Saturday, April 30, 2011

Greatest Thing About Having A DVR


Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that Honey and I probably watch too much television. 

We have had DirecTV for years – since Dish Network pissed me off – We were long-time Dish customers and they were offering what would have been a system upgrade free to new customers only, WHAT!  So long Dish.

Anyway, in spite of our TV addiction, we had never felt the need to get a DVR; then we got our daughter a TIVO for Christmas, and she liked it so well we decided to get one. 

We love it.  Honey records lots of shows, either from live broadcasts or from DirecTV’s large library.  It provides the perfect solution to networks programming popular shows opposite each other; watch one and record the other to watch later. When watching live, you can back up and replay something you missed or would just like to see again.

The DVR’s very best feature, the one they do not advertise, is the pause feature.  Here’s how we use it:

  • Start a show.
  • Hit Pause.
  • Go do something else – supper dishes, potty break, etc. for five to ten minutes, depending on show length.
  • Sit back down, get comfortable and hit Play.
  • Watch the show and Fast Forward through all the commercials!


Friday, April 29, 2011

PC Defeats Truth - Again

Boy, I had some great titles for today’s post – just none that I could use…..

Here’s the story:


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Being Bewitched Can Be A Bitch

Still no rain here, and none expected before Sunday, at the earliest. 

I can’t complain, though – it would be sinfully petty when storms have cut a path of death and destruction to our north and east.  Reports this morning say storms have killed over 200 people in the South in just the last two days and nights.

So instead of complaining, or dwelling on the weather, I offer this little bit of fluff:


Though Prince Byron was no longer a frog, he found it nearly impossible to resist the siren call of his former lifestyle.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Country Music As Poetry

Jessi Colter  4

In 1975, Jessie Colter (Mrs. Waylon Jennings) released “I’m Not Lisa” - a single that became her first and only #1 hit.  It is a song  that Jessie had written herself, and to my mind, it is a perfect example of Country Music as Poetry.

The song is as poignant as any country song lyric ever written.  Her words create a bare framework that requires the reader/listener to fill in the blanks through the liberal application of imagination and/or experience. The song transports us with a subtle strength that effectively defines the difference between the effects of poetry and prose.

I'm not Lisa, my name is Julie
Lisa left you years ago
My eyes are not blue
But mine won't leave you
'Til the sunlight has touched your face

She was your morning light
Her smile told of no night
Your love for her grew
With each rising sun

And then one winter day
His hand led hers away
She left you here drowning in your tears, here
Where you've stayed for years
Crying Lisa, Lisa

I'm not Lisa, my name is Julie
Lisa left you years ago
My eyes are not blue
But mine won't leave you
'Til the sunlight shines through your face

I'm not Lisa

Colter never had the greatest voice in country music, but the feeling she put into this song made covers by some much better singers pale in comparison.

Hear the song via YouTube

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 26

use april 26

Google Images is a great source for pictures on the web.  When you type in the subject you’re looking for and click search, you get a huge variety of pictures  pertaining to your search criteria – and occasionally, one that doesn’t apply at all. 

This was one of those.  I saw (and saved) it two weeks ago in the middle of a series of pictures that actually did apply to my search. 

I knew that I had to post it today, if only just for one old friend and regular reader who would find it hilarious.  Even if you hate it, I hope you’ll admit that it was too bizarre to ignore.


Monday, April 25, 2011



I had a blog entry all ready to post this morning, then came across this article: What I know about honeybees.  It will take a few minutes to read, but it is well written and informative – you should read it if you can spare the time.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Moly


KKK alive and well?  No.  Well, maybe somewhere, but what you see here is a picture of members of the Brotherhood of the Cross of Jesus (Cofradía de Jesús del Vía crucis) celebrating Holy Week in Malaga, Spain.

Friday, April 22, 2011

101 Years And A Day Late

Among hundreds of anecdotes and quips attributed to Mark Twain was “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” which he wrote after the New York Journal published his obituary.  Sadly, those reports have now been correct for a hundred and one years.

Twain wrote in Letters from the Earth:
“Life was not a valuable gift, but death was. Life was a fever-dream made up of joys embittered by sorrows, pleasure poisoned by pain; a dream that was a nightmare-confusion of spasmodic and fleeting delights, ecstasies, exultations, happinesses, interspersed with long-drawn miseries, griefs, perils, horrors, disappointments, defeats,humiliations, and despairs--the heaviest curse devisable by divine ingenuity; but death was sweet, death was gentle, death was kind; death healed the bruised spirit and the broken heart, and gave them rest and forgetfulness; death was man's best friend; when man could endure life no longer, death came and set him free.”

April 21, 1910, Mark Twain died at the age of seventy-four. Near the end, the numerous dinner-speech invitations were declined — “Won’t go to any banquet not even the Last Supper,” he wrote in his RSVP to the Simplified Spelling Board — but Twain did keep busy. He dictated his autobiography, loosely-speaking, to his official biographer.

He left a wake of lawsuits wherever he went, one of them against his business manager for being in cahoots with the secretary who, Twain decided after seven years, was “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction and always getting disappointed, poor child.”

Some Twain Quotes as Motivational Posters:






And finally,



Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quote Of The Year


When Westboro Baptist Church (that gay-hating bunch that demonstrate at military funerals) announced that they would demonstrate at Meade High School near Ft. Meade, in Maryland last week, they got more than they bargained for. 

It was a peaceful confrontation; they were never threatened, but the six Westboro parishioners with their hateful signs were met by several hundred local residents and a large contingent of the Freedom Riders motorcycle group in a massive counter-demonstration.

Members from several different Annapolis churches staged a "flash mob" piece of performance art, dressing in matching white T-shirts adorned with scripture. They sang and prayed for the members of the Kansas church.

counter demonstration

Upon seeing the citizens massed across the road, Shirley Phelps-Roper – the daughter of Westboro pastor Fred Roper and attorney/spokesperson for the church – is reported to have said, “What the Heck is wrong with these people?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thoughts On Rain and Boundaries


Still no rain here at the (formerly) Boggy Thicket – it’s now been 100 days since we’ve had any measurable rainfall.  There are huge fires burning all across Texas in this, the driest of springs in over 40 years.  Over One Million Acres already burned, and burning bans in effect for almost the entire state.

It almost (but not quite) makes me wish hurricane season would hurry up and arrive.

This lack of rain got me thinking about something I saw several years ago.  There were scattered showers around the Houston area – the normal condition for this time of year – pretty much normal at any time really, and what should be happening today.  Looking out the front door at work, we could see that the parking lot was completely dry, but just past the curb, 100 feet from our door,  it was raining to beat the band.

Everyone had to take time out to come and look, there were lots of oohs and ahs, some wows and even a couple of damns.  Everybody who saw it agreed it was amazing.

Granted, you don’t get the chance to see something like that very often, but if you think about it, it has to be pretty darn common.  After all, everything starts and stops somewhere. Nothing is infinite except maybe the universe, and science tells us the universe is expanding.  Please tell me how anything can expand unless it has finite boundaries.

Every raincloud that ever dumped its load dropped it somewhere, and that somewhere had to start and stop at some finite line.  Let’s consider the example of a stationary rain cloud 3/4 of a mile in diameter – You and about 6,500 of your best friends could set up shop shoulder-to-shoulder and watch it rain from 1/8 of a mile away and still have room for beer coolers and a barbeque pit.

Humans do seem to be fascinated by boundaries, though.  I guess that’s why we’re attracted to the seashore, or the rim of the Grand Canyon.  It’s why even city dwellers enjoy a sunrise or sunset over a discernable horizon.

We’re even drawn to artificial landmarks like the Four Corners where the boundaries of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico come together.  Even after the National Geodetic Survey announced in 2009 that the marker was in the wrong place, people still flock there by the hundreds to get their picture taken standing on the (wrong) spot.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Flash Gordon Boots


I was always crazy about my Aunt Claire*, but when I first met her new husband, I really didn’t like him much at all. Over the years he turned out to be a pretty good guy, and may have been trying too hard to make a good first impression, but to me Francis was big and loud and a little bit frightening to a four-year-old. 

Besides, he wore some strange looking boots. 

As a kid who had never ventured further from Texas than Muskogee, Oklahoma, I had seen lots of cowboy boots and even lace-up combat boots, but Francis wore something you might expect to see on an English fox hunt.

He caught me staring at them and said “What are you looking at?”

Those are some funny looking boots.” I said, “What kind are they?”

He winked at his wife and said “Why, those are Flash Gordon boots.”

They did look quite a bit like the ones pictured above, but I wasn’t convinced.  Just to be sure, I kicked him in the shin as hard as I could.

He grabbed his leg, and while he hopped around he said some words I had never heard before, not even when my dad busted a knuckle working on the car.

Big liar!” I yelled at him, “Flash Gordon boots have steel up the front!”


In looking on-line for a picture to go with this post, I learned that the “steel” in his boots was probably Bakelite.  In an early example of product placement, Union Carbide sponsored ads for plastic in the Flash Gordon comic books.



* Totally confused about the correct spelling of my aunt’s name.  I’ve seen it spelled Clare, Clair, and Claire.  I know it was short for Clarene, which could also be spelled correctly with or without an i.  According to one baby-naming website: Claire has 61 variant forms: Ceara, Cearra, Cheeara, Chiara, Ciara, Ciarra, Clair, Claireen,Clairene, Claireta, Clairette, Clairey, Clairice, Clairinda, Clairissa, Clairita, Clairy, Clara,Clarabel, Clarabelle, Clare, Clarene, Claresta, Clareta, Claretta, Clarey, Clari, Claribel,Claribella, Claribelle, Clarice, Clarie, Clarinda, Clarine, Clarisa, Clarissa, Clarisse, Clarita,Claritza, Clarrie, Clarry, Clary, Claryce, Clayre, Clayrette, Clayrice, Clayrinda, Clayrissa,Clerissa, Cliara, Clorinda, Klaire, Klara, Klaretta, Klarissa, Klaryce, Klayre, Kliara, Klyara,Seara and Searra.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Chicoms Are After Our Nuts!


Pecans are as all-American as anything can be. Washington and Jefferson grew them. They are the state nut of Arkansas, Alabama and Texas. The U.S. grows about two-thirds of the world's pecans and eats most of them itself.
For generations, pecan prices have fallen with bumper crops and soared with lousy ones. But lately, they've only been going up. A pound of pecans in the shell fetched $2.14 on average last year, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture, nearly double what they brought three years earlier.
The reason: The Chinese want our nuts.
Five years ago, China bought hardly any pecans. In 2009,
China bought one-quarter of the U.S. crop, and there's no sign demand is abating.

Pecans offer a case study in how China is reshaping entire industries for its trading partners—and not only by
exporting goods made by its low-wage workers.
Nearly $1 of every $5 China spent on U.S. items last year went to buy food of some sort, $16.6 billion worth, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. U.S. exports of goods of all sorts to China more than doubled between 2005 and 2010. Exports of crops and processed foods—soybeans, dairy, rice, fruit juice—more than tripled. Exports of pecans rose more than 20-fold.
"What's changed in our business?" asks second-generation pecan
merchant and sheller George Martin, president of Navarro Pecan Co. in Corsicana, Texas. "The Chinese entered…and they have been getting bigger and bigger and bigger."
The dynamics are simple. "We're in a situation of finite supply and seemingly infinite demand," says Thomas Stevenson, a Georgia pecan grower and merchant. Eventually, more trees will be planted, but a pecan takes eight to 10 years to bear fruit.
For now, life is good for pecan growers, who produce about $550 million a year worth of nuts at today's prices.

While China's appetite for pecans has been a windfall for growers, it poses a challenge for pecan shellers—the middlemen who separate nut from shell and then sell the insides to food companies, grocery stories and direct to consumers. For some shellers, the trouble is simply getting the nuts they need before the Chinese buy them. For others, it's about coping with volatile prices to avoid profit-reducing squeezes.

For bakers and ice cream makers, it's all pain. "It's certainly not very pleasant," says Bob McNutt, president of Collin Street Bakers, also of Corsicana, which has been selling pecan-packed fruitcakes for more than 100 years. About three-quarters of Mr. McNutt's sales are from fruitcakes, and 27% of the weight of each fruitcake is pecans. Prices of the pecans he buys are 50% higher than any previous peak. Customers, he says delicately, "are not going to be participate in absorbing the cost."
In September, though, Collin did raise the price of a 1-lb., 14-oz. deluxe fruitcake by $1.10, or 4.8%, to $23.95, before shipping costs. Mr. McNutt says he'll decide in May whether to increase prices again. He worries that if he boosts prices too much, sticker shock will lead some customers to go without fruitcake next Christmas.

With the Chinese buying so many nuts, exports to other markets have been crowded out. Some domestic buyers have had trouble getting the sort of nuts they want. One sheller went under last year; its plants were sold to the King Ranch, the big closely held Texas agribusiness that got into the pecan business by acquisition in 2006. Another sheller told customers in November it couldn't honor its contracts.

At Navarro Pecan, Martin frets that if prices keep rising, Americans will simply make fewer pecan pies. At today's grocery-store prices a pecan pie takes between $5.50 and $7.50 worth of pecans, depending on the recipe.

Sunday, April 17, 2011



As a child of the Great Depression, my mother had it better than most. 

The Boyd family was far from wealthy, but my grandfather did have a job – he was an engineer on the MKT (Katy) Railroad - and they lived on a place that was large enough to have a vegetable garden, a milk cow and a flock of chickens.  Even with their large family (mom had eight sisters and one brother) there was always enough food to go around.

Because they did have plenty, my grandmother was in the habit of inviting a less-fortunate parishioner or two home from church to share Sunday dinner.

At one of these meals, an elderly maiden lady – I guess PC speech was around then, too; that does sound much nicer than old spinster. - was slathering an extremely generous portion of butter on a biscuit.  The poor old gal probably hadn’t seen, much less tasted, fresh churned butter in months.

My Aunt Frankie noticed what she was doing, and in a voice dripping with all the sarcasm an eight-year-old could muster, said “Well, have some butter, Miss Evans.”

Miss Evans was embarrassed,  my grandmother was mortified, Aunt Frankie probably didn’t sit down for a week and “Have some butter, Miss Evans” became part of the family history and the family lexicon.

If you ever hear that phrase, you can bet that:

  a. Someone was being a little too greedy, and

  b. Whoever said it probably has a Boyd gene  or two in  their DNA.

 Update:  My Cousin Norma just talked to my Aunt Barbara who was there when it happened.  She confirmed the story, but said it was Aunt Claire, not Frankie, who made the comment.  I always thought it was Frankie, but she’s probably right.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What You Do When You Have Nothing To Post

Well, Alex, “What is Steal Someone Else’s Blog?”

Every Jeopardy! Clue and Response, Ever*
by Chris Higgins - April 14, 2011 - 10:59 AM

Jeopardy! Board from Ken Jennings's Last Game

Let’s say you wanted to know what went down on last night’s episode of Jeopardy! Well, you’d be in luck — browse on over to the Show #6128 page on J! Archive, and there you have it — every clue, every response, all the scores, the whole thing — you can basically play Jeopardy! for yourself by reading the clues, then mousing over the dollar amount to see the response — remember to phrase your response in the form of a question.

What’s insanely wonderful about J! Archive is that it appears to include every game. Ever. For many of our readers, this may include games played on the days (or at least weeks) they were born, got married, and so on — as the list goes back to 1983. Check out the Help page for more information on this volunteer project — including the useful note that some clues are blank, because they were never revealed on the show, and indeed, a very few rounds/clues haven’t been added to the database yet — there are explanatory notes on a few games where this is the case. There’s also a delightfully nerdy discussion of various Rules, Conjectures, and Strategies, including “Clavin’s Rule,” named for Cliff Clavin’s fictionalJeopardy! appearance on Cheers.

So, my nerds, go check out Season 20 and Season 21 to relive Ken Jennings’s legendary run, or trySeason 2 (from 1984) in which the second episode ended with a three-way tie at $0. Why? Just look at that Final Jeopardy! clue and I’ll think you’ll see the problem. (Modern nerds may be familiar with that kind of clue because we’ve lived through a century transition, but in 1984, none of the contestants had.)

* UPDATE: After reading the comments (including several from Jeopardy! contestants), the archive isn’t as complete as I thought. The good news is that apparently you can contribute to it; check the site’s Help page for info on who the archivists are; there’s also a Suggest Correction form that presumably could be used to submit new info (though I’d recommend talking to a human about what format they want before transcribing a game).

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Lady In The Harbor - Uh, Desert


Earlier this week, the postal carrier – not our usual mail-lady but a temporary substitute – delivered all our envelopes full of bills and ads to our mailbox, then left a parcel addressed to me across the street on my neighbor’s front porch.

This has been a common problem in the past with deliveries from FedEX, but when they explained that my odd numbered address should indicate that our house was on the other side of the street, I could always tell them “The Post Office always gets it right.”

My mail-lady’s little oops pales beside a USPS snafu that came to light today:

The United States Postal Service has issued a new stamp featuring the Statue of Liberty. Only the statue it features is not the one in the harbor, but the replica at the New York-New York casino in Las Vegas.


You might think that the post office would have just gone with the original, the one off the tip of Lower Manhattan that for 125 years has welcomed millions of New York’s huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Instead, they accidentally used the 14-year-old statue that presides over thousands of weary gamblers a week.

The post office, which had thought the Lady Liberty “forever” stamp featured the real thing, found out otherwise when a clever stamp collector who is also what one might call a superfan of the Statue of Liberty got suspicious and contacted Linn’s Stamp News, the essential read among philatelists.

But the post office is going with it.

“We still love the stamp design and would have selected this photograph anyway,” said Roy Betts, a spokesman. Mr. Betts did say, however, that the post office regrets the error and is “re-examining our processes to prevent this situation from happening in the future.”

The service selected the image from a photography service, and issued rolls of the stamp bearing the image in December. This month, it issued a sheet of 18 Lady Liberty and flag stamps. Information accompanying the original release of the stamp included a bit of history on the real Statue of Liberty. Las Vegas was never mentioned. The whole mess was exposed by the stamp magazine, which this week ran photographs of both statues.

To the average tourist, there are obvious differences. The Las Vegas statue is half the size of the real Statue of Liberty. And of course, they are in different cities. But it takes a real student of Lady Liberty to notice the contrasts in a stamp-size photo of her head. The hair is different. The replica’s eyes are much more sharply defined. A rectangular patch — a plaque, maybe? — is on the replica’s center spike.

The post office, while perhaps chagrined, is standing by the stamp but changing its informational material about it.

At the New York-New York casino, where a permanent Sept. 11 memorial is positioned in front of the fake New York Harbor in which the fake Statue of Liberty sits, there is nothing but pride.

“Everyone thought the post office was honoring just one great American institution when in reality they were honoring two — the Statue of Liberty and Las Vegas,” said Gordon Absher, spokesman for MGM Resorts International.

Meanwhile, back in the real New York, Edward I. Koch, who declared that the city was the center of the universe when he was mayor, offered some insight into what it all means: “It simply means the post office is doing a stupid thing.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Not So Boggy Thicket


It rained here a bit on Monday.  Not enough – not nearly enough to break the drought is creating dust-bowl conditions reminiscent of the 1930s across Texas and much of the south-central United States.

It only rained for about half an hour, then the front pushed through and we had a couple days of weather more like Durango or Pagosa Springs than Southeast Texas – humidity in the teens with lows near 50 and highs in the 80s.  Today dawned mostly cloudy, and the uber-optimistic weatherman is forecasting a 10% chance of rain.

The only thing Boggy about the Boggy Thicket these days is a few feet of ditch that flooded when I vacuumed the pool.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Post-Mortem Exhibitionism

In life, Pall Arason was an attention-seeker. In death, the 95-year-old Icelander's pickled penis will be the main attraction at one of the world's most bizarre museums.

Sigurdur Hjartarson, a retired school teacher who runs the Phallological Museum in the tiny Icelandic fishing town of Husavik, says Arason's organ will help complete his extensive collection of whale, seal, bear, and other mammalian members.

The museum has been open since 1997 but Hjartarson has long waited for a human specimen to round out his display.

Hjartarson says that Arason, a friend, agreed to help by having his penis donated after his death. It should be noted that the museum also has legally-certified gift tokens for three more specimens belonging to Homo Sapiens.

The medical director of Akureyri Hospital said that the removal operation was carried out in January under the supervision of a doctor at a local morgue.

From the museum website,


The Icelandic Phallological Museum contains a collection of two hundred and nine penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals that can be found in Iceland. Visitors to the museum will encounter fifty five specimens belonging to sixteen different kinds of whale, one specimen taken from a rogue polar bear, thirty-six specimens belonging to seven different kinds of seal and walrus, and one hundred and fifteen specimens originating from twenty different kinds of land mammal: all in all, a total of two hundred and nine specimens belonging to forty six different kinds of mammal. In addition, there are  some twenty-three  folklore specimens and forty foreign ones. Altogether the collection contains 272 specimens from 92 different species of animals.

In addition to the biological section of the museum, visitors can view the collection of about three hundred artistic oddments and other practical utensils related to the museum’s chosen theme.

If you would care to make a donation, you could become one of the museum’s almost 200 Honorary Members.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

72% of Five Is …..

Is it just me, or does it strike you as odd that the folks who predict hurricane probabilities each year at this time are located in   Ft. Collins, Colorado and State College, Pennsylvania? 

What the Heck do they know about hurricanes in Colorado, and why would they even care? 

Well, their prognostications are out again, and according to John D. Cox of Discovery News, they may not be worth very much.

hurricane map

Early Hurricane Forecasts: What Are They Worth?
By John D. Cox |Discovery News

Two unofficial early-bird predictions call for an unusually active 2011 hurricane season -- but don't try to take these forecasts to the bank.

They might be better this year than Punxsutawney Phil, who totally blew his prediction for an early Spring, but still, a lot of meteorologists think the April forecasts are putting hard numbers on some pretty squishy science.
For the record, the Colorado State University team of William M. Gray and Philip J. Klotzbach predicts 9 Atlantic Basin hurricanes, including 5 major hurricanes, and a 72 percent chance that at least one of the big ones will strike somewhere along the U.S. coastline sometime between June 1 and the end of November., of State College, PA, calls for 8 hurricanes, including 3 big ones, and pinpoints three "higher concern areas" for a hurricane strike -- the Gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana, the Florida Peninsula and the Carolinas.
These predictions look a lot like last year's season, which saw a record 19 "named" tropical storms, including 12
hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes.

Last April, the Colorado State team saw a 69 percent chance of a big one making landfall along the U.S. coast. But, of course, none did -- a circumstance which left a lot of people wondering what all the fuss was about.
The problem with predicting the hurricane season in early April is that a lot of the conditions that make one season different from another are not yet in place -- literally, they are up in the air. Shifting from winter to summer, the atmosphere is so unstable over the Northern Hemisphere, from roughly mid-March to mid-May that forecasters have a name for it: the "Spring Barrier.”

Many of the important features of atmospheric and ocean circulation that encourage or dampen hurricane formation and steer them along one path or another are just not there yet.  

Among the great unknowns is the El Niño-La Niña cycle in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Warm El Niño conditions create powerful high-level winds over the Atlantic Ocean that rip the tops off many budding tropical storms. La Niña conditions have the opposite effect, encouraging tropical storm formation. On this side of the Spring Barrier, whether the current La Niña conditions prevail into the new hurricane season this summer is pretty much anybody's guess.
This is why the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center waits until the middle of May -- May 19 this year -- to issue its first hurricane season outlook.
To be fair, the early-bird hurricane forecasters are serious scientists who know the limits of these prognostications as well as anybody. Gray acknowledges the problem of trying to see through the instability of spring in a recent comment to Bloomberg News. "It's a tough barrier," he said, "you don't know what is going to happen."
But, the people who run insurance companies and other businesses begin thinking about hurricane season in the spring, and these early forecasts give them something to go on. For the rest of us, living in hurricane country, the details of the seasonal forecasts probably don't matter so much. Everyone agrees that the best course of action is to be prepared for one every year.

Monday, April 11, 2011

On Death and Taxes


This year’s IRS filing deadline is fast approaching, although not as fast as some years. 

This year, April 16th,  (Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia) falls on a Saturday, so federal employees get the day before off.  That means that instead of April 15th, you have until Monday the 18th to get your return sent.

Old Ben Franklin is credited with saying “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

I’m pleased to report that this year we have avoided one of those certainties entirely and have already received a refund on the other!

Getting a tax refund is easy - Just grossly overpay your withholding all year long.

If that approach doesn’t appeal to you, there is at least one other alternative.  It seems that you can also – like we did – retire and watch your income drop back down to 1970s levels.  I don’t recommend that approach, but, for this year anyway, it worked for us.

Sunday, April 10, 2011



Came across this poem on-line in an article about a fellow who died recently.  At the widow’s request, this was read at his funeral:

“Sourwood” by R.T. Smith

When the keeper has died,
whose hands have touched
so much honey,

the village will convene
to elect a successor
and to remember

the sweetness of his voice,
his dependable hymns,
the spell of smoke

and the hush just after.
While the elders
resist the old rhythms

of grief, one will speak
of the ancient belief –
that the bee-father’s demise,

kept secret, could cause
the death of the hives
in the coming winter.

Then the question will rise
in a nervous murmur:
Who will tell the bees?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Good Evening, Clarice


Do you remember the movie “The Silence of the Lambs”? If so, which character do you remember most? Could it be Clarice Starling or Dr. Hannibal Lecter? If so, you are in good company. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins won Academy Awards for their portrayals of these two key characters. You probably wouldn't be surprised to find out that Jodie Foster’s character has the most screen time in the movie.
What might surprise you is that Hopkins only had about sixteen minutes of screen time in the nearly two-hour movie. He set a record for the shortest role ever to receive the best actor award. Yet, his character dominates our memories of the movie.
How could Anthony Hopkins leave such a memorable impression in just sixteen minutes? It’s simple, our brains often confuse intensity or novelty with prominence. We tend to over-emphasize things that catch our attention. It only took sixteen minutes (13% of the entire movie) for Hannibal Lecter to etch himself into our minds as the greatest villain of all time (according to the American Film Institute).

So how does that translate outside of our movie-going experience? Often it translates to where and how we focus our attention.

Incidentally, did the title of this entry seem a bit off? Don’t you remember him saying, “Hello Clarice”? That’s another problem with our memories. Sometimes our brain alters our memories based on what it expected rather than what actually occurred. Since most of us tend to greet people with “Hello” rather than “Good evening”, our brains tend to modify the memory. That's why sometimes your memory of what was said during a conversation, might not match what others recall. It could be that you are remembering what you intended to say. Or, perhaps everyone else is remembering what they expected to hear.

Our brains aren’t optimized to reflect reality. They are optimized to keep us alive. That often means that they alter our memories to create emphasis. Forty-thousand years ago that was probably good for a hunter and gatherer trying to navigate life on the savanna. For people trying to navigate life in the 21st century, it sometimes creates problems.

Excerpted (and modified) from Brad Kolar’s website, Leaderquest.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Because It Won’t Go Back In The Tube

Although the primary use of toothpaste is to clean and improve the aesthetic appearance and health of teeth, there are also at least 26 other things that you can use it for.  Check these suggestions from

Remember, use only white toothpaste.


  1. Removes stain from cloth

    To take out all kinds of stain like ink or lipstick. Squeeze some on the spot, scrub and rinse.

  2. Even out scratches on CD / DVD

    If the screen freezes, take out the disc, put some toothpaste on it, scrub and clean it off.

  3. Cleans diamond ring
    diamond ring

    Just squeeze a little on a used toothbrush, wet the ring, scrub gently, rinse and your diamond ring should be look sparkling new.

  4. Cleans silver


    Toothpaste can be used to polish any kind of silver. It really does bring out the shine in silverwares.
  5. Placate burns

    Right after you get burnt, put it on. It helps to relieve the sting.

  6. Removes crayon from painted walls.

    Rub the marks with the toothpaste and a damp rag. Wipe with water to get rid of residue.

  7. Remove carpet stains.

    Squeeze some onto the carpet, scrub, rinse and let it dry.

  8. Relieves insect bites.
    insect bites

    Spread a little over either of these and you’ll feel soothed and no itches. Mosquito, flea and ant bites work especially well.

  9. Keep girl babies’ bows in their hair.
    baby bow

    If they don’t have much hair this is particularly useful. It doesn’t pull it out, it just washes out.

  10. Clean your nails

    Teeth and nails are made of the same material. To clean your nails, squeeze some on top of a toothbrush, wet your nails and brush them thoroughly. Be amazed by the sparkle.

  11. Clean shoes

    Scrubbing toothpaste with a wet toothbrush over the boots, working shoes and rubber part of sneakers will work. It can also be used to remove scuffs.

  12. Put up posters

    You can use toothpaste to put up posters without damaging the wall. However, avoid using it for collector posters. It can damage the ink over time.

  13. Use it to temporarily seal holes

    Can be used as a spackle to fill nail holes. This sounds evil, but you can use it right before you move out of your rented apartment.

  14. Clean around the bathroom

    Use it to clean shower doors and rings around the bath tub. It has an abrasive so that is why it works good.

  15. Clean your vehicle’s headlight lenses

    Put some toothpaste in a bowl with some water. Use a buffer pad and clean off fog caused by dirt and bugs hitting them.

  16. Clean model cars

    Hobbyists who collect and build model cars, robots and action figures can certainly use toothpaste to make them nice and shiny.

  17. Remove scratches on your watch crystal

    Dab some on the watch and scrub it with tissue.

  18. Treat acne
    treat acne

    Be very careful when using this. Use it at most once a week. Just dab a small amount on a pimple before bed, wake up and it will dry up.

  19. Prevent fog in your swimming goggles

    Just wipe it on, clean it off. Works well for me.

  20. Clean piano keys.

    A dab of toothpaste, a soft cloth and some rubbing will usually clean piano keys and turn them white again.

  21. Deodorize smelly hands

    wash hands

    Wash your hands with a dab of toothpaste and it will remove smells like onions and other unpleasant odors.
  22. Remove scratches on glassware.

    Polish with a squeeze of toothpaste. Your glassware should be shining in no time.

  23. Remove beach tar

    tar feet

    Getting that black beach tar on your feet can put a small crimp in your vacation, but it is easy enough to remove. Just rub it with some non-gel toothpaste and rinse.
  24. Deodorize baby bottles

    Works for sour smelling baby bottles. Scrub with toothpaste and a bottle brush and the bottles should end up smelling clean and fresh.

  25. Cleans clothes iron

    The mild abrasive in non-gel toothpaste is just the ticket for scrubbing the gunk off the bottom plate of your clothes iron. Apply the toothpaste to the cool iron, scrub with a cloth, then rinse clean.

  26. Remove water marks from furniture

    cup stain

    To get rid of those telltale watermark rings left by sweating beverages, gently rub some non-gel toothpaste on the wood with a soft cloth.
  27. You might also want to check out these 74 very useful things that you can do with vinegar.