Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Weirdest Airplane Imaginable

At first, I thought this was an aviation hoax.  I always took for granted that there was some kind of physics principle that required airplanes to have the right side and left side mirror images.  However, the German Luftwaffe had a reconnaissance plane that was radically asymmetrical.  This was the Blohm and Voss Bv. 141.  It must have to be the weirdest airplane ever designed, built, and actually flown!  Why the Germans decided to design this airplane, I have no idea.

But also, the three guys (pilot, observer, and gunner) that rode in the cockpit must have had a lot of daring.

They made about 20 of these planes; and they were described as 'operational.'  

Here is an old film of it flying:

700th post!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Men Wearing Hats

The glory days of hat-wearing are long past; the de rigeur inclusion of a chapeau as part of workaday dress while outside has bone the way of the stick shift and the bustle.  Only in a few sects are ladies expected to wear hats in church, while in years past women and girls were expected to wear wimples, then elaborate expressions of millinery, or even remarkably ugly beanies in the case of schoolgirls.

Then there was that badge of lowly status, the freshman beanie.  That got lost somewhere in the 1950's or 1960's amid the Precambrian ooze of college life along with males singing "Boola Boola."

No, sumptuary laws regarding headgear are passé.  A man wearing a fedora or a western hat is seen as making a definite statement of individuality, as men's hats are seen as optional now except in the case of military uniforms.  So what do many men of various ages do?  They wear those baseball hats, often in rakish angles!

However, there are the secret places where men still enjoy wearing exotic headgear.  When they're football fans, like this proud Viking:
Or actively coaching.  The rule here is that if you're a football coach, you can get away with wearing anything.

Or are a world-class Party Animal:

Or are traveling South of the Border, down Mexico way:

Or a politician:

Or are a sk8r:

I'm glad that hat-wearing has become optional rather than mandatory. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The California Pear Flag

The internet hoax and urban legend debunking site,, had a neat little hoax of its own with regard to the origins of the flag of California:

The story goes as follows:

Back in 1846, Capt. Jedediah Bartlett, leader of a band of rebels fighting against the Mexican authorities in California, supposedly drew up a flag for the future state.   On it he included a lone star and a pear, adopted to represent the emerging republic's horticulture.  He was also an amateur plant hybrid scientist, and developed the juicy Bartlett pear. His words on the design instructions were misread and the flag maker inserted a bear on the flag instead of a pear.  Whoops, his bad.  But when they got the Bear Flag, they liked it.

Since then, California had a bear on its state flag.

Can you bear with me on this?  The Museum of Hoaxes reports this as being a hoax.  And a careful reading of the Lost Legends category would establish that the Pear Flag was really made up.  

Apparently, I just didn't read it right the first time.  Darn it, I like the pear flag.  It's cute.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Really Bad Pick-up Lines

Guaranteed to be cheesy, and not to be used under any circumstances.  Unless you're just going through the motions.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nationalizing Bikinis

Recently Salon on-line magazine had a provocative article in which the writer proposed nationalizing such corporations such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook.  I have no idea if this was just to give Jeff Bezos an upset stomach, to make Republicans' heads explode, or simply to engage in a little bit of "look at me; I'm provocative" writing.  I don't know.  This isn't going to happen, any more than a President less than two years' away from the end of his second term is likely to be impeached.

Oh well, politics is

". . . . a tale told by an idiot; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

[With apologies to Bill Shakespeare.]

But suppose our sicko Federal government decided to nationalize the bikini industry?  Given their track record of successes with the VA, FEMA, GM, the IRS, and the Post Office, this would be another cock up to crow about!

Well, the first thing they would do is write national standards for swimsuits and set up government overseers of the swimsuit industry.

Next they would appoint some Bikini Top Administrator* from some dismal cold, Eastern M state to run the whole thing.  This could serve as an opportunity for political patronage.

Since they would have a lot of free time, the overseers would quickly standardize models and colors of bikinis.  For example they would phase out the string bikini and the micro bikini, arguing that its style origins are foreign; and that the minimalist fabric requirements is detrimental to the remaining part of the nationalized garment industry.  As far as color is concerned, basic black, light gray, and dark gray color schemes would be allowed as per government regulations.  But, even better, the simple purchase of a bikini would require that extensive forms be filled out so that the bureaucratic machinery could properly regulate things.

It goes without saying that wearing Daisy Dukes and a top was now illegal.  Jessica Simpson cried.

The sale of swimwear would be only in government stores and purchase subject to review by a screening committee.  These stores would be located only in metropolises in which bureaucrats would deign to dwell.

And an additional enforcement agency could become required.  Actually, this could provide an additional raison d' être for the Revenuers still dealing with moonshine, since moonshining is only practiced in backward places such as North Carolina and Tennessee.  These New Revenuers could patrol beaches along the reluctant Gulf Coast and Californian coasts where violations of the new regulations could likely occur.  Oh well, harassing girls is a magnitude less dangerous than breaking up some mountaineer's still.

Furthermore, revenuers who got into trouble could be assigned beaches in Alaska or Maine.

Obviously, older swimsuits would still be permitted provided they were obviously dated or the wearer could produce a bill of sale for said swimwear.  Of course, these fake or backdated bills of sale could be provided by bikini bootleggers.  And snowbird visitors to the United States could help underwrite their time off in Florida sunshine by bring a few extra suits along for sale!  

And adventuresome entrepreneurs would smuggle bikinis across our Canadian and Mexican borders, much like there was a smuggling market for toilets that used sufficient water to adequately flush wastes.  Americans will go to great lengths to be flushed with success.

A complication of regulation came from the lively Caribbean cruising industry.  Suddenly another reason to go to Aruba or Saint Martin is to purchase bikinis to sneak back into the U.S.  In response to this, more customs agents were required to screen the disembarkation of passengers, and the searching of suitcases made this process more complicated.

However, one bright form of resistance came from American striptease artists.  They would wear on stage the brightest and most outrageously patterns of bikinis for the edification of Americans!  Strangely enough, government regulators either failed to take this form of resistance into account, or did not want their agents to enter those dens of iniquity.

They had more success when they prescribed weight and waistline standards for speedo wearers later on.

*Instead of being referred to as the Bikini Czar, she or he could be referred to as the Big ****.

Visiting Canadian or wearer of contraband swimsuit

Sunday, July 20, 2014

It Takes a Village, Whether You Want It or Not

This is not a bash of Hillary Clinton, or her book (which I never read), but simply a commentary about the reality that new parents seem to face. 

Obviously, whether desired or not, some mothers, mothers-in-law, and complete strangers may dispense advice like Pez dispensers to the new parents.  But this was probably the case even in Paleolithic times.  And there are siblings, themselves in some stage or parenthood themselves or not.  And busybody neighbors.

But there are the infancy and childhood cause advocates, who seem to have an opinion on just about any topic there is.  Breast feeding it is hot button one.  While there are some advantages in doing so, it might not be possible for everyone.  But there are some who take breast-feeding up beyond the next level: until the child is four or five or so.  (Hopefully, this is long over before he starts dating, or it may some awkward moments with his girlfriends!)

And there are those who admonish the parents on how to dress their children.*   Not just regarding modesty or comfort, but even color.  There are some feminists that argue against allowing little girls to wear pink or lavender (Hello Kitty colors?), even if that might be the child's preferences.  Seriously, most preschool girls don't want to dress in colors that look like they're from the Duck Dynasty.

Some parental advocates argue for attachment parenting, including baby-carrying, co-sleeping, breast feeding until nearly kindergarten age, and so forth.  This is despite the fact that there is zero evidence to demonstrate that child-mother attachment requires going to such lengths.

How much supervision should children get?  There are some that see having a child unscheduled in an activity at any time to be undesirable: each day for the child is scheduled; and those who call for free-range children.  In effect, like kids were in the 1950's, as folklore has it.  Children do need some unstructured time.  They don't have to have totally structured days.

In the history of child-rearing advice, there were different viewpoints: the rigid-scheduling proponents such as the rational, limited emotional expression approach such as John B. Watson advocated, the "Tender Loving Care" school, and the advocates of attachment theory, including some who went beyond the scope of known data. 

And how should a child act?  Should budding left-handedness be thwarted?  What about gender less common behavior or interests?  What about cussing?**  And -- major issue -- what about excessive activity?  Presently, the frequently-chosen strategy is pharmacological: methylphenidate HCl, also known as Ritalin.  Unfortunately, there's no really objective assessment of hyperactivity.  It often devolves into the little boy (usually) pissing his teacher or mommy off.

Not surprisingly, what kind of television fare is allowed the child is a matter of extra-familial opinion.  At what age may the youngster or tween watch "adult fare"?  Is it so awful is a parent allows her daughter to watch such classics as Animal House?

Anyway, there's a lot of people willing to get into the act.  But especially those who are quite willing to assert that children are going to the dogs nowadays!  If you look hard enough, you can dredge up some support for your presupposition.

*My Mama allowed me to wear a Hello Kitty playsuit and a fake tiara when I was aged three or four years.   Still, she recounted being criticized for doing that.

**The F-word and the S-word were forbidden; but it was okay to say that school sucks with my family.  I had to go anyway.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dividing California

Apparently Californians, having nothing else compelling on their ballots, will vote in 2016 on whether or not to peaceably divide their state into six different states:  Jefferson (red), North California (olive), Silicon Valley (green), Central California (light blue), West California (dark blue), and South California (purple).  This initiative, pushed by billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, supposedly has the required numbers of signatures of unhappy residents of the Golden State.

Will this pass?  But, also, would it pass in any of the areas of the proposed breakaway states.  My guess (from my vantage in NC) is that it has the greatest likelihood of passing in Jefferson (the red area) and slim to none in West California.

But suppose it does pass.  It would still need the approval of Congress.  Even the Lord's Prayer could not get passed in that "deliberative" body.  It is true that, one state, Texas, is Constitutionally allowed to divide into five smaller units if they see fit.  Given that the Republicans and the Democrats are strongly in competition for control of the Senate, there might be considerable reluctance to add additional states if they're likely to turn into opposition votes.

And would some of the less populous new states be economically viable?  Central California in particular?

What is troublesome is the lack of imagination in the names of the proposed states.  The proposal seems to follow the pattern found in the Carolinas, the Dakotas, and West Virginia: dividing the larger unit into smaller units by just affixing "North" or some other directional tag.  And, frankly, Silicon Valley smacks of the media and the Chamber of Commerce.

Whoops!  I am endangering two sacred cows of American society.  My bad!

Anyway, what do you all think of this idea?  You don't have to be a Californian to have an opinion.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The New York Lawyer and the Blonde Flight Attendant

A lawyer boarded a plane in New Orleans with a box of frozen crabs under his arm. He asks a blonde flight attendant to take care of them for him.

She took the box and promised to put it in the crew's refrigerator.

The lawyer advised her that he was holding her personally responsible for them staying frozen, mentioning in a very haughty manner that he was a lawyer, and proceeded to rant at her about what will happen if she let them thaw out.

Needless to say, this arrogance ticked her off greatly. 

Shortly before landing in New York, the flight attendant used the intercom to announce to the entire cabin, "Would the gentleman who gave me the crabs in New Orleans please raise your hand?"

Not one hand went up, so she took the crabs home and shared them with her roommate. 

I think that you can get two lessons here:

1. Lawyers aren't as smart as they think they are.

2. Blondes aren't always as dumb as most folks think.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Women Wearing Red or Pink

Recent research suggests that wearing a red or pink dress or shirt can be provocative for women.  First of all, it may unwittingly signal to others that she is in her most fertile part of the menstrual cycle.  (Unlike in several other mammalian species, there is no obvious sign of this time of the month.)  However, Beall and Tracy (2013) found that women are three times more likely to wear red or pink clothing at that time of the month in which they might become pregnant.

Additionally, men are more likely to view her as receptive to amorous activity and possibly a pushover.

Finally, according to research by Pazda and his associates (2014), wearing red or pink garb might put other women on the defensive.  When they see their husband or boyfriend talking with someone wearing red or pink, they are more likely to derogate her later and engage in mate-guarding strategies.

Derogation can take many forms: finding fault with her looks, casting aspersions on her morals, or even ridiculing her intelligence.  Mate-guarding strategies can include hovering by, clinging, or even employing physical means (in some rougher settings).

Do women see the lady in red or pink as a potential mate poacher?  Evidence suggests that they do.

This effect might be multiplied if the red or pink wearer is blonde or is sexily dressed.  Would it be strategically advantageous to wear blue or black?  It depends on what ends one has in mind.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cowgirl Melinda Tries to Become a Sidekick

Cowgirl Melinda found herself between jobs again; a condition in which a resourceful cowgirl could find a remedy.  In the past, she resorted to being a goose wrangler and helping in a Tame Eastern Show; but the local job prospects were kind of lame.

She did see a sign at a "Gentleman's Club" at an exit from I-80 advertising for cowgirl strippers!  Somehow, she wasn't open to the stage life, especially if it involved not wearing chaps and boots.  Or maybe it had something to do with refinishing the tables?  Oh well, not for her.

But in a coffee shop while she was having a cheap cup of joe, she saw a job advertisement for a sidekick in an indie movie set in Wyoming.  So she applied, and met with some odd-looking fellas from Portland, of all places!  They were real dudes who apparently got their garb from Cowboys R Us.

The Director fella commented to her that she looked like a real babe; and this would provide a new twist to the standard western buddy movie!  How about a female side kick, preferably one who dressed sexily?  They had a cowgirl outfit from Belle's Secret!....But, looks aside, they had some standards for a suitable sidekick; they had a checklist to assess Melinda's qualifications:

1.  Does she talk sparingly; but when she does, does she provide some homespun philosophy?  Check.

2.  Could she ride a horse or bull?  Check.

3.  Can she spit a fine stream?  Melinda worked at it, and got a passable one.

4.  Does she chew?  Well, Melinda was a bit weak on that; but she did so passably with bubble gum.  Check.

5.  Did she ever brand a cow?  Well, Melinda owned up to it, but told the tenderfeet that they always used a local.

6.  Can she sing and yodel?  Well, Melinda was a bit short in this department.  By now she thought that these movie guys were a tad behind the curve when it came to the concept of cowgirls.  It didn't help when they speculated on how she would look in a Dallas Cheerleader outfit!  Melinda was a Bronco fan, despite it being a Denver team.

The lead actor asked her if she would sleep two to a bed roll.  She properly replied that she was not that kind of cowgirl who would do so on the first date.  

Just then the actor kicked her in the thigh, and she fell down.  Melinda exclaimed, "S***!  What did you do that for, you cow [excrement] moron!  Melinda usually spoke politely, but this was real provocation!

The actor dude said, "That was the final test to see if you qualified as a sidekick."

Melinda then decided that an actress career was not for her!  These Portland dudes did not know which end of the horse was which; plus their movie was sounding pornish as it began to unfold.  Too bad, she would have been more authentic than the standard female part in a western movie.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Widow

Frederick Dielman (1847-1935) was an artist who produced a variety of paintings and lithographs.  This one is definitely kitschy and adorable: it can be found in the Boston Public Library.  The cat looks either bewildered or uncomfortable.  She is giving a look that seems to say, "You're not going to show this embarrassing picture to anyone, are you?"

I would say that Pussycat deserved a substantial modeling fee, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Puritan Names

Because there are definitely changes in popularity for certain names, this may result in criticism of certain name selections by older generations or, less often, certain names falling into disrepute.  For example, Adolf and Elmer acquired some negative karma due to Hitler and Fudd.  Probably the name Monica will pass into disuse; not just because of that California city or St. Augustine's scolding mama!

Hollywood types and rockers often come up with original names for their children: Apple, Suri, Dweezil, Moon Unit, and so forth.

And some children have their names from place names, like Brooklyn, Portland,  or Boston; but hopefully not Cleveland or Omaha.

But we have the Puritans fathers and mothers to cite as the continuing source of odd inclusions.  Some, like Prudence, Joy, Faith, Hope, and Chastity have made the cut for names still occasionally used.  Somehow, some of the other virtues like Temperance, Fortitude, Silence, Mercy, Abstinence, and Amity only occasionally are cited.

But it's when Puritans go overboard, naming craziness can occur.  Thus, there were actual people named:

Through Many Tribulations We Enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Probably called Tribby for short.)
If-Christ-hadst-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned.  Praise God's Son Barebone (He changed his name to Nicholas Barbon.)
Fear-God Barebone
Cotton Mather
Increase Mather

Increase Mather

Some names are surprising as originating from the Puritans: Abigail, Chloe, Dorcas.

In general, whatever your name is, be glad your parents weren't Puritans!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Practice of Dueling

The practice of dueling reached its peak in the 19th century; with the most famous duel being the one between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.  (Burr was the winner.)   Sam Houston, Stephen Decatur, John Randolph, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson were among noted duelists.  Abraham Lincoln was also almost in a duel, but it was called off at the last minute!

Duels were against the law in all states; however duelists usually went to places beyond the jurisdiction of authorities who might be likely to intervene.

Duels in the antebellum South were often because of an offended sense of honor.  However, other reasons were given.  One gentleman took offense because another person made snide comments about the Mississippi River's size.  He was brought up short with a sword cut.

One another occasion, State Senator Bernard de Marigny challenged another Louisiana legislator to a duel.  Marigny was an expert swordsman and pistol shot; but the other legislator found a way to improve his odds.  As the challenged party, he was given the right to choose weapons and location.

His choice: clubs and in six feet of water in Lake Pontchartrain.

Since Marigny was only five and a half feet tall and his opponent was over six feet tall, Marigny decided that he could not kill someone with such a sense of humor!

For some occupations, such as newspaper editor, having dueling skills was a useful occupational skill on occasion.  For that reason, there were actual dueling studios were one could receive instruction on how to duel effectively.  The favorite spot for New Orleans duels was under the Dueling Oaks at the south end of City Park, near where the present art museum is located.  Duels were most often done on Sunday.  On occasion, there were combatants who had to wait their turn while a duel already in progress was going on.  It was considered bad form, and possibly dangerous, to try to hurry a duel already in progress, especially since the parties and their seconds were armed!

Some graves in the old cemeteries of New Orleans bear the inscription "mort sur le champs de honneur."  While this is an inscription occasionally used for soldiers who died in battle, it became also a common usage for dueling deaths.

Fortunately, the practice of dueling pretty well ended around the time of the Civil War.  Apparently, the large-scale carnage in that conflict made the practice of dueling seem petty by comparison.  Or maybe accepted moral standards became more socially internalized.

Women were considerably less often likely to engage in dueling; but there were a few exceptions.There were even occasions when women resorted to topless_dueling at that!  (There was a rationale for doing that!)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Puritanism in the Restriction of Coffee

Despite an occasional state legalizing marijuana, or making gay marriages okay, there's still a strong puritanical streak in American life.  In one way, we see this in the establishment of that gray area in ages: the no-woman's land between 18 and 21 years old.  It is totally curious and irrational to me.  When I was 18, I could totally get married, with or without parental consent.  On the other hand, my possible groom and I could not toast our nuptials with champagne after the ceremony or after later events........  Similarly, I could so go down to the Army recruiter and enlist; but not go into a cocktail lounge to have a Cosmo to celebrate my little contribution to our national defense.  

But one thing that I could have, even if I was just 8 or 9, was a nice, hot cup of coffee.  With chicory, and beignets (I'm a hedonist).  However, some health purists sometime in 2020 or so decided that coffee drinking stunted the growth of teens, so our great wise men in Congress restricted sale of coffee to people who were 25 or older.  They threw in the extra four years to prove that they were in full support of virtue, health-wise, and to show what badasses they really were.  Never mind the benefits of drinking coffee:  

As if we needed convincing!  They justified this by arguing that coffee was addictive, it was a psychoactive stimulant, and that it was frequently associated with socially unacceptable behaviors.  The innocuous bikini baristas of the Seattle area were lumped together with the notorious betel girls of Taiwan.  Also, the Puritan meanies raised the spectre of coffeehouses frequented by beatniks, even though the last one was seen about 50 years ago in Indianapolis!  Well, who says you're supposed to play fair or be logical when you're fear-mongering?  

This surprising coffee puritanism had an immediate impact.  Since coffee sales were down, youthful workers were often seen nodding off on the job, "energy" drinks peaked in sales, and there was murmurs of discontent as the dark roast stream dried up to a trickle.  The economy of Seattle tanked.  In New Orleans, they tried beignets and hot tea for minors; but it went over like a lead balloon.  Fast food places had to make up the revenue differences by dropping the senior discount coffee.  It even inhibited some courtship processes: 

Well, American teens and young milennials were not about to take this lying down, no Ma'am!  As a matter of fact, they resurrected some methods used by their great-grandparents in fighting oppressive busybodies.  Coffee speakeasies sprung up in both cities known as hotbeds  of caffeinated vice and small towns alike to cater to the youthful coffee drinkers.  The bootlegging trade in dry counties expanded to include underage coffee.  Rumor had it that Hot Coffee, Mississippi was the distribution headquarters of this latter-day vice; therefore, latter-day coffee narcs tried going undercover there.  However, they gave themselves away by wearing Oshkosh bib overalls, by gosh!

The expression, "Make a run for the border," no longer applied to satisfying taco munchies in Northern states; but instead implied a fast trip to Tim Horton's!  And all snickered at the new meaning of the expression, "Just say no!"  Some slogans are meant for the distbin of history.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Missy Chauvin Experiences a Surprise Side Effect

Missy Chauvin, our Action News reporter, was having a conversation with her amie Madeline, otherwise known as The Prophetess, regarding some minor health problems calling for a traiteur, a Cajun folk healer.  Just in passing, Missy commented that Dr. Williams, her OB-GYN, put her on Anafranil (clomipramine) to help her deal with her nerves.

Missy said, "This is embarrassing, Maddy.  But I think that a side effect of the new drug he gave me causes me to experience the Big O whenever I yawn!  Last night I yawned while Henry was doing the weather before the sports update and I'm afraid I was a bit loud and obvious.  However, the director complimented me on my ad-libbing to perk up interest.  When we don't have a hurricane threat, the weather report is just plain bo-ring!"

"Oh, my goodness, Missy," Madeline said  "That must be distressing.  Are you doing anything about it?"

"Well, I drink espresso before we go on camera.  I also attend City Council meetings and listen to Father Devereaux's sermons; but watching World Cup soccer seems to work best of all."

Over 30 years ago McLean and co-researchers reported an unusual side effect associated with clomipramine (Anafranil): about five percent of persons who use this drug, they report experiencing orgasms when they yawn!

Now clomipramine is an antidepressant and anti-OCD medication that has more general effects than the specific seroronin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): it also affects norepinephrine, dopamine, and other neurotransmitter sites.  In a way, we can describe its effects as somewhat less specific.

Now a common undesirable side effect of antidepressants is decreased libido on the part of the user, including the commonly-used SSRIs.  However, SSRIs are preferred because they have fewer side effects.

However, for about five percent of clomipramine users, whenever they yawn, they experience an orgasm.  Some like this side effect!

McLean, J. D., Forsythe, R. G., and Kapkin, I. A.  Unusual side effects of clomipramine associated with yawning.   The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry / La Revue canadienne de psychiatrie, Vol 28(7), Nov 1983, 569-570.