Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wasted Wednesday

Pros & Cons is a comic strip about a lawyer, a psychiatrist and a police officer created by Glasgow–based artist Kieran Meehan. It was known as A Lawyer, A Doctor & A Cop before July 7, 2008, when it was renamed in an effort to make the title easier to remember. However, The Toronto Star still refers to it by its old name. (c. King Features Syndicate)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Caution: very opinionated editorial

Just in case any of you are sorry you quit Entrecard, this will make you giggle.

I just read where they are making those smelly paid ads mandatory. But you can "opt out" if you pay them $50 a year.

I quit long ago because they started thinking my blog was their blog. Many of you did too. Then there was a second wave of good blogs who left them. I am sure this latest will see even more good folks leave.

The latest popular blog to leave recently was Sandee at Comedy Plus. This on the heels of Lidian FINALLY telling them to kiss her grits on her two VERY popular blogs.

Why are the rest of you staying? Remember at the beginning when we all met such wonderful new friends?

If you haven't done so yet, reclaim your blog. Dump Entrecard. They've already dumped on you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lest I leave you with the mistaken thought that I believe it is the Liberal Left who is the cause of all of America’s troubles, let me be quick to say that I firmly believe it is the Rabid Right - the Ridiculous Right - who continually paves the way for the Loony left and even makes them necessary.

If Communism suddenly seems to be attractive to the “masses” of despairing people who see no future anymore for either themselves or their children, it is because the policies of the Right drive them to that despair.

“... the Right prepares the way for the Left — in both the United States and Russia. The Right gives the motivation and creates the sense of desperation and moral outrage that leads people to embrace utterly implausible solutions like socialism and communism.” —Jeffrey A. Tucker

Without wars, unemployment, inflation, there is no need for revolution. Without those things, there is no specter of evil capitalism with which the Loony Left can strike fear into the hearts of the desperate.

For all of Obama’s socialism and semi-brainless economic strategies, the Right have only themselves to blame. Those of us who take neither side suffer the the futility that goes on around us. We are left with the attacks and counterattacks, Left against Right, Right against left, on and on and on - when all we really want and need is progress through greater liberty.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Renaissance Poetry. More or less.

Poems have been written on whatever materials were at hand, and with whatever writing instruments could be found or fashioned. I'm sure if Shakespeare have been in prison, he would have found a way to write, if only to while away the time. When it comes to prison poets, long works have been written on toilet paper.

One writing material, and writing instrument, used by prisoners of some repute were diamonds on glass. Odd.

I can think of only two instances where a prisoner (both were female) wrote on the glass window of her "cell" with the diamond ring on her finger. Both were imprisoned royalty (hence why they still were allowed to wear their diamond rings, I guess.)

Most recently we have the Empress Alexandra of Russia. She scratched her initials in the glass of the window where she and her family were confined in Tobolsk in 1917 or 1918. Not very inventive, If I do say so.

More inventive, or at least more poetic, was the couplet inscribed on her glass window at Woodstock (the manor, not the music love-in in New York) by prisoner-princess Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII, in 1554. The soon-to-be Elizabeth I scratched these concise (if not contrite) words:

Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be,
Quoth Elizabeth prisoner.

Okay, not a couplet. Turns out she was right, though.

Incredibly useful Renaissance trivia tidbit:

"[In childhood], Elizabeth was well-schooled in the arts. An excellent keyboard player, and a lover of dancing even in later life, she encouraged and carefully planned music for ceremonial occasions throughout her reign."

Investigating Communism

Whittaker Chambers was an American writer, Communist Party member and a spy for the Soviet Union. President Reagan awarded Chambers, posthumously, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Obviously, some things happened in between these two things. If you are interested, you may want to read more about Whittaker Chambers. However, this post is about Communism in general and why people become Communists. I learned much of this by reading about people who became Communists, like Whittaker Chambers.

Here are a few of the things I found out, or that Communists allege.

At the heart of Communism, and the very core of its appeal, is its credo: "Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain."

Communism makes a profound appeal to the human mind [they say.] Communism is aimed at, and appeals most to, the working man who never seems to get ahead in life; who feels, finally, that he is being oppressed by the rich elite. He is angered at that thought and bitterly frustrated at his apparent hopeless situation. Before his government is "changed" he sees his government as simply another tool of those rich oppressors.

Communism also appeals to the liberal elite whose life-passion is the liberation of these downtrodden and abused working folk. The liberal elite nest frequently in academia: educated people become communists mostly for "moral" reasons. (So Chambers wrote, anyway.)

[Moving to other writers] In addition to Academia, there are many organizations (ACORN, TIDE, APOLLO and others) that are set up ostensibly for the purpose of relieving the plight of the downtrodden, but whose agenda is primarily political [though who are apparently not above making a buck or two in the process.]

Mostly these people do not think of themselves as Communists, though their aims seem often much the same.

I then tried to "codify" what it meant to be a Communist:

What do Communists believe in? What are the earmarks of a Communist? I hadn't given this much thought until I recently started reading the recent political literature in this country and comparing it to traditional Communist literature. Here are some of the things I gleaned from reading the earlier Communist Party literature. The following appear to be the hallmarks of a good Communist.

1. Communists believe in the supremacy of the State rather than of the individual. All good things come from and are "enforced" by the State. Therefore the State must be molded to reflect the agenda of the downtrodden worker-class.

2. Communists DEFINITELY do not believe in God. That stuff is for ignorant non-thinkers.

3. Communists believe in the redistribution of wealth. This doesn't just mean high taxation of the wealthy but, rather, confiscation of money and property to "equalize" citizens.

4. Communists believe in the inherent evil of what they call the ruling class: people who have created or inherited wealth.

5. Communists believe poor people are victims of that ruling class.

6. Communists believe all people are economic and social equals. (Oddly, in all existing and previous Communist governments, there is/were still a ruling class elite who have summer homes and are driven around in limousines.)

Communists believe a lot more than the above, but those are the things that are obvious from my reading so far.

Then, I asked myself, by reading contemporary political literature, whether any of these seemed to be congruent with the statements and philosophies of some of these current organizations and supporters. It seemed that this is so, but I need to do more research because it might be terrible if that were true.

Conclusions? I don't think it is a question of Communism vs. Capitalism. I think it is a question of Communism vs. Freedom. I suppose I am hardly unique in that observation.

There seems to be a great divide between the stated ideals of Communism and what actually seems to happen.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

This is a football

"Bowl games" got their name for the shape of football stadiums, notably the Rose bowl in Pasadena. Bowl games come at the end of the season and are played between college conference rivals.
Except one.

In American professional football, the long season is culminated by a championship game, the last game of the season. This game is referred to as "The Super Bowl". It comes after a few pre-season games, 16 regular season games, division playoffs and conference playoffs. The two conference champions square off for the National Football League championship game in the Super Bowl and, supposedly, the result shows who the very best American professional football team on the planet is. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the current American professional football champions.

As with any championship game, a trophy is awarded. In the big games, the trophy is usually pretty old and is passed on for generations. Such as the Stanley Cup in professional Ice Hockey.

For American professional football, the "Superbowl" winner is awarded the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
For those of you not familiar, Vince Lombardi was the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers for many years. His name was (and still is) synonymous with hard work and dedication to one's purpose.

Coach Lombardi was a hard taskmaster, and his word was not to be questioned. He was not an easy man to be around, especially for his players, since he was so single-minded.

Vince Lombardi, above all, believed in the proper - even automatic - execution of the fundamentals of football. It is said that, at the very first pre-season practice of each year, he would gather all his players around him in a circle - men who had had years of experience, usually, playing professional football at the highest levels of skill in the game - and would hold up football for them to look at. "Gentlemen," he would say, "This is a football." Vince didn't want to leave anyone behind, so he started that basically, as insulting as it probably was to many of them. But, as I said, you didn't talk back to Vince. You kept your mouth shut and listened.

The story is told of a little-used pass receiver (who probably had little to lose by mouthing off) interrupting coach Lombardi after he had just made the statement, "This is a football."

"Wait, coach! Not so fast!"

I don't know if Coach Lombardi laughed or not. Probably not.

Anyway, here are some quotes attributed to Vince Lombardi.

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”

“Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price.”

“I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious”

“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”

“It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

Friday, September 25, 2009

Unusual Hollywood deaths, part 7

True or False: Actress/sex symbol Jayne Mansfield was decapitated in a car crash in 1967? (False. This is a myth which trivia pursuit players insist is true to this day. She did suffer extensive head trauma when her speeding car went under the rear of a slow-moving truck that night. But she wasn't decapitated. Her boyfriend and the 20-year-old driver were also killed; her three sleeping (?) children in the back seat survived. One of those children, Marishka Hargitay, is today a popular actress in her own right.)

But another fact is worthy of being part of your store of trivia information: Her death prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require the installation of a safety bar on the rear of all tractor-trailors (and other high trucks) to prevent a car from sliding underneath it in the event of a rear-end collision, which formerly would "peel off" the tops of cars like sardine cans.

This protective bar is known as a "Mansfield Bar". Believe it or don't.

Short movie: "The Death of Jayne Mansfield"

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Dear Birthers:

We are releasing President Obama's birth certificate in an effort to put your distracting nonsense to rest. I hope this will satisfy all of you Republican malcontents and allow the administration to move on to more important things.

Howard Dean, Chairman

(Click to enlarge)

Duh of the day

A Yahoo! news headline this morning:

"Errors are likely to occur when doctors are overworked."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Six questions

What do you love the most?

What do you hate the most?

What scares you the most?

What do you want more than anything right now?

What do you expect from life?

What does the word homeland mean to you?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Writing fiction

On the southernmost fringe of the tanglewood forest, beyond the kingdoms of men, in the midst of a purgatorial wasteland blighted with perpetual winter and savaged by endless storms, there stands an inn where the battle-lines between sanity and madness meet. Here, where soul-consuming demons walk freely as men, where nightmares parade their garish hues like common whores of the street, where only the boldest or the most benighted seek to tread, our story is enacted.*

See, that's why I don't write fiction. It never comes out like that. I have written fiction (not going to tell you where to find any of it) but, trust me, I am not even halfway up the mountain.

Challenged to write a short story by my very best friend recently, I succumbed, but nothing has improved with time. Oh, I have no trouble writing - the words seem to just bubble out with the least bit of priming - indeed the trouble is shutting off the flow - but those words still don't emerge as good fiction. When I see things written by Ken Armstrong or Catherine Sharp (not to mention my best friend) I tend to get intimidated and stop trying to write fiction.

Also, I don't take criticism well, so there's that. As a result, my occasional forays into the world inhabited by actual talented writers are few and far between.

Someday, maybe I'll be brave enough to let some of it see the light of day.

*This fantastic piece of writing is on the blog called "Out of Ruins". The short story is Tanglewood. If you want an escape from Relax Max's amateur drivel, go read the story.

Homo milk

We used to have homo milk. It was in all the weekly supermarket inserts in the newspapers. Now all of a sudden it is gone in favor of the actual word again. This has only been in the past couple of months, and I hadn't noticed it was gone until today. It was homo milk for years and now milk has gone pc all of a sudden. It is still homo milk in Canada, which is where this picture came from. You can tell because it is measured in ml only. But the below picture I took of milk in my refrigerator shows homo no more.

What is homogenized milk, anyway? I know a long time ago they just pasteurized milk. But the cream still floated to the top. Then they homogenized it so the cream was somehow emulsified or whatever until it just didn't separate anymore. Of course, there is very little cream in milk today anyway, even in "whole" milk. The government changes the definition, I guess.

Then you have "raw" milk. This is straight from your cow, even better if organically fed and not given shots or hormones, I guess. I worked on a milk farm one summer and I drank raw milk. Tasted like milk. Of course the dirt and hair and blood clots were too small to see. But it was filtered somewhat by the time it got into the cooling tank.

I don't think it was ever REALLY homo milk.

Friday, September 18, 2009

RIP Mary Travers: 1936-2009

Seems like everyone is dying this year.

They used to introduce themselves at the beginning of their sold-out concerts thusly:

"Hi. I'm Peter. But I'm not an apostle."

"And I'm Paul. But I'm not an apostle."

"And I'm Mary. But I'm not a vir.."

And then the driving guitars would interrupt her.

"If I had a hammer." "Where have all the flowers gone?" "Puff the Magic Dragon." And, always, "Blowin' In The Wind."

"If I Had A Hammer" was written by Pete Seeger, but is synonymous with Peter, Paul & Mary.

The American Civil Rights Movement had a lot of friends, but it never had a better one. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King delivered a speech that will always be remembered. "I have a dream", he said. On those sames steps that day, PP&M sang Dylan's Blowin' In The Wind." Those who have seen that old B&W video of Dr. King and the preliminaries will remember Mary defiantly punching the air with her fist as she sang. Commitment. We shall overcome.

If Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger were America's conscience, PPM were the enforcers. You couldn't shut them up. But they are silent now forever.

Mary Travers had battled leukemia for quite some time. She died in Danbury, Connecticut Wednesday, from the side-effects of chemo-therapy.

Goodbye, Mary.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Changing times: old advertising

(Click to enlarge)

I like the website run by Lidian, called Kitchen Retro. She collects and posts (and writes poems about and makes outrageous fun of) old print advertising.

I doubt if she would run an old ad as controversial as this one, though, although the lady in the ad's "T" diagram for the taste-throat complex might lend herself to some of Lidian's sharp wit.

There was a time when cigarette smoking was pretty darn acceptable. And they only cost 25 cents a pack, so why the heck not, right? The only REAL dilemma was which brand to smoke. Camels, of course - the third fag in the unholy triumvirate of death to seep out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. But who am I to judge, being an ex-camel smoker a couple hundred years ago.

Far be it for moi to try to stir up any trouble, but what do you think was the underlying premise of this ad?

And do you not long for this far away innocent time? You know, when heavy smokers died of heart attacks in their 40s and didn't burden the health care system by living long enough to develop lung cancer?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

RIP Patrick Swayze: 1952-2009

A two-year battle with pancreatic cancer ended last night for popular Actor Patrick Swayze. The 57-year old star was at home with his family in Los Angeles.

The Texas-born actor was voted "Sexiest Man Alive" by People Magazine in 1991. He starred in a long list of films in his 30-year career. My two personal favorites were "Roadhouse" and "Ghost".

He was a good guy who died with grace.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Johnny Cash

(Click to enlarge.)

I am still recommending LIFE magazine's extensive photo archive now available for viewing on Google here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Woodstock: 40 years later

Click to enlarge.

It was billed as "An Aquarian festival: 3 days of peace and music." August 15-18, 1969.
They were hip. They were cutting edge. They hated war. They had turned on, tuned in, dropped out. They would never sell out.

They still smoked heavily like their daddies and some of them became the stockbrokers of today.In the end, they did sell out, or died young. Now the ones that are left are only codgers.40 years ago. Live fast, love hard, die young. "Hope I die before I get old." A lot did.

Some people who performed at Woodstock:
Joan Baez
The Band
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Canned Heat
Jo Cocker
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Crosby, Stills, &Nash
The Grateful Dead
Arlo Guthrie
Richie Havens
Jimi Hendrix
Iron Butterfly
Jefferson Airplane
Janis Joplin
John Sebastian
Ravi Shankar
Sly & The Family Stone
The Who
Johnny Winter
Neil Young
And more

Please note that LIFE has put a large selection of its huge photo archive online. Very much worth browsing. Start here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Answers to British quiz

First I need to tell you how disappointed I was that no one said anything about my (on purpose) glaring error in the second paragraph, before the questions began. None of you apparently realized that Guinevere was Arthur's queen and not a naked lady on a horse in Coventry. For shame.

Now I want to tell you that these answers come from supposedly authoritative sources, even official sources. So I am just going to give the answers as I wrote them down before I posted this. Some of your deviations from these answers are well taken, however. But let's begin with the "correct" answers.

1. A British Home Secretary (later a famous Prime Minister, of course) by the name of Robert Peel was instrumental in introducing several reforms in British criminal law, such as reducing the number of crimes punishable by death, but most memorably the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829, establishing the Metropolitan Police Force. The police were called "Peelers" because he was the one who pushed the Act through, and, later, "Bobbies" after his first name. Police are still called Peelers in Ireland.

I still need someone to explain the police structure in Great Britain. Is it a national force with offices in each town or are they separate entities like in the U.S.?

2. The last Queen of England was Elizabeth I. Case closed. Well, not closed if you want to fight about Wales. But that's the answer.

3. The longest reigning king was America's friend George III. 60 years. Almost.

4. The longest reigning queen was Victoria. 63 years. Her birthday is a national holiday in Canada. Officially "Victoria Day" it is more commonly known simply as the "24th-of-May" holiday.

For the record, Elizabeth II will pass queen Victoria when she is 89 years old.

Needless trivia: Queen Elizabeth's middle names are Alexandra Mary. Alexandra of Denmark was the consort of Edward VII; Mary of Teck was the queen consort of George V.

5. The first heir to the English throne to be given the honorary title of Prince of Wales was the son of Edward I. He (the prince) later became Edward II. Some would do well to note that in the question, the word "Prince" was capitalized. The Prince of Wales is different than a prince of Wales. So say I. But what do I know.

6. The Tay. (Not the Spey, as many think.) :)

7. Well, I can see this mythical place is still not agreed upon, but my answer book says Cornwall, and that Arthur was born at Castle Tintagel.

8. Going to go with the "official" Arthur Legend books here and say Castle Tintgel as the official right answer.

9. Quid is slang for pound. Sort of like "buck" is slang for a dollar.

10. Public toilets used to have a slot to put an (old) penny in. Hence "to spend a penny" is a British Euphemism used if a person gets up to go to the bathroom. As in "Gotta go drain my radiator" or "Gotta go see a man about a horse" or "Gotta tap a kidney." The British have even more cute things they say about taking a leak than even Americans. I found that out a long time ago. None of them make sense.

11. Spotted dick is a medical condition. The rest are just slang for various common foods. A gift for the British test-takers, a brick wall for Americans. Spotted dick is really a suet pudding with a dried fruit. But Sage's answer is the most usual. We'll go with that. Toad in the hole: sausage in batter, usually Yorkshire Pudding batter. Marmite? Salty tractor grease. Not yum. Parson's nose: the tail of a chicken or turkey. Butt is good. Arse is wrong. It's the tail. Chip butty? A butty is a sandwich. Chips are french fries. Go figure. But they say it is good. Bangers and Mash? Bangers are sausages. Don't ask me why. Mash is mashed potatoes. Truly delicious as is much pub food. I know I know... even better with onion gravy. At least in the northeast of England. Or so I thought until Sage said it was popular that way in her neck of the woods too. Okay, onion gravy ANYWHERE then. :) Another great pub food is the Cornish Pasty. And more. Let's stop here. I love the very thought of pub food too much.

12. The northernmost settlement in England, not counting islands, is Marshall Meadows in Northumberland.

13. Harold Macmillan.

14. A red dragon. Some say Griffin. Those some are wrong. Y Ddraig Goch for you Welsh purists.

15. The Bank of England.

16. Snakes.

Incidentally, the only venomous snake in the land of the spotted dick is the Adder.

17. Salisbury.

18. Scots about English.

19. Here I admit being mistaken by using the word "sea" as in Great Britain is an island. I should have used the word "coast". If you count the Channel as being "sea" as I intended, then the correct answer is about 70 miles. If you don't call it a sea, then the answer is not 70 miles. Sigh. What I meant to convey was you can't get very far from the water if you live on an island.

I think, and this is not from "official" sources, that the farthest you can get from the waters that surround the island of Great Britain is a point near Coton in the Elms (Derbyshire). At least that is what appears in one of my several reference books, but looking at a map I don't know if I believe it.

20. Cornwall. And how. Yum.

21. True. (Not counting the channel islands - which wouldn't matter if you did because the distance would be even more - the big stretch is from St. Agnes to Unst.)

22. A very old Welsh festival of literature, music and performance - dating back to at least the 12th century.

23. Greenwich Mean Time. (0 degrees longitude, or "the prime meridian" goes through the town of Greenwich. Probably the British are the ones who decided where 0 degrees was going to be on the map, too.)

24. Off into the Irish Sea to the east of NI. "Giants" after folklore stories. The Irish had a giant named McCool, much like our Paul Bunyan. I can't remember who the Scottish Giant was that he chased back to Scotland. Anyway, McCool was throwing huge rocks at the Scot and supposedly formed the spectacular causeway as they bounced off that fleeing giant. Some say one large rock that missed became the Isle of Man. I don't know. Maybe. But I do know the coast of Scotland there is also full of basalt columns (remember Fingal's cave?) so that lends credence to the land bridge theory. I say.

25. Windsor. Prince Harry, when in the army was called Cornet Windsor. Couldn't very well call him Harry in the army. His grandmother the queen, then princess Elizabeth, was known as Subaltern Windsor when she was in the Army (she was a heavy truck operator). The royal family, since at least George I, and maybe even further back, is largely of German ancestry, and the family wanted to sound more British during WWI, so they changed the name then (which was getting quite cumbersome by then anyway) to Windsor. Cornet and Subaltern are military ranks. George III, the American favorite, at least spoke English as his native language and was born there, unlike his two predecessors. Unfortunately, he stuttered so badly few could understand him anyway, so his English was largely wasted. He did have reproduction figured out though. What was the question? Oh. Windsor.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Did you hear the one about... ?

An elderly man in Louisiana had owned a large farm for several years. He had a large pond in the back. It was properly shaped for swimming, so he fixed it up nice with picnic tables, horseshoe courts, some apple and peach trees.

One evening the old farmer decided to go down to the pond, as he hadn't been there for a while, and look it over. He grabbed a five-gallon bucket to bring back some fruit. As he neared the pond, he heard voices shouting and laughing with glee.

As he came closer, he saw it was a bunch of young women skinny-dipping in his pond. He made the women aware of his presence and they all went to the deep end. One of the women shouted to him, "We're not coming out until you leave!"

The old man frowned. "I didn't come down here to watch you ladies swim naked or make you get out of the pond naked." Holding the bucket up he said, "I'm just here to feed the alligator."

Making tracks...

Three blondes are on a nature hike.
The first says "Look, rabbit tracks!"
The second replies "No... no... those are bear tracks."
The third one got hit by the train.

That's a croc!

An Aussie drover walks into a bar with a pet crocodile by his side.

He puts the crocodile up on the bar, and turns to the astonished patrons.

"I'll make you a deal," he says. "I'll open this crocodile's mouth and place my manhood inside. Then the croc will close his mouth for one minute. Then he'll open his mouth and I'll remove my unit unscathed.

"In return for witnessing this spectacle, each of you will buy me a drink."

The crowd murmured their approval.

The man stood up on the bar, dropped his trousers, and placed his Johnson and related parts in the crocodile's open mouth. The the croc closed his mouth as the crowd gasped.

After a minute, the man grabbed a beer bottle and smacked the crocodile hard on the top of its head. The croc opened his mouth and the man removed his jewels unscathed as promised.

The crowd cheered, and the first of his free drinks were delivered.

After a while, the man stood up again and made another offer. "I'll pay anyone $100 who's willing to give it a try."

A hush fell over the crowd. They looked at each other nervously. After a while, a hand went up in the back of the bar. A blonde woman timidly spoke up...

I'll try it - just don't hit me so hard with the beer bottle!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Second Quiz; for the other half

To my British readers: I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but you did pretty crappy on the American part of this quiz. Just sayin'. If I can learn, YOU can learn. A lot of those were the same questions from before. Oh, well.

Here is the British part of the quiz. I'm betting the American readers do much better about you than you did about us. How could they not? This is more fun than Lady Guinevere riding naked through the streets of Coventry.

There are a few gifts for non-Americans, just so Americans can get a few. All are pretty hard for Americans.

1. After all my studying and researching the United Kingdom, I find I still don’t know squat about their police. I do know that Northern Ireland has its own police, and that the London area has at least three police forces - The Met(ropolitan) police, of New Scotland Yard; the City of London Police, who police the Square Mile; and the queen has her own police. Called the Royal Police, probably. I don’t have a clue if police in Scotland are the same as England's: I don’t know if it is a national (Great Britain) police force or not. But I DO know why Met police are called Bobbies. Do you? Let me rephrase the question - otherwise Soubriquet and A. will simply say “yes.” Ahem. WHY are the police called Bobbies?

2. We call her the Queen of England, but she isn’t really - she’s the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And probably more. But at one time there were kings and queens of England. Who was the last real Queen of (only) England?

3. Who was the longest reigning king?

4. Who was the longest reigning queen?

5. Anyone know who the first Prince of Wales was? I thought not.

6. What is the longest river in Scotland?

7. In what county was King Arthur’s legendary Camelot located?

8. Extra points if you can tell where King Arthur was (supposedly) born.

9. (A gift) What’s a quid?

10. (A gift) What does it mean to spend a penny?

11. (More gifts) What is a spotted dick? A toad in the hole? Marmite? Parson's nose? A chip butty? Bangers and mash?

12. The southernmost settlement in England, not counting islands, is Lizard. What is the northernmost point? (Again, not counting islands)

13. The "Profumo Affair" starring Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, discredited the government of what conservative PM in 1963?

14. What creature is on the flag of Wales?

15. What is the national landmark affectionately known as The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street?

16. St. Patrick, according to legend, banished what from Ireland?

17. On what cathedral is England's tallest spire? (Actually in all the UK)

18. Sassenach is a word used by what part of the UK about what other part of the UK?

19. What is the greatest distance you can get from the sea in the UK?

20. What county is famous for it's pasties?

21. The Southernmost point in the UK to the Northernmost point is over a thousand miles. True or false?

22. What is Eisteddfod?

23. What does GMT stand for?

24. Where is the Giant's Causeway?

25. What is the royal family's surname?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Part one answers

1. Reconstruction. The 12-year period following the American Civil War during which the states formerly in rebellion against the government of the United States were controlled by the federal government. Much social legislation was introduced, especially that of a remedial nature to southern African-Americans.

That's the official line, and I'm stickin' to it.

2. At the outbreak of the Civil War, 8 days after the attack on Ft. Sumter, the president offered command of the Union Armies to Robert E. Lee, then an officer in the Union Army, at the recommendation of General Winfield Scott, Lee's commanding officer in the Mexican War. Lee was a top West Point graduate (graduated 2nd in his class) and a distinguished career officer in the U.S. Army, the son of Revolutionary War hero "Light Horse" Harry Lee. He was also related to Meriwether Lewis. He was a captain in the Corps of Engineers and was valuable to General Scott in the conquest of Mexico City, which ended the Mexican war.

Lee was against fighting his own country, but was a Virginian first and foremost. (A concept not understood by many Americans today who support a strong federal government at the expense of the founding constitutional rights of the states.) When it became obvious that Virginia was going to secede from the Union, Lee declined and instead took command of the Army of Northern Virginia. It was Lee who was to later surrender the armies of the Confederate States of America, ending the war.

Lee was a brilliant military officer and man of honor; Lincoln did the right thing by offering Lee the Union command.

3. Prohibition of alcoholic beverages was the 18th amendment. Women gained suffrage by the 19th amendment.

4. Jim Crow wasn't a person but rather a derisive name given to a repressive system of laws designed as a whole to re-subjugate African-Americans as a race following the Civil War. These laws were enacted in the South following Reconstruction and ending in 1965.

5. James Calley is what Relax Max thought William Calley's name was without looking it up. He should have looked it up. Despite my friend Soubriquet's sermon, the real culprit was, in my opinion Lyndon Johnson, whose personal war required cannon fodder in excess of American youths' willingness to volunteer, and forced the drafting into the army of every 18-year-old not in University. Their training eventually consisted of little more than fitting them for a uniform and handing them a rifle and shipping them to Vietnam. The lowered mentality as a whole of these conscripts made a joke of the standards of the American military, and gave Calley a group of soldiers stupid enough to obey his unlawful orders. I also blame the American University system for giving a degree to a cretin like Calley, enabling him to become a military officer who found himself in Vietnam in charge of people, but with no brains, where only months before he was on campus drooling in class.

My opinion.

6. Denali is the Alaskan Native name for North America's largest mountain, also known as Mt. McKinley. It is located in Alaska.

7. How quickly we forget. Dole challenged Clinton's second term. Dole's would-be vice-president was the great football quarterback, Jack Kemp, then a U.S. Congressman. Jack passed away this past May.

8. The first U.S. Capital was New York City.

9. There are currently 15 cabinet positions. There are an additional 7 "cabinet-level" officers who also sit in on cabinet meetings. One of those "extras" is the Vice-President of the United States. One of Obama's main requirements to be a cabinet member, apparently, is that you have to owe back taxes. The top five in rank are:

a. Secretary of State (Clinton)
b. Secretary of the Treasury (Geithner)
c. Secretary of Defense (Gates)
d. Attorney General (Holder)
e. Secretary of the Interior (Salazar)

10. "Sooner" was the name given to people who entered Oklahoma early to stake claims on choice land before the official entry date. It is no longer a derogatory word.

11. Indiana's nickname is the Hoosier state. People who live there are called Hoosiers. The origin is speculative, really unknown.

12. Tennessee. A schoolteacher by the name of Scopes was accused of breaking state law (The Butler Act) with regard to allowable curriculum. The case was a challenge to the law, financed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan were the attorneys. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, but was reversed on appeal on a technicality, a defect in the original trial. He was never punished.

13. His Vice-President, Calvin Cooldge.

14. True. Although the Constitution was changed during his tenure, it did not apply to the sitting president.

15. Captain.

16. Eisenhower.

17. Truman.

18. Georgia promotes itself as the largest, but Michigan, at 96,810 square miles, is by far the largest state east of the Mississippi River. It is trailed by Florida (65,758 square miles), Wisconsin (65,503 square miles), and Georgia (59,441 square miles). The catch, of course, is that much of this is water. Michigan's land area is "only" 56,804 square miles, compared to Georgia's land area of 57,906 square miles. Not much difference but, in my opinion, that makes Georgia number one. Unless you count simple gross area within state boundaries. Sigh. Georgia.

19. Jefferson was president. Lewis and Clark were their first names. Lewis Jones and Clark Palowski. Meriwether was Lewis' first name. Can you imagine his proud parents looking down at their newborn son lying in his crib and saying, "Say, Eunice, let's call him Meriwether!"

William Clark.

20. Truman's most recent occupation was vice-president. The two people who became president directly out of the Senate were Barack Obama and John Kennedy.

Short ones and essay questions (USA)

What was the “Reconstruction”?

At the outbreak of the Civil War, President Lincoln offered command of the Union Army first to what General?

Which amendment came first - Prohibition or Woman’s Suffrage?

Who was Jim Crow?

Who was James Calley?

Where is Denali?

Who was Bob Dole’s running mate when he ran for president?

What city was the U.S. Capital when George Washington was sworn in?

How many cabinet positions are there now? Can you name five of them? Can you name two cabinet secretaries besides Hillary Clinton?

What was a “Sooner”?

What was a “Forty-Niner”?

Where do Hoosiers live?

In what state did the “Monkey Trial” take place? What was the issue? Who were the opposing lawyers?

Who succeeded Warren G. Harding as president when he died?

True or false: Harry Truman could have run for as many terms as president as he wanted to.

A full colonel in the U.S. Army is the same rank as what in the U.S. Navy?

Who was the most recent general to become U.S. President?

Who was the most recent U.S. President without a University degree?

What is the largest state in area east of the Mississippi River?

What president ordered the Lewis and Clark expedition? What was Lewis' first name?

Bonus question: Almost all modern U.S. Presidents had most recently been state governors, with a general or two. In fact, only two people have been elected president directly out of the Senate (or Congress) since the end of the 19th century. Can you name both of them?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Loving yourself

Joycelyn Elders is best known for her brief outspoken tenure as Surgeon General of the United States under President Clinton. She was forced to resign after 15 months for suggesting that information about masturbation be included in sex education programs in schools.

"Always remember, masturbation never caused anybody to go crazy, never caused anybody to go blind, never caused hair to grow on your hands, and at least you know you're having sex with somebody you love."


Sometimes we in the U.S. don't think about, or don't remember, that we already have the beginnings of a national health care program here. Perhaps - and this is just a thought - we should consider taking what we have now and expanding it gradually until it either serves all of us or it at least serves all of those who no have no health insurance (or no eligibility for free health insurance.)

I'm speaking of Medicare, of course. Right now, Medicare is pretty restricted as to whom it covers and what it covers, but the bureaucracy is already in place and it seems to me perhaps we might consider expanding this government medical insurance to cover more and more people and more and more situations rather than starting completely from scratch.

What is Medicare? From the government website:

"The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers Medicare, the nation's largest health insurance program, which covers nearly 40 million Americans. Medicare is a Health Insurance Program for people age 65 or older, some disabled people under age 65, and people of all ages with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure treated with dialysis or a transplant)."

From this we can glean that Medicare is already the nation's largest health insurance program.

This is a complicated subject, and I want to only present it in little chunks, so I am going to stop here for now. But consider that Medicare is

1. Already in place, with its own self-contained bureaucracy of paper-pushers

2. Already serving many people

3. Paying more or less promptly

4. Keeping records in a uniform manner

5. Using uniform forms.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Most of us who blog do a fair amount of visiting other blogs, reading and commenting on the blogs of the nice people who follow us.

I can't help but notice, as I travel around, that there are a heck of a lot of different personalities out there. The blogs I visit are mostly people I know and whom I already know what their personality is like. (Their personality in the blogging world, at least.) But you really come across some genuine characters if you read the other people (that you don't really know) who are commenting on those blogs along with you.

Here is the personality profile of the day: The guy who always makes smart comments and tries to stand out from the rest of the herd by being outrageous. (Ok hosers, before you jump to conclusions, I'm not talking about myself.)

Remember the class clown in high school? Every class has one. He is always making smart remarks to things the teacher says. Everything he does screams, "NOTICE ME!" And we all laugh at him and salve his insecurities.

Okay, picture that guy. Then picture him 30 years later making a comment on a blog. His attention-getting outrageousness has worn pretty thin. He isn't quite so funny anymore and not nearly as cutting edge as you once thought he was. In fact, he is very irritating because he often ignores the point of the post and just tries to be outrageous. (I swear to God I am NOT talking about myself. Stop nodding and pointing.)

There's this guy (who does not comment on this blog, but who comments a lot on the blog of a person who DOES comment on this blog, and so I get to read some of his comments) who is always trying to seem "special" by making off the wall comments. I'm sure he thinks they are clever, witty, and outrageous in a hip, non-conformist antisocial way. The word "tedious" always pops into my mind, for some reason, when I read his (ummm, or "her") comments on my reader's blog, but I'm sure that word would never enter his mind when he is making his (often insulting, I think) comments.

I have a mind (honest I do!) that automatically translates bullshit into English. Today, he said something like "That is why I have decided never to reproduce." Only he said it in a much more clever and disdainful way than merely that. And I automatically go (in my mind, I mean), "Right. What you are saying is no woman has ever gone out with you because of your idiot mouth. And now you are in your fifties or whatever and never WILL get a woman to go out with you." He is right that he will never reproduce, he just has the wrong reason.

Everything the blogger says in his/her post will be put down or somehow ridiculed by this person. He prides himself in being a "contrarian" no matter what. If you say the sky is blue he will say it's pink, and he will expect you to laugh at his wit. Whatever the subject of the post or the opinion of the blogger, it will be scorned and belittled. It's not a matter of genuine disagreement, only trying to be contrary.

I don't personally have trouble with this kind of commentator. Occasionally, they come around but I berate them and their parents so mercilessly that they soon leave. I don't believe you should say nice things to hecklers (and, really, that's what they are.) If these people hang around your blog very long, it's your own fault.

One time I read with glee as my good friend Soubriquet upbraided a spammer on his blog. A work of art! That's what I am talking about! Why let them hang around?

There are a lot of personalities out there, and a lot of them are really fun. Meeting the fun people is a big reason why I blog. I only let the very best ones stay. That says a lot about YOU. :)

"1,000 villagers wait for a dentist after just one NHS practice opens"

—Daily Mail (UK) March 10, 2009

The parlous state of NHS dentistry under Labour was exposed last night after it was revealed 1,000 people in a village ended up on a waiting list for a dentist.

Nearly one in ten of the 11,500-strong population of Tadley were forced to wait after a single NHS practice opened in the Hampshire village.

Their alternatives were paying privately, travelling miles to another NHS dentist - or going without treatment.

Local councillor Nigel Quelch said: 'When I phoned, they said they had a waiting list of 1,000. It shows what a huge demand there is for Health Service dentistry.

'But we're very grateful to the dentist for opening in Tadley.'

In 1999, Tony Blair promised that within two years everyone would have access to an NHS dentist.

Eight years later he admitted failure. A new contract, introduced three years ago to increase numbers of NHS dentists, has also been judged to have made the situation worse - with 1,000 dentists fleeing the NHS.

It means the remaining NHS dentists are overwhelmed and can't take new patients - as the Tadley case shows.

LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'We cannot continue with a postcode lottery where people like the Tadley residents can't have access to NHS dentistry.'

Hampshire primary care trust confirmed the list had hit 1,000 in December but has since been cleared.

It said the practice now has 7,000 patients and can't take more - meaning over 4,000 have no dentist in the village.


Okay, what does the above story prove?

That health care in the United Kingdom is a failure? That a RAM expedition to Rural England is needed?

This American thinks that all it means is that a very good health care system still isn't perfect and still has room for improvement. Nothing more.

In the U.S., opponents of a national health care program point to faults in Canada's vaunted system, wring their hands that people up there suffer health care rationing and wait extra weeks for things like cancer chemotherapy, resulting in an extraordinarily high cancer rate for a developed country - much, much higher than in the U.S. with its "private" health care.

I think one can find isolated incidents of bad things happening in all countries. For example, if you look hard enough, you will find the story of a poor man in Tennessee who drove 200 miles (one assumes 400 miles round trip) to have a very painful tooth pulled by an American charity called RAM. This rather than pay a local dentist in his hometown (plentiful, btw) $50 or so to do the same job. He didn't have the money for that but did have the money to buy maybe 25 gallons of gasoline to drive 400 miles. Who believes this? Worse, who believes this is the norm? I don't believe it is commonplace for a thousand people in the UK to wait for months to see a dentist, either.

My point? Let's both sides stop searching for proof of what we all know already without needing additional proof:

1. The national health care systems of the UK, France, Canada, and others is not perfect.

2. Health care in the USA is in dire need of major reform.

I have never not advocated a new and workable, responsive, comprehensive, cost-effective, uniform health care system for the United States. (Even though my heart of hearts - and our constitution - tells me this is a matter for the individual states to handle for their citizens. But with today's mobility between states, I suppose I can stretch my principles. As long as Europe's EU agrees to get its own big health care system which is uniform for all member countries. Never mind.)

Nor, even, do I dread government bureaucrats running such a program - as long as you mean civil service employees and not politicians when you say "bureaucrats".

I repeat my objection: our congress does not have the brains to write a good plan nor the personal honor not to keep their financial benefactors in business - nor even the character to put aside personal gain for the sake of their country and for their fellow Americans. Does anyone doubt the above statements?

Raise your hand if you think Congress has the brains to write such a complicated bill or the lack of ego to allow experts to write it without porkbarrel changes if it IS written by experts.

Raise your hand if you think Congress will turn a deaf ear to the health industry lobbyists who have poured so much money into their campaign war chests over the years.

Raise your hand if you think Congress will have the guts to stand up to the lawyer associations who want to keep adding untold billions to our health care system costs through their out-of-control lawsuits - especially since Congress itself is infested with lawyers.

Those who raised your hands, go check yourself in to the nearest loony bin.

This needs to be done - cries out to be done - but it needs to be done right! Just because it was on Obama's list of campaign promises doesn't mean we need to rush into this thing with the mentality that any sort of bill is better than no bill at all.

It needs to be done one piece at a time, over a few years.

If you change the whole thing all at once and later find out you were wrong, you are dead. We all are dead. But if you change one section (and find a way to pay for that section) and find out we did it wrong, we can live to try another day and learn from our mistakes.

The first things that need attention are:

1. Coverage for people who don't have access to health care right now.

2. Better (some, at least!) regulation of the health insurance companies.

3. Tort reform.

How many people are going unserved right now? I don't know. I don't think ANYBODY knows. There are so many definitions. Some say more than 60 million people are without health insurance, or enough health insurance. I hope they are wrong. 60 million people! People! Do you realize there are only 60 million people living in all of the UK? Do you? Even if we suddenly found a pot of gold, where are all those new doctors going to come from tomorrow to serve all these instant new clients? Do you really think we could just "materialize" all the doctors there are in the UK right now?

Stop. Think about this. Put a master plan into place. Don't come up with something wild just for the sake of doing it all NOW! Put that master plan into place step by step. Don't demand all or nothing. Reform the present waste. Kill all the lawyers. Start covering the most needy. It doesn't have to be baby steps, but don't sink the whole country in one fell swoop, either.

Here is something I found in a radical right (my judgment) website that is against government health care, I guess:

"Great Britain's National Health Service (NHS) was created on July 5, 1948. As with all government programs, bureaucrats underestimated initial cost projections. First-year operating costs of NHS were 52 million pounds higher than original estimates as Britons saturated the so-called free system.

Many decades of shortages, misery and suffering followed until 1989, when some market-based health care competition was reintroduced to the British citizens."

Then they go on to list example after example of how that system has failed its citizens.

Well, I know very well that the UK system has NOT failed its citizens. I don't know this from personal experience, or by reading newspapers, but I know it by British users telling me they like their current system. I also know Parliament is just about as crazy and inept as Congress. But somehow they (the British, if not Parliament at first) got it through and working, and so can we.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Swaziland became independent of the United Kingdom on this day in history, September 6, 1968.

Swaziland is a landlocked country in the south of Africa, surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique.

Swaziland is a kingdom. It's king is Umbuso weSwatini.

Swaziland's economy is tied heavily to its neighbor South Africa, with 90% of its incoming goods coming from that country and about 70% of its exports going there. It's money is pegged to the SA Rand as well.

Swaziland has about 1.1 million people, 38.8% of whom are HIV positive or have AIDS, the highest percentage in the world. 60% of the population live on less than US$1.25 per day.

Also on this day in history, in 1620, the Pilgrims left Plymouth in the Mayflower for America.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Because you have all been mean to me lately... occurs to me that I haven't yet inflicted any of my recent Michigan vacation pictures on you and that none of you deserve not to be so uninflicted. I have made up very cute descriptive names for all of them. I took about 600 and here are some of the very worst. Just for you.

You can click on any of these pictures to look at them bigger if you think you have the stomach for it.

This one I call "Detroit Metro Through A Dirty Window But With Spirit". Get it? Get it?
The one below I call "Moses Parting the Corn". I'm forgot why I called it that.Okay, this one below I named "Driving Through My Brother's Woods On His Golf Cart That I Stole One Time". I do remember why I named it that.
This one below is probably obvious, but: "The Long and Winding Road, Except It Is Straight, Where I Saw All Those Deer In A Field Feeding Which You Can't See Because The Field Is On The Left Not In The Picture".
Below: "Some Vines Growing On Some Posts By Where You Start To Walk Across The Covered Bridge Over The River I Used To Water Ski On When I Was A Kid But You Can't Do That Anymore I Don't Think."
Below: "A Picture Of That Lake Down The Highway A Mile Or So From My Brother's Grocery Store I Think Or Maybe Some Other One". (There are 11,037 lakes in Michigan and it is often hard to keep them sorted.) This one I thought was a pretty damn good picture considering it was me that took it, though.
Below: A Flower By That Lake Down The Highway A Mile Or So From My Brother's Grocery Store". This one you should click on and look at it when it is bigger.
Below: "A Heart Attack Waiting To Happen At TGY Friday's At The Dallas Airport Which Isn't Really In Michigan." Damn right I ate it.
If you want to see more, you can see more of them here but I didn't bother naming all of them because I got tired of naming pictures. You can name them if you want, though.
Michigan Vacation August 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Canadian health care system poster boy

This man is an actual client of Canadian health care. Or whatever they call it. So far he has had to wait 9 weeks for treatment for his chronic constipation. Nothing is slipping through the crack here.


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