Monday, July 28, 2014

100% brain usuage -- We're there already.

Keeping us smart

    Considering the amount of stuff you forget, you have to learn something new each day or else you’ll end up dumb as dirt. I don’t like it any more than you do.

    That’s why I promise that by the time you finish this article you will have received your minimum daily requirement of new stuff learned for the day. Again, “minimum” daily requirement.

    First of all, I recently read that Edgar Allan Poe published a book in 1838 entitled “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.” It didn’t sell many copies because of the boring title. Regardless, in Poe’s story, a guy by the name of Richard Parker got eaten by three other sailors on a boat that was lost at sea. You shouldn’t feel too sorry for Parker ‘cause he was the one who suggested one of ‘em get eaten.

    As sad and interesting as that is, it’s not the most interesting thing about the story. In 1884 a yacht named “The Mignonette” sank, and the crew of four ended up adrift in a lifeboat in the Pacific a couple thousand miles from land. At one point, three of the marooned sailors decided that they would kill and the cabin boy. The boy’s name was Richard Parker.

    That’s what you call a coincidence, one that I have thoroughly researched and found to be true… to my satisfaction. However, there’s another account of the Mignonette disaster that I have found to be untrue. It states that the three guys who ate Parker had actually read Poe’s book, and that, although they weren’t really all that hungry, they ate the kid just ‘cause it was too much of coincidence that he was with ‘em. Four guys lost at sea and one of ‘em is named Richard Parker? They felt obligated to eat ‘em. -- That part is not true. But, if I were making this up, I would add it just ‘cause it’s cool.

    So now you’ve learned a little more about Edgar Allan Poe and his apparent skill as a prognosticator of cannibalistic occurrences. (I am so proud of that sentence.) What else can I tell you that you don’t know?

Did you know that the story about only using 10 percent of your brain is not true? You actually use all of your brain, just not at once. In fact, most of your brain is active practically all the time.

    The “10 percent” story started back in 1870 when scientist experimented with dog brains. They’d kill a part of the dog’s brain and discover that the dog could no longer use his right leg. In fact, the poor thing forgot he even had a right leg.

They’d snip another part of its brain and then observe that he didn’t do anything but stare at them. They surmised that they must’ve snipped the part that keeps canines from rudely staring at people.

They kept cutting away the brain until they got no reaction from the dog whatsoever. Having only messed with 10 percent of dog’s brain, they came to the conclusion that 90 percent of a dog’s brain is just along for the ride. And, since humans are so much like dogs, we must be the same way.

The part of this “fact” that is so hard to grasp is that it was not until 2004 that the 1870 “fact” was debunked by a guy named Barry J. Beyerstein. Barry noted in his 2004 Scientific American article that you can’t remove any portion of a person’s brain without the person suffering some loss of function. I don’t know how many people he tested his theory on, but I hope they were paid well.

Why would scientists let us go on thinking for 134 years that we don’t use all of our brain? I saw an episode of “Outer Limits” where a guy managed to tap into 40 percent of his brain and found that he could walk through walls and shoot laser beams out of his eyeballs. In the meantime, I’ve been using all of my brain and I’m only able to bump into walls, and not only am I incapable of shooting laser beams out my eyeballs, I can’t even spit well.

So, if you remember nothing else, remember this: You’re using all the brain you’ve got. There’s nothing more to tap into. You can add some stuff like the new found knowledge of two Richard Parkers getting eaten, but you will never be able to spark a part of your brain that will allow you to magically read my article in Portuguese. Not happening.

    Your last piece of new knowledge for the day involves armadillos. You probably guessed that. Twenty percent of all armadillos have leprosy. The connection between armadillos and leprosy happens to be true. It’s okay to touch the critters, just don’t eat ‘em, or inhale the ground where they relieve themselves. In fact, don’t smell the ground at all. It’s a sign of being dumb as dirt. – Next time. 


Friday, July 18, 2014

A toad handler

This has nothing to do with the article. The kid's impersonating me.  
Rooftop time!

    ROOFTOP – Yes, I realize I misjudged the temperature out here by about 10 degrees. I thought the sun had been down long enough for things to cool off up here. I believe we’re at the point where things don’t cool off till mid-November.

    Truth is, I don’t think it’s any hotter than it usually is at this time of year. I just used to handle the heat so much better. And, a few decades ago, I used to be able to eat canned spaghetti. Now, I have no tolerance for it. Has Boyardee altered his recipe, or has my palate become more sensitive due to an obsession with flossing.

    Speaking of which, I was looking at The Courier’s contest for the Best of Montgomery County for 2014. When I began writing down my choices, I discovered that my taste in eating establishments has changed over time. Again, I don’t know if it’s the eating places or me who has changed.

    Best Mexican food restaurant? I don’t have a clue. There are only 362 in the County. I could come much closer to picking my favorite pickle. The best breakfast place has changed for me. I’m now voting for The Toasted Yolk. And, that’s crazy, ‘cause I don’t even like my yolks toasted.

    Best burger? I don’t eat bad burgers. On the Mark and Cindy Show, our listeners voted for Whataburger as the best “fast food” burger. It won by a landslide. McDonalds won for Best Fast Food Rib Sandwich. I’ve never had one.  

    You even get to vote on Best Funeral Home. I prefer the one where the mortician doesn’t make fun of me while he’s getting me prepared. I don’t want to hear one of them say something like, “Wow, look at the size of that honker! He shoulda donated it to one of them beluga whales at Sea World.” I get enough of that kind of talk while I’m alive. I don’t need to hear it when I’m dead.

    Anyway, there are a lot of difficult decisions to be made on the “Best of Montgomery County” ballot. If I filled it all out, I’d have to make up stuff. Best Spot for Singles, Best Chiropractor, Veterinarian, Nail Salon, Boutique-- Boutique? I recognize the name. I’ve even used the name. But when I did, I wasn’t sure what I was talking about. I do that occasionally. – Beg pardon? No, you definitely said something.

    Speaking of the lawn, it’s less than half mowed. I figured I’d mention it before one of you did. Just the other side of the big oak is as far as I got yesterday before I nearly stroked. I don’t push myself as much as I used to. More to the point, I don’t push my mower as far as I used to.

I don’t know if the yard is expanding or it’s just too hot and I’m way out of shape. Something has turned an afternoon job into a two-day chore. I think you’re right. The yard is growing. If you scratch this thing, you’re going to find fracking to be the culprit.

    That’s weird. Five years ago had you mentioned fracking, I would have thought it was a new game that involved surgical gloves. -- Now we know it as a question to an answer on Jeopardy. – “Is causing earthquakes in Oklahoma.” – What is fracking, Alex? I’ll take “Things You Shouldn’t Scratch” for 500.

    Okay, let’s forget the fracking, the funeral homes and the fast food, and listen to the night sounds for a minute. Yes, some of those are cicadas we’re hearing, but some of that is toad talk. No frogs around here, but the toads are back..

    I was replacing a couple of leaky outdoor faucets last week, and when I opened the cover to the shutoff valve from the waterline, there was a big fat toad sitting in the dirt in an apparent state of deep thought. I don’t know how it got in there. I assume it squeezed through the little hole in the lid back when it was just a toadette. Now it was much more than that. It was a fat toad.

    I’ve never been much for picking up toads. Kay’s a toad handler. She’s comfortable grabbing turtles, toads and turkeys… occasionally at the same time. I’m good with ladybugs and uh… Only ladybugs. Unfortunately, Kay wasn’t home at the moment of my toad sighting, so it was up to me.

    In some instances I ask myself the tried and true question – What would Jesus do? That’s good if an old lady cuts in front of you at the checkout in the grocery store, but not for toad removal. For that, I ask myself – What would Rambo do?

    Rambo would stab the toad with his 20-inch bowie knife, the one with the saw-teeth near the hilt. I was knifeless, so I just braced myself and grabbed the toad. It didn’t feel all that bad, but I didn’t want to make a game of it, so I just set it in the grass and then tried to shut off the valve with my giant valve turning thing.

    While I was wrestling with the valve, the toad eased itself back into the hole. I’m not joking. What a toad! I grabbed the stupid thing and carried it over to the flowerbed down yonder. That was a couple of weeks ago. Something tells me that that thing is half submerged in the cool dirt next to the shut off valve.

    The thing is smarter than we are. It’s way too warm up here. I’m about ready to climb down and dig us a cool hole in the front yard. The only thing keeping me from it is the fear that Rambo might show up.

End  and The Mark and Cindy Show

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fall go boom.

“Movie mishap”

    Last weekend I went to the Market Street Theatre in The Woodlands to see “The Rover.” I am so pleased that Market Street provides an outlet for little known Independent films.

    “The Rover” was billed as being about post-apocalyptic Australia. Kay doesn’t like post-apocalyptic movies set in Australia… or anywhere else for that matter. Oddly enough, she didn’t even enjoy any of the Mad Max movies. I have no idea how this marriage is holding together.

    While I much prefer going to the movie with Kay, going alone does have its perks. I don’t have to share my popcorn and I can get a root beer instead of a Coke Zero.  Market Street’s large popcorn comes in a bucket. I’m not sure the bucket holds as much as the medium bag, but it’s a bucket. Get it?

I entered the last theatre on the right about five minutes before previews. The theatre was one of the smaller ones. The one where if you sit on the far side you have to walk in front of the screen to go to the restroom. I hate to do that.

    Anyway, I walked in feeling as happy as if my car had just passed inspection. I had my bucket of popcorn and medium root beer and was going to see Guy Pearce playing Mad Max.

Before heading up the steps I counted five patrons -- one lady sitting on the first row, a middle-aged couple on the fourth and another on the sixth. No one appeared to be a threat. Jason Bourne taught me to always make a note when I enter a place. Bourne was never taken by surprise.  

No one noticed me casing the joint, ‘cause I’ve got panache. Loaded with it. They noted nothing suspicious when I took my first step and then my second. But the third step? That’s when it all went crazy. My right foot never landed on the third step. It hit the surface of something, causing me to stumble a bit. No problem. I’ve got great balance. All I had to do was find it.

I was going be fine. Slightly embarrassed, but I can deal with slight embarrassment. But, I kept stumbling, so much so that I lost a bit of my popcorn. I figured maybe two bucks worth. I can do math fast.

I gave up searching for my balance, ‘cause I knew it was gone. Now all I could do was plan my fall. I figured I’d land on my right knee and spring right back up. Piece of cake. Unfortunately, my legs were uncooperative. I was going all the way on this one. This would be a big one. Oh, the humiliation.

I was about ten minutes into the stumble, when I lost all the popcorn. It went everywhere. I believe the laser-like beam from the camera showed some of it fly across  the screen.

Fortunately, the floor finally came up to meet me. Both my elbows landed on the same step. Not real sure what happened to the rest of my body. At some point during the free fall, my root beer left my hand and hit my left foot. I soon discovered that the medium cup holds a lot of liquid.  If I had let the girl talk me into the large drink, they would’ve had to re-carpet the entire theatre.

I stayed down longer than I intended, ‘cause I wanted to savor the moment. The first thing I noticed was that the place was quiet. Everyone was staring at me, but not saying a word. The entire spectacle was a little over 40 minutes, yet, no one had reacted.*

After gathering my wits I said, “All of you keep your seats! I’m okay.” Everyone continued to sit and stare. They were expressionless. Void of expression.   

The lady sitting closest to me did ask if I was okay, and then reminded me that I could get a free refill of popcorn. I felt like giving her a hug just for expressing a kind thought.

I did go out and tell a theatre employee about the mess. The kid showed up with a broom, a bucket and paper towels. While he was sweeping, I noticed that the steps had different widths. Every second or third step was wider than the one before it. That’s so you can enter the rows better. I guess. I must’ve subconsciously been expecting a longer platform ahead of me when there was really just a short one. 

When the kid finished cleaning up, I tried to give him some money, but he declined it. Told me he was only doing his job. I was about to wrestle him right there in the theatre, but figured I had already made enough of a scene.

Oh, and the movie? “The Rover.” Most forgettable. Mad Max it wasn’t. It did have a bunch of flies, filth, desert and mean people. The most memorable thing about the movie was the guy who fell on the steps.

As for me, I’ve never seen anyone trip in a theatre. In fact, the only fall I remember was at college when a guy slipped on an icy sidewalk. It took him 15 minutes to hit the ground. I got a good laugh out of that. And, last Friday at the Market Street Theatre I got my payback. Payback is a bear.

* Scientists will tell you that only three things can slow time. Gravity, an object going the speed of light, and a fall. Einstein did the math on all three.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pliler Anniversary

“The Gold One”

    Virginia and Freeman just celebrated their 50-Year Anniversary. Their son, Michael, threw them a big party over at the church, and we had barbecue and all the fixin’s. BBQ is pretty much the scriptural meal for celebrating stuff. I think it’s somewhere in Deuteronomy. 

Fifty of anything is a lot, and when you’re talking wedded years, it’s a whole lot. That’s why they call it the Golden Anniversary. Since Kay and I couldn’t afford to get ‘em anything made of gold, we decided to give them some golden memories.

 Golden memories are cheap as all get out, but they’re so valuable. I’m fairly sure our best friends would’ve rather had something in real gold, but we’re not that good of best friends. To tell the truth there hasn’t been a great deal of friend nurturing of late.

That’s what I talked about while emceeing the anniversary party. The emcee can say just about anything he wants. That’s why they call it “Emcee.” It stands for… I have no idea. Just one of those weird words.

So, I told everyone at the party how the Plilers used to be. We went everywhere and did everything together. We had birthday trips where the birthday person was given $15 to spend on something they wouldn’t ordinarily buy. Something fun.

Virginia always bought candles, ‘cause she’s a goober. Freeman would buy fishing lures or ammunition or camouflage drawers. Camouflage something. Kay usually got costume jewelry, and I usually bought something in a cashew. Roasted, chocolate covered, honey-coated, peanut-butter drenched, Cheeto-mixed… anything in a cashew.

Besides the birthday trips, the Plilers and Hayters also used to camp out a lot. We had to borrow the Jackson’s camper until Virginia and Freeman broke down and bought one of their own. Took me forever to persuade them to do that. The Jacksons were good friends, but I just hated to keep borrowing their camper.

We also used to eat supper out every Thursday. In fact, the death of that tradition is what signaled the demise of a wonderful friendship. And, do you wanna know what caused it? Grandkids. Grandkids can really mess up a friendship.

It happened all at once, too. I called over at the Plilers’ one Thursday afternoon and asked where we were gonna eat. Do you know what Virginia said? “Oh, we can’t go out tonight, ‘cause the grandkids are coming over.” That was her excuse. The Hayters were weighed in the balance and found wanting.

It went on like that for several Thursdays until I just quit pushing. You don’t hafta hit me over the head. And that’s what I told all of those gathered at the anniversary party. No one can compete with grandkids. You might as well load up your bean dip and nachos and head for the casa, ‘cause the grandkids are going to rule.

By the way, all the grandkids were at the anniversary party and heard me say all of this. If any of them felt the least bit guilty, I couldn’t tell. I shouldn’t blame them, though. Seems that most parents love their kids, but they worship their grandkids. Humans are the only creatures that are big on grandkids. Do you think chickens care for their grandkids? They couldn’t even pick ‘em out of a carton.

Kay and I never had kids, so Virginia and Freeman were like our grandkids. -- Uh, strike that. But, you get the point. – Point being, we enjoyed the moments. Do you know who got me started writing this column? Virginia. Back in ’79 The Hayters and Plilers had just returned from a tubing expedition in New Braunsfels and Virginia recommended I write a story about it and submit it to The Courier. Thirty-five years later I’m still writing for the Courier and The Villager.

By the way, Virginia became a teacher because of her best friend. One night around a campfire I asked her what she’d like to do if she could do anything. She said she’d like to be a teacher. I went way out on a limb and said, “Well, why don’t you go to college, get a degree and teach?”

She did, too. Impressed everyone she knew, and helped hundreds of students move on in life. And, I’m the one responsible. Well, I had a hand in it.

And, Freeman? Don’t get me started. I don’t want you to take advantage of him, but Freeman will do anything for you. He’s helped us move four times, taken me to the doctor a few times, fixed stuff for me all the time… He’s “Good ‘ol Free,” and always will be.

That doesn’t even touch the surface of what all that couple has meant to Kay and me. And, that’s what I told ‘em at the anniversary party. Instead of waiting to say good stuff at their funerals, I got it out of the way while they’re still alive. I’m not sure that’s scriptural, but I did it anyway.

And, yes, they’re still our best friends. We don’t rate up there with their grandkids, but who does? Makes no sense, you ask me.