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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

ABSOLUTE PROOF: Dogs go to heaven... but what about cats?

Dog in Heaven



As all good Catholics know,  Popes are infallible on matters of faith. If the Pope says it, God has a rubber stamp on His paperwork that says "OK by Me."

Ergo (I always wanted to use that word in a sentence), Pope Francis and Pope Paul VI both said dogs go to heaven. So they do.

“Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures," Pope Francis said.

“One day we will see our pets in the eternity of Christ,” Pope Paul VI told a disconsolate boy in 1978.

Billy Graham, when asked by a little girl whose dog had died that week whether her pet would be in Heaven, replied, “If it would make you any happier, then yes, he will be." He later explained "God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there."

"But, you say, "Is that all there is?" (From another fabulous song by Peggy Lee as in my last post. Do yourself a favor and watch her sing it.)

Oh, there is more, much more proof: Author Mitch Albom who has written a number of 'best sellers' including The Five People You Meet in Heaven and his latest, The First Phone Call from Heaven should know if anyone does... but don't take his word for it.

I got the SECOND phone call from heaven. Yes, it was from God.

"Hi Jerry. This is God."

"Oh, hi God. This is really a surprise."

"Well, if my guy, Pope Francis calls regular people, so can I. By the way Jerry..."

Then I heard all this barking in the background and could barely hear God.

"SHUT UP DOGS, I'M ON THE LAND LINE (of course) WITH JERRY!" 

And it became instantly quiet.

"Oh my God, God... oops, sorry... "

"No problemo, Jerry. If I can part the Red Sea, I can surely train these billions of dogs up here with a clicker. I will say though, it took longer than I thought. Where is Cesar Milan when I need him?"

"I thought he died just recently."

"Don't believe everything see on the internet, My son."

"So there ARE dogs in heaven, right?"

"Of course."

"May I say 'Hi' to Snert and Hagar and Gretchen and Alix?"

"You want to do it personally?

"Uh, not today God, OK?"

"Ha ha. Good one Jerry. OK, we'll save that for later."

"Whew!

"Hey Jerry, I gotta run now. It's my turn in Stratego. I'm playing Julius Caeser, Napoleon, McArther and Alexander the Great. Bonaparte is cheating, but we all know it and there is a lot of kidding going on. Just wanted to say 'Hi'."

"Wait God... are there cats in heaven too?"

"Oh, sure, but I gave them even free-er will so not even God knows... I mean I don't even know what goes on in that brain of theirs. See ya later, Jerry."

"You got it God... Oh, wait a second... God, when you say 'later,' what do you mean?

Click. bzzzzzzzz

"God? GOD?

So, straight from The Horse's mouth, so to speak, great news for those of you who have experienced one too many sad trips to the Rainbow Bridge, we'll all be together soon enough. Hmmm, I wonder if God lets Alix on His couch?


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Are you kidding me? I JUST WON $5,000 a week, for life... I think.






I can't believe it! I may already be a winner!

This incredibly important official letter (top) arrived one week ago alerting me of the probability that I won enough money to ask Bill and Melinda Gates to dinner next week so I can make a sizable donation. I'm really sorry if it seems I am rubbing it in, but how often does an above-average person like myself win so many millions of dollars for life?

The letter advised me to "Be on the lookout for a brown envelope with a red and white 'NOTICE RE: WINNING NUMBER FOUND REPORT label like this and a green star. It contains the documents neccessary [sic.] to win the 'Forever' Prize that will definitely be awarded on February 27th."

Well, I did. Most days I checked my mailbox three and four times just to make sure I didn't miss that brown envelope if it did come. A week had gone by and I had almost given up. Then, a miracle--IT CAME! What are the odds of that happening?

Brown Envelope: check
Green Star: check
Opportunity to win: check

Everything matched... my zip code, the correct spelling of my name  and my secret number which only I know. Now how DID they know my private number if I wasn't already a winner? 'They' even talked about people dumb enough not to check their number. "The conversation at one of our recent meetings," they said, "began to focus on what should we do about people who forfeit big Prizes?"

THEY CARE. THEY REALLY CARE!

The brown envelope had my secret winning  number "8384 4901 8017" (number changed so as to not inadvertently give it away), "This number," they continued, "is eligible to WIN $5,000 A WEEK "FOREVER"

Then I spotted the ominous note on the brown envelope that I wasn't supposed to see: 'IGNORED PRIOR BULLETINS"

Yes, once... when I was almost near death from a bad case of athlete's feet, I did ignore a prior bulletin! But how did they know? And how many millions of dollars have I already lost? NOT THIS TIME CHARLIE!, I said to 'the wife,' even though that is not my name.

They say "No purchase necessary" in very small print, but who's kidding who (whom?) I stayed up all night ordering everything in the brown envelope to give me an edge and assure I was qualified to win. I got the Musk Cologne Spray by Jovan for 20 % off, the famous 'contour bottle' design Coca-Cola Salt & Pepper Shakers saving over 35%, the night view glasses that are virtually indestructible, for four easy payments of only $2.99 each, the 32-melody wireless doorbell (sold elsewhere at $29.95) for four easy payments of $3.99 each, and best of all, I'll be eating edible dessert bowls with the Brownie Bowl Molds set of two... but that's not all... you buy 2 and get 2 FREE! Yes, I'm pumped!

I filled out every form and stuck every stamp just as they told me to do, then to be sure, I had 'the little woman' double-check my work. Thank God, because we almost missed this important instruction that surely would have disqualified us. "Before you start thinking about how you would like to spend the money, make sure you transfer the red & white label from the other side to your official Entry-Order Form and mail at once!"

Yes, we did transfer the designated label to our entry-order form... and return it at once! as requested.

Whew!

Now we are biding our time checking off the items in our left-over Christmas catalogs that we will buy. (The kids will never recognize me in that specially priced-to-sell Santa suit.) Darn, why did Sky Mall have to go out of business... they had so many great things?

Well, that's about it Suckers! Go cry in your milk. And if we see you and your wife and 7 kids in rags on the street selling pencils to make a few cents to buy rotting apples to keep your family from starving, I just might buy one or two... if you don't price them outrageously, like 25 cents apiece or something like that. Hey, don't be ashamed. I understand. I was poor once too.

Friday, January 23, 2015

My wife's hip replacement... which reminds me of a song

Wife's knee





Of all the major operations--everything from brain surgery to heart transplants to God knows what else modern medicine allows--perhaps hip and knee replacement surgery is on the more simple side. Violent but simple. (Here's a YouTube look at knee surgery if you have the stomach for it. There's one for hips too. )

What you learn as a caregiver to someone just home from the hospital is that it's a 25/8 proposition... not enough hours in the day to do it but a good try is had by all.

The upsides are many, of course. Care-giving is most often out of love and devotion. The duration is short as is, from time to time, the patience. By week two, improvement typically comes fast and you feel as if you have crested the hill and are coasting.

And the biggie... your patient is becoming a renewed person!

That said, I have a much keener appreciation for what it takes, from a male perspective, of course:

*I'm A Woman... as Peggy Lee would sing it.
 

I can wash out 44 pairs of socks and have 'em hangin out on the line
I can starch & iron 2 dozens shirts 'fore you can count from 1 to 9
I can scoop up a great big dipper full of lard from the drippin's can
Throw it in the skillet, go out & do my shopping, be back before it melts in the pan
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again

I can rub & scrub this old house til it's shinin like a dime
Feed the baby, grease the car, & powder my face at the same time
Get all dressed up, go out and swing til 4 a.m. and then
Lay down at 5, jump up at 6, and start all over again
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again

If you come to me sickly you know I'm gonna make you well
If you come to me all hexed up you know I'm gonna break the spell
If you come to me hungry you know I'm gonna fill you full of grits
If it's lovin you're likin, I'll kiss you and give you the shiverin' fits
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again

I got a twenty-dollar gold piece says there ain't nothing I can't do
I can make a dress out of a feed bag and I can make a man out of you

'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I'll say it again
'Cause I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N, and that's all.



 Thanks, y'all, especially for the "shiverin' fits.

*Sung by my favorite, Peggy Lee. Songwriters: LEIBER, JERRY / STOLLER, MIKE
I'm A Woman lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc




Saturday, January 17, 2015

This ain't no Pixar Toy Story my friends... And other animal tales of note.







This is
Toystory
... A lotta
Bull





He died recently at the age of 13. He was renowned as the grandest of the grand, the daddy of more that 500,000 of the best looking (really say those who have an eye for cows), milk producing Holsteins many dairy farmers have ever known.

To say he had great genes is an understatement. To say he had great stamina, drive, charisma, passion, devotion...well, maybe that's going a little too far. He also made the pages (center spread?) of the glossy monthly Holstein International three times. But what makes him truly amazing is that he remembered all their names and birthdays... believe it or not!

How good? He actually produced 2.415 million units of semen to inseminate cows in 50 countries, easily topping the old record of a mere 1.7 million. It is believed that Toystory's record will never be topped. If he was a major league baseball player, there might not be enough money to pay him... and God knows it needs it. The cost of birthday cards and postage alone would break an average bull.

So, Macho guys, if you've already figured out what 2.415 million divided by the number of days in the 11 years of Toystory's potency (602 including weekends), I have one thing to say: In your dreams! A Toystory T-shirt with 'TORAZO!" under his picture and/or a commemorative semen straw might be your speed.

It's Awards season again. And you know as well as I do that it wouldn't be complete without the World Dog awards. The 'Pawscars' has recognized other animals in the media... like the tarantula that won Best Supporting Arachnid a few years ago for its appearance in the movie, Salt when Angelina Jolie saw it and said "EEEK! A SPIDER!"

Fans vote online for The Most Pawpular Dog, The Most Influencial Dog in Social Media, the Happiest Reunion, etc.as well as the Most Dog-Like Cat. WHaaaat?

The key award, of course, goes to the dog voted Most Congenial because it probably means it doesn't bite. Good luck to all the animals, fish, arachnids, etc. And please, no long acceptance speeches for those dogs that 'talk,' like on America's Funniest Videos. Personally, I knew they were saying stuff but I just couldn't understand them because most dogs talk in French which they picked up from watching Lady and the Tramp subtitled

Want to hear something that sounds like a Baaaaad joke? One of the hottest Apps available for Iphone and android is called Goat Simulator. It lets you wreck havoc in a virtual town as an animated goat, says the WSJ. "There is even a jet pack for the goat to fly and land on a hang glider. Think Grand Theft Auto meets petting zoo."

Goats have almost become 'beloved' in today's lore, perhaps spurred on by Dorito's malevolent chip-chopping goat that was one of the most popular commercials airing in 2013's Super Bowl. "Once I saw one yell like a human," says one of the Apps' developers, "and I knew we were on to something."

"Goat-centric videos have been the rage... they are part of our culture," says another partner.

"In Goat Simulator, the goat uses its horned head to destroy furniture and make cars explode. It terrorizes pedestrians by throwing them up in the air or dragging them along" the asphalt wit its long, sticky tongue."

"Goats are headstrong and cheeky," says Dorothea Dapper, founder of the Institute for Systemic and Animal-Assisted Therapy in Germany. "Learning how to effectively deal with them can teach executives a lot about working with people too."

Important note for executives: Do not grow horns, do not make cars explode. Do not drag people on asphalt. Otherwise, go for it. If you don't yet have Goat Simulator, then you are probably too old or not-with-it enough to matter, but FYI, if you loved Donkey Kong, Pac-Man or Angry Birds, you just might love Goat Simulator... at your friendly App Store now.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

There she is... Miss America... and other girl problems

Bess Myerson... with Salvidor Dali looking on
Bess Myerson died. She was the first... and still the only Jewish Miss America in 1945. And she was something. Who would have thought that someone born in 1924 could have looked this beautiful?

Well, she was more than that. She worked for two New York City mayors and was instrumental in Ed Koch's election. She ran for Senate, appeared regularly on three different TV game shows, survived cancer and was acquitted on conspiracy, mail fraud and obstruction of justice charges brought (some say revengefully) by Rudy Giuliani. She was admired for her chutzpah (courage, mettle or ardor), outspoken and sought after. She was clever and quick thinking. In other words, she was an admired woman and Jew at a time when not all women or Jews were.

The Miss America Pageant was big at the time. Given how we have grown in understanding and perspective, the Bess Myerson of that time would not have been involved in today's banal excuse for a television program.

Admiral Michelle Howard
On July 1, 2014, Michelle Howard became the first woman and the first African-American woman to become a four-star admiral.

In 1999 she became the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. In 2006, she was selected for the rank of rear admiral making her the first admiral selected from the U.S. Naval Academy class of 1982 and the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy selected for flag rank. What do you think of those apples?

We may see our first woman President in 2016, but if not then, no doubt soon after.

Which begs the question: Why are we still latent in acknowledging the best man for the job could well be, and often should be, a woman?

In business, "companies with more women in leadership posts simply perform better," notes Joanne Lipman, former editor-in-chief of Portfolio magazine in the WSJ . Fortune 500 firms with the most female board members outperform those with the lowest by 26% on return on invested capital and 16% on return in sales. Yet, the number of women at the top is barely budging."

Lipman offers some observations as a guide for men: A male magazine editor may declare "We need a piece on the drop in gas prices!" Some woman making the same point might ask, "Has anyone noticed that gas prices are falling? Do we know why?"  It's the question mark that takes ownership away.

Some women apologize more often, says Lipman, and might attribute a compliment to "Just lucky." She may not ask for a deserved raise. Some may feel wrongly that men don't respect her. Some may consider "I've got a great girl in shipping that is..." as a compliment. Tears are often viewed as a weakness. Some may need a maternity leave or step back in her career to raise children. Some may be viewed as a mother figure rather than a boss.

So who's fault is that?

Surprise! It's yours, you male pig. (I just said that to get your attention men.) OK, it's hers a little too. But if a decision-making man is truly worthy of a leadership role, he most likely recognizes skill, talent, viewpoint, introspection, leadership, potential, etc. without sexual bias.

The world of yesterday was full of 'good old boy' networks and old ideas (like Miss America Pageants) that often still persist. Old stereotypes forget it was the women at home in World War II that allowed for victory to happen. Women have, sadly, not been appreciated anywhere near to what they may be able to contribute. We are equally good... or bad in every way except child bearing where they lead by a hundred miles.

Yes, we are better at appreciating quality regardless of sex or race, but we're really not there yet. And I do wish women, in their evolution, would stop using girl power or girl anything... sounds as bad as 'good old boys.' 'Women' is so much more powerful.

I guess I just had to get that off my chest.

For a good time, read Men are From Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray Page in 1992. Watch From Nine to Five with Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin dating back to 1980. Then go out and make the world a better place.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Who has the real poker face?

Poker Face



 I have a son-in-law who plays a mean 'Texas Hold 'em.' (That's a sophisticated poker game for you high-stake
wannabes who have 'TELL' written all over your bodies.)

Not Poker Face
But then does it make any difference anymore? Thankfully, no...not because
I don't like to see the other players sweat and squirm...
who wouldn't like that?... but because the answer to the unbeatable perfect-poker-playing probot (think Peter Piper... ) could be the key to saving the world. Really--sort of.  It's a 'greater good' kind of thing.

This could be THE break-through to better solutions in so many human applications. (For you 'robotophobes,' don't worry, this isn't artificial intelligence that thinks--YET... but don't hold your breath.)

This is a highly sophisticated algorithmic solution that does more than play unbeatable chess, perfect Scrabble and a mean Jeopardy. This bugger plays poker where so much information about state of play is hidden. The poker-playin' program should be called Tex... a solid poker-player name instead of some nerdy-sounding thing like Cephus (which it is now).

"Our goal," says Dr. Bowling of Canada's University of Alberta, "is to advance artificial intelligence. And poker is an ideal game to capture all kinds of uncertainty."

To learn all the nuances of bluff, bet, hole cards and luck of the draw, the algorithm ran on an array of 4,000 computers for 68 days, calculating the optimum outcomes for more than a trillion possibilities of play.

The program worked through six billion hands every second, more than ever played by all the people who have ever been on earth, and it refined itself to near perfection. If you played against it, no matter what you do, you still wouldn't be able to eke out any more than a tiny advantage over millions and millions of hands."

But, as any true gambler knows, "This could be my lucky day."

Wanna bet?

Researchers don't plan to commercialize the system but do plan on setting up a University-managed public website where you can try your skill against it for free.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

The worst team EVER... and a fascinating tie to my historical trip down memory lane to learn a lesson in morality





 How do I begin to tell you about the worst team ever and how it
Brantley B2b
relates to my personal touch with historical infamy?

OK, first guess which team is the absolute worst ever. And no, it's not the Cubs. Hint: This team's record is 1-14,000 and still counting.

Ever hear of the Washington Generals--the perennial losers? The Washington Generals are the team that always plays the Harlem Globtrotters--the perennial winners. The Generals were created in 1952 and owned by Red Klotz who was also its manager, coach, mascot and chauffeur in his used green DeSoto. Oh, and he also started and played into his 60s. He and his team were good players but that was not their show biz role. The Generals lost wherever the Globetrotters played... in the Egyptian desert, on an aircraft carrier, in Attica Prison, in Hong Kong, in a "Simpson's" episode, in front of Nikita Khrushchev, the Pope and Barack Obama to name a few. Get the picture?

Oh, and they won once--by accident--and were booed by the fans.

In fact, the Generals' win over the 'never lose' Globetrotter at the height of their popularity in 1971 was so upsetting to everyone who knew about the fabulous showboats that one sports writer called it a blow to American confidence. The loss was, he wrote, on a par with Lt. William Calley's recent conviction for murder in the My Lai massacre when as many as 504 unarmed South Vietnamese villagers were brutilized and killed by American soldiers under Calley's command. (Google it and be amazed, greatly saddened and ashamed.)

Now the connection: At that time, I was publisher of a really good magazine called Rotor & Wing International. It was an influential business publication for all the commercial helicopter owners and operators in the world.

F. Lee Bailey, the flamboyant attorney who helped get O.J.Simpson off the hook bought a small helicopter company called Brantley which manufactured the helicopter shown above. He visited our offices to get editorial coverage for his new company and I visited his manufacturing facility. His operating manager was former army captain, Ernest Medina who was Lt. William Calley's superior in Viet Nam. Calley contended Medina gave him the order to massacre those civilians who were suspected of aiding the Viet Cong, the enemy. That was suspected but never proven.

I knew Medina and his flamboyant boss, Bailey. They didn't give me good vibes. Bailey was an egotist, a pompous showboat and womanizer. Medina was quiet and not warm. Bailey flew me in his helicopter to show me what he could do and he and Medina bought lots of advertising in our magazine.

Less than a year later, Medina and Bailey sold the company 'stiffing' our magazine with a very large advertising bill unpaid, the jerk. So sue me, he said.

The enormity and shame of the Viet Nam war massacre and the pomposity and gall of Bailey gave me a 'dirty' feeling. The loss of a game by the Harlem Globetrotters didn't affect me... or any of the My Lai survivors in the slightest by comparison, which goes to show that any analogy of life to sport is a vast and ridiculous overreach.

And any excuse of serious allegations against athletes we idolize as great football players or whatever, is crap. Life is for real. Sports are for money. Not the same. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for cutting any star athlete any moral slack so our team can win. There are enough examples in today's news to make you sick. Let's stop that. Oh, by the way, you too congressional abusers.
    

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

ROAD TRIP

Yeah, I've seen all the movies. You go on a road trip, revive old memories, laugh, cry, get drunk, get a tattoo or two (butt and face of course), find a baby and a stray lion. Yawn!... So ordinary. That stuff happens all the time.

Wonderful Chicago from top of the Prudential
So when my youngest son threw a road trip for his older brother and his pop because we both had landmark birthdays this year, it was all of that and more. Sure, we found the baby... but he had a messy diaper so we passed on that... and saw the lion--two in fact--guarding the front entry of Chicago's Art Institute. Tattoos hurt so we were thinking tacos because that sounds similar... but when we walked by
Giordano's Deep Dish Pizza we decided that would be so much better--and it was!

We got pretend drunk--three beers and a glass of wine--and witnessed a killing--the Dallas Cowboys killed the Chicago Bears--from great seats in Soldier Field. Now I won't exactly say they were the best seats but Pope Francis sat on one side of us and Mike Ditka on the other... so you figure it out.

Pope Francis was a stitch... but unbelievably, he was rooting for The Cowboys (and I thought he was supposed to be ecumenical). Says Romo sounds Italian and it reminds him of Rome. He and Ditka kept trash-talking each other right in front of us. Ditka likes "smash mouth football," he tells His Holiness. Pope Francis says, "My favorite play is the Hail Mary." Ditka hums The Super Bowl Shuffle and the Pontiff comes right back with When the Saints Come Marching In. I asked The Holy Father why he didn't root for the New Orleans Saints and he says he can't root for any team that is 5-8, even if they are leading their division. "You can't even be a saint in heaven with less than 10 wins," he says... and he should know. When the game was over, Pope Francis gave us his blessing and Ditka offered a knuckle sandwich. We all walked out of the stadium arm in arm singing, you guessed it,  "Oh when the Saints... " 
His Holiness

Before the game, we tailgated, which is why we were too full to accept The Pope's burgers and a beer invitation. We had brats, buns and mustard with two cans of beer in each of our pockets. No grill... no problem. We asked to use someone's who had extra space. That's the thing about Chicago--people are super friendly and will lend a grill at the drop of a hat. I guess that comes from years of rooting for loosing sporting teams... you get kind-hearted and really nice because you have no bragging rights. Take that Yankee and Cardinal fans.


"Cloud Gate"
Next day, after a great breakfast, we took an architectural tour of the city's beautiful buildings and very snazzy Millenium Park just off Michigan Avenue by the Lake. The architectural tours of different parts of Chicago's downtown areas are renowned for their quality and the buildings and stories are well worth it.


"Looking Into My Dreams Awilda"
The huge ice skating rink in Millenium Park was in full use and the Jay Pritzger Pavilion designed by Richard Geary (like his Rock and Roll Museum in Seattle) was incredibly beautiful, as were the sculptures and other art.

Then it was drinks in the lounge on the 96th floor of the Prudential Building, pizza at Giordano's and settling down in the hotel lounge.

We laughed a lot too!

This was so nice a two-day affair that it was difficult to say good-by the next morning. In life, things happen that leave a mark. I've been so fortunate and grateful to count many of those, this being the latest. I told my sons that they could do it again, anytime, even after "you know what." They would take my ashes with them, of course, and remember this and all the great times we've had.

Thanks guys... and all the wives that let this happen. I'm super "touched," in the best of those definitions.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It was a dark and stormy night...




... when I began to write. It was November 1st... the day I wrote the first words (Once upon a time... ) of my now famous novel, Robbin' Hood: He stole from the rich and gave at the office. 

It was NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month--when lots of writers around the world vow to put at least 50,000 words on paper by the last day of November.

Many don't make it. Last year I killed-off all of my characters before the ides of November. Some writers can't get that very important first sentence... 'the grabber,'  just right. It's as if they were trying to win the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest for the worst first sentence ever... like these did:

 "Toads of glory, slugs of joy," sang Groin the dwarf as he trotted jovially down the path before a great dragon ate him because the author knew that this story was a train wreck after he typed the first few words.

Leopold looked up at the arrow piercing the skin of the dirigible with a sort of wondrous dismay -- the wheezy shriek was just the sort of sound he always imagined a baby moose being beaten with a pair of accordions might make.

Like a mechanic who forgets to wipe his hands on a shop rag and then goes home, hugs his wife, and gets a grease stain on her favorite sweater - love touches you, and marks you forever.

 As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.

Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: 'Andre creep... Andre creep... Andre creep.'     
 

Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eeking out a living at a local pet store.
      
Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then, penguins often do.      

Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.
      

Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn't know the meaning of the word 'fear'; a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death -- in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies. 

Well, I tell you, it's really not hard to write a novel, it's just hard to make it good enough for anyone but a close relative or someone who REALLY loves you, to want to read. Here's why I write short stories:

  • You don't have to remember your characters for the next day of writing, because there isn't any.
  • You don't loose sleep over what you will say in Chapter II.
  • You don't have to overwhelmingly burden anyone who HAS to read it because they love you. It only takes a little burden... sort of like having a zit instead of an amputation.
  • You don't develop carpal tunnel syndrome--that's for suckers.
  • You don't excessively use $75 worth of ink for your printer, or waste reams of paper that would be wadded up on the floor because you missed the waste basket.
  • Your title can be as long as you want because hey, what's a few dozen extra words if there aren't many in the first place.
  • You can finish it before you die.
But... and it's a big but (no, not butt), I DID WRITE A NOVEL. Or, I sorta wrote a novel. Ok, I wrote 1/7 of a novel. Ok, it was a novella, about half the size of a novel. And it was fun!

For our NaNoWriMo contribution this year, with six other very capable writers, I/we wrote a story, each one taking on the next chapter following the thread from the previous writer. And what a wild ride it became! Our total word count was about 22,000 words. A novel? No. But a fine novella to say the least.
Thank you LeeAnn, Kristen, Ada, Liz and Amber for letting me help and bask in your glory! It was awesome. And it really came off well with an incredible, dynamic ending. Oh, we did kill off a good number of people in our pages, but name me one best seller that doesn't... ok, name two... alright, enough. I get it.
You may read it all, or just pick and choose, for $0 plus tax. Go to Pilcrowdagger.com/blog and scroll down to Nov. 1 if you want to start at the beginning... or just cheat and read the last week's worth if you have no scruples. Honest, it's decent and fun for the way it is written. Each author is god and can make anything happen... What came out to an awesome end reminded me of the kids game of "telephone," except we didn't whisper in each others' ear.
FYI: a pilcrow is a writer's symbol to indicate a new paragraph if you are editing a manuscript. A dagger is, well, like a pointer, I guess. The blog is fun and loaded with words, stories and games for the sophisticated. Check it out.
  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Word Play



This short story was bought by Every Day Fiction a while back. It brought me $1 which, after the agent's cut and taxes, netted a tidy 63 cents... just enough for senior coffee at McDonalds, and who could ask for more. (Note to IRS: Yes, I claimed it as net revenue.) I always liked it because 23 is my favorite number (you'll see), but you'd never guess why?



Word Play
 
Seventeen across: Wish it done. Four letters.
Twenty-three down: Baa baa mama. Three letters.
Rob always looked forward to The Sunday Times because it was the best crossword of the week. It kept him hummingly busy most of the morning… and he usually finished it. This, however, was not one of those days.
“Damn! What is Carpenter’s key?”
Good time to grab a coffee, he decided as he stretched like a waking bear trying to throw his back out.
He smiled with smug confidence. This was war: his intelligence and worldly knowledge vs. the cunningly sly and diabolical Sunday crossword.
Bring it on, baby. When I fill in that last square, I am king of the forty-two across: Celestial orb… World. “Where is the Titanic when I need her?
The self-appreciating silliness was interrupted by his cell’s “Macho Man” ring tone.
“Hi hon…
“Yeah, workin the puzzle…
“No. Haven’t cracked it yet, but I will.
“What?  You are done already? No way! Did you use the dictionary?
“OK. Sorry. Hey, don’t be mad now. I was just kidding.
“You’re not coming over? Why not? We always go for brunch on Sunday. Since when is a sale more important than me? Honest, Steff… sometimes I feel you don’t love me as much as a good bargain.”
Feelings hurt, Rob sat, brooding for a minute. And to add insult to injury, he had to admit, she did the puzzle and he was stuck. The Sunday crossword was their ritual competition.
With new fervor, he picked up his paper and pen, determined he would ‘break through.’ But when he he looked at his progress, he could only shake his head at the ink-smeared corrections.
Rob was one of those addicts who always did the puzzle with his silver Cross pen that Steff had given him two birthdays ago. It was simply inscribed, “23 down,” cryptically referring to their little secret that time in the elevator.
He scratched his golden’s ears as she doggedly backed against his leg begging for more.
“Rob loves Steff, Tessie. Does Steff love Rob?
Tess looked back over her shoulder with those soulful dog eyes as if to ask, you’re not done scratching yet, are you?
“I thought so. No answer.”
Sixty-four down: Mother of Jesus. Oh, a gimmie, he thought. Mary.
The crossword’s theme was Happy Daze (spelled D-A-Z-E). He hadn’t figured that out yet but he knew the shaded squares were supposed to say something important when filled.  All he could think of was ‘The Fonz’ and it clouded his mind to the obvious.
“Hi honey,” she greeted, using her key to let herself in.
“Steff! I didn’t think you were coming today. What about the big sale? Aren’t you afraid you will miss a bargain?”
“Don’t think it wasn’t hard but I figured you might need my help with the puzzle.”
“That’s right. Rub it in. This is the first time you beat me in five weeks. Gloat, gloat, gloat.”
Steff smiled, filled her coffee cup, and kicked off her shoes as she curled into her favorite chair with the rest of the paper. Rob liked the look a lot... and for a moment, thought “The hell with the crossword puzzle.”
Steff broke the mood. “Go ahead. Finish if you can. I’ll just read The Times…and if you still aren’t done, I’ll read tomorrow’s paper too when it comes.”
“Very funny.”
110 across: Hood, affectionately. Three letters.
125 across: Hospital infection. Five letters.
“Wait. I may have a breakthrough!"
Wish it done: Will, of course.
Baa baa mama: Ewe.
Mother of Jesus: Mary.”
Hospital infection Staph… Steff?”
Suddenly, he stopped, startled at his revelation.
“I got it,” he beamed. “Solved the damn thing.”
“Yeah? So what is Carpenter’s key, Einstein?
“That would be my brother, Chuck.”
“Oh? Why Chuck?”
“Because he would be my best man…
“And yes. Yes. YES!” he said as he picked her up from the chair and danced her around the room, snapping her head back as he kissed her again and again. 
“I would be the happiest man in the world to marry you.”
After all the kissey-face smooching, hugging and crying had taken its course, Rob asked her how she ever pulled it off.
“I have a friend who knows the puzzle editor. He agreed it would be a wonderful trick…and make a great puzzle. Lots of human interest.”
“And I did make my sale.” She pulled a little blue Tiffany box from behind her back.
“This is for you, my love.”
The tiny inscription inside the ring read, “Second best crossword puzzle worker. First best fiancé.” 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The real post: Why can't we have elected official that really gets things done... like this?

Jayalalithaa Jayaram
Jayalalithaa Jayaram (pronounced any way you want) was in her third term as chief minister in Chennai, India. She was at the blazing height of her popularity. Her party won 37 of the 39 parliamentary seats in this past spring's elections. SHE IS TRULY BELOVED!

The poor have been risen up by the great number of public welfare programs she has introduced... nutritious meals are available for a few pennies and life is much better in her province. She has done so much to make life easier for the lower casts and is held in reverance by all... almost.

Seems Ms Jayaram knows how to stretch a rupee. At a salary of just 1 rupee per month (0.016th a U.S. dollar), she was able to scrape it together and stage an opulent wedding for her foster son for 40,000 guests and then a formal sit-down dinner for 12,800. People were know to say "Amma" (short for Jayalalitha, thank goodness) is God." Jesus fed 5,000 with just 5 loaves and 2 fishes, so maybe they had something there. (Wink, wink God.)

During her term in office, people would regularly stretch face down on the ground and touch her feet. Eat your heart out Mitch McConnell.

So maybe now we have a hint as to why people openly wept when her successor was sworn in to replace "the god" who has been convicted of corruption and sentenced to four years in prison. "Rarely have tears of despair flowed so copiously at a swearing-in ceremony," said one headline.

The new appointee pulled a photo of Amma from her pocked and bowed reverently, then she began to weep. The minister doing the swearing in just 'lost it' and the oath was barely audible.

Amma's people were way more than just sad. There have been 37 self-immolations including a 23-year-old woman who doused herself with gasoline after putting her infant daughters to sleep.

Unfair, you say? One itsy-bitsy wedding and this? Oh, she had also accumulated 660 million rupees during her first term in office and in her grand home, a search revealed more than 10,000 saris, 66 pounds of gold and one gold waist beld studded with 2,380 diamonds, 18 emeralds and nine rubies, to name just a few things. Not bad for making a penny-and-a-half a year stretch. I want that IRA.

After the funeral of the young mother who self-immolated, an official said in an interview that he could fully understand why Amma's admirers might consider suicide. "You see, they do it for love, because of affection."

So, to turn a phrase from one of my favorite movies, Dave, when he asked his secret service watchdog,"Would you light a match take a bullet for me?" it's kinda like that, I suppose. 

Politicians can be forgiven and still revered. We do it all the time. Check out these bad boys we just re-elected. Incumbents win 90 percent of the time.

As for India, people could consider a ban on matches, unless the NRA (National Radical Arson) prevails.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Gosh, why can't we have elected officials like this?

NOTE: Posted prematurely in all my excitement about a great blog post in the works. So this is now 'THE TEASE' to a really exciting, fun and all around darned good post, like later today. And if you think you can hardly wait, how do you think I feel, not knowing what comes next?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

After the elections, we need a laugh.

Thanks Tim Peckham







As if we are not having enough fun yet...

What was your least favorite election ad?

All of 'em. It felt like our only choice was the least bad. We should not have to choose our future by default, with anger and pessimism.

HOWEVER,  if you have just one more moan in you, I think it's time to use it for feeble humor, if that's what it takes. Try these:

Grouch Marx once confessed: "I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I don't know."

An editor sent a telegram inquiry to fact-check old time actor Cary Grant's age: "HOW OLD CARY GRANT?” — to which he responded: “OLD CARY GRANT FINE. HOW YOU?” 
 
And newspaper headlines gone wrong:
 
"Beauty Queen Unveils Bust at Dedication Ceremony"
"Dismemberment Killer Convicted: Thank God Jury Could Put Pieces Together"
"Reagan To Have Tissue Removed From Nose"
"Robber Holds Up Albert's Hosiery"
Study: Those Without Insurance Die More Often"
"Legislator Wants Tougher Death Penalty"
"Voter Fears Alert Politicians"
"Defendant's Speech Ends In Long Sentence"

"Missippi Literacy program shows improvement"
"Poison Control Center Reminds Everyone Not to Take Poison"
"Statistics Show Teen Pregnancy Drops Off Significantly After Age 25"
"County to Pay $250,000 to Advertise Lack of Funds"
"Chick Accuses Some of Her Male Colleagues of Sexism" (Her name is Chick.)

Then there is this:

 
And finally, the doctor is in:

"Hello, is this the doctor?"
"Yes."
"My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart!"
"Is this her first child?"
"No, this is her husband."

Doctor: "You are in perfect health. You'll live to be at least 65."
Patient: "But doctor, I am 65!"
Doctor: "See? What did I tell you."

"Doctor, I don't know what's wrong with me but I hurt all over. If I touch my shoulder here, it hurts, and if I touch my leg here, it hurts, and if I touch my head here, it hurts, and if I touch my foot here, it hurts."
"Hmm... I believe you've broken your finger."

And, saving my favorite for last:
"Sorry to say this but you have maybe three minutes to live"
"Isn't there anything you can do for me doctor? Anything?"
"Well, would you like me to boil you an egg?"

Monday, October 27, 2014

What the heck is this?

Jake, age 10, and mystery thing





This is Jake. His mom took him to a rummage sale and he found this. Had no idea what it was.

Funny, isn't it... his world only goes back 10 years.

Jake knows Gmail but he wouldn't know typewriters.

He knows computer games. But he wouldn't know Pong, and if he did, he would think it was really stupid.

Jake knows YouTube. He wouldn't know VCR... and goes on and on.

My sister's 5-year-old neighbor was zealously helping weed her flower bed so she asked him if he would like to take a peanut butter and jelly break. Needing his mom's permission, my sis said he could use the phone in the garage to call her. After a few minutes, she checked in on him and he asked, "What's this?"

Our world moves on pretty fast. 

 Alvin Tolfer, in his 1970 book, Future Shock, believed the accelerated rate of technological and social change left people disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation"—future shocked... maybe like the person who was present at the Wright brothers' first flight of 112-feet in 1903 and also at the 1969 blast-off of Apollo 11 toward our first moon landing.

To take it one step further, Voyager I, launched in 1977, is now in it's 37th year, traveling beyond our
solar system at 35,000 mph. It is 12 billion miles from earth and theoretically, will travel FOREVER!

Humankind has only been on earth for the final seconds of the 'Big Bang' time frame and in that short time, we have not only broached outer space but have developed skills to destroy mankind in the blink of an eye. How 'future shocked' is that?

Back to the Future has to be the first 'gee whiz' movie that had everyone scratching heads and saying, "Oh yeah, I get it."

Fact is, we DO have a working time machine existing today.... and it is not science fiction. I wrote about time and THE TIME MACHINE in this 2012 post. My, how time flies.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

HOW DO YOU KNOW?








There is this riddle:

A thermos bottle automatically keeps hot things hot. That very same thermos bottle keeps cold things cold... and it never makes a mistake.

The question is: How does it know?




 Life is filled with difficult riddles... so maybe this isn't one of them but hey, life gets tougher:

  • What asks but never answers?
  • What tastes better than it smells? 
  • A poor man is sitting in a pub. He sees that the man next to him is extremely rich.
 "I have an amazing talent," he tells the rich man.  "I know almost every song that has ever existed."

The rich man laughs.

"I am willing to bet you all the money you have in your wallet," says the poor man, "that I can sing a popular song that includes a lady's name of your choosing."

The rich man laughs again and bites, "OK, how about my daughter's name, Joanna Armstrong-Miller?"

The poor man goes home rich.

What song did he sing?

The answers: An owl, the tongue and Happy birthday.

One more riddle: How do you know if you are the rich person in the riddle or the poor person? Lot easier than you might think. Just take this little test.

WHAT YOU MUST KNOW TO SOLVE THIS RIDDLE: The wealthiest 1% of the people in America possess 40% of the nation's wealth. And, since 2009, that same top 1% received 95 % of the economic gains of the recovery. Fifty million of us (15 %) live below the poverty level according to Uncle Sam. And about 3.5 million of us experience homelessness in a given year. So today, If you add up all the money people have, the top half of us have 99 % of all the dollars, the bottom half, just 1%.

Now answer this question to solve the riddle: Do you personally know anyone in the bottom half?

If you answer "NO," then you are one of the "rich."

Just two more questions: How good do you feel about that? Can't we do more for those we don't know?

If all the poor were as sharp, and all the rich were as naive as those in the riddle, then I think things would naturally take care of themselves, but that's not life. WE... are life. Get it?


By the way, if you want to see an interesting new presentation by the United States Census Bureau
that shows how the U.S and World population grows, check this out.

Monday, October 20, 2014

IF I WAS THIS RICH...




 How rich? It has been said that Bill Gates is so rich that if he saw a $100 bill lying on the sidewalk, it would cost him more in the value of his time than to stop and pick it up. That rich.








 How rich? As rich as Scrooge McDuck, the world's richest avian, by far. The depth gauge of his gold coin cache is about 89 feet! That rich.

If I was this rich, I would follow Bill Gates' great example and try to make the world a better place. I would give money to fight diseases that defy solutions. I would give money to help education. I would give money to help the poor. I would try to do so many things that beg for the want of money. And I would feel good.

But I mean, what would I do with my "left over" billions? Bill Gates has said he will leave his children no more than $10 million (OK, that would be pretty good for most of us) instead of leaving them the billions he could. He wants his kids to still have to work for a purpose instead of being given a silver spoon for life. And he will donate the rest of his fortune good works. Who could not admire him for setting such a great example.

So what would I buy... I don't know because I could buy anything. But I know what I WOULDN'T BUY...







I wouldn't buy this... an untitled work of art by Cy Twombly which is part of his "Blackboard Series" because, I suppose, everything looks like a blackboard with scribbling on it. Asking price is "at least $35 million" at auction. On the positive side, it is a delightfully big work. I could afford it of course, but I feel it wouldn't soothe my soul as say, a large chocolate sundae.

I also am pretty sure I wouldn't buy this really nice Moynat Train Bag. It comes with shoulder straps and is cute as the dickins... a steal at $12,930 (plus tax). It could be a great 'man purse' because it was created with Pharnell Williams, who I really like. But it's just not me.





Then there is this really nice Louis Vuitton limited edition punching bag. Now before I tell you the how much it costs, you should know it comes with boxing gloves, a monogrammed mat to stand on when you punch and a carrying case for workouts when on the road. The price is 'about' $175,000. Hmm, the 'about' suggests to me that there may be some haggling room. I haven't punched the bag in person, of course, but if it is as nice as it looks, I wouldn't be surprised to see it in every Gold's Gym in the country.

I know, picky, picky, picky... but if I could buy and sell Donald Trump, it wouldn't be all bad.

Speaking of filth rich or not, did you know that the wealthiest 1% of the people in the USA possess 40% of the nation's wealth... and seriously, bully for them old chap.

And, since 2009, according to the bean counters, 95 % of the economic gains went to that same top 1%.

That helps explain this: If you divide the United States by wealth, the top half represent 99 % of the dollars, the bottom half... you do the math. And that figure is down from 3 percent before our economic 'oopsie.' Actually, 50 million of us (15 %) live below the poverty level which is $23,550 according to Uncle Sam. About 3.5 million of us experience homelessness in a given year.

So, as an American, a firm believer in the Golden Rule and a person with a bothersome conscience, don't you think we should be able to do better than that?