so she shops there a lot more than I do. You need a quarter to use one of their shopping carts. They’’re chained together and it takes a quarter to release one cart from the next one. It doesn’’t cost a quarter, because you get the coin back when you chain the cart back up.

It cuts down on cart theft and frees the store from paying someone to retrieve the carts strewn all over the parking lot, but I dump all of my change into a jar on the dresser, so if I have to go to that store, I have to remember to get a quarter. Either that or I have to go to the service desk at the market.

Why do I bring this up at this time? Well, nobody won Powerball last night, so the next drawing will have a potential grand prize of something like $325 million. Since I’’m annoyed about needing a quarter at the supermarket and since the Powerball prize is $325,000,000, I have synthesized a new plan if I should win the big prize.

I still know how unlikely it is that I’ll win, I’’ll still jump on the bed if I win and I’’ll still try to put that huge check in the ATM, but I’’ll also go inside the bank, get a crate full of quarters and head for the annoying supermarket’s parking lot, where I’’ll liberate all the shopping carts! Free the shopping carts!

Thanksgiving

What are you thankful at Thanksgiving? I’’m so thankful for my family that I don’t usually get much beyond that. This year, I’’m also thankful that we came through Sandy with a lot less damage than some people who live only a couple of blocks from me. I’m also thankful that we’ve been able to help that situation at least in some small way.

As I mention frequently, I love my wife and when we were married, I figured she probably wasn’’t perfect, although the very few and very small ways in which she isn’’t perfect hadn’’t manifested themselves yet. Here’’s one: I would still have married my wife if I knew she doesn’’t like and won’t prepare giblet gravy for Thanksgiving. I like it, but I like her a whole lot more, so I endure. Whether you like giblet gravy or not, you probably know what it is. However, have you ever wondered where the word comes from? I have and finally got curious enough to look it up.

The website alphadictionary.com speaks thusly about the origin of the word “Giblet.”

“Today’s word is a slightly smoothed version of Old French gibele “ragout of game” (today gibelotte) derived from gibier “wild game”. French gibier originated in Frankish, an old West Germanic language. In Frankish gibaiti “falconry”, was a prefixed form of the word meaning “bite” and the origin of English bite. (Gibaiti has a prefix similar to that in German Gefängnis “prison” from fangen “to catch, capture”.) Another word related to bite and gebaiti is bait, the only thing many of us think giblets are good for (Let’s all show the giblets to thank Laurie Hynes for seeing the fascination in this easily overlooked Good Word)”.

This concludes both the public-service and the educational portion of your holiday weekend. You are now free to return to football. I won’t join you, but I won’t try to stop you either.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Why didn’’t the FBI remove boxes of potential evidence from Paula Broadwell’s North Carolina home before the Petraeus scandal became public, instead of waiting until the Monday night after?

President Obama said there’s no evidence that General Petraeus’’ affair with Paula Broadwell jeopardized national security. If that’’s true, then even if the administration wanted him out, why did they make him jump under a bus as he left? And don’’t we have something more important than that to take up half the network TV newscasts for a week?

If I don’’t order something, under every business law I’’m aware of, I don’’t have to pay for it. So, how come I have to pay for a text message that someone sends to me, but I didn’t ask for?

Have you seen the new J C Penney TV commercial using music by T-Rex? The band broke up 35 years ago when the lead singer died. The song, “”Bang a Gong,”” is 40 years old. All the models in the commercial are at least ten years younger than the band or the song. Exactly what demographic is that commercial aimed at?

Do you think they’’ll ever finish the New Jersey Turnpike?

Have you seen the Capital One commercial with the little girl who doesn’t want fifty percent more cash? How did they get any child that age to say yes so many times?

Why does my phone say, “Droid,” every night around 7:00 PM? Is there any way I can stop it from doing that? It used to do it around 8:00 PM, so how come Verizon Wireless didn’t switch that computer to standard time?

Also about my phone: if I let the battery die completely, plugging it in to charge it doesn’t allow me to use the phone right away. I have to get the battery up to five percent charge before it’’ll work, even while plugged in. Why?

Last month, the History Channel ran a show called “101 Gadgets That Changed The World.” How can one take this program seriously when #87 was the Ginsu knife and the wheel, the lever and the inclined plane aren’t even on the list?

Things I Know

I hope Paula doesn’t boil the bunny; Jill too.

One headline in Tuesday’’s Newsday, the Long Island newspaper, says, ““Fiscal Cliff Will Test GOP Resolve on Tax Hikes.”” No it won’’t. Stalling legislation will no longer work to stop any and all tax hikes because if nothing happens, everyone’’s taxes will go up in January. So now, some sort of compromise will have to happen so only somebody’’s taxes go up, not everyone’’s.

Hardly anyone has said something that should be obvious about the storm damage Sandy inflicted on Long Island. I don’’t care what happened. If 90 percent of your electric distribution goes down over an area as big as Long Island, there’’s something wrong with the way your distribution system is designed and built and it needs to be hardened. That’’s especially true since much more than half of it was repaired last year in August.

It will surprise me if any member of the LIPA board of directors survives this fiasco. The chief operating officer has already announced he’s leaving at the end of the year. Same thing for the long-term survival of LIPA itself. Sandy came 14 months after Irene and it doesn’t look like LIPA learned a damned thing.

My son is a University of Alabama alumnus. After Texas A&M’s football team beat the previously undefeated and previously #1 ranked Crimson Tide, he said, ““Our season is over.”” I thought to myself that it sounded like the typical attitude of a New York Yankee fan and then I remembered my son is a New York Yankee fan.

About Love

Ancient Egyptians, as you may know, worshipped the sun god. They didn’’t know that too much sun is bad for you. We didn’’t know that either until late in the 20th century. In fact, we thought that sunlight was good for you and too much sunlight gave you a sunburn which was benign, other than the fact that it made your skin peel and boosted the sale of Noxzema. The product still exists. Now it’s sold only as a skin cleanser and I’’d bet they don’’t sell as much per capita as they once did.

Fair-skinned people my age usually got sunburned both regularly and frequently. When I first went to a dermatologist about what my skin has become, he asked if I’’d ever had a bad sunburn. I consider this a dumb question to ask someone my age and with my complexion, so I asked him if he’’d ever seen the Woody Allen movie, “”Sleeper.”” He asked why, and I said, “Remember when he woke up, he discovered that everything he had thought was good for him was bad for him and vice versa? Well, my parents wouldn’t let me inside in the summertime. Of course I’ve been badly sunburned and more times than I can count.”

So, over the years I’ve had more than one skin cancer (fortunately no melanoma) and I have a bunch of blemishes that the dermatologists assures me will turn into skin cancer if I don’’t do anything about them. Because of my history, I believe him and Wednesday, I left the house early to go to his office and get a treatment that helps eliminate these blemishes. The treatment, however, makes the person treated unusually sensitive to light for about two days.

How is that about love? I’’m not capable of thinking about much of anything for a couple of hours after I wake up, so I didn’t think much about my impending light sensitivity Wednesday morning except to bring a hat and I set that hat out the night before so I wouldn’t have to remember it in the morning. I returned from the doctor’’s office after my wife left for work. Before she leaves, she always opens all the blinds and shades to. ““let in some light”.” But, when I returned from my treatment every shade, every blind and every drape in the whole house was closed. She thought about me and took care of me, without my even asking. She does it if I do ask too. I do the same for her.

So the mere fact that she puts up with me isn’t the only reason I sometimes refer to her as Saint Karen. Sunday was the anniversary of the first time we met that I noticed although she is quick to tell me that we met twice before that. I bought her roses. I like to observe the date in addition to remembering our wedding anniversary which was last month.

Things I Know

The Long Island Power Authority says if the predicted Nor’easter does hit the area on Wednesday there may be more power outages. I thought every tree on Long Island that could fall down did fall down during Sandy.

If there’s ever another storm as big as Sandy, maybe I will evacuate when a mandatory evacuation order is issued.

The storm made a lot of homes on Staten Island and in Long Beach and Freeport uninhabitable. If you can donate to a charity that is helping people in this predicament, please do so.

The fact that New York’s Holland, Midtown and Brooklyn Battery Tunnels all flooded does make a whole bunch of disaster movies a little more believable. I read that the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was flooded with 43-million gallons of water. I wonder how they know that. I also wonder how much water the Holland and Midtown Tunnels hold. I also saw a report that the NY Subway was flooded with 400-million gallons and considering the size of the system, that seems like it might be low to me.

Although the community in which I live was clobbered, our beloved mayor sent out a robocall from the Emergency Management Director saying power would be restored by 10 AM Saturday. That was wrong. There are still lots of people without power. I live in a part of town that wasn’t flooded and consider myself fortunate that my power was out only 93 hours.

Years ago, radio comedians Bob & Ray had fake commercials for Quagmire Corporation, manufacturers of mud. I’’m starting a new fake company: Pain-In-The-Ass, Inc., manufacturers of robocalls.

I’’m on the federal no call list which, judging from the number of annoyance calls I receive, is toothless. These calls are apparently so cheap that it doesn’t pay Pain-In-The-Ass, Inc. (manufacturer of robocalls) to stop calling people who hang up on them every time, but hanging up is about all you can do to defend yourself.

Today I got a call in Spanish. I know a few words of Spanish, but the recording didn’t use any of those. At the end of the message a voice in English came on and said, “To repeat this message, press any key.” If I understood the message, I would be unlikely to understand the tag line and vice-versa, so that call made no sense at all to me.

If you follow this blog, you know that I call my wife Saint Karen because she must be a saint to put up with me. For our wedding anniversary, I bought her a sterling silver Saint Karen pendant. She laughed. I like the sound of her laughter.

Sandy

Did you miss me? Sandy didn’’t. So, why didn’’t I leave? Why didn’’t the people who drowned in their houses on Staten Island leave? Frankly, I think hysterical TV news coverage is at least partly to blame. It’’s like the old fable about the boy who cried wolf. When the wolf finally showed up, nobody believed the kid. I understand that the news media have to say it might be bad because that’’s better than saying, ““Oops, that was bad,”” but unless it is bad this time, nobody will listen next time. I do think, however that people will listen the next time a big storm heads this way.

I’ve lived through lots of mandatory evacuations before without leaving. I lived through this one too. I didn’t send my family to safety. I didn’t even move my cars although there are places near where I live where you should move your cars if it gets cloudy. Like all the other times, it turned out I didn’t have to, but Sandy was a one-of-a-kind storm and a lot of people who never evacuated before should have this time. Sandy’s winds weren’t sustained at hurricane force by the time she reached New York, but the flooding in Staten Island, downtown Manhattan and on Long Island was unprecedented. I don’’t understand all the reasons, but she did come on shore at high tide and full moon and from the east, not the south. That last is important because the direction of the storm pushed more water into Long Island Sound, Great South Bay and New York Harbor than past experience would have suggested was possible. Plus Sandy moved more slowly than a lot of hurricanes and SHE WAS HUGE! About 800 miles wide instead of the 200 or so that’s more normal for a hurricane. Usually a hurricane blows through in a few hours and the weather afterwards is great. Sandy took quite a while to get through the area and the weather still isn’t wonderful. Winds didn’t die down to normal levels until five days after the storm.

People don’t move because they’ve been through what they think they’’re facing before, because they don’’t want to encourage looting, and because they think they can prevent or fix some of the things that could go wrong. I didn’t leave because, in addition to those things, conditions around my property are a little different than they are for most people around here. Fifteen feet above sea level isn’t a hill anyone would notice, but the Great South Bay knows it’’s there. Also, no trees nearby are large enough to fall on my house. Most property south of Merrick Road in Nassau County, NY, is subject to flooding, mine isn’t. So, when the county executive says everyone south of Merrick Road, get out, I don’’t. I realize he can’’t specify the flood line street by street, and I think I’’m an exception to that rule. You only had to try to get gas around here since Wednesday to know that almost everyone thinks they’re an exception to some rule.

I have a gas stove, a gas water heater and a wood stove big enough to heat my entire house. I’’m now kind of low on firewood, but with all the trees down around here. I imagine there will be no shortage of firewood anytime soon. I don’t even own a generator although that may change. The house I live in is over 100 years old. I’ve lived in it for more than 20 years. and I’ve never been without power for more than a day. This time, it was four days without lights, central heat, phones, and Internet. Usually floods come within half a mile or so of my house. This time, it was two blocks. We have had two storms of the century in two years. If we get another one next year, I may actually heed the cries of wolf and evacuate.

Things I Know

Don’t walk around outside in the hurricane-force winds of Hurricane Sandy or any other big storm. It’s not that the wind is blowing: It’s what the wind is blowing.

Advice for surviving the storm: You might be able to read a book by candlelight, but you can’t charge your Kindle with a candle.

Many years ago I made a parody radio commercial for an election campaign. It was a joke. We didn’’t actually put it on the air. But I think people are running commercials just like it now, only for real. My parody said, ““Vote for me because my opponent is a son of a bitch and I’’m a really swell guy.”” I worked in that field for many years, but I’’ll be so glad when the election is over.

I don’’t check the statistics on this blog often. In fact, I hardly ever do, but I’ve recently learned that I’’m up to about seven-thousand visitors a month. That’s pretty good considering that I’’ve never done anything to promote the Sisyphus Project. If anyone other than Richard cares to comment on anything we write here, commenting is encouraged.

At any given moment, lots of people who are in Washington D.C. are tourists. It’’s reasonable to assume that most of those will probably want to leave sooner or later. In order to facilitate leaving, especially for those people headed north, I strongly suggest that a few additional signs directing drivers to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway would be most welcomed. There are a few signs on the road I was driving, but the signs ran out before I got to where I was supposed to turn.

Also for the tourists in DC, illuminating the exit signs in the I-395 tunnel and repainting whatever it used to say that was once painted on the roadway there would probably help the flow of traffic too.

I recently returned from Florida which I determined suffers from an over-abundance of traffic circles, or as they call them, “roundabouts.” However, traffic circles in Florida work the same way they do in most of the civilized world. In our nation’s capital, there is a traffic circle that interrupts the ride from Arlington National Cemetery to the Memorial Bridge and onward to the Lincoln Memorial. In that traffic circle, cars entering the circle have the right of way over those vehicles already in the circle.

My hypothesis that everybody drives 75 miles an hour on the New Jersey Turnpike whenever traffic conditions permit seems to have been bolstered. I was doing 75 in a 55 zone and a state trooper came up behind me with his red and blue lights on and then passed me. Being passed by a cop car when you’re speeding is one of the best feelings in the world.

I am every bit as ashamed of the Boy Scouts of America for covering up adult leaders suspected of child abuse as I was for the Catholic Church doing the same thing for priests. When confronted with evidence of child sex abuse, the correct response is to report it to the authorities and press for prosecution. I am concerned about the release of all these records though for one reason: perhaps a few of the allegations are unfounded.

Bad PR move on the part of Delta Airlines. Five passengers traveling from New York City to Albuquerque NM via Atlanta were late arriving at the gate for the Albuquerque flight because the flight from New York was late. The plane was still at the gate and Delta would not open the doors and let them board. Why was it a bad PR move? One of the five was famed author of books for teens, Judy Blume, who happens to have something like 75 thousand followers on Twitter.

I always say that if you live long enough all prices become ridiculous, but I don’t think that’s the reason I’’m not looking at either of the $61,000 used cars currently for sale at the dealership nearest to my house.

One more thing about driving a convertible. For obvious reasons, the only tool you would need to steal something out of the passenger compartment is a utility knife to cut the top if it’’s up. The Chrysler 200 convertible I rented recently had a trunk release button on the dashboard, —no key needed. So if you don’’t need a key to get into the trunk either, don’’t leave anything of value in the car period.

On HBO the other day, I saw a documentary called “41.” It’’s about former president George H.W. Bush. In the documentary, he seems like a very decent man. I had the pleasure of interviewing President Bush on TV for an hour before he was President, when he was Chairman of the National Republican Party. At that time, all those years ago, I got the same impression.

Steak bones splinter easily, so I carefully chew the meat off the steak bones myself instead of giving them to the dog. Hey, someone has to make the sacrifice.

Money laundering is illegal. Even so, I doubt that I’’ll get in trouble for the 45 cents I mistakenly put through the washing machine this afternoon.

While in Viera, Florida a couple of weeks ago, I came across a car which was oddly decorated in red, white and blue, including a decorative plate where the front license plate would go if they had those in Florida. The plate said, “American Patriot.” Because the car was made in Korea, I found it ironic that the Mr. American Patriot’s car was a Hyundai.

Poetry

Thoughts on Driving North on the Jersey Turnpike
With Apologies to Joyce Kilmer and Ogden Nash

kilmer-service-area-2.jpg

I think that I shall never see
A service area lovely as a tree
Even if it’s named after me

EDITOR’S NOTE: I know I’ve put this poem in this blog before, but I didn’t have the picture then.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Can anyone tell me when the Yankees were last swept in a post-season series? I don’’t recall. It was probably the 1963 World Series which was worse because it was the World Series, not the ALCS. I’’m actually quite surprised that even though he’s been dead for quite a while, we haven’t heard from George Steinbrenner about this. George must be spinning in his grave. Am I right?

You’’ve cleaned out the lint filter on your clothes dryer, haven’’t you? So, have you ever wondered why your clothes don’’t eventually disappear if you put them in there often enough? And, since they don’’t, where does all that lint come from anyway?

While watching the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals play game five of their division series last Friday night, I thought of something I should have asked about years ago, many years ago. Why do the Cardinals’’ road uniforms include blue hats? Have you ever seen a blue cardinal?

Why does Advair runs commercials in which the medicine to ease breathing difficulties talks about employing a bronchodialator? I know that’s the right word and I know it’’s not missing a letter “i”, but whenever I hear it, I can’t help wondering why I would need medicine to make my horse open wider.

Things I Know

I like baseball more than the next guy, but baseball games from noon to almost 1:00 AM on Sunday, with one of the games starting at 9:00 AM local time for fans of the Oakland A’s is a bad job. I didn’’t even realize that the noon game was being played. The other games overlapped each other too. Playoff games take longer than regular season games and both MLB and the TV programmers know that so Sunday’’s schedule was terrible.

The schedule for the first round playoffs is also terrible. The team with the home-field advantage doesn’’t get that advantage until what might be the deciding game at which point, to take advantage of the home-field advantage, they have to win three in a row. I’’m guessing, however, that fans of the Oakland A’s are feeling better today about home-field advantage than they were on Sunday night.

I have another great idea for a new invention with no idea how to invent it: tomato slices that stick to bread, so they won’t slide out of my sandwich and on to my lap while I’’m trying to eat my sandwich.

The cell phone company known as Sprint is offering handles as phone numbers. In addition to your number, you’ll soon be able to register a handle which will connect with you if someone dials ** and then your handle. So, for example, if your name is Catherine, you might be the first to register **Cathy. I’’m sure that the handles **Maybe and **Ishmael will be among the first handles snapped up.

Eat bacon while you can still afford it.

Several towns on Long Island either have or are considering outlawing planting bamboo. It’’s really very invasive, so that’’s probably a good idea in a suburban setting. I wouldn’’t mind if they outlawed Wisteria too. We were in Florida a couple of weeks ago and saw some things that would no doubt terrify those same Long Island town boards: bamboo plants that grow something like 20 feet tall.

Back from Florida, I’’ll be happy not to see any traffic circles, or as they call them roundabouts, for a while.

My Google Voice number doesn’’t play well with my cell phone. Why? Because when I forward a call to my cell phone, Google Voice wants me to press a number to receive the call or send it to voice mail and when my cell phone receives a call, it doesn’’t bring up the dial pad.

I never argue with anyone about religion or politics. Here’s why. When I was sixteen years old, I was madly in love with a 15-year-old girl. We argued a lot, mostly about religion. She didn’’t convince me of anything: I convinced her to find a different boyfriend. There are a few things it’’s extremely hard to change someone’s mind about. Politics and religion are two of them.

It’’s a little over four months until pitchers and catchers for my Mets. Late in the 2012 season, they announced they would retain their manager and all of their coaches. I hope they do not also retain their entire major league roster.

Car Rental Again

I didn’’t say it outright, but in my blog on September 28th, I implied that I’’d consider a Camaro convertible more similar to a Mustang convertible than the Chrysler 200 I received when the rental car company said they offered Mustang convertibles or similar. I’’ve educated myself a little more and while I don’’t consider the Chrysler and the Mustang very similar, I can see one key factor that makes the rental car companies regard the Mustang and the Camaro convertible to be dissimilar. The Chrysler is a little less costly than the Mustang: the Camaro is more expensive than the Mustang. If you were the car rental company, which one would you consider similar to the Mustang? Yeah, if I was the car rental company, I would too.

I’’ve got to say also that in that price range you can argue none of the few convertibles made are very similar to each other.

I didn’’t single out the car company I rented from, because I consider the dissimilar-similar exchange an industry-wide problem. If you searched my blog for the term, “or similar” you’’d see I’’ve ranted about that before. However, I did post on the rental car company’s Facebook page that while there was nothing wrong with the Chrysler, I considered it inferior to the Mustang, not similar.

Did you know that if you post on a Merchant’s Facebook page and they respond, you have to go back to look for the response? Facebook didn’’t tell me that the company had responded, so it took me a while to realize it had. Their social media team invited me to email details which I did on Friday.

On Saturday, I heard from a manager for the company. We had a good phone conversation. I didn’’t expect any refund or free ride the next time I travel. I did accept the car and drove it about a thousand miles in a week after all. He did agree with some of the points I made and also said that in the future if I’’m dissatisfied with what I’’m offered I should ask for a manager. He even gave me his contact information so I can ask for him if I travel to Orlando FL again.

My son has a different strategy with car rentals and he worked briefly for Enterprise some years ago. He says when he travels he reserves the least expensive car available. He calls it “four wheels and an air conditioner.” He figures they won’’t have many of those and chances are they’’ll have to give him a free upgrade.

While I didn’t single out the company that says Chrysler convertibles and Mustang convertibles are similar I was impressed with the way that company’s Facebook page works and with the way I was listened to and treated on the phone by that manager in Orlando. So, I should single out the company that performed the good customer service. It was Alamo. I don’’t always rent from the same company, but I have rented from Alamo before in several locations across the country. With the kind of customer service I received this time, I will probably do so again.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

I’’ve been saving up some of these questions for a while because I’’ve been on vacation.

sunrise-6a.jpg

Is it alright to buy odds and ends separately, or can you only get them together?

After doing the laundry, I wondered why some of my underwear comes out of the dryer right side out, while none of my wife’s does.

With topless photos, bottomless too or so I’’ve heard, of the Duchess of Cambridge all over the Internet, one has to wonder about the state of security for the British royal family. If a photographer sitting in a tree or by the side of the road can capture photos like that, what’s to stop a sniper similarly situated from killing Prince William?

Insurgents in Afghanistan have said they’’re trying to kill or kidnap Britain’s Prince Harry. Why does he have to be in Afghanistan in the first place? And, since he is, why isn’’t his location being kept secret?

The Today Show had a big feature on Justin Bieber which made me wonder, if instead of Justin, his mom had named him Bucky Bieber, would he appeal to a much older demographic? And would he be known for his teeth rather than his hair?

Dina Lohan, Michael Lohan, Lindsay Lohan. Why does anyone pay any attention to any of them?

Things I Know

Having recently returned from the American south, I’’m reminded that “y’’all” is not the plural of the singular “you.” As you know in English, “you” is both singular and plural. Unlike what some southerners claim, “y’’all” is the singular form. The plural of “y’’all” is “all y’’all.”

Here are a few things I didn’’t get around to posting earlier because I was on vacation.

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Returning home on Southwest Airlines, the flight attendant said that if there was anything she could do to make the flight more comfortable we should ask. So, I asked her to make the plane a few feet wider.

Twenty people were trapped for hours on a ride at Knott’’s berry Farm in California earlier this month. It was the second time in two weeks that the ride got stuck. If I ever get stuck on a ride like that for four hours, nobody better stand under the ride. That’s all I’’ve got to say.

Almost everyone who pays attention to world events has heard of the film, ““Innocence of Muslims”” because it supposedly supplied the spark that ignited riots in the Middle East, one of which resulted in the death of four US diplomats, including our ambassador to Libya. If it weren’’t for the riots, almost nobody would have heard of the film. I also find it too much of a coincidence to believe that the riots on 9/11 were inspired by a film nobody heard of.

Just because Mitt Romney’’s fund-raising letters are too thick to go through my shredder unopened is no reason I should read them after opening them and before shredding them.

It is a word, I’’ve never seen or heard it used before. Even if it didn’t exist, it is implied by the word impervious. The word is “pervious.” It means permeable, something that will absorb water or allow it to pass through. I saw it on tcpalm.com, a news website of Scripps newspapers covering the southeast Florida area known as the Treasure Coast.

Rent and Bait and Switch

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Car rental companies are the worst bait and switch people I’’ve ever encountered. I’’m not going to specify the company, because in my experience, they’’re all like this. I reserved a Mustang convertible (or similar). I even paid in advance so you might think that I’’d get preferential treatment, but no. I got a Chrysler 200. Now that car is better than the last Sebring I rented. It’’s got a smoother engine and it doesn’t shake as much on rough roads. But I don’’t consider it similar at all.

The base model Chrysler is $800 cheaper than the Mustang, MSRP. It’’s heavier, but it has a four cylinder engine as opposed to the Mustang’’s six. The Chrysler has about 57% as much power, it’’s a lot slower and it gets slightly worse gas mileage too. It’’s hard to believe the Mustang has worse rear seat legroom because the Chrysler doesn’’t have much. I wouldn’’t be able to sit in back if someone as tall as me was driving.

Worse, the company was willing to rent me a Camaro hardtop for $15 a day more than the 2012 “Or Similar” convertible they did have for me because the Camaro is a premium car, implying that the Chrysler isn’’t. Now, I’’d consider that if it was a V-8 with a manual transmission, but it was a six with a slushbox. I do think the Camaro is pretty similar to the Mustang, except that it’’s $15 a day extra and it isn’’t a convertible, but they did have some of those.

In fact, I don’’t think they had any intention of providing me with a Mustang this week and I don’’t believe I’’ve ever gotten the car I reserved. Last year in San Francisco, I wanted a big Caddy sedan for its big trunk’’s ability to contain and conceal the stuff my son brought home from China. I got a Lincoln Town Car which is about as big, but the Town Car was really out of date technically to such an extent that Ford stopped making them at the end of that model year. Before I got the Town Car, they offered me a Caddy Escalade. I don’’t want an SUV on vacation because I want to keep my stuff out of sight in a car’s trunk and an SUV doesn’’t have one of those. Twice I reserved Jeep Grand Cherokees (not on vacation and in places I wanted four-wheel drive). On one of those occasions, I got a Chrysler Pacifica (not four-wheel drive) and on the other I got a Subaru Outback (four wheel drive, but smaller). Once I reserved a Chevy Blazer and got a smaller Mitsubishi SUV. I reserved a Nissan Altima and was offered a Dodge Magnum. The Altima’’s a sedan. The Magnum is a station wagon. That time I complained and got a Honda Accord. Again, they told me it was really an upgrade. So I guess they think that on a rental car a trunk is an upgrade. By the way, I’m not saying I have anything against the other cars. I’m just saying I don’t consider them similar to what the rental company advertised.

At least the Chrysler 200 (as inferior as I consider it to the Mustang) is the same body style. I’’d really like to know the ratio of advertised cars to “Or Similars” in each rental car fleet. I doubt that my rental car company of choice had any Mustang convertibles at the Orlando International Airport. Have you ever gotten the rental car that was advertised to you?

Things I Know

I’ve heard that this is the first years there will be no political speeches at the September 11th memorial ceremony at Ground Zero. Good.

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I just learned that I once knew President Kennedy’’s Harvard roommate. I also learned that the man passed away eight years ago. I went to elementary school with his children and I knew him a little when I became both an adult and a broadcast reporter. He was active in local politics and government. He was always very gracious to me and the only problem I ever had with him (since I was his children’s contemporary) is that he called me Tommy on the air.

The most interesting man in the world has more than one Facebook page. Seriously! If you go on Facebook and look up that phrase, you come to a Facebook page and there’’s also a separate one under Dos Equis beer.

One-A-Day vitamins sells a product called Vita-Crave. It’’s a chewable gummy vitamin. The label recommends you take two a day, which I find somehow counterintuitive.

““A pedestrian is a man with two cars, a wife and two teenagers.”” –George Romney (Mitt’s father)

Cans of white, high-gloss enamel exterior paint are my new screwdrivers. I’’ve already told you I own dozens of screwdrivers. I discovered today that I have three gallons of white, high-gloss enamel exterior paint. I won’’t be buying anymore at least for a while.

By this weekend, I should be finished with a five-gallon bucket of tan paint I bought a while back. I’’m never buying another five-gallon bucket of paint. Yes, it is a little cheaper than buying five one-gallon cans, but five gallons of paint are too heavy to lug around comfortably.

Things I Know

I have been a fiscal conservative for all of my adult life. I believe there are more fiscal conservatives in the Republican than in the Democratic Party. I also believe there are more people who have no regard for science in the Republican than in the Democratic Party and that both disappoints and disturbs me. As the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, ““You are entitled to your own opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts.””

Thanks to MLB TV, I am reminded that Vin Scully still sounds great. Maybe he’s lost a step, but he is 84 years old.

Jerry Stiller is in a TV commercial for Capital One Bank. In it, he says, ““Instead of earning bupkus, your checking account could be earning five times the national average.”” Jerry, five times bupkus is still bupkus.

The latest TV commercials for Walgreens Drug Stores claim that Charles Walgreen invented the chocolate malted. Wow. To me that’’s a lot more impressive than creating a nationwide chain of drugstores. I wish I could be remembered for creating the chocolate malted, or even the coffee malted, which is also pretty damned great, as is the vanilla malted. I’’ll certainly be remembered for consuming more than my fair share of all three.

I also wish I had created reality TV. I mean, I said, “”Oh my God,”” many times before the phrase became a staple of television programming.

Some things bother me a little about home improvement TV shows. On the show “Hideous Houses,” I’’d suggest that the product placements from Sears are a little heavy handed. I lost count of how many times they mentioned Sears; beginning with the large, portable shade structure they erected to shade the work area. It says Sears on it in huge letters.

On the same show, the designer is painting without covering her long blonde hair or removing her dangling earrings. She’’s also painting in a nice sweater, good black slacks and knee-high, high-heeled boots. The clothes I wear when I paint are basically indistinguishable from paint.

On the other side of the coin, I saw a “Property Brothers” show in which the producers blurred out the Chevy bowtie emblem on the grille of the Chevy (I think it was a Traverse) belonging to the property owners. Once I noticed the bowtie blurred out, I paid attention to that instead of paying attention to the show. I don’’t know why they do that. Some for-profit college ran a commercial a while back that blurred out the Ford blue oval on the grille of an SUV and that also distracted me from the message of the commercial.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

““The Blues Brothers”” was on cable this morning. Just how many full-sized Dodge four-door sedans were harmed while making that movie anyway?

Has America really aged so much that the Fonz has replaced Fred Thompson as the spokesman in ads for reverse mortgages?

Why does the dentist give kids lollipops? Is it to ensure future business?

Have you seen the TV commercials that say there are lots of jobs in cyber-security so you should earn a degree completely on line from the University of Maryland University College? My daughter suggests that with such a name, perhaps the University of Maryland University College also offers a program where you can earn two degrees at the same time from the University’’s Department of Redundancy Department and that for each degree you can both major and minor in redundancy.

I’’ve read recently of several arrests for kiddie porn. It’’s good that the cops are finding these despicable people. But how do the despicable people find each other? I’’m not going to try to Google, “”buy kiddie porn,”” and the town where I live, but I presume the cops are doing that all the time as one way of looking for them.

In need of some fast food, I went to Arby’s. The woman behind the counter gave me a selection of sauce packets. My wife, Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me), knowing that I don’’t care for horseradish sauce, expropriated the packets of Horsey Sauce that I bought home. So I asked her, “”Other than our lifetime together and all the times I’’ve said it, what makes you think you can just take anything that belongs to me and use it as you please?””

Were you glued to the TV during the Olympics? I know that’’s the only way I would have watched the whole thing.

If you never know, why do we even have schools?

Are mums for sale in the supermarket the first sign of autumn?

Moon Man

RIP Neil Armstrong. He died at the age of 82. He was the first human being to set foot on the moon and so he was once the most famous person in the world or on the moon. But that was so long ago that when he died way more than half the people alive on earth were born after he did it. At one time everybody knew who he was, but when he passed away, most obituaries I saw took considerable space to describe who he was and what he did. At one time, that would have been completely unnecessary.

I was a reporter when it happened and when I was, this is the only press kit I ever kept. I still have it.

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Things I Know

With Tropical Storm Isaac becoming stronger, churning in the Atlantic and headed first for Haiti and then for the GOP Presidential Convention, I’’ve said for years that the best way to survive a weather disaster is to watch the Weather Channel, find out where Jim Cantore is and be someplace else. Matt Hardigree, writing on the website Jalopnik.com, has a more nuanced approach, but ultimately agrees with me.

Roker-Cantore Coverage Scale

Some Local Reporter On National News — All is well, relax
Al Roker — Minor inconvenience, you’ll be fine
Jeff Morrow — Better start moving stuff off your porch
Stephanie Abrams — Things are getting serious
Mike Seidel — Uh oh…
Jim Cantore — Prepare your body for the Thunderdome

Just as I returned from the pizzeria and set foot on the porch, my daughter came downstairs and opened the front door lending credence to her claim that she’s gifted with P.S.P.: Pizza Sensory Perception!

Prince Harry should know (and so should you) that if you don’’t want naked pictures of yourself on the Internet, you shouldn’’t get naked when there’’s a camera (or phone which is the same thing) around. In fact, I would not be at all surprised if there are more pictures of naked people on the Internet than there are people.

I usually recommend removing one’’s foot from one’’s mouth before shooting one’’s self in the foot. In Representative Todd Akin’’s case, however, I’’ll consider amending my position. “Legitimate r