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Friday, August 30, 2013

Announcing the First Annual JOKEFEST: The Brits vs The Colonists

The ten best jokes in this year's Fringe Festival in Scotland have just been announced. The headline in the British newspaper read "... these are the best jokes, bar none." Oh yeah? The jokes are so lame that I am challenging them to see which side of the pond has the funniest jokes. You be the judge.

Number 10

Theirs: The good thing about lending someone your time machine is that you basically get it back immediately. (As Groucho Marx used to say: "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.)
Ours: I was in Rome recently and wanted to say "Hi" to the Pope, so I looked up his number in the phone book. It was et cum spirtu-tuo. (OK, so maybe you have to be Catholic, but it was funny in third grade... and beats the pants off their joke.)  Score: 1-0 USA

Number 9

Theirs: I was adopted at birth and have never met my mum. That makes it very difficult to enjoy any lap dance.
Ours: What songs do cows like to dance to? Any kind of mooosic will do. (A simple kid joke wins again!)  2-0 USA

Number 8

Theirs: The Universe implodes. No matter.
Ours: Chuck Norris counted to infinity--twice! (Cha-ching!) 3-0 USA

Number 7

Theirs: You know you are fat when you hug a child and it gets lost. (No!)
Ours: What does a snail say when he is riding on a turtle's back? Weeeee!! (Another kid joke is all it takes.) 4-0 USA

Number 6

Theirs: The Pope is a lot like Dr. Who. He never dies, just keeps being replaced by white men.
Ours: The Vatican announced it will begin selling its ceremonial incense mixtures that were previously only used in worship services.  The first scent will be Popepourri. (Now that's funny!)
5-0 USA

Number 5

Theirs: I can give you the cause of anaphylactic (sic) shock in a nutshell.
Ours: What happened when the monster ate the electric company? He was in shock for a month. (Kid jokes are better.)  6-0 USA

Number 4

Theirs: My friend told me he was going to a fancy dress party as an Italian island. I said to him "Don't be Sicily." (Their best attempt yet. Awkward but cute.)
Ours: Q: Did you hear about the Italian chef that died? A: He pasta way. (We really would have won but I'm giving them this one for sentimental reasons... I'm Italian.)  6-1 USA

Number 3

Theirs: I'm in a same sex marriage... the sex is always the same.
Ours: Take my wife... please! (Ta dah!)  7-1 USA

Number 2

Theirs: I used to work in a shoe-recycling shop. It was sole-destroying.
Ours: Man finds a shoe repair claim ticket in an old suit he hadn't worn for 12 years. Thinking he would play a joke on the shoe repairman, he presented his ticket with a straight face. The repairman, showing no emotion, checked in the back room then hollered, "They'll be ready Thursday."  8-1 USA

And the Number 1 British winner

Theirs: I heard a rumour (Britspeak) that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa. (Really? Is that the best you've got?)
Ours: The doctor sadly tells the patient, "Sorry but you have only one month to live." The patient, crestfallen, grabs the doctor by his lab coat lapels and desperately asks "Isn't there something... anything I can do?!" The doctor pauses, then says, "Well... you could take two mud baths a day... " Hopeful, the distraught patient says, "Oh, thank you doctor... will this cure me?" Doctor shakes his head, "No... but it will get you used to the dirt." (Always save the best for last, right?)

Final score: USA 9, Great Britain 1
The elegant solid gold Knee-Slapper Trophy goes to America for the first year in a row!

Now don't you all go rioting like this is a football (really soccer) game... just be graceful and give us a "Jolly good, old chap" ... and send more episodes of Downton Abbey.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This one's for me.

August 24th--would have been my mom's 100th birthday.   She died 18 months ago at 98.

Now here's why she was so special: 

In the car and, unable to find her seatbelt clip, she would hold the belt against her thigh and say, "This is fine. Let's go." I would look at her and she at me, then we would both laugh.

She would complete a crossword puzzle and leave it on the table to get me a cup of coffee when I dropped in one or two mornings a week. "Nice going on the crossword mom," I'd tell her. Then I'd look at the puzzle and see that some squares were just filled with random letters. "Mom," I'd say, "that's not right." She would tell me, " I didn't say it was right. I just said it was done."

Lots of years ago, after I left the house as a youngster, she and dad tore my room down to make their master bedroom somewhat bigger. They put the old knotty pine boards that made my wall, into the garage. My dad died 48 years ago and those boards remained in the middle of the garage floor.  One day many years back, a guy driving passed the house spotted them through the open garage door. He stopped and asked if he could buy them. "Congratulations!" I told her. " It's about time you got rid of those boards." "Oh," she said, "I didn't sell them" "Why not!" "He offered me $50 right away so I figured they must be worth a lot more." After she moved to an assisted living facility, I thought of that story as I threw those old, rotting boards Into the dumpster cleaning out her overcrowded garage  that never saw a car.

Once when I visited, I saw a camera on the kitchen table that was her desk... her hangout. "Where did this come from?" I asked. "Someone left it at McDonalds last week." "Why didn't you leave it with the manager?" "Are you kidding," she said, "It would have disappeared In a minute." I looked at her and said "Well?"

She tried to return it but no one had reported a lost camera so she ran an ad in the paper. When that didn't work, she developed the film (remember film?) so sure that a photo or two  would offer a clue... and we laughed at out-of-focus pictures of cows and pigs taken from a moving car. I threw that camera out years later too.

Her house was always 'pig-sty' neat with burnt-orange living room drapes that just turned 50 (really) because she liked them. A grey Electrolux vacuum cleaner-- its classic art deco style, shaped like a coast-to-coast Santa Fe Zephyr of the 1950s with sleds runners instead of wheels--was a permanent fixture in her living room... and it actually made an indelible indentation in the " older than the drapes" carpet. Its hose was as auspicious as a dead snake coming out of the sweeper's behind. Whenever one of us kids put the darned thing in the closet (when she wasn't looking), it would always reappear next time we visited... in exactly the same spot... and the carpet never looked cleaner.

Her classic dining room table--with all extensions to seat 12 comfortably... was invisible under its pile of old magazines and papers, tools, sewing paraphernalia, old 78 rpm vinyl records and everything else you could imagine.

Her favorite chair, broken down and threadbare, was her throne, like an island among a sea of week-old newspapers and clippings. Her 17 inch 20-year old TV sat alone on a stand in front of her throne.

She took up golfing and working and benevolent volunteering after my father died and she was always reliable, always slow and always appreciated.

She was like that... not a hoarder at all, but what she treasured, she kept. She was a little ditzy and clean and joyful... not someone you would call a neat-nik, but so very liked by all. She would talk to anyone who looked her way and she had a place for everyone in her head. Remarkably, she remembered most of the names of people she met, even in her last years. She had a big heart and was deeply religious. That paints a picture of a wonderfully-charactered widow the last 48 years of her life.

Her favorite poem, which she would recite at the drop of a hat was Trees by Joyce Kilmer:

I THINK that I shall never see   
A poem lovely as a tree.   
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest   
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;   
A tree that looks at God all day,           
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;   
A tree that may in summer wear   
A nest of robins in her hair;   
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;   
Who intimately lives with rain.     
Poems are made by fools like me,   
But only God can make a tree.   

Whenever something bad happened to her--like shingles, broken bones, broken heart--she would shrug her shoulders and say, "Into each life a little rain must fall."

She was seldom angry and bragged about how full her live had been. "I've traveled the world (she had been to Europe--once on a tour, Hawaii and California) and had two wonderful children who love me. What more could I want?"

My sis and I ask the same question... What more could we want?

She was a nice lady who died peacefully in my sister's arms. Happy "almost made it a century" Birthday mom.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Yin and Yang of it all

Tess, our golden retriever, Abby our yellow lab

Tess and Abby, our two beautiful living yin-yang interpreters of the traditional ancient Taoist symbol (called the taigi) of life and existence.

Yin-yan, in Eastern thought, are two complementary forces that make up all aspects and phenomena of life. Yin is a symbol of earth, femaleness, darkness, passivity, and absorption. It is present in even numbers, in valleys and streams, and is represented by the tiger, the colour orange. Let Tess be ying.

Yang is conceived of as heaven, maleness, light, activity, and penetration. It is present in odd numbers, in mountains, and is represented by the dragon, the color azure. That would be Abby.

The two are both said to proceed from the Great Ultimate (taiji), their interplay on one another (as one increases the other decreases) being a description of the actual process of the universe and all that is in it. In harmony, the two are depicted as the light and dark halves of a circle.

The black and white halves of the Yin-Yang symbol are similar to the two sides of a coin. They are different, and distinct, yet one could not exist without the other. It is what the two sides have in common - what makes them "the same."

This idea is illustrated in Shih-tou's poem:

The Identity Of Relative And Absolute

Within light there is darkness,
but do not try to understand that darkness.
Within darkness there is light,
but do not look for that light.
Light and darkness are a pair,
like the foot before and the foot behind in walking.
Each thing has its own intrinsic value
and is related to everything else in function and position.
Ordinary life fits the absolute as a box and its lid.
The absolute works together with the relative,
like two arrows meeting in mid-air.

Well, I hope we have all learned something today... and this all started when I noticed how our dogs sometimes sleep.

About Tess and Abby... Tess has just turned 7 and Abby, half-past 6. They are both therapy dogs bringing comfort, ease and calming to victims of floods, fires, shootings and other disasters, natural and otherwise. They regularly go to hospitals, nursing homes and hospice houses and, like all the superheros, try to be where they are needed. They are the greatest.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dope testing ices fisherpeople... and other improbable scenarios

No, they are not testing to see if they can find ice fishers who ARE dopes, they are testing to see if they are on dope. Also no, beer does not count.

Actually, it's not fair to imply ice fishers are dopes. some are, of course... presumably, most aren't. Though I have never ice fished, there is some implied merit in cooling one's heels every once in a while.

All this is because ice fishing is trying to become an official Winter Olympic event--really. Makes sense though. After all that money goes into building a majestic rink for figure skating, there must be other uses for the venue to justify its cost. Though how good the fishing is under the rink ice is still up for speculation.

And ice fishing is not the only fringe sport that has gone to drug testing. Competitors in darts, miniature golf, chess and tug of war were all recently tested. And before you laugh, two miniature golfers (no, not dwarfs or little people) recently tested positive according to the World Anti-Doping Agency. And so did two bowlers, eight roller sporters and one tug-of-war puller.

Rumor has it that one miniature golfer became suspect after a few of his 'drives' on the competition put-put course went loop-the-loop, through the windmill, into the clown's mouth and well over 300 yards.

Personally, I can hardly wait to see the heated competition on the next Wide World of Sports. Where
is Jim McKay when we need him most? Oh, dead.

Speaking of sports, did you know that in 37 states, the highest paid public employee is a sports coach? Take that, college professors. Have we got our priorities right or what?

My wife, bless her heart, was in an auto accident a short while back. While she was exiting a parking lot, someone pulling out of a parking stall and backed into her rear door. When that lady and my wife met out of the collided cars, the lady shrugged her shoulders and said to my wife, "I don't know how they are going to call this one."

Well, police figured it out real fast, of course... but that's not the point of this story.

The damage was minor (by comparison)--just $2,300 worth. No hair was mussed on either head, no back injury or stiff neck, and neither car was going above 5 miles per hour. The other insurance company was absolutely great in facilitating repair as painlessly as possible, bless them. The point is, within the next two weeks, we received seven letters from local attorneys--most on very heavy, fancy stationery, saying mostly the same thing:

We understand that you have been involved in an accident. Your decisions over the next few days may be critical to your recovery. Since 1982 we have helped answer thousands of questions for thousands of clients just like you... We can help by offering a free consultation where we can explain the law and how it affects your case. We can also help you find the right doctor, help you with insurance questions, help answer questions concerning your car... We won't promise we'll take your case, but we certainly can answer questions and help ut you at ease. And it's FREE (caps theirs) advice. There's no down payment. We only get paid if you do... CALL NOW! A NEW LAW MAY AFFECT YOUR CASE! (again, caps theirs.)

 There is a term for this type of solicitation... Ambulance chasing, I think they call it.  Well, it's a living, I suppose.

Sadly two deaths to report:

Chuck Foley, co-creator of the popular party game, Twister--originally called Pretzel, died at age 82.

Like that, just a few years back, this obit: With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey." He died peacefully at age 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hypothetical questions...

You know... like "How much wood can a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" Or better yet, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

The obvious answer to the angels question: it doesn't matter... if angels are smart enough to dance on the head of a pin instead of the other end, that's good enough for me.

Best hypothetical question yet: "Who would win a fight between MacGyver and Chuck Norris? (Obviously, Chuck Norris because: There used to be a street named Chuck Norris but they had to change it since nobody crosses Chuck Norris... or, Chuck Norris has a grizzly bear rug in his den. The bear isn't dead, it is just afraid to move... or, Chuck Norris has been dead 20 years. Death just hasn't had the courage to tell him... or, Chuck Norris counted to infinity--twice!)

But sometimes... like I'm about to tell you, questions that sound hypothetical aren't at all. I'm currently listening to Bill Bryson's *A Short History of Nearly Everything (which I bought at Seattle's Half-Price Books, incidentally... for two bucks!) and it really is amazing. I previously bought this as a book--twice... and couldn't get through it as a read--too many names and too much data-- but as a listener in short or long drive snippets in the car, it really is a highly recommended way to go for this one. (Bet you can't find it like I did for $2 though.)

Example of a hypothetical question that isn't: How many atoms can hide behind a single human hair?  Factual answer: A half-million atoms, lined width-wise 'shoulder-to-shoulder,' could easily hide behind a human hair.

How about this one: If Mt. St. Helens erupted (as it did in1980) and the side of the caldera blew out, how much mud and ash would it release down the mountain in the first few minutes?  The now known answer: enough, rushing downward at 150 miles per hour, to bury all of Manhattan to a depth of 400 feet!

Or: Where is the biggest known volcano in the world now located? We didn't know this one until about 20 years ago. Hint: Completely within its caldera is 200,000 acre Yellowstone National Park. More awsome than that... it remains today an active volcano! Oh, don't worry... it has only erupted three known times in the past 180 centuries... usually on 60,000 year intervals. The first eruption was 240 times bigger than Mt. St. Helens and it would have spewed enough mud, ash and lava to cover New York state to a depth of 600 feet. The last one occured... oh, oh... 60,000 years ago.

Actually, Bryson's book covers all of the sciences so it includes piddling little stuff like... the universe as we know it, with its billions of solar systems like our Milky Way, is 13.5 million light years across and it is growing rapidly as we breathe. Now contrast that info with the size of 500,000 atoms 'shoulder-to-shoulder ' and you have a scale of impressive proportions.

The book covers so much of the physical world's sciences and discoveries... with so many names and relationships... that it could blow your mind if you are of a mind to be blown. Caution, however... it is not for dummies... like the guy who was stuck in a low end job in the Swiss Patent Office and was turned down several times in his request for a one-step up promotion until "... he mastered machine technology." That hapless individual was named Albert Einstein who played a most impressive role in a good chunk of what Bryson talks about.

It is a good listen and you will come away with lots of very interesting cocktail talk tidbits to impress your friends and family until they get sick of you... like: Chuck Norris heard Einstein's Theory of Relativity and ruled it irrelevant.