Monthly Archives: February 2012

Confessions Of A “Cookie Mom”.

My good friend wrote me an email this morning apologizing for being late in responding to my previous electronic communication.  She has been ubber busy (I like that non-word so Spell Check be damned.) with, among other things, Girl Scout cookies.  It seems she has become a distribution center for the greater Reno area.  In her email, she claimed to have had 2,000 boxes of the confections in her living room, but was now, agreeably it seems, down to 600 boxes which are slated for sale in front of Safeways, Albertsons, Smiths, Sam’s Clubs, Costcos, and anywhere else they’ll let them set up a card table and a display.  Two thousand boxes of GSUSA cookies.  That’s a lot of cookies.

Well, let me tell you, when you put this in perspective, those 2,000 boxes are just “small cookies” in the scheme of things.  Estimates are that over 200 MILLION boxes of “Thin Mints,” “Samoas,” “Tag-a-Longs,” “Lemonades,” “Shortbreads,” and other varieties are sold annually.  That’s a lot of baking, and they’re not just baked at one place.  Several large national bakeries are licensed to produce the cookies, ABC Bakeries is one and  has been doing it since 1936.  What these numbers mean is there are a lot of “Cookie Moms” out there pushing Girl Scout cookies, in an attempt to clear 600 boxes out of their living rooms.

The history of the cookie business for Girl Scouts goes back to 1917.  These “Cookie Moms” had to bake the cookies at a cost of  26 to 36 cents per seven dozen, according to an article published in the Girl Scout publication, “The American Girl,” in 1922.  The suggested retail price was 25 to 30 cents a dozen.  A profit for the troops, to say the least.  Today, the boxes of cookies sell for $4.00 and the local troop sees about 54 cents a box from the sale, I am told.  They get more as the number of boxes sold increases, but I think far from the 70% the Girl Scout website claims.

The sales record for an individual was recorded in 2008, when Jennifer Sharpe of Dearborn, MI, a 15-year-old cookie salesperson sold 17,328 boxes of cookies.  I’ll bet her living room was hard to move around in for a while.  But are the Girl Scouts actually selling most of the cookies?

In my experience, I get handed a colorful order sheet depicting scrumptious varieties of “need to have” cookies from someone at work, whose daughter, granddaughter, niece, or whatever is “selling” cookies, or I get an email with the subject line “It’s Cookie Time Again” for those interstate sales reps, telling me I don’t have to buy anything, but you know how good they are, everybody loves Girl Scout Cookies, and, as a last resort, “My daughter has to sell X number of boxes to go to camp this year.”  The guilt approach.  How can you not help some poor Girl Scout get to camp?  So I buy four boxes from this person, and six boxes from this person, and another four boxes from that person, and shell out a few bucks as I’m walking out of the grocery store.  And I have told one or two who have actually rung the doorbell, that I have already bought cookies and have a freezer full now.  Then I have to come up with money when the cookies are delivered that I have forgotten I have bought-en.

My friend claimed that her troop is putting the onus on the girls to sell the cookies and not so much on the mom’s, which I think is a good thing.  Shouldn’t the whole “It’s Cookie Time Again,” be a learning experience for young sales professionals?

And let me add that I just inhaled a box of maple cream filled sandwich cookies called, “Maple Leaf ‘Good &’ De Lish,” sold at “Walgreen’s” for a buck, actually 99 cents, that rival any GSUSA cookie I have ever eaten.  And I’m almost finished with the box of “Divine Chocolate & Caramel Truffle Cookies” under the same trademark.  The Girl Scout cookies don’t seem as good anymore.  I don’t have a freezer full of them either.  Yep, I only have four left and will have to run out to “Walgreen’s” to get some more, where I will probably be stopped on the way in, and the way out, by a bunch of green-clad sashed little girls, with “Cookie Moms” nearby, wanting me to help them get to camp this summer.   



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An Object That Shaped American Culture?

Did you know that “Silly Putty” was invented during World War II in some vain attempt at developing a synthetic rubber?  I mean it was pink.  Couldn’t you just see all the Fords, Buicks, and Chevrolet’s riding around on soft cushy pink round globs of “Silly Putty?”  Rubber was scarce on the Home Front, as you probably know, so those tires and tubes had to be patched over and over again to go anywhere in a car, if you had enough ration coupons to buy gas, and it was, as required, a necessary trip.  Thinking on it more, though, it could have actually worked, kind of like “FixAFlat” does today.  Instead of an inner tube, you would have the inside of the tire filled to the brim with “Silly Putty.”  As long as it didn’t squish out, it just might have kept the tire round, but I’m sure few could have afforded it, and would rather have spent the money on a re-tread.

The Japanese, in 1940, continued to occupy the rubber-producing countries in the Far East, cutting off supplies to the United States.  Hard to have a mobile army without tires on your trucks, so the War Production Board saw the need to develop a replacement, a synthetic rubber.  By 1943 a Scottish chemist working for GE combined  boric acid and silicone oil in a test tube and it “polymerized.”  Wright is beyond excited, pulls the stuff out of the test tube and throws it up in the air.  It bounces off the floor, and voila, “Bouncing Putty” is invented.

Seven years later, because no one can find a use for the stuff all that time, a toy shop owner in New Haven CT, decides to feature it in her upcoming catalog.  She puts the stuff in a clear plastic case and out sells out every other item in the “Block Shop” catalog at $2 each.  But she loses interest in the bouncing pink gooey substance, god knows why, and decides not to continue it in the next “Block Shop” catalog.  The catalog designer, Peter Hodgson Sr., thinks there’s a market for the toy.  He borrows $147 and buys some of the stuff.  Hodgson packages one ounce of the substance in clear plastic eggs and comes up with the name “Silly Putty.”

What happens next is another example of the power of the press.  A writer for “New Yorker” magazine, sees the stuff at a “Doubleday” book store, and writes a story about it which appears in the “Talk of the Town” section.  Within three days, Hodgson gets orders for over 250,000 eggs of “Silly Putty.”  Then another war steps in.  He can’t get the silicon because it is restricted due to the Korean War effort.  (Wait, that was a “police action” according to President Truman, not a war, right?)  Hodgson only has 1,500 pounds of the putty left, (Can you imagine that?) so he sparingly fills some of his back orders.  What does that produce?  Every kid in America wants an egg of “Silly Putty” and can’t get it.  Has that ever happened since, like “Cabbage Patch Kids,” and “Transformers?”  I’m pretty sure toy manufacturers took note of that phenomenon in 1951.

“Silly Putty” has been around now for 69 years.  When it reached its 50th anniversary, two eggs of the stuff were placed in the Smithsonian Institute as one of the objects that shaped American Culture.  Wow, “Silly Putty” shaped American Culture.  Well I guess you can “shape” it.  It bounces.  It’s still pink, although you can get it in many different colors today, and they even have a putty that changes color in your hand.  But what I find really amazing, is the stuff costs about the same as it did all those years ago; one dollar.  And now you can even get “Silly Putty” that glows in the dark!

Why, when everything else costs way more than it did in the 1950s, does “Silly Putty” stay at the same price point?  Riddle me that Batman?




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Ray Harroun And His Famous Rear-View Mirror

I can remember the argument like it was yesterday.  It wasn’t really an argument I guess, but my then mother-in-law would not believe that when you looked in your rear, or side, view mirror, the person in the car behind you was driving on the wrong side of the vehicle.  It is a mirror, after all, so the image you see is reversed.  Maybe it wasn’t a big deal that she believed or not, but we actually went out to the street, she sat in her VW Bug, and I pulled my VW Bug up behind her and sat in the driver’s seat.  

“You see, I’m on the wrong side of the car,” I yelled out the rolled down window.  No power windows on the 1968 Beetle.

“No you’re not,” she yelled back.

“I am so.  Look.  I’m on the wrong side.”  She never believed.

It came up again this morning when I was sitting in a parked car looking in the rear-view mirror and the driver of the van behind me got out on the wrong side of the vehicle.  I thought he was a passenger in the “DirecTV” van, and I was confused for a moment and had to look out the rear window, to see indeed, that he had gotten out on the right, or driver’s side of the vehicle, not the left as it appeared.

I brought it up later in the day at the dinner table,  and the same disbelief occurred almost unanimously.  People just don’t want to believe it.  It’s the reason they spell “Ambulance” on the front of the ambulance, this way, “ecnalubma” so it looks right when you look in the rear-view mirror.

.syas ti tahw ees ylisae ll’uoy dna rorrim a ot pu egassem siht dloH  We used to do it all the time when we were kids to share secret messages in class.  The problem with this is the words are right when held up to a mirror, but the letters are backwards, so you had to do that transition in your head.  I wasn’t good at writing letters backward as well as the words, but it can be done.  So, just like we do with the rear-view mirror image, we have trained our brains to see the image behind us correctly, even though it’s not.

 To take this even further, why is the image reversed right-to-left, but not up-and-down?  In actuality it is.  When you look in your rear-view mirror, and then turn around on a vertical axis to look out the rear window, you are moving on a vertical axis, so the image is clearly reversed right-to-left.  However, if you turned about on a horizontal axis, the image you see out the back window would be upside down, reversed top-to-bottom.  In other words, you’re kind of standing on your head or leaning way backward but it’s fact.  Truth be told, the mirror does neither though, it reverses the image front-to-back.

I remember from my days of fascination with the Indianapolis 500, that the first use of the rear-view mirror was by Ray Harroun in his Marmoun “Wasp” Model 32 race car at the inaugural run of the 500 in 1911.  He did it to eliminate the need, and the weight, of the second person who normally sat in the passenger side of a race-car, the mechanic.  The mechanic would  manually pump oil into the vehicle, verbally give commands and positions of the following cars to the driver who was responsible for looking ahead.  Twelve of these riding mechanics died in the race or in practice runs through 1939.  Harroun won the inaugural race with an average speed of 74.62 mph.

At least the riding mechanic had a seat in the vehicle by 1911.

This didn’t immediately change the way race-cars were made, and not many others thought the rear-view mirror was a good replacement for that second rider either.  It didn’t phase out until the 1940s. 

Marmon "Wasp" Race car number 32

Marmon "Wasp" Race car number 32 That little box on stilts in front of the steering wheel is the rear-view mirror.(Photo credit: momentcaptured1)

 This is just another example of the trove of useless information that I have stored away in my head.  Easily retrievable, at least for now, for those moments when I feel the need to astound people with my knowledge of things, things like when was the first rear-view mirror used in a race car.  There is some conjecture about the subject though and it involves a woman driver.  According to Wikipedia, Dorothy Levitt, in her book “The Woman and the Car,” published in 1906, suggested that women “carry a little hand-mirror in a convenient place when driving” so they may “hold the mirror aloft from time to time in order to see behind while driving in traffic.”  Personally, I think they should keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes  on the road in front of them.  WTF.  The rear-view mirror was in general manufacture by 1914.  Even Ray Harroun himself, said that he had seen the mirror used on a horse cart, which is how he got the idea.

Now if that isn’t trivia enough for you when rear-view mirrors come up in conversation, I don’t know what is.  And go out and get into your car and look at all the driver’s on the wrong side of vehicles behind you.  You might have to consciously force your brain to understand that the driver is on the wrong side.  Just like when you comb your hair in the mirror, you adjust the motion to suit the reverse image.  Okay, enough already.


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You Could Do Shakespeare From That Balcony (Conclusion)

This ain't Carey Finnelly.

Okay, where were we?  Oh yeah, so as I said, she was extremely “blessed”  for a fifteen-year-old, and I would have given at least a month’s pay, if I was working, to have a peek under there.  Rumor had it, she tried out for the high school track team and literally had to run with her hands resting on top of them to keep from beating herself to death.  Okay, I guess you get the idea.  She was slender but had wide hips. I figure it was a biological adaption from ancestors that did a lot of sitting on hoofed animals?  I don’t know.  She wore her shoulder-length blonde hair in a pony tail.  You overlooked all her flaws, if you’re thirteen and she’s wearing a pink bikini.  Testosterone levels were off the charts.

“Whatter ya gonna do?” Randy hollered from behind his sister where he had taken a sort of refuge from the big monster snake.

“I ain’t doin’ shit,” I said and backed away from the reptile.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” Carey whined as she pressed her thighs together for emphasis.

“Use the one down there,” I said pointing to another outhouse about a quarter-mile away.

“It’s too far.  Can’t you do something?”

Now I’m not sure what it is, and I’m sure it’s been studied, but it’s what I like to call “machotosterone,” and it takes over men and boys alike.  However, super high levels are found in pubescent boys.  It makes them do stupid things.  Really stupid things.  The effect on the brain is similar to adrenaline, only worse.  Because we think the poor distressed female with the bosom, will be so impressed by our stupid macho display that she will let you see them.  I point out an incident on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to prove my point.  His guest was Dolly Parton.  The conversation, of course, turned south when he asked her if she had always been “blessed, ” as she put it.  Dolly said that people where always asking her if they were real, and Johnny, insisted he would never ask such a thing, he had standards…”but, I would give about a year’s pay to peek under there,” he quipped.  I find it odd that I remember that.  Anyway, the machotosterone courses through our veins and we become, for example, an expert snake handler.

You knew I was going to share it with you.

You expect that the poor distressed female will be so thankful and impressed by your heroism and fearless protection that she will just rush up to you and kiss you on the cheek.  She’ll say something like, “Oooh, thank you.  You were so magnificent.  So brave.  I just don’t know what I would have done without you.  There must be something I can do to repay you.”  Ye-ah.

I brandished my four-foot stick and walked toward the snake.  He figured out pretty quickly that he wasn’t going to like what was about to happen.  Now, mind you, as you might remember from my Zooseum experience, I’m afraid of even the smallest garden variety snake.  This sucker was big, menacing, and making a lot of rattling noise.

I stuck the end of the stick into the center of the snake coil and quickly lifted.  He kind of hung over the end of the stick for a few seconds, head on one side, rattler on the other.  I walked backward through the door of the outhouse.  He was biting furiously at the air.  This was a big snake.  A venomous snake of the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus.  One of 32 known species of rattlesnake.  A biting, killing, nasty mother of a snake.  What the hell was I doing this close to it?  He slid off the stick and started towards me, then changed his mind and slithered off into some tall grass.

I turned to Carey with pride, “There you can go in now.”

“Are you crazy, ” she said.  “I wouldn’t be caught dead in there.  That rattlesnake could go right back in there under the door while I’m peeing.  What if there’s another one in there or something?”

Right about that same exact second, I heard Randy scream, “LOOK OUT!”

The snake had decided to go on the offensive and was heading back towards me.  He coiled a few feet away and I heard the rattle again.  A rattlesnake has a group of loosely attached segments at the end of the tail that are vibrated to produce the rattling sound.  The sound the snake makes when he’s threatened and about to strike.  This is probably the only time in recorded history you will hear about a snake, who doesn’t really like people much, preparing for an attack.  I must have pissed this one off pretty good.  I managed to leap backwards out of the way just in the last possible second and ran like hell.

Carey headed off in the direction of the other outhouse down the beach.  I never got as much as a thank you from her.  She didn’t even stay to make sure I was all right.  I thought about that the other day, the way that turned out, and decided to renege on a 46-year-old promise.

You see, later that afternoon I did, inadvertently, get my “reward” for saving the damsel in the pink bikini who was in obvious distress.  Carey and I were out floating on some inner tubes, twenty yards off shore.  She leaned toward me just right, to say something, and the left one just popped out of her top.  Stayed there in plain view for several seconds before she realized I was burning a hole in her chest.

She “stuffed” it back in and looked at me with the most venomous of looks.  “You EVER tell anyone about this and you’re dead meat, buddy,” she hissed.

I swear, Carey, I never told a soul. 


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You Could Do Shakespeare From That Balcony

Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet

I’m a lake rat.  I wasn’t born that way or anything, I just developed into one.  A lake rat, by my definition, is someone who likes to be on, in and near water.  Anywhere will do, as long as it allows for motorized boats.  I’m not much into paddling, but I’ve done it on occasion.

 My first lake experiences were at Lake DeSmet in northern Wyoming.  Not a long season for water sport there as you might imagine.  The lake is man-made.  See, God didn’t make us enough lakes so we had to make some of our own to take our boats on.  You find a river or creek, condemn all the property that will be flooded, you build a dam, the water starts to back up, and presto you have a lake.  DeSmet is one of them.  Lake Powell, Lake Mead, Shasta, I could go on, are all man-made lakes.  Most of them are created as reservoirs for nearby towns and cities, but the more important result is that swimming, water-skiing, boating, and fishing are now available.

Lake DeSmet was named after Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet a Jesuit missionary from Belgium who brought Christianity to the “heathen” Indians.  It is said that he traveled 180,000 miles in 30 years in his dedication to serving America’s Indian population.  He had such a good rapport with them, he was used by the Federal Government to negotiate treaties, treaties of which he didn’t approve.  I was told that he was killed and scalped by the Indians, but that is obviously not true.  He died in 1873 in Missouri from illnesses that plagued him most of his life.  There is an iron plaque on a  stone marker commemorating Father DeSmet on a turnout overlooking the lake. 

Lake DeSmet was rumored to have it’s very own “sea serpent” for a good while.  They even sent a team of divers into the lake back in the 60s to look for some sign of it.  The only problem, and the reason the myth persists to this day, is you can’t really  get to the bottom of the lake because of all the underwater vegetation.  You can’t really call it “seaweed”, but it’s the same thing.  If you don’t believe me about the Lake DeSmet Sea Serpent, check out this link:  Wyoming Folklore  I don’t make everything up.  In 1939 they supposedly caught the sea monster, but when they dragged the body to shore it exploded so there was no evidence.  Something about water pressure or air pressure on the carcass.  There have been pictures taken of the Sea Serpent published in the Sheridan Press.  Probably taken by fisherman that had a little too much to drink, taking pictures of a floating log or tree branch.  But no actual evidence of the monster exists.

I heard a story about some industrious college students from the University of Wyoming building a sort of mock sea serpent one summer.  They launched it in the lake the summer of 1967, I think.  It was built on a canoe in a kind of sideways “S” shape and these guys would paddle the contraption around a cove.  It resembled a large snake with a dragon head floating on the surface.  They spent a good part of the summer terrorizing fisherman that had nipped at the Jim Beam all afternoon or slammed down the cold ones.  Scared the hell out of some of them.  But a good majority of these innocent anglers kept it to themselves.  Still the paper published stories of sightings and warnings to stay away from the lake until it was deemed safe again.  Of course the place was packed every weekend.

One lucky tourist had the good fortune of capturing the monster on film and sold it to the paper for a size-able sum, enough to pay off his repair bill at the local Chevy dealer where he had abandoned his car.  The photo was kind of blurry and hard to distinguish, but if you studied it real good, it sure enough looked like a sea serpent.  I forgot to mention that the sea serpent canoe was only put in the water late in the evening so photography was difficult.  Eyewitness reports put the creature anywhere from six feet to 40 feet in length.  Some confirmed it breathed fire, and others said it made a horrible roaring sound.  It did neither.

Dan Dryer’s father put an end to the fun when he roped the beast from the bow of Randy Finnelly’s dad’s boat.  He was sitting on the bow of the boat in his cowboy boots and swimming trunks swinging a rope over his head.  It was dark and they shouldn’t have been on the lake in the first place.  Finnelly guided the boat in and Dreyer made the perfect throw.  The rope was tied off to the starboard rail, and when Finnelly reversed the engine, the rope tightened and ripped the suckers head right off revealing the two college students who were struggling to paddle away.  Dryer and Finnelly were also allegedly rip-roaring drunk at the time.

I picked up the nearest weapon I could find, a large stick, and rushed off in the direction of the outhouse where Randy’s sister, Carey, had just let out one of her famous blood-curdling screams.  I got the weapon because what she screamed was “RATTLER.”

Now rattlesnakes are found around here often enough, but they are not known to frequent the outhouses by the lake.  This one probably happened on the cool concrete floor of the outhouse and thought he had found the perfect spot to spend a hot August afternoon.  Rattlesnakes like to be in the shade.  There he was, coiled up right inside the door, rattling his tail menacingly.  You would too if you were a snake and Carey had damn near stepped on you.

Carey had retreated a good distance away and was standing with her arms wrapped around herself shifting from one foot to the other because, well, she still had to pee.  The snake hadn’t helped her condition either.

She was two years older than Randy and me.  Randy had been my second-best friend since second grade, and they owned a boat.  I spent a few of my summers getting second-degree burns from too much exposure to UV light.

Carey wasn’t exactly stunningly beautiful, but she was the closest thing to a “Playboy” centerfold that we had.  At 15 she had one major attribute.  She was, shall we say, well-endowed.  You could do “Shakespeare” from that balcony.

(To Be Continued….)


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We Had Finally Caught Up With The Russians

February 20, 1962. Launch of Friendship 7. Fifty years ago today.

When I was nine I was a “space junkie.”  I devoured everything that had to do with the NASA Space Program.  I watched every launch on TV, sometimes getting up in the wee hours of the morning to see a launch from Cape Canaveral.  Going crazy when there was a hold at T-minus 30:04:45  and counting.  Then another at T-minus 3 minutes, fifty seconds, and counting.  Wondering if the rocket would ever ignite.  And here’s an eye-opener for you, (maybe), the “T” stands for “Test” not “Time” as most people think.  It may not always be time related.

 During every hold we listened intently to Walter Cronkite and Science Editor, Jules Bergman, explain in minute detail how all the stuff worked.  I had a “Revel” model of the Atlas launch vehicle, launch pad and Mercury capsule.  So realistic that if you filled it with rocket fuel it would probably take off.  I had another model of just the Mercury capsule with the escape rocket tower, and you could see all the interior detail because the model separated in halves.

The odd thing is I never wanted to be an astronaut, as I remember it.  Probably because we knew what it took to be one, and I wouldn’t qualify if just because I wore glasses.  I think it was more the Kennedy challenge, “… I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” that kept me intrigued.  I, like most everyone else on the planet, could not conceive of how this could be done, and the process of how it was done was just too interesting not to pay attention.  And besides, every one of the three networks covered those early launches, interrupting their regular programming to give us all the details hours before the scheduled launch.

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., rode atop a Mercury LV-3B, the same basic Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) first launched in 1950, into earth orbit on this date 50 years ago.  The Mercury launch vehicle had first been used for a Mercury launch on July 29, 1960, a suborbital, unmanned, named “Mercury-Atlas 1.”  John Glenn’s “Friendship 7” was “Mercury-Atlas 6.”  Glenn orbited the earth three times and splashed down in the south Atlantic at T+4:55:30.  The mission lasting four hours and 56 minutes.  John Glenn’s first words after being winched on board the USS Noa and bounced off the side, exiting the capsule through the exploded side hatch, were, “It was hot in there.”

It was a Tuesday.  We all sat around a small black and white TV on the audio-visual cart while the teacher kept adjusting the rabbit ears trying to get a semi-view-able picture.  Glenn was riding on the sixth Atlas rocket built for the Mercury program, and two of the previous five had blown up.  This rocket, after three previous unsuccessful attempts, one of which included a fuel leak in the rocket during fueling on January 30th, roared to life at 14:47:39 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), also referred to as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) .  That translates to 8:47:39 Mountain Standard Time where I was sitting.  UTC uses a 24-hour (military) time notation and is based on the local standard time on the 0° longitude meridian which runs through Greenwich, England.  For example, Midnight in Greenwich corresponds to 00:00 UTC.  It’s used for most weather related times, and most anything to do with astronomical and aviation publications.

The room exploded in cheers and we continued on with our math assignment.  Later that day we watched the recovery on the same TV.  We had finally “caught up” with the Russians and we all knew it.  The “Space Race” was on full speed.

Any of you that have seen the movie, “The Right Stuff,” should know that one of the biggest complaints that the astronauts had was that they didn’t actually “fly” the spacecraft.  They were perceived as little more than a higher species of the Chimps that rode before them.  It was all done remotely from the ground.  However, in the case of Friendship Seven, the system failed and John Glenn had to manually fly the craft for re-entry.

The original seven Mercury Astronauts.

Of the original Mercury Seven, only John Glenn and Scott Carpenter are still alive.

The space program plugged along through the Gemini missions and the Apollo fire, which put the program on hold.  The first manned Apollo flight was scheduled for February 21, 1967, but the fire investigation which determined that  major modifications to the spacecraft and launch pad were needed, delayed the first launch to October 11, 1968.  Around that time my mother and I got into an argument that we would not reach the moon before the decade of the 60s was out as President Kennedy had challenged.  I clearly believed they would, in fact, I was so sure that it would happen before the end of 1968 , that I bet her $300.  Now, neither one of us had $300, so the bet didn’t mean much, but in December 1968 when Apollo 8 went to the moon and passed behind it entering into lunar orbit.  It became the first manned object to leave earth’s orbit and escape the gravitational pull of another celestial object.  My mother insisted I hadn’t won the bet because no one had landed on the moon.  On July 21, 1969, when we landed and walked on the moon, she said little of nothing.  She never paid me the $300, although I would remind her about the bet from time to time.

I stayed a space junkie through all of it, glued to the television, building models, flying model rockets.  It was an exciting time for a kid.



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The King of the United States

Sure, we’d like to think that we didn’t or don’t have a Royal Family on this side of the pond.  There is surely not a monarchy here.  Or is there?

Let’s take a look at some of the blood lines of United States presidents.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, everyone’s favorite war-time president, has these cousins and distant cousins:  Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George Bush, George W. Bush, Eleanor Roosevelt, his wife, and Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister (Maybe why they got along so splendidly.)  We’ve had two sets of father-son presidents, and one grandfather-grandson combination.  Sounds like the presidency runs in the family.  I think that’s pretty amazing.  They are on each other’s family tree.  George Washington is related in some way to every other president.  You can work it out to see that Barack Obama is his 9th cousin six times removed.

In all fairness, if you run a family out that far with tree limbs, there is obviously going to be a lot of commonality.  Most of our ancestors came here from someplace, except the Native American population I would argue.

Here’s another thing I find interesting.  Did you know, for example, that George Washington had three brothers, two sisters, two half-brothers and two half-sisters, a total of nine siblings.  James Buchanan had 10 siblings, four brothers and six sisters.  Benjamin Harrison had six brothers, three sisters, and two half-sisters.  Jimmy Carter had one brother and two sisters.  We heard a lot about brother Billy and his beer, but you really don’t think about all those other presidential siblings.  What happened to them.  You’d think they would have accomplished something.  Why is there little or no historical record about all those famous siblings?

He wasn't that bad looking.

Did you know that James Buchanan was the only president who never married?  I didn’t either.  Maybe it’s not important, but might come in handy in a trivia game.

The average age of presidents of the United states is roughly 54.  The youngest was Herbert Hoover and the oldest was, come on now, you know this one…Ronald Reagan.  He was 69 going on, very shortly, 70.  The oldest living former president is George H. Bush, not “dubya,” who was born in 1924.  And the president who lived the longest was Gerald R. Ford, the guy who pardoned Richard M. Nixon.  He was 93.

So, where was I going with this?  Don’t know really, just thought is was fascinating, and it’s that time again when winter, spring, summer and fall is filled with conventions, television ads, fund-raising, debates, and finding out how little we have to work with when it comes to presidential contenders.  Barack Obama raised more money in a few days on the West Coast than all the other Republican candidates to date, combined.  Is $34 million a lot of money in a few days, and who’s counting that?

I have always understood that you as an individual can’t donate more than $2,500 to a primary candidate’s campaign fund.  (Not that I have ever donated even 25 cents to a presidential campaign and I do check “no” on my 1040.)  Once they are the party nominee and accept public funding, (That little box you check or don’t check on your tax return) they can no longer accept contributions to further their election.  You can donate up to $2,500 to their compliance fund, however, which is maintained to pay only for legal and accounting expenses incurred trying to comply with the campaign finance laws which are so complex that the number of loop-holes must be astounding.   I’m going to take a wild stab here and guess that most modern candidates don’t accept public funding and add up the millions by private donations.  I’m not even going to bother to look it up.

Okay, sit back and enjoy all the mudslinging, name calling, exposure of illicit affairs, and other tidbits of information about your favorite candidate you didn’t know or don’t care about.  It’s an election year, and the monarchy is mobilizing for a new king to ascend the throne or keep an old one for another four years.  And, in case you didn’t know, presidents weren’t limited to two terms until the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951.  That’s why FDR won re-election to a third and fourth term.  Every other president only served a maximum of two, but that was by George Washington’s example.  Now if we could just get that passed in the House and the Senate.  WTF 




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