Saturday, January 31, 2015

Groundhog Day…And I Don't Mean The Movie


NEWS FLASH—7:25AM E.S.T. MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, PUNXSUTAWNEY, PENNSYLVANIA:  PHIL WILL EMERGE FROM HIS BURROW TO PREDICT WHEN WINTER WILL END.  NO SHADOW…NO MORE WINTER.  SEES HIS SHADOW…SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER!  6 weeks...which, by strange coincidence, takes us almost to the Vernal Equinox signaling the official end of winter and the first day of Spring.

Every year on February 2 a furry rodent of the groundhog variety named Punxsutawney Phil sticks his head out of his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to do his annual weather forecast.  In the United States and Canada, this is celebrated as Groundhog Day.  If Phil sees his shadow, it will frighten him and he'll return to his burrow.  If he doesn't see his shadow, he'll emerge and winter will soon be over.

At least, that's what the tradition claims.

The earliest American written reference to a groundhog day was 1841 in Pennsylvania's Berks County (Pennsylvania Dutch) referring to it as the German celebration called Candlemas day where a groundhog seeing its shadow was a weather indication.  Superstition says that fair weather was seen as a prediction of a stormy and cold second half to winter, as noted in this Old English saying:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

Since the first official celebration of Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania in 1886, crowds as large as 40,000 people have gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, for the annual celebration.  And in recent years it's been covered live on television.  Quite an accolade for the little ol' groundhog.  Since 1887, the groundhog has seen his shadow 101 times (hmm…I wonder how many of those recent times were due to the television lights) predicting a longer winter and has not seen it 17 times to predict an early spring.  There is no record of his prediction for 9 years in the late 1800s.

The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, is a member of the squirrel family.  The current Punxsutawney Phil weighs fifteen pounds and lives in a climate controlled home in the Punxsutawney library.  On Gobbler's Knob, Phil is placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on a stage before being pulled out at 7:25AM to make his annual prediction.

Quite removed from the concept of the groundhog waking from hibernation and emerging from his burrow in the wild.  :)

Saturday, January 24, 2015


I recently came across an interesting list.  Every state is famous for something…some big, attention grabbing things and others for more quiet achievements…some praiseworthy and others definitely not.

And some possibly questionable with regard to authenticity.

So here, alphabetically, is that list.  Check out your state and see what achievement put it on the list.

ALABAMA:  was the first state it bring the emergency reporting phone number, 9-1-1, into use in 1968.

ALASKA:  one of every 64 residents has a pilot's license.

ARIZONA:  is the only state of the contiguous 48 states that does not go on Daylight Saving Time, although some of the Native American reservations do.

ARKANSAS:  has the only active diamond mine in the U.S.

CALIFORNIA:  has an economy so large that if it were a country of its own it would rank 8th in the entire world.

COLORADO:  in 1976 it became the only state to turn down the opportunity to host the Olympics.

CONNECTICUT:  the Frisbee was invented at Yale University.

DELAWARE:  has more scientists and engineers than any other state.

FLORIDA:  Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. in physical area at 874.3 square miles.

GEORGIA:  in 1886, pharmacist John Pemberton made the first vat of Coca Cola.

HAWAII:  Hawaiians live an average of 5 years longer than residents of any other state.

IDAHO:  television was invented in 1922 in Rigby, Idaho.

ILLINOIS:  has a governor in jail, one pending jail, and is considered the most corrupt state in the union!

INDIANA:  home of Santa Clause, Indiana, which receives half a million letters addressed to Santa each year.

IOWA:  is the only state name to begin with 2 vowels, and the Winnebago motor home/RV gets its name from Winnebago County.

KANSAS:  an exact replica of the house in THE WIZARD OF OZ is in Liberal, Kansas.

KENTUCKY:  has more than $6 billion in gold stored at Fort Knox.

LOUISIANA:  has parishes instead of counties because they were originally Spanish church units.

MAINE:  it covers as many square miles as the other 5 New England states combined.

MARYLAND:  in 1892, the Ouija board was created in Baltimore.

MASSACHUSETTS:  the Fig Newton cookie is named for Newton, MA.

MICHIGAN:  Fremont is the home to Gerber baby foods, the baby food capital of the world.

MINNESOTA:  the Mall of America in Bloomington is so big that if you spent 10 minutes in each store, you'd be there almost 4 days.

MISSISSIPPI:  President Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear here and that's how the teddy bear got its name.

MISSOURI:  is the birthplace of the ice cream cone.

MONTANA:  a sapphire from Montana is in the Crown Jewels of England.

NEBRASKA:  more triplets are born here than in any other state.

NEW HAMPSHIRE:  in 1938, Earl Tupper invented Tupperware.

NEW JERSEY:  has the most shopping malls located in one area in the world.

NEW MEXICO:  in 1950, Smokey the Bear was rescued from a forest fire here.

NEW YORK:  is home to the nation's oldest cattle ranch, started in Montauk in 1747.

NORTH CAROLINA:  home of the first Krispy Kreme doughnut.

NORTH DAKOTA:  Rigby, North Dakota, is the exact geographic center of North America.

OHIO:  the hot dog was invented here in 1900.

OKLAHOMA:  the grounds of the state capital are covered by operating oil wells.

OREGON:  has the most ghost towns of any state in the country.

PENNSYLVANIA:  the smiley :) was first used in 1980 by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.

RHODE ISLAND:  the nation's oldest bar, the White Horse Tavern, opened in 1673.

SOUTH CAROLINA:  Sumter County is home to the world's largest gingko farm.

SOUTH DAKOTA:  is the only state that has never had an earthquake.

TENNESSEE:  Nashville's Grand Ole Opry is the longest running live radio show in the world.

TEXAS:  Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco in 1885 and the hamburger was invented in Arlington in 1906. [Note:  if you've ever watched any of the American Eats and other similar shows on the History Channel and Travel Channel, you've probably noticed that several U.S. cities in different states have claimed credit for the invention of the hamburger.]

UTAH:  the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant opened here in 1952.

VERMONT:  And speaking of fast food, Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald's.

VIRGINIA:  home to the world's largest office building, The Pentagon.

WASHINGTON:  Seattle has twice as many college graduates as any other state.

WASHINGTON, D.C.:  is the first planned capital (as in the entire city laid out prior to being constructed) in the world.

WEST VIRGINIA:  had the world's first brick paved street, Summers Street, in Charleston in 1870.

WISCONSIN:  the ice cream sundae was invented here in 1881 to get around Blue Laws prohibiting ice cream from being sold on Sunday.  The new breed of the American Water Spaniel was created here and is the state dog.

WYOMING:  was the first state to allow women to vote, as a territory it extended the right to women in 1869, then as a state was the first state constitution to include women's right to vote in 1889.  The U.S. did not allow women's right to vote until many years later when the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What Your Favorite Liquor Says About You

I've done blogs on what your favorite ice cream says about you and what your favorite sandwich says about you.  So, when I saw an article titled What Your Favorite Liquor Says About You, it seemed like a natural for another blog.  The article did not refer to beer or wine, only hard liquor.

When you walk into a liquor store, do you head for a specific section and look for your favorite brand or do you browse the aisles to see what's new, or ask the clerk what's on sale?  Whether you prefer to drink it on the rocks, as a well drink (liquor of your choice mixed with something simple like water or soda), or something a little more complex such as a martini, screwdriver, mai tai, margarita, etc., your basic choice of liquor says something about you.

Before I switched over to almost exclusively wine (several years ago), I was a scotch and water person.  Of course, Mexican restaurants still cry out for a margarita. :)

Here's a list of types of liquor (in no particular order) and what they say about you.

1)  Vodka:
Choosing the neutral (non) flavored spirit as your favorite says a few different things about you.  You are new to drinking and don't like the taste of various alcohols that much.  Or you are a little too familiar with drinking and don't need to taste it.  Or you are Russian or Ukrainian.

2)  Bourbon:
You recognize the value of hard work and hold the reward of that accomplishment in high regard [reminds me of NCIS with Gibbs in his basement drinking bourbon from a jar while working on his current boat project  :)].  When you love, you love all the way, but when you don't, you make it very clear.

3)  Gin:
You believe to be truly creative you must first learn the classics.  You easily fit into most social situations and can always find some common interest to discuss with others.  Spring is your favorite season.

4)  Tequila:
One thing interesting about this liquor—if someone says that tequila is their favorite liquor, we assume they're maybe a little unstable.  However, if that same person says margaritas are the favorite drink, we assume they like to kick back and relax with some chips and salsa.

5)  Scotch:
You have read every book.  Friends turn to you for advice.  You prefer winter to summer and fireplaces to swimming pools.  In times of great stress, you work through it. [on a personal note as a scotch and water person, my favorite season is spring…don't like cold snowy icy or hot humid.  I like fire places and swimming pools.]

6)  Rum:
You march to the beat of a different drummer, prefer flip-flops to boots, fresh fruit to pastries and are always ready to go dancing.

And then some other contenders for our list.

7)  Irish Whisky:
You're here to have a good time and everyone likes hanging out with you.

8)  Rye:
You always need to do things a little bit better than everyone else.

9)  Absinthe:
You own at least one piece of velvet clothing and can name some of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's most prominent influences.

And not to be overlooked:

10)  Moonshine:
You like to keep things simple, work with your hands, and probably own a shed.  Your grandfather might have called you Squirt, and you can fry anything to perfection.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Pinocchio, the wooden puppet boy whose nose grew every time he told a lie

The average person hears somewhere between 10 and 200 lies every day.

Spotting a liar can be difficult, especially when you're dealing with a pathological or habitual liar…your basic professional liar. One science communicator says linguistic text analysis (based on sentence structure) is a key to determining if someone is telling a lie.

He says there are three specific things to help you spot a lie:

1)  Liars are more negative when they lie, possibly due to guilt feelings.

2)  They distance themselves from the lie by using third person when speaking.

3)  Liars use simple terms when telling their tale because it's easier to keep track of their lies when the details are basic rather than complex. Sometimes liars might embellish to make the tale more convincing. According to Mark Twain, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."

And here's an interesting (and possibly a little frightening for reasons other than being a liar) tidbit—smartphone app developers are working on facial recognition technology that could detect user's emotions and tell when they're lying.

There are ten lies we all hear and say on a daily basis…things you don't necessarily think of as lies. These are usually considered as slight exaggerations, an attempt to be polite rather than confrontational, or merely being nice rather than hurt someone's feelings.  But no matter how you rationalize it, they are still lies.

1)  "Everything's great."
It's the usual response in a restaurant when your server asks how everything is, a brush-off even though the soup is too salty.  And the possible consequences of this insignificant little lie?  The chef never finds out he's heavy-handed with the seasonings, people stop coming to his restaurant, and you end up with the same too-salty soup everyone else was also reluctant to mention.  You might be doing the chef a favor if you tell your server—politely—that something is off.

2)  "I'm fine."
Reality check for men: No woman who says this to you is actually fine.  Something's wrong and you need a strategy to figure out how to fix it.  Most of the time it's as easy as asking her how she really feels.

3)  "I love your new haircut."
People usually compliment anything that catches their eye as new or different—no matter how ugly it may be or how much they don't like it.  If your significant other has a different opinion on your new hair style—or jacket, or shoes—than your chipper coworker, trust your significant other's take.  The I get so many compliments on this defense doesn't hold up.

4)  "No thanks, I've got it."
Guys, in particular, feel guilty accepting assistance from others, especially from a woman—even if they could really use it.  If you have to ask, "Can I give you a hand with that?" you should already be helping—not offering to lend a hand.

5)  "I couldn't find time to look at that today."
It doesn't matter if your boss said that, a client, or someone else, rest assured that you're being bluffed.  If you need the feedback right away but fear you might irritate your boss or client with repeated requests, you'll need to come up with a new way to present your need.

6)  "It's so great to see you."
Is it really great?  Your wife's or husband's friend from college looks to be in a huge hurry, and you don't really know the person that well.  This is a polite lie that really means, "I want to stop talking to you now."  Offer a quick smile then you can both get on with your day.

7)  "That's interesting."
People throw out this meaningless phrase so often it's become more of a cliché or silence-filler than a lie.  Instead, consider what you actually think before speaking, and come up with a more insightful adjective (and "That's stupid!" doesn't count).

8)  "Your email ended up in my spam folder."
Of all the emails you've successfully sent this person and it's this one that mysteriously ended up in the spam folder?  No need to call this person out on it.  Recognize this deception for what it is and figure out a better way to grab this person's attention next time.

9)  "I just saw your text."
Your friends have no problem lying about being busy when they're actually looking at other things or surfing the net.  But when they actually have a lot on their plates, they become reluctant about admitting it (sometimes for fear that it sounds like a flimsy excuse).  This text message is their polite way of saying, "I was too busy to answer you right away."

10)  "Sorry."
Admit it: Even you toss out apologies as readily as you would a losing lottery ticket.  At least 95 percent of the time you tell someone you're sorry when you really mean, "That's too bad."  Don't apologize unless there's something you need to apologize for and you mean it.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


As with all years, 2014 saw the loss of many famous people from various areas of the entertainment industry, literary world, and political life.

Perhaps the most shocking death of 2014 was the suicide of Robin Williams, Comedian and Oscar-winning actor, on August 11th at the age of 63.

We lost authors Maya Angelou (86) and P.D. James (94).  Folk singer Pete Seeger (94) and rock singer Joe Cocker (70). And Maria von Trapp (99), the last surviving member of the original von Trapp Family Singers whose life story inspired the Broadway production and movie The Sound Of Music.

From the political arena, we lost James Brady (73)—the White House Press Secretary seriously wounded in the assassination attempt on President Reagan.

Here's a cross-section of the numerous people lost from the entertainment industry, shown here in chronological order.

February 10: Shirley Temple (85), child actress who starred in several very successful musical movies. As an adult, she left the entertainment industry and was active in politics as a delegate to the United Nations General Assemble under President Nixon, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana under President Ford, and U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia under President (George H.W.) Bush.

February 13: Ralph Waite, television and film actor. Probably best known for his role on The Waltons and his recurring role as Gibbs' father on NCIS.

April 6: Mickey Rooney (93), actor. Started his career as a child star. He made several musical movies, many with Judy Garland. He starred in the Andy Hardy series of movies. He also did serious acting such as his role in Boy's Town with Spencer Tracy. In later years he continued a successful career on stage and in television.

July 19: James Garner (86), television and film actor. He was the first television actor to make a successful (difficult at that time) transition into movies. Probably best known for his starring roles in the television series Maverick and The Rockford Files.

August 12: Lauren Bacall, 89. Legendary film actress who was married to Humphrey Bogart with whom she made several movies.

September 4: Joan Rivers (81), comedienne with a long career in television.

November 19: Mike Nichols (83) award winning film and stage director who started his career and half of the comedy duo of Nichols and May with his partner Elaine May. He was honored with 1 Oscar, 9 Tony, 2 Emmy, and 1 Grammy.

December 9: Mary Ann Mobley, (77), actress. The former Miss America of 1959 went on to a successful acting career.

And we certainly need to acknowledge the loss of all the men and women from various nations serving in the military of their country who were stationed around the world and especially those deployed in war zones.