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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things that amaze me most: Part VI

As I told you before, there are a number of things/events/emotions that absolutely blow-my-mind because they are so introspectively amazing and give me a deeper sense of awe. So I made a list of the things that amaze me most... some big, some small, some acts, some things... but all, in my mind, amazing.  So far:

Part III: THE YOUNG: Babies, toddlers and teens
Part IV:  LAUGHTER: A peek into the soul
Part V:   NATURE: Her splendor and fury

An old but good story: Two men were walking on the beach, naturally littered with washed-on-the-shore starfish. Every few steps, one of the men would stop, pick up a starfish and throw it back into the sea. After this had happened about half-dozen times, the other man chided him.

"Why are you doing that? There are thousands of starfish on the beach. You can't really make a difference."

First man flipped the starfish he was holding back into the ocean. "I can to that one."
Interesting thing about The Power of 1... it can be so subtle that you don't even know when or how you affect someone. It often manifests itself without your knowledge or conscious effort... like being a good example, or smiling to a passer-by who needs a smile. It can be overwhelmingly incredible like grabbing hold of a stranger's elbow as he is about to step off the curb into an approaching car. It makes a difference...often an amazing difference.

"1" doesn't have to be heroic in the Superhero sense, though it sometimes is. Take CNN's Heroes of the year for 2010:
  • Susan Burton's nonprofit provides sober housing and other support to formerly incarcerated women.
  • Guadalupe Arizpe De La Vega has for 30 years, provided quality health care in the dangerous city of Juarez, Mexico. Several times a week, this 74-year-old grandmother drives into the murder capital of the world to help keep a sanctuary and health center for the needy, open and available for people who have no other place to turn. 
  • Linda Fondren has helped residents of her Mississippi town lose nearly 15,000 pounds.
  • Narayanan Krishnan has brought more than 1.2 million hot meals to India's homeless and destitute through his nonprofit organization.
  • Dan Wallrath of Texas has, since 2005,  given injured veterans homes of their own -- mortgage-free.
  • Anuradha Koirala and her group have helped more than 12,000 victims of Nepal's sex trafficking business.
  • Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow's program, Mary's Meals, provides free daily meals to more than 400,000 children around the world.
  • Aki Ra and his group have made Cambodia safer by clearing about 50,000 mines and weapons.
  • Evans Wadongo invented a way for rural families in Kenya to replace smoky kerosene and firelight with solar powered lanterns saving countless lives.
  • Harmon Parker builds footbridges in Kenya -- protecting people from floods and animals while connecting communities. 
                (There is much more detail... and more heroes, on the CNN website.)

Remember Violet and Allen Large of Nova Scotia? Nope! The names sometime escape us... but that's the thing about the Power Of 1... heroic actions are usually not notable for who, but what and how. Being a hero is often a selfless, quiet action that positively affects others. Though Violet is currently fighting cancer,  the Larges, who won $11 million in a lottery last July, donated the entire amount for various causes including their local fire department, hospitals and organizations that fight cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Said Allen, "The money that we won was nothing. We have each other." 
Hollywood has a neat way of showcasing the Power Of 1. Movies (and television, books, etc.) can show the perspective of all the characters and showcase cause and effect actions. How about a seasonal example: It's a Wonderful Life showed the greatness of George Bailey in the way he lived his life of personal character without ever realizing the positive effect he had on those he touched. (I love that movie.)

An organ donor covered on tonight's news saved a dozen strangers by his donations... and it showed the donor's wife listening to her deceased husband's heart beating in another's chest. Very powerful. (You an organ donor? You should be.)

And this season, how about Santa? Oh yeah! the Power of 1... in hearts and minds.

Most of us celebrate Christmas because of one man born about 2000 years ago. Need a better example of the Power of 1?
May your holidays be blessed and the New Year bring a resolve to unleash your Power of 1 for a richer you. Play it forward.

Friday, December 10, 2010

You Can Fool Some of the People...

  “No lady. We don’t got no elephants.”
Geez…  the rubes always ask about elephants. Usually it’s some pig-faced farmer-woman with a mouthful of popcorn.  “Uh, mmm. Pardon me sir… Do you have elephants?”
We ain’t no zoo, fer Christ’s sake. Carnivals don’t got elephants… or nothing that ain’t somebody’s pet…. Like Walter’s rat, Hermie. Or Maggie ‘s Ruff.  I got my little boa, Slither. ..and old Prince. Just pets. No elephants, trained seals or zebras. That’d be all I’d need… crap the size of footballs."
It wasn’t Frank’s Carney… but it was his Freak Show and he was the big draw on the Midway. Who would have doubted after they had seen Jack and Jill, the only fraternal Siamese twins in the world, joined at the hip by what looked like a rubbery band, Little Lulu, the world’s smallest lady and her husband, Big Bill Benson who actually weighed 470 pounds. Now there’s an elephant for you. Of course, Prince the Unicorn wasn’t too shabby… when his horn didn’t come unglued on those blistering summer days and lay across his face looking more like the paper towel cone it originally was.
Credibility started to suffer with Zelda, the bearded lady. She looked like a pro football linebacker in drag. Actually, she never played football… but she was in drag.  “Just never got around to that sex change did you Phil?”
And Tommy, the world’s biggest tortoise, was loosing his ‘gee-whiz’ appeal with the crowd. “Kids today just don’t buy into a 35-pound snapping turtle like their parents in the days before Animal Planet. Damn TV is going to drive us all out of business.”
Frank was always on the lookout for a new star. And when he sold the cold and rainy night’s first--and maybe only--ticket to that huge creepy-looking guy in the dirty long raincoat, he had a feeling that maybe this could be ‘it.’ The guy, with a sad excuse for a face that maybe even a mother couldn’t love, was either a real ‘freak’ or some perverted flasher. In either case, he wouldn’t be a first.
As Frank followed at a distance, he saw the guy’s eyes seem to bulge as he stared at Jack and Jill. Then the creep started to drool as he reached toward them across the railing.
“Hey Mister,” Frank hollered. “Hands to yourself! This is a ‘no-touch’ zone.”
With that, the creep turned, looked Frank up and down, and flashed him a hideous grin. As he ‘waddled,’ toward him, Frank noticed the guy’s feet were nothing but blobs of flesh… and where he walked, he left a glistening, slimy trace.
“What the…”
Then Frank smiled. He had found his freak… a real one this time.
Moments later, hearing what sounded like a muffled scream, Jack and Jill got off their chair and looked toward where Frank’s voice had came from. Frank was nowhere in sight. All they saw was ‘the creep,” grinning and slowly moving their way.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The ridiculous and the sublime

Exhibit A: In Connecticut, a man driving 80 miles an hour, hit and killed a 14-year-old boy riding a bicycle. That man, currently serving a 10 year prison term for manslaughter, is suing the deceased boy's parents for "contributory negligence." He says that because the boy was not wearing a helmet, his conviction is causing him "great mental and emotional pain and suffering."

Exhibit B: Jeff Tally, a homeless Arizona man who had just spent his last dollar, found a backpack containing a laptop computer and $3,300 in cash at a light-rail station. He took the backpack and its contents to his boss, the  manager of the Tempe Community Action Agency, which provides the city's homeless with meals and shelter, to help find the backpack's owner, which they did.  The owner, a student at Arizona State University, reported the good deed to The Arizona Republic, which ran the story. Tally, who has debts and a bank account that is $67 in the red, says he never thought of keeping the money. "It wasn't my money. I didn't earn it. I'm the one that has to lay down every day and deal with myself. If I'd done anything different that what I did, I don't know if I could handle that."

Exhibit C: A Florida man who ordered an artichoke at a restaurant is suing the restaurant because eating the entire artichoke caused him "severe abdominal pain and discomfort." He says "he had never seen or heard of (an artichoke) previously." He blames the restaurant for failing to tell him that he shouldn't eat the whole thing... only the tender inner leaves.

Exhibit D: Violet and Allen Large of Nova Scotia won $11 million in a lottery last July and they have since spent every penny... but not a cent on themselves. They donated the entire amount for various causes including their local fire department, hospitals and organizations that fight cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Said Violet, age 78, who is undergoing cancer treatments, "What you've never had, you never miss." Her husband Allen says, "That money that we won was nothing. We have each other."

Exhibit E: In Wisconsin, a man watching Bristol Palin and her partner continue their advance week after week on TV's Dancing with the Stars, became so fed up that he shot the family television which precipitated a standoff with local police. According to the complaint against him, he did not think that Bristol "was a good dancer"... and, he had been drinking.

Exhibit F: When small business owner Lola Gonzalez realized that, because the company she founded (Accurate Background Checks in Ocala, Florida) and ran successfully for years was in financial straits because of the economy, she knew she would have to lay off one of her nine loyal employees. She gathered her small staff together and announced, "I want you all to know I have to lay somebody off and it's been a very difficult decision." Her staff took a deep breath... but before anyone had a chance to say anything, she continued... "And that person is me." The boss and founder had laid herself off to keep her employees working. Gonzalez says "employees are the ones who are doing the legwork." She also felt that with her background in social work, she could more easily find another job. And she did... one making about half her current salary. But, she added, "I don't need a Mercedes." Business, she reports, is picking up but, until the company is on more solid footing, she will not return... and she will see that her employees get a Christmas bonus.

Now I ask you, which of the exhibits represent the ridiculous and which the sublime in this human experience we all share?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another Adage Disproved

You never saw two guys looking so much alike. When Jim and Bob were together, even at 60, they still got stares wherever they went. Being identical twins has its blessings...and curses. The similarities ran deep...same gait, mannerisms, habits, cars, families (one girl, two boys), neighborhood, hobbies, etc. But at least, they hadn't worn the same clothes since mom stopped dressing them for pre-school... except when their almost identical minds came up with identical choices out of their closets.

It was Jim who got the first new Cut-Rite bench saw for his woodworking shop in the garage. "Slickest thing you ever saw, Bob...but heavier than a ton of feathers. Need your help to get it out of the pick-up and put it together."

With sweat stains discoloring their identical 'Measure twice, cut once' tee shirts, Bob said, "Let' s set this bugger up and see what she can do"... or was it Jim?

It only took an hour before Stephanie opened the garage door and hollered over the din, "What is that God-awful whine that's making the dog crazy?"

Well-satisfied with the set-up and initial test of the new saw, the brothers almost fought for the right to cut that first 2x8 into meaningless pieces. "Here... I'll hold this end and we'll do it together."

"No, stupid. That's too dangerous. Not that way... Stop it Bob... Oh Jesus!"

It only took seconds before blood discolored the saw's shiny steel top and three loose fingers were laying impossibly askew... the fourth was on the floor in a pile of sawdust.

Stephanie had the boys on the way to the ER in minutes, with the loose digits in an ice-cooled plastic bag on Jim's lap.  The brothers, broodingly reflective, didn't have what it took to point a finger at one another.

"Nurse. Prep-'em We're going to put those fingers back on." The ER was abuzz with activity as the brothers were made ready. Jim was wheeled into OR1, Bob, next door in OR2...or was it the other way around?

"Operations successful," the doctors happily reported, and Stephanie and Shari sighed almost in unison.

It wasn't till two days later that the hospital realized IT WAS the other way around-- Bob was in OR1, Bob's fingers in OR2 and visa-versa. But with identical twins, it still, amazingly worked!

When the boys and their spouses were told, it was Jim who started to laugh... from a smile to a giggle to a red-faced, almost apoplectic, 'can't-catch-your-breath' guffaw. "Well," he said with tears in his eyes after he had finally re-gained some composure, "I guess that disproves that."

"Beg your pardon?" said Bob, totally out of the loop on what was so funny.

"When we were kids, you always said,
You can pick your friends...
And you can pick you nose...
But you can't pick your friend's n..."

Before he could finish, Stephanie calmly emptied her luke-warm coffee on Jim's head and their world was back to if it ever was.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Things that amaze me most... Part V

As I told you before, there are a number of things/events/emotions that absolutely blow-my-mind because they are so introspectively amazing and give me a deeper sense of awe. So I made a list of the things that amaze me most... some big, some small, some acts, some things... but all, in my mind, amazing.  So far:

Part III: THE YOUNG: Babies, toddlers and teens
Part IV:  LAUGHTER: A peek into the soul

Part V:   NATURE: Her splendor and fury

This is a 'no-brainer.'  The day begins:

The rains come:

The winds blow:

Snow blankets the earth:

Volcanoes erupt:

The oceans crash:

Tornadoes and hurricanes roar:

Lightning shocks the earth:

Rainbows highlight the beauty:

The heavens give a sense of eternity:

The awe... the power... the serenity of it all:

OK! Top that.

Monday, October 25, 2010

We interrupt this blog of 'AMAZING THINGS' for another post

Hey, I'll get back to my blog post trip through the 10 things that amaze me most... so far, the Pacific Ocean, Big Numbers and The Young... but first, a few other things that seem to be calling my name.

I, like other crossword buffs, know what the clue 'OED' stands for--Oxford English Dictionary, generally accepted as the foremost word authority in the world. When word got out that the third (latest) edition of the 126-year-old publication would, most likely be released only electronically, trees everywhere cheered. (Incidentally... if you like crossword puzzles, then you must see the incredibly interesting DVD documentary, Wordplay, featuring Will Shortz, Ken Burns, Jon Stewart and Merl Reagle.)

The full edition's last release took 20 volumes just to cover A through Z... and it was so heavy that it couldn't be lifted by any normal person. (Last edition was released in 2001, just two years after the OED went digital. Of course, updates have been coming out between the reprints... with increasing frequency in today's faster-paced word-world.

This is the same dictionary that gave it's "Official-dom" stamp to words like turkducken (turkey stuffed with duck and chicken, of course), shagadelic (the Austin Powers' catchphrase), gaydar, matchy-matchy, defriend and frenemy. Yes, Bridezila is there too, as is Grrl, babelicious, po-po, blamestorming and bazillionaire, plus lots of others. Don't know what they mean? Look 'em up.

Sad, but it's a fact... the onset of the digital age and the internet have changed, not always in a good way, so much of our lives. So now, the only thing you can say to anyone who asks for a definition you don't want to admit you don't know, is to tell them to look it up on Google... or, as the OED would allow, say "Google it."

But wait... that's not all. Soon to be gone with the OED's 20-volumes is the Librarian herself. (Yes, I know... I should say "herself/himself," but if the librarian will soon stop being politically correct, so will I.) Today's new libraries--thanks a lot, economy--are becoming more and more automated. Well, perhaps that is no surprise... everything old is new again... like the Automat, a restaurant style 60 or so years ago, where diners picked their appetizers, entrees and deserts from behind glass windowed cubbyholes (like mailboxes) which made waitresses passe, until diners realized they missed that touch of charm/service/tipping opportunity.

In some larger cities, library users order books on-line and pick them up from locked storage bins at a "sort of library" building, using the key code they were given to open the door.

I suppose story hour now will be lead by Roberta, the bespectacled, grandmotherly-sweet robot.


I was taught that there are five different kinds of taste buds located on the tongue, soft palate, esophagus and epiglottis... salty, sour, bitter, sweet and savory. Well, that's wrong now too, we have just discovered. Taste buds also exist on the lungs so that, according to new research, "the airways can 'taste' dangerous, illness-causing bacteria." This, supposedly helps us to breathe easier and clear the bacteria in the body's self-healing mode, and could allow scientists to better target these infections. 'Atta way, body.

There is a new non-ficton book out,  EELS, by James Prosek. (You guessed it... all about eels.) While this book does not take the place of the printed edition of the OED, it is, in tiny snippets, interesting. I learned that some eels live 100 years... often languishing in small ponds just waiting for a series of floods to 'leapfrog' their way to the ocean. This long life results in growth that produces creatures with "heads on 'em like a full-grown Labrador dog." Those creatures are found in Australia, thank goodness, where lots of fascinating, strange, dangerous animals that I wouldn't want to associate with, are found. (Kute, kuddly koalas are not any of those.)

Speaking of old, like in eels, the bristlecone pine trees found in the U.S. West, are among the longest-living trees in the world, sometimes able to celebrate their 4,000th birthday. Send a card, bake a cake... but please, no birthday candles. I think these celebrations that get out of hand are responsible for a lot of those forest fires out west.

This blog post's last non-sequiter: Happy birthday, Fred Flintstone, who just turned 50. (Gee... prehistoric times seemed farther back than that.) Give our best to Wilma, Pebbles, Barney, Betty, Bam Bam, Dino, Hoppy and The Great Gazoo. Gazoo?... look it up in the OED (Whoops, sorry... you can't.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Things that amaze me most...Part III

As I told you before, there are a number of things/events/emotions that absolutely blow-my-mind because they are so introspectively amazing and give me a deeper sense of awe. So I made a list of the things that amaze me most... some big, some small, some acts, some things... but all, in my mind, amazing.  So far:

Part III: THE YOUNG: Babies, toddlers and teens

Oh, it isn't that the older aren't amazing... sometimes they are amazing heros, leaders, role models, parents, children, friends, lovers and spouses... sometimes they are all of those rolled into one. And yes, sometimes they are amazing jerks and worse... but everyone, from perhaps mid-teens on,  has already benefitted in almost all of life's learning and are into the next phase. 

The young, however... now that's a different story. They learn everything from scratch and surprise us with new stuff, sometimes when we least expect it.

At the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle there is a full size mockup of an F/A-18 fighter. A ramp allows visitors to climb into the cockpit and get a sense of what the pilot sees and feels. A guide at the top of the ramp points out the various controls and gauges in the cockpit and gives information about the aircraft's capabilities to each visitor who gets in. When my two-year-old son sat down in the plane, he seemed fascinated by all he saw and heard. Then, he looked out at us and said, "Dad, could I have a quarter?"

As babies they are miraculous and incredibly cute. They fill us with love and awe. They are totally dependent as they learn life's most basic lessons. As they grow, they are innocent, charming, witty, naive, goofy and sometimes, impishly impossible. In their later stages they are relatively new and even more naive to the grown-up world, but they still live on the 'up' side of the learning curve and continue to share in its delights. It's almost all discovery from birth to then. That's what is so amazing to observe.

Coming home from his Little League game Billy swung open the front door very excited. Unable to attend the game, his father immediately wanted to know what happened. "So, how did you do son?" he asked.
     "You'll never believe it!" Billy said. "I was responsible for the winning run!"
     "Really? How'd you do that?"
     "I dropped the ball."

We all started from a single sperm and egg... much smaller than a grain of sand... and grew with fingers and toes and giant eyeballs and livers and onions... well, maybe not onions, but hearts and lungs and bones and... now get this... BRAINS... which lead to understanding, reason and common sense-- learning's tools and results. Yeah... really though, sometimes you wonder. But see, that is the less keen stage... from young adults to old farts to death.

When we moved cross-country, my wife and I decided to drive both of our cars. Nathan, our 
eight-year-old, worriedly asked, "How will we keep from getting separated?"
     "We'll drive slowly so that one car can follow the other," I reassured him.
     "Yeah, but what if we DO get separated?" he persisted.
     "Well, then I guess we'll never see each other again," I quipped.
     "Okay," he said. "I'm riding with Mom."

The process of learning is the remarkable thing... that precious time before anyone feels they know everything... maybe around the mid to later teen years. There you see the instinctive trust and simple respect that comes implicit to parents, teachers, siblings, relatives, friends, life experiences, etc. From infant to that point where growth in knowledge crests the hill, the young progress with all the speed, cuteness, clumsiness, misconception-filled ideas and mixed messages that they absorb every second of their younger lives. As they grow in wisdom, they grow physically and emotionally, still dependent on those that bring them along. Maybe that's why there are so many dog and cat lovers, because these creatures never grow beyond that level.

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.'" Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus."

As the young become more worldly, they become more people of the world that we, their mentors, share. Its all a good deal and a great ride.

A mother and her young son returned from the grocery store and began putting away the groceries. The boy opened the box of animal crackers and spread them all over the table. "What are you doing?" his mother asked. "The box says not to eat them if the seal is broken" the boy explained. "I'm looking for the seal."

Take it from a grandfather of 15 with another on the way, how can you not be amazed at the young? 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Things that amaze me most.... Part II

As I told you before, there are a number of things/events/emotions that absolutely blow-my-mind because they are so introspectively amazing and give me a deeper sense of awe. So I made a list of the things that amaze me most... some big, some small, some acts, some things... but all, in my mind, amazing. So far:


I don't know about you but my mind can only absorb so much before the wheels start to spin like the numbers on a hot Las Vegas slot machine. Maybe it was a blessing that I never got rich because now I can count what I have on my fingers and toes (metaphorically). But how do you put your arms around
5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (reads 5 million trillion trillion).

That is the scientific best guess of the number of bacteria alive on this earth at this time.

Add that to the 10 quintillion (10 followed by 18 zeros) individual insects. Doesn't that worry you just a little bit? If all of those little buggers got together, us 6.9 billion people wouldn't have much of a chance. Let's just hope that there isn't an insect Winston Churchill or George Washington or FDR to organize the charge.

Then of course, you have space. How much is 6 billion light years--the estimated breadth of our universe... which is constantly expanding? One light second is how long it takes light to travel 7 times around the Earth. One light year is 32 million light seconds... a lot farther than the out house on a frigid winter farm night.

Then you have stars which are not scattered randomly through space but gathered in galaxies. Our Sun belongs to the Milky Way Galaxy. (I didn't know that!) Astronomers estimate there are about 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way alone... and there are millions upon millions of other galaxies. As for size, Earth is smaller than a grain of sand on the Universe Beach. Can you imagine...?

Then you have time. It is scientifically estimated that The Big Bang, which is believed to be the event that triggered the formation of our Universe, happened 13.7 billion years ago, give or take a few billion. If that time was condensed in scale to one earth year, you and I would have been born just a blink of an eye before the stroke of midnight on December 31st at 11:59:59 p.m.

So how old am I? Less than a fraction of a second, of course... and looking good for my age.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The things that amaze me most...Part I

I saw something the other day that just floored me. It was one of those things that make you stop and say "WOW!"

That 'gee-whiz' moment put me in a reflective mood and I realized that there are a number of things/events/emotions that absolutely blow-my-mind because they are so introspectively amazing and give me a deeper sense of awe. So I made a list of the things that amaze me most... some big, some small, some acts, some things... but all, in my mind, amazing.

This is the first of 10 of those incredible realizations, in no specific order, that seem to put so much of life in perspective for me.

Things that amaze me most...Part I: THE PACIFIC OCEAN

In fact, all the oceans... but the Pacific in particular. Why? Just look at it! The Pacific, as seen in Google Earth from space, fills almost a full hemisphere! That's North and South America peeking over the right edge.

Want your own sense of awe? Go to Netflix and check out The Perfect Storm... again, or watch Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. Here's a 'freebe,'Artist Ran Ortner's stunning award winning painting, Open Water No. 24.

I'll tell you something else. While the Earth's surface is 71% water... and more than two miles deep in the Pacific's Mariana Trench (which is 1,580 miles long and 43 miles across--take that, Grand Canyon) water is only .025% of the Earth's mass. If Earth was represented as a 12" diameter globe, the average depth of the oceans would be no more than the thickness of a piece of paper.

So while the water on the earth might seem an endless resource, there is far more earth... with a thirst that  all the oceans haven't been able to resolve. Fact: There are 2.5 billion people of our 7 billion population-- almost one out of three of us-- who lack ready access of clean water to drink. Wanna see an incredible blog post that defines that problem? Click here.

Watch for The things that amaze me most...Part II, within the week.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Of Golden Rules... again

In Greek mythology, was it King Midas who said, "He who has the gold, rules?"

King Midas was a very kind man who ruled his kingdom fairly, but he was not one to think very deeply about what he said. One day, while walking in his garden, he saw an elderly satyr asleep in the flowers. Taking pity on the old fellow, King Midas let him go without punishment. When the god Dionysus heard about it, he rewarded King Midas by granting him one wish. The king thought for only a second and then said I wish for everything I touch to turn to gold." And so it was.

King Midas' gift gave him "The golden touch," and, as you can see, it turned out to be a curse.

The beautiful flowers in his garden turned toward the sun for light, but when Midas approached and touched them, they stood rigid and gold. The king grew hungry and thin, for each time he tried to eat, he found that his meal had turned to gold. His lovely daughter, at his loving touch, turned hard and fast to gold. His water, his bed, his clothes, his friends, and eventually the whole palace was gold.

While he was the wealthiest man on earth, he was also the loneliest and saddest, not to mention hungriest. 

King Midas saw that soon his whole kingdom would turn to gold unless he did something right away. He asked Dionysus to turn everything back to the way it had been and take back his golden touch. Because the king was ashamed and very sad, Dionysus took pity on him and granted his request. Instantly, King Midas was poorer that he had been, but richer, he felt, in the things that really count.

Nope. He didn't say that. He did however, give us "the Midas touch." The moral of the story: Be "richer in all the things that really count."

It all comes down to living "rich"... metaphorically... kind of like The Golden Rule, which I have used in one blog form or another four times before now.  (Go to 'Search Blog' and type in golden rules--they make wonderful pegs to some stories.)

Then there are the Anti-Golden Rules: "He who has the gold, rules" -- "Don't get mad, get even" -- "Revenge is the best medicine," -- "An enemy of my enemy is my friend."  Jimmy Hoffa once told friends, "I do unto others what they do unto me... only worse." Charles Dickens' sleazeball character, Martin Chuzzlewit said, "Do other men for they would do you."

Sadly, we all know a few people like that. Anti-Golden Rules are tough... I see those people as angry... revengeful... brooding... people always at war with their fellow man. No "Happy-go-lucky" here. Advice: Do not try to tell these people a joke.

Golden Rules are simpler expressions of hope... and practicality. There are many formal expressions in mottoes, by scholars and humanists, in religious tenants, etc., but the Golden Rule is not religious. It is a moral, non secular expression of faith in humanity. It can be so simple:  Google's credo is "Do no evil." In a new book, SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better. Authors David Shipley and Will Schwalbe say "Send e-mail you would like to receive." Louie Armstrong says "If you don't treat me right, shame on you." Remember: "Pick not thy nose lest someone else picketh it for you." (I just made that one up.)

Sir Isaac Newton (the one boinked by an apple) said in his book, Principia, "The golden rule is founded on the same law of Action and Reaction"... as are many of the principles of our world.

The golden rule is not a religion... it's a way of life... the easier way.  Pass it on.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's your dream job?

A recent poll asked, "What is your dream job?"

OK, got your answer? Well, three of four fellow Americans chose to be: a movie star (33%), a professional athlete (29%), a rock star (13%). That leaves only 25% of us who want to be fire fighters or nurses. And who is going to pick up the garbage?  Few said role model or a great father/mother/spouse or successful entrepreneur. How did you do?

So at least now we know what we want to be... rich and famous.

Before we judge ourselves too harshly, let's accept the realization that there are many ways to be rich and/or famous. And there are plenty of role models. In today's world, you can be famous in the blink of a tweet or a YouTube video that goes viral. Sure, maybe that only lasts 15 minutes, but then you could get on with your real life. That fame, of course, often doesn't lead to riches, but hey, one out of two ain't bad.

You could, for example, set a world's record. Oh yeah! You can do it.

Some guy from India grew the worlds longest ear hair... 5.25 inches. See? How difficult was that?

A Swiss guy just cycled 40 miles... backward... playing a delightful selection from Bach... on his violin... in a tunnel. Again, a no-brainer.

An inventive high schooler just set a world record for kicking himself in the head. Did it 58 times in a minute. Now that took brains, both literally and figuratively. But it is fame. Check it out on YouTube.

Sure, you can't cook a three-minute egg in two-minutes... some things just take longer.

An Australian author just completed his first book, a novel without a plot. On a manual typewriter (Note to young people: a manual typewriter is kind of like 26 or more pencils tied together in a clunky,  metal frame... without a cord or battery. It's kind of like prehistoric cave paintings in a time before computers) he wrote the numbers one to one million, spelling out each word. The first word of his book, which took 16 years to complete, read: "One" The last line read: "nine hundred ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety eight, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine, (get ready... here comes the climax!) one million." Even more amazing, his 19,890 page 'novel' was all one sentence... with a hell of a lot of commas. And all this time, I thought the butler did it.
An American diarist left behind a 37.5 million word diary chronicling every 5 minutes of his life from 1972 to 1997 when he died. (The butler probably did kill him.) He kept a written record of absolutely everything that has happened to him, day and night. He wrote four hours each day believing that discontinuing his diary would be like turning off his life. He recorded his body temperature, blood pressure and medications. He described his urination and defecation... and slept for only two hours at a time so he could describe his dreams.

A South Korea lady from a small mountain-side village finally got her driver's license... after 960 tries! The 60-year-old diminutive woman began her quest for a license in April, 2005, and took the test once a day, five days a week those first few years, riding a series of buses for several hours in both directions every time she went to the testing center in a larger city. Fear not. She is a good driver... she could easily pass the driving portion but, because of her lack of formal learning, she had a bugger of a time with the 40 question multiple-choice written test. So she eventually memorized all the questions and only the correct answers. Bingo! She proudly never give up."

Of all the 'famous' in this blog, she is my heroine. And perhaps, she is the only one whose fame brought her riches. Automaker Hyndai presented her with a new car and now features her in South Korean TV commercials.

She does leave the only worthwhile lasting impression... NEVER GIVE UP!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Remember my last post...

...the one about a granddaughter's birthday coming up? Well, we did that. What I want to tell you is that the party itself, for nine kindergarten to 5th graders, was one of the best themed parties... for kids and adults.

On a very nice day, we had a small covered area in a nice local park on a lake, reserved. Fifteen minutes after everyone arrived, the owner of a small, private zoo-farm filled with rescue animals (about 70 of the non-killing-type), brought the six animals the birthday girl had requested.

For the next hour-and-a-half (which seemed to go by really fast), she took the animals, one at a time, from their cages and talked about them while the kids got to see, touch, hug as the animals played atop a picnic table the kids surrounded. The woman was very good... friendly and patient, and had all the facts and anecdotes especially entertaining to the kids (and adults)... but the animals were even better.

We had a capuchin monkey (the only one we couldn't touch because the little bugger was very fast and had long arms that grabbed anything and everything), a kinkajou (look it up), a 40 lb. bunny, a fennec (long-eared) fox, a hedgehog and, the star of the show, Arthur, the awesome opossum. And he really was.

Now it's not that Chuck-e-Cheese isn't great, or the gym or pottery making... it's just that we don't have a chance to get this close to real, live nature in the form of friendly, cuddly animals. Arthur, the awesome opossum is even house-broken and sleeps on the pillow besides his owner's head every night. Not for everyone? For sure. But touchy-feely is great when it happens this easy. Sadly, not every locale has something like this... but we do... so ha ha ha.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More proof: It's really nuts out there...

Granddaughter's 9th birthday is coming up. She LOVES dogs, arctic foxes, anything that swims,  slithers, has four legs, is cute, cuddly, bites (softly), etc. None of this nurse stuff, she's going to be a vet. So we mail-ordered for her, among other things, a packet of eight dog pencils we saw on-line. Cost: $2.95 plus about a million dollars for postage/handling, etc. Hmmm... that seemed kinda high, but heck, she's our granddaughter, and she will love the pencils, so ok.

Two days later, UPS leaves a box at our front door. "Honey, did we order a new set of encyclopedias, A-through-Ma ?"

Yep. That was the size of the box... except it was really very light. Inside were 4 yards of that plastic, softly inflated 'packing cushion' stuff... and, of course, the pencils--that's all... just the four ounces of pencils, taped to the bottom. At least now, I can understand the high cost of  postage/handling.

Not nuts enough for you? How about the gang of robbers trying to blow open a German ATM machine? A few explosives here, a few explosives there... that should do it.

Well, the blast destroyed the entire bank building (except for the safe) and damaged cars a football field away. When the dust had settled, the building was nothing but a pile of bricks and the landscape looked like a war zone. Only thing still standing was the completely intact ATM machine. Whoops. My bad!

A man, trying to shoplift soothing skin lotion, was "noticed" by a female security office because of  the rather large bulges in his pants which were tied off at the ankles. (Is that skin lotion or are you just happy to see me?) He had 75 bottles--that's a lot of aloe-- stuffed below his belt... so many that the police couldn't fit him into the squad car because, like the Michelin Man, he couldn't bend over.

Three adjacent stories in The Week magazine: Rep. Mark Souder, an outspoken evangelistic Christian advocate of abstinence before marriage, resigned from Congress after admitting to an extramarital affair with a staffer. An Alabama high school teacher was suspended after assigning his students to, 'hypothetically,' plan the assassination of President Barack Obama as a way to teach angles to his geometry students. Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal was thrown a curve ball in his campaign to win a senate seat. Seems he remembered what it was like to serve in Vietnam and recalled "the taunts, the insults, even the physical abuse (inflicted on veterans ) when we returned." Fact is, Blumenthal received five draft deferments before joining the Marine Corps Reserve and never saw action overseas. To his credit, he took full responsibility for "a few misplaced words." Atta way sport. Got to admire a man who takes responsibility for his actions... when he is caught with his mouth open.

That Rhode Island school board is tough. It suspended an 8-year-old second-grader because he glued toy soldiers to his hat for a patriotic-themed class project. Seems the tiny soldiers were carrying even tinier guns which was in clear violation of the school's "zero-tolerance for weapons" policy.

And as final, undeniable proof that it really is nuts out there, in the year 2000, television carried 4 reality TV shows... just 4. Ten years later, we can 'enjoy' 320 of them on many channels, almost always. Remember America, you asked for it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One of life's greater moments...

Did you ever take a walk in the fresh-smelling coolness of the early morning after a night of quiet, steady rain? The cloudy sky is still low and misty gray as dawn begins its day. Its just the two of you...  and the dogs... not another soul to have to share this time and place.

The dogs stop as they spot a doe, evaluating us intruders moments before it crosses our path, 30 feet ahead. As I hold their leashes to keep them from chasing into the woods, the silence is broken by the honking of about 60 geese, flying so close overhead, we can hear the beat of their wings.

In this world filled with noise and people, to have this moment to call your own is an uplifting, mind-blowing sense of well-being.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Proof: it REALLY IS nuts out there.

At the Sauna World Championships in Finland, the finals required contestants to sit in a 230-degree sauna as water was splashed onto a red-hot stove to increase the heat. (I can cook a roast at 230 degrees.) It all came down to a Russian and a Finn, each trying to outlast the other. Sadly, the Russian collapsed and 1,000 spectators watched as both men, bleeding, burned and shaking, were taken to the hospital. The Russian didn't make it. Sadly, he died 'medium rare."

The 11th annual Sauna World Championships (sport or not sport?) had 130 athletes (?) competing for the grand prize--"some small things."

Move over, Capt. Sullinberger... you remember him... the USAir pilot who miraculously landed his bird-struck jet in the Hudson River last year, saving everyone on board. He was a real American hero. Well, we now have a new media hero "representing everyman," says the press... the Jet Blue flight attendant (I refuse to use his name) who cussed out a passenger over the intercom and deployed an escape chute to leave the plane (with a bottle of beer in his hand) saying he had had enough. How brave he was... to "stiff the man." Well, first class jerk, you suck. Jet Blue is better off without you... and so are the passengers. Who would want to hire this smug crud, let alone worship him?

Using the "don't get mad, get even" credo, 'Mr. Hero", you showed you are worse than your passenger. Your responsibility was to do your job. And you did have a job... which is more than millions of other Americans can say. Don't like your boss... or your responsibilities... quit. And you didn't even do that right. Today's press says you want your job back. The world isn't all roses, stupid. It is filled with jerks like you. American hero? Hope not.

What's in a name? New Jersey residents Deborah and Heath Campbell named their third child, a boy, Adolph Hitler.  Little Adolph and his sibs, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie are in foster care where the state placed them after feeling the Campbells, unemployed and suffering from unspecified physical and psychological disabilities, were unfit parents. A recent appeal by the couple to get their children back was denied because of fears the children would be at risk of serious injury. Don't understand how NJ figured that out.

A North Carolina county must spend an additional $1.1 million to bring its new courthouse up to Americans With Disabilities conformance standards. Seems the bathroom mirrors were hung one inch too high and the toilet bowls were one inch closer to the wall (18" instead of 19") than they should have been. Oh well, what's a million dollars today... virtually nothing.

A burglar now serving 12 years in prison is suing the guy he robbed for $500,000 because, he says, three men knelt on his back and handcuffed him while waiting for police. That, he claims, caused "permanent disabilities and psychological disorders." I guess we should be grateful we live in a country where anyone can sue anyone else for any reason. We should be even more grateful when these kind of cases are thrown out of court.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A year in time

Ever watch The Big Bang Theory on CBS TV? It's a popular sit-com about two weird and nerdy Caltech geniuses, Seldon and Leonard, who share an apartment right across the hall from Penny, an attractive blond waitress/aspiring actress. The show, now in its 3rd year, has added a few more characters and is really funny (my opinion... and I am a genius at funny, obscure and inane things).

I was originally 'taken' by the way the show introduced itself, with perhaps 30 rapid-fire images starting with the Big Bang that created the universe then flashing through time and space, creation of earth and evolution of plants and animals, dinosaurs, man and  recorded history, up to the show's main actors in present day. The intro takes about 15 seconds and is really well put-together.

That scenario of creation to present day, as fantastic as it is to watch,  just isn't as dramatic as astronomer Carl Sagan's cosmic calendar. (An awe-inspiring work.)

The universe is 13.7 billion years old, give or take a few billion years, so Sagan showed the chronology of events if time, from then to now, was represented in the scale of one earth year?

Well, the Big Bang that started... er, everything, occurred in the absolute first tick of January 1... and immediately after that instant... a billionth of a trillionth of a second to be precise, the universe 'happened.' (Don't ask me... I didn't make that up. That is really what astronomers concur.)

In that context, the Milky Way Galaxy appeared on May 1st and our planet showed up on September 14th. Mammals on earth arrived Dec. 26th. Prehistoric man? Well, he didn't come along until 10:30 pm. on December 31st... the Peking Man, the first to use fire, at 11:46 pm. The invention of the alphabet happened at 11:59:51 pm... and a blink of an eye before year's end, you and I were born.

So I guess I have to ask: what insignificant pip-squeaks are we to think that we are the center of the universe? We barely made it in the door. In fact, we are less than a millisecond of its existence. Hey! It's not bad to be humbled. It adds a perspective.

But perspective is a funny thing. That millisecond is a lifetime to us... but compared to the mayfly, which might live to a ripe old age of perhaps two days, we are Kings of The Universe.

Moral of the story... life is short. Let's not mess up our moment in the sun.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I am so grateful that I 'do-nut' live in the U.K.

Havoc has struck more than half of the adult British population!

I do so love the country. The people are friendly and the culture is wonderful. The Queen is charming (and isn't Prince Harry just a dream boat?)... I even understand the language... somewhat. But one has to face the facts. You see, it just isn't safe.

About 25 million of our brothers and sisters across the sea have been injured--500 of them seriously enough to land in hospitals. The 'epidemic' that struck them down was not the Asian flu or the N1H1 virus... no, those can be treated and we can be inoculated to protect ourselves. But sadly, there is no protection for Brits when it comes to wafers, shortbread, chocolate fingers and the like.

Seemingly oblivious to the danger of biscuits, YES, BISCUITS, or with a daring-do that says "to hell with danger" (isn't that so just like them?) they just keep nibbling, dunking and passionately devouring these 'objects of danger.' So far, thank God, there have been no reported fatalities and to date and none of the  'misfortunes' have been tied to terrorist plots, but something of this magnitude that could create chaos among the people can not, nor should not be ignored.

London's Daily Telegraph reported the horrible news and Brits, always ready to 'bear-up,' seemed to take it in stride. But facts are facts. The British propensity to tea and biscuits continues to take its toll. In a survey commissioned by Rocky, a chocolate biscuit bar maker, the ugly danger was greater than anyone could imagine.... 25 million U.K. countrymen (and women) barely escaped with their lives!

The dangers are many: flying cookie fragments, burned fingers while dunking in scalding tea, poking oneself in the eye with a biscuit or falling off a chair when reaching for the tin. Some were gagged by too big a bite and some were bitten by a pet or "other wild animal" trying to get their biscuit. Others broke a tooth or lost a filling.

Then there is the one unfortunate man who got stuck in wet cement after wading in to pick up a fallen biscuit... and to the best of my knowledge, is still there, lodged tight, with a concrete biscuit in his hand... held prisoner for time everlasting. At least his family can come visit him over the next few months to bring meager crumbs and droplets of water to make their peace and say their good-byes. But the sad day will eventually come when friendly pigeons will loose their 'almost human' perch. The bright spot, however, is that when the end does come to this poor, stuck, biscuit-loving gentleman, he can be forever memorialized with just a dab or two of additional wet cement to finish the 'statue' in honor of the most famous 'British Biscuiteer' of them all. And, as they say in the U.K., a hard man is good to find.

If you happen to be in Britain, be wary of 'the biscuit.' And especially, watch out for the Custard Cream which has caused most of the injuries. Go instead for the Jaffa Cakes which have been shown to be five-times safer (really). Caramel Shortcake and Ginger Nuts are also a less-risky taste. And only dip when you are wearing asbestos gloves, goggles and, for good measure, a hard hat. Just remember, be safe and above all, avoid 'cement overshoes.'

PS: This is all true... and I think I am beginning to understand why, in 1776, we prevailed.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A short story I wrote...

... and an award winner at that. This story was featured on A Long Story Short website this month... but the jokers messed up the link to all the stories on the page. So this is special just for you. (PS: It is NOT science fiction.)

The Time Machine

“A time machine?” Ray never really believed in stuff like that. “Get outta here, you crazy old fart!” And with that, the bummie in the train station walked away.

“Geeze. Never heard that one before.” Sometimes Ray had more patience. He even liked to ‘pull their chain,’ once in a while.  But when you just miss your train, you aren’t the same person for a minute or so. And Ray just hated to be late for anything.

“You live in this city all your life and nothing surprises you anymore. A time machine…” he smiled as his mind was already focusing on the next train to Grand Central.

There was a big commotion on the corner as Ray walked up to 42nd Street… late. People were yelling and screaming… fist fights… police cars all over the place. “What’s going on,” Ray asked a man in a business suit with one sleeve ripped almost off as he ran past, giddy with delight.

“Some nutso over there was throwing out hundred-dollar bills by the bushel basket!” he hollered, holding up his fist full of money.  “I grabbed mine before some broad pushed me down me chasing her own c-notes!”

“Damn! Ten minutes earlier. I’d have been right there… if I hadn’t missed my train.”  

Ray almost never missed the 6:46, but the very next day, when he stopped to sip his coffee instead of slopping it down the front of his fresh white shirt, the doors closed in his face.

“This is getting to be a habit.”

On 42nd  …finally, through the crowd, he saw the back of Madonna’s head as she got into her limo with some guy. When Ray heard she was looking for her biggest fan on the street to take on-stage that night for a special song she wrote, he shook his head. No one was a bigger Madonna fan than Ray. Knew the words to every song she ever wrote, sang or danced to. That should have been him.

“Twice! Just two times I miss my train and I’m odd man out. I never miss my train!”

Ray was five minutes early the next day. He wasn’t going to miss his 6:46 and let life pass him by again. “You let grass grow under your feet and you miss all the stuff that coulda been yours. Not today!” he vowed. “Not today.”

And he was right.

An ambulance and three police cars were screaming to the scene. “What’s going on?” asked a woman who was late arriving because she had just missed the 6:46.

“Guy just got crushed by a piano that flew off that truck over there when it was smashed by a semi. Poor bastard! He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's better to be lucky than good... unless you are that New York guy

... And I can prove it.

How many lottery tickets have you bought in your life? Me, perhaps less than 10... but then I'm a cynic, remember. However, I still didn't win. And you? Ever win a million bucks? A thousand? A hundred? A free ticket?

Well, a Texas woman, who may also be good, is pretty lucky. She just won $10 million with a state lottery scratch-off ticket. But, you say, doesn't almost everybody win $10 million once in a while? At least, that's what the lottery ads seem to suggest. Sure... I grant you that. Probably almost everyone wins a million now and then.

But this same woman also won $5.4 million in a 1993 lottery. Wow! That's something...

...and she won $2 million with a scratch-off card in 2006...

... And, oh yeah, she won $3 million same way in 2008.

So she won  $20.4 million with four separate winning tickets. What was not revealed is how much she spent to win those bucks... but I'm still thinking, taxes and all, she did as well as the average salary of four Boston Red Sox players this year... and she doesn't even have a good arm.

Now for the unlucky side of the coin: It is a known fact that in New York City, a person is hit by a car on the average of once every 67 minutes. City officials are scouring the streets to find that poor soul and get him the-hell-off-the-street!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Reminds me of a story...

REAL NEWS: An experimental solar-powered aircraft proved it could stay aloft, through the night, for 24 straight hours using only solar power. Wow! (Disclosure: no gas was harmed in the making of this flight.) Imagine... the sun, an unexhaustable energy source (as long as there is life on earth) creating hypothetically, a never-ending scenario... a plane that could fly forever.

This reminded me, in some perverse way, of Icarus, the character in Greek mythology. Against his father's warning, he flew too close to the sun with wings he made of wax. (Who makes wax wings these days?) The wings melted (proving dads are always right) and Icarus fell to his death. (The sun giveth and the sun taketh away--get it?) Well, that was then--and a legend at that--but this is now... and it is real.

The glider-like plane with 12,000 solar panels on its 207-foot wingspan to recharge its batteries as it flew, proved it could, theoretically, stay aloft indefinitely! Kind of like something scientists have believed was impossible... a perpetual motion machine.

Reminds me of a story:

On a trans-Atlantic flight in a four-engine jet, one of the engines failed. The captain quickly told the passengers:

"Ladies and gentlemen. We have just 'lost' one of our engines. I want to assure you that this plane can easily fly on three engines. This will, however, slow us down and we will now land 30 minutes late."

Shortly after, another engine quit and the pilot announced, "Sorry to inform you that we have 'lost' another engine. Not to worry. We can easily fly on. We will, however, now be an hour late at the gate."

After some trepidation in the cabin as the flight grew later and later, a third engine quit. The pilot quickly reassured the passengers: "I has happened again. It is unusual but we can fly on, though we will now be two hours late."

One passenger disgustedly lean to his seat partner and grumbled, "If that other damn engine goes, we could be up here all night."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More crash blossoms

What is a crash blossom? A mis-written or misunderstood headline that, when read one way, gives an entirely wrong--but often, funny-- impression of what the story is all about. The term comes from a headline following an aircraft crash. It read, "Violinist Linked to JAL Crash Blossoms.” See what I mean? Today's crash blossoms:
  • "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"
  • "Tick-Borne Illness Known to Affect Dogs Found In Humans"
  • "Legislator Wants Tougher Death Penalty"
  • "Voter Fears Alert Politicians"
  • "Defendant's Speech Ends In Long Sentence"
  • "Two Soviet Ships Collide, One Dies"
  • "Lung Cancer in Women Mushrooms"
  • "Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Shoots, Kills Man With knife"
  • "NV Senator Leaves Message to Rape Victim's Sister"
And check out these want ads. Who says only professional people get to have fun:

    For more of this silly stuff, see my blog post of April 23, 2010 and have more fun.

      Monday, July 5, 2010

      Hey, haven't I told you... It's Nuts Out There

      In Japan (where else?) a couple in love may be blessed in marriage by a robot. Yes, from the land that brought us Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidrah (the 3-headed monster), Biolante, SpaceGodzilla and (oooh!) MechaGodzilla (I could go on and on) comes a new, more friendly (but still tough as nails) creature... the I-Fairy.

      She(?) is a seated, 4-foot tall beauty with flashing eyes and plastic pig-tails. The metal ministsress wore a wreath of flowers and could probably kick Godzilla's a** around the block (if she could walk) because she has divine power backing her up. The bride wore... aw, who cares what the bride wore.

      After the ceremony, which made many cry because it was so tender and sweet, I-Fairy, in her most pleasant R2-D2 voice, told the groom to "Please lift the bride's veil..." and waved her cute little robotic arms as the married couple kissed.

      The I-Fairy sells for $68,000 and is performing marriages in Singapore, the U.S. and Japan. How touching! Already married or being remarried?  This would be GREAT for you too... kind of a good luck fortune cookie thing--oh, sorry. That's Chinese.


      A very British woman got quite a shock last week. Suffering from a severe migraine, she went to the hospital for treatment. "I dare say, I have a trifling headache," she told them in a Dame Edna voice. "Would you be a dahling and make it go ta-ta?" When she awoke there the next day, loved ones were astonished to hear her say, "No tickee, no laundry" in a very Chinese-sounding voice. Her family says they cannot recognize her on the phone.

      Doctors diagnosed her condition as 'foreign accent syndrome' and advised her that she may never get her original voice back. Upset, and sounding like she came straight off the sampan, she said "I no likee. I never even be to China."


      A Texas good samaritan was handcuffed and jailed for trimming bushes in a city park. Telling police she was just trying to keep the park neat and clean was no excuse... she broke the 'cutting public foliage' law and as we all know, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Ignorance of the police in how best to handle the matter however, now that's another thing. Latest update: Woman now serving 3 to 5 in the city jail. Says the judge, "You can't be soft when it comes to stopping crime." (You do know that I made that last part up, don't you?)


      Riverdale High (that's where Archie, Jughead, Veronica and Betty go to school) has enrolled its first openly gay student, Kevin Keller. The comic book publisher says Kevin enrolled at Riverdale High to keep the strip "current and inclusive." I wonder how Betty and Veronica will handle this handsome blue-eyed blond dreamboat? Better yet, how will Archie and Reggie do? I know Moose will beat the crap out of him. Next thing you know, they will have a 'negro' and an 'hispanic person' there too. Oh, by the way, the gang has been going to Riverdale now for 70 years. They may still look good but must be as dumb as a box of rocks. And how about Mr. Lodge, Veronica's father. He turns 140 June 14th.

      Talk about feeling old...

      Cinderella died this month. She was 81.

      Actually, true... but it was the voice of Cinderella, Ilene Woods. When she was a fresh-sounding 18-year-old singer, she recorded a few 'demos' for one of Walt Disney's upcoming animated features... "Two days later, Walt called. He wanted me to come over and have an interview. We met and talked for a while, and he said, 'How would you like to be Cinderella?'"

      Yes, she did sing 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo' with her mouse-friends. Also, "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," and "So this is Love." If you can remember those tunes, you are young at heart and have seen Cinderella (original or remastered) many times... as will your children as it is still re-released periodically and, in VCR and DVD formats, is in the libraries of many homes with young children. It is also on Netfilx, of course. Can you still hear that voice? It was perfect for the part. I never knew this much of the fairy tale beauty who finally got what she deserved, until now. But glass slippers? Come on.

      Questions: OK. So what were the names of the mice? The skinny one is Jaq and the fat one is Oktavian... nicknamed Gus. The cat? Lucifer, of course.

      And, what was Cinderella's real name? Ella... her wicked step-sisters, Anastasia and Drizella, dub her Cinder-ella because she was always dirty after cleaning the fireplace... get it?

      Now here is the sad 'kicker'-- life's sometimes reality-- 'Cinderella' died of causes related to Alzheimer's disease, reports her husband, Ed Shaughnessy, Johnny Carson's 'Tonight Show' drummer.

       (Ilene Woods)

      Tuesday, June 29, 2010

      Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

      Sure... every time you look at your passenger-side rear view mirror, you see that message... but do you believe it? Well, imagine you are 'driving' the space shuttle Atlantis coupled to the International Space Station on May 22, 2010... you just happen to glance at that rear view mirror... if it had one of those, and... WOW!

      Actually, that IS what you are looking at--the actual image, not faked or photoshopped, as viewed from earth by award-winning photographer-supreme, Thierry Legault of Paris. The ISS/space shuttle Atlantis, in orbit 242 miles above the earth, traveling at 16,500 mph, is shown here as it crosses in front of the Sun. Legault's interest and fascination with earth subjects, planets and space are a real treat. Just getting this photo, as he explains, is far more complex than you could imagine. I thank him for permission to use this eye-grabber and urge you to treat yourself to a look at some incredible images at

      I have been hooked on this stuff and the enormity of it all for a long time. How can our universe be so big that it is beyond comprehension. (I caught a fish once that was 6 billion light years long-- see what I mean? Totally unbelievable.)

      If you think that is impressive, know that there are more than 100 billion billion (that is not a typo) stars, and our sun (that big orange thing in the rear view mirror) is just a pip-squeak. Check this out and stand back:

      Monday, June 21, 2010

      Hey... wait a Manute!

      Manute Bol, the 7 foot-7 inch, 225 lb, "Hey, don't kick sand in my face" drink of water, was one of the first of his kind... a foreign-born big man drafted by the Washington Bullets (now Washington Wizards) in 1985, straight from Sudan, his home country. He died Sunday at 47. In the NBA, he was seen as somewhat of a freak... tall, frail and couldn't play NBA basketball at the top level, but boy, could he block shots. He averaged 3.3 blocks per game, an NBA record, and that was better than his scoring average of 2.7 points per game. Though he could dunk with two feet on the floor, he loved to shoot 3s from the outside... and was somewhat of a good show at that. One "3" per game would have upped his scoring average.

      The thing about him that is most notable, though, is that he was a wonderful humanitarian. "Despite his accomplishments on the court, his lasting legacy will be the tireless work and causes he promoted in his native Sudan and in the cities in which he played," said the Wizards. He used all of his earnings and his enormous popularity in his home country to help the kids and poor make a better place for themselves. He made a difference.

      The world will miss the big guy... not because we really knew him but because he was a gentle, caring, modest, unselfish individual who used his height and limited prowess to make a difference to those with little hope. He represented what we could use more of. What a tribute.

      Conversely, Gary Coleman died recently at age 42. Best known professionally for his role in the early TV sitcom, Diff'rent Strokes, he led a troubled life. At 4 feet, 8 inches, he is now, sadly, best remembered for his troubles... and lately, for the fights over his remains and meager estate.

      As one of my all time favorite wrestlers, Andre the Giant-- another kind and gentle man out of place in his body-- said, "The big and the small, they don't live very long." Andre was 7 feet, 4 inches and weighed in at 540 lbs--almost 3 times more that Bol. In real life, he was a soft-spoken pussycat. I really did love him in Princess Bride--almost everyone's favorite movie (if they have any taste at all). He died in 1993 at age 46.

      There is more that one contrast in these three. Bol at 7 feet, 7 inches, Coleman, a yard-stick shorter at 4 feet, 8 inches and Andre at 7 feet, 4 inches would make a nice graph on paper... but together, they average just a little over 6' -6"... a height I'll bet, each would have been happier (though poorer). Their average age at death--45.

      "The big and the small, they don't live very long."