Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Resolutions You'll Be Able To Keep



New Year's resolutions have basically become an annual joke. Every January 1 we make resolutions for the upcoming year and if we're lucky, they remain valid for the rest of the month.

So, this year how about making some resolutions you'll actually be able to keep during 2012? Here's a list of several such resolutions. I hope you accept these suggestions in the spirit of humor in which they are offered. If I've offended anyone, I apologize in advance.

1. Gain Weight. Let's face it, you already have a start on this one with all the holiday meals, candy, beverages, and snacks.

2. Go Deeper Into Debt. You probably have a head start on this one, too, from holiday gift shopping. After all, even buying new things for yourself…well, it was probably stuff you needed and with all the great sales this year who could resist?

3. Spend More Money. This goes hand-in-hand with the second item on the list. Spend it now while you're still physically able to get out to do it.

4. Don't Get A Better Job. Since having any job is better than not having one, be happy with status quo.

5. Whatever Shape You're In Is Fine. Seriously…round is a perfectly acceptable shape.

6. Don't Go Back To School. Look at your current life and time schedule. Now add a part time college schedule to that plus the cost of tuition (probably the same amount as that new 72-inch LED HDTV home theater with Dolby Surround Sound you bought in item two on the list) plus the cost of expensive college textbooks. Hmmm…a fine bottle of rare vintage wine or a bottle of aged single malt scotch vs. Concepts of Economics Vol. 1.

7. Drink More Alcohol. Open that fine bottle of wine or scotch and watch your new HDTV.

8. Smoke Like A Chimney. When someone chastises you for putting second hand smoke out there, ask them if they've traded in their gas-guzzling car for a bicycle.

9. Stay At Home. If, however, you prefer to find toilet paper that's hard enough to scrape paint, really weird television programs, and even weirder food…then travel out of the country.

And last but not least…

10. Don't Volunteer!

And now for something completely different (with apologies to Monty Python for stealing…uh, I mean borrowing…their catch phrase).

As a follow up to Christmas, a few words about that much maligned holiday treat, the butt of so many jokes, that humble yet seemingly inedible concoction—fruitcake.

Food historians theorize that fruitcake (any cake in which dried fruits and nuts try to coexist with cake batter) is older than Moses. Ancient Egyptians entombed fruitcake and Romans carried it into battle, probably for the same reason. Fruitcake was built to last and it did, well into medieval times.

It was in the 18th century that fruitcake achieved totemic status. At that time nut-harvesting farmers encased fruits and nuts in a cakelike substance to save for the next harvest as a sort of good luck charm.

And thus the problem. Any cake that is not meant to be eaten doesn't deserve to be classified as food.

Our love/hate relationship with fruitcake began in the early 20th century when the first mail-order fruitcakes became fashionable gifts. It ended up as a mass-produced product using barely recognizable fruits and packed into cans as heavy as barbell weights.

And another something different…

While celebrating the arrival of the New Year, there's one thing you should keep in mind—the darker the liquor, the bigger the hangover. According to a new study that compares the after effects of drinking bourbon vs. vodka, what sounds like an old wives' tale is true…to a point.

Brownish colored spirits such as whiskey and rum contain greater amounts of congeners than clear liquors such as vodka and gin. And what are congeners, you might ask? They are substances that occur naturally or are added to alcohol during the production and aging process, many of which are toxic. They contribute to the alcohol's color, odor, and taste. They also interfere with cell function, and I'm NOT talking about your mobile phone. :) And they viciously punish your head and tummy the next morning. According to the study, bourbon is aged in oak barrels and has thirty-seven times as many congeners as vodka, which is heavily filtered to remove impurities.

Drinking in the study was relatively moderate compared to some New Year's Eve binges. The average blood-alcohol content of the survey participants was 0.1 percent, somewhere between 0.09 ("mildly intoxicated" and considered legally over the limit in most states), and 0.15 ("visibly drunk" and definitely on your way to jail). The study's findings may not translate to your holiday party.

The bottom line, however, is that congeners are not the primary culprit in the dreaded hangover. The credit goes to the alcohol itself.

Wishing everyone a happy AND SAFE New Year's Eve and a marvelous New Year. May 2012 bring you happiness and health.

And Peace On Earth for everyone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Legend of St. Nicholas


Who is that man in red? The man who, every Christmas Eve, brazenly breaks into people's homes, helps himself to cookies and milk, and leaves things behind resulting in a mess of wrapping paper and ribbon for others to clean up the next morning. Reindeer and a heavily laden sleigh can't be good for the roof. Soot from a chimney tracked all over the floor…something else left behind for others to clean.

Yet every year we anxiously anticipate his arrival, track his progress through the skies, and welcome him into our homes.

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas' popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.

Sinter Klaas Comes to New York

St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick's Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society's annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. As his prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a rascal with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a huge pair of Flemish trunk hose.

Shopping Mall Santas

Gift-giving, mainly centered around children, has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since the holiday's rejuvenation in the early 19th century. Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus. In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a live Santa Claus. In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they provided to needy families. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations. Those familiar Salvation Army Santas have been ringing bells on the street corners of American cities ever since.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters entitled An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas. Moore's poem, which he was initially hesitant to publish due to the frivolous nature of its subject, is largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus as a right jolly old elf with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a mere nod of his head. Although some of Moore's imagery was probably borrowed from other sources, his poem helped popularize the now familiar image of a Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve in a miniature sleigh led by eight flying reindeer leaving presents for deserving children. An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas created a new and immediately popular American icon. In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore's poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper's Weekly, depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. It is Nast who gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves, and his wife, Mrs. Claus.

A Santa by Any Other Name

18th-century America's Santa Claus was not the only St. Nicholas-inspired gift-giver to make an appearance at Christmastime. Similar figures were popular all over the world. Christkind or Kris Kringle was believed to deliver presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. Meaning Christ child, Christkind is an angel-like figure often accompanied by St. Nicholas on his holiday missions. In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. English legend explains that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children's stockings with holiday treats. Pere Noel is responsible for filling the shoes of French children. In Russia, it is believed that an elderly woman named Babouschka purposely gave the wise men wrong directions to Bethlehem so that they couldn't find Jesus. Later, she felt remorseful, but could not find the men to undo the damage. To this day, on January 5, Babouschka visits Russian children leaving gifts at their bedsides in the hope that one of them is the baby Jesus and she will be forgiven. In Italy, a similar story exists about a woman called La Befana, a kindly witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children.

The Ninth Reindeer

Rudolph, the most famous reindeer of all, was born over a hundred years after his eight flying counterparts. The red-nosed wonder was the creation of Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store.

In 1939, May wrote a Christmas-themed story-poem to help bring holiday traffic into his store. Using a similar rhyme pattern to Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose. But, When Christmas Eve turned foggy and Santa worried that he wouldn't be able to deliver gifts that night, the former outcast saved Christmas by leading the sleigh by the light of his red nose. Rudolph's message—that given the opportunity, a liability can be turned into an asset—proved popular. Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story in 1939. When it was reissued in 1946, the book sold over three and half million copies. Several years later, one of May's friends, Johnny Marks, wrote a short song based on Rudolph's story (1949). It was recorded by Gene Autry and sold over two million copies. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie, narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences since 1964.
***
And speaking of Santa and Christmas gifts…I have an erotic romance Christmas short story titled A Gift From St. Nicholas by Samantha Gentry, available as part of the HEARTS 'N' HOLLY anthology from XOXO Publishing (www.xoxopublishing.com), also from Amazon as a Kindle ebook (www.amazon.com) and other online ebook stores.

Adult Excerpt #1:

She turned out all the lights except for those adorning the Christmas tree. A soft glow filled the room. The same warmth permeated her body, sending a tingle of anticipation coursing through her veins. She went straight to the bedroom, undressed, and snuggled beneath the blankets.

It seemed as if only a few minutes had passed when a sound roused her from sleep. She slipped quietly out of bed, pulled the sheer red negligee over her nearly nude body, and walked down the hall toward the living room. One quick peek confirmed what had awakened her...the popping of the champagne cork.

For decades Santa had been portrayed as a rotund, grandfatherly type with a long white beard, but the Santa holding the champagne bottle and wearing the traditional Santa cap definitely was not anyone's grandfather. The lights on the Christmas tree lit the corner of the room. She watched as he touched a match to the kindling in the fireplace. The flickering illumination highlighted the hard planes of his bare chest. An impressive bulge at the crotch of his tight red pants grabbed her attention, causing her heart to beat faster and her pulse to race.

Adult Excerpt #2:

"I'm so glad you finally gave up on the cookies and milk."

"I found champagne to be so much more exciting." She took a sip from her glass. The bubbles tickled the inside of her mouth. The sensation left her wanting something else to tickle the inside of her mouth, something more sensual...something more desirable.

"Have you been a good girl this year?" There was no mistaking the suggestive tone to Santa's voice.

"I always try to be a good girl."

"I do have a list, and I checked it twice."

"What does it say about me?"

His eyes twinkled with amusement, the look quickly shifting to desire. "According to my list, you've repeatedly been very good."

***
Check in next week (Monday, December 26) for a list of New Year's resolutions that you won't have any difficulty keeping and a discussion about that much maligned holiday treat—fruitcake.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

10 Signs That The New Man In Your Life Might Be Married


First of all, I'm not stating that only married men cheat and not married women. Married women certainly engage in extra-marital affairs, too. Sometimes the cheater is having an affair with someone who is also married and sometimes the partner is single.

Unofficial surveys have shown that men seem to enjoy no-strings-attached affairs more than women and single men aren't nearly as offended as single women to discover that their new lover is married.

I came across an article a while back listing 10 signs indicating that a woman's new romance could be a married man. My first thought was to use it as backstory information for one of my characters who had a past affair with a man and didn't know he was married. Then I decided to share the information with you, too.

10) When with you, he pays for everything in cash.
In today's electronically controlled society, most people don't carry that much cash with them. If he pays for everything…restaurants, hotels, etc., in cash it could be his way of keeping his wife from finding a paper trail such as credit card receipts.

9) He can only spend time with you during a specified window after he gets off work.
If he continually places restrictions on when and where the two of you can be together, then he could be married (or dating someone else while dating you). No wife and no other girlfriends? Then no need to constantly be rushing home by 10PM because he has an early morning meeting. This also applies to never being able to see him on holidays.

8) He works as a traveling salesman, or a similar type job.
It's very easy for a married man working in a job that requires him to travel to have one or more girlfriends in different towns. It could take an unsuspecting woman quite a while to discover the man she has fallen in love with is really married.

7) He never invites you to his home.
There are two primary reasons for this: either his lives like a slob so that his residence looks like a garbage dump or he's married.

6) He won't answer his cell phone in front of you.
Taking calls while on a date is generally considered rude, but for him to never take a call while with you could be one more indication that he's married.

5) When you call his cell phone, you always get his voice mail then he returns your call.
As with number six above, this could be another indication that he's married.

4) He never introduces you to his children, friends or family.
Two main possibilities here. Either he just isn't very serious about you or he's married.

3) He says he's filed for divorce, but you can't find any record of the filing anywhere in the state.
This quite often happens after she becomes suspicious about his marital status and confront him. That's when he admits he's still technically married, but he and his wife are separated and he's filed for divorce but the two of you need to be careful until the divorce is final.

2) His wife calls you.
After getting over the shock of discovering your new romance is really married, explain to her that you did not know you had been seeing a married man, then call him and let him know you won't be seeing him again and why. There's always the remote possibility that she is his ex-wife and he no longer has any association with her but she's not ready to let go of the former relationship…but not likely.

1) You come home and find his clothes dumped on your porch.
This one should be self-explanatory.

Several years ago I used situation #2 in a book, with the storyline having hero's ex-wife confront the heroine pretending to be his wife in an attempt to get him back even though they had been divorced for ten years.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

7 Myths About Marie Antoinette


So many truths have been attributed to Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France who was beheaded during the French Revolution along with her husband King Louis XVI. Perhaps it's time to set those myths to rest by revealing the real truth.

It's generally accepted that history is written by the winner which means the loser usually gets the short end of the stick. And it seems that's what happened to Marie Antoninette who was held responsible for the French Revolution…something that wasn't true.

1) The first and most famous myth is quoting her as saying, "Let them eat cake."

We can start with correcting the quote. The actual phrase was "Let them eat brioche" and was most likely spoken by the Spanish born Queen of Louis XIV. Marie Antoinette was actually considered very generous to the starving people of France.

2) The next myth said Marie Antoinette was a blond.

She has been portrayed in movies and in books as being blond, but in reality she was a redhead, or more accurately a strawberry blond. Madame du Barry, her great enemy at court, nicknamed her la petite rousse—the little redhead.

3) The next great myth says Maria Antoinette was French.

Again, not true. She was the youngest daughter (15th of 16 children) of the Empress of Austria. Her marriage at age 14 to the 15 year old grandson of Louis XV of France united the houses of Bourbon and Hapsburg—definitely a political marriage intended to end nearly 950 years of hostilities between the two countries. As a foreigner in France, she was blamed for all of France's misfortunes.

4) Marie Antoinette's obsession with fashion and interior design bankrupted France.

Starting approximately 1786 she was wrongly nicknames Madame Deficit even though her indulgence in fashion and interior design was not responsible for bankrupting France or causing the French Revolution. France's treasury was broke long before she arrived on the scene. Part of France's extensive debt came from France funding the American colonists during the American Revolution. Of course, that wasn't so much France striking a blow for freedom as it was France striking a blow against England.

5) Myth has it that Marie Antoinette milked her own cows.

Marie Antoinette commissioned a little peasant village to be build on the grounds at Versailles. The village consisted of a working farm and dairy with cottages for a dozen impoverished farmers and their families, an example of her concern for the poor. She did treat her visitors to fresh milk poured from porcelain jugs with her monogram, but was not the one to procure the milk from its source.

6) Myth says Marie Antoinette was promiscuous.

Even though untold numbers of stories circulated about her being wildly promiscuous with lovers of both sexes, they simply weren't true. She remained a virgin for the first seven years of her marriage, having wed at age 14 on May 16, 1770, and not consumating the marriage until August 22, 1777.

7) And finally, it was believed that Marie Antoinette was the power behind the throne, therefore responsible for Louis' decisions.

She was not Louis XVI's puppet master. Her mother, the Empress of Austria, despaired of her daughter's inability to control her husband. Marie Antoinette freely admitted that she lacked any talent for politics and confided that her husband wouldn't permit her to have any input in his government. She did manage to pressure him into making certain ministerial appointments, but that was the limit of her influence.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Infamous Black Friday Shopping Day


What in the world has happened to our sacred Black Friday shopping day? To the tradition that signaled the beginning of the Christmas season?

Thanksgiving has come and gone and so has the infamous Black Friday shopping day—the day THEY say marks the moment retailers have covered their expenses for the balance of the year and are operating totally in the black. Or at least that's what it originally meant…in days gone by.

Since Thanksgiving is always on Thursday, for the majority of people living in the U.S. that equates to a four day holiday weekend. In the past, the long holiday weekend has marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, commencing Friday morning. It also signaled the time to drag out the holiday decorations, gift wrapping paper, and turn our thinking to the jolly ho-ho-ho mode.

But it seems that everything is different now. Somewhere along the line it has become an almost bizarre ritual bordering on an event type of display.

Rather than stores opening a couple of hours earlier than normal as it used to be, each year for the last few years they are opening earlier and earlier. People waiting in line outside for hours in the cold so they could be the first ones to rush inside the moment the doors were unlocked at 3:00AM. Television news crews would do live reports from some of the larger stores showing hundreds of people with their lawn chairs, sleeping bags, and some even had tents. Earlier in the evening it's a party type of atmosphere. By the time the store unlocks the doors, it's a lot of very cold and tired people. I suspect they want inside from the cold as much as to make that race to their desired bargain.

This year where I live, the temperatures were much warmer this year than they were last year. However, those warmer temperatures were accompanied by strong winds. If someone didn't have their lawn chair anchored down, it would blow away. Several stores opened their doors at midnight this year. Then there were a couple of them that opened Thanksgiving morning and never closed.

Black Friday sales have now evolved to include shopping on the Thursday Thanksgiving holiday. And you know how that goes…once it happens, it becomes tradition.  :)

I think the biggest boost to the concept of Black Friday bargains has been the internet. Shopping via the internet rather than actually getting in the car and driving to the mall has been growing by leaps and bounds. And this year so many internet shopping sites were offering the same Black Friday sale prices as their brick and mortar stores and as their competitors including additional incentives such as free shipping. No standing in line for hours in the cold in the middle of the night. Now those bargains are only a mouse click away. You get a good night's sleep and Black Friday is available for pursuits other than elbowing your way through throngs of holiday shoppers. Personally, I find that a preferable alternative. :)

So, who braved the weather, lost sleep, and jostled your way through crowds to snag those bargain prices this year? And how many of you have now completed your holiday shopping?

And speaking of holiday shopping…how many of you noticed how early all things Christmas were out and on display this year? I encountered Christmas items prominently displayed even before Halloween.

How many of you preferred to stay home, click the mouse, and enjoy all those Thanksgiving dinner leftovers while watching football?

And now I have a confession. I did venture out to a store on Black Friday morning about 7:30AM, but not for holiday shopping. I had to go to the office supply store because I was out of printer ink. There were a few people there, but not many. However, 4 doors north of the office supply store Kohl's had a very full parking lot.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Facts and Myths…And Those Naughty Pilgrims


I have some Mayflower myths to share with you, then we'll talk about those naughty and sexy pilgrims!

Myth: The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and the pilgrims celebrated it every year after that.
Fact: The first feast wasn't repeated, so it wasn't the beginning of a tradition. In fact, it wouldn't have been called Thanksgiving because to the pilgrims a thanksgiving was a religious holiday. That feast in 1621 was a secular celebration and would not have been considered a thanksgiving in their minds.

Myth: The original Thanksgiving feast took place on the fourth Thursday of November.
Fact: The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11 and was a three day celebration based on the English harvest festivals. In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November, a decision fraught with controversy. The date was approved by Congress in 1941.

Myth: The pilgrims wore only black and white clothing with buckles on their hats, garments, and shoes.
Fact: Buckles did not come into fashion until later in the 17th century. Black and white were commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions.

But what about the actions and activities of those naughty pilgrims?  How did Hester earn that scarlet A?  As with so much in life, there's the façade and then there's the reality. :)

Although not liberal in their thinking or lifestyle, the pilgrims were not as uptight as history would have us believe. They tried to create a strict religious society, but had an understanding and mercy unusual for their time. As time passed, intolerance grew and was reflected in their laws as demonstrated by the notorious Salem witch trials.

Men were not the only offenders in Plymouth colony. The prim women weren't always so pious either. Women were often caught with the evidence of their dalliances: babies. The records of the times are filled with one out-of-wedlock child after another. Babies showing up just a few months after marriage were also evidence of wrong doing. Pre-marital sex was severely punished. Fines were levied even for making passes, for appearing to have a lascivious carriage in public, or partying in mixed company at an unseemly time of night.

Sex outside marriage, even between two unmarried consenting adults, usually meant a whipping and fines. If the woman became pregnant, the man had to either marry her or pay for the child's upbringing. The man was usually placed in the stocks and whipped while the woman was made to watch. Sometimes mercy was granted as in the case of a servant, Jane Powell. Following years of hard servitude, she was destitute and had agreed to having sex in the hopes of marrying the man. Apparently the court found her plea convincing and she went unpunished.

Even though the pilgrims imposed strict punishment for crimes, they also understood human temptations. In 1656, Katheren Aines and William Paule were sentenced for committing adultery. William was whipped and forced to pay the costs of his imprisonment. Katheren was whipped, imprisoned and forced to wear a letter on her shoulder designating her as an adulteress. (Calling Nathaniel Hawthorne!) However, Katheren's husband, Alexander, was also punished. Alexander had left his family for some time and treated her badly during their marriage. The pilgrims viewed him as guilty of "exposing his wife to such temptations." Alexander was required to pay for his wife's imprisonment, and sit in the stocks while William and Katheren were whipped.

This Thanksgiving as you sit down to your turkey dinner, it might be a good idea to take a moment to be thankful that you aren't a pilgrim. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Turkey Trivia…Just In Time For Thanksgiving


It's almost that time of year again…the fourth Thursday in November. In less than 2 weeks we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. Americans cook approximately 45 million turkeys each year for Thanksgiving. So, in honor of the holiday, here are a dozen known and not so well known bits of trivia about turkeys.

1) All turkeys do not taste the same. The taste has to do with their age. An older male is preferable to a younger male (the younger tom is stringy). And the younger female hens are preferable to the older ones. Hmmm…that older man and younger woman syndrome?  :)

2) A turkey less than 16 weeks old is called a fryer and a turkey 5 to 7 months of age is known as a roaster.

3) Turkeys are a type of pheasant and are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere.

4) Wild turkeys are able to fly for short durations attaining speeds up to 55mph. Domesticated turkeys raised on farms for food are too fat and meaty to achieve flight.

5) We've all heard that Benjamin Franklin argued in favor of the turkey as the national symbol of America rather than the Bald Eagle.

6) The first turkeys to be domesticated were in Mexico and Central America.

7) The male turkey makes the gobble sound and the female clucks.

8) A mature turkey has about 3,500 feathers, which is a lot of plucking before it can be cooked.

9) The most turkeys produced annually come from Minnesota and North Carolina.

10) The skin that hangs from a turkey's neck is called a wattle. The fleshy growth on the base of the beak is the snood.

11) Each year 90 percent of Americans have turkey for thanksgiving compared to 50 percent on Christmas.

12) The most turkey consumed per capita is not eaten by Americans. Israel holds that honor.

One thing that's marvelous about the Thanksgiving turkey dinner is all the terrific leftovers! Anyone out there having something other than the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving dinner?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Did Butch Cassidy Survive?


I read an interesting article a couple of months ago, which brought to mind a documentary I saw (I think on the History Channel), about Butch Cassidy and speculation about what really happened to him.

We've seen the Paul Newman-Robert Redford movie, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, where they supposedly die in a shoot out with the Bolivian army in 1908. At the end of the movie, they rush out of the building with guns blazing and are surrounded by soldiers unleashing a barrage of bullets. The scene freezes with them still on their feet and the closing credits roll across the screen. We never actually see them die, but it's alluded to much like the real life story of Butch Cassidy alludes to him having died in South America.

But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, perhaps the story of his death was greatly exaggerated.

For decades rumors have persisted that Butch survived the shoot out, returned to the United States, and lived in quiet anonymity in Washington state under an assumed name for nearly thirty years after his death.

And swirling at the center of the controversy is a 200 page manuscript titled Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy written in 1934 by William T. Phillips, a machinist who died in Spokane, Washington, in 1937. Utah book collector Brent Ashworth and Montana author Larry Pointer believe that the manuscript is not a biography of the famous outlaw, but actually an autobiography and that Phillips was really Butch Cassidy. Ashworth and Pointer insist that the manuscript contains details that only the real Butch Cassidy could have known.

As with all speculative versions of history, there are always detractors to the theory, historians who claim the manuscript is not an accurate portrayal of Cassidy's life…or at least his life that is known.

Everyone basically agrees that Butch Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker in 1866 in Beaver, Utah. He was the oldest of 13 children in a Mormon family and robbed his first bank in 1889 in Telluride, Colorado. He served a year and a half in the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie followed by most of the next 20 years spent robbing banks and trains with his Wild Bunch gang.

Cassidy historian Dan Buck disagrees with Ashworth's and Pointer's conclusions. Buck suggests that the reason Phillips knew so many details about Butch that others wouldn't have known was because the two men actually knew each other back then.

In 1991 Buck and his wife helped dig up a grave in San Vicente, Bolivia, reputed to contain the remains of Butch and Sundance. DNA testing revealed that the bones did not belong to the two outlaws. However, Buck still insists his research confirms that Butch and Sundance died in that 1908 shoot out in Bolivia.

There are stories about the Sundance Kid living long after his time in South America, but they are outnumbered by the many alleged Butch Cassidy sightings. A brother and sister of Butch Cassidy insisted that he stopped in for a visit at the family ranch in Utah in 1925. Phillips' adopted son believed that his stepfather was the real Butch Cassidy. Since Phillips was cremated following his death in 1937, there's little possibility of being able to obtain any type of a DNA match.

So the mystery continues…

Sunday, October 30, 2011

10 Halloween Superstitions


Superstitions flourish in all countries and all cultures. Some of the origins are so obscured by time that no one knows when, how or why they came into being.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. They set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for these friendly spirits. They also lit candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. Today's Halloween ghosts are usually depicted as scarier, as are our customs and superstitions.

Here's a list of ten superstitions that seem to apply specifically to Halloween.

1) If a candle goes out on its own on Halloween, it is thought a ghost has come to call.

2) A burning candle inside of a Jack-o-lantern on Halloween keeps evil spirits at bay.

3) You invite bad luck into your home if you allow a fire to burn out on Halloween.

4) A person born on Halloween can both see and talk to spirits.

5) Seeing a spider on Halloween could be the spirit of a dead loved one who is watching you.

6) If you hear footsteps behind you on Halloween, don't look back because it could be the dead following.

7) Don't look at your shadow in moonlight on Halloween night. Otherwise, you will die within a short period of time.

8) If a bat flies around a house three times, it is a death omen.

9) Ringing a bell on Halloween will scare evil spirits away.

10) A bat that enters a home may have been let in by a ghost.

Do you have any favorite Halloween superstitions?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

American Haunted Hotels


Are you looking for that Halloween thrill that's real rather than manufactured? A true haunted hotel for a night away from home? We have many haunted hotels and inns from which to choose. Here's a sampling (in no particular order) of 20 spooky destinations to spend the night. Or longer…if you're brave enough.

The Myrtles Plantation—St. Francisville, Louisiana
Built approximately 1796, this former home is considered one of the most haunted homes in the U.S. with one murder and several natural deaths. The Plantation now has 11 guest rooms.

Hotel del Coronado—Coronado, California (San Diego)
Opened in 1888 and a National Historic Landmark since 1977, the Hotel del Coronado is said to be haunted by the ghost of Kate Morgan, who died there. This is one of my favorite hotels and has also been used as a location in many movies and television shows, probably the most well-known being SOME LIKE IT HOT starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe.

Marrero's Guest Mansion—Key West, Florida
Built in 1889 by Francisco Marrero for his bride, the 13 guest room Victorian home is rumored to still be haunted by her ghost.

Stanley Hotel—Estes Park, Colorado
First opened in 1909, this hotel is most famous these days as the inspiration for Stephen King's THE SHINING.

Queen Anne Hotel—San Francisco, California
This B&B in San Francisco's Pacific Heights area is said to be haunted by the spirit of Mary Lake who was the Head Mistress of the school that used to be located there.

Manresa Castle—Port Townsend, Washington
A former 30 room private residence is haunted by 2 ghosts, including a former guest who was stood up by her lover and subsequently jumped to her death from the hotel.

Driskill Hotel—Austin, Texas
Originally built in 1886 for cattle baron Jesse Driskill, the Austin landmark hosts travelers today in addition to the spirit of Jesse Driskill.

The Lemp Mansion—St. Louis, Missouri
This hotel offers paranormal tours complete with appetizers and a drink. Several members of the Lemp family died under various circumstances including more than one suicide.

Hawthorne Hotel—Salem, Massachusetts
The town that was the site of the Salem Witch Trials would certainly lend itself to hauntings and Halloween visitors. Guests of the hotel reported hearing eerie sounds in the stairwells and feeling ill at ease while staying there.

Green Mountain Inn—Stowe, Vermont
Boots Berry died in a fall from the roof. His ghost has been seen standing in room 1840, where he was born.

Buxton Inn—Granville, Ohio
The ghost of Orrin Granger, who built the Buxton Inn, has been seen wandering the halls. The ghost of Bonnie Bounell, a former innkeeper, is said to hang out in room 9.

1866 Crescent Hotel & Spa—Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The deceased who are still residing at the hotel include a stonemason, a cancer patient, a cat and a man in a white suit. A new ghost, a dancer, was spotted recently.

Beverly Hills Inn—Atlanta, Georgia
This property is said to be haunted by the souls of 3 women. An investigation in 2007 recorded voices whispering "Get out."

Hotel Queen Mary—Long Beach, California
With its history as both a luxury liner and during World War II a troop transport ship, the Queen Mary is reportedly haunted by many spirits. One of them is a young girl who broke her neck sliding down one of the ship's banisters. She can be seen today hanging out by the swimming pool.

Gettysburg Hotel—Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Ghosts dance in the ballroom and the ghost of a Union soldier strolls through the halls. The nearby Gettysburg Civil War battle field is considered by many to be the most haunted place in the country.

Congress Plaza Hotel—Chicago, Illinois
Built in 1893 for visitors to the Chicago World's Fair, the hotel is reputedly one of Al Capone's hideouts. Members of a rival gang did a drive by shooting attempt on his life while he was staying there. The hotel is said to be haunted by a young boy, possibly an innocent victim of that shooting.

The Battery Carriage House Inn—Charleston, South Carolina
Many guests have reported seeing the torso of a decapitated confederate soldier floating through the Inn.

1859 Historic National Hotel—Jamestown, California
Located in the Sierra foothills in the heart of the California gold rush country, the hotel is said to be haunted by a woman whose fiancé was shot by a drunk on the hotel premises. She is said to have died of a broken heart while wearing her wedding dress and has been giving hotel guests an uncomfortable feeling ever since.

Burn Brae Mansion—Glen Spy, New York
This former home of the third president of the Singer Sewing Machine company offers ghost tours.

Prospect Hill Bed & Breakfast Inn—Mountain City, Tennessee
The haunting spirit at this Inn apparently has a sweet tooth. The smell of baking cookies wafts through the Inn in the wee hours of the morning.

The Colonial Inn—Concord, Massachusetts
This 24 room Inn was established in 1716. Room 24, located in the oldest part of the Inn, was reportedly used as an emergency hospital during the Revolutionary War and that is where guests have reported odd happenings.

There are, of course, many more reportedly haunted hotels and inns. This is just a sampling. Do you have any haunted hotels in your city?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Horror Movies For The Halloween Season


A thought struck me the other day. It was not anything earth shattering nor a profound realization, but a thought none-the-less. I haven't seen much in the way of promo on television for the October theatrical horror movie releases typical of the Halloween season. Did Hollywood run out of ideas for this year's tribute to the spooky, macabre, and gruesome?

What happened to the scary horror movies from the past that traded on the atmosphere of fear rather than the visual of spurting blood and flying body parts? The tingling sensation that made the hair stand on the back of our necks and goose bumps on our arms as our imaginations ran amuck. The spooky ground fog that seemed to slither over and around the tombstones, cloaking the cemetery in an eerie silence.

I'm talking about the traditional horror classics like Frankenstein from 1931 with Boris Karloff's brilliant performance as the monster. Also from 1931, Dracula with Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the vampire as both elegant and mesmerizing which left the horror to the imagination of the viewer. Then came 1941's The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney, Jr., as the stricken Larry Talbot.

True to Hollywood tradition, these classic horror movies spawned numerous sequels—Bride of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein, Dracula's Daughter. And as long as Hollywood was on a roll, they added to the profit factor by capitalizing on the popularity of the characters by having them co-star in such movies as Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. Then there were the myriad remakes that came over the ensuing years, some serious attempts and others totally ludicrous. Each one pushed the envelope in its own way in order to hopefully make it better (as in more box office dollars) than its predecessor.

And the award for the most remakes over the years goes to Dracula. Some were serious films and others were more on the ridiculous side with titles such as Dracula's Dog and Dracula's Widow.

With all three of the original movies, the remakes never really captured the essence of the originals…in my humble opinion.

And these certainly aren't the only horror movies that fall into the classic category. This month Turner Classic Movies cable channel is doing their October retrospective of horror movies. This year it's Classic Horror Monday with a total of 32 horror movies and one new offering in their A Night At The Movies series, their 2011 documentary The Horrors Of Stephen King. Their viewing schedule includes the silent classics of 1919's The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and 1922's Nosferatu, takes us through the 1932 version of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, and culminates with 1968's Night Of The Living Dead.

And that should be enough to satisfy any classic horror movie buff's needs.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beware Of America's Creepiest Roads!


They've been called urban legends, ghost stories, creepy encounters. But they all have one thing in common—unexplained happenings on dark roads in the dead of night. If you'll pardon the use of the word dead.

Or maybe it's more appropriate than you realize. :)

Halloween is this month and the perfect time of year to explore these creepy lanes and the unexplained happenings. Here's a sampling of some of these haunted roads.

The San Antonio Ghost Track: If you put your car in neutral on the tracks, the car will move by itself off the tracks. And if you cover the bumper in baby power, you'll find child-sized palm prints. However, be careful if you decide to try it out. There have been reports of bandits waiting in hiding for people to start their paranormal test.

The Georgia Ghost Roads: Travelers late at night along Railroad Bed Road and Old Ghost Road (Robertson Road) see a faint orange light flashing in the distance. As they drive closer to it, a man will appear who is digging a ditch…or perhaps a grave. He turns and walks toward the car, but disappears before he gets there.

Buckout Road in Harrison, NY: The shocking murders committed by Issac Buckhout are believed responsible for the area's many reports of notorious activities such as farms burning, vandalism in a local historic cemetery, and people who claimed to have been attacked by flesh-eating monsters because they parked in front of a specific red house and honked their car horn three times.

Meshack Road in Tompinsville, KY: This is supposedly the original location of the oft repeated story of the young woman in the prom dress who is walking along the road and given a ride by a young man. He gives her his coat to keep warm. The next day he returns to the house where he took her in order to retrieve his coat. The woman living there told him her daughter had died several years ago…on prom night.

Milford Road in Oxford, Ohio: The story of star-crossed lovers. The boy and girl were in love but the girl's father hated the boy. The boy would flash his motorcycle headlight three times and if he saw her porch light flash three times in return he knew it was safe to go there. One night he's killed on the road, but the flashing lights continue to haunt the area.

Mona Lisa Drive in New Orleans: A philanthropist donated a collection of statuary to the city with one stipulation. The statue commissioned to commemorate the death of his only daughter, Mona, be placed in a special location in the park by itself. One night a car chase ended with a car crashing into the statue and shattering it. After that, rumors began to circulate that Mona lurked in the park where the statue had been, haunting innocent and unsuspecting visitors.

Archer Road in Justice, IL: Resurrection Cemetery is the site of a story similar to the Meshack Road haunting. A young man met a pretty blond at a dance. At the end of the evening, he drove her home. When they reached the cemetery, she asked him to stop. She got out of the car, walked toward the gate, and disappeared. He went to the house where she said she lived and the woman told him her daughter had been dead for five years.

Spook Hill in Burkittsville, MD: In addition to the ghostly reputation courtesy of the 1990s horror movie, The Blair Witch Project, an unexplained recurring happening here is similar to the Railroad Crossing in San Antonio. When driving up Spook Hill, if you stop and put the car in neutral it won't roll back downhill. It will continue uphill as if being pushed. The local ghostly tale claims it's Civil War soldiers who think they're pushing one of their cannons up the hill.

Shades of Death Road in Warren Co., NJ: Yes, Shades of Death Road is the real name of the street, but no one is sure exactly how the name came about. Over the decades many murders have happened along this stretch of road, each its own ghastly tale, which certainly explains why so many different ghosts haunt the area.

Do you have any ghostly tales or spooky happenings where you live?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

5 Points In Favor Of Live Conversation


I read an article a few months ago about the importance of what is quickly becoming the lost art of live conversation in this age of electronic communication. How often have you seen a scene on a television show where the only two people in a room are texting each other when they could just as easily be talking? This usually occurs in a comedy, pointing up the absurdity of the situation.

Email and other forms of electronic communication such as texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc., tends to be society's primary mode of communication these days, both personally and professionally.

And, of course, we can add blogging to that list. :)

We tend to deal with difficult or emotional conversations electronically because it's easier—it's non-confrontational. Unfortunately, we often regret it later. It's easy to have conflict arise and get blown out of proportion because those involved failed to engage in live conversation—perhaps a fear of a live connection and poor judgment in using written communication. All the emoticons and acronyms in the world can't adequately convey the subtle nuances in a tone of voice, with facial expressions, body language, or the smallest gesture that can be seen or heard with live conversation.

It often seems easier to be honest and direct in writing because we don't have that live, in-the-moment reaction of the other person. Electronic communication takes less courage than live conversation with a real human being. Avoiding that live conversation allows us to feel safer and lets us say things electronically that we might not otherwise verbalize.

And therein is the trap. Sometimes things are said electronically that would not have otherwise been said because the electronic communication has a feeling of distance to it, something more impersonal, rather than being up close and in person.

The article listed five suggestions for engaging in live conversations more often and ultimately resolving conflicts more successfully.

1) Be clear about your intention.
Before sending your electronic message or leaving a voice mail, ask yourself why you are handling the situation electronically rather than live. If the matter is in any way emotionally charged or about a conflict, check to make sure you aren't sending an electronic message simply to avoid that personal involvement. And make sure you answer your question honestly.

2) Don't send everything you write.
Writing everything out in an unfiltered manner can be liberating especially when dealing with an emotional conflict, however that does not mean that it's a good idea to send it. Save it then read it again later before taking any action with it.

3) Request a call or a meeting.
Before becoming involved in a long drawn out exchange of electronic messages, request a live conversation—face-to-face if possible, or if distance doesn't allow that then on the phone.

4) Speak without judgment or blame.
When you engage in the live conversation over a conflict, focus on reality rather than being right. As soon as we move into the realm of blame, we greatly reduce the possibility of resolution.

5) Get support from others.
When dealing with emotionally charged issues, sometimes it's a good idea to seek out support and advice from others we trust and respect, people who will be honest rather than simply saying what we want to hear.

Electronic communication is going to become more and more commonplace in today's society, but resolving our conflicts can often be done quicker and easier with live conversation.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

10 Bits of Historical Trivia or Where Did Those Expressions Come From?


Ever wonder about those interesting expressions that have been handed down through the centuries? Phrases that we all use without giving any thought to where they came from and their original meaning? Here's a list of ten such expressions a friend emailed to me. Let's take a look at the historical origin of these expressions.

1) God willing and the Creeks don't rise
This expression was originally in reference to the Native American Creek tribe and not a body of water and is attributable to Benjamin Hawkins, a late 18th century politician. While in the south, he was requested by the President to return to Washington. In his response, he wrote, God willing and the Creeks don't rise. Since he capitalized the word Creeks, it was assumed he was referring to the Indian tribe rather than water.

2) It cost an arm and a leg
Since there weren't any cameras in George Washington's day, the only way to portray someone's image was either through sculpture or painting. Some paintings of Washington show him standing behind his desk with one arm behind his back while others show both arms and legs. Prices charged by artists were often calculated according to how many arms and legs were being painted rather than the number of people in the painting. Therefore, if the subject wanted both arms and legs in the painting, they were told, "Okay, but it will cost an arm and a leg."

3) Here comes the big wig
As ludicrous as it sounds today, back then men and women took baths only twice a year (usually May after the cold winter and October after a hot summer). Women covered their hair and men shaved their heads and wore wigs. The wealthy could afford good wigs made of wool. Since the wool wigs couldn't be washed, they would hollow out a loaf of bread and put the wig in the shell, then bake it for half an hour. The heat made the wigs big and fluffy, thus the term big wig. Today we use the expression when someone appears to be powerful and wealthy.

4) Chairman of the Board
Many houses in the late 1700s consisted of a large room with only one chair. A long wide board folded down from the wall and was used for dining. The head of the household always sat in the chair while everyone else sat on the floor while eating. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge and that person was referred to as the chair man. Today in business, we use the expression Chairman of the Board.

5) Crack a smile and other related phrases
One result of the lack of personal hygiene back then was that many men and women developed acne scars by adulthood. Women would spread bee's wax over their faces to smooth out their complexions. If a woman began to stare at another woman's face, she was told to mind your own bee's wax. If a woman smiled, the wax would crack, hence the term crack a smile. And when a woman sat too close to the fire the wax would melt, giving us the expression losing face.

6) Straight laced
Ladies wore corsets which laced up the front. A proper and dignified woman wore a tightly tied corset and was said to be straight laced.

7) Not playing with a full deck
Back in the day, a common form of entertainment was playing cards. When a tax was levied on the cards, it was applicable only to the ace of spades. To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards and ignore the ace of spades. Since most card games require all 52 cards, those people were thought to be stupid because they were not playing with a full deck.

8) Gossip
Long ago, before the creation of mass communication such as phones, radio, and television (and certainly the internet), politicians sent their assistants to local taverns to get feedback from the public and determine which issues people considered important. They were told to go sip some ale and listen to people's conversations. The two words go sip were eventually combined into one word, gossip, when referring to the local opinion.

9) Minding your P's and Q's
In the local taverns, people drank from pint and quart sized containers. One of the bar maid's jobs was to keep track of which customers were drinking from pints and which from quarts, hence the phrase minding your P's and Q's.

And finally an expression that has often been misinterpreted…

10) Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey
Back in the day when sailing ships ruled the waves, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons that fired iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a supply of cannon balls near the cannon while at the same time preventing them from rolling around the deck. The best storage method was a square-based pyramid with one ball perched on four balls resting on nine which sat on sixteen providing a supply of thirty cannon balls stacked in a small area next to the cannon. There was a problem, though—how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding out from under the others. The solution was a metal plate called a monkey with sixteen round indentations. But again, there was a problem. If the plate was made from iron, the iron cannon balls would quickly rust to it, especially in the damp ocean air. The solution to the rusting problem was to make brass monkeys. But still a problem…brass contracts much more and much quicker than iron when it's chilled. So, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey which means it was literally cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. Not what you were expecting? :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

6 Lusty Gods Of Mythology And Their Sexy Pursuits


Whether Deity or Demon, the supernatural entities of the ancient world had one thing in common. More often than not, they used their magical skills for the pursuit of sex…lots of it.

In today's world, someone with the powers attributed to the gods and monsters of ancient mythology might use those abilities to banish ignorance, intolerance, and hate to make the world a better place for everyone. But in the ancient world, the rulers of mythology used their special powers for a far more down-to-earth human type pursuit—that of participating in hot sex as often as possible.

Here are six such immortals from the ancient world who seem to be in a perpetual state of heat, always chasing after the pleasures derived from seducing mortals.

6) Zeus: The ancient Greeks didn't have reality television, but they did have the exploits of Zeus, king of the gods, to keep them entertained. Zeus wasn't at all picky. He engaged in sex with goddesses, nymphs and mortals and did whatever it took to get what he wanted. Kinky, freaky, voracious. It all described his sexual appetite. On one occasion he even took on the physical appearance of the husband of a human woman named Alcmene and they had a son named Heracles (Hercules in Roman mythology). But even the king of the gods ended up in trouble on the home front. High up on Mt. Olympus, his wife, Hera, was a woman of earth-shattering powers and didn't hesitate to use them.

5) The Incubus/Succubus: Today wet dreams are easily explained. In medieval times, however, they were believed to be the result of demonic forces. Folklore from centuries ago says there was a demonic creature whose sole purpose was to have sex with people during their sleep. The incubus put a spell on a woman to make her compliant then proceeded to have his way with her. The succubus was the female version of this demon who seduced men in their sleep. Sex with an incubus or succubus was considered dangerous for the mortal, but not always lethal. A one time only encounter said the mortal would most likely survive. But continued encounters with the same mortal were definitely bad for the mortal's health.

4) Odin: King of the Norse gods, Odin only had one eye. He traded the other one for infinite wisdom. And what knowledge did this infinite wisdom impart to him? That hot sex was a lot of fun. One time he found himself really turned on by a female giant named Jord. He refused to allow the fact that his non-giant manhood was dwarfed by her giant body to stand in his way. He figured out a physical means for them to have sex. Nine months later Thor was born.

3) Krishna: The Hindu god Krishna wasn't only about hot sex and good times. When his good-for-nothing uncle, Kamsa, crossed that hypothetical line in the sand one too many times, Krishna put him six feet under the sand without giving it a second thought. Krishna loved to get freaky with the ladies. He had a flute and when he played it women would flock to him.

2) Pan: The Greek god, Pan, had a goat-like appearance. He would have fit in perfectly with one of today's college frat houses—he was all about partying. He liked to drink and was cursed (or blessed, depending on how you look at it) with an intense sex drive. He often ran around with his bare erection visible for all to see. Like Krishna, he used his magic flute to draw in the ladies. He seduced Selene, the moon goddess, and convinced her that having sex with him was a great idea.

1) The Meek-Moos-Ak: The Native American tribe known as the Abenaki believed in these short twin creatures called the Meek-moos-ak. They ran around drunk, killing hunters and having sex with women. Their legend said that once a woman had sex with them, she was cursed to never desire marriage.

So, the moral of this story is that should you find yourself covered in a strange substance and it gives you the power to shape-shift or play a mean flute, use it for sex. Apparently everyone else did.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Emails That Could Get You Fired


We all know the internet has given us instant communication…in fact, instantaneous communication, which seems to me to be even quicker than instant :). When sending emails, the moment we click that send button whatever we wrote is gone—it's winging its way through cyberspace, out there for the recipient (or recipients) to receive. If we have second thoughts, it's too late to stop the message from reaching its destination.

And as we also know, sometimes we click that send button when we shouldn't. The results can be troublesome when it's something personal we're sending from our computer at home. But when it's work related, it can put our job in jeopardy. And the situation can be compounded by the fact that facial expression, tone of voice, and body language don't show up in the written word. We can add our emoticons and smiley faces to convey a light or teasing intent, but that doesn't always change the words we've chosen.

There are some basic, common sense rules that apply to sending email, especially work related messages. I recently found a list of 10 such rules that I'd like to share with you.

1. All capped email: Messages typed in all capital letters are considered CYBER SHOUTING. You can use quote marks or italics if your intention is to merely emphasize certain words or phrases.

2. Personal email: If your intention is to send confidential or time-sensitive information, perhaps you would be better off using the phone or meeting in person. Emails can be printed, copied, and/or forwarded to any number of people unknown to the original sender. Don't say anything in an email that you wouldn't want to eventually end up in the company newsletter.

3. Sloppy email: Take an extra moment before clicking send so that you can check spelling, grammar, punctuation and to make sure that what you've written is clear so that it cannot be misunderstood.

4. Joke email: What is funny to you and said without any malice or bad intention might be offensive to others. What you've put into a written communication is permanent and can easily be forwarded to any number of people without your knowledge.

5. Long email: Keep it short. If work related, you might want to consider putting your entire message in the subject line. "Budget meeting at 3pm today." Follow this with the acronym EOM for end of message. That way the recipient won't need to take the time to open the email. However…only use acronyms when you're sure the recipient knows that they mean.

6. Buddy-buddy email: In a business situation, sometimes it's counter-productive to be too casual or personal.

7. Congratulatory email: A congratulatory email for something like a job promotion doesn't convey the same type of personal feeling as a special card or hand written note. Sending out the congratulations wishes via email has a very impersonal feel to it, something more akin to a duty that can be dispatched in a matter of seconds rather than a sincere gesture that required thought and a personal effort.

8. Over-shared email: When sending a message to a large number of people, especially employees scattered around different locations of the company, using the bcc feature will guarantee that the only email address showing up will be that of the recipient only rather than a long list of email addresses.

9. Oops email: When receiving an email at work that was distributed to a large number of people, only respond to those who require your input. That reply all button isn't always necessary, especially if the only person needing your response is the sender.

And finally, the most obvious of all.

10. Moody email: It should go without saying that you should never send an email when you're angry. It's way too easy to say something in the heat of the moment that you will regret later. Possibly even something that could get you fired.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

10 Weird Allergies


Allergies are caused by the body's defense system overreacting to some substance it comes in contact with. We're all familiar with the allergies to everyday things such as mold, pollen, specific foods, and animal dander. There are 40 to 50 million Americans allergic to these common bad guys. But you'd be surprised at the uncommon allergies people can develop.

Here's a list of 10 (in no particular order) weird and unusual allergies.

1) Water Allergy
Water is absolutely mandatory for our survival, but there are those rare people who get the hives from water. The hives and itching usually go away in 15 to 30 minus and antihistamines will relieve the symptoms.

2) Exercise Allergy
This type of allergy has only been officially reported in medical journals about 1000 times since the 1970s. Of course, unofficially is a different story…at one time or another I imagine most of us have professed an allergy to exercising. :)  In mild cases the result is hives. But in more severe cases it can lead to anaphylaxis, a dangerous condition where the blood pressure drops suddenly and there is difficulty breathing. This is the same type of reaction as severe food allergies such as those to peanuts or shellfish and is treated as a medical emergency, usually with injections of epinephrine.

3) Sun Allergy
Solar exposure can result in hives with the itching and stinging symptoms can be relieved with antihistamines, but not prevented. Sun allergy is very rare. The hives appear within 30 minutes of exposure to the sun and will clear up within minutes of getting out of the sun. Needless to say, avoiding the sun can prevent this reaction.

4) Electricity Allergy
Those who claim to suffer from electrosensitivity say they are sensitive to electric fields generated by products such as cell phones, microwaves, computers, and power lines. The symptoms include headache, ringing in the ears, fatigue, among other complaints. The experts say this is one type of allergy that you don't have to worry about because it doesn't exist. There have been several studies done and almost all of them have come up empty.

5) Shoes Allergy
A poison ivy-type rash on your feet after you've worn leather shoes could be allergic to the chemicals used in the leather tanning process. This type of allergy is known as contact dermatitis and can be diagnosed with a patch test. Contact dermatitis is somewhat of a catchall term for a common skin condition resulting from contact with many possible irritants. The solution to shoe allergy? Wear socks or shoes made from something other than leather.

6) Allergy to Money
Another type of contact dermatitis can be an allergic rash on your hands after handling coins. The culprit would most likely be the nickel metal in coins, also an alloy found in the manufacture of jewelry, zippers, and eyeglass frames among other things. The best treatment is to avoid the substance. Good luck with that one. :)

7) Allergy to Touch
This is known as dermographism and is another form of hives. The literal translation is skin writing and was named because with this type of allergy a person can write his name on his skin using nothing more than the pressure from a fingernail. That pressure on the skin causes an itchy hive reaction. This reaction can also be the result of tight clothing or even toweling off after a hot shower. The resultant itching can be controlled with antihistamines.

8) Cold Allergy
This allergy is very rare, but potentially dangerous. It can be life-threatening if a person with this allergy is suddenly exposed to extreme cold, such as diving into very cold water. This can cause a massive release of histamine, which can severely drop the blood pressure. Handling this kind of allergy is to focus on prevention such as avoiding exposure of large areas of skin to the cold.

9) Allergy To Pollinated Fruit
Millions of Americans have allergies to pollen and some of them could also experience a type of allergy known as oral allergy syndrome. This happens when someone allergic to pollen eats a fruit that contains the same protein as the pollen. This is a cross reactivity and can happen between such things as ragweed and bananas, grasses and tomato, and birch trees with apples, plums, or peaches. The symptoms are itchy mouth and throat and sometimes swelling of the lips and will go away if you swallow or spit out the fruit with treatment usually being unnecessary.

And finally…talk about weird allergies:

10) Semen Allergy
This is an extremely rare type of allergy in women. Symptoms are hives and swelling in the vaginal area after sexual intercourse. The best treatment is to use a condom. For women who want to get pregnant, they can get shots to treat semen allergy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Paraprosdokians…Huh?



You may be asking yourself just what is a paraprosdokian. Valid question. And the answer is—"Figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently used in a humorous situation." An example would be: Where there's a will, I want to be in it.

A friend recently sent me an email with a list of paraprosdokians that I'd like to share with you. I hope you enjoy them.

1) The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on my list.

2) Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

3) If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

4) We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

5) Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

6) Evening news is where they begin with "Good Evening," and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

7) I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.

8) Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, "In case of emergency, notify:" I put DOCTOR.

9) I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

10) Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they're sexy.

11) Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

12) A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.

13) You do not need a parachute to sky dive. You only need a parachute if you want to sky dive again.

14) I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.

15) To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

16) Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

17) Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

18) Hospitality is making your guests feel at home even when you wish that's where they were.

19) I always take life with a grain of salt. Plus a lime wedge, and a shot of tequila.

And finally something for writers to think about.

20) To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sexy Men Of The Zodiac


Why are we drawn to one man over another? Could it have anything to do with his astrological sign? What are the seductive qualities of each man of the Zodiac? I recently read an article exploring this concept. What is so appealing about the men of the various signs?

Aries (March 21 – April 19)
The Aries Ram is youthful, no matter what his age is. He is ruled by action-oriented Mars. His passion for life is legendary. He often tends to live on the edge which can be exciting, but dangerous. He's not known for his discretion or fidelity in his youth, however later is life he learns to settle down.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
The Taurus Bull has an earthy charm and a confidence that makes him sexy, even if he's not classically handsome. He's fun and flirtatious, but when it comes to commitment he moves slowly. He's likely to stay single until someone really special comes along, but when that happens he'll take his time and wait until that special woman comes around.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)
The Gemini Twin has a twinkle in his eye and a wiggle of his cute ass. He's a real delight with his quick repartee and sexy comebacks. Nobody speaks the language of seduction better. His Twin aspect shows he has a strong feminine as well as masculine side which says he understands the way both sexes think, something that melts your defenses.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)
The Cancer Crab is a sweetheart who'll win you over with his sexy smile and unassuming manner. He'll do just about anything for those he loves. Whether he's protecting you or relaxing in your warm embrace, he's a family man through and through who's definitely in it for the long haul.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)
The Leo Lion is a natural showman and has a sexy, devil-may-care wit. Like his ruler, the Sun, he radiates manly confidence despite his insecurities and won't back down from a fight. In essence, he's a hero and his strength is his most appealing quality. Even the quieter Leo has a thrilling sense of masculinity about him.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)
The Virgo man is intelligent and thoughtful. He remembers your birthday and your favorite perfume. Being ruled by lightning-quick Mercury has his mind going a mile a minute. He tends to be overly analytical and sometimes critical. And just when he's about to drive you crazy with his fussiness, he'll give you a sexy, sheepish grin and melt your heart. His intelligence is his sexiest quality.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)
The Libra man understands and adores his lovers which is a very attractive quality. He's ruled by Venus, the planet of love, and knows how to treat a woman. Candlelight dinners and romantic walks on the beach appeal to him, but he's also the thinking person's turn-on. With his quick mind and way with words, he's always up for a discussion about relationships or culture, and is a champion of fidelity and civil rights.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)
The Scorpio man has a quiet intensity that will reel you in. With smoldering eyes and a sultry voice, they guy can literally mesmerize you which is why Scorpios make good magicians and hypnotists. His sexual magnetism comes from deep inside and its power formidable. He's not a good match for the woman who wants to stay on the surface of things.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)
The Sagittarius Archer's attraction is the call of the wild in his soul and that far-off look in his eye. "Don't fence me in" is his motto. Like his signature animal the horse, he responds to gentle caresses and soothing words. There are some who might find him too hard to pin down.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
The Capricorn Goat has it together, or at least projects the image of being in control. He's ruled by the ambitious Saturn and is a master of the material world and has a seductive attractiveness that goes with that kind of worldly power. He always aims for the top. You can't keep this guy down for long.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)
The Aquarius man doesn't fit the mold. He's a true free spirit who follows his own drummer. He's the type who is usually ahead of his time whose quirkiness is part of his genius. As ruled by the inventive Uranus, he'll dazzle you with utopian ideas and turn you on to worlds you never knew existed. He'll keep you guessing and take you to the edge sexually however emotionally he tends to be reticent and doesn't like to talk about feelings.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
The sensitive and caring Pisces Fish fills you with tingly feelings as he swims straight into your heart. Pisces loves to touch and be touched and often communicates best non-verbally. Sex and spirit are one in the same to the guy which makes your lovemaking ecstatic.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Phenomenon of Speed Dating


What Is It

Speed dating has been around for a little over ten years. It's a dating system whose purpose is to allow singles to meet as many other singles one-on-one as possible in a short specified amount of time. Its origins have been credited to a Rabbi who devised it as a way to help Jewish singles meet prospective mates. It has since shown up as a plot device in several movies and television shows.

The first speed dating event took place at Pete's Café in Beverly Hills in late 1998. By the year 2000, speed dating had become very popular. Supporters of the phenomenon claim it saves time since most people quickly decide if they are romantically compatible and first impressions are often permanent.

How It Works

Organizers of these events usually require advance registration with the total number of participants limited to a specific number. Small events have twenty to thirty participants while others are very large such as the recent one in New Jersey with three hundred and fifty participants. Needless to say, there is usually a registration fee which covers the cost of putting on the event and a profit for the organizers.

Each participant is assigned an identification of some sort, usually a number. They are not allowed to exchange personal information such as names, phone numbers, email addresses, etc., during the "dating" process of the event.

Men and women rotate so that they each has the opportunity to meet the other in a series of short dates that last a set amount of time, usually somewhere between three and eight minutes each depending on the rules set down by the organizer. This could be something as simple as small tables with the women sitting on one side and the men on the other side opposite. At the end of each time period, a signal is given and the participants move on to the next date which might be achieved by the men getting up and moving to the next table to begin his date with a different woman. This continues until each man has had a date with each woman.

At the end of the event, the participants each submit a list to the organizers showing which of their dates they are interested in seeing again. The organizers then compare all the lists and when a match occurs, they forward the personal information to each of them and they are on their own at that point.

Events can have a theme or specific requirements of the participants. Older men and younger women or older women and younger men with age ranges pre-determined. Gays. Lesbians. Ethnic groups. Religious affiliation. Maybe groups that share an interest in a certain hobby.

Proponents of speed dating claim it's time efficient and the structure of the event eliminates the need of trying to figure out how to introduce yourself or create a situation where you can start a conversation with someone. Participants can come alone without feeling awkward or out of place.

A 2005 study at the University of Pennsylvania found that most people made their decision to accept or reject within the first three seconds of meeting and issues such as religion, previous marriages, and smoking habits weren't as important as expected.

A 2006 study in Edinburgh, Scotland, found that conversation about travel resulted in more matches than conversation about films.

Various studies of speed dating events came to the general conclusion that women were more selective than men. The above mentioned University of Pennsylvania study reported that the average man was chosen by 34% of the women and the average woman was chosen by 49% of the men.

Several television shows have used speed dating as an episode plot point—usually a prelude to murder. The murder victim had just participated in a speed dating event which provides a bunch of suspects with whom the victim had no previous connection thus making solving the crime more difficult. Especially when the speed dating ended up having nothing to do with the crime. :)

Now, with all this said about speed dating being a relatively new phenonemon…

Many years ago (many, many, many years ago) when I was a freshman in college and pledging a sorority, the same process now referred to as speed dating was the method used by one of the sororities for the members to meet and interview the prospective pledges. Each member had five minutes with each potential pledge then the member moved on to the next candidate for membership.

I have to admit that it all had a very "assembly line" feel, but was definitely a more efficient use of time than a room full of people standing around not knowing who to talk to or what to do.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vampires And Other Immortals Part 2 of 2

Immortal Living Organism


Meet Turritopsis nutriculaas, a form of jellyfish that is the world's only known immortal creature.

Before we talk about fictional immortals, here's a bit of information about the above photograph. Scientists have recognized Turritopsis nutriculaas as the only known animal that is capable of rejuvenating itself, thus sustaining life over and over again—being immortal.

Jellyfish usually die after propagating, but according to the London Times Turritopsis reverts to a sexually immature stage after reaching adulthood and is capable of rejuvenating itself. It is the only known animal capable of reverting to its juvenile polyp state. In theory, this cycle can repeat indefinitely, making it potentially immortal.

The creature is only 4-5mm in diameter and is found in warm tropical waters but is believed to be spreading across the world as ships discharge their ballast water in ports.

And now on to the other type of immortal—the characters in our myths, literature and movies/television. I recently came across a list of the top ten immortal characters as compiled by LiveScience. This is a cross-section sampling from various forms of storytelling.

10. Peter Pan: The famous boy who never grows up (or grows old) and prefers to live on the magical isle of Never Land.

9. Dracula: If you're desperate to live forever, you could try getting bitten by Dracula or any of the other well-known vampires. Of course, you'd have to give up Italian food which is loaded with garlic and getting a nice suntan would be out of the question.

8. Lazarus Long: A character in many of Robert Heinlein's science fiction novels. Lazarus lives to be over 2,000 years old, travels to distant planets, and travels through time.

7. Nicolas Flamel: J.K. Rowling based Flamel's character (good friend to Hogwart's headmaster) on a real-life French 15th Century alchemist who legend claims successfully created the Philosopher's Stone, a mythical elixir that turns lead into gold and grants eternal life.

6. Tithonus: When Greek goddess Eos asks Zeus to grand her mortal lover, Tithonus, eternal life, she forgets to also ask for eternal youth. Tithonus lives forever, but he grows old and frail, and begs for death.

5. Dorian Gray: Oscar Wilde created this character who remains young and handsome while his portrait ages. He becomes corrupt, but his crimes and true age show only in the face of the painting which grows progressively more monstrous and withered.

4. Highlander: In the 1986 movie, Connor MacLeod is a member of the immortals, a mysterious race who die only when they are beheaded. The immortals must battle each other until only one is left to claim The Prize: the gift of immortality.

3. Grail Knight: A knight of the First Crusade. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade he is given the task of guarding the Holy Grail, a crucible that grants eternal life to any who drink from it.

2. Methuselah: He's the oldest person whose age is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, becoming a father at the age of 187 and living to be 969 years old.

1. Arwen: A half-elven maiden in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings who renounces eternal life to marry her mortal sweetheart. She lives to be 2,901 years old.

Do you have a favorite immortal character among the many?