Monday, June 30, 2014

A Little Spice In Life

Last week I suffered a short bout of abdominal distress, likely caused by eating the wrong food.  My grand daughter brought me some ginger ale and crackers.  I like ginger ale, but it's just one of those things I forget about most of the time.  It does seem to help with stomach distress.  Some say it's merely a placebo effect, and that may be.  Who cares, if it seems to work?

Ginger beer has been around since about the mid 1800's, I believe.  Later, a different carbonation process eliminated the alcohol though the taste appeared to stay pretty much the same.  So now, it's used more as a mixer for alcohol if the buzz is desired.  But it does have a great taste that is decidedly different from other colas and sodas.

The ginger taste has been used since about the eleventh century in Europe.  The spice is a preservative for pastries and bread, which is a great asset.  But the taste is delectable as well.  Sometimes the spicy batter was mixed up and served as a cake, sometimes as a flat cake - often cut in shapes denoting humans, animals or celestial stars, and often as a thick slice of bread.  You know what?  I like them all.  Again, a taste that is often set aside for long periods of time until I rediscover a recipe or boxed mix and just have to indulge.

And let's not forget the Christmas season when you often see gingerbread houses decorated a la Hansel and Gretel style with enough candy to boggle the mind of any wicked witch enticing hungry children into her home.  Our local Max Milam Library has an annual event of decorating them as an event for the kids in the area.  They actually use graham crackers for the houses, and when you have about 150 kids show up for the event you can see the necessity of fast, sturdy construction.

I have consumed more ginger ale this week, for the taste enjoyed last week slung a craving on me.  I  have yet to bake any gingerbread, but it could very well be in my near future.  And I will certainly enjoy the treat.

Do you have a special treat that may go forgotten for periods of time?  I'd love to know.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Statistics Prove ...

     Definition of Statistics:  The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures.  - 
          Evan Esar

Statistics can be the bane of human existence.  There are those who love to throw them in your face and think that settles any argument.  And there are those who have no belief in such facts, thinking they are made up or distorted to prove an argument with no way to quit talking and find the proof of the statement.

     Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive.  -
          George Bernard Shaw

     Statistics are no substitute for judgment.  -  Henry Clay

While in college I was required to take a statistics class.  Since Psychology was my minor, I decided to take the class under that department.  This turned out to be a very wise decision.  Dr. Hines made the class fun as well as informative.  He would throw out a statistic and open the class to discussion before getting down to the work for the day. I enjoyed school and had no problem entering into the discussions.

One day he opened with this:  Statistics prove that males reach their intellectual height at the age of 30, after which they show a slow gradual decline.  Females reach their intellectual height at the age of six, with a very sudden decline after that age.

No one said anything.  Finally he said, "Well, Karen, what's your take on this?"

I sat back in my chair in what I assumed was a contemplative pose and took my time, then gave my reply as such:  I took my first college class 15 years after graduating from high school.  I am now 35 years old.  I am taking 21 hours per semester and have a 3.78 grade point average.  (Bolting upright in my chair, I slapped my hands on my desk and exclaimed):  My God, what was I at six?

Was I a genius at six?  No.  But at 35 I definitely was a motivated student.  I would never have taken that course load or made those grades at 18 or 19 years of age.  What was the difference when I did go?

I married right out of high school and two years later had a baby.  We didn't have a lot of money, but at the age of 32 we had reached a point we could finally think of buying a house.  Then my husband, bless his heart, started a conversation.  He said, yes we could get a house, but he thought it would be better if I went to college.  Wow! 

He was a firefighter and they worked 24 hour shifts.  He volunteered to take on extra jobs so I could quit mine and devote myself to college full time, and get out without being in debt.  Our 13 year old son was capable of doing a lot for himself at that time.  So I tackled college with zest.  How could I not?  If he was working that hard, it would have been impossible for me to just take 12 or 15 hours, take off summers, and just fluff through.  And I was not interested in the college social scene.  In my heart I believed I should be willing to work at least as hard as he did and get through as quickly as possible.

As a result in 3 years and 11 months I completed all coursework, did my practicum in speech pathology, took my national exams, and completed the thesis, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor's in communicative disorders and, in that same time frame, also completed all work for a master of science in speech pathology.  Just under four years of college and two degrees.

Am I proud of what I did?  Of course.  Does it make me extra intelligent or superior in some fashion?  Absolutely not.  Would I insist that all college students follow my path?  No.  But it does skew the statistics if you look only at the work and intellectual ability.  Motivation and interest in the endeavor can be just as important when you undertake a major task.

     Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination. -
          Vin Scully

Whatever the statistics in your life, may it all be good with a large dose of love and joy thrown in.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Continued Legal Contemplations

When I was looking over all these laws it did make me wonder about the folks who decided to introduce them into their state legislative bodies, and about those who agreed with the need for these particular items being enacted.

Massachusetts      -  No gorilla is allowed in the back seat of any car.  (Oh, yeah.  This
                                 had to be a consistent threat to the population.)
Michigan             -   It is illegal for a man to scowl at his wife on Sunday.  (Now this
                                 could actually lead to a more civil home life for those who indulge
                                 in the behavior.  But was there so many scowlers in the state that
                                 it was necessary to stop it legally?)
Minnesota            -   A person may not cross state lines with a duck atop his head.  (So
                                 many things one could say about this, but I'll just take a pass and
                                 let it speak for itself.)
Mississippi           -   In Tylertown it is unlawful to shave in the center of Main Street.
                                  (I would think it would also be inconvenient as well.  You'd have
                                  to assemble all the necessities with a little water as well.  It just
                                  couldn't be worth all the trouble.)
Missouri               -   It is illegal to install bathtubs with the four legs resembling animal
                                  paws.  (Was there a fear that in the middle of the night the legs
                                  would become alive with a porcelain body and chase the home's
                                  inhabitants around the premises?  Who knows?)
Montana               -   Wives of the state, beware.  It is a felony for you to open your
                                  husband's mail.  (Does this apply if he is on a business trip and
                                  asks her to do so?)
Nebraska              -   It is illegal to go whale fishing.  (Okay, Nebraska is slap dab in the
                                  middle of the 48 contiguous United States.  Not an ocean anywhere
                                  for many a mile.  Just how many opportunities will you have to
                                  actually break this law?  Hmmm.)
Nevada                 -   It is illegal to drive a camel on the highway.  (There probably aren't
                                  too many camels in the state now.  If my history is correct there were
                                  camels introduced in some few desert states in the hopes of better
                                  transportation.  I doubt many still exist, but then I could be wrong.)
New Hampshire   -   You are not allowed to tap your feet, nod your head, or in any way
                                 keep time to the music in taverns, restaurants or cafes.  (Whoa!  Not
                                 a place prone to elicit good time feelings, wouldn't you say?)
New Jersey          -   A man is breaking the law if he insists on knitting during fishing
                                 season.  (Somehow I just don't get the connection between these
                                 two activities.)

The nice thing about looking at all these laws is the realization that all states have something on the books that we would find just plain odd.  Not one can claim superiority in clear thinking.  Wouldn't you like to sit down and have a chat with the folks who bring these up for consideration?  And there is more to come.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Are You Happy?

Recently there has been a flap in the news about a Middle Eastern country giving some young folks legal problems because they were dancing to a song by Pharrell Williams called "Happy."  Have you heard the song?  I have and I like it.

It seems odd to a lot of folks everywhere that someone could get their undies in a knot over folks being happy.  Here in the United States of America we learned in school (and I do hope they still teach) that happiness is part of our heritage.  In the Declaration of Independence you see the phrase "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Thomas Jefferson was, I believe, the father of the phrase, and I do love the words and the meaning behind them.  This intent was then encoded within the Constitution of the United States.  Of course, like Benjamin Franklin said, "The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness.  You have to catch it yourself."

As Abraham Lincoln said, "Most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be."  So put on your catcher's mitt and put yourself in place to get all the happiness you can.  But you do have to work on it yourself.  You can't just stand around, saying, "Here I am.  Make me happy."

As one anonymous writer said:  Happiness is a choice. 

I am so glad I live in a country that gives us the ability to make such a choice.  And as for me, I try to grab all the happiness I can.  I don't always succeed, but I do put out the effort on more days than not.  May you find a lot of happiness and joy in your life, each and every day.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

You've Got to Stay Legal

It's always fun to look at what folks have felt necessary to legislate all across the country and over many years.  And unfortunately many of these laws stay on the books for what seems like forever.  I looked at laws in 10 states earlier.  Today, let's look at the next ten in alphabetical order.

Hawaii          -  You can not own a mongoose without a permit.
Idaho            -  You may not fish from a camel's back in the state.  And in the state capitol of
                         Boise you may not fish from a giraffe's back.  (Neither of these animals are
                         native to the state, so I would think you wouldn't see them just everywhere.
                         What would incline one to think of them as fishing platforms?)
Illinois          -  It is illegal to cut the tail off a horse.
Indiana         -  Baths may not be taken between the months of October and March.
Iowa             -  A man with a moustache may never kiss a woman in public.
Kansas         -  If two trains meet on the same track, neither shall proceed until the other has
                        passed.  (This same law was enacted in several other states with almost the
                        exact same wording.)
Kentucky     -  It is illegal to remarry the same man four times.  (No mention about a man's
                        ability to remarry the same woman multiple times.)
Louisiana    -  In New Orleans you can not tie an alligator to a fire hydrant (something I'm
                       sure the firemen are proud about).
Maine          -  You need a permit to have a pig scramble.
Maryland     -  It is illegal to take a lion to the movies.

There you have it.  Now you know how to behave in a legal fashion in a few more of our states.  So have fun, but take care and stay out of jail.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Trials of Early Firefighting

Firefighting has never been an easy job.  It still isn't.  The men attracted to the profession, whether volunteer or professional, are an independent lot as a rule, and have been known to shade the rules a smidgen here and there.  In my research I found a few examples of some of their actions.

Arkansas Gazette, April 10, 1858:     "We were at the fire on Saturday night, and though pleased with the zeal exhibited by the fire department we regretted their want of discipline; ... Such persons as have no authority to order or direct things should keep their counsel to themselves; or at any rate not interfere with those whose duty and province it is to give orders, and take a superintending charge on such occasion."

Corpus Christie, Texas, 1874:     "The Pioneer Fire company and the lone Star Hook and Ladder joined forces to become the Corpus Christie Fire Department.  When the volunteer firemen were called out on a fire, the nearest saloon commonly passed out a few rounds to the men who fought the fire.  This was instrumental in ensuring an adequate turnout of volunteer firemen."
Charleston, West Virginia, 1875:     "Bylaws of the Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1 expressly forbid firemen throwing water on each other."

Little Rock, Arkansas, October 1884:     "Minutes of the Defiance Hook & Ladder Co.:  No meeting because of superior attractions of a circus."

Little Rock, Arkansas, February 16, 1886:     "Minutes of the Defiance Hook & Ladder Co.:  Upon motion of Mr. Zeisler, Mr. Curtain was excused from payment of the fines charged against him for non-attendance at meeting on account of his inability to be out at night."

Montclair, New jersey, 1894:     "The fire department published a list of revised rules for their members, one of which prohibited the intentional collisions of fire apparatus while responding to an alarm."

Things are no doubt a little more organized and orderly today, but they are still good people who do a wonderful job looking out for all of us.  Both my husband and my son have been employed as firemen and I respect all those who provide this service.

And I love to see the stories of the evolution of their profession.