Friday, September 30, 2011

Dr. Schmierkase and Dr. Butterbrod

     Uncle John's Absolutely Absorbing Bathroom Reader by the Bathroom Reader's Institute is absolutely absorbing. Certain pages of it should be incorporated in Republican and Democratic platforms, and in religious sermons, as an improvement.
     There is a story in this bathroom reader about two scientists named Dr. Schmierkase and Dr. Butterbrod, who had discovered "what appeared to be the fossil of the whale that had swallowed Jonah." The story is attributed to the Toronto Mail and Empire, which published it in the early 1920's. The newspaper reported that the whale had a muscle that functioned like a trapdoor, giving access to its stomach.
     Uncle John's describes the effect on the public and the outcome of the story:
     The next day, evangelists all over Toronto read the story from the pulpit, citing it as confirmation that the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale was true...and the day after that, a rival newspaper ran a story reporting on the evangelists' speech.
     Three days after the original story ran, The Toronto Mail and Empire ran a second story exposing the first one as a hoax, the work of a journalist named Charles Langdon Clarke.
     Clarke liked to spend his free time cooking up news items based on Biblical stories, and then attributing them to fictional newspapers like the Babylon Gazette or The Jerusalem Times for added credibility. Anyone who spoke German would have had an inkling that the story was a joke -- Dr. Schmierkase and Dr. Butterbrod translates as Dr. Cheese and Dr. Butter Bread.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

SUNY, Where Is The Money Tree?

     Recently, the State University at Cortland has spent:
     $40.8 million to upgrade Bowers Hall, phase 1.
     $21.1 million for Dowd renovation, phase 2.
     $3 million for Lusk Field House renovation.
     $15.5 million for Studio West addition and alterations.

     SUNY now proposes to build a Student Life Center for $56 million in a contested area of Cortland.
     Where is the money tree? We have looked all over campus and we can't find it. We have asked students and staff to locate it, but so far none has found it. Two inquiring city residents took their dogs for a walk around campus. Dogs are good at locating trees. The dogs found beech, maple, ash and linden trees, and properly anointed them. But they never found the money tree. Perhaps the money tree was disguised. Perhaps the money was borrowed from the State University Construction Fund  -- a money tree with a different name.
     What is the real cost to the taxpayers, including principal and interest? Did the state legislature authorize these expenditures? $56 million bonded over twenty years would easily total $90 million.
     You won't find these questions and answers listed on college promotional Student Life Center FAQ. The governor has stated that New York State must control expenditures during tough economic times -- except SUNY construction, and executive helicopter rides between Albany and Westchester County.
     As SUCC building and renovations continue, PEF layoffs are beginning. PEF employee contract talks may go to binding arbitration.
     Of course, the proposed $56 million Student Life Center will proceed, despite funding concerns and objections from the proximate neighborhood and city council.
     No one listens when Tiresias speaks.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Anton Pavolich Checkov

     This post is dedicated to our friends in Russia, who are reading this blog almost daily.
     Anton Pavolich Checkov was a medical doctor. He was born on January 29, 1860 in Taganrog, Russia. He died of tuberculosis on July 15, 1904, at age 44, at the spa resort of Badenweiler, Germany. The world knows him, not as a doctor, but as a famous author, a writer of short stories and plays.
     His writing style was descriptive and poetic. While his "trend of consciousness" plots are generally faulted, his character descriptions and word-portraits of nature are praised. He wrote in an age when long cumbersome phrases and sentences were the rule, and brevity and direct expression were the exception. Comparing his style of writing to that of other Russian writers of the period, his style was more compact and precise.
     Here is a sample, taken from the short story The Post:
     "The cart with the mailbags looked like a patch of darkness. Two silhouettes were moving lazily beside it: the student with a portmanteau in his hand and the driver. The latter was smoking a short pipe; the light of the pipe moved about in the darkness, dying away and flaring up again; for an instant it lighted up a bit of sleeve, then a shaggy moustache and big copper-red nose, then stern-looking, overhanging eyebrows."
     Read The Lady With The Dog, a short story about adultery which illustrates Checkov's talents. It takes fifteen minutes of your time. Find it at Google books.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Smallpox During the Revolution

     Smallpox killed about 130,000 people in North America during the Revolutionary War. This statistic and others can be found in the book Pox Americana by Elizabeth Anne Fenn.
     When a smallpox epidemic engulfed Boston, George Washington ordered letters received from Boston to be dipped in vinegar to kill germs. It was thought that the British were deliberately spreading smallpox, as they had at Fort Pitt in 1763. At that time the British gave blankets covered with smallpox germs "as gifts to the Indians" who had besieged the fort.
     The Pennsylvania Gazette stated that "Lord Cornwallis' attempts to spread the smallpox among the inhabitants in the vicinity of York...must render him contemptible in the eyes of every civilized nation."
     Smallpox was not endemic to North America. Native Americans and many colonists were vulnerable. Colonists and soldiers applied an early form of vaccination called variolation. A small amount of smallpox pus was inserted through a cut in the skin. The fatality rate was about one percent.
     In Private Yankee Doodle, revolutionary soldier Joseph Plumb Martin, who was stationed briefly at Peekskill in May, 1777, describes the process:
     "I was ordered off, in company with about four hundred others of the Connecticut forces, to a set of old barracks (Continental Village), a mile or two distant in the Highlands, to be inoculated with the smallpox. We arrived at and cleaned out the barracks, and after two or three days received the infection. I had the smallpox favorably, as did the rest, generally; we lost none... I left the hospital on the sixteenth day after I was inoculated, and soon after joined the regiment, when I was attacked with a severe turn of the dysentery, and immediately after recovering from that, I broke out all over with boils; good old Job could scarcely have been worse handled by them than I was. I had eleven at one time upon my arm, each as big as half a hen's egg, and the rest of my carcass was much in the same condition. I attributed it to my not having been properly physicked after the small pox... In the latter part of the month of June, I was ordered off in a detachment of about one hundred men... to the lines at King's bridge...."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Matilda Joslyn Gage -- Forgotten Feminist

     "I think I was born with a hatred of oppression...."
     This illuminating phrase, included in a speech to the International Council of Women in 1888, was uttered by Matilda Joslyn Gage. She was a leading but sometimes forgotten feminist, who stood for gender equality alongside Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
     What made her distinct and separate from other leading feminists was her outspoken opposition to Christian theology. She believed it caused the downfall of women in western civilizations. Churches had published doctrines of obedience to authority, women's subordination to man, and woman's responsibility for original sin. Churches were the "stronghold of woman's oppression," she wrote.
     Her bold attacks on Christian theology separated her from feminists who were concentrating solely on the right to vote. She was in turn attacked by theologians speaking from the pulpit and writing in the press.When freed black men were given the constitutional right to vote after the Civil War, the suffrage movement went into high gear. Susan B. Anthony led the way when she attempted to vote and was arrested.
     Gage defended American Indians in connection with the unjust treatment they had received from the government. She was adopted into the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation. She wrote about the equality between women and men among Native Americans.
     Gage co-authored The Declaration of Rights of Women with Stanton. She authored Woman, Church and State.
     The Historic Gage Home is located at 210 East Genesee Street, Fayetteville, N.Y. 13066. It is on the corner of Route 5 and Walnut Street. The family burial site is nearby in Fayetteville Cemetery. There is an engraving on her tomb, which reads: "There is a word sweeter than mother, home or heaven. That word is liberty."
     For more information, go to  and
     This post is dedicated to a retired NYC teacher who is an activist for social justice.

Granny D

     How many political activists remember Granny D? There was an AP article about her published in the Syracuse Post Standard today. At age 89 she walked across the USA covering 3200 miles in 14 months. That was in 1999. She was promoting campaign finance reform.
     Her full name is Doris Haddock.  After her death, at age 100, her family donated her journals, letters, photographs and memorabilia to the Keene State College library.
     She was a retired shoe company secretary. Inspiration for her walk came from the Tuesday Morning Academy, a group of women who met every Tuesday at 8 A.M. for ballet exercises and discussions of world affairs.
     Haddock's family chose Keene State because it is close to Granny D's hometown, Dublin, New Hampshire.
     "Social justice is one of the big things we teach here, and that really appealed to the family, " said assistant professor Rodney Obien.
     Granny D was on the right track. Campaign finance reform is absolutely necessary if we are to regain control of our government at all levels. Unfortunately, we are drifting in the wrong direction. Recent Supreme Court decisions equating campaign finance with free speech have turned the clock back. Ordinary folks without legal training call these campaign gifts outright bribes or pay-to-play. They don't see the connection between pay-to-play and free speech.
     "Money talks," said one cynical apologist.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Etymology of Thimk

     How often have you looked in your home library and found a long forgotten gem? To my surprise and satisfaction, I recently resurrected Loose Canons and Red Herrings by Roger Claiborne. A sampling:
     Red Herring -- The flesh of a herring cured in salt has a strong reddish color. These fish, though tasty, have a powerful odor before being cooked, and at one time were used to train hunting dogs to follow a scent. Moreover, if a red herring was dragged across the trail of an animal the dogs were pursuing, they'd chase the herring rather than the game. "A red herring across the trail" has therefore long had the sense of a deliberate distraction, as in an argument.

     Kick the Bucket -- A bucket wasn't always just a pail, it was also a beam from which slaughtered pigs were suspended by the heels. If the animal was still twitching, it might be said to be kicking the bucket. However, there is no evidence that anyone actually said this. Much more likely, the phrase refers to a suicide, standing on an overturned pail, who adjusts a noose around his neck and then -- kicks the bucket.

     Canard -- In French, canard means duck, and an old expression vendre un canard a moitie literally means "to half-sell a duck." Since nobody can half-sell something, its actual meaning is to swindle or make a fool of. Whence the modern English and French  canard: an anecdotal swindle, an absurd story or rumor.

     Harbinger -- The original harbinger was simply an innkeeper (from French auberge, inn.) Later, he was the advance man for an army or royal party, pushing ahead to the next town or castle to arrange lodgings. Eventually, a harbinger became anyone or anything that foretells the arrival of something. In England, the cuckoo is the harbinger of spring, which, according to legend, begins when "the old woman lets the cuckoo out of the basket." In eastern North America, the robin is the advance man.

     Hooker -- This word, which dates back to the 1840's, isn't quite a metaphor, since it literally means a woman who "hooks" her customers off the streets. But it took on a certain metaphorical color during the Civil War, thanks to General Joseph Hooker, who briefly headed the Union's Army of the Potomac. He won a well-deserved reputation for both military ineptitude and personal misconduct; the diplomat Charles Francis Adams called his headquarters "a combination barroom and brothel." Hooker was quickly demoted to his former divisional command, and Washington punsters christened the city's flourishing red-light district "Hooker's Division."

     Kilkenney Cats -- Ben Trovato and his brethren have devised many legends to explain this phrase. The most plausible comes from the Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift, who derived it from the constant battles between English settlers and native Irish in the small town of Kilkenney. Be that as it may, the immediate source of the expression is unquestionably a fairly well-known limerick:
     There once were two cats of Kilkenney;
     Each thought there was one cat too many.
     So they fought and they fit,
     And they scratched and they bit,
     Till instead of two cats there weren't any.

     I will toss in one of my own, as a red herring.

     Thimk -- This unrecognized word can be traced to my father's verbal admonition, when I failed to react to his suggestion to begin work. By substituting m for n in the word think, he emphasized motion rather than neglect. It was usually accompanied with a firm slap to the back of my head. Given these foundations for the unrecognized word thimk, should Cognito ergo sum be changed to Cogmito ergo sum? I sent an email to Cicero requesting his opinion. Unfortunately, I must wait until hell freezes over for a reply.

     Interested in word origins? Try Michael Quinion's website for the etymology of "Mugwump" and other weird words.

Added from Internet, source unknown:
Ineptocracy (in-ept-oc-ra-cy) n.- a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

By Dorothy Parker

     By the time you swear you're his,
         Shivering and sighing,
     And he vows his passion is
          Infinite, undying --
     Lady, make a note of this:
          One of you is lying.

Dorothy Parker

Visit Dorothy Parker Society homepage

There Ought To Be A Law

     The City of Cortland has hired a new Director of Administration and Finance. CS put the story on the front page. The new director commented on the civic pride displayed by individual homeowners who do everything they can to maintain their properties. He was impressed with the neighborhoods, downtown architecture, and even the employees at City Hall.
     There ought to be a law against hiring a blind person for this position.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nineteen County Legislators Found Dead at County Landfill (Buried Alive, Said One Official)

5:45 A.M.,Wednesday, September 21, 2011.(CC Special Report)

     All nineteen county legislators were found dead at the county landfill yesterday at 4:15 P.M. They died when a large New York City garbage truck unloaded solid waste on the pre-occupied legislators, who were standing in a freshly dug open pit and arguing with each other.
     State police investigators and the county sheriff were interviewed for this initial report.
     "They climbed down into the pit to inspect the lining. Then the truck arrived at the edge of the pit. They didn't know what hit them," said state police Captain Mike Dexter.
     The sheriff told reporters that "the big truck backed up and dumped its entire load before the victims had a chance to get out. Imagine," he said, "seven tons of New York City garbage fell on them in a matter of seconds." He paused to reflect. "Don't print this, you hear? I don't feel particularly sorry about it. They never gave my department enough money. I don't think I'll miss any of them."
     When a reporter for CC news told the sheriff that one of the victims was his wife, the sheriff replied: "Mercy, Jesus!"
    All of the bodies were removed to the city hospital and next of kin were notified. The New York City truck driver was held for questioning. No charges were filed.
     A detailed report will follow.

Woodsters Euphemism Explained

     Our distant friends in New Paltz, Buffalo, Albany and Stony Point wanted to know the origin of the species "Woodsters," those robust and vibrant political rodents native to the City of Cortland. (See previous blog Woodchucks and Woodsters.)
     Years ago, the death of a very respected Democratic Party leader in Cortland brought about a seismic, sudden evolutionary change. A new leader emerged from the darkness. Dirty but successful election tricks brought fame to this person. Soon several Democrats began to call each other "Woodycrats," which quickly declined to "Woodyrats." This name was too accurate and too honest for them, so they orchestrated another semantic shift and changed the name to "Woodsters."
     Euphemisms are a political rodent's specialty.
     A dissident pack broke away and called for reform. They are called the "St. Charles Group." Unlike the "Woodsters," they live above ground and socialize in the light of day. Sadly, they are a minority.
     We hope this explanation helps our friends in New Paltz, Buffalo, Albany and Stony Brook to better understand the current state of the Democratic Party in the City of Cortland. We would like to assure our decent friends that Cortland's "Woodsters" are not a threat to their progressive communities and institutions.

Monday, September 19, 2011

President Lincoln Exchanges Letters With General McClellan

President Abraham Lincoln, Washington, D.C.:
We have just captured six cows. What shall we do with them?
                                               George B. McClellan

George B. McClellan, Army of the Potomac:
As to the six cows captured -- milk them.
                                                A. Lincoln

Lincoln Calls A War Cabinet Meeting

     After the bloody battle of Antietam in September 1862, Lincoln called a War Cabinet meeting at the White House. The meeting was described by a serious, no-nonsense Secretary of War Stanton.
     "The President hardly noticed me as I came. He was reading a book of some kind, which seemed to amuse him. It was a little book. He finally turned to us and said:
     " 'Gentlemen, did you ever read anything from Artemus Ward? Let me read you a chapter which is funny.'
     "Not a member of the cabinet smiled; as for myself, I was angry and looked to see what the President meant.
     "It seemed to me like buffoonery. He, however, concluded to read us a chapter of Artemus Ward, which he did with great deliberation. Having finished, he laughed heartily, without a single member of the Cabinet joining in the laughter."
     The president had read "High-Handed Outrage at Utica" which follows:
     "In the fall of 1856, I showed my show in Utiky, a trooly grate sitty in the State of New York.
     "The people gave me a cordyal recepshun. The press was loud in her prases.
     "1 day as I was givin a descripshun of my Beests and Snaiks in my usual flowry stile what was my skorn & disgust to see a big burly feller walk up to the cage containin' my wax figgers of the Lord's Last Supper, and cease Judas Iscarrot by the feet and drag him out on the ground. He then commenced fur to pound him as hard as he cood.
     " 'What under the sun are you abowt?' cried I.
      "Sez he, 'what did you bring this pussylanermus cuss here fur?' & he hit the wax figger another tremenjis blow on the hed.
     "Sez I, 'You egregus ass, that air's a wax figger -- a representashun of the false 'Postle.'
     "Sez he, 'That's all very well fur you to say, but I tell you, old man, that Judas Iscarrot can't show himself in Utiky with impunerty by a darn site,' with which observashun he kaved in Judassis hed. The young man belonged to 1 of the first famerlies in Utiky. I sood him, the Joory brawt in a verdick of Arson in the 3d degree."
     "I was considering," Stanton continued, "whether I should rise and leave the meeting abruptly, when he threw the book aside, heaved a long sigh, and said:
     " 'Gentlemen, why don't you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me day and night, if I did not laugh, I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do.'
     "He then put his hand in his tall hat that sat upon the table and pulled out a little paper...To my astonishment, he read the Emancipation Proclamation...."
     Read more in The Humorous Mr. Lincoln by Keith W. Jennison.

Woodchucks and Woodsters

     Following the blog article on Lime Hollow Center, a young reader wanted to know if there were any woodchucks at Lime Hollow. The short answer is yes. The long answer is more involved and directed to the parents of the young reader.
     Woodchucks can be found in the grassy areas of Lime Hollow. They eat plants, and will run or hide when they see humans. They are cute and timid and prefer privacy in nature.
     It would be a mistake to confuse them with Woodsters, that self-serving species of political rodent that has infested the City of Cortland. Like rats, they spread disease and should be avoided by decent, healthy people.
     Fortunately, you won't find Woodsters at Lime Hollow. There are no public salaries, pensions or fringe benefits to be found there. Absent this food source, absent this political rodent.
    If, by chance, you do see a Woodster at Lime Hollow, you can be sure that it is lost.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One-Liners, Authors Undocumented

     Here are some one-liners by subject. Blogger is too lazy to research and identify authors. Readers are encouraged to do what lazy blogger won't do.


     A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. (Mark Twain. Blogger lied, and nailed this one correctly.)
     A liar needs a good memory.
     People need good lies; there are too many bad ones.

     Two liars are company, three's a crowd, and four or more a legislative body.

     A man who won't lie to a woman has very little consideration for her feelings.


     If Jack's in love, he's no judge of Jill's beauty. On second thought, it's a good thing love is blind, otherwise it would see too much. (Sorry, blogger is too lazy to count lines. Consider this another lie -- for love.)

     Religion has done love a great service by making it a sin.

     The man who worships the ground his girlfriend walks on, probably knows her father owns the property.


     Among porcupines, rape is unknown.

     It was not the apple on the tree, but the pair on the ground, I believe, that caused the trouble in the garden.

     Lord, give me chastity, but -- but, not yet!

     The trouble with life is that there are so many beautiful women, and so little time.

     Sex is the only game that is never called off on account of darkness.

     Of all sexual abberations, chastity is the strangest.

     Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.

     As to marriage or celibacy, let a man take which course he will, he will be sure to repent. (Blogger repents.)

Lime Hollow Center

     This is the time of year to pick apples, and hike on nature trails to view fall foliage. Lime Hollow Center, located two miles west of Cortland on McLean Road, has ten miles  of walking trails, several wildlife viewing stations, and over 400 acres of land. One of the walking trails is the old Lehigh Valley railroad right-of-way. The Chicago Bog is a unique wildlife and fauna area. A short walk from Gracie Road will get you there. Gracie Pond and Baldwin Pond are usually inhabited by ducks and geese. Squirrels and chipmunks are everywhere. If you are lucky, you will see a deer. You can be sure the deer will see you, whether you see it or not.
     Go to for more information, including trail maps.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Master of Germanic Sentence, Revised

     My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English -- barring spelling and pronouncing -- in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years...The later tongue ought to be trimmed down and repaired. If it is to remain as it is, it ought to be gently and reverently set aside among the dead languages, for only the dead have time to learn it.
A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain.

     Mark Twain complained about German newspapers, which were composed of two small pages, front and back. After reading the entire front page of one German newspaper, he found the first verb on the flip side. He was confused by exceptions to rules of grammar. He praised the capitalization of nouns, which made them easy to find. He studied the German language for six weeks while in Heidelberg in 1878.

     This last summer, when I was on my way back to Vienna from the Appetite-Cure in the mountains, I fell over a cliff in the twilight and broke some arms and legs and one thing or another, and by good luck was found by some peasants who had lost an ass, and they carried me to the nearest habitation, which was one of those large, low, thatched-roofed farm houses, with apartments in the garret for the family, and a cunning little porch under the deep gable decorated with boxes of bright-colored flowers and cats; on the ground floor a large and light sitting-room, separated from the milch-cattle apartment by a partition; and in the front yard rose stately and fine the wealth and pride of the house, the manure pile. That sentence is Germanic, and shows that I am acquiring that sort of mastery of the art and spirit of language which enables a man to travel all day in one sentence without changing cars.
Christian Science And The Book Of Mrs. Eddy by Mark Twain

Mark Twain wrote down several recommendations for changing the German language after “nine full weeks of devoted study.”

1. Leave out the dative case. It confuses the plurals. It is”an ornamental folly. Discard it.”

2. Move the verb further to the front of a sentence, so that “it can be seen with the naked eye.”

3. Import some strong English words, “to swear with.”

A German lady says to an American lady, “The two languages are so alike: we say Ach! Gott! You say goddamn!”

4. I would reorganize the sexes. He , she, and it.

5. “I would do away with long compounded words, or require the speaker to deliver them in sections, with intermissions for refreshments. To wholly do away with them would be best, for ideas are more easily received and digested when they come one at a time than when they come in bulk. Intellectual food is like any other; it is pleasanter and more beneficial to take it with a spoon than with a shovel.”

6. I would require a speaker to stop when he is done, and not add a string of useless formalities. These gewgaws undignify speech, instead of adding grace. They are, therefore, a disgrace, and should be discarded.

7. Discard the parenthesis, re-parenthesis, re-re-re-parenthesis. Infractions of this law should be punishable by death.

8. I would retain Zug and Schlag, with their pendants, and discard the rest of the vocabulary. This would simplify the language.


Best Smile in Cortland

     A few years ago, a 5th ward resident phoned Mayor Tom Gallagher and complained about the north-facing sidewalks and curbs on Groton Avenue. The resident requested that the DPW repair broken curbs and sidewalks, and fill in depressions between the sidewalk and street. Tom Gallagher said he would "look into it."
     Nothing happened.
     A few months passed and the irate resident walked to City Hall and found the mayor in his office. The mayor invited the resident in.
     "What's on your mind?"
     "I'll tell you," the resident commenced. There followed a long monologue of complaints which included curbs, sidewalks, blue bins and blue jays. Concluding his remarks, the resident said:
     "You've got the best smile in Cortland but you don't do nothin'!"
     Mayor Tom Gallagher smiled in response.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thank You

     The principals and contributors to this blog wish to thank the public for increased interest in it. The blog is dedicated to a wide variety of interests and subjects. The contributing authors, including those who are deceased and still vote in Chicago, prefer to remain underground/anonymous at this time.
     Submissions dictate the use of "We" or "I." Reason has nothing to do with it. One editor, chosen for incompetence, tries to make blog posts readable. Principals and contributors have equal access to the blog, and share decision-making.

Snow Worms

     Three little children, two girls and a boy, came walking home from school in their brightly colored snowsuits. It was a clear mid-winter day. Oldtimer Bean, a harmless good-natured trickster who lived in the neighborhood, stepped off his porch to greet them. He was a tall thin man who walked with jerky motions. He wore coveralls and a winter hat with earmuff flaps. He was carrying a blue coffee can, half-filled with snow, in his left hand. Near the sidewalk, a short distance from the approaching children, he reached down and pretended to pick at something in the snow. The children came closer, stopped and stared.
     What was this silly old man doing? Curiosity made one of the girls speak.
     "Mr. Bean, what are you doing?"
     "Picking snow worms," he answered.
     "Where?" the same girl wanted to know. "I don't see any worms."
     "That's because they're white, same color as the snow," he answered.
     Marvelling more and more, the three children, all under eight years old, put down their lunch boxes and books and began to help him.
     "What do they look like?" the same apple-cheeked girl asked.
     "Like worms, same as worms," he replied.
     "Oh," she said.
     "I got one!" said the boy, who was already involved in the game of imagination. "Can I put it in your coffee can?"
     "Sure," Oldtimer Bean answered. His face beamed with a broad happy smile.
     The children followed the old man's example and motions, and picked through the snow with enthusiasm. Playing this new game of imaginary snow worms was turning out to be fun.
     They spent several minutes doing this. Every now and then one of them shouted, "I got one!"
     The little girl who hadn't spoken finally spoke.
     "Is it full yet, Mr. Bean?"
     "Nope, just keep picking. I'll let you know."
     About five minutes later, sensing restlessness and approaching boredom, the old man said:
     "Can's full. Thanks. You can go home now." He returned to his porch and sat down.
     The children picked up their lunch boxes and books and said goodbye. Oldtimer Bean smiled, rocked in his chair, and mused, "It sure is a fun day. How can anybody be bored?"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Logan's Lament

     John Logan, or Soyechtowa, was a member of the Cayuga Nation. He was the son of Shikellamy, who guarded the southern gate of the Iroquois Confederacy before the American Revolution.
     After Logan moved to the Ohio Territory, before the American Revolution began, he was told that his family and relatives had been massacred at Yellow Creek by a Virginia surveyor Michael Cresap. He was misinformed about the true perpetrator of the murders of his relatives. The real perpetrator was Virginia frontiersman Daniel Greathouse.
     Dunmore's war followed. It was a conflict of reprisals by Virginia militia and the Indians in Ohio Territory, called Mingos by the whites. Greathouse was captured by Shawnee warriors and slowly tortured to death.
     In 1774, at Point Pleasant, Ohio, John Logan delivered a speech, which Thomas Jefferson included in Notes on Virginia:
     "I appeal to any white man to say if he ever entered Logan's cabin hungry, and he gave him not meat; if he ever came cold and naked and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war (French and Indian), Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace.
     "Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as I passed, and said, 'Logan is a friend of the white man.' I have even thought to live with you but for the injuries of one man, Colonel Cresap, who last spring and in cold blood and unprovoked, murdered the relatives of Logan, not even sparing his wife and children.
     "There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This has called on me for revenge. I have sought it; I have killed many; I have fully glutted by vengeance. For my country, I rejoice in the light of peace.
     "But do not harbor a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heal to save his life.
     "Who is there to mourn for Logan?"

Gnadenhutten Massacre

     On March 7, 1782, one hundred and sixty Pennsylvania militiamen, under the command of Lt. Col. David Williamson, entered the Indian town of Gnadenhutten, Ohio.     
     Delaware, Mohican and other Native Americans lived at or near Gnadenhutton. They were harvesting leftover corn as the militiamen arrived. All of these people had been converted to Christianity by Moravian missionaries.
     The Native Americans were rounded up and told that they would be taken to Fort Pitt for safety. An order was given that separated men from women and children, and the captives were isolated in two longhouses.
     The militia held a council and voted to kill the captives. Eighteen militiamen voted against the killings but they were overruled.
     The next morning, March 8, 1782, the Native American captives were tied up, and one by one, as they prayed to God for forgiveness, each was killed by mallet blows to the head and then scalped. Twenty-eight men, twenty-nine women, and thirty-nine children were slaughtered. Then the longhouses were burned to the ground.
     Two captive boys, one of whom had been scalped, survived the massacre. In all, ninety-six people were killed.
     For more information, click on  or visit Wikipedia.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reflections on Primary Election for Mayor, Revised

     The Democratic primary race for mayor was determined by less than 500 votes!
Incredible. Disappointing.
     Apparently most voters stayed home. They weren't interested in either candidate or the issues. Seventy-seven percent of registered Democrats did not vote.
     Susan Feiszli, who held the tax rate flat for 2011, becomes a one-term mayor.
     Brian Tobin, who voted against a zero tax increase for 2011, becomes the Democratic candidate for mayor for 2012. Fifteen percent of registered Democrats voted for him.
     The tax rate was the bread and butter issue which was largely ignored. I have read that progressive Democrats have a penchant for raising taxes. How ridiculous! Penchant is the wrong word. Try appetite. Hmmm...those taxes taste so good!
     The spin-focus of the election was the legal issue concerning the city housing code and landlords. Elections are all about steering voters, controlling the message and spreading fear. Recall, seventy-seven percent of registered Democratic voters did not vote. I guess they didn't get the message. Or it was the wrong message. Obviously the absent voters didn't care.
     I have heard people talking about the good old boys in reference to the men who supported Brian Tobin's campaign. I suppose sexism had nothing to do with the results, everything was based on the issues. And I suppose cats fly.
     The sun will come up tomorrow, or the next day.
      But when will the voters in Cortland wake up?

Caligula Trumps Xerxes

     Xerxes, King of Persia, built two floating bridges of different lengths over the Hellespont (Dardanelles) before he invaded Greece in 480 B.C. The approximate length of the longer bridge was one mile. The building of these bridges was one of the greatest engineering feats of ancient times. Go to this interactive website to view and build a virtual model:
     Historian Herodotus describes an initial bridge failure which was rectified by Xerxes.
     This headland was the point to which Xerxes' engineers carried their two bridges from Abydos. One was constructed by the Phoenicians using flax cables, the other by Egyptians using papyrus cables.
     A three foot section of the flax cable weighed 114 lbs.
     When the bridges were completed across the Hellespont, a storm of great violence smashed them and carried everything away. Xerxes was extremely angry. He gave orders to his soldiers that the Hellespont should receive 300 lashes and a pair of fetters thrown into it. He sent his soldiers to brand it with hot irons. Xerxes also cut off the heads of the bridge builders -- to which Governor Cuomo should take note, as it may apply to state bridge-building contractors.
     Two new bridges were started and completed. Galleys and triremes were tied together to support the bridges -- 360 vessels for one bridge and 314 for the other. Masts and superstructures were flattened, and anchors were laid upstream and downstream from each vessel. Cables were hauled taut by wooden winches ashore. Planks were lashed to the cables, and the planks were covered with brush and sod. A paling was constructed on each side, high enough to prevent horses and mules from seeing over and taking fright at the water.
     Xerxes reviewed his army and the crossing began. The crossing occupied seven days and nights without a break. After the whole army had reached the European shore and the forward march had begun, an extraordinary thing occurred -- a mare gave birth to a hare. Xerxes paid no attention to this omen.
     Having digested the humor in it, let's leap forward 519 years to 39 A.D. when Caligula built a floating bridge in the Bay of Naples. Suetonius describes Caligula (Gaius) and the building and use of his floating bridge. (Note: A Roman mile is .92 of our statute mile.)
     One of his spectacles was on such a fantastic scale that nothing like it had been seen before. He collected all available merchant ships  and anchored them in two lines, close together, the whole way from Baiae to the mole at Puteoli, a distance of  three and a half Roman miles. Then he had earth heaped on their planks, and made a kind of Appian Way along which he trotted back and forth for two consecutive days...Gaius is, of course, generally supposed to have built the bridge as an improvement on Xerxes famous feat of bridging the much narrower Hellespont.
     Historian Cassius Dio added that Caligula ordered resting places to be built along the bridge, complete with drinking water.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


In days of old, when knights were bold,
     And loved each buxom daughter;
In armor tight, both day and night,
     How did they drain their water?

For if they caulked their armor up,
     To keep their suits from leaking,
The rust and damp would soon build up,
     And set their joints to creaking.

They seldom missed, when in the lists,
     These hardy gladiators;
Egad, may hap they turned a tap,
     To drain their radiators?

Then ponder late this problem great,
     And take it all to heart;
For it could be, that here we see,
     How plumbing got its start!

M. Gile Harrington (1914-2000)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weather Forecast

Cortland, N.Y., Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Primary Day.

Chance of rain, 95% -- otherwise an abundance of sunshine. Wind SSW 20 mph. High, 78. Low, 57.
Except for a predicted magnitude 7.9 earthquake centered at Democratic headquarters after 9 P.M., it will be a pleasant day. Enjoy.

Prince and Helicopter Blackie

     My mother had two cats, a white tomcat which she called Prince, and a black female which she called Blackie. My brother and I called the black cat Helicopter Blackie, after its tail was caught in a door jam and was broken. When the black cat ran, the broken tail looked like a helicopter rotor spinning around.
     At age 13, my brother John was keenly interested in physics and math. He had a special interest in flight mechanics and motion. He used to watch birds fly, and tell me how they did it. At age 8, I didn't understand, but said I did.
     John was a model airplane hobbyist. He built his own model airplanes from kits containing balsam wood, paper, doping shellac, pins and glue. I helped him fly the planes. I also helped him pick up the pieces after a crash.
     One summer day, John got some splendid scientific inspiration. He had read that cats, if thrown in the air at any angle, always land on all four feet. Our parents were not home, so the moment was convenient to begin a new experiment.
     He picked up our white tomcat Prince and positioned himself on the front lawn facing the house. He said:
     "I'm going to throw the cat over the roof. Go around back, and watch as Prince comes down. Tell me if it lands on all fours."
     In a matter of seconds, I was in position in our backyard, and John threw Prince over the 1 1/2 storey frame house.
     Tumbling over the roof, head over heals, Prince landed on all four feet. The cat was confused and started to walk away. I caught him. My brother ran breathlessly into the backyard.
     "Well, what did you see?"
     "Landed on all fours," I reported proudly.
     My brother appeared satisfied. He reached out and petted Prince.
     The next day, John continued his experiments with Prince but set a different course. I stood by his side, looking up at him, as he announced:
     "Today we are going to the lake and we will see if a cat can swim."
     So he took Prince and me on a row-boating excursion on a small lake near our home. The cat was very agitated. When we were offshore about 100 feet, John threw the cat in the water.
     You never saw such an explosion of energy!
     Prince moved so fast he actually elevated a portion of his body above the water line. He was moving so fast he created a wake. John timed him with his watch. As Prince emerged from the water onshore, John said:
     "One hundred feet in twenty seconds. That's two seconds for every ten feet. Wow!"
As an afterthought, he said: "That cat of mine ran."
     Prince had already gone home when we came ashore.
     Cats don't waste time shaking off water like dogs. That's what I noted for scientific purposes. But John had noted the aerodynamics of the event, the way Prince had lifted his body partly above water. John was certain that lift contributed to the cat's incredible speed in water.
     My brother wrote a scientific paper based on this experiment and submitted it to his 8th grade teacher. She gave it back to him with the comment: CRUEL EXPERIMENT.
     Years later my brother explained to me that his teacher was an Australian woman, who kept the paper and secretly passed it to Philip Hercus of the Incat Company in Australia. To this day, although it was never registered, John insists there was trademark and patent infringement. His original wording in his 8th grade scientific paper: that cat of mine ran. 
     But we know it today as Catamaran.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Aunt Katheryn

     My Aunt Katheryn came back from the dead last night to visit me in a dream. My extended family -- those who were dead, those who were alive, and those who were undecided -- were seated in the Rockefeller Center theatre in New York City. We were watching an old black and white movie without sound. My aunt unexpectedly got up from her chair and walked down the aisle. As she approached my seat, she stopped and held out her hand. I reached out, and we briefly held hands. Then she left the theatre, a shadow passing into the dark. As in real life, I wasn't able to hold her and kiss her goodbye.
     This dream brought back old memories.
     Aunt Katheryn was my mother's younger sister. When she was in her 20's, she married a career military man. She was childless until her early 40's, when she miraculously gave birth to two children, first a boy, and then a girl a year and a half later.
     It was during her childless years that I got to know her, or rather, she got to know me. Being childless, she borrowed children from my mother for the day, week, sometimes two weeks. My mother was raising six children so I suspect she was grateful.
     My older brother and I were usually chosen, and we were grateful too. We knew we could take advantage of our proxy mother when we whined for a treat such as ice cream or a candy bar. My aunt was as generous with her money as she was with her affection.
     Often she took us on learning trips or excursions. She took us to Washington, D.C. to see the unforgettable monuments, the White House, the Treasury, and to visit Mt. Vernon on the Potomac and the civil war battlefield at Bull Run. She took us to New York City to visit the Museum of Natural History, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Empire State building. We rode subways and buses and had great fun.
     I also remember that she taught me the rudiments of the English language when I was three or four years old. My pre-school lessons began with the alphabet. She showed me a small slate board with two rows of letters on it.

     a b c d e f g h i j k l m
     n o p q r s t u v w x y z

     As I read the letters, I soon memorized all of them. She noticed that I always hesitated after m, before continuing with the remaining letters. Then she had me memorize the alphabet backward. I hesitated after the letter n. The hesitation wasn't due to my catching of breath. I had mentally photographed the letters on the slate board. When she was sure of it, she proudly told my mother of her discovery.
     My mother was washing dishes. She said: "I wish he could remember to change his socks."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's Not a Dog

     Several years ago an Ithaca College freshman saw a car hit an animal on Route 13 near the airport. She slowed down and stopped her car on the shoulder. The driver who hit the animal continued on.
     The animal lay on the side of the highway in slushy snow. The girl walked near it and examined it. It wasn't bleeding. The small animal opened and closed its eyes but was unable to move.
     This is an adorable but strange-looking little dog, the student thought. It looks like it was stunned when hit. I'll carry it back to the dorm, take care of it, feed it.
     She picked it up and put it in her car, then proceeded to her dorm. It was dark when she arrived, so she had little trouble smuggling the animal into her dorm room. Her roommate wasn't there, which made it easier. She was excited.
     She tried to feed it some lunch meat but it wasn't hungry. She held a saucer of water near its mouth but it wasn't thirsty. Then she wrapped it in a towel and put it in her bed.
     When her roommate entered the room, the owner of the animal at first tried to hide it but shortly the secret was out and the animal was observed by a different set of eyes.
     "It doesn't look like a dog," the roommate said.
     "Well, it is!" replied the girl defensively.
     "No, it isn't," said the roommate.
     "Yes, it is!" insisted the girl.
     To settle the argument, the roommate got some friends to look at the animal and form a collective judgment.
     "It has a very long nose," said one girl. "I don't know what it is, but it's not a dog." The other girls made similar observations and remarks.
     The prospective pet owner began to cry. Her roommate suggested that the Residence Assistant might know if it was a dog, and what breed it was. So the RA was brought into the room.
     The RA was an older student who had been a restaurant waitress for 20 years. When she entered the room, the girls stopped arguing and were silent. All you could hear was the sniffling and sobbing of the owner of the animal.
     "Where is it?" the RA demanded. Her voice was as loud as a trumpet blast.
     All of the girls, except the owner of the animal, pointed to the bed.
     The young pet owner was propped up in her bed as the RA came forward and bent down to touch the mysterious animal. After a brief examination, the RA stood up and said:
     "It's not a dog. It's an injured rat. It can't stay here!"
     The disappointed pet owner immediately gushed with tears. For consolation, the RA added:
     "Take heart, honey, it's not the last rat you'll sleep with."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Alexander Pope

     Every now and then I return to my home library for nourishment and inspiration. Among my favorite authors is Alexander Pope. His Essay On Man is extraordinary and deep with meaning. It is written in the Olde Style. I don't read the entire essay anymore, just some verses which I underlined years ago.

     "Hope springs eternal in the human breast..."

     "Two principles in human nature reign;
      Self-love, to urge, and Reason, to restrain...."

     "Extremes in nature equal ends produce,
      In Man they join to some mysterious use...."

     "All nature is Art, unknown to thee;
      All Chance, Direction which thou canst not see;
      All Discord, Harmony, not understood;
      All partial Evil, universal Good...."

     I found an old note scribbled on the bookmark which I used while reading Pope's essay years ago. It is the title of a book which I never read: The Mind of God by Paul Davies. Under the book title, there is a quote, perhaps a review comment, by Professor Steven Weinberg: "News that nature is governed by impersonal laws will percolate through society, making it increasingly difficult for people to take seriously astrology or creationism or other superstitions."
     Isn't that what Pope wrote about in 1733-34? To eliminate human superstitions may require something more drastic than education. May I suggest the elimination of the human race to achieve it? Just kidding. On second thought....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

CS Chop Shop

     CS has a word limit policy on submitted letters to the editor. It is 500 words, unless a letter writer endorses a candidate for election, in which case it is 250 words. In addition, "letters may be edited for length."
     A letter containing 320 words was recently submitted and published Thursday, September 8, 2011. Some vital words were omitted. One word was changed. The letter was captioned Attacked On All Sides and signed by Jo Schaffer, a city 4th ward resident. She was concerned about a proposed SUCC Student Life Center near her home. She did not endorse a specific candidate.
     "I urge you to educate yourself thoroughly before the primary. Then vote to stop these attacks!"
     The word "educate" was edited out and the word "dedicate" was edited in. It made the sentence look like nonsense. In addition, in the prior paragraph, two intrinsic sentences were omitted.
     "And then, of course, there was Wood by his (Brian Tobin) side at the press conference, announcing his run for mayor. Speaks volumes?"
     For a newspaper that ardently defends the First Amendment when it applies to political signs on lawns, it shows no consistency or fairness when it edits, distorts and publishes selective letters to the editor.

Whitney Point Flood 1935

     After driving 278 miles to Syracuse from Whitney Point (a drive which is 60 miles by direct route,) George E. Harris, 221 East Kennedy Street, reached home Tuesday night to give a vivid eye-witness account of the terrible ravages wrought by the flood.
     Mr. Harris, who works at the Municipal Garage, has a summer cottage in Whitney Point. He told of the bravery of Stella Youmans and her sister, who were the first to spread the alarm which probably saved the lives of many townspeople.
     "Stella Youmans was talking with her sister in their living room, near the river," Mr. Harris related. "The girls saw water suddenly seeping up through the cracks in the floor. They tried to have a general alarm sounded on the fire siren, but there was no electricity for that, so they rushed through the streets of the lower town, up to their knees in water, waking the sleeping residents.
     "About 1:30 A.M.," continued Mr. Harris, "I looked out and saw the frightened men, women and children running across town to the hill where I live. Some were in autos, many were on foot.
     "At dawn, we had to send out the only two boats we had to get the people who hadn't heard the warning in time. They were stranded in second floor windows and on roofs. We had no water, light or food," recounted Mr. Harris, "until the Red Cross arrived at 3 P.M. from Binghamton. I can tell you we were glad to see them."
     "The most terrible thing I saw," he declared, "was the wrecking of the Walter Barross house. It was simply swept off its foundations into the river and smashed against the bridge. Mrs. Barross was drowned, the young lad was found hours later in a tree, and Barross himself floated on a raft until rescued."
     Rescue and first-aid work is under way, according to Mr. Harris, who turned his home over to the Red Cross. "Fifty-one families are lodged in the Opera House," he reported. "We are afraid of an epidemic now," he said. "There is no water, no sanitation, and a dangerous lack of suitable housing."
     "I was lucky to get out," he smiled. "There's no gasoline in Whitney Point, of course. Fortunately, I had filled up my car before I left Syracuse, and that left me enough to get to Binghamton (to refill)."
Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, N.Y. 10 July 1935

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gas Lights and Gingerbread

     Who wrote Upstate Echoes, Slim Fingers Beckon, The White Woman and Her Valley, Bloomers and Bugles, Stagecoach Towns, The Towpath, Gas Lights and Gingerbread and Rochester Sketchbook?
     Have you ever read the delightful, quaint, easy-to-read short sketches about Rattlesnake Pete, Red Emma, Blind Tom, Buffalo Bill Cody, Sam Patch and Frogleg George? Most were Rochester characters, famous in their time. On a bet, Sam Patch, a Rhode Island native, jumped over Niagara Falls in 1829 and survived. Then he went to Rochester, jumped High Falls and survived. Disappointed over the small amount of betting money he received, he jumped over High Falls again. His body wasn't found until the following spring.
     These characters, various histories and place names will draw you into them, as the author weaves an artful web of entrapment in each short sketch.
     Twenty-three compact volumes comprise the series of regional history and folklore created by Rochester journalist-poet-author Arch Merrill from 1945 to 1972. Some are available in paperback at Amazon. But I would look for them in used book stores. Try the Book Barn of the Finger Lakes on Route 13 northeast of Ithaca.

Face Lift

     This blog recently had a face lift. A new template was installed. Several readers have already commented with approval. Some made additional recommendations. A gang of angry journalists suggested that the editor get a brain transplant to improve a boring, inert blog. This suggestion was graciously declined, as a brain transplant would fill a marvelous empty space, offer insurmountable difficulties to brain surgeons by rejection, and offend God's wonderful and unique experiment.

This Shocking Story

     Perusing old files, we discovered this shocking story.
     "In 1890, William Kemmler, who murdered his wife with an ax the year before, was strapped into the chair at Auburn State prison and 1,500 volts surged through his body for 17 seconds. He was pronounced dead, but as the warden began to unstrap Kemmler, his body moved.
     "A second jolt -- this one lasting 70 seconds -- was ordered, causing Kemmler's blood vessels to burst and flames to shoot from his back." (Wireless Flash)
     One of 20 witnesses fainted.
     This was the first execution in New York State by electric chair. The chair was invented by employees of Thomas Edison. A business competitor, George Westinghouse, tried to prevent the execution by arguing "cruel and inhuman" punishment at the Supreme Court. After failing to prevent the execution, Westinghouse later commented: "They would have done a better job with an ax."
     Readers can obtain more details at

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Media Bias

     Media bias is nothing new. You find it in all the usual places -- television, radio, newspapers, magazines. The consumer can switch TV channels, or radio stations, or newspapers, except where there is a virtual monopoly local news/editorial source such as CS.
     The wall between news and editorials is not where objectivity usually breaks down. You may have a near-perfect wall and still have media bias. It is found in the editorials, and it is often allowed as editor's choice. An editor can support a political candidate with or without an official endorsement. That sort of newspapering is called publisher's privilege.
     Does the editor of a small local newspaper have a larger responsibility to the community? Depends on who you ask, and often it depends on the politics of those you ask. Some local editors may use their unique position to "steer" the news or editorials by omission or commission, mimicking the conduct of politicians.
     A more subtle way to promote media bias is by greatly increasing font size of a caption on a political endorsement article, drawing readers' attention to the article. The editor thereby provides a free political ad for the endorsement. See CS page three SONG endorsement, September 10, 2011.
     When confronted with a charge of media bias, editors may admit or deny it. It is those who deny it that draw my instant criticism.
     Readers often see a blur between facts and editorials. That is why editorials appear on the "opinion page." It's easy to mislead by omitting some relevant facts. I know a nice old lady who recently told me that Cortland's mayor is "confused and indecisive." I asked her how she got that impression. "From our newspaper," she replied.
     If I were to argue that CS made that observation in an editorial, with insufficient evidence to support it, or with wilful disregard of relevant facts, my argument would be met with denial or derision by CS staff and the nice old lady who believed what she read.
     If I argued, that mayor Feiszli improved city government when she dismissed a Finance Administrator and a Corporation Counsel for non-performance, would it change any minds? Ask the mayor for her explanation. You read CS and got its opinion. You owe it to yourself to get the rest of the story.
     "A rumor will travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." Mark Twain.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Two Orangutans Vacation in Florida

     Several years ago, or more, my friend Bernie and I travelled to Florida on a short vacation. We visited friends in Clermont and Homestead, explored the Keys and edges of the Everglades, visited the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Edison and Ford summer homes in Fort Myers, Disneyland in Orlando and Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay.
     At Busch Gardens we rode the Tanganyiki Tidal Wave and the Serengeti Railroad. We were in an open car on the railroad as we made the rounds of the Serengeti Plain. We sat opposite one another. We had only two companions, an elderly man and his articulate wife, who were seated in front of us. She commented with great erudition on everything she saw or imagined she saw.
     Passing a prominent mound containing a troop of red-ass baboons, she turned to her husband and exclaimed: "Those are not what I was looking for. Those are baboons. We missed the orangutans!" She was clearly upset. Her pronunciation was so precise and perfectly clear that I immediately thought of deceased TV personality and actress Eve Arden, star of Our Miss Brooks.
     I got her attention and quickly pointed at my friend Bernie and said, "Here's one!"
     Sitting sideways in her seat, she motioned to her stoic husband, raised her arm and then pointed at Bernie and me.
     "Look, dear, two orangutans, and one of them speaks English!"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I'd Climb a Tree

     Spending most of my life in a self-imposed learning environment, has produced more questions than answers.
     Is human nature as strong or weak as its component parts?
     Observations found in The Naked Ape and The Territorial Imperative help us understand ourselves and our relations with our neighbors. Threats and aggression, and reaction to threats and aggression, become easier to understand. Humans see, humans do.
     Biologists explain that survival of any species relies on competition, and aggression is closely associated with it. How does creativity connect with competition and aggression? How essential is the art of deception? Where do laughter and tears fit in? Fight or flight?
     When confronted with such questions,  I usually eat a banana or walk away. I'd climb a tree, but at 92 I'm too old for that.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mayor Susan Feiszli, a Reformer

     Why do I support Mayor Susan Feiszli?
     Cortland's mayor has earned my support by her decisive management and reform of city government. Cortland hasn't had a reformer since Mayor Sam Forcucci and the adoption of a City Charter in 1975.
     Today citizens of Cortland have a balanced budget with surplus -- a zero tax increase this year and predicted again next year -- and new auditors to advise the city step by step.
     The mayor has drawn criticism for her procedures involving city code and landlords, and firing city administration officials on the basis of non-performance. Much of the criticism can be found in CS editorials. Very little of it has substance.
     Controversy always surrounds a problem-solver, a reformer. Good luck, Mayor Feiszli!

Mark Twain Pays Income Tax, Writes Satire

     An income tax was in force from 1862 to 1872 in the United States. In 1870 Mark Twain was visited by an IRS representative at his home in Buffalo. He describes the experience in Sketches New and Old, A Mysterious Visit.
     He was assessed an income tax of $10,650, based largely on royalties from Innocents Abroad, lecture circuit income, and income from several articles written for newspapers and magazines.
     According to the author, there was a $1,000 personal deduction and then a 5% tax on all income defined as profits. There were several deductions for business expenses. He sought the advice of his father-in-law to create sufficient expenses to lower his final tax. He paid the IRS $1,250.40.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Quintus Horatius Flaccus

     Quintus Horatius Flaccus, as the nomen suggests, was a Roman citizen born in Venusis in 65 B.C. He was the son of a freed slave. He developed a friendship with rich and influential Maecenus, who was a confidant of Caesar Augustus. Quintus was a
poet-philosopher who also wrote satires and epistles.
     Students of Latin or Roman history may recall these classic lines:
     "It's pointless to cure one problem by creating another."
     "Silver has less worth than gold, gold less than virtue."
     "Rule your passions or they will rule you."
     "Rufillus smells like candy, Gargonius like a goat."
     "He lies in such a way, making truth and fiction blend, that beginning and middle, and middle and end won't disagree."
     "Making changes is quite allowable, before you publish. Once freed, word's can't return."
     "Why is it, Maecenus, that no one, no matter what role he's chosen for himself or what fate offers him, lives with it in peace, but envies the lives of other men?"
     We know Quintus Horatius Flaccus as Horace today. Some of his satires and epistles can be read without charge at Google books.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Not by Dorothy Parker

This misanthrope,
Requests a rope,
To hang the dope,
Who stole my joke.

Old Dutch Story

     Ever visit the spot on the Potomac where George Washington allegedly threw a coin across the river? Libby's Green Giant couldn't throw a coin that far....
     Which reminds me of an old Dutch story about two tribes of Native Americans, and why Connecticut has so many stones and Long Island does not.
     Long ago there were two native American tribes who were all giants and they lived in Connecticut and Long Island. One hot summer the Long Island chief called his tribe together for a raid on the Connecticut tribe. They walked across the Sound with heads above water (giants) and battled the Connecticut giants for two years. Every time a giant fell in combat he was instantly regenerated and resumed fighting. Frustrated by lack of victory, the Long Island chief and his tribe retreated. He was angry. He had lost face and wanted revenge.
     So he called his tribe together again and ordered them to gather all the large stones and boulders on Long Island and place them on a hill near Throggs Neck. The pile of stones reached toward the sky. In a show of defiance, one by one the stones and boulders were thrown over the Sound into Connecticut.
     That is how Connecticut got all the rocks, and Long Island got fine soil to grow corn and Tall Tales.