I Pledge Allegiance

Not just any flag

A long, skinny box arrived in the mail the other day. A poster? A roll of wrapping paper? An English cucumber? One of those extended balloons that float around car dealerships?

None of the above.

A flag, and not just any flag, but one that stood in the ground at the National Mall in Washington DC on the day of President Joe Biden’s Inauguration.

Shown here, the flag stands on the floor in the middle of my office. Soon it will have a more dignified, permanent home.

Though I can’t find verification, I’ve been told that the public was allowed to take a flag from the mall the next day. And since the friend who sent it to me is not in jail, I’m inclined to believe her.

Also, the bottom couple of inches of the pole shows signs of having been stuck in dirt.

That’s good enough for me.


THE PRU, mentioned heah is the tall building on the right.

Remind you of a song? Something by Bing Crosby?

What I really want to talk about, however, is ACCENTS.

I’ve lived in California for more years than I want to admit. When a stranger—an airplane companion, a clerk in a store, for example—asks where I’m from, I still say Boston, where I grew up and went to college, or The Bronx, where I went to graduate school.

When I first arrived in California, I had a heavy Boston accent. I’d deny it, except there are videotapes with the evidence. I worked hard to speak Californian, which I acknowledge is closer to a “national” accent:

• Stress those r’s wherever they appear.

It’s harrrrrrd, not hahd; forrrrrrty, not fohty. And so on.

• Insert an r, when the next word begins with a vowel.

Cuba(r) and Laos, as JFK would say

My sistah(r) and my mothah.

When I stahted teaching in California, I noticed my students having a hahd time understanding me.

For example, the designation for the nuclear radius is R-with a bar across the top. R-bar. Or Ah-Bah, as I would say. So I worked at it, telling myself I’d learned Italian (all through home and school); French (in high school, because it was there and Nino was taking it); German in college (because we thought the Germans would prevail in science); Russian in graduate school (because we thought the Russians would take over science, what with Sputnik and all).

I could certainly learn Californian (one of my Boston friends says Cali-foh-nia).

And I did. But I slip now and then when I’m on the phone with a cousin back there. And a few days ago when I was telling a story about a mall in Boston, illustrating it with my hands:

“The Pru is heah,” I began. And my friends laughed.

How about you? Can we tell where you’re from by your “accent?”



I promise this will be the last reminder that Murphy’s Slaw will be released on Tuesday, June 1.

I will throw in a bonus of reminding us where the play on words started: with Murphy’s LAW:

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Some specific examples:

• If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers.

• If there are only two people in a locker room/theater, they will have adjacent lockers/seats.

• Any item, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

And here’s a link to a host of others!

The 8th Wonder

Who doesn’t recognize the Brooklyn Bridge?

(OK, maybe not everyone has its image on mugs, plates, kitchen towels, T-shirts. And a magnet. And  I’m sure I’m forgetting something.)

The bridge opened on May 24, 1883, and has been called the Eighth Wonder of the World.

This article probably has more than you wanted to know, but take a look!

(How many of my readers have crossed the Brooklyn Bridge? By foot? Car? Taxi?)

We were wrong

Here’s a quote, attributed to Carl Sagan (1934-1996), that seems apt today:

In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

I feel obliged to point out one counterexample: In 1992, Pope John Paul II officially declared that Galileo was right, that the earth indeed moves around the sun and not vice versa. A reversal that took only 359 years.

Image by Reimund Bertrams from Pixabay

I’m looking for a counterexample in politics. Any ideas?

May 6 in History

Sometimes I get carried away reading summaries of history. I wish I’d paid more attention in high school history classes.

• WPA. You have to be a certain age to know that these letters were a household reference. The Works Progress Administration was signed into operation on May 6, 1935, to put millions of unemployed Americans back to work.

• In 1937, the Hindenburg exploded over New Jersey, killing 36.

• BOB HOPE. In 1941, Bob Hope did his first USO show before a crowd of servicepeople, from Riverside, CA.

• and so on.

A Smile

Imagine my surprise – I checked my blog files for what I wrote a year ago. I was already suffering from pandemic fatigue.

To combat it, I’d gone for humor and submitted humorous quotes. I might as well do the same this week, but with different quotes from some of the same people.

• from George Carlin: I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose. 

• from Woody Allen: Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.

• from Ellen Degeneres: Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.

• from Steven Wright: Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.

• from Stephen Colbert: I don’t trust children. They’re here to replace us.

• from Fran Liebowitz: I’ve done the calculation and your chances of winning the lottery are identical whether you play or not.

• from Will Rogers: Everything is changing. People are taking comedians seriously and politicians as a joke. (hmm – from Will Rogers, 1879-1935)

• What’s your favorite quote, one that makes you laugh even in a pandemic?

Laughter statue. Public art in Vancouver, Canada

April Fool. Or not.

First a famous April Fool prank from 1998:

• MIT students hacked the school’s site to proclaim that the school had been bought by a well-known entertainment conglomerate.

And a couple of great April Fool hoaxes:

            2013 – Teleportation Machine. The University of Michigan College of Engineering demonstrates a teleportation machine.

            • 2019 – The Flat Earth Globe. Behold an Earth that does not spin and is not spherical. http://hoaxes.org/af_database/permalink/flat_earth_globe

Finally, a group of serious (no fooling) milestones on April 1:

            • 1889 – First dishwasher marketed

            • 1875 — The Times of London published the first weather map in a newspaper

            • 1960 – The first weather satellite was launched.

            • 1976 – Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne founded Apple Computer.

            • 2004 – Google unveiled gmail.

Have a fun day!

Ruffles and all

Gloria, 1972. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

It’s still women’s history month (don’t frown, men, you have 11 months to yourselves), so I thought I’d talk about fashion.

Not kidding.

My most recent pet peeve is the latest in news-anchor fashion. For women, that is. It hasn’t changed much for men. It’s your basic suit and tie, sometimes with a little fake hankie in the pocket. I’ve yet to see Jake Tapper in a muscle shirt, or Chuck Todd with a colorful polo.

OK, Anderson Cooper is all over tv with his new baby and sweats, but not when he’s delivering the news.

Female anchors, on the other hand, come cute. Three or four days out of five, they show cleavage. Some day I’m going to see if there’s a pattern. Lots of flesh showing on Mondays to wake people from a weekend hangover; something pretty and pink in the middle of the week;and a drape with a couple of gold chains on Friday.

The worst tops in my mind are the ones with puffy sleeves, the kind that would be on my little sister’s school dresses when she was seven or eight a few decades ago. I remember ironing the dresses—I’d stick my hand in the short sleeve to spread it out and then press in a circular crease so that the sleeve would stick up.

So cute! But not for a grown-up newsperson asking us to trust her and pay attention to information on the pandemic or the Iran nuclear deal or a mass shooting. Or even the weather.

I’ll end this little rant with a Happy Birthday to Gloria Steinem (born March 25, 1934), never caught with puffy sleeves as far as I remember.

Should women be allowed to wear whatever they pleased and not be criticized? Absolutely. Should they be aware of how their image contributes to the message and that when they dress for the beach or a sexy pop article, that’s how many will view her.

Which is not to say, for example, that Gloria Steinem was humorless. Here’s a quote that’s attributed to her:

            A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle

T-shirt-worthy, don’t you think?

Amateurs all!

It’s safe to say I know many amateur sleuths, a gazillion by actual count. Every day, on bookshelves everywhere, crimes are solved by florists, cooks, beauticians, baristas, quilters, nurses, tour guides, ghosts, and wedding planners. Murderers are caught and arrested on cruise ships, in cafes, at concerts, in churches, in haunted and unhaunted houses, and in locker rooms.

Did I mention that amateur sleuths also include retired physicists, miniaturists, college math professors, a postmistress, and lately, a diner owner in Alaska?

I feel I know them all well, inside and out. They’re smart, brave, righteous, and persistent, usually women, but sometimes too stupid to live (TSTL).

I’m constantly defending them:

• Of course, she has the motivation to investigate a murder, even though her day job involves running a community garden and she has no training in criminology—after all, the victim was a bridesmaid at her roommate’s cousin’s best friend’s second wedding. How can she just sit back and not help the police/troopers/sheriff/PIs?

• She’s curious, so Yes! she will drive out to the cemetery in the middle of the night to meet someone who says he has an important clue to the killer’s identity.

• So what if she withholds information from the real police? She has a good reason to—she wants to look into the situation on her own. She is, after all, an independent thinker/investigator.

• Definitely, in case you’re wondering: It is possible that the knitter sleuth found the clue that experienced homicide detectives and a crew of trained CSI techs missed.

Members of my critique groups who do not write amateur sleuths are the biggest skeptics. Who’s going to believe blah blah blah? they ask me all the time.

“It’s a trope,” I answer, because it’s too complicated to explain reasonable suspension of disbelief. As long as the writer doesn’t cheat, i.e., go off on incredible tangents, readers will enjoy the story.

There’s a reason there are so many cozies and a reason they are very popular. We enjoy reading about normal people like ourselves—crafters, grandmothers, administrators, journalists, innkeepers, beekeepers. We like to think anyone can be smart enough to follow a few clues, put the puzzle together and make the world safe again.

How hard can it be?

(Kidding. I’m forever grateful to PDs and all first responders especially in these challenging times.)

Note to readers: Last week this blog was hacked, resulting in hundreds of spam comments in a 2-day period. The only way I could get rid of them was to close comments. I’ll wait a week and then open again. I guess some people don’t have enough to do. I wish I could export a few projects to them!