Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Education”

Reblog From “A Teacher’s Reflection” – “Mason And The Rainbow Song”

It is a distinct pleasure to Reblog “Mason And The Rainbow Song” from “A Teacher’s Reflection.” by Jennie Fitzkee

 

Mason and the Rainbow Song

Mason and the Rainbow Song

by Jennie

Yesterday I filled-in at my school’s summer camp.  When I arrived at noon, children were at lunch.  After all the hugs and hollers, they begged for a ‘Jennie Story’, especially Mason. Interestingly, Mason has never been in my class. He was a kindergartner this past year. Like many children, he has heard my Jennie Stories through the school grapevine.

Later in the day, I was in the bathroom with Mason as he changed out of his wet bathing suit.  Bear in mind that the mind of a child is far more brilliant and fascinating than we realize.  The recall of a moment or a story or a song can be spontaneous.  And that’s exactly what happened in the bathroom with Mason.

The conversation went something like this:

“Jennie, I wish we could sing the rainbow song at camp.”

“What is the rainbow song?  Can you sing some of it for me?”

“Okay.”

Then Mason sang a few words, “Red and yellow and…”

“Mason, I know that song!  I love that song.  You sang it at your kindergarten graduation.  I remember.  Can you sing it again for me?”

“Yes!”

Mason puffed up his chest with pride.  Yet, he had a somewhat worried look.  I could tell he was missing kindergarten and this song, and he wanted to be able to sing it to me.

“Mason, can I sing along with you?”

He smiled and nodded at the same time.

Together we sang “I Can Sing a Rainbow.”  It was joyous.  Mason was terrible. I was worse. We barely remembered the words.  But, that didn’t matter at all. Mason needed to sing and remember, and I was lucky to tag along and be there for him.

After singing, we smiled and headed out to the playground.  Mason stopped.

“I love you, Jennie.”

“I love you, too, Mason.”

And that was that.  Five minutes in the bathroom can be the best teaching, and an even better giving.

Jennie

Throwback Thursday From July 2016 – “When I Grow Up I Want To Be…”

Throwback Thursday From July 2016 –

When I Grow Up I Want To Be…

lid1WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN we all had fantasies about what we wanted to be when we “grew up.” I wanted to be a cowboy. Dawn wanted to be a Playwright – a rather precocious child. My brother wanted to be a baseball player. In one of my father’s high school yearbooks he listed that his career ambition was to become a “Traveling Silk Stocking Salesman.” I’m sure his mother was thrilled when she saw that. He ended up as a Roofer.

 

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Throwback Thursday from May 2016 – “Don’t Take Me Wrong Folks”

 

Throwback Thursday from May 2016 – “Don’t Take Me Wrong Folks”

 

I THINK IT’S TIME FOR A FEW OBSERVATIONS about Ireland. Of course, none of these are all that important and not meant to denigrate Ireland or its people. It is all just things my warped mind has noticed.

 

I have noticed that wherever we have stayed there are modern, state of the art appliances – except – for the microwave ovens. We have washer/dryer combos that you need to be a NASA physicist to understand and really neat convection ovens that double as Bessemer Furnaces for making steel. When it comes to microwaves it is like stepping into a time warp back to the 1990s. They work fine, but, seriously, when was the last time you used a microwave where you had to set the time and power level with dials.

Very Sherman and Peabody.2

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Throwback Thursday from March 2017 – “What Is This Stuff?”

Throwback Thursday from March 2017 – “What Is This Stuff?”

What Is This Stuff?

faber1TO QUOTE THE FOUNDER OF THAT GREAT INSTITUTION OF HIGHER LEARNING – FABER COLLEGE, “KNOWLEDGE IS GOOD.”

Knowledge is that which is universally agreed upon to be really good “Stuff”. And it is better to go through life with good “Stuff”.

“Stuff” can be just about anything, but some “Stuff” is better than other “Stuff”. For example – faber3It is good to know that your message will be clearer if you don’t use the same word three times in the same sentence (See Above).

Knowing “Stuff” can be profitable. I once knew enough “Stuff” to get on a couple of Game Shows and I walked away with a lovely selection of “Parting Gifts” and some cash. I would have done better if I had known some additional “Stuff”, but “Hey, Stuff Happens!”

“Stuff” accumulates in your brain as you go through life. You learn “Stuff”. You forget “Stuff”,
but there is always more “Stuff” just around the corner. In fact (Fact aka “Stuff”), there is a stuff_logo_hoopstore in Kansas City called “Stuff.” They are open 365 days a year. There is never a lack of demand for “Stuff”. “Stuff” carries a lot of “Stuff”, but most “Stuff” enters our life through the brain.

I have always held to the theory that the brain is like a garbage can. We start out with an empty can and over time we toss in a lot of “Stuff”, some good, some bad, some obligatory. By the time we reach our teen years we think we know everything and have all the “Stuff” we need. Not true. It is during those years that we turn over our cans and dump out all of the “Stuff” we have amassed. Thankfully some “Stuff” sticks to the sides in our can. That is the “Stuff” we will need to survive those teen years when we do all of our thinking with our pants.

The “Stuff” that sticks in our can is called “Knowledge.”

After a few years “Life” (Reality) intrudes and we begin to start gathering “Stuff” again, faber4refilling our garbage cans. What “Stuff” we choose to reject and let bounce off the lid of our can ends up becoming The Congressional Record.

I made the mistake this morning of Googling “Stuff” and I was instantly overstuffed like my Aunt Nellie’s favorite chair. “Stuff” is worldwide. It is not a phenomenon or a movement. It is just – “Stuff”. It seems that the Internet is an attempt to organize “Stuff”. It is an obvious failure, otherwise how would one explain the existence of Facebook?

Much “Stuff” is useless except in emergencies – like first dates and tax audits. However, other “Stuff” can be worth its weight in…“Stuff.”

Knowing how much rice to cook is a bit of important “Stuff.” I know that 2 cups of rice will feed more people than I know.

There are some people who really think that they know all of the “Stuff” there is to know. That, I believe, is both a physical and capacitorial impossibility. How can someone know all that “Stuff?” In the time it took you to read and understand that sentence a whole boatload of new “Stuff” has been added to the pile. One could never catch up.

The world is moving at the “Speed of Stuff.” If somehow you were able break the “Stuff Barrier” you would hear a booming, “What the heck…?”

I don’t see that happening anytime soon. There is just too darn much “Stuff” in the way.

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Throwback Thursday from January 2016 – “Cereal Killer On The Loose”

Throwback Thursday from January 2016

Cereal Killer On The Loose

TOO MUCH EDUCATION CAN BE A DANGEROUS THING.

I know a person with a graduate degree in finance from an Ivy League school. He can squeeze so much value out of a dime that it makes FDR get up and walk.

Now, I like saving money as much as the next guy – maybe a bit more even. I grew up poor with cardboard in my shoes to cover the holes. Even today, at an overripe old age, I still wince whenever I spend money. But, the fellow of whom I speak has elevated money-saving to an Art.

Coupons 1

Earlier this week he told me of his latest trip to Kroger’s to buy some breakfast cereal. He had some coupons in his hand.

When he got to the Cereal Aisle he saw that the object of his hunt was also being discounted. He smiled I’m sure, bordering on a leer.

Many of the “discounts” on the store shelves are as phony as a politician’s promise – The item sells regularly for $1.49, they change it to $1.79 and slap on another tag reading, “Marked Down to $1.49!” Instant Non-Discount.

Sometimes the discounts are real – usually because a buyer screwed up and they are stuck with ten truckloads of the stuff. Of course, some discounts arise after a news report says that the product can make your kids grow extra thumbs or decide to go to college and major in “Organic Bongs of Medieval Japan.”

Back to my tale of Nuclear Couponing in the Cereal Aisle.

In addition to your garden variety discount was another tag offering even bigger markdowns if you bought the cereal boxes 10 at a time. The buyer must have really screwed up. My Friend The Shopper felt like he had just found the Lost Dutchman Mine. He made a trip to chat with the store manager to verify that everything, as he saw it, was kosher. The Manager said that he was entitled to all of the posted discounts – plus – another “Instant Coupon” that would be given to him upon checkout. The coupons he walked in with were those super-duper double coupons and all of this back and forth with the store manager meant that he was getting into some serious high finance negotiations with Kroger’s. For a guy with a degree from Columbia University and a resume that includes a lengthy stint on Wall Street, this was heaven.

Cutting to the chase!

This man, who just wanted to buy some breakfast cereal for himself and his daughter, ended up walking back to his

triple

car with 48 boxes of Post and Kellogg cereals – and a bottle of cranberry juice.

He hadn’t really wanted the cranberry juice, but after the dust settled at the checkout cash register, the store owed him $1.79.

The Manager was concerned that the Home Office in Cincinnati might pop an aneurism if the transaction showed up as a negative cash flow. To circumvent this he grabbed a bottle of cranberry juice off the shelf that cost $1.79 and they called the whole deal a push.

When I heard him tell this story my first thought was, “I hope you and your daughter really like cereal, because you’re going to be eating it every day for a year.

As he told this story I could see a fire in his eyes. This experience has spawned a monster. He said that he has found a cable TV show all about serious “couponing” and “It’s really interesting.”

I told him that I thought it all seemed like something that ended up with a very cult-like fanaticism.

If he keeps up with this “couponing”, I half expect him to shave his head, move to Battle Creek, and start banging a tambourine at the airport.

“Om, mane pay me coupon om.”

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – Grumble, Grumble, Mutiny, Mutiny, Mumble, Mumble

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – 

 

Grumble, Grumble, Mutiny, Mutiny, Mumble, Mumble

Angry gifMY OFFICE IS CROWDED TODAY. Of course, “my office,” also doubles as a corner table in the Starbucks a few blocks from home. I can usually shut out the hubbub and foot traffic around me, but today, for some reason, it is all getting on my nerves.

Most of the people in here at this time of day are college students. This location sits almost exactly halfway between two schools. On most days they have their noses deeply buried in either textbooks or computers, but not today. Today must be a day after they have gotten their grades or test scores back. It sounds like they all did well.

Rather than studying the majority are socializing (read: putting the moves on somebody) and trying to look and sound like they can read and write in cursive. I’m seeing short hair being combed and patted to keep it in place and long hair being tossed and flipped, almost as punctuation marks.

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Thanks For Asking

WHEN I GALUMPHED OUT TO THE MAILBOX THE OTHER DAY I noticed that mixed in with the usual bills, ads from politicians and “You may already be a winner!” junk was a card from my old Alma Mater.

At first I thought it was another begging notice asking me to include them in my will. Lotsa luck on that. This card was something else – it was an invitation. I was being asked to come to my 50th college class reunion. Considering that I had never gone to any of the previous reunions I think that this invitation was a real long shot.

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Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – “When It Comes To Wasting Time I Am Self-Taught”

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – 

 

When It Comes To Wasting Time I Am Self-Taught

Kite with keyWHILE HANGING TEN OFF MY KEYBOARD today I bumped into a tidbit of info that is, perhaps, the most Obvious, Redundant, and Dumb As a Sackful of Hammers thing I’ve seen in quite a while.

The University of Pennsylvania, Department of English, is offering a course with the title of, “Wasting Time On The Internet.”

Well, yeah. And your point is…?

I’m guessing that the course is being offered through the English Dept. because Kenneth Goldsmith, the alleged instructor, either lost a bet or was so strung out of Red Bull that it seemed like a good idea at the time – or even just an idea.

I would think that such a course would be truly inter-disciplinary. It could easily fit in the Depts. Of Philosophy, Economics, Gender Studies, Computer Sciences, Phys. Ed., and/or Early Childhood Development. I stopped there because I realized that it could probably fit anywhere except the Library and the Student STD Clinic.

It is also fitting into the Tuition Billing Statement sent to Parents each term. One look at Junior’s course load and Daddy is likely to suffer a TIA episode and start calculating the drive-time to the nearest Community College.

The course is described thusly: “The class will, ‘Explore the long history of recuperation of boredom and time-wasting.’”

There is a more “in depth” (aka “piled higher”) description, but I’m not going to type it all out. I tried, but my Spell Check began to giggle. http://www.english.upenn.edu/courses/undergraduate/2015/spring/engl111.301 

Upon clicking on the Instructor’s link I learned, in spite of it all, that he has also taught another course called, “Uncreative Writing: Robotic Erotica/Erotic Robotics: Scribing a Non-Expressive Sexuality.”

(Batteries extra?)

Why am I not surprised by this?

His Bio blurb says that he has published ten (count ‘em 10) books of poetry and has a list of credits that provide a comfortable living.

I don’t begrudge it to him at all. To paraphrase another showman – a fellow named Barnum – “There’s a new one born every minute.”

“Wasting time on the Internet”

I’ve always thought of it as something that one does by instinct, not needing to be taught. Even as I’m writing this I am getting the feeling that I am doing it quite well. And I’ve never had a lesson in it in my entire life.

Maybe I should start freelancing a bit and teach others to do what they already know how to do. I could expand my course offerings to include:

“Breathing 101: How to Inhale and Exhale on a Regular Basis.”

“Recognizing the Differences Between Up and Down.”

“How to Lie Down – Without Holding On.”

I wonder if Mr. Goldsmith ever took the class called, “The Difference Between the Tenure Track and the Railroad Track.”  One can take you somewhere and the other can run you over. It can be tricky telling them apart sometimes.

The University of Pennsylvania was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1749. One of the more clever and witty men of his age I think he might be amused by “Wasting Time on the Internet.” He might even sign up to take the course. Maybe, but he was also a very practical man who might read the description of the class and turn to Mr. Goldsmith and say, “ Next time you’re trying to fly a kite in a storm– learn to let go of the key. It’ll reboot you something fierce.”

Where Is Mr. Miyagi When You Need Him?

OUR LIFE IS BUSY ENOUGH THESE DAYS what with family business, New Doctors, Old Doctors, and the Christmas holiday season swirling about us like a ten speed blender with the lid off. We don’t need gnats.

Gnats, those little itty-bitty flying critters that come out of nowhere, annoy the heck out of you, and then fly away before you can get a good swat at them. I don’t know how they got in here, but I can tell you where I’d like them to go.

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A Reblog: “Why Reading Aloud Made Cuban Cigars Great”

Today I have the pleasure of reblogging a most fascinating posting about the joys and impact of reading aloud.

New post on “A Teacher’s Reflections”

Why Reading Aloud Made Cuban Cigars Great

by Jennie

While reading aloud is my passion and what I do- because it makes a marked difference in learning- I always write about reading aloud to children.

Well, there’s more.  Adults.  The proof of reading aloud making a difference is in the high quality of Cuban cigars.  It’s a great story, one of my favorites.

Reading aloud never gets old.  It weathers time and generations.  For adults, when we are read to, we listen, think and feel.  And, we have to stretch our brain.  When we only hear the words it sharpens our mind, and our performance is much better.

The Cuban cigar industry understood this.  That’s why they make the finest cigars.

They have la lectura, who reads aloud for up to four hours to the factory workers, from the daily news to Shakespeare to current books.  This is both brilliant and common sense; the workers are entertained, happy and productive.

Jim Trelease writes about this in his million-copy bestseller book, The Read-Aloud Handbook.  He is a master writer and has it nailed on reading aloud.  Here is an excerpt from the chapter about the history of reading aloud and its proof:

Then there is the history of the reader-aloud in the labor force.  When the cigar industry blossomed in the mid-1800’s, supposedly the best tobacco came from Cuba (although much of the industry later moved to Tampa, Florida area).  These cigars were hand-rolled by workers who became artisans in the delicate craft, producing hundreds of perfectly rolled specimens daily.  Artistic as it may have been, it was still repetitious labor done in stifling factories.  To break the monotony, workers hit upon the idea of having someone read aloud to them while they worked, known in the trade as ‘la lectura’.

The reader usually sat on an elevated platform or podium in the middle of the room and read aloud for four hours, covering newspapers, classics, and even Shakespeare.

As labor became more organized in the United States, the readings kept workers informed of progressive ideas throughout the world  as well as entertained.  When factory owners realized the enlightening impact of the readings, they tried to stop them but met stiff resistance from the workers, each of whom was paying the readers as much as twenty-five cents per week out of pocket.

The daily readings added to the workers’ intellect and general awareness while civilizing the atmosphere of the workplace.  By the 1930’s, however, with cigar sales slumping due to the Great Depression and unions growing restive with mechanization on the horizon, the owners declared that the reader-aloud had to go.  Protest strikes followed but to no avail, and eventually readers were replaced by radio.  But not in Cuba.

The Cuban novelist Miguel Barnet reports, “Today, all over Cuba, this tradition is alive and well.  Readers are in all the factories, from Santiago to Havana to Pinar del Rio.  The readings have specific timetables and generally begin with the headlines of the day’s newspapers.  After reading the newspaper, the readers take a break and then begin reading the unfinished book from the day before.  Most are women.”

Used by permission of the author, Jim Trelease, 2013, The Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin)

No wonder Cuban cigars are among the finest.  This story is one of my favorites and illustrates the effect reading aloud has on people.  Thank goodness I get to do this multiple times every day with children.

Jennie

Thank You, Jennie for your work and your delightful outlook on the world.

John

Throwback Thursday from Nov. 2015 – Grumble, Grumble, Mutiny, Mutiny, Mumble, Mumble

Throwback Thursday from Nov. 2015 – 

Grumble, Grumble, Mutiny, Mutiny, Mumble, Mumble

Angry gifMY OFFICE IS CROWDED TODAY. Of course, “my office,” also doubles as a corner table in the Starbucks a few blocks from home. I can usually shut out the hubbub and foot traffic around me, but today, for some reason, it is all getting on my nerves.

Most of the people in here at this time of day are college students. This location sits almost exactly halfway between two schools. On most days they have their noses deeply buried in either textbooks or computers, but not today. Today must be a day after they have gotten their grades or test scores back. It sounds like they all did well.

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I Don’t Want To Know The Score

“O, HAIL THE MIGHTY SYCAMORES!” At home along the banks of the Wabash. There, that sounds majestic enough. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense though when you’re talking about a football team.

The Indiana State University football team goes by the fearsome name of “The Fighting Sycamores.” Doesn’t that just put a tremor loose in your heart? No. Me neither.

Their football stadium is about a minute away from our front door. We can hear the bands at halftime and the oohing and ahhhing of the crowds. When the Fighting Sycamores score a touchdown they fire off a cannon in sheer delight. We haven’t heard the cannon much lately.

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That’s My Cue

BE WARNED. I’VE GOT ON MY THINKING CAP.

When that happens the dogs howl, babies cry and milk goes bad on the “Best if used by…” date. And I usually end up with my neck in a wringer.

What triggered my lobes into action was a feeling, a nostalgia, perhaps. I got an email from a local theater group that is holding auditions for their next production. I have no interest in that particular play, but it hit a responsive chord in my heart.

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Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

When It Comes To Wasting Time I Am Self-Taught

Kite with keyWHILE HANGING TEN OFF MY KEYBOARD today I bumped into a tidbit of info that is, perhaps, the most Obvious, Redundant, and Dumb As a Sackful of Hammers thing I’ve seen in quite a while.

The University of Pennsylvania, Department of English, is offering a course with the title of, “Wasting Time On The Internet.”

Well, yeah. And your point is…?

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A Territorial Dispute

LIKE MOST PEOPLE I AM A CREATURE OF HABIT. I tend to want to do today what I did yesterday and I don’t like anybody to mess with that – and by extension – me. His morning I was faced with such a situation

Just about every day I start my conscious activities down the street at St. Arbucks. I get my coffee, as usual, and then I stumble to my table in the corner, as usual. Sip coffee. Take meds. Plug in phone. Write. That’s it – nothing fancy, but critical nonetheless.

Today everything was moving along swimmingly until I turned the corner and prepared myself to hunker down in the corner.

THERE WERE PEOPLE SITTING AT MY TABLE!

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What Do You Mean, “Move?”

I LOVE OLD MOVIES. It doesn’t hamper my enjoyment if it is a film that is 20 years old, or 30, 50, or even older than me.

“Oh, it has sound. What fun!”

Last night, at an ungodly hour, I grabbed the remote and tuned into my 173rd viewing of “The Producers,” a gem of a movie from 1967 with Gene Wilder in his first major role and the completely insane Zero Mostel.

If you have never seen this movie, Shame on you! Go to your room!

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Looking Back 

Throwback Thursday

1I THINK IT’S TIME FOR A FEW OBSERVATIONS about Ireland. Of course, none of these are all that important and not meant to denigrate Ireland or its people. It is all just things my warped mind has noticed.

I have noticed that wherever we have stayed there are modern, state of the art appliances – except – for the microwave ovens. We have washer/dryer combos that you need to be a NASA physicist to understand and really neat convection ovens that double as Bessemer Furnaces for making steel. When it comes to microwaves it is like stepping into a time warp back to the 1990s. They work fine, but, seriously, when was the last time you used a microwave where you had to set the time and power level with dials.

Very Sherman and Peabody.2

This is not our first time in Ireland and the Irish are friendly, helpful, and very understanding of our American quirks and I try to do the same with their idiosyncrasies and ideas.

3

Famine Museum and Cafe

One of the most traumatic and history changing times in this nation’s life were the years of the Great Famine. Just before the potato blight destroyed the economic and social structure of Ireland for the first time in the 1840s the population was over 8 million people. A million people starved to death, another million fled to other countries, the U.S. taking in huge numbers. Even today, 175 years after the first famine hit, the population of Ireland has not recovered – sitting at about 6.5 million souls.

The reason for this short history lesson is that the other day my wife, the lovely and ever on top of her history, Dawn, and I visited the National Museum of The Great Famine. It is located in Strokestown on the grounds of the former British Lord who had his plantation and large numbers of sharecroppers and land lessees. When those Irish workers were unable to turn a profit for the Lord or pay their rents to him he evicted them, destroyed the shacks where they slept and left them adrift in the midst of the road. With others, he sold them (there is no other word) onto emigrant “Coffin Ships” bound for American shores.

So – today 135 years since the last total crop failure – the Famine is a sensitive issue.

And that is where My Observation enters –

There we were at The Nation Great Famine Museum and taking all of this in about starvation and cruelty, and what did we do?4

We sat down with a seriously overloaded plate, filled to overflowing, with turkey with bacon, carrots and three scoops of potatoes with gravy. There was enough for at least two people on my plate alone.

I just found this lunch, and the idea of a café at all, as a part of the Great Famine Museum, to be in questionable taste (no pun intended), and ironic to the Nth degree. But who am I to argue – it is their country and their history.

The turkey was excellent, by the way.

My last observation is not nearly as important, except on an intimately personal level.

5I have noticed that the Irish are really into conservation, making things have multiple uses, and recycling. I’m cool with that, but I think they may have stepped over the line when you have Irish toilet paper that can also find service in the woodworking shop as the business end of your belt sander.

Belt_sander

Read Your Rights

TODAY IS FRIDAY, THE GATEWAY TO REAL LIFE. I sat down this morning to write something brilliant, moving, hilarious, and earth shattering. After about 15 minutes of staring at a blank page I downed half of my coffee in one gulp and started looking through the detritus of links I’d saved on my phone. After another couple of minutes I came across a link that made me down the rest of my coffee.

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Blinded By Science!

THERE IS NEWS…AND THEN THERE IS NEWS.  The following doesn’t really qualify as any kind of news above a 7 pt. font.

Flash from the PBS NewsHour of January 3, 1914:

“Dogs poop in alignment with Earth’s magnetic field, study finds.”

How’s that for a headline?

This thunderbolt of journalism comes about as result of a study published in a journal called “Frontiers in Zoology” – not an item currently found on our coffee table.

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There Is A Scheme To This Rhyme

  1. “Oh, Spring! Child of the aged Winter, up from the ice and cold with promises of dewy life and coursing warmth. You are most welcome.

“The empty nests in high branches above are homes again with small lives that will grow to sing with their joy of life.

“The icy winds, fleeing as the South moves with the sun and those holy words from men all in blue, ‘Play ball!’”

— Joey Bagadonuts

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