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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.