Parkway Rest Stop


Jack Bog
Ultimate Insult
Yakety Yak
How Appealing
Ipse Dixit
Attu Sees All
The Presurfer
Res Ipsa Loquitur
Rachel Lucas (on hiatus)
a small victory
Peppermint Patty
Balloon Juice
Da Goddess
Curmudgeonly & Skeptical
Power Line
Electric Venom
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Margi Lowry
Sgt. Hook
Gut Rumbles
The Laughing Wolf
Not Quite Tea and Crumpets
On The Third Hand
Right We Are (Closed)
Mudville Gazette
The Country Store
Zogby Blog
Single Southern Guy
Ravenwood's Universe
Resurrection Song
The Spoons Experience
Side Salad
Bloviating Inanities
Serenity's Journal
Babel On!
Jay Solo's Verbosity
Sketches of Strain (Closed)
In Sheeps Clothing
The Accidental Jedi (on hiatus)
Straignt White Guy
The Cheese Stands Alone
Dax Montana
Tasty Manatees
Trying to Grok
Unbillable Hours
~ Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Fish Tank Platform Shoes.
Yowza!! I'm putting these on my Christmas List. Size 101/2 EEE, please.

via Attu
Welcome Home, Finally, to Rest.
The remains of Lt. Jack C. Rittichier, of Barberton, Ohio, the only U.S. Coast Guardsman listed as missing in action in the Vietnam War, were returned to his family in the United States. Lt. Rittichier’s remains were returned along with those of three other U.S. servicemen, who perished with Lt. Rittichier in June, 1968 when their helicopter received enemy fire and crashed while on a mission to rescue a downed pilot.

The other three men were Air Force Capt. Richard C. Yeend, Jr., of Mobile, Alabama.; Air Force Staff Sgt. Elmer L. Holden, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma., and Air Force Sgt. James D. Locker, of Sidney, Ohio.

Lt. Rittichier was serving with the U.S. Air Force on an exchange program at the time, and was piloting the aircraft, with Capt. Yeend serving as co-pilot. Sgts. Holden and Locker were members of the aircrew.

May they never be forgotten, and may they rest in peace.

via Straight White Guy
De Plan! De Plan!
Roger at Curmudgeonly and Skeptical writes about a 2002 Democrat strategy memo laying out the tactics that should be employed by Democrats to undermine public confidence in the President.

Unnamed Democratic sources named Democratic National Committee chief Terry McAuliffe, former Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt as party leaders who developed the talking-points memo.

The memo certainly bears their stink.

This Inspires Real Confidence.
It seems that a quantity of explosive material (primasheet) used to train bomb-sniffing dogs at Newark Airport is missing. A spokesman for the New York, New Jersey Port Authority, the agency that operates Newark Airport, said that the material had been used on a plane for testing purposes, but that he believes that it “is highly unlikely it was left on the plane."

A local television station described the quantity of missing explosives as one-half pound, but the Port Authority spokesman characterized it only as “a small amount.”

The police are on the case.

If this stuff is somewhere in the Airport, or on a plane (despite the spokesman’s optimistic assessment), one wonders why the already-trained bomb-sniffing dogs haven’t found it.

Comments Temporarily Down.
As you may have noticed, the comments feature is not operatng. Blogspeak, the comments provider, advised us that this would be necessary to make some fixes. Naturally, I would prefer that not be the case, however, the users are notified when this kind of thig is necessary.

BlogSpot/Blogger could benefit from some "customer relations" lessons from Blogspeak.
~ Monday, September 29, 2003
Random Scribbles.
It happened again, and I hate it when it happens. I had what I thought was a pretty good idea for a fairly humorous post. I should have known after the first five minutes that the damned thing was just not writing right. I suspect you know the feeling.

I plugged on for about a page and a half and finally asked myself the hard but critical question: “If you came across this on someone else’s blog, would you bother reading past the first few sentences?” The answer was a resounding albeit uncomfortable “No.” So, rather than deleting it, I relegated it to my hard drive for perhaps another look-see at some other time.

Perhaps my abortive writing attempt was, in part, traceable to my dealing with a painful infection (I’ll spare you the details) that currently prevents me from sitting at this computer for too much time. I am, however, on the mend, thanks to the wonders of antibiotics in mondo doses.

All I can muster at the moment are a couple random, and quite likely very dull observations:

Janet Evanovich. I just finished the ninth in her Stephanie Plum series, “To the Nines.” (Each book contains the appropriate number in the title.) The main character is a hapless, sometimes dizzy, generally inept bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, who along with a hilarious cast of characters runs around Trenton, New Jersey chasing down bail jumpers. If you find yourself in the need for some easy reading, full of Jersey flavor and lots and lots of laughs, I recommend that you start with number one (“One for the Money”) and work your way up to “To the Nines.” Her website is here.

Carnivale. I have become hooked on HBO’s new series, “Carnivale.” It is set in 1934 in the Dust Bowl, and centers on a traveling carnival, chock full of weird “carny” types, each of whom is sorely in need of a bath. The creators of the show have successfully captured the dirt, despair, and desperation of the time and place, and they have added to it a layer of mysteriousness that I haven’t seen since “Twin Peaks.” You can read about the show at HBO’s home page.

Diet Dr. Pepper. Quite possibly the best diet soda ever.

Kraft Pre-Shredded Cheddar. It comes in a zip-loc bag. One of great ideas of all time.

Baker’s 107 Proof Bourbon. It is made in small batches and aged for seven years. Each bottle is hand filled. Drink it neat. Who needs Valium?

Simon and Garfunkle. Impossible to get tickets, and I really wanted to see the Everly Brothers, their opening act, even more than I wanted to see S&G. Damn.

That’s it. Back to the couch.
~ Sunday, September 28, 2003
Book Your Flights Now!!
Avoid what is certain to be the last minute rush to fly into Carson City, Nevada on November 1, 2003 for the World Beard and Moustache Championships. This marks the first time that this event has been held in the United States. For $25, you can enter your beard and/or moustache in the contest, and for a mere $10, you can be a spectator at this unique event, which will include a parade that is expected to draw 40,000 onlookers.

Beards and moustaches will be judged by a distinguished panel of judges, with "Big Joy" Mishiel serving as Mistress of Ceremonies. The organizers are hoping for a good number of American entrants in order to have a chance to defeat the heavily favored German contingent.

This just in!!!!!!!! Ted Sedman, the President of London’s Handlebar Club will be in attendance and will throw his hat into the ring. This could bad news for the Germans.

Book your hotel rooms now, and don’t bother packing your razor.

via Attu Sees All
Donald O’Connor Throws the Sixes.
Donald O’Connor, 78, died yesterday of apparent heart failure. He was a comedian, a singer, an actor and an amazing dancer. Perhaps best known for starring with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in “Singin’ in the Rain,” he also shared screen credits with a mule in the popular (and just plain funny) “Francis the Talking Mule” films.

In a brief statement, the family said that among O'Connor's last words was the following quip: "I'd like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get."

I have little doubt that he will be proven right.

~ Saturday, September 27, 2003
The “Bush Regime” Deck of Cards.
I’d hear about it, but this is the first time I saw the cards.

June 6, 1944. Maybe we should have found something better to to on that day.

via The Presurfer
BBC Flash!
Man dies after drilling hole in head with a power tool.

No shit.

via Attu Sees All
A New Place to Get Your Regular Helping of Side Salad.
Jeff the proprietor of Side Salad has jumped from BlogSpot to a new address. Stop by to say hello.

Pretty soon, we BlogSpotters will be able to hold a convention in a phone booth!
There’s Something Happening There.
I meant to link to this yesterday, but better late than never. Sgt. Hook as created another photo essay based on Buffalo Springfield’s song “For What it’s Worth.” Go look.

Get the gott-damned lead out. Let’s go. Let’s go. Double time!!!
Building Government From the Ground Up.
We often hear, read, and speak of building a democracy-style government in Iraq, and yet I suspect that many of us really don’t know how that might best be done (I know that I don’t). I, therefore, urge to you to take a look at what Super G. has to say about the subject, because he is currently in Iraq working on the nuts and bolts of actually making government happen there.

His almost-daily posts provide the reader with a look at things in Iraq, unfiltered by news editors. For example, he reports on just how comfortably Iraqis are embracing capitalism. It seems that a local pizzeria has opened and is making deliveries.
~ Friday, September 26, 2003
So, Ya Think You’re a Pretty Good Driver?
Where is the only place on a divided highwa that a solid yellow line appears by itself?

(a) Left Side
(b) Center
(c) Right Side

That is just one of the questions on the Road Challenge Test. I took it, and did,…well,…fair.

Thanks to my friend, Rich, a former Coastie.
A Shocking Tale.
TJ relates a hilarious story about her interesting encounter with electricity today. I particularly liked the part where she called the doctor saying that she believed she had “electrocuted” herself. That statement was undoubtedly the product of an electricity-induced brain fart.
Robert Palmer and George Plimpton Throw the Sixes.

Robert Palmer, best known for songs such “Addicted to Love,” and “Simply Irresistible,” and their respective mondo-sexy videos, died in Paris of heart attack. He was 54.

“Addicted to Love” earned Palmer a Grammy in 1986 for best male vocal. I always thought that the full-bore crunch guitar hook in that song was terrific, although at the moment I cannot recall (nor can I find) who played guitar on the record (Hispanic name, methinks). Of course, the women in the video pretending to play instruments were comical, but I doubt that many men focused on their hands.

George Plimpton died unexpectedly in his Manhattan apartment last night. He was 76. He was best known for his 1963 book “Paper Lion,” in which he chronicled his participation in the Detroit Lions football pre-season training camp. I am not much of a sports fan, but I recall laughing out loud at that book. As I recall, he described the linemen as "having hands like cabbages."

Plimpton was a prolific and talented writer, but he also did many other things.

He boxed with Archie Moore, pitched to Willie Mays and performed as a trapeze artist for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus. He acted in numerous films, including ``Reds'' and ``Good Will Hunting.'' He even appeared in an episode of ``The Simpsons,'' playing a professor who runs a spelling bee.

He was good guy.
~ Thursday, September 25, 2003
Two Things.
Blogging time will be limited tonight, so I thought I would leave you with these two things:

File this One Under "What the Hell??"
Here is a site dedicated to those adults who, for some reason, like to dress up as infants. Huh?

via The Ultimate Insult

Auto Nostalgia.
For you car buffs out there, here is a nice tour through automotive history, complete with sound. (Note: This may be too long of a download for dial-up users, unless you really, really like cars.)

Thanks to my friend Brian, the Air Force Vet
Carnival of the Vanities No. 53.
It's up at Pathetic Earthlings. Go read.
~ Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Ho Ho Ho.
Within the last week, the mail included these catalogs:

Shannon (selling crystal and china stuff)
Lenox (more china stuff), and
The Paragon (selling general gifties)

What do these three gems have in common? Their covers all tout CHRISTMAS Stuff!!!

It’s September, dammit. Kids have just returned to school. There are still some tomatoes outside on the plants. The leaves are still ON the trees. Halloween is still more than a month a way, and Thanksgiving is still more than TWO months away.

Gimme a farookin’ break already.
A Real “Philadelphia Lawyer.”
There are few things more frustrating than dealing with a pro se litigant (a person who represents himself in court). It often turns into a situation where all the procedural rules and rules of evidence apply to the state and the prosecutor, but the pro se defendant is cut enormous amounts of slack by the judge. And, the prosecutor often comes off looking like the bad-guy bully trying to beat up on the sorry ass who has decided to defend himself, thereby evoking sympathy for the defendant from the jury.

This sounds like a classic example.

Between June and August, high school dropout Jonathan Harris, 34, acted as his own lawyer in three Philadelphia felony cases and won them all, including a murder trial that could have sent him to death row. At press time, he had scheduled two more for himself, on a 2001 gun charge and at a new trial on several lesser charges related to the murder (although he had taunted a prosecutor in court about taking him on again). The prosecutor blamed the murder verdict on unreliable and no-show witnesses.

Then again, maybe this guy ought to be applying to (or teaching at) Harvard Law School.

Note: The story was published in the August 18, 2003 edition of Newsday. The link is no longer available.

Thanks to my friend Russ, a Navy vet and a Harley guy.
This Ain’t Kansas!
Yesterday’s rainstorm that hit the Garden State brought with it a couple tornadoes that raised hell in the state. Say what? Tor-friggin-nadoes?? What the hell??

This is Jersey, for Chrissake. Here we do blizzards, hurricanes, and mobsters. We don’t DO tornadoes.

What’s next? Locusts?
~ Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Jersey Today – Drive-By Shootings, Bears in Court, DNA from Bad Guys, and a Dog Gets the Death Penalty.

The Drive-By.
It appears that someone in Sussex County (one of the state’s seriously rural counties) has been driving around in a car or truck shooting and killing domesticated animals. The police currently have no suspects in custody in connection with a shooting spree that left one horse, one pet dog and one pet deer dead. The shootings occurred early this morning.

The horse in question took forty-five minutes to die what was described as an “agonizing death.” By contrast, the dog, a 20-month-old sheepdog named “Dakota,” apparently died instantly when struck in the neck with a bullet.

The police believe that the shootings are connected, but random. [I presume that translates into one or more assholes riding around and shooting people’s animals for no particular reason.]

For the Jersey folks who may have any information about the Waste-of-Oxygen that committed these crimes, please call the New Jersey State Police at 973-383-1515.

The Bears in Court.
As I have previously posted, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife has decided to issue permits to hunt black bears in certain areas of the state. The move was deemed to be necessary, given the rapidly growing bear population and the increasing number of human-bear encounters, some of which have been identified as “close calls.”

This marks the first time in thirty years that bear hunting in New Jersey has been permitted. A bear hunt had been scheduled to take place three years ago, however, anti-hunting groups were active in opposing the hunt, and the Governor called it off.

Thus far, the current Governor of New Jersey has refused to call of the hunt, citing safety concerns traceable to the increased bear population and the recent number of bear-human encounters.

Perhaps having given up on any possible intervention by the Governor, the anti-hunt groups have taken legal action to block the hunt. The attorney for anti-hunt groups. William Strazza, was quoted as saying, “There is no question in my mind that this hunt is morally bankrupt, with no basis in science or in law.”

I have to wonder about Mr. Strazza’s credentials as: (a) a wildlife expert, and (b) an arbiter of the mores of 21st century America that permits him to declare a bear hunt to be “morally bankrupt.”

The intrastate combat over the bear hunt, which is scheduled to take place in December, is far from over.

Stay tuned.

DNA, Big-Time.
From now on, if you are convicted of a crime in the Garden State (from simple assault, all the way to murder), you can expect to have your cheek swabbed for a sample of your DNA. This is so because Governor McGreevey signed into a law a provision mandating the state’s obtaining DNA samples from convicts, making New Jersey one of 24 states mandating DNA sampling from convicted felons. Prior to this time, the state had only taken DNA samples from those convicted of sex crimes, kidnapping and homicide.

The state plans to pay for the increased DNA testing by placing a two-dollar surcharge on every traffic ticket issued in the New Jersey [thereby permitting the Governor to continue to “honestly” claim that he has run the state without raising the sales or income tax]. It is expected that the surcharge will raise $8.2 million per year. [That’s a helluva lot of tickets.]

While the expanded DNA database is believed to be helpful in identifying repeat criminals, there is, of course, a vocal opposition to the sampling by the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming that such sampling makes the state “more and more of a surveillance society.” [Blah, blah, blah.]

I almost feel like speeding through a radar trap in order to pony up my two bucks.

The Canine Death Penalty.
Local police paid the fee to the Gardan State Humane Society in order to euthanize a 3-year-old dog that killed its owner earlier this month. The dog in question, a Doberman pinscher named Luger, attacked and killed its owner, Valerie DeSwart, 66, by biting her in the neck.

Ms DeSwart had adopted the dog ten days before the attack, despite warnings from the shelter that the dog had a “history of biting.” Sadly. the adoption took place, even though the dog’s previous owners had paid the shelter to destroy the animal.

It is a horrible story, but at least the “killer” in this case has been put to death. Now, I just wish the state would turn its attention to some of the “animals” who have been sentenced to death and who have been languishing on “Death Row” for decades in Trenton.

I’m not holding my breath.
Jersey Weather.
New Jersey, much of which was spared the serious violence of last week's hurricane (although we got plenty of rain and wind), is being clobbered today by a storm that is blowing down power lines, tearing up trees and flooding the roads.

Always an adventure, this place.
~ Monday, September 22, 2003
Headlines of the Future.
A colleague of mine sent me this today, which, as my granny used to say, “handed me a laugh.” In addition to handing me a laugh, my friend also provided me with something to post that doesn’t require any heavy lifting on my part, which is good, because at the moment my creativity gauge is drifting off the left and is approaching “E.”

I gather that this has been, or currently is making the rounds on the internet. So, I suppose it is possible that I am the only knucklehead who has not seen this before today. I certainly hope not. However, if you have seen this before, please pretend that this is the first time you’re seeing it. It will make my content cop-out much easier to bear.


Ozone created by electric cars now killing millions in the seventh largest country in the world, California.

White minorities still trying to have English recognized as California's third language.

Spotted Owl plague threatens crops and livestock in northwestern United States.

Baby conceived naturally. Scientists stumped.

Last remaining Fundamentalist Muslim dies in the American Territory of the Middle East (formerly known as Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, and Lebanon.)

Castro finally dies at age 112; Cuban cigars can now be imported legally, but President Chelsea Clinton has banned all smoking.

George Z. Bush says he will run for President in 2036.

Postal Service raises price of first class stamp to $17.89 and reduces mail delivery to Wednesday only.

35 year study: Diet and Exercise is the key to weight loss.

Massachusetts executes last remaining conservative.

Supreme Court rules punishment of criminals violates their civil rights.

Average height of NBA players now nine feet, seven inches.

New federal law requires that all nail clippers, screwdrivers, fly swatters, and rolled up newspapers must be registered by January 1, 2036.

Capital Hill intern indicted for refusing to have sex with congressman.

IRS sets lowest tax rate at 75%.

Florida Democrats still don't know how to use a voting machine.

Thanks to Jack, a fine lawyer and a man who enjoys an occasional cocktail.
Words Fail Me.


via The Presurfer
~ Sunday, September 21, 2003
Lunch in Saddam's Palace.
Super G. reports on having lunch in one of Saddam's palaces. Check out the photos. Surprisingly, a bust depicting Saddam's fat head has been left on top of the building. From there scroll down to read the Road to Baghdad, Part II. SG has also included some .wav files, one of which records the moment when he realized that the truck he was asked to drive in the convoy was zipping along at 110 mph. Go read.
More Moves.
TJ has moved Twisty off BlogSpot to TypePad. Her new digs, which are really nice, are here. Please adjust your bookmarks and blogrolls accordingly.

Hell, I figure that BlogSpot might finally get its act together when I am its last customer.

DynamoBuzz, another Jersey blogger, had to move his site on short notice, when is previous host went belly-up. He managed to get the whole thing done in one day. Oy! And he did it in between running back and forth to the hospital to see his new baby daughter. His new address is here. Please do the bookmark and blogroll thing.

The Road to Baghdad.
Super G. has posted a pictorial essay on his journey to Baghdad, including a picture of him standing in front of Chemical Ali’s house. Also don’t miss the photo of the Arab woman who wears a Cincinnati Reds hat and who is part of his group's security detail.

An Arab woman in a Cincinnati Reds hat?? I had to read it a couple times.

You can't make this shit up.
~ Saturday, September 20, 2003
It's about time that I move several blogs from my bookmarks onto the blogroll. For quite some time now, after I have run through my blogroll, I find myself looking through the many, many sites I have bookmarked in order to read the sites that are listed below. (That’s about as scientific as the blogroll selection process gets around here.) This will save me some time, and hopefully will point you to some great reading.

Without further ado, here are the new additions:

Jay Solo’s Verbosity: This one was long overdue, as I have been reading Jay’s stuff for a long time now. Sorry for the delay, Jay.

Sketches of Strain: David is a terrific writer. When I read his blog, I often find myself thinking, “I wish I had written that.”

TacJammer: This is a nice site, with interesting and varied content. I have come to know that Russ, the proprietor of the place, is a veteran of the Signal Intelligence Corps, formerly known as the Army Security Agency (the electronic spooks), and that, despite his extreme verticality (6’8”), he is neither a basketball player, nor a basketball fan. My kinda guy.

Bogieblog: Bogie blogs from New Hampshire, a truly beautiful state. She runs a friendly site that is always a welcome stop on my regular blog tour.

Arrrgh!!! I like Buffy’s style and choice of content. I’ve posted on things like manhole covers, pencils, swizzle sticks, and peanut butter, so someone who posts on “sink salads” and Post-it Notes, gets my attention.

Aimless: Amy has a nice, laid-back site, with pleasing content. I also like her site, because, even though she calls the site “Aimless,” her aim is dead on when it comes to finding pointing to other good places to visit in the blogosphere.

In Sheeps Clothing: This is a relatively new blog (as if mine is ancient). I like it, and it definitely deserves a wider readership. Check it out.
Sgt. Hook is Back.
He's back from training. He's sweaty, dirty, tired and very proud of his comrades-in-arms. Go read.

Hey soldier, you waiting for a gott-damned engraved invitation? MOVE IT!
I Salute Them.
For the first time ever, the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns were granted permission to abandon their posts to take shelter during yesterday’s hurricane.

They refused.

Read about it at TacJammer.
~ Friday, September 19, 2003
A Brand New Jersey Girl.
Roberto, at Dynamobuzz, and his wife are the proud parents of a new baby girl. Take a look at the pics, and while you’re there welcome Liliana Faith to the world.
The comments vanished! Right in the middle of a scintillating peanut butter discussion too. Damn!

Update: They're back. You may resume talking.
Do-It-Yourself Friday Five.
For the 9+ months I have been at this, I have often seen people posting answers to the “Friday Five.” I’ve often wondered where the Friday Five come from. I have no idea. Are they like dirty jokes (no disparagement intended), in that they just seem to pop up out of nowhere. Some used to say that dirty jokes are born in prisons. I tend to doubt that, because the prisons I have visited (just visiting, mind you) did not strike me as being the kinds of places where the residents sat around composing jokes. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

Except for one time, I have never posted answers to the Friday Five, but I feel up to answering a few questions tonight. So, rather than searching all over the blogosphere for this week’s Friday Five, I thought that I would write my own very probing questions and provide you with my most thoughtful answers.

Without further ado, I give you Jimbo’s Do-It-Yourself Friday Five:

Question Number 1: Have you ever considered adding sawdust to your food as an inexpensive source of fiber?
Answer: No.

Question Number 2: Have you ever thought about putting numbers on your socks so that they could be properly rotated at pre-specified times, thereby increasing their useful life?
Answer: No.

Question Number 3: Wouldn’t it be, like, way cool to carry a spit can and spit in it for a whole day it instead of swallowing?
Answer: No.

Question Number 4: Wouldn’t it be really exciting to drive through a tollbooth on the Garden State Parkway at 90 miles per hour? I mean, it would be like landing on an aircraft carrier. You know what I mean? You would have to line everything up just right and shit like that. Oh man, how cool would that be?
Answer: No.

Question Number 5. Don’t you think that it would be an uplifting experience to spend twenty-four consecutive hours in the men’s room at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City meeting and greeting those who come to pee?
Answer: No.

That was a bitch. I hate hard questions.
~ Thursday, September 18, 2003
Peanut Butter.
If it were up to me, the person who invented peanut butter would have been awarded the Nobel Prize. I have eaten and loved the stuff just about as long as I can remember. Hell, I think that I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches most days for lunch from kindergarten through eighth grade and possibly even longer. There is always a generous supply on hand in the House by the Parkway.

Perhaps the Swedes might find it difficult to find a category that would apply to the invention of peanut butter, but remember that these are the same folks who awarded the Peace Prize to Jimmy Carter and Yasser Arafat. I can tell you that peanut butter has brought me a helluva lot more peace than either of those two asshats ever has.

Still, it might be difficult to sort out just who gets credit for “inventing” peanut butter. It all started in about 1890 when a St. Louis doctor asked a local food processor to grind up peanuts for his patients who needed protein, but who lacked the robust dentition necessary to chew a steak. Then, in 1895, the Kellogg brothers (one of them of cereal fame) got into the act by managing to get a patent for “The Process of Preparing Nut Meal,” which resulted in what was described as "a pasty adhesive substance that is for convenience of distinction termed nut butter."

Although the Kelloggs might technically have dibs on the Prize, their process provided for the steaming, rather than the roasting of the peanuts before grinding. Peanut butter, as we know it today, was first introduced by C.H. Sumner at the Universal Exposition in 1904 in St. Louis, where he sold a bunch of it as his concession stand.

Things have changed quite a bit over the last 99 years. Now, peanut butter is in the kitchens of more than 75% of the nation’s households. In fact, the average American household consumes 6 lbs of peanut butter per year. That works out to about 570 million pounds of peanut butter per year, which is enough to cover the floor of the Grand Canyon. Americans spend approximately $800 million per year on peanut butter.

Read all about it here and here.

OK. The history lesson is over. Now, let me tell you the real deal on peanut butter.

I have often been asked, “Yo, Jimbo, if you were stranded on a desert island, and you could only have one of your favorite foods, what would it be?” Pizza? Maybe. Tacos? (I learned to make them from a Southern Californian.) Maybe. A Jersey Sub (known to some of you, for God knows what reason, as a “hogie” or a “grinder” or a Po’ Boy”). Maybe. But, given a couple minutes of thought, the answer has got to be peanut butter.

While pizza, tacos, and subs may be wonderful, they are not versatile. By contrast, peanut butter is a gourmet treat on damned near anything. And, I’ve eaten it on damned near everything. Here’s a sampling (with a recommendation or two):

On Bread
Squishy Wonder Bread (kids like this the best)
Hard rolls (Some call these “Kaiser rolls.” What the hell is that about?)
Rye bread (not the fakey stuff wrapped in cellophane, but the real Jersey/New York Jewish or Russian rye.) Having good teeth is important here.
Biscuits (excellent when hot)
English muffins (The peanut butter floods into the nooks and crannies.)
Bagels (Oy!)
Whole wheat (when fiber is a concern.)
Hot dog and hamburger rolls (when there is no other kind of bread in the house, these will do.)

On Crackers
Ritz crackers (Acidman has written lovingly of this taste treat.)
Nabisco Saltines (Before you know it, a whole sleeve of crackers is gone.)
Triscuts (Be still my heart.)
Cheeze-Its (a little tricky to handle, but great in a pinch.)
Wasa Crackers (sort of “healthy” fiber-rich crackers.) – Excellent.
Graham crackers (absolutely.)

On other things
Rice cakes (for the calorie conscious.)
Bananas (sliced longitudinally or smear as you eat.)
Apples (also good with raisons sprinkled on top)
Celery (I admit it.)
Pretzels (Yowza!)
Jelly donuts (You know you’re in trouble.)
Chocolate covered donuts (Deep, deep trouble – clearly the sign of a PB Junkie)
On just a spoon or knife – for the true purist.

What to drink with peanut butter?
Milk (On balance, probably the beverage of choice.)
Coffee (Particularly good with a PB breakfast.)
Tea (Good late at night.)
Soda (“pop” or “tonic” for those of you who don’t know what a soda is) – Excellent.
Beer (I’ve done it in a pinch, but until now, I have not admitted it.)

A word about jelly.
I’m for it. There is, of course, the old standby - grape. However, I have come to appreciate other flavors such as: apple, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, black cherry, current (red and black), apricot, pineapple and peach.

What brand of peanut butter?
Skippy. I’ve tried others, including the fancy-schmancy, healthy ones that you have to stir before eating. Nope. Skippy is the one – the only one.

When can one eat peanut butter?
In between any of the above
In the wee hours of the morning, when you need something to absorb the alcohol.

Finally, one of the particularly great things about peanut butter is that it is a genuine American food. Other countries are catching on, but they have a way to go. When I spent six weeks in Switzerland several years ago, I began to suffer peanut butter withdrawal. I scoured the local “supermarket” in Basel and ultimately found a jar of Swiss “Erdnussbutter.” It was goddamned pedestrian compared to a jar of Skippy, but for me, it was like finding the Holy Grail.

So, if you find yourself feeling down on the U.S.A., I suggest that you get yourself a big glass of milk, a chocolate covered donut, a knife, and a jar of Skippy. It will remind you how great it is to be an American.

Oh, and one more thing. There is no way that I could write this much about peanut butter without providing this link. Go ahead. Click it. You know you want to.
~ Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Today Kuwait, Tomorrow Iraq.
Check out Babel On! The author, who immodestly calls himself “Supergenius,” (but who, in truth, is a very nice, unassuming guy, and who happens to be very smart), is on his way to Iraq, where he will be teaching Democracy 101 to the Iraqis. He posted some nice pictures of Kuwait, where he made a brief stop. He will be heading for Baghdad tomorrow.

I am looking forward to hearing, first-hand, from someone whose job it is to try to bring democracy to Iraq.

I wish him well.
Sheb Wooley Throws the Sixes.
Sheb Wooley, who perhaps was best known for writing and singing “Purple People Eater” in 1958, died yesterday at age 82. Born in Eric Oklahoma, he had a long career that included writing music, making records and appearing in numerous television shows (e.g. Rawhide) and in movies, such as High Noon, Outlaw Josie Wales, Giant, Rio Bravo, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Starman, and Hoosiers.

He had been ill with leukemia, but he managed to attend Johnny Cash’s wake last week.

Although his popularity waned in recent years, he remains one of great country entertainers.

R.I.P., Sheb.
~ Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Lawyer Joke.
I am suffering from a bit of brain fry right about now. Consequently I don’t have anything very interesting or amusing to contribute. As luck would have it, I received, via e-mail, quite possibly my one-millionth lawyer joke. I figure that this makes one million and one, and it is amusing enough to share. With any luck you too will like it and let me off the hook for having nuttin’ of my own tonight.

A truck driver was driving down the highway when he saw an elderly priest at the side of the road. He stopped to give him a ride. Further down the road the truck driver saw a lawyer along the side of the road and turned the truck on a direct course to hit him. Then he thought, "Wait, I have a priest in the truck, I can't run down that lawyer."

So at the last second the truck driver swerved to miss the lawyer. Although he thought he hadn't hit the lawyer, the truck driver still heard a thump outside of the truck. He looked in his mirror and saw the lawyer lying unconscious on the side of the road. Ashamed for what he had done, the truck driver turned to the priest and said, "I'm so sorry Father, I really tried to miss that lawyer."

The priest said, "Don't worry son, I got him with my door."

That’s all, y’all. Rim shot.

Thanks to my friend Ron, the retired police officer and Brown Water Navy Vet.
Missing Comments.
Blogspeak, the comments provider, notified its users that, because of a server switch, some comments may be lost. So, if you left a comment within the last twenty-four hours and it does not currently appear, that is why. We have also been advised that there may be some comments outages resulting from the provider’s working on some upgrades. So far, I have really come to like having a comments feature, and I don’t even mind the technical glitches, because the provider so far, has kept its users abreast of what is happening.
~ Monday, September 15, 2003

New Jersey Factoids.
I do my fair share of bitching about the Garden State. However, I have lived here all my life, and I don’t have any immediate plans to move. That’s because, despite the traffic, political corruption, freezing winters, stifling summers, Robert Torricelli, Frank Lautenberg, John Corzine, and Governor McGreevey, it’s a great place to live.

With that said, here are some interesting things about New Jersey, some of which may surprise you, that I received in an e-mail from a high school classmate: (The bracketed comments are mine.)

New Jersey is a peninsula.

Highlands, New Jersey has the highest elevation along the entire eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida.

New Jersey is the only state where all of its counties are classified as metropolitan areas.

New Jersey has more racehorses than does Kentucky. [These are largely in the part of the state also famous for the manufacture of Laird’s Apple Jack whiskey.]

New Jersey has more Cubans in Union City (1 sq. mi.) than does Havana, Cuba.

New Jersey has the densest system of highways and railroads in the US. [And probably the most farookin’ traffic.]

New Jersey has the most diners in the world and is sometimes referred to as the Diner Capital of the World. [Fridays and Saturdays at about 3:00 a.m., are a special treat.]

New Jersey is home to the original "mystery pork parts" food (no, not Spam): Taylor Ham also known as Pork Roll. [You non-Jersey folks can order it online here.]

New Jersey is also home to the less mysterious but best Italian hot dogs and Italian sausage w/peppers and onions. [Best eaten “down the shore.”]

North Jersey has the most shopping malls in one area in the world, with seven major shopping malls in a 25 square mile radius. [Traffic during Christmas season is really joyous.]

New Jersey is home to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. [This pisses New Yorkers off. Tough shitsky.]

The Passaic River was the site of the first submarine ride by inventor John P. Holland.

New Jersey has 50+ resort cities & towns, some of the nations' most famous: Asbury Park, Wildwood, Atlantic City, Seaside Heights, Long Branch & Cape May. [These are just some of the places “down the shore.”]

New Jersey has the most stringent testing along our coastline for Water Quality Control than any other seaboard state in the entire country.

New Jersey is a leading technology & industrial state and is the largest chemical producing state in the nation when you include pharmaceuticals.

Jersey tomatoes are known the world over as being the best you can buy. [I know that some will take issue with this, but it happens to be true. So there.]

New Jersey is the world leader in blueberry and cranberry production (and here you thought Massachusetts?)

Here's to New Jersey-the toast of the country! In 1642, the first brewery in America opened in Hoboken. [‘nuf said.]

New Jersey rocks! The famous Les Paul invented the first solid body electric guitar in Mahwah in 1940.

New Jersey is a major seaport state with the largest seaport in the US, located in Elizabeth. Nearly 80% of what our nation imports comes through Elizabeth Seaport first. [And there is absolutely no organized crime there. /sarcasm]

New Jersey is home to one of the nation's busiest airports at Newark Liberty International. [The Pearl of the East.]

George Washington slept here. Several important Revolutionary War battles were fought on New Jersey soil, many led by General George Washington.

The light bulb, phonograph (record player) and motion picture projector, were invented by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory. [We also have a town named Edison.]

We also boast the first town ever lit by incandescent bulbs.

The first seaplane was built in Keyport, NJ.

The first airmail (to Chicago) originated from Keyport, NJ.

The first phonograph records were made in Camden, NJ

New Jersey is home to the Miss America pageant held in Atlantic City.

The game Monopoly, played all over the world, named the streets on their playing board after the actual streets in Atlantic City.

And Atlantic City has the longest boardwalk in the world.

New Jersey has the largest petroleum containment area outside of the Middle East countries. [We worry about that sometimes.]

The first Indian reservation was in New Jersey, in the Watchung Mountains.

New Jersey has the tallest water tower in the world. (Union, NJ)

New Jersey had the first Medical Center, in Jersey City. [Jersey City and Hudson County have a rich history of political corruption that many places have unsuccessfully tried to duplicate.]

The Pulaski Skyway, from Jersey City to Newark, was the first highway of its type.

NJ built the first tunnel under a river, the Hudson. (Holland Tunnel).

The first organized baseball game was played in Hoboken, NJ, which is also the birthplace of Frank Sinatra.

The first intercollegiate football game was played in New Brunswick, NJ in 1889. (Rutgers College played Princeton) [Rutgers won.]

The first Drive-in Movie theater was opened in Camden, NJ.

New Jersey is home to both of NEW YORK'S professional football teams.

The first radio station and broadcast was in Paterson, NJ.

All New Jersey natives: Sal Martorano, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Jason Alexander, Queen Latifa, Susan Sarandon, Connie Francis, Shaq, Judy Blume, Aaron Burr, Joan Robertson, Ken Kross, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughn, Budd Abbott, Lou Costello, Alan Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Marilynn McCoo, Flip Wilson, Alexander Hamilton, Whitney Houston, Eddie Money, Linda McElroy, Eileen Donnely, Grover Cleveland, Walt Whitman, Jerry Lewis, Tom Cruise, Richard Wojewodzki, Joyce Kilmer, Bruce Willis, Caesar Romero, Lauryn Hill, Ice-T, Nick Adams, Nathan Lane, Sandra Dee, Danny DeVito, Richard Conti, Joe Pesci, Joe Piscopo, Robert Blake, John Forsyth, Meryl Streep, Loretta Swit, Norman Lloyd, Paul Simon, Jerry Herman, Gorden McCrae, Kevin Spacey, John Travolta, Phyllis Newman, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Eva Marie Saint, Elisabeth Shue, Zebulon Pike, James Fennimore Cooper, Admiral Wm.Halsey,Jr., Dave Thomas(Wendy's), William Carlos Williams, Ray Liotta, Robert Wuhl, Paul Robeson, Ernie Kovacs, Joseph Macchia and of course.........Frank Albert Sinatra and "Uncle Floyd" Vivino.

Thanks to Marolyn.
Basketball? No thanks.
I’m not much of a sports fan, although I can occasionally enjoy a football or baseball game, even though it requires a rather large investment in time. But, basketball? I really think basketball is a dumb game.

Now, if you’re one of the millions of basketball fans, kindly reach down and unbunch your undies. If you like basketball, that’s fine. I don’t think less of basketball fans, and I am not trying to dissuade you of your love of the game. I am just taking advantage of my tiny place in the blogosphere to express my thoughts on that game that was, after all, invented in 1891 when James Naismith hung a couple peach baskets in the gym in an effort to get a bunch of lazy jocks to exercise during the cold winter months.

Here are some of the reasons why I don’t much care for basketball or “basket ball” (as it was originally known).

Basketball is heavily populated with genetic outliers.
Basketball is a game for TALL people – very TALL people. People of average height and short people need not apply. Frankly, it is difficult for me to be impressed to see a seven feet tall guy jump in the air and plop the ball in the basket with slightly more effort than it takes me to get a coffee cup from the top shelf in the kitchen cabinet.

Now, I know many of you are probably thinking that all sports, to one extent or another, seek out genetic outliers. So, if the genetic cards you’ve been dealt make you neckless, six a half feet tall, and three hundred pounds, football might be your game. Similarly, if you are very short in stature and weigh in at 90 pounds while holding a radiator in their hands, you might be sought out to be a jockey.

However, it seems different with basketball. If you’re a kid who at 16 or 17 is tickling seven feet tall, I’ll bet you hear virtually every day of your life, “Hey, you must play basketball.” What if the kid thinks basketball is a dumb game? I’ll bet that for kids like that it’s easier just humor everyone and play the damned rather than having to spend your life explaining why it is you’re not a basketball player.

Hell, if somewhere a nine-foot tall guy were to surface, the NBA teams would fight tooth and nail for his services. Then we could just watch this guy reach up and effortlessly drop the ball in the basket. Thrilling. Dumb.

“Dribbling” – Duh.
The original thirteen rules written by James Naismith did not permit a player to move with the ball. The ball could only be advanced by passing it to another player. One day, some smartass (undoubtedly a genetic outlier, taller than everyone else), got the bright idea to pass the ball to himself, thereby permitting him to advance the ball simply by repeatedly tossing it up in the air and catching it.

This self-passing became part of the rules. At a later time, someone had the swell idea that you could move with the ball as long as you did bouncy-ball with it while moving. And, as if this bouncy-ball thing wasn’t dumb enough, someone decided to call it “dribbling.” Dribbling? What a dumb choice of words. What does bouncing a ball on the floor have to do with dribbling? One wonders why it was not called “drooling.” Then again, it could have been worse. The bouncy-ball thing could have been called "barfing" or "farting."

Grown men doing bouncy-ball. Dumb.

I hate the sounds.
Basketball makes bad sounds. To me, the sounds of the bouncy-ball and the sneakers squeaking against the floor are most unpleasant. Oh yeah, don’t forget the horn that blasts at the end of the periods. Who could possibly like that sound? Dumb.

Foul shots.
These are really dumb. When someone commits a foul, the game stops while the genetic outlier stands directly in front of the basket and tosses it in most times. But, before he tosses it in, we are treated to a little more bouncy-ball. This leads me to wonder why these highly paid, very tall people ever miss, and why they have to do the bouncy-ball thing before the toss it into the basket? Dumb.

Basketball (particularly professional basketball) is a haven for felons of all descriptions.
Now I know that basketball does not have a monopoly on its participants being criminals. But it sure seems like basketball leads the way in this department. Don’t these guys know that if they were not basketball players, they would be largely unemployable? Dumb.

Suggestions to improve the game.
Far be it from me to criticize basketball without being prepared to offer suggestions for rule changes that I think would improve this otherwise dumb game.

Solving the genetic outlier problem.
Simply raising the basket won’t do it. It will still be a game for genetic outliers. I have a more creative solution. Install three baskets of varying heights on each end of the court.. Short guys can only shoot at the low basket, average guys can only shoot at the average height basket and the outliers have to shoot at the high basket. Short and average guys would have a fair chance. And, who knows? Maybe it might be that some day people who are five feet tall will be regularly asked, “Hey, are you a basketball player?”

There is still the problem of the outliers preventing the short guys from shooting. Don’t bother me with details. I’m working on that.

A creative alternative to “dribbling.”
How does this sound? Scrap dribbling altogether, because – let’s face it – bouncy-ball is dumb and is better left to children. I suggest that the rule should be that a player can run with the ball, but he has to sing all the while he running. I think Broadway tunes would be nice. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear a nice baritone rendition of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” rather than the sound of bouncy-ball? It would make the game much more pleasing to the ear.

I would be willing to consider alternatives to Broadway tunes. Rock? Country-Western? Perhaps each player should be permitted to select his own songs. However, I would not, under any circumstances, permit rap, as rap is not music, and it is even more offensive to the ears than the sound of bouncy ball.

Finally, “singing” would be an accurate description of what is actually happening, rather than “dribbling,” which to me describes an unattractive salivation thing, not the bouncy-ball it actually is.

A solution for the other offensive sounds.
Now what about the squeaking sneakers and that awful, blasting horn?. No problem. The game should be played on a carpet, because once bouncy-ball is done away with, there is no need for a wooden floor. No more wooden floor, no more annoying sneaker squeaks. Simple.

As for that hateful horn, I suggest that it be replaced by three Alpenhorns playing beautiful harmony. Much easier on the ears.

A better approach to dealing with fouls.
As noted above, watching foul shooting (along with the obligatory pre-shot bouncy-ball) is boring. The other problem with the way fouls are currently handled is that the person committing the foul is not punished properly. There is no real disincentive to bad behavior on the “carpet.” My suggestion is that when a player commits a foul, the other team automatically gets a point, thereby doing away with the foul shot thing. But that’s not all. I also think that the person committing the foul has to be properly humiliated for his bad conduct. I, therefore, propose that the person committing the foul be forced to wear lipstick and a tutu for the remainder of the game in which he committed the foul and for all of the following game as well.

The solution for the too-many-felons problem.
It is obvious that the NBA does not care whether a good player also happens to be a felon. My solution? Fine. Let the social misfits play. However, they have to wear a ball and chain during the game. That will provide a disincentive to the players who may be considering the commission of a felony, it would make the team owner less likely to keep a felon on the team, and finally, it would protect the fans from these guys who really ought to be in jail.

So, that’s my take on basketball.

I much prefer synchronized swimming.
~ Saturday, September 13, 2003
Bounty for an American.
Apparently someone in Pakistan offered a reward to any person who managed to kill an American, civilian or soldier – it did not matter. An Australian learned of this and wrote this.

Via Drumwaster’s Rants

Update: Sorry for not including the link to the underlying story last night. I'm blaming the Ketel One vodka and the Lepanto Spanish Brandy, courtesy of the original Bill, enjoyed with an excellent Bucanero cigar, courtesy of Bill, the HAM. Obviously, sometimes good living and good blogging don't go together.
Rita, the Interviewee.
David of Sketches of Strain will be interviewing Rita of Res Ipsa Loquitur on Sunday. Rita is one of my very favorite bloggers. There’s just something about this self-proclaimed hillbilly lawyer, who from time to time rescues children, takes computer courses, knows a bunch of meteorology crap, and who is known to “pack heat,” that I like big-time.

I can’t wait to read it.
~ Friday, September 12, 2003
Great Radio.
Don’t miss Mark Levin on 77 WABC radio every evening between 6:00 and 7:00. He’s a conservative constitutional lawyer, with a voice that is decidedly un-radio and a viewpoint and personality that are decidedly un-NPR. I often catch him on my way home from work, and on a few occasions I have moved into the right lane to give me more time to listen to the show.

You won’t be disappointed, unless, of course, you're a person who purchased Al Franken's or Hillary's book, in which case never mind.
Johnny Cash and John Ritter Throw the Sixes.
Johnny Cash, the legendary “Man in Black” country singer, and John Ritter, one of the stars on the TV Sitcom “Three’s Company” died today, Cash of complications from diabetes and Ritter of an aortic aneurysm.

I was a fan of Johnny Cash. To me, he always sang right on the edge, sounding like he might go flat any minute, but he never did. I wore out the grooves on the Folsom Prison album. I plan on spending some time listening to his music this weekend.

Truthfully, I was never a huge John Ritter fan, mainly because I was not crazy about the TV programs that made him famous. However, I do seem to recall laughing a bit at “Three’s Company,” particularly the segments involving the “Ropers,” and the dopey blond character created by Suzanne Somers. On the occasions that I saw Ritter being interviewed, he seemed like a pretty nice guy. He was too young to die.

FACTOID: Speaking of Suzanne Somers.....

Suzanne Somers and I made our entry onto this planet on the same day. She, however, looks considerably better than I.

Damn, I knew I should have bought one of those Thighmasters.
~ Thursday, September 11, 2003
9/11 – What to Say?
I thought about writing my 9/11 story. I even got a few sentences into it, but it just didn’t feel right. It was going to be long – too long, I thought, and frankly, as compared to the stories and experiences of others, my story didn’t deserve that many words. However, today I had no desire to write about anything other than 9/11.

What to say?

I was about ready to call it quits when I decided to pop onto my blog to check out a couple favorites. I noticed a very brief (and most kind) comment to my most recent post from Psycho Dad. Seeing as how he took the time to leave me a nice comment, I popped over to his site, and read his entry for today.

It seems that he watched the entire horror unfold from Liberty State Park, which is to say he was up close, and right in the spot where survivors were arriving on the flotilla of boats that showed up to take people off Manhattan. His story clearly was worth more words than mine, but he made a conscious decision to tell it all in three very short paragraphs. He had exactly the right idea.

With that said, and with a tip of the hat to Psycho Dad, here is my story.

As I was driving to work, I heard on the radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I had just entered onto Route 78, heading away from the City. I looked in my rearview mirror, and I saw smoke billowing from the North Tower. I couldn’t believe my eyes. At that point, like everyone else, I thought it was a terrible accident. A few miles later, the second plane hit.

Knowing instantly that this had to be the work of terrorists, I looked at my watch to note the date, for I knew that civilization had just taken a sharp turn. I knew that, from that moment on, September 11, 2001 would divide modern history into two parts – Pre-September 11th and Post-September 11th.

At work a dozen or so of us gathered before a large television in a conference room. No one spoke. Without warning, the first building came down. There were reports of the Pentagon having been hit, and it was also reported that there were several unaccounted planes in the sky, possibly on their way to the White House or the Capitol. My stomach knotted, as I was absolutely certain that, by this time, someone must have had to issue an order to shoot down an American passenger plane if it appeared to be headed to Washington.

Then the second building came down. Horror, shock, numbness, disbelief, fear, anger – I felt them all at once.

Everyone headed for home, still not knowing whether there were more lunatics in the sky headed our way. I couldn’t get TJ on the phone for several hours, and I worked hard to convince myself that on this day, of all days, she surely would not be in New York. As it turned out, she was, but she managed to get out of the City safely.

As I turned east onto my street, I looked toward the spot where we could always see the tops of the Towers.

They were gone. Just, gone. All that was left was a huge plume of ugly smoke.

Welcome to Post-September 11th.
~ Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Windows on the World Remembered.
I had planned to write something else tonight – something quite a bit easier to think about and to write. However, I checked in on Rita’s blog and saw that she had posted a photo of the Twin Towers that her husband took on September 2, 2000, while they were on their honeymoon in New York City. She mentioned that they had intended to have dinner in the World Trade Center, but time did not permit it. They decided that they would have dinner in the Windows on the World “the next time” they would be in New York. That postponed dinner, which now can never be enjoyed, speaks volumes about what happened two years ago tomorrow.

I think it is safe to assume that virtually every American has a September 11th story to tell. Everyone vividly remembers where they were when they learned of the attacks and how they were affected by them on that day and in the following days.

However, I also think it is safe to assume that, even though thousands upon thousands of people have been to the Twin Towers during their existence, most Americans have never had the opportunity and the pleasure of having visited those magnificent buildings.

I am fortunate to have had the chance to visit the World Trade Center and to have had dinner in the Windows on the World restaurant. Little did I know that my evening there would, years later, provide me with a bit of haunting insight into how hellish it must have been for the restaurant staff and people eating breakfast in the Windows on the World on the morning of September 11, 2001.

What brought me to the restaurant in the early nineties was a company-sponsored dinner to celebrate the launch of a new product. Most of the people in our group resided within 50 miles of the World Trade Center (I live much closer), and yet most of us had never visited the place. This is not unusual for people who live around here. Indeed, to this day, I have never been to the top of the Empire State Building, even though I have lived within sight of it all my life.

We were taken on a chartered bus from New Jersey through the Holland Tunnel into downtown New York. The trip took only about twenty minutes, although it didn’t even seem to take that much time, as we were laughing and joking all the way. We were all looking forward to a splendid evening of first-class dining in the tallest building in the world’s greatest city.

As we exited the bus in front of the north tower, we certainly did not look like “locals,” because virtually every one of us speechlessly gazed at the enormity of the Towers. Anyone could have easily mistaken us for a group of tourists from some place like Nebraska (no offense to our Nebraskan friends). Photographs simply cannot fully convey the size and power of those buildings.

We took the ear-popping trip on the high-speed elevator up to the 107th floor, where the restaurant was located. As we got off the elevator, we were greeted by a member of the restaurant staff who led us to a private room where our cocktails and dinner were to be served. I distinctly recall the professionalism and courtesy of the restaurant’s staff.

Before dinner, we all took advantage of the opportunity to stand at the floor to ceiling windows and look down at New York City and across the Hudson River to New Jersey. It was breathtaking. Ironically, I recall thinking then that the only other way to see this wonderful view would be from an airplane. I was particularly taken by how one could actually feel the building sway ever-so-slightly in the wind. At first, it was a bit unnerving. I’m told that the building was designed to be flexible and to bend, up to a foot or so, in the wind. I had no idea that you could actually feel it.

I also remember wondering about what kind of special men it must have taken to climb around at that height on the steel skeleton of the building during its construction. I still wonder about that.

However, one thing I absolutely did not think about was what it would be like if this gargantuan tower was to cave in on itself in a matter of seconds. There was no reason to entertain such a ridiculous thought, for surely such a thing could never, ever happen.

Now I know differently. And now I find it difficult not to think about that which was unthinkable on that evening in the tallest building in the world’s greatest city.

May those who perished there rest in peace, and may those responsible for their deaths rot in hell.
The New Twenty-Dollar Bill.

The background is described as containing “subtle green, ‘peach’ and light blue hues.”

Here’s the story.

Coming to your stores in October.

Methinks it will take a bit of getting used to.

Via In Sheeps Clothing
~ Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Revisiting the New Jersey Bear Hunt.
As I have written before, it is true that New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the country, actually does have bears. In fact, many would say that the Garden State’s estimated black bear population of 3,300 is too high, leading to the state’s Fish and Game Council to authorize a bear hunt this year -- the first in thirty years.

The weeklong hunt, which is scheduled to take place in December, is decidedly a red-hot topic in the state, with the opponents of the hunt still optimistic that they can convince the Governor to call it off. To press their point, this weekend, more than 200 “bear advocates” gathered in front of the Governor McGreevey’s residence to protest the hunt and what they perceive as the Governor’s having broken his campaign promise that, if elected, there would be no bear hunt in New Jersey during his administration.

One protestor wore a sign on which was a large copy of a letter that Mr. McGreevey (then-candidate McGreevey) had written three years ago to the then-Governor, Christine Todd Whitman, urging her to call off the hunt. The letter argued that “authorizing the hunting and killing of these animals is inconsistent with the state’s commitment to protecting the environment and preserving open space for the benefit of all living creatures.” Governor Whitman ultimately did call off the hunt.

The anti-hunt people view Governor McGreevey’s current position on the hunt as a “flip-flop,” and some were collecting pairs of flip-flop shoes to be delivered to the Governor’s office in Trenton. (Note: The term “flip-flop” had been heretofore reserved for a former Governor of New Jersey, “Flip-Flop Florio,” whom many viewed as having broken a campaign promise regarding taxes.)

The Governor’s press secretary stated that the Governor has not changed his position and that he still personally opposes the idea of a bear hunt, “but the facts have changed since three years ago,” citing the increases in the bear population, the number of nuisance complaints and more frequent interactions with people that were characterized as “near misses.”

Lynda Smith, director of the Bear Education and Resource Group disagrees, urging that the situation is no worse now than it was three years ago and that there were, in fact, fewer “near misses” this year than before. Smith accused the Governor of “bowing to the pressure from the hunters.”

Despite the protests, the state is continuing to issue the promised 10,000 applications for permits, with the goal of reducing the population by 500 bears. Thus far, not nearly as many people as had been expected have sought the permits, which require the attendance of a three-hour seminar on bears. Some speculate that the current absence of a rush to obtain the permits is because the bear hunt will take place during the state’s traditional deer season, and many hunters will want to concentrate on deer hunting.

I am not a hunter, and bears don’t frequent the part of the state where I live, so I won’t be lining up for a permit. However, I can sympathize with those in the state whose back yards are increasingly being visited by bears.

As I said before, I do not pretend to know a satisfactory way to reduce the bear population other than by permitting the hunt. Unfortunately, the bear advocates have not offered a satisfactory alternative either.

So, for now, the hunt is on.
~ Monday, September 08, 2003
"That Depends on What 'Income' Is."
Cousin Jack reports the apparent consensus among tax mavens that Bill and Hillary should have reported the millions of dollars in their “legal defense fund” as income on their tax returns. Of course, they have not done so.

Is anyone even a little bit surprised?

Rita at Res Ipsa Loquitur, one of my favorite bloggers, and who most definitely is NOT a kook, writes about her experience of living in a haunted house.

We lived in a haunted house daughter saw a lady all dressed in white standing in our bedroom doorway. I saw a weird strand of smoke move down the hallway & begin to grow bigger. (I didn't stick around to see what happened next) She often poked around in the kitchen....which would usually cause my dog at the time, a big very protective boxer, to alert & start growling. Finally, one night I was sitting in the living room watching tv and the doors on the kitchen cabinets kept opening & closing...I was the only one home. I yelled "Hey, do you mind? That's really annoying." The noises stopped and I never heard those particular sounds again. Weird, huh? [There is more - go read.]

Rita linked to an article about the exposure to “soundless music” (i.e. very low frequency sound, inaudible to humans) as possibly being connected to people’s experiencing strange sensations, which are similar to those reported by people claiming to see ghosts.

I suppose it is entirely possible that low frequency sounds could have accounted for what Rita reported, but then again, maybe not. Starting with the assumption that she is accurately reporting her experiences (and I am 100% certain of that), what are we to make of such things?

I think it is intellectually dishonest and arrogant to flatly deny the possibility of paranormal phenomena. While I have never experienced such things (and I suspect that most people have not), the inability to perceive a particular thing surely does not provide the basis for asserting with certainty that the thing cannot exist.

Each one of us (and quite possibly everyone on the planet) is surrounded at all times by all sorts of electronic signals from radios, televisions, telephones, wireless transmitters, – you name it. And, without an appropriate receiving device (a radio, a TV, a phone), we cannot perceive this ocean of electricity that we bathe in, yet it undisputedly exists.

I suppose that the only completely defensible position one can take with respect to “things that go bump in the night” and which seem to defy logical explanation is to concede that there may be things out there that we simply cannot presently explain. Perhaps these perceptions are traceable to a recently discovered natural phenomenon (e.g. “soundless music”). Then again, it could very well be that paranormal things do exist as some form of energy, but most of us simply lack the “receiver” that would permit us to perceive and measure them.

Note: In Rita’s comments, Bogie of Bogie’s Blog also reported having experienced some equally bizarre phenomena.

I have two things to say about what Rita and Bogie experienced: 1. I’ll be damned if I know what might account for what they saw, heard and felt, and 2. Both stories made the hair on the back of my neck stand at attention!
~ Sunday, September 07, 2003
Closing the Pool.
Every year, on the weekend after Labor Day, the Usual Suspects gather at Ken and Kathy’s house to assist with the closing of the pool for the winter. This consists of draining off a few inches of water, (for reasons that Ken, the Anal Cruise Director, explains to me every year, but which remain beyond my understanding), giving the pool a final vacuuming, removing the hoses from the filter and heater (a new addition that spoiled us rotten this summer), and removing the steps (another new addition that makes entering and exiting the pool much easier, particularly when one is well-vodka’d). The final step in the process is installing the two pool covers that will remain in place until next spring.

It’s always a bit depressing to see the pool, the source of immeasurable summer enjoyment, covered with that unappealing black cover, as it truly marks the end of the summer. However, yesterday the Usual Suspects treated this depression with lots of vodka, good music pumped through the outdoor Bose speakers, tremendous amounts of food (yesterday purchased from a local Portuguese open pit charcoal grill), merciless teasing and endless laughs.

The day was also marked by Bill, the HAM, showing up with another outstanding cigar offering. Yesterday he treated us to some absolutely wonderful Ashtons. I saved, the band but lost is somewhere. However, I believe they were Ashton VSGs (the Sorcerer).

I am happy to report that the Never-Ending Horseshoe Pitching Competition continued. I am even happier to report that Ken, the Anal Cruise Director, and I whipped the Sorriest of Asses, Jeff (da Chef of da Future), and Artie three games to zilch. Let me repeat that. We whipped their asses three games to zilch. The trouncing they received is particularly sweet in view of the wiseass trash talking comments both of these losers made in response to my post about the Labor Day Party. It is abundantly obvious that these two don’t know the difference between horseshoes and horseshit.

If the weather holds, we may have another couple weeks of outdoor frivolity at K&K’s, only without the standing around in the comfortably heated water and drinking cocktails swimming.

I’m already looking forward to next summer.
Yesterday's 12 hour outage was brought to you (and me) courtesy of Blog*Spot.

More later, if the chicken wire and spit that holds Blog*Spot togerther doesn't fail again.
~ Friday, September 05, 2003
“Wipe Out” – Why it Didn’t Make the List.
Cousin Jack, who has a good musical ear and an even better musical memory, in a comment to yesterday’s post, noted the absence of “Wipe Out” (by the Surfaris) from the list of guitar instrumentals. The fact is, I had not forgotten about that song when I assembled the list. Rather, I made a conscious decision not to include it. Here’s why.

“Wipe Out’s” not making the list had nothing to do with the guitar playing in the tune (although I never really cared much for it), but rather it had to do with the dumb drum part in the song. For decades as a drummer, I have had to deal with people who want to hear that song, because, sadly, and stupidly, they believe that being able to play the dumb drum part in “Wipe Out” is the ultimate test of whether one is a good drummer.

“Yo, you’re really good, but can you play ‘Wipe Out’?”

For years, particularly during the time the song was popular and even for five to ten years after that, when asked that question, I would politely smile and nod at the requestor, and the band would play the song, and I would dutifully play the stupid-ass drum part. Even though in recent years I have not gotten that request nearly as often, I still am dogged by that God-awful song.

As recently as last summer, some guy positioned himself near the band I was working with and intently watched me play for most of the night. I could not help but notice the guy, because during the songs he fixated on me to the exclusion of the other three guys, and after each tune he would vigorously applaud. (What’s not to like about that? If you perform, you’re an applause junkie.)

So, we were taking our final break of the evening, and this fellow walked up to me and told me how well he thought I played and how much he enjoyed watching me play. (What’s not to like about that? If you perform, you’re compliment junkie.) I sincerely thanked him for saying nice things about my playing.

By that time of the night, I was tired and sweaty, but I was still basking in the glow of the compliment I had just received from this person. In fact, I had even managed to convince myself that this obviously sophisticated listener might even be musician himself, something that would make the compliment very special.

However, without warning, this fellow lobbed a turd into my punchbowl and snapped me back to reality when he asked, “Hey, can you play ‘Wipe Out’?”

As in the past when asked this question, I smiled, but this time I said, as graciously as humanly possible, “Yes, I can play that song, but I am afraid that we will not have time to get to it tonight, as we have a number of prior requests that we simply had to get to.” He was noticeably disappointed, presumably because he would never be able to truly satisfy himself that I could pass the ultimate drumming test.

The desire to avoid being rude to this person prevented me from saying what I was thinking, and that was this:

“Jesus Farookin’ Christ, Asswipe. You stared at me for more than three hours, during which time I played my ass off and did boatloads of stuff that require a helluva lot more skill than being able to play the piece-of-shit drum part in “Wipe Out.” And after watching that, how could you think for one goddamned minute that I might not be able to play that shit? Did you ask the piano player whether he can play ‘Chopsticks’?

So, to answer your question, you dopey bastard, yes I can play ‘Wipe Out,’ but don’t even think about asking me if I will play “Wipe Out,” unless you want these drumsticks shoved way, way up your sorry ass.”

And that’s why “Wipe Out” was not on the list.
Guitar Instrumentals.
The other day on the radio, I head “Walk Don’t Run,” a guitar instrumental from the early sixties by the Ventures. It got me to thinking about other guitar instrumentals from back then. They were all relatively simple songs, but they rocked, nonetheless. In addition, these guys provided a basic foundation on which the George Harrisons of the world could, and did, build.

I remember, as soon as one of these tunes was released, guitar players would rush to lock themselves in a room to learn the licks note for note. Hell, I also can remember playing in a high school band, where 75% of the tunes were guitar instrumentals. Singing was less important, and, besides, no one was really equipped to do it very well. Singing was generally accomplished by crowding three guys in front of one $20.00 piece of crap microphone, which was plugged directly into a Fender amp. It was pretty awful.

Back then, the guitar was king.

Here are some of the artists and tunes that come to mind, and, yes, I am certain there are many that I cannot think of at the moment:

The Ventures – (Walk Don’t Run, Ramrod, Perfidia, Moon Dawg) These songs are all pretty special to me, as, not only did I play them on the guitar, I polished my drumming skills (and drove my parents a bit nuts) with Ventures’ tunes.

Duane Eddy and the Rebels – (Rebel Rouser, Movin’ ‘n Groovin’, Forty Miles of Bad Road) The first time I heard “Rebel Rouser,” it gave me goose bumps. I confess that it still does.

Link Wray and the Wray Men – (Rumble) Compared to the music of today, “Rumble” is a musical no-brainer. However, the distorted sound of the guitar crashing out the “D” “D,” and “E” chords (the hook in the song, at the very beginning) grabbed my somewhere below my diaphragm and would not let go. It was also a great song to “dance slow” to in the days when our hormones were erupting with volcanic force.

The Virtues – (Guitar Boogie Shuffle) Another of the basic twelve bar blues (eight to the bar) tunes, that essentially consisted of a guitar playing the kind of lick that bass players play all the time.

Lonnie Mack - (Memphis, Wham) Of all the guitarists listed here, Lonnie Mack might well be technically the best player.

Bill Doggett – (Honky Tonk) While this classic was not strictly a guitar song (and Doggett played piano), there wasn’t a guitar player alive that did not learn how to play the opening licks in Honky Tonk.

The Fireballs – (Torquay, Bulldog) Rather than being rockers, these tunes were a bit closer to cha-chas. They were, however, a staple in a high school band’s repertoire.

Santo and Johnny - (Sleepwalk) One of the truly great instrumentals. To this day, when I hear Sleepwalk, I am transported back to the high school gym at a Saturday night dance. Unlike the other groups, Santo and Johnny featured a steel guitar in the lead. In addition, the song “Sleepwalk” itself broke a bit of new ground (The guitar players and other musicians will understand this), in that the “four” chord was a MINOR. So, instead of playing C, Am, F, and G, one played C, Am, Fm, and G. It changed the whole sound. Over the years, I have heard people screw the song up by not playing the four chord as a minor, and it always drives me nuts. “Sleepwalk” has also stood the test of time, in that Brian Setzer plays it on a CD that is currently in my CD player in the car.

The Chantays – (Pipeline) “Pipeline” was always considered a “surfer” song, but the lick that consists of peddling on the “E” string, while sliding your finger down the neck of the guitar is unforgettable.

The Duels – (Stick Shift) A terrific sixties “car song” (It even began with the sound of a motor), “Stick Shift” was a great rocker.

I’m sure I’ll think of more after I post this, and I suspect some of you can think of ones that I have forgotten.

As I said before, by today’s standards, these are simple tunes. But, remember, this was “pre-Beatles,” when rock and roll was simple, and one could manage to play guitar. even in a band, without knowing how to play anything other than basic chords.

In fact, I have always found it somewhat strange that people often talk about the Beatles having precipitated a dramatic increase in guitar sales. My experience was the opposite. I know plenty of guys who put their guitars down forever when they realized that to play many of the Beatles tunes, they actually had to know how to play things like ninths, major and minor sevenths, diminished and even (gasp!) augmented chords.

It sure was fun.
~ Wednesday, September 03, 2003
No Standing in the Aisles.
The following is a Parkway Rest Stop Public Service Message.

It’s back to school for the nation’s children. That means that this week and next week, some 450,000 yellow school buses will fire up their engines in order to take 23.5 million children to and from school every day. That totals to about 47,000,000 student trips daily. Add to that the estimated 5,000,000 trips for special activity trips each day, and you get 10 billion individual student rides annually.

That’s a lot of buses, a lot of kids, and a lot of trips. So, just how safe are school buses?

As it turns out, they are pretty safe. Approximately 11 children die each year in school bus accidents and approximately another 15 are killed annually boarding and exiting school buses. Even though 26 deaths per year is tragic, the number compares favorably to the 600 school age children who are killed each year during school hours and on school days in cars riding to and from school.

Approximately 8,500 to 12,000 children are injured in school bus accidents each year, but most of the injuries are considered to be minor, in the nature of bumps and bruises.

As for the safety of the buses themselves, currently it depends on the state in which you live. While Congress has passed a law mandating three point safety belts for newly manufactured school buses under 10,000 pounds, only two states (New Jersey and New York) currently have laws requiring two point safety belts on buses that are more than 10,000 pounds. Florida, Louisiana, and California passed laws requiring school buses in excess of 10,000 pounds be equipped with seat belts or some “other form of occupant protection,” and as of this year, Florida’s school buses will be equipped with two-point safety belts. Currently, the only state that not only requires the installation of seat belts in buses, but also requires that they be fastened, is New Jersey.

Read the details here.

New Jersey, I am happy to say, also has a formal safety inspection program for school buses. The buses are inspected for numerous safety-related features, including brakes, properly fastened seats, a functioning emergency exit, and proper seals around the rear door (to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the bus). Even the chassis design is inspected to ensure that the bus is not prone to rollover.

So, you might want to ask your local school board what its policies and practices are with respect to school bus safety. Do the buses have safety belts? If not, why not? And, if the buses are equipped with safety belts, are the children required to fasten them? If not why not?

The good news is that it appears that getting your kids to and from school in a school bus is pretty safe. Indeed your kids are safer in a school bus than they are in your own car. So, if given a choice, leave the driving to the school bus driver.
Blog*Spot Gibberish.
If you were one of the people who saw yesterday’s post at a time when it contained lots of goofy looking characters and other gibberish, please note that I didn’t have some kind of seizure and post it that way. The liberal sprinkling of errant question marks, “”q’s” and unreadable crap came to you (and me) courtesy of Blog*Spot. The Blog*Spot satanic server created all that ca-ca, then cratered for the night.

Most annoying.

I keep thinking that Blog*Spot has to get better, if for no other reason than there are so few of us knuckleheads still here* to attend to. I suppose that is somewhat akin to thinking that maybe one day Bill and Hillary will go somewhere far away and leave us alone.

* This annoying, “Tigeresque” footnote is to request that he not break my stindeens about still being on Blog*Spot. As exasperating as Blog*Spot is, I’m too busy/lazy/tired/techno-challenged/stupid/masochistic to move out right now. I’ll get around to it.
~ Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Learn Something New Every Day Department.
In my post about this weekend's Labor Day Party I had mentioned Bill, the newest of the Usual Suspects, who supplied the excellent cigars. Over the past few months, I have learned that, in addition to knowing a good cigar when he sees/smells/feels one, Bill is also a good golfer (at least in the view of this mondo-shitty duffer). He is also a motorcycle guy, a merlot drinker (with the occasional "mart"), and a guitar and mandolin player. I have also come to know that, although his horseshoe game still needs some work, he can sing a respectable rendition of Wild Thing by the Troggs. All good stuff.

I seem to recall that, on one occasion, he had mentioned that he was "involved with amateur radio." I admit it. I sort of let that go in one ear and out the other. Not knowing shit from Shinola about "amateur radio," I had assumed that being "involved with amateur radio" meant that he had some sort of electronic gadget about the size of a stereo amp that he uses to talk with one or two like-minded people in places with names like Possum Breath, Wyoming. He never mentioned it again, nor did I give it any more thought.

Well, over the weekend, he left a comment on one of my posts, and he included a website URL.

A web site? Bill never said anything about a website.

I figured that it must have been he employer's website. Being curious, I clicked on it and was surprised to see a picture of Bill on the Home Page, surrounded by an array of scary looking electronic stuff. I navigated through the site to see numerous photos of his "gear," including pictures of the guts of some of the stuff he has actually built. The site also has a great collection of images of some of his favorite "keys." (These are the widgets, many of them antiques, that people use to send Morse code.)

I was and am fascinated by it all, even though I don't have any idea of what any of those electronic boxes are, or what exactly they do. Then again, I have always been fascinated with people who know a whole lot about something that neither I nor most folks (I would bet) know a damned thing about.

When I wrote to tell him that I had no idea that he was this committed to and knowledgeable about something that seems pretty deep to me, Bill summed it up very well in his reply:

"Amateur radio is an obscure hobby in today's cell phone and internet connected world. To me, its still a thrill setting up a simple wire antenna and sending an RF signal into the air and being able to communicate with another "HAM Operator" on the other side of the world."


So, in the off chance that you have any interested in "HAM" radio, or what "HAM" radio people like and do, take a look.

If you do pay his site a visit, please tell him that Jim said, "dot, dot, dot,, dot."

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