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Being stuck inside(Where it’s marginally warmer) for extended periods can send a person(at least this one)over the edge, or at least out on the slippery part.  While out there, one can run across some quirkily weird items in the news, To wit :

Bet you missed the ‘no pants’ stunt (not something you’d want to try in this weather anyway) that  first turned up in New York in 2002.  Termed  “an international celebration of silliness” by organizers (People organize stuff like this?) It began as the No Pants Subway Ride. It was slated for dozens of cities all over the world last Sunday.  Participants were expected to show up at a downtown subway station in Bucharest, Romania wearing coats, hats, gloves and scarves–no pants.  Predictably, the   transportation officials have  ”got their knickers in a twist” (You should pardon the expression) over this and have declared that those “who disturb public order or are indecent will be fined” and reported to the police, according to the item from Associated Press.  Sub-zero temperatures may have temporarily frozen these plans(along with some vital anatomical features).  You could freeze your fern out there!  Stay tuned.  

And then there was the Florida man who called the police to observe his actions when he planned to spank his daughter.  He said that, after hearing of numerous concerns about instances of child abuse, he did not want to be breaking the law, only to discipline his 12-yr-old.  A patrolman was dispatched to the residence, observed the action and reported that no laws had been broken.

So much for what’s going on outside, now about  inside news.

A man in the United Kingdom  just paid about $500 for surgery on his constipated goldfish(Carassius auratus auratus—glam relatives of the Asian carp).  Question #1 : How did he know of the little piscine pal’s affliction?  Question # 2 : How does one look for a specialist in this sort of thing?  Question  # 3 : Are there specialists in this sort of thing? 

 Well, apparently there are, because he found one at a veterinary clinic in Norfolk, England.  The doc who performed the operation, assisted by two veterinary nurses, said that the operation itself was not as difficult as the administration of anesthetic, which required specially-treated water flushed through the fish’s mouth and gills, as well as a teeny-tiny heart monitor.  Three stitches were required for each of the growths removed from the fish and after the nearly hour-long procedure the scales were fastened with a special waterproof glue.  The fish—no name was given—has apparently recovered and is swimming about in fine fettle.  He was lucky to have escaped the Royal Flush Burial at Sea which comes to the vast majority of ailing inhabitants of aquariums.  Apparently the owner had originally abandoned his finny friend when he heard how much the treatment was going to cost, then returned after 10 minutes to give the go ahead.  Goldfish can live as long a ten years and this particular specimen was two years and ten months old.  Hope that somebody got their money’s worth.  (You wouldn’t believe the entries on the page that this information came from on the internet)

On the same anatomical front—or rear, if you like–Consumer Reports mentions that 1941 was the first year that the organization (Consumer Union) tested toilet paper and found no splinters—a problem with earlier versions.  Problem! ???  Well, I should think!  Even Sears & Roebuck didn’t have that difficulty; no wood in the pages of the ladies’ garment section of the catalog, that’s for sure. ( Ever notice the colors listed?  Cornflower, buttercup, primrose, lilac…no plain old blue or yellow or pink or purple for them, no sirree! )  Yikes!  Splinters!  Currently, the group reports that White Cloud Ultra 3 Ply is “TOPS for bottoms” (sic), scoring 17-24 points above the competition.  Splinters long gone, apparently.  We can only hope!

Actually, folks have been studying this problem and this product since the Chinese (It would be, wouldn’t it?) developed the first examples somewhere around the 6th century C.E. (A.D.).  In 589, the scholar Yan Zhitui (Would Wikipedia lie?) wrote about it.  In 1393 the Ming Dynasty produced an annual supply of 720,000 sheets (2’x3’) was produced for the imperial court at Nanjing.  And you thought they only made vases!  In the U.S., Gayetti’s medicated paper for the water closet was introduced; this was considered a medicinal product.  A patent was issued in 1883 for a perforated toilet paper roll and dispenser( There are seven identified variations now).  Toilet paper has been used in physics (NOT physic) education to demonstrate the concepts involved in torque, moment of inertia, angular momentum, conservation of momentum and energy.  Betcha you never thought of  THAT when using the product.

The Scott Paper Company was the first to go “above and beyond” (instead of behind and below) in the paper products field and come up with the paper towel, supposedly when a boxcarful of paper turned out to be too thick for toilet tissue.  Arthur Scott, recalling a news story about a Philadelphia school teacher giving her snuffly little charges pieces of paper to wipe their noses on, thus saving them from the contamination of the then-in-use cloth roller towels and slowing the spread of the contagion, had the paper perforated and sold as Sani-Towels in 1907.  Kitchen paper towels were later on the scene, appearing in 1931.

Are you getting a theme in all of this?  “All’s well that ends well,” maybe?


Or a red something, anyway.  As I have said before, you can’t make this stuff up.

It seems that in Sheboygan, WI a group of brewers has got together to raise money for charity by being featured—mostly in the buff—posing in a calendar which will be sold online or at numerous bars, liquor stores and groceries in Wisconsin and northern Illinois, proceeds to be directed to the Movember Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on men’s health issues, including prostate and testicular cancer.  ( They may be the instigators of the “No-shave November” that was happening on some media outlets.) These dudes, brewing professionals, tend to be big, brawny and bearded; they are associated with 3 Sheeps Brewing, 8th Street Ale Haus and Plymouth Brewing Co.  The idea for the project was hatched while they were, ahem, product-testing.  Luckily, considering the weather in that neck of the woods lately, the photos were shot in October.  Each month depicts a different step in the process of brewing.  

I keep telling the folks at the James A. Garfield Historical Society that we should come up with more imaginative fund-raising projects  for years when the Christmas Walk is not on.  Everybody (Get it? Every body.) could be in the month of their choice, tastefully highlighting some historical feature (Heck, some of us could just BE the historical feature designated; the wrinkles are primary evidence.) in the district.  Out in a sugarbush in March…at the Ledges in August…Oktober-festing at the Mill…the SummerFest in June…the possibilities abound. I could volunteer to be Miss July.  It’s my birthday.  I have the suit!  There’d be plenty of former students who’d pay good money to see me in my skivvies peeking out from behind the Clock Tower or waving from a window at the old Park Avenue school.  There’d probably be even more upright citizens who’d pay even more NOT to see such a sight.  Money to be made!  Let’s get on this!  Start volunteering.

And speaking of money….  Neiman Marcus has, once again come out with a holiday list of items available for purchase by the filthy-rich:  Say you’d like to go to the Academy Awards after-party sponsored by Vanity Fair(not the awards themselves, you’ve still got to have an invitation for those), a cool $425,000 will get you there.  Save up a few more box tops–$475,000–and you could find yourself in Paris, with five-star accommodations and a near-lifetime supply of custom-designed perfume(Do not steal the towels).  Newly wed? How about a set of Leontine Linens home trousseau of custom cottons and linens for the entire home (probably excluding the workshop) at a measly $55,000.  The classic “his and hers” gift this year is a “Vilebrequin Quadski”, described as a cross between an ATV and a personal watercraft, which will take you very rapidly across either land or water( The switch takes five seconds), $50,000 each.  These are grouped among the “fantasy gifts”; a portion of the proceeds from each of these will be donated to the Heart of Neiman Marcus Foundation, which supports youth arts education.  On my list, for sure!

Other excitement that could be coming our way is a new product currently being tested by PepsiCo and reported to an online news dealer called Reddit by a KSU freshman named Steve Barnes.  What is it?  It’s Mountain Dew combined with Doritos—Dewitos—a nacho-flavored soda (which sounds perfectly dreadful, if you ask me), said to have an orange taste with a nacho after-taste.  Weird!  Since carbonated beverage sales are trending downward, the major names in the industry are frantically searching for “the next big thing” .  Other combos up for consideration have been lemon-ginger, mango-habanero (Why is everything getting a boost of heat lately?) and rainbow sherbet, which has been reported to taste like medicine.  Can hardly wait until that hits the shelves!

Then again, it might just hit the spot at another idea popping up in Chicago, the combination church and McDonald’s.  The group trying to organize this enterprise is called Mc Mass (Catchy, eh?).  The item in the AB-J mentions that the dude putting this together works at a church-branding agency (Churches got brands?) named Lux Dei and is trying “crowd funding” to raise $1 million to build the first McDonald’s church.  Contributors can get stickers and shirts with the hashtag #Feast4Jesus or even their names on a donor wall at the first McMass church.  You want fries with that?


Here I thought that scientists had finally found the answer to all of our education problems; a shot of penicillin, and… Presto!…the brain is working up to full capacity.  Whoopee!

 Alas! Not so.  

The other day there was a brief mention on the radio about a study at Johns Hopkins wherein the effect on some persons in an investigation of a certain chlorovirus ATCV, normally found in algae, had seemed to show that when given some tests of cognition, some 43% of the sample test-takers appeared to have difficulty in processing visual information—puzzles and such.  Ho Hum.  So…?

So somebody on a slow news day—Newsweek was mentioned but the internet picked the mention up and ran with it—called it the “stupid virus” and implied that any lagging intellectual powers among us might be the fault of an insidious invasion by these viral marauders.  Actually, the researchers themselves never made such a statement; some media whiz knew a good  ”viral” phrase when he saw it.  Additionally, a line was quoted—with quotation marks and everything—pointing to researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska having discovered a virus that infects our brains and “makes us more stupid.”  Uh…maybe not.  In no way did the researchers make such a statement(and it was never really attributed to a named individual), and, in fact, the cognitive tests were sort of an afterthought, having to do with something else altogether, and the testing sample was really quite small.  And then there’s the fact that the writers of the study were able to choose their own reviewers (“Here, Mom, read this.”)…AND the question of how a virus that usually infects green algae might have got into humans in the first place.  This whole thing might warrant additional study but we certainly shouldn’t get all paranoid about some microscopic bad guys being responsible for our own da##ed foolishness.

Then again….  Another story of the same ilk turned up, online and elsewhere, about some poor sucker who suffered for four YEARS—YEARS—from headaches, mini-strokes, a sensation of “strange smells” and heaven-only-knows what else. A biopsy (no, he wasn’t dead) determined that the trouble with his brain was some sort of parasite which he may have  acquired in China.  Yeccch!  The term “brain tapeworm” immediately popped up and sales of Excedrin probably spiked as well.  They had MRI scans of the creature having moved around inside the guy’s brain but, apparently had no clue what to do about it.  Yeccch again! The name of this parasite, which requires about three different hosts over the course of its life cycle, is Spirometra erinaceieuropaei (Easy for you to say).  The team of scientists involved in this case and the investigation of the DNA of the parasite is larded with names like Hayley M. Bennett, Sebastian B. Lucas, Hoy Ping Mol, Isheng J. Tsai and Peter Chiodini but my favorite is Dr. Effrossyni Gkrania-Klotsas.  How much you want to bet that they all just call each other “Doc”?

Other hot news on the medical front : the 5HTA1 gene and its various workings and malfunctions may be the source of difficulties in building relationships with others.   Dubbed the “singleton gene” by some media yahoo, it has something to do with  serotonin receptors in the brain.  The chances of being neurotic and depressed were also hinted at.  Anything more than a hint would by edging perilously close to flat-out prevarication.  Do not tell adolescent children of this dubious discovery, they’ve got enough troubles with this stuff.

Anyway, you can deal with all of this if you just down capsules containing Korean Red Pine Needle (Pinus densiflora) Oil.  Yup.   The ad on the internet said that it is “4 All Parasites, Bacteria, Viruses, & Mold”(sic)—should have given the stuff to the guy with the “brain tapeworm”–and it will “cleanse your body, help rejuvenate aging cells, slow the aging process, tighten loose and ageing skin.”   It’ll be taking bread from the mouths of plastic surgeons!

And finally, if you’re still depressed over the state of your health or your psyche, give a call to Samantha Hess, professional cuddler, of Portland, OR.  She says, “I could cuddle, literally, 24 hours a day.”  She requires that clients first meet her in a public place, that they sign a waiver stating that they will be clean, courteous and fully clothed.  She’s thinking of opening a retail store but currently her services are available in clients’ homes, parks or movie theaters (so that’s who was in row H at “Frozen”).  She charges $60 per hour.

Stick with the Red Pine Oil.

A failure of Social Studies Education, I calls it.

The recent election, that is…failure of turn-out, failure to understand the way government works(whether it’s supposed to work that way or not), failure to be informed on the issues and the candidates, failure to pay attention to the down-ticket contests…a whole bunch of things that we should all be thinking about but don’t.  AND a prevailing, parsimonious attitude that makes a virtue of trying to do everything on the cheap.  There’s a powerful big difference between wishing to do things in the most cost-conscious and efficient manner possible to do the best we can for the most citizens and trying to see how much we can get away with before the dreadful consequences which we have been outrunning finally catch up.  The difference is the difference between “What’s the best we can afford?” and “What’s the cheapest we can get?”  Strangely enough, there are cases in which quality actually does count.

Consider : One of the persons recently re-elected to the state school board (Whose members, by the way, are NOT all elected; 8 of the 19 are appointed by the governor) has never attended a public school  and is an advocate of charter and for-profit schools(Which are virtually unregulated and certainly not required to account for the way that they spend our money; public schools must do this.).

At a recent state school board meeting, four members walked out when the president arbitrarily changed the agenda of the meeting to move the session for public comment on a proposed change to school requirements from morning—folks had been told to be there bright and early to put in their two cents worth—to afternoon, following a presentation in favor of the change.  People with real jobs had taken time off to be at the session; they were upset.  The president, a Kasich appointee, said that she had the power to make the change, so she did; take that, “We, the people.”

So, what was the change being proposed that caused all of the commotion?  It was a revision of the “5 of 8” rule, which states that school districts must have available to students at least five professionals including such areas as art, music, physical education, library science, school nurse, school social worker, counselors, so-called “visiting teacher” for every one thousand students.  Rather than  pull up their socks and acknowledge the fact that the State of Ohio has been acting unconstitutionally( as determined by the Ohio Supreme Court)  for over twenty years, by operating an unconstitutional educational funding  system, in  which the state share of funding has been declining , forcing local districts to seek funds more and more often to satisfy the mandates from the state board and the legislature, not to mention maintenance and transportation costs.  When larger and larger proportions of the education budget are dependent upon local tax valuation, it’s the old story : “the rich get rich and the poor get poorer”.

And, once again, there’s a strong anti-science coloration here.  Study after study, research effort  upon research effort has shown that art and music, libraries, physical education (Could we use a little less obesity here?), school counselors and school nurses, school social workers—all of these folks—play an important part in delivering the best and most comprehensive, most forward-looking education to the most kids in the systems throughout the state—heck, across the country.  Band and chorus and books keep kids engaged and enlarge their frame of reference for dealing with the real world.  School nurses are the point men—and women—in public health situations on the ground, so to speak.  Counselors and social workers all too often enter the picture in domestic violence situations and cases of poverty and homelessness.  And the board is just going to dump all of these key figures in the educational process?  Instead of showing some grit and integrity and telling the governor and the legislature to quit reneging on their responsibility to provide a thorough and equitable system of education in the state, this “gang of nineteen” is going to throw all of the professionals (the 8) under the bus so that the politicians may pat themselves on the back for reducing government expenditures.  Rather than saying, “These are important services that we should be offering to ALL students in the state of Ohio,” they’re begging off and saying, “Well, you folks out there know better than we what you need.  Go ahead and cut whatever you think you need to.”  Try getting away with that on YOUR next tax return or traffic stop (“Oh, officer, I really didn’t think that I needed to stop at that light; I’m in a really big hurry.”).  Try getting away with that the next time the state orders your school system to this or that or the other thing.  Right.

We might also want to look into who supports…and finances…some of the board members and legislators—All for the public good, of course.

The line, “the rich get rich and the poor get poorer” come from a  Twenties song by Kahn & Egan titled “Ain’t We Got Fun.”

That ain’t what we got, folks.

So here’s the thing….  We need readers and scorekeepers for the Garfield QuizMasters to go out to vanquish our intellectual foes in upcoming Academic Challenge competitions.  Do I see any volunteers?

Really, the hardest part is getting up EARLY on a Saturday morning to go ride a bus to the designated venue for the tournaments.  Of course, riding in a bus with a bunch of adolescents who are…how shall I say?…a little “left of center” can be an adventure in itself.  The other thing is that the whole bunch of people  in the tournament are like that aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllll of the time.  I am always amazed when they do math problems in their heads (I thought that I’d spend my entire life in the sixth grade, when I couldn’t grasp the concept of the division of fractions; these people are doing binomials—whatever they are) and can rattle off the atomic numbers of obscure elements on the periodic table.  Then again,  sometimes they don’t know spit about quite a few important time periods and/or historic figures.  And sometimes the question-writers don’t seem to have a real firm grasp of what’s being taught in schools lately.

The big TRASH Tournament is a fun one that the kids like, because it is focused on so-called Pop Culture—movies, TV, video games, sports, music,–definitely non-academic stuff.  I told them that I worried about anybody who knew too much about those kinds of goofy things but they immediately discount anything that I—as a person without a television–have to say about the topic.  We scored on one round of questions once upon a time because our ace female contestant beat the clock by calling out, “Bad Grampa!”  How’s that for non-academic?  This particular tournament has moved around a bit.  When we started, it was held up at Case-Western Reserve University, starting in one of the old

Take Up A New Hobby

halls with wooden floors and a blackboard, and moving into other buildings  around the Quadrangle.  We went to lunch at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital(closest food source…pretty good).   Lately, it’s been at Olmsted Falls Middle School, which is probably large enough to hold most of the population of Garrettsville.

Aurora’s Turkey Tourney has morphed from a connection to Halloween to the weekend before Thanksgiving.  There’s often an invitation to arrive in costume; a couple of the bodysuits invited comparison to alien invaders or cartoon characters.  Our local competition guru out of the PCESC(Portage County Educational Services Center) urges us to do themes for contests around the county. We’ve never really gotten into that.  My earmuffs are as far out as I get.

The new tournament coming up this Saturday is terra incognita, since it’s a brand-new tournament that we’ve never attended before (It didn’t exist before).  This one’s at Hawken Middle School, which I’ve never seen before either.  One more adventure!

None of these places are about gourmet lunches either.  The standard is $5 for lunch, consisting of (nutritionists avert your eyes) pizza, cookie, apple, maybe chips.  Rainbow Babies is lots better.  One competition we haven’t been to in a while is down in Copley, where the kids get the $5 standard and the coaches, readers, scorekeepers, et al. get goodies solicited from local food establishments, plus Copley team members’ donations.  That place is like a labyrinth too, with two or three floors, ramps and corners and identical-looking corridors that make just getting to the room that the team is supposed to be in quite a challenge.  Gotta be smart just to be in the right place, let alone answer questions.

One of the best parts of doing this Academic Challenge stuff is that we have never gone   to any meet that I didn’t learn something interesting.  And not just about Pop Culture either.  That trivia goes by so fast that it really doesn’t register a being important enough to latch on to.  I’ve only got so much brain space left and would rather not have it occupied by whatever it is that Nikki Minaj is nominated for or who’s got the best batting average for a right fielder in the World Series since 1989.  Hell’s bells, I forgot my own cell phone number the other day…I don’t call that often.  Nah, it’s more like the questions that we practice on : Who wrote the Wizard of Oz?  Who had the nickname “Satchmo”?  Where’s Kolkata?  What’s a parsec?  That kind of question.

So….  How about it?  Anyone out there up for a challenge?  The scoring system isn’t that hard to learn.  You get to hang out with some pretty fun kids and see “how the other half lives”, so to speak.  You get to make meaningful contributions to education.  You get to talk to me and the bus driver on the way to and from.  You get to offer directional advice when the abovementioned bus driver and I are not real sure of where we’re going, despite the directions from the bus garage –road closings happen, just like that other stuff.

Call the high school (James A. Garfield High School—330-527-4341—those office people take good care of me) or call me direct (I’m in the book).  This could be your new hobby!

If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

We’ve finally seen the end of the political ads (Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?—Robert Orben).  The signs should all be picked up until the next go-round and we can listen to the moans of the losers until the next big thing when they can switch to “We told you so.”  The amount of money spent is so amazing—and largely unaccounted for—that we can only nod our heads in agreement with the remark by the inimitable Will Rogers, “Politics has  got so expensive that it takes a lot of money just to get beat with.”  Can I get an “Amen”?

AND then there’s The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which on page 129, in its typical doggerel-style rhyme describes the period between November1 and November16 thus : “Mild retreat means muddy feet.  Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts; piles of snow and blustery blasts”.  Stock up on the booties for the Christmas Walk.  Could be chilly out there.  It also mentions that black bears head to winter dens now, lobsters move to offshore waters and crab apples(The only native apples) are ripe .  AND in 1914 Mary Jacobs received a patent for a brassiere.  How’s that for uplifting info?

In the midst of all that, we have Veterans’ Day on the 11th, honoring all those who have served our country in the armed forces.  It was originally dubbed Armistice Day and commemorated the end of WWI on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month .  Subsequent acts of Congress in 1926, 1938, 1954 and 1968 enlarged the intention of the observation of that day and moved the date around, to considerable confusion; in 1975 the date was set as the original, marking the end of “the war to end all wars”…we can only hope.

Bad news for my sisters!  The London School of Economics and Political Science and Western University in Canada have just announced, in the journal Demography, the results of a study (Social scientist are always doing studies of goofy stuff, trying to show that they are too scientists just like physicists and astronomers.  These don’t always help) that posits “the 3rd child effect” in which child three, four, five, whatever, is not responsible for the same level of excitement and/or happiness in the family as the first two.  Well, there’s a surprise!   You’d think that the backlog of diapers and teething rings and such would have tipped somebody off before a study was deemed necessary to discover this.  Besides, the older siblings will always be happy to point out their innate superiority to the younger porch monkeys.  Not to mention necessary enforcement measures.

Now in Florida, children of any rank in the family line-up may be getting access to a whole new outlook on a number of things if the Satanic Temple, based in New York, gets permission to distribute their “Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities” in the schools of Orange County.  Well, they say, the high school kids in the county got NIV Bibles, so the Satanists should get equal time.  The books have pictures of kids in T-shirts with satanic symbols on them and  they offer messages against bullying and discrimination, for self-esteem and good behavior.  There’s a connect-the-dots page that results in a pentagram and all kinds of stuff like that.  Their point is that if one religion can distribute literature, then all should be able to do the same.  They have a point.  They also have an example to follow in Oklahoma (Oklahoma?!), where, after a legislator brought in a monument of the Ten Commandments and had it put up on the green outside the state capitol building, the Satanic Temple commissioned a statue of Satan/Baphomet/Beelzebub/one of those BAD guys to be put up in the same area.  From the pictures online, I’d say that goats are getting a bad rap, since the Evil One sort of looks like a billygoat.  The little dog named Cerberus isn’t real scary but there are persons with horns pictured in family portraits hanging on the wall.  The “fabled” necronomicon (Book of Spells) was the creation of author H. P. Lovecraft and not exactly ancient wisdom of any kind.  It’s going to be interesting to see how anybody argues against it, given that the Bibles are already circulating out there.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation people will haul a– to the Supreme Court, if it takes that.  Could be a wild scene.  Think of it, Satan in court.  Fire and brimstone (Senators and Congressmen called to testify on the state of their souls…if they still have any).  Stay tuned.

Speaking of which, the Prairie Home Companion last Saturday did their—sort of—annual “Joke Show” and it was a hoot—bunch of stuff that nobody’s heard since fifth grade that just makes you chuckle. Knock-knock jokes, stuff like that.  Ole & Lena jokes.  Three priest, two penguins, one chicken got top billing.  Someone stole a midget’s billfold.  How could anybody stoop that low?

An English professor explained that though a double negative equals a positive, in no language in the world does a double positive equal a negative.  A voice from the back of the lecture hall called out, “Yeah, right!”

That kind of joke.

Tournament time is here for the Academic Challenge Team, the Quiz Masters, at home and far afield.  We could really use some readers and scorekeepers to make things move along.  Can you read?  You’re hired!  Call the high school to sign up or call me at 330-527-2577.

Some cartoons, political or otherwise, are SO nail-on-the-head right that they ought to be required reading…er…viewing…er…whatever, for aware citizens.  The AB-J had a pip just the other day in a series called “Pearls Before Swine” (Think about that for a while) which is a little off-the-wall at the best of times , into lame puns and sight gags but this one could be considered a voice of prophecy, in a way.

First panel : a bald, semi-shaven guy with dark glasses, a broken nose, a “wife-beater” undershirt and black vest walks in and says, “Repo man here.”  Rat, standing there next to Pig (recurring characters with definite personalities in the strip), says, “Repo Man?  I’m not behind on my car payments.”

Second panel : The guy carries a ballot box—locked—away in the same direction he came from and says, “Not here for your car.  I’m taking back your democracy.  Too few people bother to read or stay informed or even vote.  So off it goes.”  Rat and Pig watch him go.

Third panel : Rat turns to Pig and says, “I hate it when that happens.”

Me too.

I’ve been serving as a poll worker for about seven years now and it always makes me proud to see a former student come in to cast a ballot; wish that I’d see even more of them.  It used to be a regular thing in the seventh grade to take my classes down to the Precinct A polls on High Street to observe the voting; the poll workers were always helpful and welcoming and happy to explain the procedures to the kids. Pity we can’t do stuff like that anymore.  The curriculum has changed so that civic education of that sort doesn’t really make an appearance until junior or senior year.  Cultivate interest early, I say.  Build on it.  Encourage it.

I remember telling classes that I was really excited about turning twenty-one (The dinosaurs and I had a party—right in front of a glacier.) and someone said, “Yeah, then you could drink!”  The thought never crossed my mind.  I could vote!  That was way more important.

It IS neat that young adults can now register to vote in government classes.  The risk is that they will become like all too many older adults and fail to live up to their responsibilities as citizens.  People will loudly go on and on about their “rights” and just sort of whisper about the other side of the coin, which would require them to actually DO something.

Like voting, for instance.  The polls are open thirteen hours—thirteen hours! For goodness’ sake, how many of us have to be tied down, nose-to-the-grindstone for so long  and at such a vital activity that we can’t arrange for the time to contribute to the fate of the Republic?  The date  of Election Day is determined far ahead of time(First Tuesday after the first Monday in November) so anybody who cares can work it into the schedule.  Absentee ballots are easily available to be put in the mail.  The Board of Elections office is open on weekdays at the county seat.  Think of the posters and advertisements around promoting seatbelt use—What’s Holding You Back?  Equally important, folks.

It would probably be a good thing to have some idea about what you’re voting for, too.  Pay attention.  Don’t just  reflexively pick a party and vote for everybody of that particular persuasion.  Investigate a little.  Read…on both sides.  Listen to what they’re saying.  Check out ratings and non-partisan assessments.  “Due diligence” can make a difference in what you actually see and understand.

And for goodness’ sake, don’t just vote “no”…or “yes”… on everything without understanding what the question is.  Emergency medical services( or fire & rescue or law enforcement), for instance, are something that we have to support all of the time or they won’t be available when we do need them.  Do you figure that saving a couple of bucks on your taxes is worth watching a neighbor gasping for breath trapped in a collapsed ditch on the back forty?  Will your money show up at a football game to take a kid with a broken leg to the emergency room?  The services of the Portage County District Library may not interest you but the programs that the various branches(Aurora, Garrettsville, Streetsboro, Windham) offer boost our schools(and home schoolers), provide for nursing home residents, give the  non-computer public a place to interact with information and opportunities on the web. That’s a bargain, any way you look at it.  Small money, big rewards.

Taxes are the price we pay for the things that we could not do alone : roads, bridges, parks, armies, navies, air traffic control, libraries, health departments, regulations of weights and measures…a whole raft of things that we seldom see but would certainly notice if they were gone.  And, sure, nobody wants to pay more than they need to (Arthur Godfrey said, “I’m proud to be paying taxes in the United States.  The only thing is—I could be just as proud for half the money.”) but doing your part to keep the “ship of state” afloat is a pretty important responsibility, at least as important as premium cable and/or top-of-the-line phone plans.  We might ponder the words of Will Rogers, “Thank heavens we don’t get all of the government we pay for.”Or, on the other hand, Henry Ward Beecher said, ”The worst thing in the world, next to anarchy, is government.”

Think about THAT. And vote!

So I went to get new license plates, since my old ones were still on the poor , pitiful “Revolution Orange Metallic” car that got totaled, and this meant a sojourn in the local(Ravenna) office of the State of Ohio   Bureau of Motor Vehicles…turned out to be quite instructive, in a decidedly eccentric sort of way.

First off, one is required(Well, that is if you actually want to achieve your objective of getting license plates or  renewed driver’s license or stuff of that ilk) to take a number—just like at a busy deli or bakery– from a gizmo mounted on a pole right at the entrance doors.  It’s always a shock to look at the number you’ve got and at the crowd of people sitting there already waiting.  My number was 26; the first number called after I got there was 7.  O.K., this is going to call for settling in.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring any reading material—I usually do bring something on expeditions like this—so I whipped out my trusty pen and paper and took notes; people looked at me funny.

First of all, the set-up is better than it used to be; whatever it is that you want, when your number is called, you step up to the counter and the clerk who called will deal with your request.  Once upon a time, specific clerks dealt with specific operations and the issuer of license plates might be snowed under with people waiting  and waiting, while the driver’s license clerk was able to sit at her leisure to examine the new nail color that she had chosen and  tempers tended to shorten as the wait time lengthened.  Well, that’s done with…and none too soon.

The décor is quite enlightening, consisting of old Ohio license plates—predominantly in red, green or  blue, with  some yellow or black thrown in( For awhile there, the idea was to use the colors of the principal state universities—OSU, Miami, Ohio U, BG, Kent, etc.—as they were celebrating their centennials or sesquicentennials or whatever, but then the field expanded and budgets faded and who knows what the  Bureau of Motor Vehicles is thinking now?); 1933 was orange. The earliest date that I saw on the wall was from 1916; there was a1920 next to a 1921 and from then on it was consecutive to the present day. Most were for your standard passenger car but historical vehicles, trailers, farm conveyances, dealers, vanity plates, government vehicles and school buses were also represented.  Then there were plates from all of the states, from Alabama to Wyoming on the lintel above the service desk.  I must say, the design that the BMV has come up with for our Ohio plates is certainly lame, compared to some of the others on display.  I remember  several years ago we( or the BMV, anyway) got all in a snit when North Carolina beat us to the license plate slogan “First in Flight”  commemorating the Wright Brothers exploits at Kitty Hawk.  Somebody was asleep at the switch down in Columbus, probably.  “Birthplace of Aviation” doesn’t have the same ring to it.  “Ohio, the Heart of It All” was pretty good but somebody dropped that one  and currently it’s just sort of nondescript, a barn and an airplane or shadowy words about accomplishments or something behind the numbers; definitely forgettable.  Their whole design concept is less than arresting, that’s for sure. The chairs are black and lined up in rows of four across and there are what look like army surplus church pews running along one side(So you can pray for a lower number?).  The walls also have framed vintage automobile ads(I think that I remember some of them from the LIFE Magazine; that tells you just how vintage they are).  I spotted Dodge Plymouth, Ford, Mercury, Chevrolet, Jeep and Nash(How’s that for a blast from the past?);there was an Atlas Tires  blurb too.  There is also an  antique Ohio Driver’s Manual, some temporary tags, a reminder about  being an organ donor—don’t forget that one—and a display of the old paper driver’s licenses; I remember those too.   Somebody’s bad typing and my own ineptitude caused me to be driving for a whole year on an  expired license.  The last number was typed right on the line on the right side of the little box and I thought—having looked at it carelessly—that I had another year before needing to renew.  WRONG!  It was a nerve-wracking time between when I turned myself in and when I could  get an appointment to retake the driver’s test—written and driving.  Good thing I was still walking to work then and didn’t get into any high-speed car chases.

And speaking of displays….  Everybody’s got a tattoo.  The variety is stunning.  Everything from names inside of hearts—Mom, Emmy-Jo, USMC—to skulls and dragons and Disney characters to Maori designs, spider webs and faeries.  I knew a guy once who had a fly tattooed on his big toe; at the time, this was pretty far out; he’d be a wuss now.  Lots of the displays were on phone screens, everybody seemed to have someone to contact by text, the talking was not a factor.  The big TV screen was being mostly ignored.  The game show that was on was not real inspiring and nobody seemed to be paying much attention…including the contestants.

I must say that the clerks seemed very helpful.  One poor gentleman showed up with no I.D., no passport, nothing attesting to his place of residence; I think he was connected to the University and didn’t have the drill down yet.  The young lady helping him sent him to another office across the hall to figure all of that out; he came back and got through it, chop-chop.  Good thing, since another sign announced that  the whole place was appearing on closed circuit TV and there was an audio monitor in use.

So eventually my number came up , I had all of the necessary papers—including my checkbook—and I now have a new set of plates that I have to remember to put on the car before my 30-day tags run out.  This means that I will have to learn a new set of numbers and letters…oy!…and update my insurance…the fun never stops!

Well, that train left the station without me aboard.

I had been planning to take the Portage County Farm Tour but it turns out that it was held on Saturday instead of Sunday and my schedule was all wrapped around the Aurora Band show, Thunder Over Aurora, so it was a setback to open the Record on Sunday and see that I had missed the whole thing.  Too bad.  Those tours are really quite enjoyable and one gets to learn a lot of stuff when going on them.

The Mackenzie Creamery was a big “draw” as far as I was concerned; the cheese they make is amazing and the goats which are part of the operation are always a hoot.  I like goats; they are characters, they have personalities.  You can’t go to the fair and  go through the sheep and goat barn without seeing(and hearing) at least one of them with feet up on the rails of its enclosure, looking around, and giving a loud and raucous “Baaaah”   to express whatever it is that goats think about all of the rest of us.   I understand that the billygoats have some disgusting personal habits and the bad rap that they have concerning body odor is often well-deserved, but the creamery itself was clean enough to perform surgery in when I saw it on the last tour.  The possibility of exotically-flavored   cheese samples may have entered into the desire to go there again.

Then there was a stop at the Sand Hill Stables, which I’ve been itching to get a look at for quite some time– the demos by the farrier(They’re the ones that work at shoeing horses, not blacksmiths) would have been instructive, I’m sure, my feet being what they are ,tours of Beckwith Orchards, Inc, that venerable fruit emporium in Franklin Twp, Brugmann Farms on Frost Rd. in Mantua(They’re not all about sand &gravel), and Lazy B, an apiary ( a place where bees are kept; a collection of hives or colonies of bees kept for their honey)on Ryder Rd. in Hiram Twp.—we all ought to know more about bees and what we can do for them, since they’ve been having a rough  time lately, what with the “colony collapse disorder” and the  profligate use of insecticides in agriculture   and shrinking  areas of wildflowers—or flowers of any kind—for them to forage for food.  The little buzzers have been having a time of it and we should pay attention because a very high percentage of the crops that we raise to eat depend upon the honeybee (genus : Apis ) and their cousins(seven species, 44 subspecies) of all sorts for pollination. And I missed it all!  Bummer!  Watch for it next fall; there aren’t that many farms/agricultural enterprises in Portage County any more.  We should support them  whenever we can; that’s what the Farm Bureau is all about doing in organizing these tours.

Which leads me to think that I’m going to actually get down to learning how to do things with my new phone…like keeping a calendar.  I have a calendar at home with space to write things in, which I try to do religiously(I’ve been excommunicated a few times) but if I don’t scribble a note somewhere when I’m out and about, then transfer it to the calendar when I get home, It’s anybody’s guess whether I’ll remember or not.  Notes on the grocery list are just not very reliable.  My brilliant plan for getting this phone thing accomplished is to take it to the next QuizMasters practice and have the kids instruct me on everything from calendar set-up to weather aps.  Heck, I could probably take it to the sixth-grade girls’ volleyball practice and get the same kind of help.  Ditto for the car; it does things I haven’t even discovered yet.

Missed World Pet Day on Sunday but the pets here are doing pretty well anyhow, except one of the original trio is heading for that last Big Lap in the Sky.  There’s only one cure for old.

I did go to the Thunder Over Aurora band show, which was fine and loud, as usual.  The official T-shirt this year was designed by a member of the Aurora flagline, utilizing caricatures of the  mascots of the participating schools—NDCL Lions, Southeast Pirates, Riverside Beavers(Riverside Regiment), Jackson Polar Bears(the Purple Army), the Garfield G-Men and the Aurora Greenmen .  There were the inevitable redundancies, two different bands playing the same tune, but the arrangements and instrumentations were so different that sometimes you could hardly tell.  Choreography abounds–on the flaglines and dance corps, by the instrumentalists, among majorettes(The Purple Army had a much-awarded feature twirler, she was really good)—everybody is “tripping the light fantastic” at the least provocation.  Calls to mind a line from an ancient ’40’s tune : “It must be jelly, ‘cuz jam don’t shake like that.”  Or maybe “Shake a Tailfeather” from the ‘60’s (It got into  the Disney film “Chicken Little in 2005, as well); there were plenty of shakos on the field.  There was—as occasionally happens at large gatherings–a little lost boy at intermission, a young sprout just sort of dripping tears, not sobbing yet but clearly in danger of heading that way.  A kind  young woman—she had a light green hoodie, so I assumed that she was an Auroran got him to the concession stand and the guys there relayed a call to somewhere to help find Mom ; everybody was very reassuring so the little fellow didn’t lose it, even after Mom did appear.  Actually, by that time, she was probably more likely to be teary than he.  And , Finally, I think that I shall  prod our athletic director (Look out, Mr. Pfleger) to find an equipment sponsor which will provide an “OFFICIAL golf cart” for big events at our school.  Those Greenmen have all the cool stuff…and the event was very well organized.  Thank you, Booster Parents!

Oh, and I saw T-shirts : Fear God. Love Your Neighbor.  Hunt Ducks…. Eclectic Genres…What does this mean?

Ya know…ya can’t make this stuff up.

Some dude, a financier with AGI Capital in San Francisco named Jesse Herzog, has come up with something that he calls the “Suitsy”, which is a “onesie”—familiar to the parents-of-infants crowd—for adults, specifically, adult male business-types.  He claims it will appeal to guys who appreciate “class, convenience and comfort”. “Imagine looking professional but feeling like you’re wearing pajamas.”

The Suitsy is a jacket connected to a shirt, attached to pants with fake shirt cuffs showing at the end of sleeves and a zipper(hidden beneath the fake button placket; tie, belt and shoes are extra) running the length of the front exposure from neck to crotch.  Aye, there’s the rub, to shanghai Shakespeare, and “Hamlet”, into the conversation…in a one-piece garment—coveralls, anyone?–this critical location, the crotch (or “crouch” as Mama calls it in “Music Man”) tends to move in concert with the shoulders, up, down, whatever.  So anyone wearing a Suitsy should think twice about ever raising his arms, or even doing a major shrug.  Either that or have a specially-crafted one made with the crotch somewhere south of its customary position.  And you don’t think that anyone would notice that?

The other concern out there is about the whole zipper issue.  Think about it.  Ladies wearing Spanx have had to do this for quite some time.  It can make “intestinal distress” into a category 5 disaster.

One commentator remarked that it was as though a business suit and a jumpsuit had produced a lovechild.

Anyway, anyway…this dude is touting his invention/device/garment on a website called Betabrand(the promo says “Better Than Fresh Camel Milk”, so you just know they’re about serious stuff) that apparently kind of does market  surveys to see if some new ideas are worth considering for manufacture and distribution…and funding, of course.  At last count, the Suitsy had 375 votes.

And Jesse Herzog has had previous business experience; he once ran a hot dog shop in San Francisco named Zog Dog which put the first hot dog into space.  What?  You missed that?  Gotta get with the program if you’re going to get rich.

***And you might get rich if you’re into Sumo, Sumo wrestling.  Yes!  The United States is the biggest venue for amateur sumo wrestling outside of Japan.  As a matter of fact, the U.S. Sumo Open was just recently held at Cal State–Long Beach and was quite an event.  Yeah,  there were videos with big pounding drum sounds from a drum corps   considerably different from what we might see on a Friday night football scene, ads for sumo equipment, sponsors—Sapporo Premium Beer, Hazutsuru Sake (couldn’t read the Japanese last one)—cheering crowds…the whole enchilada—or sushi roll, if you want to go in a different ethnic direction.  They do weight classes, both men(70) and women(15) and it’s certainly something to watch those very large persons tossing each other about in the middle of that ring.  Clearly, though, it’s not just weight that carries the day.  A competitor must either push/pull/maneuver the opponent out of the ring or cause them to hit the canvas surface.  A lot seems to be about redirecting momentum to bring about the desired result, rather than simply overpowering and outweighing.  And speaking of weighing…do they use a truck scale or what?  Those folks are BIG!

The current reigning champ is—get out your Spellchecker—a Mongolian dude named Byambajav Ulambayar, who’s won the last seven titles.

Sumo may be becoming popular because it is QUICK, sometimes as little as 5 seconds for a match; no commercial breaks, no breaks in the action.  Scoring is simple : is he down? Is he out? No seventh-inning stretch needed.  The uniform sales might be a bit problematic, since the standard garment is pretty much a precision-folded loincloth( 30 ft., linen or cotton or silk); not something the average  Joe-Sumo would be likely to wear to the local adult-beverage emporium.  Oh, some individuals wear what looks sort of like bike shorts under the mawashi or mokko-fundoshi (literally, “earth-basket loincloth”) which is the usual attire, but there are several styles to suit personal preferences Where would one put the college/team logo?

*And finally, check out the bunch of teens that were in an SUV automobile accident when one of their number (the dumbest one) used a lighter to set the driver’s armpit hair on fire.

Like I said, you can’t make this stuff up.

Well, actually, it wasn’t all that wild but it definitely was interesting and fun.  The Portage County Park District is offering opportunities to scope out some of the features of the newly-funded (THANK YOU, VOTERS)county parks with knowledgeable  and  entertaining volunteer naturalists (or  one, at least, Thank you, Joe) to get a good look at just what’s out there.  There is a lot.

We got to see the fall flowers—goldenrod(several varieties), asters(lots of  colors and sizes), lobelia, to name a few.  We got to see lots of mushrooms, from decorative turkey tail shelf mushrooms to cute little red-topped poisonous ones (Amanita muscaria, red fly agaric, which contains the toxic, psychoactive alkaloid, muscimole which used to be left out in dishes to kill flies…probably bumped off a few  curious others as well)  and the  little, filament-like “fairy fingers”.  We got to see frogs and toads and spiders, mostly little-bitty guys.  We got to see an abundance of trees (What? You thought the place was paved?)and shrubs, both native and invasive species, a couple of stages on the succession of forests and the remnants of vernal pools.  No wild animals to speak of appeared to cross our path but a few had clearly been there for a woodland picnic because the bones of their appetizers were spotted in a couple of places and the odd one or two stray turkey feathers indicated that somebody was celebrating Thanksgiving early(and it wasn’t the turkey).

The day was perfect for an exploratory amble through field and/or forest.  Our ever-resourceful guide had fortified himself with a GPS app to make sure that we’d be getting back to where we’d started and not still be out there looking for a fenceline.  He also helpfully passed out laminated plastic cards describing the local tick population and what to do about them.  They certainly are ugly little buggers and they hang out with a murderer’s row of diseases—Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis(that’s always mentioned in the papers that you have to read before giving blood),Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Heartland Virus—not warm fuzzies that one would like to invite home.  Cats are about the wildest things that I can stand.

So….  That was Sunday.  On Saturday, the band—the James A. Garfield Marching Pride—went to the Solon Band Show and for the first time in recent memory, the evening was dry and , while cool, was   bearable, temperature-wise.  Mirabile dictu!  I tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve been on a bus packed full of band kids soaked to the skin and unable to get any concession-stand food that wasn’t drenched by the run-off from under the spectators’ seating.  Not a pretty picture!

Kudos to the Windham band, also in attendance, for showing what a rebuilding program and a lot of spirit can be capable of.  They did their school and their supporters and themselves proud.   The big  schools—Solon, Hudson, Kenston, for example—can blow down the walls but small can be MIGHTY mighty too.

The Marching Pride exemplified this as well, with a display of energy and enthusiasm and musicianship that captivates audiences.  One dude in the announcer’s booth said, “I love this band; they’re always so ON!”  That’s what I thought too.

And the kick-off(Ha!  That’s a joke, son.) to the weekend was—as always—the football game , with our first look at real football weather for this year.  Truth to tell, it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the weather people were hinting prior to the first whistle.  Several times I heard dark hints about the  temperatures plunging after the warm week that we had earlier…incipient Polar Vortex, for sure!  More on that later; I now have both the Farmer’s Almanac and the Old Farmers’s Almanac, which, I have noticed have both hedged their bets by saying that this could all be a pile of brown stuff if the El Nino weather pattern kicks in…or pigs fly…or hell freezes over.

And speaking of cold….   It’s a tad chilly out in space, right?(Is this a segue or what?) And there are radiations of various sorts, right?  Well, fear not, Japan’s cartoon favorite feline and exemplar of the Kawaii (“cute”) culture, Hello Kitty (Her real moniker is Kitty White; the other is just a stage name), is whirling around way up there with a special space suit and paint job designed to protect from  UV and cosmic rays.  Yes.  The little white cat with a pink bow is cruisin’ in the Japanese nanosatellite(It’s really little), Hodoyoshi 3 and getting messages from various earthbound fans—one of said messages will be drawn by lot and broadcast every day, a different one every day, from space.  She went up on June 19; it was announced on August 12, probably to make sure that no misfortune came to the little 4cm  model   which was celebrating her 40th birthday.  Somebody spent $40million on this to boost Japan’s education and science industries.  I could have got them a much better deal to celebrate MY birthday for a mere $10 million.

Cake would be extra.

Well , it’s not just about football, ya know.  Or volleyball or baseball or cross country or golf or soccer or any of those sports where you get all sweaty.  Much more refined than THAT.

Specifically, it’s the Sinquefield Cup Chess Tournament.  Held this last week in St. Louis, MO, the event saw a stunning  performance by Fabiano Caruana, a twenty-two-year-old Italian grand master(He became a grand master at the ripe old age of fourteen.)  Prior to this occasion he had been ranked third in the world by the FIDE (Federation Internationale des Eschecs…sort of the NFL of chess)but he took care of the number-one-ranked dude, Magnus Carlsen(age 23) of Norway (Who is also a model for advertising campaigns and was named one of the “sexiest men of 2013” by Cosmopolitan) in short order and went on to best such big names in chess as Veselin Topalov and Hikaru Nakamura.  He finished with seven…SEVEN…wins(in a row) and one draw in the tournament and won $100,000.  This is unheard of in chess competitions, where winning frequently is decided by the number of draws and losses—it’s soo hard to win outright against all of these “brainiacs”.  Judging from the ages of the top two finishers, it could be the beginning of a fierce competition   to go on for some time.

Then again, you never know.  Two competitors at the Chess Olympiad held in August in Norway kicked the bucket while the event was going on.  One, from the Seychelles had a heart attack at the venue, one, from Uzbekistan, was found dead in his hotel room.  Pressure’ll get to you.

No sweat!

And then, of course, there’s the Spanish Vuelta.  What, you’re not following the Spanish Vuelta?  It’s one of those European bicycle road races that we all care so much about at this time of year. (  Since Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France deceptions we’ve lost all interest.  They could –totally–be riding unicycles and wearing clown suits for all we know…or care.) Anyway, the latest stage winner (Not sure what that means either) is a speedy dude named Przemyslaw Niemiec.  Nice Irish kid, right?  Imagine first grade, being a little tyke riding to school on your bicycle—probably in a Polish neighborhood—and having to learn to write your name on your school papers.  Imagine being his teacher and having to pronounce the tiny tot’s name on the first day for roll call.  Whoooeee!  I survived Viggiani, Chaykowsky and Gruchewski but this guy might have given me pause for refection.

While you were on the road, should you have been traveling in Canada, you might have run into—oops! poor word choice—you might  have encountered hitchBot, a robot designed and , presumably, programmed by David Harris Smith of  McMaster University and Frauke Zeller(Who also produced an art critic robot named kulturBot) which was   hitchhiking across the country from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia.  Beginning on July 27 at the Institute for Applied Creativity at NSCAD (formerly Nova Scotia College of Art and Design),  it traveled 6000km (4000mi.) relying on the kindness of strangers and arrived  on the west coast on August 16.

It was originally plunked down by the side of the road at the airport in Halifax and within five minutes got a ride with a couple heading to camp in New Brunswick.  It then went on to crash a wedding celebration, join in a First Nations gathering, show off dance moves by doing the Harlem Shake at a festivity of some kind in Saskatchewan and become an international celebrity of sorts.

hitchBot can talk and has GPS capabilities.  Creators Smith and Zeller refer to it as “her”, so that’s what that’s about(Girls can do anything).  She survived having a cracked LED shield protector and by the end of the adventure her speech patterns had become a little more random (Heck. I get that way by the end of the DAY sometimes).  She’s got a beer barrel body(Been there, done that), yellow gloves—with one thumb up—for hands,  blue arms and legs, multicolored boots and red eyes—they wink –and she can smile.  She can carry on a conversation( with a brief quotation from Robert Frost) about as well as a lot of people I can think of.  She’s part of an investigation concerning the question of whether or not robots can trust humans and the functionality of Artificial Intelligence(The “real” kind seems to be getting pretty thin on the ground lately).  Her last ride around was with a gentleman named Steve Sxwithul’txw(Yup, that’s his name; he’s of the Salish Tribe  on the Pacific coast) who is a film producer, so we’ll probably soon see a documentary on hitchBot’s  trek across Canada.

I’d have picked her up

Well…seasons have started…football season, soccer season, volleyball season, cross country season,  interscholastic golf season (The regular duffers have been going at it all summer), marching band season…you name it, the season has started.  School is like the opening gun for all sorts of stuff.

There are, however, plenty of competitions out there which we “wot not of”.  Such as:

Amazon has just agreed to pony up a ton of money–$970 million—for some outfit called Twitch which makes it possible for video gamers to watch—just watch, not play themselves—other video gamers play…what else?…video games!  This is causing great commotion in the online world for some reason and many of the big names—whatever they are, in the online gamers world are all a-buzz about it.   I am not one of these people.

Let us get this straight; people can get on their computers to watch other people play video games.  Just what IS it that these watchers DO?  They don’t have to even move their fingers, just barely their eyeballs.  Do the actual players get any feedback on their play?  Are there electronic/digital cheerleaders chanting algorithmic encouragement from the in-the-cloud sidelines?  Any rain delays when a server goes down?  The questions have only just begun to roll in.

On the other hand, there will be no ambulances with emergency medical staff standing by in case of injury.  The playing field, such as it is, acts as its own scorekeeper and referee, so there will be no overheated spectators booming out insults about the officials’ suspect ancestry or eyesight.  No more trekking to the concession stands for sustenance, you can set up your screen to watch next to the refrigerator and/or microwave and never have to brave the cruel outside air.  You can watch in your Jammies and who’ll be the wiser.  And as evolution marches onward, humankind will devolve into creatures with two  myopic eyes, three fingers on each hand(Those two on the ends don’t do much on a keyboard or controller anyway)and enormous butt-ends to sit upon in front of the ubiquitous screens that are part of the sports scene.  What a picture!

On the other hand, there are the World Tug-of-War championships presented by the World Tug of War International Federation (more than one; divisions by weight class—in kg—and gender) drawing participants and spectators from all over the world.  This past weekend the big competition, sponsored by the United States Tug of War Association, was held in Madison, Wisconsin, the fourth time that it has been staged in the U.S.(Oshkosh, WI—1984, Rochester, MN—1998, 2004).

Pretty much the opposite of the abovementioned sport (?) competition, this features teams of eight pullers per team who have to be weighed in—and stamped on the wrist and thigh—before the contest to ensure the weight requirements are met.  All pulling is done bare-handed—oy—no sitting is allowed( there are officials who issue cautions if this does occur and three cautions equal a disqualification and a loss of the match.  In  the videos on YouTube, the teams sort of resemble sixteen-legged insects with  uninspired choreographers; legs on the left, step, legs on the right, step, everybody LEAN BACK.  The noise is pretty visceral too, mostly uuuhhh, uuuhhh, UUUHHH—in unison.  Coaches (called drivers) can stand alongside their team, sort of like a coxswain in front in rowing( or wrestling coaches yelling “Chicken wing!  Chicken wing!), and  speed up the count or direct the lean or whatever—all pretty sweaty work    from the look of it.  Not where one might expect to see ladies’ teams but they’re on deck too and just as determined.  Ladies don’t sweat, they “glow”.

Actually, the tug of war was part of the Olympics when the modern games restarted in 1896 and had a considerable history from as far back as ancient China and classical Greece…not to mention tales of the Vikings pulling animal skins over pits of fire to decide who got what share of the plunder from hapless European peasants.  After the 1920 games the number of sports was reduced and the tug of war got the ax.  It is regularly  a part of the World Games, where teams from Egypt, Cambodia, Japan, Sweden, Ireland, Scotland and everywhere else get into the act.

Injuries resulting from accidents in tug of war can be rather gruesome, back strains being the least of a participant’s worries.  Not so much concussions as amputations ,caused by the ropes snapping or getting wrapped around the wrong thing.  Uh-oh!

Makes one pine for the good old days of Tiddly-winks

…and speaking of winks ….

We haven’t  yet seen a bikini coffee bar in the neighborhood.  It’s the latest thing in some locales.  Somehow the thought of a “Peek-A-Brew” or “Natte Latte” in Portage County isn’t really flying in my imagination but you never know.


Not one of my better weeks; suffice it to say that I’m now looking for a new car and not a rehab facility.  That’s the good part.  Time to move on.

The rollercoaster begins again : school is starting!  Whooeee!  Anyone got an office/coffee klatsch/bowling league/civic group/ neighborhood betting pool going on whether the newly -added-on-to Garfield Elementary School will make it to open in time?  Well, it’s GOT  to, of course.  Time and tide and fifth graders wait for no man.  There will be, undoubtedly, opportunities for volunteers to step up to the plate and help move all of the miscellaneous stuff stashed all over the district buildings into its appointed places in the Elementary School.  Stay tuned on that one.

The Portage County Randolph  Fair is on–on the same week as the Lorain County Fair in Wellington, Ohio( often still referred to as the “Wellington Fair”).  They have similar histories, actually.  Once upon a time in each of the counties there was a county fair and the Randolph  Fair / Wellington Fair.  Folks took their prize-winning peach pies or their fattest hogs to whichever festivity was closer or had the best prizes (or the least competition).  Then the real estate prices got to rising to the point that there was NO point in using prime acreage just once a year for the fair and so the “more rural” location became the de facto county fair location and the state of Ohio Agricultural Society declared that it would only support and sanction the awards given at official county fairs.  A couple of fires on the fairgrounds might have contributed to the switch as well.

Some years I can make it to both of them, some years, not.  The Lorain County Fair is my old stomping grounds.  In my misspent youth I garnered a 4-H pin that attested to the fact that I had made the best apron—brown and orange print, it was—in the county .Take THAT, Martha Stewart!  It was stunning, I’m sure.  The dress that I made, not so much. (All of my handmade items—potholder, tea towel, whatever,   tended to have kind of brownish edges  where I had to take out and re-stitch with my grubby little hands; laundering was another skill learned at this time.)  It was an interesting twist of fate that one summer  when I was young and foolish(I’m older now; we won’t go into the rest)and recently moved to Garrettsville, I consented to assist in being the advisor to the girls’ 4-H sewing club in town.  Mrs. Ford was the real advisor, I think that she just wanted help with crowd control.  At least I don’t remember anyone sewing through a body part as I did with the edge of my thumb.

I also have a cherished set of three GENUINE Swiss cowbells that I, or, rather, my livestock won in the cattle competitions over the years.  Trophies be darned, we were showing Brown Swiss cattle and the Brown Swiss Breeders Association wasn’t handing out some chintzy plastic trophies.  Two of the bells came mounted on little wooden  cradles, the other one came on a leather strap that a Swiss cow would wear up on the mountain.(Anybody remember Heidi?  She did goats, I think.  Same principle, you can’t milk the creatures unless you can find them; that’s what the bells were for.  To be honest, cows OR goats will usually head home when it’s milking time.  Like looking for a rest stop on the turnpike, there’s a certain discomfort factor involved, if you get my drift.)  Anyway, they do make a really, really loud noise at a football game…or anywhere else for that matter.

Now-a-days, I notice there are camping set-ups all over the fairgrounds in designated areas for the kids and their parents to stay overnight to keep an eye on their animals.  Back in the day when I was one of the 4-H ‘ers with a project, only the BIG boys were to be found around the barns after, say, ten o’clock and they were usually sleeping with the cows…which is O.K. if the cows are sleeping too but getting stepped on in the middle of the night by a half-ton milk-producer-in-training is no picnic, I’ll tell you.  Cozying up to the livestock doesn’t do much for one’s personal hygiene ratings either but this was trumped by the “cool” factor of getting away with hanging out at the fairgrounds basically unsupervised and the subsequent opportunities for making up big fat lies about whatever it was that the guys did there.  There are, at least, shower facilities available at most fairgrounds which allow overnight stays.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to stay upwind until the campers can be checked out.

Other exciting things can happen at the fair too.  Thursday evening used to be the Junior Fair Parade, where the kids showing livestock of all sorts—calves, cows, goats, sheep, horses, ponies (Not many chickens were in the parade)—would bring their animals to one entrance to the racetrack, walk them past the grandstand(To frenzied applause of relatives and friends) and exit out the other side entrance and, thence, back to the barns.  One fateful year the affair was going on, even as big purple clouds were gathering …and gathering…and piling up…and darkening in the west.  The wind picked up and we were hustling along, hoping to get to the other side before all hell broke loose; a vagrant breeze caused the blue ribbon on my calf’s halter to flutter, the lightening cracked, the thunder rolled and that headstrong bovine decided right then and there that she’d had enough and was heading for home …NOW!  Rain or no rain, she was outta there.  I was hanging on to the halter strap for dear life and running as fast as I could, considering that she had four feet and I had only two ,which were only touching the ground on a part-time basis.  Luckily, my dad had anticipated a fiasco of this nature, was at the exit and managed to get a hand on both of us to slow things down just a tad.  We were soaked, of course, by the time we reached the barn—much faster than we had left it—but at least we got back there; there were others attempting to round up critters for quite a while after that.  Long live the fair!

Apropos of nothing at all except the virtue of proofreading is this notice in a newspaper about a 4-H fundraiser : Small Animal Pancake Breakfast.  So…are these pancakes made in the shapes of bunnies or pygmy goats or chickens…or do the pancakes contain hamster toes or duck eggs or goose grease…or are the foods being made by sheep chefs or a pony maitre patissier or an alpaca cook at the grill?

Make you think…right?  Somebody get Disney on this.

So…I’m thinking that my gardening endeavors are in need of divine intervention—for the fungus or whatever it is that’s devastating the hollyhocks  and the tomatoes, the slugs and/or whatever is feasting on the berry bushes, the infant poison ivy that seems to be popping up all over the place, the ”sweet violets”, AKA Chameleon plants that are sending out their smelly but vigorous roots everywhere but in the “dead zone” where I’d like them to move in—and I was reading a murder mystery involving a public garden with a statue of a holy fellow called St. Fiacre(Irish–Fiachra, Latin—Fiachrius) patron saint of gardeners (…and maybe cab drivers…who knew?).    Why not give him a shot?

Well, maybe not.  There’s more to the guy than one might think.  He’s not just a second-string St. Francis.  Mercy, no.

So, the saints tend to have specialties.  If you want to sell your home and the bids aren’t coming, you can appeal to St. Joseph; bury a statue of him in the back yard—upsidedown– and first thing you know you’re calling the movers.  ‘S’truth.  St. Jude specializes in lost causes, just ask Danny Thomas, that’s why he named that hospital after him.  St. Genevieve is the patron saint of cats because she was originally invoked to protect  grain stores against rats and mice( I need to speak to her).  St. Patrick watches out for snakes, engineers and Ireland.   St. Wenceslaus looks out for brewers.  St. Isidore of Seville has even been called upon to take an interest in computers and the internet; the list goes on.

So St. Fiacre (That’s St. Fiacre of Breuil, not the other two guys), whose feast day is approaching on August 30, has some , shall we say…interesting…areas of consideration.

St. Fiacre is, number one, the patron saint of gardeners, those who raise vegetables and/or medicinal plants.  Statues of him often depict him with a staff , masses of blooms and a bunny.   He was granted as much land as he could entrench in one day to build an oratory for the Blessed Virgin and a hospice for travelers.  Instead of digging , as the grantor no doubt expected, he simply dragged his staff along the ground and the soil turned itself over—the ditch dug itself!  Anyway, the good man dealt with all manner of travelers’ complaints and seemed to specialize in urology and proctology, particularly sufferers from venereal diseases (Probably why his name is seldom given to helpless children).  Also, riding distances on a horse, mule or donkey , or camel, for that matter, was certainly no easier then than now, so the good man’s intercession was implored for those afflicted with hemorrhoids (known in medieval times as “St. Fiacre’s figs).  Do we want this guy hanging around?  Sounds like his expertise is not really focused on fungus and slugs.

And, besides that, I think that I might have a word with St. Ambrose; Saint Ambrose is the patron of beekeepers.  Not sure whether he has any influence with the non-honeybee (genus : Apis) critters but I was sure in need of somebody who had some recently.

I had placed an out-of-service litter box on the back porch in hopes of encouraging a semi-feral momma-cat in the neighborhood to have her litter there where we could get a hand on them and socialize just a little.  No such luck.  So the box sat there, upside-down facing the wall, abandoned, for all intents and purposes.

Sunday I went out to clean up the porch for expected company—sweep, straighten up, that sort of thing—took a broom with me; good thing.  When I bumped the box, what I had thought was just an idle bee or two buzzing around exploded into a swarm of really, REALLY angry critters that thought I was attacking their homeland and THEY were going to put a stop to it.  Whooeee!  Sure did!  I beat a hasty retreat, swatting all the way, and got the heck out of there.  From a somewhat safer spot I looked back to see what the situation was then fetched my broom to get the box, the rug and the bees off of the porch an out onto the lawn where they could be dealt with a little more safely.  Not a one-shot deal!  Took about three tries, slapping as we went, to get the box and rug out but some of the bees…yellow jackets, whatever they were…were sticking around, just hopping mad and itching for a fight, flying around their former location, stingers at the ready.  Finally, what did the trick was the garden hose.  I washed what was left of their real estate out of there and brought out the insect spray to convince them to look for new digs.  Still took them about an hour to give up and move on.  The remains of their apartment building are out on the lawn until I’m sure they’ve gone for good.

The adventure was not without injury.  I got stung about four times but only one seems to be actually swelling up.  The last time I remember and event like this, I was stacking hay on a wagon  when the baler ran over a nest on the ground.  Zoweee!  Those bees were just as mad  but I was a lot faster then.  We—my sister and I—shot from of that wagon and took off for parts unknown, shedding our long-sleeved shirts as we went.  Finally wound up in the creek, dropped trou’ and put mud on the stings where the bees had gone up our pants and shirts.

Who says that living in the country is boring?


In addition to pareidolia, I occasionally suffer(if that’s the right word) from bouts of mondegreen; I don’t think that it’s covered by any reputable insurance(though it’s likely on the docket for some fly-by-night, blood-sucking outfit from the late-night TV)but it can be sort of debilitating when you’ve got it.  Pareidolia, as you must recall, is usually seeing significant images in totally random contexts, like the guy down in Louisiana who cut open an eggplant and beheld the word “God” spelled out in seeds.  Elvis and the Virgin Mary are apt to turn up anywhere, from a toasted cheese sandwich to pictures in mildew on old walls.

Mondegreens, on the other hand, are audio rather than video effects and have only been defined since 1954, when the word was coined by Sylvia Wright in an essay which appeared in Harper’s Magazine.  It’s even in dictionaries now.  The Wikipedia definition is : a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony(sounding alike) in a way that gives new meaning; most often created by listening to a poem or song  but not hearing clearly, substituting words that sound similar to the misheard lyrics…sort of making sense.  The columnist in the Record who mentioned this the other day cited his mishearing of the ‘70’s song “Chuck E.’s in Love” as “Chuck Easy, Love”.  Not real intelligible, but close.  He gives a couple of other examples, like “very close veins” for “varicose veins” and “old timers’ disease“ for Alzheimer’s disease.  My contribution to these slightly-skewed interpretations     was my confusion over a ‘60’s tune by Elvis (See, I said he was everywhere) titled “Return to Sender”;  for years  I puzzled over why Elvis was singing about “The Prisoner of Zenda”.  Not that I actually knew anything about “The Prisoner of Zenda”—it was written in 1894(Just a tad before my time—maybe I was channeling Grandma) and made into movies in 1913, 1922, 1937, 1952 and 1979 (a Peter Sellers flick, must have been interesting).  I wasn’t that into Elvis, truth to tell, so I probably didn’t listen too carefully.

Anyway, some other examples of the phenomenon are :

“Surely Good Mrs. Murphy shall follow me all the days of my life….”  from the 23rd Psalm, “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear” from the hymn “Keep Thou My Way” and “O Say Kansas City” opening the “Star-Spangled Banner”.  Pop songs, possibly because of the really poor enunciation found among the groups singing them,  are frequently episodes of mondegreens, for instance, the Creedence Clearwater Revival line “There’s a bad mood on the rise” morphed into “There’s a bathroom on the right”.  The original “Twelve Days of Christmas” had “four colley birds”—not any more understandable than “four calling birds”, really—until the early twentieth century.  The cartoon feature, “Olive, the Other Reindeer” had its origin in the song “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”.  One of my personal favorites was  the line from the Catholic rosary, where the line hailing Mary (See, I told you she was everywhere too)”amongst women” became “a monk swimmin’” and some little kid looking at a Nativity scene at Christmas trying to find “Round John Virgin”.  I even had to participate in a reverse mondegreen in the third grade when we had a music program and sang a novelty song, popular at the time, “Mairzy Doats”; the immortal lyrics were : “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey; A kiddley divey too, Wooden shoe?”  Great stuff, eh?

And there are examples of the same kind of wordplay in lots of languages, not just English; one mentioned  was the Hebrew song, “Hava Nagila”(Let’s be happy)—always showing up in Jewish wedding movies where everyone goes around in a circle and they all end up stamping and yelling “Hey”  at the end.

See, they’re everywhere.  And don’t get me started on soramimi—songs that produce unintended meanings when translated homophonically into another language.  I always wonder about the ones in the Methodist hymnal that have versions in Cherokee or Japanese.  What if we pronounced them wrong and sang something scatological? Might even have some connection to the urban legend that the Chevy Nova had to have its name changed when sold in Latin America because competitors  claimed that it “No Va”—“Doesn’t go”  Or on eggcorn…or mumpsimus (That one makes me crazy).

Malapropism is another story.  Time for bed.


“Back in the Saddle Again…Out where a friend is a friend…Where the longhorn cattle feed on the lowly Jimson weed…We’re back in the saddle again….” (Was that Gene Autry?.  Gene had a sidekick named Pat Butram,  I think, who always says said his name so that it sounded more like “artery”. Made him sound like a medical condition. I know Roy Rogers did “Happy Trails to You”.   Roy had a horse named Trigger and a dog named Bullet. Where did Gabby Hayes come in?)  But I digress….

It’s good to be , once again, bringing you the latest news flashes.  The paint has dried!

I don’t know about anybody else on the ol’ Villager Ranch, but I spent a good deal of the “down time” between   the end of SummerFest and the Fourth of July being asked about the results of various competitions and contests (My pies did well!); unfortunately, I had no idea how things all came out.  This week’s edition should enlighten everyone about those basic facts.  The next time this happens—SummerFest being piled upon the Fourth, all higgledy-piggledy—I’m just going to make things up.  In matters of fact, I cannot be trusted.

It WAS quite a stretch there, getting things organized and set up (Thank you crews of every stripe, you were golden.  The seating, the electric wizards, the clean-up forces…ya dun good)as well as the actual events (I’m talking the Garrettsville SummerFest and the Hiram Fourth of July) ;everyone pitching in made a BIG difference.

Kudos to the Eagles, who’ve made their corner of downtown an attractive focal point.  Ditto for Mike Maschek, who’s made an amazing improvement to the “face” of the village by cleaning up the eyesores in back of the old gristmill and gutting the structure so that it can be restored.  The reseeding of the Buckeye Block space is looking good too (The Eagles went ballistic and sodded their territory.  Primo!)  Hiram’s “Old Fashioned Fourth” has lost none of its appeal and even keeps on growing, with the Bloodmobile available and activities for everyone(Music and strawberries are an awesome combination).  The Community Band had a good, solid brass section that tooted and oom-pahed through a varied program with a remarkable cast of all ages. Think about dusting off that old high school instrument yourself for next year(The regular bass drummer needs support and some of the other players—Sax-y Anna is 84—would love to have some too).  It’s really fun.

Good fireworks, both ways  …and a shout-out to Newton Falls for that big time production of lights and sound on the 4th.

And maybe that everyone was all wound up after such a stretch of celebration, but there were sirens—police, ambulance, fire, who-knows-what-all—going off lately at all times of the day and night.  Just wanted to get in on the excitement, maybe.

More Cruise Nights and a Peach Social still on tap for the rest of the summer.

Saddle up, Pardner.

Well, it’s been a quiet week in Little Garrettsville. (Lake Wobegone was another story)

BUT…things are moving along.

gristmillThe paving over the “grooved pavement” is inching toward finished; there are lines and everything.  Crews are on-site to take down the perennial eyesore downtown which has been “slip-slidin’ away” for –LO!—these many years.  Haz-Mat suits and all, they seem to be doing their level best to beautify the space, which would be improved by making it into just about anything, including parking space.  The Eagles will, no doubt, be pleased if that is exactly what happens there, ‘twill give them more space to entertain the public at their new lawn on the corner—with sod, yet!  Looks like picnic space, for sure.

The Liberty Street Bridge—the one that’s been out of commission for a loooooong time—seems to be likely to open  a tad ahead of schedule, thus ending the aggravation of having to go around on the “grooved pavement” to get to the other side of town.  Here’s hoping that Ohio’s Largest Tractor Parade can be routed  over it when the grand procession comes to an end.  Would make it easier on the traffic planning to get all of the participants back to the starting point at the high school.

Improvements are being made here at the estate.  New plants are going in and most of the old ones seem to have survived the demon winter that we had.  The black raspberries are going gangbusters; they were covered with blossoms and the little green fruits are forming right now.  I did plant them at least partly to make sure that the birds would have plenty to eat but I do think that it would be nice if I were left a few to eat myself.  The ferns were invigorated by something–the cold weather, the timely rainfall, something—because they’re doing a fine impression of jungle foliage all around the house.

Anyone like to have a butternut seedling?  The squirrels were getting ready for a really rough winter, apparently, because they buried all kinds of nuts all over the place and the nuts are now doing their thing and coming up in the middle of flower patches and borders with total abandon.  Butternut trees(Juglans cinerea), sometimes known as White Walnuts, grow rapidly(and don’t I know it), having alternate compound pinnate leaves and oblate, bunched fruits, across most of the northeastern United States and Canada.  Because the soft covering of the nuts is, like walnuts, such a coloring agent(as you would know if you ever were inveigled–willingly or not–into removing the husks to get at the nuts), they were once much used to dye fabric, especially in rural areas.  As a matter of fact, the uniforms of many units of Confederate soldiers in the Civil War were said to be “butternut brown”, and faded to gray as the time of service lengthened.  All of you spinners and weavers out there, here’s your chance to get genuine dye materials right in your backyard.  The wood is softer than walnut, takes polish well and is frequently prized by wood carvers.  The bark was said to have cathartic properties…now there’s a selling point!  Anyway, I have got seedling butternut trees, sapling butternut trees, adult, nut-producing trees.  Any takers?

And speaking of squirrels….  Actually, speaking of chipmunks….  The porch kitties have decided to reward me for my support over the winter by leaving deceased chipmunks—or parts of them—on the steps, on the porches, on the walk, anyplace that these treats can be discovered and admired.  Lucky that I don’t step out on the porch to get the paper in my bare feet.  Surprise!  I don’t even count the mole that was buried between the concrete and the foundation.  I think that some creature was just stashing that away for future reference.

And that’s about it.

Well, unless you count the business opportunity that I spotted in the news the other day; I don’t see a franchise opening here real soon but you never know.

It’s called Rent-A-Gent and it’s about what you might think…or not.  For $200 per hour you can have a “sexy, smart, sophisticated” dude at your beck and call for events such as bachelorette parties, special occasions like openings or charity balls (I get a lot of those).  You can hire a handsome chef, a sexy bartender, a Renaissance philosopher, a musician,  a plumber studying for his Ph.D., whatever.  The founder of the operation, a Ms. Sara Shickhman, says that these guys are on the up-and-up, no gigolos; they are in business in eleven states and the District of Columbia.  She says—from experience—that the hirable hunks are perfect for attending anything where you want to have a hottie dancing attendance on you to make your ex jealous…arm candy to the max!  One of the ad photos shows a group of chicks in pink T-shirts that said, “Don’t support him.  Rent him.”  Some franchise!


You know those orange and white saw horses that the ODOT crews used to have marking off forbidden territory when the summer construction season started? (They have up-dated all that now with tall, skinny cones and plastic tape)  An ironic gentleman of my acquaintance once proposed that they   should be designated the state animal…probably because they spent even more time in the road than the white-tailed deer which IS our state animal (The deer’s encounters in the road often end badly).

Anyway, the whole construction thing figured prominently in my most recent highway happenings, beginning with venturing off to the wilds of Huron County to the (very) small town of New London to attend an estate sale.  The sale was O.K., in the end but getting there was an adventure in itself.  I had no recollection of where New London was, even though the high school there had been one of the big rivals that Wellington High School had.  So I went to Wellington (I 480, St Rte 10, U.S. 20, St. Rte 58), picked up my mom and prepared to follow my sister, who had directions.  Only she wasn’t planning to be followed and took off for parts unknown with us tracking  as closely as possible.  You know that Army song, “Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail”?  It was sort of like that—two-lane county highway, up and down, up and down, trying to keep a small red car in sight.  The auction barn was not that hard to locate—in a park, by the school.  Looked over the merchandise and the crowd—both a mixed lot—then the bidding started and my Scots genes kicked in and I only bid on one item.  Time to go home,(sans Mama, she stayed with my sister) but how?  No need to go back through Wellington.

Whipped out the GPS, punched in my home address and listened in astonishment as it directed me to go in exactly the opposite direction from what I was expecting.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  So I was off.

St. Rte 60 to U.S.224, bear left to U.S. 42 & U.S.224—OOPS—the GPS lady didn’t mean us to stick with U.S.42.   RECALCULATING.  Turn right onto Holden Rd.,  turn right on Sullivan Dr. turn left onto U.S.Rte 224—OOPS—she didn’t get the memo about that road being closed.  Back up, turn around  . RECALCULATING.  Turn right onto Colby Rd.  Turn right on Fairhaven Rd.  Turn left onto U.S. Rte 224, O.K., we’re good.  Lovely farm country, four-lane highway, out-in-the-country high school…cruisin’. Take exit whatever  to I 71.  All righty then, making good time, interstate speeds.  Take exit whatsit to I 271, still rolling along.  Look!  Up ahead, it’s the turnpike.  Do I have any change or small bills?  Whatever.  Off in Shalersville.  St Rte 44, St Rte 303, St. Rte 88…home.  Total time—even with the detours—just about the same as the usual from Wellington, MPG , a remarkable 42.

Next, a medical run to University Hospitals’ Orange Place facility for blood work (That I just found out can be done now in Garrettsville).  Not wanting to  do a long stretch on the grooved pavement we went from St. Rte 88 to St. Rte 305 up St. Rte 700 to U.S. 422.  ERROR, ERROR.  U.S. 422 is also under construction; two of the four lanes are nothing but a memory, one lane, WITH grooved pavement nearly into Solon.  Not going there again if we can help it.  On the way home, after a successful shopping experience, I decide to take  Chagrin Blvd ( St. Rte. 87) all of the way out to Burton/Middlefield  and come home that way.  WRONG!  The sign, about half of the way out of the big city says “Road closed.  Local traffic only”.   I always want to try those just to find out what the definition of “local” is but not at the risk of winding up in some stranger’s driveway.  So next, we’re turning south, heading east,  turning south heading east, roads sounding familiar, but not really.  Finally emerged onto St. Rte 306 and the edge of Aurora.  Hallelujah.  Grooved pavement ahead but at least it’s going to be familiar grooved pavement.

Then the surprise!  Road crews are working like navvies on the road (St. Rte 82) from the bottom of Derthick’s hill all of the way through Hiram.  Yay!  First thing you know it’ll be real road through Garrettsville all the way to the Trumbull County line.

One last thing contributed to the adventure of it all.  The hatchback lid of the trunk had been a little ”iffy” lately, not latching properly when closed—a little red light comes on on the dashboard, looks sort of like a bug, a car silhouette in red with little doors open on both sides, meaning that something is not secured.  So, the last time I shut the thing, I gave it a significant smack-down.  ERROR, ERROR!  When I attempted to open the sucker next, it was having none of it, not budging, not even jiggling a little bit.  Crawling over the folded-down back seat got me to the lock panel but it was no help either.  The internet revealed that this was a hanging offense for the Honda Corporation a while back, so I’ m hoping that this will be a freebie when we jaunt off to get it fixed this week.

Did the pioneers have these kinds of transportation difficulties?  At least with an ox wagon you could eat the problem.  Of course, next planting season, they’d have to hitch up the oldest child…or the wife.  No, thank you.


Pretty generally, my cats are NOT about excitement.  Mostly, they’re about conserving physical resources, i.e., lazing around, with as little movement as possible.  Oh sure, there is the occasional wrestling match, when one of the “guys” has to show how tough he is(This is the same one who is afraid to go outside when the door is open; he simply likes to beat up on the rest of them.), there’s the one guy who LOVES to play with things and will carry the jingle-balls around to entertain himself with and actually hauled a boxed light bulb up from the basement so that he could chew on and play with it; the three old ladies each have their own sphere of influence—upstairs, downstairs, outside—to hang out in.  Just the other day, Bob, he of the partly-missing tail, smallest of the lot of ’em, had a genuine outdoor adventure.  Well, I describe it as an adventure, he’d probably call it a “near-death experience”.

So, I’m returning home from some expedition or other, just about to turn in to my driveway, when I spot a large dog on the east side of the house, a dog which I’d never seen before, a large dog, with big hair.  As I watched, the dog took off in pursuit of something and out of the corner of my eye, I saw that this object of interest  was Bob, who had been out for his first constitutional of the day before I left.  Whoosh!  Around the back of the house they went, the dog barking, the cat running like a bat from the bad place, between the Brock house and my garage, past the car , across the front lawn, down the sidewalk and by the time I got out of the car, the marauder dog was at the base of a tree, barking, and there was a black cat with a stump of a tail and a ratty, jingle-bell collar up in the tree, rump-first, looking back to see if that big beast was going to follow him up there.

Well, no.  A young man from the family who had just moved in across the street came running up, carrying a box of dog treats (Always keep these handy in certain neighborhoods and with certain pets) and attempting to entice the  dog—I never quite got the name—to return home.  This wasn’t real effective, as the dog was having a fine old time and probably thought that this was just the best game ever since she—I think it was a she—had moved in to this new place.  Every time the young fellow zigged, she would zag, when he went forward, she went back.  Great fun!

Finally, he attempted a grab and she took off; he followed.  I and the other spectators—Alicia and Matthias Witte from down on the corner—went back to rescue Bob, who was still up there.  Easier said than done.  Nobody even thought about calling the GFNVFD, they have better things to do.  I briefly considered the extension ladder; we all just looked up at Bob, who wasn’t going anywhere.  Then Alicia said,” I can get him down.  That tree would be easy to climb.”  And it was too; there was one low-ish, good-sized branch just below where Bob was still hanging on for dear life.  So…up she went and held out a hand to him.  But Bob had had just about enough excitement for one day; he took the short-cut—straight down…and out.  He landed on his feet (Don’t they all?) and took off for parts unknown, not to return until considerably later that evening when the coast was clear and there were no more threatening visitors.  I tried calling him several times( He really does usually come when called) but he waited until it was pretty dark and he had scouted out the territory, besides, he was probably hungry.

Well, it didn’t merit a YouTube sensation like the surveillance video of the cat who saved the little boy from an attacking dog ( The cat later got to throw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game, not easy when your claws catch on the stitching, I’ll bet) but it was more excitement than we usually get…if we don’t count the uproar the other night around ten o’clock when a strange, wandering dog (Boxerish? Pit Bullish?)with a collar but no tags showed up and drove the two eastside neighbor dogs into a barking/growling/yipping frenzy  (That’ll set   you right up at that time of night, uh huh).  Sounded like somebody was being massacred, no foolin’.  So here I am in my jam-jams, barely shod, clutching a flashlight(Remarkably enough, it had working batteries) hustling out of the house to see who had just died or been horribly dismembered—it was pretty quiet again—and found the Wittes, Alicia and Dad, Mark, holding on to the aforementioned dog  who, basically, wanted to play…or at least go for a run.  Somebody had taken in the other dogs who had been involved in the commotion and we were back to as close to normal as it gets here.  Called the police at my house, they said no missing dogs had been reported.  I kept the dog while the Wittes went home to be sure that their dog, Max, was in and quiet, then let the intruder go, hoping that she’d head home.  Apparently she did; we heard no more that evening.  Hope she did not enjoy the experience and will not return.

Other than that, the biggest excitement has been all of the transplanting and lawn work and the fact that I finally got the kitty condos off the front porch and the people-seating on.  The usual.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The Earth laughs in flowers.”

Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha !!!!!



If Jack-in-the-Pulpits are any indication, my yard is a veritable vegetation revival!  Nothing in the bulletin  tells  what the message is.  They’ve popped up in the front, the back, the side lawns.  They’ve out hustled even the ferns.  They’ve beaten the trilliums, hands down.  Wonder what got into them all of a sudden.  Maybe the ferocious cold that knocked off a bunch of the other stuff (at least one azalea, a rhododendron, my “Little Henry”—Itea  virginica—Virginia sweetspire, and who knows what else), has inspired the Jacks to new homiletic heights.  “Preach now!” I say.

Anyway, aside from letting the lawn get to near baling-height, I really have been out there putting in new stuff and trying to root out—literally– some of the unwanted stuff that has shown up.  I even spent time the other day over at the village maintenance building—after supervising the bridge reconstruction(How do those people manage without me?)—pulling out some of that invasive garlic mustard down along the creek.  There are places along there that are just a tad too steep for a refined type who will never see early middle age again but I did cause quite a lot of it to turn up little green toes and, presumably, die…we can only hope.

In my own patch, I’ve been digging out Sweet Violets.  They were an effort to cover up the ugly foundation of the old garage which must have been built somewhere in the late nineteen twenties or thirties ( I haven’t asked next-door neighbor John whose grandma lived in this house when it was first built.  She must have been a martyr)because it was only about as long as a Model A and had been added on to so as to accommodate a Nash Rambler or something.  The foundation, such as it was, featured refractory brick rejects from Harbison-Walker and a near-immortal forsythia bush and all of its relatives.  I thought violets would cover a multitude of sins and, besides, there’s that song, “Sweet Violets” that Dinah Shore—among others—recorded (Sweet violets, Sweeter than all the roses, Covered all over from head to toe, Covered all over with Sweet Violets)in 1951.  Not that a mere slip of a girl that I was at that time would remember.  A slightly raunchy version used to be sung on athletic team buses(girls’ teams…boys don’t sing stuff like this on buses) and it stuck in my mind, O.K.?  Be that as it may, when the new garage arrived and the addition to the house went up, dirt moved everywhere; I figured that that greenery was a goner and we’d start from scratch.  WRONG.

The violets showed up unannounced and proceeded to make a nuisance of themselves.  They’re NOT your usual “shrinking violet”.  THOSE violets are just fine with me.  The new guys have variegated leaves and they smell bad.  Variegation I can countenance, the smell bad part, not so much.  So they’ve been relegated to a patch on the east side where something is needed to anchor the slope and crowd out the  really weedy weeds, invasives and such.  The only thing that keeps them from sneaking back to their old haunts is to go after them with a trowel and take out as much root (They’re all interconnected) as possible.  Makes your hands smell bad.

The forsythia is resurrected as well but is so far under control.

Meanwhile, I’ve been plugging in some new plants, several of which I’ve never heard of or seen before, Tricyrtis Tojen and Tricyrtis Blue Wonder, for example.  Guaranteed to grow, it says on the package.  We’ll see about that.  It also says partial to full shade, which is just about all of my yard, especially in the back, and it says blooms late summer.  That makes them good to fill in between the tulips and the fall foliage.  All too often there’s kind of a lull when there’s nothing but green…which IS good but kind of boring.   The pictures on the packages make the blooms look almost orchid-like.  Whoa!  This is going to be big time competition for the Spring Beauties and the mystery flowers that look like disappointed tulips.

I bought some Lady’s Mantle at the Garden Club plant sale.  One of the reference sites called it Alchemilla mollis and one called it Alchemilla vulgaris; both of them said that it had medicinal properties but neither one was real specific about what it was supposed to be good for(Maybe the vulgaris part was a clue). Hang-overs?  Toothache?  Female troubles (Aren’t they men?)?  Anyway, it should have chartreuse flowers and perk up a boring spot.

My tomato plant looks promising.

The Eastern Wahooo that I got from the PCSWCD looks to be doing fine; the witch hazel should make it; the sassafras and Carolina beautyberry may soon be receiving last rites.  This “back-to-nature” bent can get kind of complicated.  The birds had just better appreciate the effort here next winter.

And speaking of birds….  DO NOT kiss your chickens.  The CDC indicates that this practice seems to have been the source of a number of outbreaks of Salmonella across the country, particularly in small-time ,backyard flocks (Perdue doesn’t kiss its chickens, I’ll bet…I sure wouldn’t).

Do chickens have lips?


Well, now, THERE was a week!

Elections on Tuesday.  It was heartening to see that our precinct (Garrettsville A) was up over the prediction of the Board of Elections, not much,  but every little bit helps.  I think that Garrettsville B was over too but I didn’t check.  It’s also neat to see so many former students whom I exhorted in the seventh grade to step up to their civic duty and vote(“If you don’t vote, you don’t complain.”)  Not that I can take all of the credit, their parents were there too.  So that was good…and the parks issue passed too…Whoopeee!

Then Wednesday I finally found an auction that I could get to, a biggie.  So, as it turned out I was NOT the only one who got that memo.  The cars and trucks were parked  on the side of Sheldon Rd. for probably three-quarters of a mile on either side of the driveway to the auction site.  The driveway itself was likely a quarter mile long, so anyone going to the sale got in a fair amount of exercise just getting there.  The notice in the paper said that the folks who had lived there were collectors and the notice did not lie; those people had a little bit of all kinds of things and a whole lot of some others.  Antique furniture,  pictures of horses, pictures of long-gone relatives(of somebody, who knows who), pictures of landscapes, there was even an advertising picture of “the Peerless Girl” (in driving attire—hat, duster, glasses—very elegant.)  one of a set of possibly twelve young ladies.   A new girl appeared every year with the new model Peerless automobile  until the Cleveland , Ohio company succumbed to the Great Depression.  Each one was a pretty spiffy-looking young lady just waiting for someone to come by in a Peerless automobile—Barney Oldfield, maybe?  He drove their Green Dragon racing car.  People collect the antique prints of the gals but no one has ever found a print of # 12, so she may not be out there.  Anyway, somebody got this one and it wasn’t me.

There were two auctioneers going at the same time which means that one has to scout around to try to determine where the most interesting stuff is located.  Plenty of evidence that the owners were, indeed, collectors.  I did spot some wooden boxes, some little stools and side tables, miscellaneous knick-knacks (Oh yeah, I need more of those!)worthy of some attention and just kept circulating.  One of the attractions of estate sales like this is that a person can wander around in somebody else’s house.  This was a very large new house, built to look like an old one.  One look at the bathrooms( Yes, more than one), the kitchen and the closets (One walk-in per bedroom, plus linen and storage) and it was totally clear that this was NOT an old house.  I paid no attention to the two or three tractors and/or garden tractors OR the Honda Element and went back to the watch on boxes.  The pile I had my eye on also had a wood and brass antique level in it.  That’s what caused the mix-up.

The auctioneer picked up the level, described it and started the bidding.  I thought that I was bidding on the whole pile.  HE was selling me the level.  Oops!  When I went to take away the pile, after having won the bid, it was pointed out to me that I had the level, not the boxes, and another bidder had purchased the boxes.  Awkward.  The auctioneer was good enough to cancel my transaction and resell the level; he didn’t have to do that, and later I approached the guy with the boxes and managed to get him to part with three of them that I wanted.  Look on my kitchen shelf for a container with the words “cultivated dew worm farm” printed on the side.

Then it was off to the band banquet and recognition ceremony on Wednesday evening and the school groundbreaking on Thursday.  Friday was open.  Whewww.

Saturday I was out and about taking pictures of the various demolition/construction projects around town—the Liberty Street bridge, the curbs on St. Rte 82, the Buckeye Block fire clean-up.  That last one did me in.

I’m walking around the back by the truncated former parking lot, outside the fence, when the reason for those heavy boots that the demo guys wear became crystal clear.  Yup, a nail—a rusty, grungy-dirty nail—came through the bottom of my tennis shoe.  Luckily, it just grazed the bottom of my foot but the red mark was not clearly distinguishable as either a wound or a bruise.  When was my last tetanus shot?  Good question.  Got no time for lockjaw.  Well, then, it’s off to Urgent Care.

Do not trust your telephone book in looking for such a facility.  They lie.  When friend Becky found the correct information online, I got the hours and took off…after having washed my foot and doused it with peroxide.  “Urgent Care” seems sort of like a misnomer.  Nobody there seemed to be into “urgent” at all.  The receptionist was totally pleasant, gave me papers to fill out, some people left; I was glad that I had brought the Reader’s Digest.  Nothing moved.

I was eventually ushered into an exam room which had the approximate temperature of a meat locker and eventually a diminutive South Asian-type physician came and looked at my foot , asked a few pertinent questions and went off to write a prescription for an antibiotic and to send in somebody else to give me a tetanus shot.  Have to say, the shot-giver was good at her job.  Minimal hurt.  No lingering ache.  Good to go.

Called my mother on Sunday.  Heard about the demise of her refrigerator and its imminent replacement.  Planted flowers.

I don’t think that the meeting of The Friends of the Library this week can hold a candle to all that.

We’ll see.


Open your mouth and say , “Aaaah”

Do physicians even DO that any more?  Well, according to an item in the Akron Beacon-Journal, you should not hand over your money before the doc sticks anything in your mouth.  That’s because  some researchers at New York University have discovered an absolutely stunning collection of bacteria,   viruses (Or viri?  Nope, virus has no plural in Latin), fungi (Now there’s a plural!) and plant pathogens on dollar bills… not to mention traces of anthrax and diphtheria.  YUK!  They uncovered—so to speak—all of this by using high-speed  gene sequencing and computerized data-base analysis on about 80  $1 bills from a Manhattan bank.  That George Washington you’re carrying around may have more than 3000 kinds of bacteria, your gateway to skin infections, stomach ulcers and other assorted afflictions of the flesh.  They found some 1.2 billion (Yes, that’s Billion) segments of DNA, about half traceable to humans.  Of the remaining material, about 20% could be identified.  O.K., that leaves 30%, give or take, not attributable to anything in particular.  Are we seeing  ALIENS panhandling on the corners here?  Yetis?  Abominable whatevers?  We’re talkin’  DIRTY money.

And in that same vein…you should pardon the expression… the latest news in competition sports is the Tough Mudders.  One description of the “sport” goes like this : “Tough Mudders are hardcore 10-12 mile(18-20 km) obstacle course challenges designed to test strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie—probably the toughest event on the planet.”  Oy!

A  couple of guys founded the whole thing in 2010, got about 4500 nutjobs to participate and it’s grown from there.  A rough estimate of the number of crazies having taken part so far hovers in the neighborhood of 1.3 million.  In 2013 the number of players reached somewhere around 700,000.  The company (What, you thought it was just a bunch of guys—it’s always guys, right?—who get together to get “down & dirty” crawling through mud and ice water?) which organizes and officially sanctions events is worth $70 million and has classified the competitions as Arena, Backwoods, Open Range, Off-road, , Mountain and Muscle.

The twenty to twenty-five different obstacles are presented as challenges to some of humans’ greatest fears—fire, water, electricity, height.  About seventy-eight per cent    of competitors finish the course.  Depending upon the course, a player can be facing dangling live electric wires, vats of ice chunks, water and other substances you don’t want to know about, greased monkey bars over ice pits, walls to scale, pipes to crawl through, planks to walk.  Oh, it’s a lot of fun!

Both individual and team competitions are part of the deal; male and female “Tough Mudders”   get into the thing but the predominance goes, of course, goes to the guys(Female “mudders” are already tough).  There are sponsors sometimes—Under Armor, Degree (Wouldn’t you know a deodorant would get into it?), Bic (What?  To take notes?), Wheaties (These pictures will NOT make the front of the cereal box), Dos Equis, Clif Bar—and usually some kind of a charity affiliation, often military-related.  Prizes are popping up occasionally.

And how’s all of this like the money?  All good clean fun, right?

Well, there seems to have been an outbreak, O.K. maybe more than one outbreak, of some really, really ugly intestinal disorders, caused by norovirus, for one.  This may have something to do with the fact that at least one of the competitions was WAY too close to an agricultural installation  and the mud involved was, shall we say, enhanced by unplanned substances.  Then, of course, you never know what that dude suffering next to you was infected with before the two of you were submerged in ice water.  DO NOT swallow the mud!

And, lastly, on the medical front– SPOILER ALERT for Prince Charming—it is now possible  to get what some podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons are calling “Cinderella surgery”.  “If the shoe fits, wear it,” has gone to a whole new level.

Women—wealthy ones, anyway– are having surgeries to make their feet fit their shoes, not the other way around.  Manolo Blahnik, Nicholas Kirkwood, Christian Louboutin, all high-end shoe designers, have opened  economic horizons for the medical profession by designing shoes that women cannot wear without either pain or reshaping of their feet.  Got “high heel foot”, “hitchhiker toe”, “toebesity”?  This can be dealt with  by getting a Perfect 10 (toe shortening), a Model T (toe lengthening) or a foot tuck(fat pad augmentation).  Don’t EVEN call it a bunionectomy any more.  It’s a “facelift for your feet” so you can fit into heels.  Don’t go for toe liposuction or pinky toe removal, those are stepping pretty close to unethical.  The originator of these procedures, Dr. Ali Sadrieh, says that it’s about a lifestyle choice and projecting confidence; a hallux valgus correction with osteotomy and screw fixation means that one can put on and wear a shoe that did not fit comfortably before.  What IS a stiletto after all, but a knife?

Ugly stepsisters, here’s your chance!


Once, many years ago, I ran across a book with the title, Hollywood Is A Kosher Nutburger.  I think that I read it but who knows.  At any rate, it struck me that it was a fine shorthand for “This place is nuts!”

Well, the news lately—internet, the comics,  the news pages, magazines—all of it, is proof that  while time may march on, things are still really STRANGE!  For example:

New research has revealed that , monthly, Google has been used to find out “how to hide a dead body” at least 1000 times; “how to get away with murder” came up 1900 times and… the winnah is…40,500 queries on “why did I get married?”  Now there’s a “Dear Abby”  moment for you!  Might want to pair these pieces of information with a new app called Cloak which will alert you, via your cell phone or other mobile device, that your ex-friends, ex-lovers, bill collectors or other personally undesirable individuals are in the neighborhood.

Also having to do with, the internet, I got some kind of a scam thing going on which, when I hit the “information” button, took me to a website for Hildegardisschool, a Dutch elementary building in the Netherlands. Nothing wrong with little Dutch boys (Don’t they make paint?) and girls(She did cleansing powder, right?) but their connection with Bank of America must be tenuous, at best.

There’s a model somewhere out in La-La Land who’s suing Playboy Magazine and a Los Angeles radio host for “pain, suffering, worry and anxiety” because the dude was, apparently, not quite the golfer he thought he was when he attempted to hit a golf ball teed up on the young lady’s nether parts…he missed   and left her good side in bad shape.  She protests that she never thought(Well, duh, that’s obvious) that he would actually try to hit the ball.  Playboy sponsored whatever very refined event it was where this exhibition took place.  She’s seeking $500,000, according to a snippet in The Week magazine.

Here’s an interesting heads-up from aol news oddments about some of the more unusual names being given to children recently.  I’d read   the “Nevaeh” (Heaven, backwards) before but this one was ‘way past that.  What was it? Zzyxz.  Yup, Zzyxy.  How about them apples(That’s what Natalie Portman  named her little child, isn’t it? I think her other one is Moses.  Not so bad).  There’s a teacher’s nightmare, having a kid with a name like that show up on the roster with no clue how to pronounce it.  Now, personally, I would guess that Zzyxz would be pronounced “Zicks”, but the entry for this particular christening curse is to be “Zay zix” .  That better for you?  Good grief!  The things that people will do to poor defenseless children!

How about deep sea diving in a wheelchair?  Got to give the lady doing this particular challenge credit for guts but I’m a little confused as to the point of it all.  Sort of falls into the “Annie Oakley” song “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” category, I would think.

And the things that you can find in the dictionary!

How about emetiphobia?  Wikipedia defines this as “an intense, irrational fear of or pertaining to vomiting.  Well, there you go!  Who hasn’t wrestled (sometimes   literally) with that one while waiting in the wings to do something that you got finagled into or foolishly agreed to (Just like the model above) never dreaming that it would come to THIS.  Sub categories include being at a VERY posh occasion with a touch of “Delhi Belly” or “Montezuma’s Revenge”.  What’s so irrational about that?  One researcher says that some people afflicted thus have trouble “comfortably leading a normal life .”  D’ya THINK?

And finally, I’ll bet that al most everybody out there has, at some time, suffered through a bout of sphenopalatine  ganglioneuralgia.  And you didn’t even know what it was!  You did know that it hurt, however, as you slurped up that ice cream cone after winning the ballgame or bit into a big chunk of DQ ice cream cake or chugged  a Slurpee from the Seven –Eleven.  Yup.  It’s the brain freeze, caused by super-cooling the back of your throat where there’s a whole pack of nerves that go straight to pain receptors in your brain.  Just like the express line, no waiting!

There’s more where this all came from.  Stay tuned.

This could be a vegan Bar-B-Q


O.K., it’s Thursday, this must be springtime.

Holy cow!  What a wild one!  Haul out the long johns, Maudie, the daffodils done froze!  And what does the Old Farmer say?  Not much.  But you’ll be happy to know that on April  18, 2009, Aaron Caissie set a world record by balancing 17 spoons on his face.  Now there is a skill set!

I went out last week —one of the times when it was warm, remember—to poke around in the back yard to assess what might need to be done, and  I have decided that this place is a big-time cafeteria setting.  There are nut trees in the back, so the squirrels, when they’re not raiding the bird feeders, are sitting on various branches( front OR back yard) to chow down and fling their remainder nutshells all about; they litter.  But HOW do they get those shells open?  Walnuts, butternuts, hickory nuts…they’re all pretty tough to crack without the use of an iron anvil and a major hammer.  Yet the squirrel, and maybe a chipmunk or two, can get those buggers open using just their little, spidery fingers/toes…in addition to some prodigious teeth.  What’s THAT about?  Lots of the shells show up with gnawed      holes in them but plenty are just perfectly halved with the insides gone.  I often save them, just because I think that they are so elegant-looking.  What a design!  Rough on the outside, smooth on the inside, curved and mysterious.  Had I any rustic craft chops, I would surely mount some sort of a display but so far, I’m just collecting.

Anyway, I’m out pulling up invasive plants—there are more of them all of the time, it seems, result of “global connections”, no doubt…that and STUPID people, the same ones that have Burmese pythons as pets then when the reptiles get too big(that would be about six inches, in my book) they turn them loose in the Everglades, where they have no predators and proceed to terrorize and devour the native flora and fauna and grow to enormous size—and a mosquito(family : Culicidae) who had waked especially for the occasion settled down for a sip of my vital fluids made the mistake of stomping his feet hard enough that I actually noticed him.  Smack!  End of meal.

The forget-me-nots are coming out to take the place of the crocuses, which are on their last legs.  The snowdrops must be chuckling at the recent turn of events…either chuckling or shivering.  The spring beauties are showing up in singles and pairs, scattered around.  Some little blue-flowered spikes have appeared in places that I did not put them.  The two volunteer Easter lilies have just peeked their shoots up to get the lay of the land but they are surely not going to make it to see The Bunny any time soon.  There seem to be some ex officio excavations around where SOME critter has dug up bulbs for a midnight, or mid winter, snack of some sort.  Not much like cold pizza but, hey, no delivery charges.

The flowering crabapples to the west of the drive apparently were not to the taste of any of the local scavengers; the deflated fruit is lying around on the ground.  SOMEBODY must eat them eventually, otherwise, I’d have little tree-lets all over the place.  So far, this has not happened but I’m keeping my eyes on the possibility.  The berry bushes must be supporting  wildlife of some kind, because I sure didn’t get a single pie’s worth last season.  Some of them were attacked by a mosaic mildew infestation, which I hope to get rid of at some point.  In the meantime, I’m still looking for pick-your-own patches to restock my freezer.

Pussy willows are showing their catkins .

Speaking of which…anybody want a kitten?  One of the porch kitties is doing a calico caricature of the Goodyear Blimp and looks as though we’re going to hear the pitter-patter of little paws pretty soon.  She’d love to sneak inside to make her maternal donation but so far I’ve managed to shut the door fast enough to forestall that ambition.  The local candidate for paternity seems to be mostly black but there are also gray tiger and pale orange/ginger ardent swains in the neighborhood.  Heck, she could have been hooking up on Face Book, for all I know.  Adoption line forms to the left.

Not long ‘til May.  Go to a track meet.  Plant a tree.


This is about the Portage County Park District, first in what will probably be a series of rants.

Portage County DOES HAVE a park district. CATCH : Over 800 A of the land comprising the district are currently inaccessible because of a lack of funds.  The budget has been severely cut, with the 2014 revenues projected to be only $99,500 to manage 1300 A of parkland and 14 miles of hike and bike trails.  To paraphrase Barney Dyer who witnessed the famous Ravenna Glassblowers’ Wreck, where two trains got on the same track, heading for each other, with predictably disastrous results, “That’s a helluva way to run a park system!”

Our neighbors to the north in Geauga County have a marvelous system, with programs for all age and mobility levels, seasonal attractions and programs, inviting trails and structures, professional staff.  To the west, Summit County co-ordinates with the CVNP (Cuyahoga Valley National Park) to offer its citizens a multitude of outdoor experiences and programs, managed and protected by a professional staff.  Further to the west, in Lorain County, my home stomping grounds, there are parks from the Lake (Erie) to the southern flatlands along the Black River, with lodges available for local activities and varieties of programs.  People USE these.  They hike, they run, they camp, they picnic, they fish, they canoe/paddle around, they learn and enjoy.

Portage County could do the same but it must provide reliable financial support for the system.  One full-time (the remarkable director, Chris Craycroft) and two part-time employees cannot do everything that needs to be done…but they’ve already done an amazing amount, working with volunteers and garnering grants from all over the place to keep things going.  Even such efforts cannot carry the whole load forever.

What is the load?

1.Towner’s Woods  2. Dix Park  3. Portage Bike and Hike Trail  4. Headwaters Trail  5. Breakneck Creek Preserve  6. Chagrin Headwaters Preserve  7. Walter Preserve  8. Camp Spelman  9. Gray Birch Bog Preserve  10. Seneca Ponds Park  11. Dix Preserve  12. Morgan Preserve  13.  Berlin Lake Trail  14. Red Fox boat access—Upper Cuyahoga State Scenic River  15. Frank lin Bog Preserve

Some…most… are open only for guided tours.  Some contain biologically important water features and significant vegetation found   in not very many places.  Some have most of the features—picnic shelters and grills, special events, fishing, cross-country skiing, trails for all seasons, etc.—that encourage participation in outdoor activities.  There could be more, but not unless there is a reliable funding source.

Not to put too fine a point on it, our governor and legislature have about  sprained their collective arms giving themselves a pat on the back for “balancing the budget” and giving Ohio a “rainy day fund” but they have done this by slashing local government funds(Ask your township trustees, county commissioners, mayors & councilpersons… or school boards, they got stiffed too), so that the state of Ohio is sitting on about $8 billion while all of us out in the fly-over country are looking at constant   requests for passage of levies for things that we want and things that we  had thought we would get help for from Columbus.  Nope.

So…If we could just see our way clear to give up, maybe one, maybe two pizzas over the course of the year, WE COULD DO THIS!  Sounds like a deal!

We could even get out and USE this asset as it expands.  And maybe we wouldn’t personally expand the way we have been.  Right, Wide-Load?

For Fun…

For Health…

For Life…



May 6, 2014


April showers bring May flowers, eh?

Somebody alert the providers of floral items.  They’re either going to be left twiddling their thumbs because the general public is inundated by blooms of exotic sizes and descriptions springing up along every highway and by-way or their own backyards…or…there will be wholesalers of flowers lurking around corners trying to off-load cheap orchid and baby’s breath that they just happen to have a truckload of in a back alley somewhere.  “Hey, little girl, want some real cool Dianthus barbatus?  Try it, you’ll like it.  Give it to your friends.  I’ll come back tomorrow.  Bring your lunch money.”

So this week you could celebrate the one hundred forty-second anniversary of the first Arbor Day, begun in Nebraska—where they really needed trees—in 1872(If you don’t count Villanueva de la Sierra in Spain in 1805).  J. Sterling Morton was the organizer of that first event and over one million trees were planted in Nebraska.  Later, Major Israel McCreight of DuBois, PA, after listening to Theodore Roosevelt’s speaking of his interest in conservation and a national park system, declared that the speeches shouldn’t be directed  only at businessmen, but at schoolchildren.  Gifford Pinchot, head of the United States Forest Service, picked up that ball and ran with it.  On April 15, 1907, Roosevelt issued         the Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States about the importance of trees.

You might want to try planting a bald cypress.  They like moist soil.  We’ve got that.

Anyway, check with your local county Soil and Water Conservation District(Every county’s got one, I think.);they’ve got evergreens, deciduous trees, shrubs, flowering & fruiting trees( lots of native plants) at good prices.  Some get sold out early, some get left over and can be picked up for a song.  Last year I got American Chestnut whips and a subscription to the Ohio Nut Growers Association magazine, “In A Nutshell”.  No smart remarks, please.  Just reading about the plants and their characteristics is really interesting.

You can get fish too.  Might need them for the back forty.


Out like a lamb?  Maybe a drippy-wet lamb.  Maybe a lamb looking up at the occasional flurries and possible thunderstorms lurking in the wings next  week.  Baaaa! Enjoy it while you can.  Quoting The Old Farmer’s Almanac here, “Showers often; the earth softens.  Sunny and sweet.  Watch out for sleet!”

Sounds  like Winter : Lite to me; a sunnier version of what we’ve had going on since November or so.  The next entry is, “Dry feet.  (around Palm Sunday) A soaking, no joking!  Peepers croaking (Easter)” Well, we have THAT to look forward to.  Those participating in Easter egg hunts might want to bring along a minnow net.  The summer map predicts a hot and dry summer in our area but the specifics of May look pretty damp.  Methinks the Old Farmer is hedging his bets.

I have got bulbs of various sorts that desperately need to get out and sink their little green toes in the dirt—have to wait until the dirt thaws.  I have snowdrops lifting  their shy little heads and looking around the front lawn.  There are two clumps of golden crocus (croci? crocuses?) and one anti-social singleton out there.  I finally took down the Christmas wreath on the front porch pillar.  Spring must surely be here.

“You can step on the flowers but you can never delay the Spring.”—Pablo Neruda

Looking through my latest spring issue of Popular Science , I’ve spotted a number of interesting items on the page revealing new products available.

How about a transportation gizmo that looks “like the love child of a motorcycle and a unicycle.”  Called the Ryno, it’s a single wheel with a seat and handlebars; a gyroscope and accelerometers (whatever they are) keep the rider upright.  Speeds up to 10mph may be reached by leaning forward.  What a hoot!  Can you just see people buzzing around town on these machines?  No mention of how many miles per gallon but it would have to be amazing.  Don’t believe they’re quite “Turnpike-ready” but a little plaza-cruising would not be out of the question.  Drag racing with riders really dragging off the machines running  on their own!  $5300

The world’s first beer-flavored jelly beans have been produced by the Jelly Belly people.  It is, apparently, a Hefeweizen-style confection, has no alcohol, and can be paired with a Red Apple jelly bean to approximate  an apple cider shandy(beer mixed with apple juice or a soft drink or lemonade, popular in Germany).  You won’t see a Budweiser commercial for this one next Super Bowl.  $8.99/lb.

Here’s something that you didn’t know that you needed, a cubic rubber band, made by Nendo.  Right, it looks like one of those illustrations in the plain geometry textbook.  There was no indication of how big it is, no scale but PS did comment that it was easier to pick up than the standard round rubber one.  Also mentioned that it might be difficult to shoot the thing.  Too bad, little boys!  $10 (No mention o whether this was for just one or a box of the little buggers, the way rubber bands are usually sold)

How about the Flir One, a thermal imaging device for the iPhone which detects infrared energy from 32 degrees to 212 degrees (freezing to boiling).  Suggested uses include seeing in the dark, locating heat loss (energy assessments, like around doors and windows to determine  ways to reduce your energy use) and cheating at hide and seek.

And, finally, the latest from Kings Island, The Banshee.  This is the world’s longest inverted roller coaster.  Oy! Speaking as one who gets dizzy and suffers from borderline vertigo just looking out of a second story window( I passed up the opportunity to go up in Seattle’s Space Needle and the CN Tower in Toronto.  I was clutching nearby structures at the time), I don’t think that this will be on my summer plans.  Speeds of up to 68mph can be reached (not by me!) in a transit time of approximately two minutes and 40 seconds.  Zoweeee!  No wonder they named it the Banshee (In Irish folklore, a woman who starts to wail when someone is about to die; a messenger from the underworld; a keening woman whose wail can be so piercing that it shatters glass).  The one about to die would be me, were I to, somehow,  be put aboard such a ride from—and to– the pit of Hades.  I have to be with a particularly charming child to get on a carousel, even with a Joe Leonard-carved horse.  The last such contraption that I was on was dubbed the “WildMouse”  and was just about the size you’d imagine with such a name.  Small children ride the roller coaster and wave their hands in the air; I stand on the ground and quiver just watching.EEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!


Maplewood, beware!

I’m thinking that the cats—at least some of them—need occupational/vocational counseling.

One of the guys(It’s always the guys)apparently thinks that he is a watchcat, protecting us all from  dangerous gray tiger cats out on the back porch.  He pays no attention at all to the calico incipiently-maternal feline that appears on the front porch.  When  he spots this gray interloper looking in the window, he growls in the fiercest possible manner, from somewhere south of his liver and paces along the top of the handy chair back, hurling threats and imprecations at this creature that had DARED to look in the window.  Sometimes he yowls really loudly and runs to  another window to repeat the whole thing…maybe he’s trying to give the impression that there is a whole cat posse inside here  just itching to get out and make short work of the trespasser.

However, if I open the door, guess who takes off and heads for far parts?  Got it in one.

Then there’s some individual here who is laboring under the delusion that he, or maybe she, is a florist or horticulturist of some sort.  I bought flowers, see, just  because the place could use  some color and some illusion that winter might come to an end someday.   Company was coming and while running the  vacuum was a necessity, it wasn’t real uplifting…so…flowers.  They were O.K. as long as there were people in the house but under cover of darkness, SOMEBODY removed the baby’s breath and fern and the flower buds and blossoms from the vases and strewed them artistically across the top of the buffet and down on the carpet; different  arrangements on different occasions  You haven’t lived until you’ve stepped on something small and soft  and unmoving… in the dark.  It’s a wake-up call, for sure.  This happens every time there are flowers are in the house.  Somebody else is chewing off the leaves on a shamrock plant(Not much Luck of the Irish here) but the miniature daffodils are safe, so far.  The escapades have continued from poinsettias to primroses and roses.  Whoever is doing this is not picky, just determined.  Anything green is regarded as a challenge.

Then again, there’s somebody  around here who is , perhaps, pursuing a career in writing or in interior decorating.  Pens move around.  Papers travel.  The lid to the kitty water fountain downstairs keeps moving off to new locales and the cat food cups can’t be counted on to stay in the same place for more than a day or two.  I don’t use them, honest. I wouldn’t even mind all of this movement, if I could just count on them to clean up once in a while.  Not happening.   One of them has taken to curling up in the bottoms of the drapes.  Certainly picturesque but not really helpful.  A couple, the older ones, I think, make  a point of watching for my return by sitting in the window and watching for the headlights.  This is why the front windows have got nose prints.  The back door has got paw prints, from the littlest guy standing up on his back legs and scratching away at the glass to let me know that he wants out—NOW!  He’s really good at making known his desire to come back in too.  He just stands there staring in…staring with yellow eyes and real intensity.  Never takes very long to get my attention.   This is a smart cat.  When it was REALLY cold, he would go to the door  to be let out and I would go and open the door.  He would put maybe one paw out into the frigidity then turn around, come back in and give me a look which was clearly meant to say, “Are you kidding me?”  Nope.  Still COLD.

And we won’t even start on the soccer players… the balls have bells..games at night.


The first department store in Portage County (Chic & Shabby/the Root Store)transformed into a  source for home decorating with a distinctive touch…a craftsman fascinated by and devoted to clocks… a fledgling lawyer, an experienced attorney…the Barber of G-Ville…lawn and garden equipment gurus…a quilt shop drawing craft persons  from all over the state and beyond…a podiatrist…an audiologist…a community food cupboard offering a lifeline to community members in difficulty…tools for every need and every handyman…a dream-come-true shop full of one-of-a-kind items, fun to own, fun to sell…memories…gone.

The Oxford English Dictionary has just come out with its quarterly revisions and additions.  Some nine hundred new words and phrases have now been deemed worthy to grace its pages, some of them pretty far out there.  How often do you wish to know the meaning of Empedoclean? ( Don’t go there.  It’s about some Greek philosopher dude named Empedocles who posited  the theory that all matter was made up of four elements—earth, air, fire, water—and has morphed into a new Empedoclean Evolution theory where change is caused by attraction and repulsion.  It is also connected—somehow—to a so-called Project Mayhem featuring—would I make this up?—Chaos and Pain.   Sounds attractive, eh?)

The Old Farmer says of the month of March (and I quote), “In like a sea lion, cold and wet with fishy breath. Rain to snow and snow to rain—di-si-do and back again!  This month can’t be trusted; the hinge of spring has rusted.”

Mardi Gras, that is.  Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, beginning of the Lenten season.  Carnavale, Carnival, Carnaval, Karneval, Faschtnact/Fasching…whatever your ethnic background, if there’s a shot of Catholic in there anywhere (or even if there’s no Catholicism but a lot of fun-lovers), you may be acquainted with Mardi Gras, one way or another.

SANK!  The word is SANK!  The past  tense of “sink”  is “sank”…”sank”, not “sunk”.  “Sunk” is the perfect tense, which is either being shamefully abused or ignored most of the time by people who ought to know better.  If I have to listen to some talking head on a TV screen or hear a faux-authoritative voice on the radio tell me, “That-there ark Mr. Noah was buildin’ just up ‘n’ sunk on the way to Mt Ararat this mornin’”, I’m likely to scream…as I have been known to do upon other occasions.  Whole bunches of other words have lost any connection to their past, present and future tenses as well.  The word “might” has been kicked unceremoniously aside for the use of the word “may”.  It makes me crazy.

Well, here we go again.  The Mayan “end of the world” didn’t pan out, so, now we can look forward to the Viking Apocalypse.

It seems that in some enormously long poem in Norse mythology written in the 13th century by( Here’s a name to conjure with) Snorri Sturlson, the gods of just about everything and nothing have a whopper of a fight, incorporating three roosters, a giant hound, ravens, eagles, a huge wolf(which eats the sun), a serpent and Lord-only-knows how many other creatures.  The narrative goes on with a fire-breathing dragon and—here’s the connection—the Fimbulnetr, Mighty Winter.  In fact, there are three winters without a summer and just about everyone and everything  go off to hell in a handbasket .  Those Vikings!  What a bunch of fun-lovers!

Well, it inspired Richard Wagner (Twilight of the Gods and all that).

And it sounds like an advertising ploy for some crowd in York, England at the Viking Center where the Jorvik Viking Festival was going on last weekend (February  21-23).  They claim to believe that THE moment will be on February 22 .  Heck, it’s as believable as most of the other end-of-the-world prophecies so far.  And we’ve got the winter part.  Polar Vortices “R” Us!

So it’s a good thing that I went to the Great Big Home and Garden Show before that.  Not a Viking in sight but plenty of other interesting things…beginning with the weather.  It was warm enough that I took my coat off and left it in the car.  When was the last time anybody could do that without risking frostbite?  The I-X Center was in the Goldilocks Zone—not too hot, not too cold, just right—and lots of attendees were without the heavy coats to which we’ve all become accustomed.  Refreshing, I calls it.

The BIG landscape  and outdoor design firms were not totally able to persuade all of the plants in their displays that it really, really WAS actually spring outside.  The primroses fell for that line but a lot of the  shrubs and bushes weren’t buying it; their buds were pretty tightly furled and not terribly green.  There was, as usual, a lot of water,  splashing from fountains, burbling along in faux brooks, trickling over pebbles.  Good thing the restrooms are nearby.  These large companies all adopted themes for their displays—Sicily, Tuscany, etc.  A couple of them decided to get real and went with “Ohio Beer Garden”—co-operating with the Great Lakes Brewing Company—and “Backyard Barbeque”.  Another had a wall-mounted concrete dining table inset with rectangular plots for growing herbs.  You’d have to watch where you put your bread plate but you could use your fork for weeding after dessert.  The really interesting one was the genuine rock garden that had mushrooms made out of some bizarre stone formation mounted on concrete bases—fun fungi.  The Lorain County JVS had a fine entry, the only non-professional one, I think(Over in the Student Model Home Design competition,  Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent carried the local flag).  My work as a proofreader is never done.  I notified a pair of workers at the semi-outdoor bistro serving lovely meals in the garden section that someone should check the spelling on their boards advertising the fare available.  I can sort of understand missing  pancetta, it’s  Italian bacon that not everyone has ever seen or heard of, but leaving a “p” out of peppers is NOT acceptable and “carmel”( a place in California) is NOT the same as “caramel” (a beige to dark brown confectionery product made by heating any of a variety of sugars—flavoring, filling, topping), as in caramelized onions.  They seemed puzzled that anyone noticed.

As usual, the variety of entries was simply amazing and I set off to see them all…got pretty close.  Full disclosure : I do NOT do Ferris wheels.  The whole, vast space is divided, more or less, into four sections : (1) construction, remodeling & renovation, (2)lawn, garden & outdoor, (3) home décor, household products& services; lifestyle, wellness & recreation (4) arts & crafts, with the Playground World in the center.

The Closet Factory was showing off closet designs that were bigger than my entire bedroom.  There were samples of worm dirt—honest, worm dirt—available in the gardening section, also cute little packets of heirloom seeds of all sorts.  In a triumph of hope over good sense, I purchased several of these, beguiled by the fact that many of them say, “A cold period and light are necessary for germination.” “We’ve got that,”  I said to myself, ignoring the information that  at least 6 hours of full sun per day is also necessary for full growth and my yard could be a playground for vampires, since the sun does not shine there all that often.  Then again, we could just take out all of the trees and replace them with the metal palms—quite fetching ones—available at one spot.  Pettiti’s was sponsoring a fellow speaking about straw-bale gardening—he wrote a book—that looked interesting; it was well-attended by Yankees and Amish alike.  I should have purchased the book.

One of the places that caused a chuckle was the display of Inada massage chairs.  I was heading up an aisle when I looked to my left and there was a array of 15 or so chairs, all with people in them, smiling.  Men, women, Amish, Yankee, older, younger, all looking happy.  One Amish gentleman who , reluctantly, climbed out of one of the chairs and said to me, as he put on his boots, “If I could run one, I’d buy one of those.”  I could run one but I couldn’t afford it.  Would have to put an addition on the house to keep it in; it’s not exactly something that you’d put in the living room.  Looks a little like a torture device.  I tried one out.  I smiled.

Sometimes bon appetit, the 0h-so-upscale cooking magazine, is just too much.
They just assume that everyone has access to—and a budget for—artisan cheeses and spirits, baby organic lettuces, at least four different varieties of milk…and we don’t mean simply whole, skim, 2% and buttermilk…oh no.  You’re deprived unless the shelves boast the lactic fluid of cows, goats and maybe the wild ibex.  There must be soy milk (tough to squeeze those little guys), almond milk (This is a revival from the Middle Ages when nobody had refrigeration and cow’s milk had, basically, no shelf life at all.  Almond milk could be created from ground almonds and water, still no easily-available ingredient at your local castle), coconut milk, rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk(!), or even kefir, a fermented milk product claimed to be pro-biotic (Good for you and your personal internal digestive flora.).    Whole grains of every shape, size and source, honey from Mt. Whatzit, imported Himalayan pink salt…bon appétit loves them all and demands that you have them at your fingertips to follow their recipes.  We won’t even go into the specialized cooking utensils; Martha Stewart is just the same—2” biscuit cutters. 3” biscuit cutters , 11” pans, 14” pans, 6” tart pans, metates—gotta have them all, no substitutions.

Don’t you just every so often look out the window or open the door or read the weather forecast and feel like the little boy  on the  internet the other day?  The little guy must have been about four years old, bundled up to a fare-thee-well in mittens, hat , snowsuit and he was out shoveling snow, clearing the sidewalk or something, the snow was close to knee-high on him, the snow shovel was about as big as he could handle and the flurries were still swirling around.  That’s the picture on the video.  The sound portion was a hoot.  

Curse that groundhog!

Well, it does depend on which groundhog you are going to believe.  The storied Punxsutawney Phil, of Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania, according to his “handler” (like a sports agent, I guess) interrupted his long winter’s nap, peered out of his burrow and predicted six more weeks of winter.  This would NOT be hard to do, given our experiences lately.  On the other hand, our own in-state Marmota monax, Buckeye Chuck, who resides—or burrows—over by Marion, county seat of Marion County, looked out and apparently thought otherwise and indicates that we should be  readying our cruisewear and Speedos for the sunny seasons on the way, chop-chop.  I’m thinking that I will not put away the PolarFleece skivvies just yet.  Ditto for the ultra-soft, lotion-infused tissues.

File under “Sorry we missed this one.”

New Years celebrators in London this New Year’s Eve were treated to  an interesting array of flavored fun-type  festivity-promoters.  Indeed! There was banana-flavored confetti, there were orange-scented bubbles, peach-flavored snow, for starters.  Mercy! 

Here’s your chance to investigate the Mpemba Effect.  There’s a video of some Canadian dude on the internet performing this interesting experiment.  He takes a hard plastic water gun (A Nerf weapon would probably not work; you’ll see why)sucks up boiling water into it (That’s why you use hard plastic) and squirts  the water out into the air. The air, which is just as cold as ours has been, maybe colder, instantly froze the steam into an icy mist almost like snow—instantly.  There’s another one where somebody just flings cupfuls of boiling water out into frigid air.  Same thing happens.

Physicists  and scientists of every stripe, since Aristotle and Francis Bacon, have been arguing about whether and how and why warmer  water will sometimes freeze faster than colder water.  That’s the essence of the Mpemba Effect(Named for Erasto Mpemba of Tanzania, who was a school boy at the time he and a visiting  professor put forward their theory), the assertion that, in some circumstances, warmer water can freeze faster than colder water.  They still haven’t figured it out, though there are plenty of thoughts on the subject.

Fun to watch, in any case.

Sports Illustrated reports that there is now a “Smart Sensor” basketball(94Fifty) full of God-only-knows what kind of sensors, nine of  ‘em, complete with circuit board, battery pack and Bluetooth relay—don’t ask—which will  do amazing things for your mastery of the game.  These sensors are processing whatever it is that’s happening with the ball, at your direction, of course, and they’re doing it in milliseconds…as opposed to your coach yelling from the sidelines, presumably.   The sensors recharge as the ball sits on its very own pedestal. This gizmo can  measure backspin and arc on the ball and analyze the ballhandling being utilized, then spit it out at you from your cell phone or other PDA( personal digital assistant).  The voice that does this is said to resemble that of the President of the U.S.   New applications  and programs are just waiting to be developed by some pointy-headed computer dudes.  

Now that the clock tower lights are lit, Santa has made the first of his (many) local appearances…for lunch, for breakfast, for pizza, etc….it’s time to get down to some serious shopping—preferably local, but wandering off into the exotic every so often.

So, in pursuit of exotica (Try looking that up on the internet some times; Sears & Roebuck , it ain’t), I looked in some recent publications for inspiration.  A couple of the items located were more likely to bring about palpitations than inspiration….  But I digress (and aren’t you surprised to find THAT out?).

I love the Old Farmer’s Almanac…I don’t necessarily take it as gospel but I do love the miscellany of STUFF that is in it.  It is a veritable FOUNT of KNOWLEDGE of various off-beat and semi-useful pieces of information.  I say semi-useful because some of the wisdom that this publication imparts, I would rather not have to actually have anything to do with like the advice on how to break up an animal fight (Cat-scratch fever is real, folks).  I have to admit that I really don’t understand all of the astronomical calculations and tables that are the basis for the weather predictions that It is known for.  I can grasp the hours of sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset; I can even determine what zodiac sign is being  highlighted as the location of these celestial travels but I’ll be dipped if I know what the declination of the sun is or whether I care much about the high tides in Boston(The whole thing was originally intended for the east coast; in fact, the front page says, ”Fitted for Boston and the New England states, with special corrections and calculations to answer for all the United States.” )

AND…just in case you’ve been obsessing about the Comet ISON(International Scientific Optical Network—used by some Russian astronomers to first locate this fast-moving wonder) the one thing that most astronomers actually agree on is that it is highly unlikely to slam into the Earth, smashing us all to smithereens…that and the fact that nobody around right now is likely to ever see it again, because it’s heading back out to the Oort Cloud from which it came, out on the fringes of the solar system.  It may or may not survive its perilously close elliptical path around the Sun; it may well be moving at a mind-boggling speed of 828,000 miles per hour.

There ARE drawbacks to having a warm spell this late in the year.  Yes, indeed.

So…I’m sitting in the living room reading the paper; it’s a breezy, balmy (for November, anyway)fifty-something, sixty-something outside.  The room is pleasantly warm enough.  It’s evening, getting dark, I’m thinking about getting to bed early after a day that started fairly early for a weekend.

Then I looked at the cat.  The cat was staring at something in back of me.  They do that.  No wonder some people frequently connect felines with messages from the Great Beyond.  The only thing in back of me was the bookcase adorned with family pictures, some of my wooden boxes–the better-looking ones–and  a few pieces of favorite memorabilia.  None of these things were moving.  What was the cat looking at?  Well, I’m sure I don’t know but that’s when I heard the noise.

The computer strikes again!  Here I am typing away  at my keyboard-in-the-corner, writing  what I’m hoping will be more-or-less reproduced below and—WHAM!  It all disappeared.  Gone! Gone!  Nowhere to be found(Not that I could find it anyway, technological klutz that I am).  Nearly a page of deathless prose lost into the ether of cyberspace.  What’s REALLY irritating about it is that I had started the piece the night before—not something that I often do, being a world-class procrastinator—so that I could have a little “down time” and not be rushed into doing a bunch of the stuff that I suddenly find that I have to do that I had not planned for.  And now this! Grrrrr!  What follows is a reconstruction, to the best of my recollection, of my this-year entry for the Pulitzer Prize.  If the award does not come my way, I’m, blaming it on this glitch.

Weeding and quite a number of other garden/lawn tasks are so essentially mindless that they offer “quality time” for pondering totally unrelated topics that  may have “gotten under my skin”, “stuck in my craw(What IS a craw, anyway?)”, “graveled my gizzard”, “frayed my last nerve”…whatever idiomatic expression you might prefer.  So I’ve been using the time, perhaps not wisely, but well enough.  To wit :

Please pass the rambutan.

Right.  I didn’t know what it was either but it was mentioned in a recent filler article in the R-C.  I’m not sure what’s behind it but there seems to be a rash of “record-setting” events and/or activities of all kinds that seem to be, basically, pointless.  I imagine that the folks down at Guiness must get a tad tired of it all when they get calls to come certify the biggest/tallest/shortest/heaviest/ugliest/ whatever ”est” you can imagine, so that somebody can get in the record books for having   built/grown/climbed/compiled/eaten/run/assembled/produced the item or event or group in question. The whole Guiness Book of World Records, after all, got its start as a means of settling barroom arguments between individuals neither qualified to nor capable of a whole lot of rational thought at the time.  They eventually had to restrict the kinds of items that they would include so as to NOT be involved in dangerous and/or illegal pursuits by those persons whose epitaphs might well read, ”Hey, guys, watch this!” or “Nah, it won’t hurt.”  Or ”Sure, it’s unloaded.”  Or other such feckless statements.

Have another piece of cake, Chubby?

OMG!  New scientific research indicates that obesity is likely about three times as great a factor in mortality rates as had been previously believed, up from 5% to 18%.  Some 78 million people in the U.S. are struggling with the condition…or not.  Some twenty per cent of deaths in the 40-85 yr. age group can be attributed to the consequences–heart disease, stroke, diabetes, sleep disorders, et al. –of obesity.  Bad scene.