The following came to me by way of an email from a family relation and I couldn't find any reasonable way of passing it on except by reprinting it in my weblog. It is attributed to John Cleese and the narrative sounds like his. I hope that the copyright owner will be forgiving. I included the attribution that came with it, but cannot verify it.
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.”
Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the Blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.
The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.
Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”
The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”
Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .
The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.
Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be right.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.
A final thought – ” Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC”.
HT © 2009-2013 · 21WIRE MEDIA · ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WORLDWIDE
Schools and teachers tried their best to destroy my love of learning. It seems that the love of learning is innate in every child. We mimic virtually everything we see and hear others doing. However, it isn't long before our families begin putting restraints on us, forbidding us to imitate only them and certain specified members of the community. Then, when we reach school, teachers begin substituting their judgment of who we should emulate. Never has this been clearer than today. Ever since teachers banded together and adopted an ideology, they have been hell bent on substituting indoctrination for education.
Is it any wonder that employers aren't happy with the lack of skills evinced by graduates
Or that students are failing their tests
In fact, teachers and schools that attempt to educate are castigated and ostracized.
I am fortunate that the primary authority figure in my life, my father, was abusive. He taught me that all authority figures were suspect and, thus, I was able to resist the negative influences of the teachers in my life. I selected my own mentors and sought out my own authorities questioning everyone of them, testing their premises, and dismissing anything that was inconsistent with observable facts. Thus, I became an autodidact, a self-taught individual.
Leonardo da Vinci, an autodidact
It's a hard life, living as an autodidact, unable to trust anyone until they prove themselves. It's a lonely life, but a rewarding one. I only wish I had known that when I started. I was plagued with self-doubt and feared failure at every turn. After all, who was I to set my judgment above that of others? The answer didn't become obvious until much later in life when I looked back and reflected on the balance sheet of my successes and failures. Yes, it's been a good life, full of adventure and learning. An autodidact never stops learning and learning is an adventure. Isn't it sad that so many are dissuaded from it?
Do you get it? My teachers didn't. Shakespeare wrote plays. They were meant to be acted upon a stage. Actors are needed to interpret the words in action and emotion. Requiring students to read the dialog without the benefit of a cast to perform them makes about as much sense as attempting to fly with nothing more than a stack of aircraft blueprints.
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Author and illustrator Brooke McEldowney may be doing Shakespeare a favor by using the characters of his online comic Pibgorn
to act out the play Romeo and Juliet.
The visual clues provided by his illustrations make the play much more readable.
I doubt if school teachers would allow their students to read Brooke's version, especially if some of his more lascivious characters find roles in the play. I'm guessing that his fairy, Pibgorn, will play Juliet, but I can't quite decide how he will cast Drusella, the over-sexed succubus. However, they should either allow it or permit the students to act out the play themselves. Wouldn't that be a better way of teaching Shakespeare?
Growing old is not for the faint of heart. Don't get me wrong. Living a long life is a blessing. I celebrated my 70th birthday this year. That's not so long, is it? True, but it's longer than the majority of my friends whom I've already seen buried. They were denied the opportunity to enjoy a few more years with their life partners. They won't see their grandchildren grow and thrive as I have.
Scene from "Cocoon", the move (click to enlarge)
Do you remember the movie Cocoon? One scene in that film still resonates with me. As the band of old folks prepare to depart with the aliens, one refuses. As his friends attempt to persuade him to accompany them, he remarks, “I don't want to see all of my friends die again.”
But death isn't the only outcome. With old age come the afflictions of aging. Alzheimer's. Arthritis. Blepharitis. Cataracts. Coronary artery disease. Dementia. Emphysema. Hearing loss. High blood pressure. Hip fractures. Macular degeneration. Menopause. Osteoporosis. Parkinson's. Urinary incontinence. Are you dialing the suicide hotline yet?
Even worse, there are the con artists constantly hovering nearby to bilk seniors. Typically, those on fixed incomes see their purchasing power diminish as the general effects of economic inflation and the special effects of health care inflation attack their savings and pensions. They can ill afford scams and cons taking what little is left to them.
Then there are companies who take money for services that seniors don't want or need and refuse to deliver. Let me warn you of one such trap, mail order plans that promise to help alleviate the high cost of prescription medicines. In truth, I'm fortunate that I have been prescribed just five medications taken in daily doses. Many, especially those older than myself, take many more. All of mine are available in generic form that greatly diminish the cost. My spouse takes a couple that cost hundreds of dollars monthly. Thus, we were happy to subscribe to a service that provided these drugs at a significant savings and with the convenience of home delivery at no additional cost, OptumRX.
We were lulled into a false sense of security. First, this service was recommended by the insurance company that provides our Medicare Part E Prescription coverage, United Healthcare Services. Second, the system worked in the beginning. The prescribed medications arrived at our home on time and we could see a small savings. Unfortunately, we authorized OptumRX to debit our checking account.
You're cringing already, aren't you? You should be. The convenience of electronic funds transfers is a modern miracle. I well remember my class on negotiable instruments in law school when the professor spoke of the fact that one day we might pay for goods and services without checks or cash. That promise wouldn't arrive for at least another thirty years, and when it arrived we were surprised, though we shouldn't have been, to discover the opportunities for fraud and abuse that the system would provide.
It doesn't take dishonesty to bilk someone out of their money. In the case of OptumRX, I'm willing to allow that they made an honest mistake. They even admitted the mistake. However, once the mistake is recognized, it should be rectified. Delaying repayment should be considered criminal, especially when dealing with those least able to afford the loss. In this case, they promised repayment within seventy-two hours and now, two weeks later, we're still waiting even though we've called repeatedly and they keep promising.
Thinking back on all the on-line purchases we've made over the past couple of years, we've been very lucky. We've never before encountered such a problem with Amazon or other vendors that we've used. However, in the future, I will never again authorize direct payment from our bank accounts. I will use MasterCard exclusively. Thus, we'll have recourse to correcting errors without having funds taken.
This cautionary tale most likely appears remote from the heights of that hill that I passed over so long ago. If you pay attention to my warning at all, you may choose to retire rich. Surely that will save you the problems to which I refer. Good luck with that dream, especially with this economy. Better that you prepare yourself with knowledge of the future that awaits you.
Based on your total calories consumed for today, you are eating too few calories. Not only is it difficult to receive adequate nutrition at these calorie levels, but you could also be putting your body into starvation mode. Starvation mode lowers your metabolism and makes weight loss more difficult. We suggest increasing your calorie consumption to 1200 calories per day minimum.
Doesn't that sound like a boxing coach advising a fighter to lean into the punch coming his way? It does to me. But that's the message that I'm receiving from the experts at MyFitnessPal.
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I've lost sixty pounds thus far. (That's the real purpose of this posting – so I can brag.) Forty pounds of that have come off since I started tracking my diet and exercise on MyFitnessPal.com on August 9, 2012. I've recommended this website in the past because it's the best I've ever found and it's free! I started out with Weight Watchers but their screwy system doesn't count fruits and vegetables as though they don't have any food value.
However, I've hit a plateau. I've weighed in the mid-two-hundred and forties for six weeks now. It's been frustrating. So, I checked out the reports section on MyFitnessPal last night and discovered that my net calorie intake dropped about the time I stopped losing weight. Really? Really!
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Obviously, I have no lack of will power. It's just that, according to them, my net calories are too low. Net calories include the total food consumed less the calories burned during exercise. The dramatic peaks and valleys in this chart are explained by the fact that I try to workout on an elliptical machine four times per week and practice Hatha Yoga seven days per week. I just began the yoga in early May. Yes, I miss a day or two here and there, usually when I have grand parenting duties.
So, should I increase caloric intake? That is, eat more. Do you have any idea the danger in telling a person who has battled his weight all his life to “eat more”? Yeah, that's a recipe for disaster...
I'VE BEEN HAMMERED a few times in my life. Not many, but enough to know better. However, a recent email from a friend reminded me of one of my earliest misadventures. No, he didn't write about drinking. He sent me an email featuring photos of unusual recycling projects.
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Now, what the hell does recycling have to do with drinking, I hear you cry. Well, look at the item in the lower left hand corner of this montage. Those appear to be vases fashioned from bottles.
When I was a young man, barely into my majority (in fact, I may not yet have been 21), I was drinking some Michelob with my friends and we attempted to make drinking glasses from the beer bottles. Please, before you castigate me for my choice, I had not yet developed a palate for the better brews. Indeed, that brings to mind a funny story that I heard not too long ago. (Please forgive the aside.)
The story that came to me claimed that Michelob was crafted by assistant brewers during a strike. They failed several times before the company founders allowed them to bottle their product. The beer that they discarded was simply dumped into the streets and flowed down the gutters. Thus, it became known as “gutter beer”. The beer that they bottled was named Michelob. I'm not claiming that the story is true. However, if I had my way, all of the beer crafted by the mass marketers would flow in the gutters. I like ale that is found at the micro breweries now flourishing across the United States.
But, I digress... As we drank our Michelob in that distant time, I shared another story with my friends. I had heard that a glass could be fashioned from the Michelob bottle by following these simple instructions:
- Drink the beer.
- Tie a string around the bottle where you want to sever the bottom from the top.
- Soak the string in gasoline and ignite it.
- Strike the bottle on the edge of a hard surface (such as a concrete step) after the flame has had sufficient time to heat it
Had the first bottle merely shattered, the experiment might have ended there. Unfortunately, it didn't. In fact, it broke leaving a perfectly smooth lip around approximately ninety percent of the bottle. At the point where the string had been tied into a knot, a jagged peak extended above the lip of the “glass”. Success was close enough at hand to encourage us to try again. And, we tried again with every one of the remaining bottles in the six pack. I was then sent to buy another.
Every attempt produced the same results, just close enough to success to encourage us to try again. Another bottle. Another six pack. I lost count.
Fortunately, we lived in the country and only the trees were in any danger as I traveled back and forth. Well, the trees and the woodland animals. Well, those and my car. My father's car, actually.
I would really like to know if anyone else attempted this trick, however, please don't tell me you succeeded. I would like to enjoy a safe and sane holiday weekend. By the way, don't forget to pause for a moment of silence for those who gave “the last full measure of devotion” so that you too could enjoy it.
MY FORMER SPOUSE was my guide during my first visit to Dante's Inferno. She led me to the Eighth Circle where frauds are punished. That was, after all, the substance of our marriage. However, my latest foray to the infernal regions took me to the Ninth Circle where demons tore and gnashed at my leg. They were named sciatica.
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A night in the emergency room and a visit to my physician provided me with a substantial stock of Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen for pain, and advice to find some sort of specialist to figure out what was wrong with me. Unfortunately, none agreed on which medical specialty I should consult to help relieve the underlying problem. My x-rays revealed no deformity or injury.
Therein lies the problem. Sciatica is not a diagnosis of a disease or condition. It merely describes symptoms of lower back and leg pain that are the result from some undetermined cause. In other words, all the doctors provided was a word to describe my pain, but no clue as to its cure. Thanks. Anyone watching me writhe on the floor could see that I was in pain. No word was needed. Actually, I don't believe that any word could describe it.
I might have visited the specialists, one-at-a-time: orthopedist, neurologist, et al. (It was a safe bet that I could skip the Obstetrician-Gynecologist. I'm not pregnant, one of the common causes of sciatica.) However, my daughter insisted that I begin with her chiropractor. Really? I was skeptical.
Like most people, I viewed chiropractic medicine as quackery, but my daughter can be extremely insistent. She had been injured while rowing for a collegiate team and none of the sports medicine specialists had helped. Thus, she swears by the chiropractor who ultimately alleviated her pain. She calls him a witch doctor. I made an appointment to keep peace in the family.
You should go, at least once in your life. A visit to a chiropractor is like a visit to The Magic Castle, a Hollywood institution where dinners are served along with magical shows. In addition to diagnosing the root cause of my sciatica, the chiropractor treated me to several demonstrations of medical legerdemain.
In addition to the pain, my left leg had lost its strength. No, the muscles hadn't withered. They simply weren't receiving the proper electrical cues from the nerves to perform as they were supposed to. The chiropractor had me wear a pair of magical colored glasses that restored strength to the afflicted leg. How? Beats me. I told you, it's magic! He could also weaken my good leg by simply touching a certain spot on my back. There wasn't any therapeutic benefit to that latter demonstration. I'm sure that he was just showing off.
After just three visits with the chiropractor, the pain was relieved and strength was returning. I was able to put the pain medication aside for almost forty-eight hours. Then, one night, the demons returned with reinforcements.
If my wife hadn't been at my side to encourage me, I might have blown my brains out. Even the pain pills were useless. I had an appointment with the chiropractor for the next morning but doubted he could help. I had lost the little faith I had acquired in his arts. My wife insisted that we go anyhow. She agreed to start calling the other specialists if he couldn't help.
The problem was that chiropractors manipulate your body, especially the spine, and my pain encompassed every part of my back and leg. It included many types of pain including touch and pressure. It felt as though my leg was immersed in hot lava, tons of it. Even the ride to his office was excruciating. I became annoyed with my wife's driving convinced that she was swerving and jerking the car on purpose, and diving into every pothole as retribution for my many sins.
When we arrived, the chiropractor went to work and the pain subsided with every adjustment. Within fifteen minutes, it ended. He then began asking questions trying to determine what had occurred to cause the flare up. He knows that I am a writer and speculated that something had happened with my chair.
How did he know that? Yes, my office chair has a pneumatic piston that allows the user to adjust seat height. It began leaking air two days before and sank to its lowest setting as soon as I sat on it (no fat jokes please). Ah, there was the problem. Sitting with the knees elevated above the hips was causing my spine to pinch the sciatic nerves. That's when he gave me the magic wedge (no, not a wedgie). It's a simple foam wedge that I sit on to raise my hips above my knees.
The wedge worked. I sat on it on the ride home and arrived there without any pain. The bucket seats in the car had been the culprit, not my wife's driving. (I know that she'll smile at this part as she proofs this for publication.)
The chiropractor also instructed me to ice my back whenever the pain returns. Whereas the pain pill required about forty-five minutes to take effect, icing the lower back works almost immediately. Also, the pain pill only masks the pain. The cold pack alleviates the swelling that causes the pain.
Now, I'm a believer. My wife and I are annoying everyone we know with this tale. Anyone who suffers pain is lectured on the reasons why they should hie themselves off to the chiropractor.
See me next week, and I'll tell you about bats' wings and eye of newt.
I'M ON SHAKY GROUND this year. My hometown team isn't playing in the Super Bowl. The truth is that my hometown doesn't have a team in the National Football League despite being the second largest television market in the United States. Yes, I'm talking about L.A. Los Angeles. The town that the NFL forgot. So, technically, I don't have any vested interest in the game's outcome. Or so you would think.
Click to visit the NFL Super Bowl webpage
I believe that most Southern Californians (excluding San Diego – they don't have a team either – well, at least not one with a coach) have adopted teams to cheer for. Since most of us come from somewhere else, it's easy to cheer for a team from somewhere else where we used to live.
I'm from Baltimore originally. (Excuse me – “Balmur”.) Unfortunately, my team left Baltimore too. They moved to Indianapolis. So, I have a choice: Cheer for Baltimore or cheer for the Colts. One's in the Super Bowl. The other isn't.
I don't like the Colts. Our respective departures were vastly different. I left Baltimore to fight for my nation. They stole away in the night, taking Baltimore's football trophies with them, much like the Clintons tried to exit the White House with the silverware and china. Neither the Clintons nor the Colts are a class act, at least not as evinced on those occasions.
I like the Ravens, but I'm afraid to root for them. I'm a jinx. Seriously. A genuine jinx. Let me explain.
I left Baltimore in 1966 to join the Army. The Colts had won a few championships while I lived there by virtue of the fact that I never attended any of their games. Football wasn't the great sport then that it is today. Baseball was America's pastime and I rooted for the Orioles. They never won a game, at least, not while I was watching. No, not one. They also never rose from the cellar – the bottom of the league standings.
I see you. You're Googling it, aren't you? Yes, Baltimore won the World Series in 1966. Why? I wasn't there to jinx them. I was an Officer Candidate at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, at the time. I asked one of my classmates if he had heard who was playing in the World Series. We didn't have much time to follow sports while attending Infantry School. He told me Baltimore won it. I laughed. He didn't. He was serious. That's when I began to suspect that I was a jinx. Not only did the Orioles win the World Series, but also they won it in four consecutive games against the dominant Los Angeles Dodgers.
During the intervening years, after serving a tour of duty in Vietnam, I lived in Hawaii and then Colorado. There weren't any professional sports teams in Hawaii for me to hobble, and when the Broncos arrived in Denver, I was encouraged to leave the state. (They must have heard something.) I moved to Los Angeles.
I never saw the Dodgers or the Rams win a game. Oh, they won quite a few, but not while I was watching. Not from the stands or on television or radio. I had the same effect on the Lakers. They lost the one game that I was allowed to attend. My nephew and I arrived late. The Lakers were ahead. My nephew found our seats while I picked up some hot dogs and drinks. He watched me as I approached our seats. The Laker's lead evaporated with every step I took towards him. His eyes never left me.
My nephew played sports. He even played some college basketball. His mother was under strict orders. I was not even supposed to know when he was playing. Attend one of his games? Out of the question.
So, that brings me to Super Bowl XLVII. Do you want to know who I'm going to cheer for? Better yet, do you want to know who I'm betting on?
It'll cost you.
I HAD A FRIEND who had a helluva good singing voice. He simply sang whenever and wherever the spirit moved him. We didn't have karaoke bars in those days, so we only got to hear him if we stood outside his bathroom window or plied him with a drink or two at a party. I have often wondered if he might have become a professional singer if we had karaoke bars in those days where more people could have heard him
It's hard to be heard when there are so many clamoring for attention
Websites that publish flash fiction and serialized stories are the modern author's equivalent of karaoke bars for storytellers. No agents or publishers are required. Just upload a document file and see what happens.
I've had some success on a couple of these. Thousands have “Liked” my short stories at Venture Galleries
and the now defunct The Writers Collection, as well as my own website/weblog. I recently received an invitation to publish my short stories on a new one, ReadWave.
These websites are there to help you discover new writers, ones who tell stories you like to read. It's a lot easier wading through a lot of badly written prose looking for the gems when the stories are short.
Many famous authors began their writing careers penning short stories and serialized novels. Ray Bradbury. Louis L'Amour. Jack London. Mark Twain. Charles Dickens. In times past, they were published in newspapers and the pulps
, cheaply produced magazines, as well as glossies
, magazines printed on polished paper. These media have largely disappeared, replaced by websites. They provide an opportunity for readers to get to know writers and their style before they commit time and money to read their full length novels.
Please look me up on these sites and tell your friends. You'll be doing them and me a favor.
A BLOG HAS an insatiable appetite for words, hundreds and thousands of them every day, every week. I know. I've fed mine for more than a year and a half now posting every day. I'm beginning to feel like the character, Seymour, in the musical The Little Shop of Horrors who is forced to feed a cannibalistic plant from outer space.
My blog hasn't sucked me dry, not yet, but it's taken blood, sweat, and tears that I would rather have invested in a new book.
Yes, I've had some success as a blogger. About 1,500 people visit this one every day. That's more than came during the first months. However, it was never my intention to become a blogger. I created it to sell books. That's how you sell ebooks these days. Well, that's what everyone told me. Unfortunately, it doesn't, at least not mine.
I have dreams of writing several books that I've avoided over the past year and a half while I have posted my blog stories from history, current events, and my imagination. I'm not saying that it hasn't been fun. It has. It's also been useful for developing my craft as a writer.
Don't worry. My blog isn't going to disappear. Approximately eighty percent of the visitors to my blog every day are newcomers. Many find something that interests them and there is a repository of more than 400 postings for them to read while I work on my new stories. There will be new postings as well. They won't come every day. I'll try to post at least one each week, but I'm not promising anything.
Hopefully, my novels will be “discovered” after I've written a couple or three more. If not, I'll just have to keep on telling my stories as long as the breath is within me, just for the love of doing it.
Thus, this isn't goodbye. It's just a promise of better things to come.