The Snoozeletter @

Let's finish the tax season with an old joke. 

Grandpa receives a notice that he's going to be audited, and he's summoned into the IRS office. The auditor is not surprised when Grandpa shows up with his attorney.

The auditor says, "Well, sir, you have an extravagant lifestyle and no full-time employment, Which you explain by saying that you win money gambling. I'm not sure the IRS finds that believable."

"I'm a great gambler, and I can prove it," replies Grandpa. "How about a demonstration?"

The auditor thinks for a moment and says, "Okay. Go ahead."

Grandpa says, "I'll bet you a thousand dollars that I can bite my own eye."

The auditor thinks a moment and says, "It's a bet."

Grandpa removes his glass eye and bites it. The auditor's jaw drops.

Grandpa says, "Now, I'll bet you two thousand dollars that I can bite my other eye."

Now the auditor can tell Grandpa isn't blind, so he takes the bet. Grandpa removes his dentures and bites his good eye.

The stunned auditor now realizes that he has wagered and lost three grand, with Grandpa's attorney as a witness. He starts to get nervous.

"Want to go double or nothing?" Grandpa asks. "I'll bet you six thousand dollars that I can stand on one side of your desk, and pee into that wastebasket on the other side, and never get a drop anywhere in between."

The auditor has lost twice and he's cautious now, but he looks carefully and decides there's no way this old guy could possibly manage that stunt, so he agrees again.

Grandpa stands beside the desk and unzips his pants, but although he strains mightily, he can't make the stream reach the wastebasket on the other side, so he ends up urinating all over the auditor's desk.

The auditor leaps with joy, realizing that he has just turned a major loss into a huge win. But Grandpa's own attorney moans and puts his head in his hands.

"Are you okay?" the auditor asks.

"Not really," says the attorney. "This morning, when Grandpa told me he'd been called in for an audit, he bet me twenty-five thousand dollars that he could come in here and piss all over your desk and that you'd be happy about it!"
Medicare Part G. 

In case you have become an older senior citizen who can no longer take care of yourself - and the government says there is no nursing home care available for you - you may then opt for Medicare Part G. The plan gives anyone 75 or older one gun (Part G) and one bullet. You are allowed to shoot one worthless politician. This means you will be sent to prison for the rest of your life, where you will receive three meals a day, a roof over your head, central heating and air conditioning, cable TV, a library, and all the health care you need. Need new teeth? No problem. Need glasses? That's great. Need a hearing aid, new hip, knees, kidney, lungs, heart or sex change? They are all covered! As a bonus, your kids can come to visit you at least as often as they do now! And, who will be paying for all of this? The same government that just told you they can't afford for you to go into a nursing home. And you will have gotten rid of a useless politician while you are at it. And now, because you are a prisoner, you don't have to pay any more income taxes! Is this a great country or what? Now that you have solved your senior financial plan, enjoy the rest of your week!
The end of Depth Gauge. 

From Waterworld (1995):

Depth Gauge (William Preston): Your Deaconship? [He's paddling a small boat around the oil in the ship's fuel hold, a dark and depressing job.] Hello! Good morning. Or night. Whichever the case may be...
Deacon (Dennis Hopper): What is it? I'm a busy man.
Depth Gauge: I thought you should know. We're down to exactly four feet, nine inches of black stuff... [Deacon spits on his head.] Thank you, sir!

[Later, up on the ship's deck.]
Mariner (Kevin Costner): I want the girl. That's all.
Deacon: Well, what on this screwed-up earth of ours makes you think you're gonna get her? [Mariner takes a flare from his belt, and holds it over a hole leading down to the ship's fuel hold.]
Mariner: You know what this is. I drop it, you burn.
Doctor (John Fleck): We all burn.
Deacon: Now-now-now, let's not do anything rash here. I mean, are you sure this kid is worth it? I mean, she never does stop talking, she never shuts up!
Mariner: I noticed.
Deacon: So what is it, then? It's the map.
Mariner: She's my friend.
Deacon: Golly gee, a single tear rolls down my cheek. You're gonna die for your friend.
Mariner: If it comes to that. [He ignites the flare, and holds it over the hole again.]
Nord (Gerard Murphy): He's bluffing! I'll kill him.
Enola (Tina Majorino): He's not bluffing, he never bluffs.
Deacon: SHUT UP! [to Mariner] I-I-I-I-you know, I don't think you're gonna drop that torch, my friend.
Mariner: Why not?
Deacon: Because you're not crazy. [Mariner smiles, lifts his hand, and drops the flare down the hole.] NO-O-O-O-O!

[Down below, paddling around in the oil, Depth Gauge sees the lit flare falling from above - it's an end to his miserable existence.]
Depth Gauge: Oh, thank God! [KABOOM]
Naked Chicken For Orally-Fixated Perverts. 

In the newsroom, we have three monitors at each workstation. Two screens are for computer work, and the third is a TV, so we can keep track of the news channels. The TVs are all muted, to keep us from going crazy with the din. So I've been watching this Taco Bell ad with no sound, from the corner of my eye, ever since the company introduced its "Naked Chicken Chalupa" about five weeks ago. When you can't hear the words, the meaning seems abundantly clear - at least to a pervert like me - supercool Fifties guy is cruising in his convertible with his cute cheerleader girlfriend, when he glances down at his crotch and waggles his eyebrows at his female companion. Then he hands her a piece of food, obviously urging her to "eat it." She's upset for some reason - maybe she's never heard these words from a guy before? But he flashes her a smarmy smile, which induces her to give in, get busy, and do exactly what he wants. At this point, the ad seems to suggest that we've flashed forward twenty years, and the couple has raised another generation of chicken-eating perverts.

I heartily enjoyed this twisted little imaginary scenario, and the incessant barrage of ads finally had its intended effect: I headed over to the nearest Taco Bell today... only to find that THEY HAVE REMOVED THE NAKED CHICKEN CHALUPA FROM THEIR MENU.

Bastards. It's enough to give a guy blueballs.
Funny words. 

WILLIE: 57 years I'm in this business, you learn a few things. You know what makes an audience laugh. Do you know which words are funny and which words are NOT funny?
BEN: You told me a hundred times, Uncle Willie. Words with a 'K' in it are funny.
WILLIE: Words with a 'K' in it are funny. You didn't know that, did you? If it doesn't have a 'K' it's not funny... I'll tell you which words always get a laugh. (About to count on fingers.)
BEN: Chicken.
WILLIE: Chicken is funny.
BEN: Pickle.
WILLIE: Pickle is funny.
BEN: Cup cake
WILLIE: Cup cake is funny... Tomato is NOT funny. Roast beef is NOT funny.
BEN: But cookie is funny.
WILLIE: But cookie is funny.
BEN: Uncle Willie, you've explained that to me ever since I was a little boy.
WILLIE: Cucumber is funny.
BEN: (Falling in again.) Car keys.
WILLIE: Car keys is funny.
BEN: Cleveland.
WILLIE: Cleveland is funny... Maryland is NOT funny.
--The Sunshine Boys, by Neil Simon
Are You A Gleeker? 

So, I'm in the dentist chair this afternoon, flat on my back, and the doc is doing some minor oral surgery. Drill, drill, drill, scrape, scrape, scrape, laser, laser, laser. Eventually, he takes a short break, leaving my mouth propped open. I try to swallow, and a huge geyser of saliva involuntarily sprays about three inches high above my face, falling back to soak everything from my eyebrows to my chin. The doc and his assistant are trying hard not to notice or comment, but it's obvious that a disturbing event has occurred. I've experienced this phenomenon before, but the squirts were always tiny, and they dropped back into my mouth immediately.

So after the doc takes out the rubber chew toy that's been propping my mouth open, I decide to broach the subject delicately: "What the hell just happened? Am I the only one who does this? I nearly drowned!"

They both laugh and say that it's called "gleeking," and a lot of patients do it. The assistant says she sometimes does it involuntarily, while talking to people. Gleeker Extraordinaire. She also claims to have friends who do it at parties, to entertain the crowd. Gleeker Showoffs. She's a veritable fount of knowledge. So to speak.

Evidently, gleeking occurs spontaneously when saliva that has accumulated in the submandibular gland is propelled out in a stream after the gland is compressed accidentally by the tongue.

Wikipedia says 35% of people can gleek, but fewer than 1% of the population can gleek on command. Do you gleek?



Boldog új évet kívánok! 

(Hungarian for Happy New Year!) Or BÚÉK [ boo-AYK ], for short.
Selected Vlad reviews.  Click for Amazon Kindle eBook page

Here are 6 of the 19 Amazon reviews of Vlad the Impaler: Son of Dracul:

>>I'm an Order Of the Dragon enthusiast... This has absolutely shut my eyes to my love for the notorious impaler. Ugh. Terrifying. I've read some scary stuff but wow, this was almost like an authentic "interview with the vampire" great horror\history read.

>>I loved this book! It was as grotesque as I expected it to be, yet oddly humorous at times. How he can be a hero to some is beyond me. Yep, I'd recommend this story and author.

>>It's a little unusual. It's seems to be a dark comedy screenplay treatment of Vlad Tepes life and times complete with screen direction. It's not a great primary source for understanding the historical Dracula. But it's an enjoyable read if you are already acquainted with the historical Dracula and are just in the mood for some light reading. It sticks with the German perspective, where Dracula is a villainous monster, but I found myself laughing out loud (perhaps inappropriately) as Vlad dishes out his own twisted brand of justice with his henchman Dragomir.

>>Well researched and informative! Learned a lot of facts from this book than by reading online articles about this epic prince!

>>It's almost like National Lampoon's humor but very graphic. Very funny at times.

>>Before traveling to Transylvania, this was a helpful read to understand the mythology of Vlad. Our guides affirmed the correctness of this book.
Writing graphic transgressive violence. 

I was very sick while writing the screenplay "Vlad the Impaler: Son of Dracul." I had a life-threatening illness and needed to carry an adrenaline syringe, so that I wouldn't die from anaphylactic shock before reaching an emergency room. My chances of surviving this ailment were very slim, and as a result, I was deeply depressed and suicidal. The doc gave me a prescription for an anti-depressant, but I stopped taking it when I read one of the listed side effects: "may cause depression." I sh*t you not.

Such was my state of mind during the creative process. Living and dying were more or less equal to me, so writing about the terrible injuries that Vlad inflicted on his victims was right in my wheelhouse. Death, destruction and unimaginable horror became perversely funny, and the dialogue reflects that change in consciousness. Pitch-black humor was the order of the day. I discovered that when one's internal meter of the meaning of "normal" gets pushed so close to the redline of death, empathy goes right out the window.

So the script may or may not be a glimpse into the motives of a 15th-century mass-murderer, but it certainly offers a peek into the mind of a 21st-century screenwriter who's face-to-face with his own mortality.

I was pleasantly surprised when the illness eventually eased its grip, but I'm thoroughly convinced that going through the near-death experience was necessary to unlock Vlad's secrets.
I need a well-connected producer... 
Quentin Tarantino, A Band Apart, Zack Snyder, Cruel and Unusual Films, Robert Rodriguez, Troublemaker Studios, Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Roman Coppola, Gia Coppola, American Zoetrope, Brad Pitt, Plan B Entertainment, Summit Entertainment, Charlie Hunnam, Sons of Anarchy, James Gray, Scott Kosar, Anthony Mandler, Dracula Untold, Dracula: Year Zero, Alex Proyas, Sam Worthington, Paul Verhoeven, Verhoeven Productions
...for my script-written-in-the-form-of-a-book (or perhaps vice-versa), Vlad the Impaler: Son of Dracul. It's been at or near the top of an Amazon Best Seller list for almost a year, and I recently did a YouTube interview about it that's getting 2,000 views per week. If you know A-list horror directors like Quentin Tarantino, Zack Snyder, Robert Rodriguez, Francis Coppola, Paul Verhoeven or their agents, please eMail me at HotTip [at] (replace [at] with @).

Links and video posted here:
Interview - Vlad the Impaler: Son of Dracul. 

Yesterday afternoon:

Later additions - podcast versions: iHeart + iTunes + Stitcher + TuneIn.
Benches for oldsters. 

Dear National Forest Service:

Why were the benches removed from the trails at Lost Dutchman State Park? I contacted park officials, and they said you had jurisdiction over their trail benches...

Many thanks - ACB

>>Dear Mr. Baird

The Tonto National Forest asked Lost Dutchman State Park to remove the wooden benches that are along the trails on National Forest System land for several reasons:

1) We received complaints from the public that the benches were in poor condition, and giving them splinters,
2) The Forest Service is not able to maintain the benches, and
3) The benches were out of character for the designated Semi-Primitive area. Per Forest Service guidelines, Semi-Primitive areas are characterized by a predominantly natural or natural appearing environment. Any constructed features shall be primarily for site protection. Because the metal benches are also out of character for this area, the Forest Service will be working with Lost Dutchman State Park to relocate these benches to other areas of the State Park.

Sincerely - NFS

>>Dear National Forest Service:

Now that the benches are gone, old people like me won't be able to hike the trails. Those benches were lifesavers, and they were well worth putting up with a few splinters in my butt.

Yours truly - ACB
L'esprit de l'escalator. 

I used to live about a half-block away from a shopping mall. The mall was smack-dab between me and the nearest post office, so on Saturdays, I would often walk the mile or so through the mall to check my PO box. About halfway through the mall, there was a fancy escalator with plexiglas sides and a narrow metal ledge that ran from the first floor up to the second. That ledge was a magnet for kids. They loved to stand on the smooth metal, while holding onto the moving rubberized handrails. They would let the handrails drag them up a few feet on the outside of the escalator, before jumping off. Most of them didn't dare to hold on all the way up to the second floor, because that's where the ledge and rubberized handrails stopped. If you didn't execute a quick vault over the handrail to the moving stairway inside, the escalator would peel you off and send you plummeting to the marble floor, thirty feet below.

I knew it was a potential death-trap, and I was surprised that the mall didn't redesign it, to include some basic safety features. There was a small warning sticker, but kids don't pay any attention to warning stickers.

So one Saturday morning, I was walking through the mall on my way to the PO box when I saw a little boy, about three or four, playing on the outside of the escalator. He stood on the metal ledge, and let the rubberized handrail drag him up a few feet, then loosened his grip and slid back down to safety. He did it several times, with no problem. But as I neared the escalator, I could see there was something terribly wrong with his latest attempt, even though he was facing away from me. He was getting too far up, outside his comfort zone, and he panicked, grabbing tightly onto the handrail when he should have been loosening his grip. He certainly wasn't old enough to execute the quick vault at the top of the moving stairway that would save him from a thirty-foot fall onto the marble below.

I didn't even break stride. It was as if my walk through the mall had been precisely timed, so that I could reach up seven or eight feet, grab the back of his belt, yell "Let go," and haul him back down to safety. His parents, standing about thirty feet away, gave me a strange look, but I just kept walking.

I'm no hero. I'm sure if you had been there, you would have done the exact same thing. But I suspect the parents never did figure out what a close call that really was.
Deer Spit. 

I just returned from northern Arizona, where I learned three new things:

1) Never turn your back on a herd of deer - they'll untie your shoes and leave the laces covered in deer spit.

2) If you put your head over the Wupatki Blowhole on a scorching day, be prepared for an icy blast of air from Yaponcha, the wind god.

3) Do not try to keep up with a 5-year-old and an 11-year-old.
They generate 1.21 jigawatts of energy.
Perseids In Joshua Tree. 

It was one of the early years of this millennium, and my Hungarian wife's adult kids were visiting our home in Los Angeles from Budapest. In mid-August, we took them up to the California high desert near Twentynine Palms, and showed them some Joshua trees. They loved 'em. Then we checked into a local motel, and I told everybody to get to sleep early, and be ready for a knock on their door at 1am. I'm sure they suspected it was just the ravings of a crazy American. Anikó even dismissed it as the babbling of her nutso foreign hoozhband.

So we all went to sleep, and when my alarm went off at 1am, Anikó sat up and looked at me in disbelief, with bleary eyes. I hustled her out of bed, and we knocked on the kids' door, telling them: "Get dressed, and grab the comforters off your beds!" They probably thought it was some sort of emergency drill.

We drove ten miles, up into Joshua Tree National Park, and parked beside the road. There was no traffic at that time of night, and I told everybody to spread out their comforters in the sand, near each other. They looked at me like I was certifiably insane. I have to admit that I was a little uncertain about this whole plan, because I had never tried anything like it before. But I knew theoretically that if everything worked out well, it could be a memorable night.

The light pollution in that part of the world was almost non-existent, and after a few minutes, when their eyes adjusted, I pointed out the ribbon of stars stretching across the sky - our galaxy, the Milky Way. They all liked that. It's not something you can see from Budapest, or even Los Angeles. Then the real fun began.

As the first Perseid meteor flashed across the sky, there were three amazed gasps. The second shooting star followed soon after, and they all wanted to know what was happening. "It's the best meteor shower of the year," I said. They asked for more details, so I lectured a bit, telling them what little I knew of the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle and the space rubble it leaves in its wake. The informal lesson was punctuated by whispered cries of "Look!" and "Over there!" and "That was a loooooong one!"

We watched for at least a couple of hours, because every time I suggested going back to the motel, they wanted to stay "just a little longer." How can you say no to that?!

Even now, a dozen years later, the subject inevitably comes up when we all get together. That's when everybody discusses, with hushed reverence, The Night Of The Meteors.


Perseid Meteor Shower Peak Thrills Skywatchers: How You Can Still Watch
Choke Joke. 

Two hillbillies walk into a restaurant and have a bite to eat. Suddenly, a woman eating a sandwich at a nearby table begins to cough. After a minute or so, one of the hillbillies looks at her and says, "Kin ya swallar?" The woman shakes her head no. Then he asks, "Kin ya breathe?" The woman shakes her head no, and begins to turn blue.

The hillbilly walks over to the woman, lifts up her dress, yanks down her panties, and quickly gives her right butt cheek a lick with his tongue. The woman is so shocked that she has a violent spasm, and the obstruction flies out of her mouth. As she begins to breathe again, the hillbilly walks back to his table.

His partner says, "Ya know, I've heerd of that there 'Hind Lick Maneuver' but I ain't never seed nobody do it!"
Independence Day is hot dogs, beer, barbecues, Bill Pullman...
Independence Day
...and a revolutionary document signed by a few very brave men...


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton


Image of the Declaration at the Library of Congress.
The Ring of Brodgar. 

A full Scottish breakfast is a thing to behold: meats, eggs, tomatoes, fruit, the works. I had downed a full Scottish breakfast on the morning of May 17, then we hopped on a ferry headed for Orkney. The waves were... well, let's say... quite noticeable, and my stomach sloshed around energetically.

When we arrived on the island, we hopped in the car and visited several sites, including the Ring of Brodgar, a 341-foot-diameter Neolithic stone circle and henge.

Halfway around the Ring, I came to the horrifying realization that my Scottish breakfast was about to make an explosive exit, one way or another.

Anikó was very helpful, standing guard whilst I dumped a substantial load on the shores of a local loch.

I bought a t-shirt to commemorate the experience.
Four of the Amazon reviews on Vlad are 5-star!  Click for Amazon Kindle eBook page

But I felt compelled to comment on the other two:

>>1 out of 5 stars By Danusia Workiewycz on January 31, 2016: Amateurish effort, author should stick to something other than writing. A complete waste of my time!
>>MY COMMENT: Most Romanians hate this book. It tells the truth about Vlad.

>>1 out of 5 stars By Amazon Customer on May 3, 2016: Bloody, disgusting, humiliating, just nasty. I could only read about a third of the book and had to quit, too many other stories that I could read and enjoy, not this book. I would not recommend it.
>>MY COMMENT: You were warned. Twice. The words "graphic transgressive violence" appear both on this page, and at the beginning of the book itself.
The Most Terrifying Single-Track Road In The Entire F*cking World. 

We visited some of the Scottish islands last week, and one (or two?) of them were in the Outer Hebrides. Lewis and Harris is just a 90-minute ferry ride across The Minch from Skye and we stayed in a wonderful B&B in Tarbert, on the south (Harris) part of Lewis and Harris. The next day, my lovely wife wanted to visit a 16th-century church in Rodel, which is only 17 miles away on the map provided by our GPS.

However, the reality of driving to Rodel turned out to be a lot more challenging than it looked on the GPS screen. For one thing, this was only my second day of driving on the "wrong" side of the road and I was still a bit shaky. Plus, the road chosen by the GPS was along the east coast of Harris, which is full of small but steep hills. But the kicker was the single-track road, which had sharp drop-offs on both sides. Even though there were many places to pull over and let oncoming cars pass (the Scots call them, logically enough, "Passing Places"), the steep and hilly nature of the road meant that we had to drive over the top of many single-lane hills with absolutely no idea if there was any oncoming traffic. No wonder Lewis and Harris has a reputation as a super-religious island. We are not churchgoing people, but we found ourselves doing a sh*tload of praying on the steep uphills of that hair-raising road.

Then there were the sheep, which roam freely over much of the island. Since they have the right of way, we had many stops for meandering sheep. At one of the Passing Places, we came upon a female sheep standing in the middle of the road with her hind legs stiffly outstretched. At first, I thought she had some sort of leg deformity, but then I noticed the steaming puddle forming underneath her crotch. From then on, we couldn't read a "Passing Place" sign correctly - the words automatically became "Pissing Place" in our minds.

The trip lasted only about an hour and a half, but it seemed *much* longer, and the stress probably chopped two or three years off our lifespans. The tension was also taking its toll on my driving speed, so Anikó The Navigator eventually noticed that the GPS was estimating an arrival time that kept getting later and later, the closer we got. It felt like Zeno was driving.
Is Erin Burnett really Scottish? 

I just found this 2014 CNN video ("Erin Burnett traces her roots to remote Scottish island") on YouTube:

I was naturally interested, since I spent several days in Scotland last year. The CNN crew took a ferry (@4:02), so I wondered what exotic, remote island they were visiting. The island turned out to be Skye, which is a lovely and exotic place, but it's not really remote. In fact, it's only 500 meters off the Scottish mainland! I know, because I drove to Skye last year, over this bridge:

, which opened in 1995. The cost of Erin's ferry was £18.80 ($27.13) for each car, plus £5.60 ($8.08) for each person in the car. Crossing the bridge is free.

All of this unnecessary expense makes me question whether Erin Burnett is really Scottish.
Erudite. Three syllables. Not four. 

While channel surfing yesterday, I happened to watch a few minutes of a tween movie in the Detergent series. Or was it Divergent? Who knows. Who cares?

Well, I do. A little bit. You see, the actors were giving their teeny-bop audience a horrible lesson in the pronunciation of the word "erudite," which means "having or showing knowledge that is learned by studying." Or maybe they were making fun of the correct pronunciation, to show how un-erudite they actually were.

It seems that Erudite was the name of a group, or gang, in the film. And the actors were all saying AIR-ee-yuh-dyte. This is a common error in everyday speaking, but you would think they'd take the trouble to get it right in a movie about Erudites, fergawdsake.

Moral: it doesn't matter if you favor the pronunciation that the Brits say we use (AIR-yuh-dyte) or our own "preferred" pronunciation (AIR-uh-dyte), but please don't put four syllables in the damn word.
Onychocryptosis (toenail detail). 

In the early 1980s, I accidentally kicked a desk, which pulled the nail up from my right big toe at a 45-degree angle. Yeah, it was horrifying. You remember when George Clooney got his fingernails pulled out in Syriana? It was like that. Only different. I pushed the nail back down, in the vain hope that I could somehow make things better, but the situation just deteriorated from there. The nail eventually turned black and fell off. However, our bodies are amazingly adept at healing themselves, and a new nail grew back, during the next year or so. It was weird and thick and funky-looking, but at least it was a nail.

Flash forward to late February, 2016, when I made a painful discovery. Over the years, my toenail has become as hard as titanium, and now requires specialized tools just to survive the monthly toenail-cutting ritual, Plus, the side of the nail has been insidiously invading the skin of my toe. Evidently, that nail does not wish to endure a repeat of the desk-kicking-toenail-detaching incident, so it's been growing a firm anchor into my flesh. Doctors call this an "ingrown toenail," but it felt like a jagged rock had lodged itself inside my toe. My wife, bless her heart, attempted some minor surgery, Poor Anikó never thought "in sickness and in health" would include this kind of sh*t. She really went above and beyond the call of duty, and for awhile, I thought she had fixed it. Then I limped around in pain for a month, hoping against hope that my body would again heal itself, but no such luck.

So I finally broke down and made an appointment with a podiatrist. I was convinced that a massive spiky object was growing inside my toe, so I had him take x-rays. Nope, it was just a "simple" ingrown toenail. He prepared three needles to numb my toe, and after the first one, I said, "That's not too bad." He smiled an evil smile and replied, "Don't say anything yet. I'm not done." Sure enough, the second one was a killer. When his needle went all the way through the width of my toe, I yelped and cursed his entire lineage. He smiled again, and later accepted my apology. Evidently, this is standard procedure for these types of operations. The three needles were not enough to numb me completely, so he inserted three more, about ten minutes later. My toe was already partially anesthetized, so those were not quite so bad.

The surgery involved cutting a quarter-inch-wide strip from the right side of my toenail. I was surprised that he had to remove the entire length of the nail, and I watched with fascination while he wiped the blood off the nearly-two-inch-long strip of nail, He showed me the tiny two-pronged dagger that was causing all the trouble, but then he went digging around inside my cuticle, too, He laughed and said, "This is where you want someone with experience." After rooting around in the blood for awhile, he ripped out a tiny piece of the nail root, with a triumphant exclamation: "Aha! This little baby can often cause a lot of trouble." That was when I decided that podiatrists are really just closet sadists.

No, no, no, that's not fair. Dr. Connell patiently took x-rays to soothe my concerns, even when he knew the images would show nothing. And his off-the-hook sense of humor helped me get through a nightmarish experience with some hearty laughs. Good guy. Good doctor.

Vlad the Impaler solves the homeless problem. 

Click for Amazon Kindle eBook pageFree eBook [Warning: violent]
Vlad stops outside the hall and confers with DRAGOMIR, the Captain of his guards:
VLAD: You have gathered together all the cripples, the poor, the sick, the vagrants and beggars of this land?
DRAGOMIR: Yes, Voivode. They're quite a smelly crowd, but they seem to be having a good time. It's lasted all day, and half the night.
Vlad nods, and walks inside the hall.
Hundreds of wretched PEOPLE are enjoying a sumptuous feast. They stuff themselves with huge plates of food, and drink jugs of wine until they can drink no more. Things are getting pretty ROWDY, but everyone quiets down at the sight of Vlad.
VLAD: No one should go hungry in my land! What else do you need? Do you all want to be without cares... would you like to be poor no more?
VLAD: Then it shall be done!
He walks out.
Vlad addresses his Captain:
VLAD: Dragomir, all my subjects should work, and contribute to the common welfare. Let's make sure these parasites will present no further burden to others.
Dragomir nods, and signals to his MEN. They NAIL planks over the doors and windows, and set fire to the hall.
VLAD (continuing): Remember: no survivors.
Dragomir salutes, as Vlad walks away. The people inside the burning building begin to SCREAM.