Offtheshelf's blog

Remotely Resembling Relevance

The struggle to be relevant, and the gentle feeling that I am drifting further and further away from anything remotely resembling relevance, has consumed my thoughts of late.

There was a time during the 1990's when I was on the fast track. I was in my mid-30s. I was weighing a lean 165 pounds. I had a great job that had me flying to Washington, DC a couple of times a year - just to make me feel important. I was making good money ... more money than this Dorchester-born kid knew what to do with. (Fortunately, I had the good sense to put the extra income toward paying down the mortgage rather than squandering it on some materialistic stupidity).

I hung with people who shared my views on life, music, movies, and micro-brewed beer. In my spare time I wrote for a number of publications and had three books published. I gave lectures around the Cape on local history. I was on local television and radio. It seemed everywhere I went was the right place to be at the right moment. I was living the dream on good ol' Cape Cod!

Then something happened. I made a risky career move - and took a sizable salary cut in the process - toward becoming a full time marketing copywriter. It worked out for about three years until the company was sold. A layoff, followed by a knee-jerk move out to the Mid West (and back again to Cape Cod ... all the while carrying two houses for the period of a full year) tapped the bank account as well as my resolve.

Now, ten years removed from the "glory days" of the 1990's irrelevance abounds. I am in my mid-40s. I weigh 190 pounds. I have two part-time jobs paying an hourly wage that doesn't even total half of what I was making before. (Fortunately the mortgage is only $491.22 a month, the cars are all paid off, and I still have my IRA account intact.) People have either moved on, died, or no longer share my views on life or beer. I've lost interest in writing for publications - my only output now being my CCToday blog or an occasional magazine article. (Although I have recently coauthored a book due out by May 1 entitled Cape Cod Harvest - look for it at your local bookstore or gift shop!)

The struggle for relevance has been replaced by a sudden desire to smoke a pipe while rocking gently back and forth out on the front porch swing. I'm winding down. The other day I was smoking and swinging while watching the sunset - now if that isn't "winding down" then I don't know what is.

The term "sabbatical" keeps leaping to my head. An opportunity to regroup. To get my head screwed back on straight. And then, hopefully, to return with a fresh, new, upbeat outlook.

I have an eleventh hour income tax blog in the works, which I'll post this weekend. After that I'll be on a short sabbatical. If you need me, I'll be on the front porch, swinging and smoking ... and searching for anything remotely resembling relevance.

Jack Sheedy

Dog Recall ... and Other Woes

Life these days -- during the early years of the 21st century -- is full of worry and woe and further woe ... and additional worry.

There's the lurking fear of global terrorism, the slithering specter of sub-prime mortgage interest rates, the inconvenient truth of global warming, and the potential pitfall of celebrities that make racial slurs over the airwaves (and then publicly repent ... all in the name of increased ratings).

There's the concerning yet strangely amusing hunting accidents involving US vice presidents, the outrageous and outright grotesque salaries paid to professional athletes, and the twisted and terrifically terrible terror of tainted dog food. Everywhere you turn there are wickedness and evil and not-niceness and vulgarities and gluttony and selfish behavoir and continued crimes against humanity (and now crimes against canines). And that's all before you've had your first cup of coffee in the morning.

My life  must be pretty boring compared with other folks. As far back as I can remember I've never contemplated committing a terrorist act ... I refinanced my mortgage to a fixed rate before the adjustable rate took off ... I haven't had a piece of glacier or polar ice cap conk me off the head or fall on my big toe ... I've never made an insensitive racial slur over the radio ... I've never shot a friend with buckshot in hopes of bagging a quail ... I've never signed a multimillion dollar sports contract, complete with signing bonus ... and I've never put poison or some chemical not approved by the FDA in my dog's food. How utterly boring I am!

Yet, every day nutty people are out there in the world doing their very best to keep things interesting for us "normal" folk ... us normal folk who work all day, and pay our fair share of taxes, and then come home to turn on the evening news for a good laugh.

Think about it. What would we do during the evening news if crazy people weren't out there all day long creating the news for us? What if no one was killed in anger today? Not one murder, not one terrorist act, not one bit of genocide in some backwards third world nation. Then where would we be?

What if wacky Mid-East leaders weren't threatening to enrich uranium? Or weren't holding British soldiers hostage? Or weren't oppressing people in their own country? Or what if religious fundamentalists weren't blowing themselves up on crowded streets? I think you can see how boring the world would quickly become.

Thankfully, there are six billion people in the world. Granted, most of them are normal, hardworking folks like you and me who will never achieve their "fifteen minutes" of world news fame. But consider the small percentage of crazy people who do fill up the news with their daily fits of insanity. We, the television viewers (as well as the companies that advertise on the evening news) are eternally grateful for their wacky contributions. 

Jack Sheedy

PS: In the wake of the recent dog food recall, the Veterinarian General in Washington, DC has issued a mandatory Dog Recall. That's right, a Dog Recall. If you own an Airedale, Beagle, Boston Terrier, Dachshund, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Mastiff, Newfoundland, Norwegian Elkhound, Old English Sheepdog, Pekingese, Pug, Scottish Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, or Yorkshire Terrier you are asked to return your dog to the nearest animal shelter immediately. Thank you for your kind attention.

Sabbatum Sanctum - An Ode to Coffee, Toothpaste & Postage Stamps

Sabbatum Sanctum

ssabbatum Sanctum / Holy Saturday / Awoke at 5 am to take out the dog / Fell back asleep / Awoke again at 8:15 am / Wicked morning breath,

Checked for rigor mortis / No sign of such / Must be alive / So I arose / Injected myself with heavy doses of coffee / Cream, no sugar,

Remembered a dream I had had / Something about addressing envelopes / Wrote "Mass." on the envelopes instead of "MA" / Big argument with the postal clerk / Awoke to find my face covered with 39-cent stamps / Bizarre,

sabbatum_sanctumWashed up / Brushed my teeth / Trimmed my beard (particularly the gray hairs) / Worked a brush through my hair / Need to lose a few pounds / But not too bad for a guy in his mid-40's who sits around writing in his spare time,

Balanced the checkbook / Paid homeowner's insurance bill / Set aside credit card bill until next paycheck / Real estate tax bill due May 1 / Did I ever mention how much I despise money? / Or, rather, the lack thereof,

Lit my first cigarette of the day / But then remembered I don't smoke / Note to self: Buy myself a pipe / And pipe tobacco / It'll help me to look sophisticated / Although concerned about lip cancer,

Played the drums for about twenty minutes / Not too bad / I can almost keep a steady beat / Maybe need to take a lesson / Or two or three / And some musical talent wouldn't hurt either,

Went to the library / Picked up two books on Chinese history for my daughter / Went to the tennis club / Picked up re-strung tennis racquet for my son / Who are these young people living in my house? / And why am I running their errands?

Damn, I was supposed to write a new blog / About the forgotten US Presidents / You know, like Franklin Pierce and Zachary Taylor and James Buchanan / And William Henry Harrison and James Polk and Millard Fillmore / Maybe next week / If I get inspired,

Need to paint the bathroom walls / And the hallway walls / And need to finish "mudding" the sheetrock in the playroom downstairs / And need to change the oil in the van / And to rake the lawn / And to fix the backyard fence before it falls down during the next windstorm,

ssabbatum Sanctum / Holy Saturday / Sabbatum Sanctum / A day within the void / Between death and life / Awaiting Easter's promise of rebirth,

ssabbatum Sanctum-noon / Holy Saturday afternoon/ Here I sit and think and type / But now I'm finished with this blog / So, I have just one little question / How do you light this blasted pipe?

Jack Sheedy

What's the Point?

Please pardon the following introspection...

Emily Dickinson wrote: "Hope is the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul / and sings the tone without the words / and never stops at all."

The "thing with feathers." Hope. It is what we live for. It is the reason we crawl out of bed in the morning. And it is the dream that lulls us to sleep each night.

It is the "thing with feathers" that allows us to fly above all of life's travails and see the horizon of a new day just beyond today's sunset. It is the "thing with feathers" that keeps us coming back for more, day after day after day.

One might ask, "What's the point of it all?" We move from one day to the next, one week to the next, one month to the next. We pay our mortgage, and our electric bill, and our telephone bill, and we grocery shop, and we do all those things that constitute "living." As we travel along, one day blends seamlessly into the next in a never-ending stream of existence. Days become months and years. Life unravels. One has every right to ask, "What is the bloody point?"

Meanwhile, today's world has become so overloaded with "stuff." And most of the stuff adds nothing of any real worth to our state of well-being.

Thoreau had it right - "Simplify ... Simplify." Strip away all the trappings of life and get down to the essentials of living. Sunrise. The phases of the moon. The constellations. The change of seasons. How little we notice the natural drama unfolding around us as we busily run about our lives, clinging to "worthlessness" as if it were our very lifeblood.

Yet, it is the "thing with feathers" that makes it all worthwhile. The hope that today will be a special day. The hope that tomorrow will be even better. The hope that perched within our soul is a song that never stops - a "tone without the words" - a song whose melody tells the story of who we are and of what we will become.

Our moment on this rotating and revolving rock is but fleeting. In the scheme of the cosmos, we are but a small stone cast into a pond, causing a sudden ripple ... and then we are gone.

So, again one asks, "What is the point of it all?"

The point is that we are here. By design or by accident we exist. If you believe that God put you here, then that's great! If you believe that Darwin and his theory of evolution and natural selection put you here, then that's great! If you believe that God created Darwin and his theory of evolution, then that's great, too! The point is to live life. To rejoice in everything and everybody that makes up your day. To open your eyes to the wonder of it all.

Thankfully, we have the "thing with feathers" perched in our souls. Hope is what makes us step outside at night to gaze up at the moon, and the planets, and the stars ... and to stare at the heavens above in a sense of celestial wonderment.

Hope is what causes us to offer up our thanks for today's gifts. And it's what gives us the strength and resolve to offer up a prayer for tomorrow.

Jack Sheedy, Philosopher-in-training

PS: With my next blog I'll get back to the usual zaniness - with a look at the lesser US Presidents. You know, the ones who don't have their face minted on a coin or printed on paper currency. Who never had a holiday named after them. Who aren't immortalized at Mount Rushmore. And who don't have a monument in Washington, DC. The forgotten Presidents ... you know, folks like William Henry Harrison, James Polk, Franklin Pierce, Chester A. Arthur, and of course, Warren G. Harding. Until next time ...

 

Good Intentions Gone Awry

I had every intention of attending mass this morning. After all, it is Palm Sunday and a Catholic home should have a palm over the fireplace mantle throughout the Holy week.

Like I said, I had every intention of attending mass. Over morning coffee I listened to my Gregorian Chant CD - to get into the mood. I put on a new shirt and a pair of dark pants, laced up my dress shoes, fussed with my hair a bit, and debated briefly whether or not to shave a couple of weeks' growth off my face. (Decided to keep it, after all I'm starting to look like St. Peter and it fits the Holy week spirit ... although wasn't he the disciple who denied Christ three times before the cock crowed? ... or was he the doubting one? ... no, that was Thomas ... actually, the more I think of it I look more like Judas than either Peter or Thomas ... enough! You're running late!)

Finally in the car, I motored along the quiet country roads. Not quite like riding a donkey into Jerusalem as Christ did, but close. Pulling into the church parking lot, the dashboard clock displayed 10:01. Late! But there was still a chance to sneak in before anything important was said. Maybe no one would notice. Parked, I exited the car and walked briskly across the lot toward the church. Like I said, I had every intention of attending mass.

But then something struck me. Maybe it was the beautiful spring morning. Maybe it was the fact that I was late and didn't want to enter church after the "first pitch was thrown." Maybe it was because I just realized that all I had in my wallet was a $20 bill, and I couldn't put that much in the collection plate (especially after examining the cost of my daughter's upcoming college education over coffee earlier that morning ... $22,000 a year! After financial aid! Holy cow!) And what if there was a second collection, then what? I doubted the church took debit cards.

Or maybe it was because I had not been to Sunday mass since Pope John Paul II died. Perhaps the new Pope had made changes to the Catholic mass over the past two years - a la Vatican III - and I wouldn't know what to do and when to do it (i.e. standing when I'm supposed to be kneeling, singing the Lord's Prayer instead of just speaking it like in the old days, sneezing when it's time to cough, etc).

So, I hesitated. Other stragglers hurried past me. I walked a little further, slowly, aimlessly, killing time. Then, when no one was around, I turned and headed up into a wooded area near the rectory and took a seat on a wooden bench in the prayer garden. A few moments passed. Mass was certainly underway by now. Outside, I found myself attending my own private mass, listening to the birds, feeling the slight breeze, shafts of sunlight visiting me through the tree branches above, very peaceful.

For a good 25 minutes I sat there, thinking, turning things over in my mind, examining my life thus far. Occasionally a late churchgoer would hurry by. Otherwise, I was alone with my thoughts.

The subject of my private sermon was on becoming a better person. I cast back over my previous 44 years as a sort of rewound sacrament of reconciliation. I didn't dwell too much on my past faults -- I merely acknowledged them and asked for forgiveness. Then I sat perfectly still as a crystal clear stream of thought entered my largely defunct gray matter. The previous 44 years are done. There is nothing I can do to relive a single day. Any faults, any failures, any misgivings, any successes, any victories are now past history. I need to put it all behind me - the good and the bad.

The important thing now is the next 44 years. What kind of a person will I be going forward? I wasn't sure of the answer. But I knew, as I arose from the bench, that merely asking the question was a good first step.

Walking back to my car, I noticed a flash of green in the parking lot ahead of me. It was a forgotten palm, most likely dropped by someone who had attended the 8:30 mass. I picked it up and examined it - its familiar feeling in my hands bringing to mind childhood memories of Palm Sundays passed, back when my Italian grandfather fashioned crucifixes out of palms for my sister and me. With a reflective smile, I took the palm home. It now rests atop the fireplace mantle. After all, it is Holy week and every Catholic home should have a palm over the mantle!

As I said, I had every intention of attending mass this morning. On Good Friday I'll try again. And on Easter Sunday as well. I just need to remember to get to church sooner, to bone up on Vatican III ... and to make sure I have some smaller bills in my wallet.

Jack Sheedy

 

Breathe Less ... Smell More!

During the 1960's, I was too young to be politically aware. Heck, I was too young to know what the word "politically" even meant ... or the word "aware" ... or the word "be" ... or pretty much any word beyond "Dick," "Jane," "Spot," and "run."

It wasn't until the 1970's that I began to take sides on certain issues. War, industrial pollution, nukes, continental drift, disco - I was against them all.

So, when I entered college in 1980 I figured I'd be meeting like-minded people who would question the issues of the day, attend protests and sit-ins, and perhaps even take over an administration building or two. Instead, my overgrown-hair-and-faded-jean- jacket persona was met with a student body of well-groomed, well-dressed, upper middle class young adults in preppy shirts who were more interested in becoming engineers and accountants than in holding "No Nukes" signs or protesting anything at all.

One day came my big chance. I awoke to find the US at war. Just like in the days of Vietnam we had something to protest! Granted, it was a war against Grenada, an island off the coast of South America well smaller than pieces of ice that today regularly break off from the Arctic ice shelf. But still, it was a war and it was something to protest!

So, a few of us rummaged through our dorm basement and rounded up some old "Stop the War" banners and anti-LBJ signs left over from the '60's. (Of course, I had to point out to the group that Reagan was now president, and not LBJ). We gathered up our signs, and some gas masks we found, and assembled outside the dining hall just around lunchtime. By mid-afternoon the war was over. (Whether it had something to do with our protest, or the fact that the small communist faction on Grenada was completely overwhelmed by the US Marines, is still a subject of debate).

With the war over as quickly as it started, and with us still wearing gas masks in fear of a potential showdown with the National Guard (which never materialized), we next turned the attention of our protest to the issue of cream of broccoli soup, which was served in the dining hall as the "soup of the day" every day. This was clearly cruel and unusual punishment, and had to be stopped! After two solid hours of protest college officials promised to add cream of mushroom soup to the menu. It was a small victory, but a victory just the same.  

Fast forward to the early 21st century. The big issue these days -- besides the Iraq War, and the soon-to-be Iran War, and terrorism, and rising oil prices, and folks trapped by sub-prime interest rates, and the threat of inflation, and tainted dog food -- is global warming. It's one of those "funny" issues. I believe we would all care deeply if our world were to suddenly become uninhabitable, yet we detect no observable threat to our immediate surroundings so our general reaction is "ho hum." As long as the sun is shining and the US Mail is being delivered on a daily basis, what do we care? All that melting ice sheet stuff might as well be taking place on another planet.

Yet, there are people who are so deeply concerned that they've become part of a movement ... per the website stopglobalwarming.org. Apparently some 700,000 people have registered for a Stop Global Warming March. A march? Against global warming? Who? When? Where? And will refreshments be served?

But wait, this isn't like the marches we've seen in the past where hundreds of thousands of hippies descend on Washington, DC and swim naked in the reflecting pool. No, this march is a Stop Global Warming Virtual March. It's the new wave of 21st century protest. Nowadays, you can protest all you want ... in your pajamas and slippers ... from the comfort of your laptop.

With a virtual march all you need do is register online. No tear gas to worry about. No fire hoses. No arrests. No appearing in court the next day to answer to charges of civil disobedience. None of that. You simply register online. Other big names are already on the "march" as we speak - Al Gore (of course), Sheryl Crow (makes sense), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (to trump Gore), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (to convince voters he's pro-environment), Sen. John McCain (hmmm, bit of a surprise, but not really), skateboarder Tony Hawk (?), Huey Lewis (apparently without the News), Barenaked Ladies (the rock group, that is), and Blue Man Group (although they're trying to figure out how to work a piece of broken off ice shelf into their upcoming shows).

But what can we common folk do to reverse global warming? Of course, whatever we do as individuals to help the situation is dwarfed by what industry does on a daily basis to destroy the environment. Heck, the emissions released from the liftoff of the space shuttle alone sets us back years. Regardless, here are some "feel good" things you can do to make it seem like you're doing something to stop global warming:

Give off less carbon dioxide - Carbon dioxide, that's the problem. Animals breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. So, it's been suggested that we all breathe less. If we could cut our daily breathing by 50%, that would mean we'd exhale half as much. If everybody did that, then global warming would be reversed in no time ... that is, until the next shuttle launch.

Don't drive your car to work - Your car burns fossil fuels and emits carbon monoxide. That isn't good. So it's suggested that you quit your job so you won't need to drive to work. In fact, there's no need to leave your house at all. You can survive off grass and twigs and squirrel meat - it tastes just like piping plover, which tastes just like chicken, or so I'm told.  

Take fewer showers - Every time you take a shower you throw the whole ecosystem of the world out of kilter. (Way to go, Mr. Clean!!) It's suggested that you take fewer showers. Or to really do Mother Nature a great service, take no showers at all. Heck, the Pilgrims never showered, so why should you?

So, to sum up -- don't shower, quit your job, eat squirrels, and take 50% fewer breaths. That's the ticket to a healthier, happier planet Earth!

See, there are ways to protest in the 21st century. And you don't even need to leave your house to do it. Which is a good thing, because ... I hate to be the one to tell you this ... since you stopped showering, boy do you smell!!

Jack Sheedy

Bewitched, Bewildered & Biweekly

Or, befuddled, bemused, and bimonthly.

Either way, I have a question. Who the heck came up with Webster's Dictionary?! (And don't be a smart aleck and tell me it was some guy named Webster!)

Well, whether or not it was some guy named Webster, or some guy named Oxford, or some guy named Encarta, I have to know what the heck he was thinking when he came up with the words "biweekly" and "bimonthly." The definitions make absolutely no sense whatsoever, and leave me scratching my head wondering when exactly I'll be receiving my next magazine subscription.

The word "biweekly" has two definitions: 1) occurring every two weeks, or 2) occurring twice a week. Huh?

Similarly, the term "bimonthly" means: 1) occurring every two months, or 2) occurring twice a month. Again, huh?

Does that mean that a "biweekly" newsletter is published every two weeks? Or is it published twice a week?

And does that mean that a "bimonthly" magazine comes out every other month? Or twice a month?

How do we know which is the case? Who determines which definition prevails? This is nuts! I can't believe no one has ever addressed this obvious word definition error ... an error that most definitely causes unsuspecting persons to sit around anxiously waiting for up to six weeks for a magazine to arrive! Or causes business people to miss meetings because they thought it was to take place next week or next month (instead of yesterday or two days ago), or next Tuesday, or a month from this Wednesday (instead of this past Tuesday or last Wednesday). It's all madness. Good God, this is no way to run the world!

What if Iranian representatives were scheduled to meet with a UN peace delegation biweekly to avoid a potential military solution in response to that country's plans to develop nuclear weapons. And what if the Iranians thought the meetings were to take place every two weeks while the UN delegation planned on twice a week. One can just imagine the scenario being played out:

UN Ambassador: "Mr. President, the Iranians did not show up for today's scheduled biweekly meeting."

US President: "That's the second time this week! I guess we have no alternative but to stick to our earlier threat and attack immediately!"

Strangely, "biweekly" definition #1 matches up pretty closely with "bimonthly" definition #2 - both roughly means "occurring every two weeks" (or "fortnightly" to British types). Yet, I don't think there was any forethought in that synchronic logic, for taken the other way -- "biweekly" definition #2 and "bimonthly" definition #1 are off by something like five and a half weeks. This is all insane! Something has to be done!

What would happen if other words behaved the same way? For instance, what if "last" really meant "first" - and you showed up at the landlord's door on the last day of the month with the rent check in hand only to find that you've been evicted for nonpayment of a bill that was actually due 31 days earlier.

Or what if "innocent" really meant "guilty," and you are on trial and are asked by the judge, "How do you plea?" I think you can see how befuddling things would quickly become (not to mention how bewildering!).

So, I'm in the process of putting together a petition to get this biweekly-bimonthly situation cleared up. First we have to decide on a firm definition for each. That's where you come in. I need you to vote on the following. Simply tick the box and mail this form to your representative in Congress:

----------------------------------------------- cut here -----------------------------------------------------

Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms Congressman/woman/person,

Please do something about the potentially dangerous biweekly/bimonthly confusion (which could result in a war with Iran if left to chance). Indicated below is my choice of definition.

Biweekly:  [  ]  occurring every two weeks    [  ]  occurring twice a week

Bimonthly:  [  ]  occurring every two months    [  ]  occurring twice a month.

Mail to: US Capitol, Washington DC, Attn: Word Definition Subcommittee

---------------------------------------------- cut here -------------------------------------------------------

Please cast your vote today. Together, we can wipe out confusing word definitions so that future generations might live in a world devoid of befuddlement and bewilderment.

Jack Sheedy

PS: And don't even get me started on biyearly!

A note from Mary Todd Lincoln

Hi, folks! A Pulitzer prize-winning blog entry I posted two evenings ago never made it to the radar screen.

By sunrise of the next morning it was buried and forever lost to the neverending treadmill of life known as progression.

postitAnyway, it had to do with "what if historical personalities from the past left post-it notes to one another" -- hard to explain, but it might give you a chuckle or two to brighten your day (after all, it is now Spring ... so get outside and plant something!).

Here's a sneak preview of a note from Mary Todd Lincoln to her husband, Abraham:

Abe,

Darling, when you trim your beard, could you please clean the hair out of the sink! I don't know how many times I have to tell you this! Oh, before I forget ... a courier delivered a message - apparently Grant took Richmond (or something like that ...the courier said you'd know what it means). Again, please don't forget to clean up the sink.

Your loving wife, Mary

And another from Pat Nixon to her husband, Richard:

Dick,

Some plumber called. He said something about a leak that needed to be covered up. I told him all our pipes are fine and the toilets are in working order. Any clue what he was talking about?

Love, Pat

To read more, click on this link .

Now, if you don't mind, I need to get back to doing my taxes. Darn this Form 4562! Depreciation! Amortization!! What's the point!!!

Jack Sheedy

PS: At 10:31 this evening, if your ears were suddenly ringing with the joyous music of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah, that was me finally finishing my taxes!

Historic Refrigerator Notes

Being the central gathering place of the house - for grazing and for thirst quenching - the refrigerator has emerged as the key domestic location where important notes (usually held via some sort of a magnet) are left by one family member to another family member. These scribbled notes tell of personal news items, of phone calls received, of visitors who might have stopped by while you were out, or else simply provide a message, such as, "Finished homeworkgone to the mall with my friends - be back by dinnertime."

It makes me wonder ... what type of refrigerator note would have been left for some of the great historical figures down through the ages? Hmmm....

My dearest Caesar,

Brutus stopped by to borrow your whetstone. He said he'd meet up with you later. Don't forget, you promised to take me to the Ides of March dance tonight. I ironed your new toga. See you later, my handsome emperor!

Love, Cleopatra

Judas,

Some Roman soldiers and High Priests stopped by to talk with you. They said something about wanting to find a friend of yours named Jesus or Jimmie or Jesse ... I didn't quite catch the name. Anyway, they left you a sack of gold coins. I put it on your bed, under your pillow. I'm off to bingo. There are leftovers in the refrigerator. Don't stay up late. Kiss, kiss.

Love, Mother

Arthur,

The furniture movers delivered the pieces you ordered for the formal dining hall. The chairs were fine, but the table was all wrong. I'm sure you ordered a long, rectangular table, but they delivered the most hideous round table! And the colour! I told them to take it back straight away and to bring back a proper table. Imagine, a round table! What would your knights think!

Cheers, Guinevere

Dear George,

When you get home from school we need to have a little talk. It seems that somebody chopped down the cherry tree. Now son, I'm not blaming you, but lately I have seen you playing with your father's axe. I know you would never tell a lie, so if you could just check off the appropriate box below that would be good enough for me.

Love, Mom

               [  ] Yes Mom, I did chop down the cherry tree

               [  ] No Mom, I did not chop down the cherry tree

Abe,

Darling, when you trim your beard, could you please clean the hair out of the sink! I don't know how many times I have to tell you this! Oh, before I forget ... a courier delivered a message - apparently Grant took Richmond (or something like that ...the courier said you'd know what it means). Again, please don't forget to clean up the sink.

Your loving wife, Mary

Franklin,

I've finished your speech. I added a little line that reads, "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself." I know it sounds a bit corny, but I think it will play well to regular folks. Also, I had this idea that you could give a weekly speech to the people ... maybe by the fireside ... just a little chat ... I imagine we could call them "fireside chats," that might work. Anyway, I'm off to round up support for my WPA idea. Wish me luck.

Regards, Eleanor

Dick,

Some plumber called. He said something about a leak that needed to be covered up. I told him all our pipes are fine and the toilets are in working order. Any clue what he was talking about?

 Love, Pat

Nancy,

Well ... I saw the most amazing movie today. It was called "Star Wars" and it was about a group of freedom fighters battling it out in space against an evil empire of communists led by a bad guy named Darth Vader. It gave me the idea that we should put laser weapons out in space so we can shoot down Soviet missiles. Heck, if nothing else, the cost of keeping up with our technology will bankrupt the USSR! Honey, I think we may have just won the Cold War!

 Love, Ronnie.

PS: We're out of jellybeans.

Laura,

Let me see if I've got this straight. Are you saying that I can't run for a third term? When was that rule put in place? Heck, I've only destroyed one country of the Axis of Evil. There are two more left to go - Iran and North Korea ... and North Korea's gonna require the nukes. That's not gonna be pretty. I don't see how I can do it all in two years. Especially now that Congress is against me!

 Always, George.

Hillary.

Congrats again on your big win! I told you choosing me as your running mate was a wise move. Boy, I'm VP and First Man ... I don't think that's ever happened before. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm the first. Now, tell me again. Who gets the Oval Office? Me or you?

Your hubby, Bill

Jack Sheedy

End of the World, etc

The subject of today's entry is the nuttiness of the news and how it all really doesn't mean that much to most of us as we go about our everyday lives. What do I care if corpses are piling up at the state medical examiner's office (which they are), or that the international space station is still incomplete after nine years of construction and billions of taxpayer dollars (which it is), or that Jet Blue has cancelled hundreds of flights today (which doesn't impact me in the least).

In the news ... In the news ... In the news ... In the news ... In the news ...

Corpses! - Yes, the state medical examiner's office is overflowing with corpses. And you think your house is a mess! "Corpses on top of corpses" is how the situation is described. It's like Night of the Living Dead! How did it get this bad? Do we really have so many corpses in the state that we can't keep up with the workload? Or, has the medical examiner's office become some sort of Corpse Club Med where the deceased go on vacation to meet other cadavers of the opposite sex? You can just imagine the conversations:

Male Corpse: "Boy, it never used to be this crowded!"

Female Corpse: "I know what you mean. I was here last year and it was nothing like this!"

Male Corpse: "And the food! What was that they served at dinner last night?"

Female Corpse: "I don't know. Everything here tastes like formaldehyde."

Male Corpse: "So ...  can I buy you a drink?"

Female Corpse: "I thought you'd never ask!"

Mars on Ice - NASA scientists claim they've discovered frozen water --"ice" to the lay person -- under the poles on Mars. In fact, if all the ice were to suddenly melt it would cover the red planet in 30 feet of water, which would provide a big boost to the Martian Jet Ski market.

Beware of the Dwarf! -  Our old friend, the former planet (now "dwarf planet") Pluto is in the news. The little non-planetary body will be passing in front of a star from the constellation Sagittarius in some type of a stellar eclipse know as an "occultation." (Don't worry, it has nothing to do with witches, or vampires, or bending spoons.) Astronomers can hardly contain their excitement over this grand celestial event. The buzz in telescopic circles is that Pluto is still miffed about being downgraded from a planet to a "dwarf planet" and may call off the whole occultation event in protest. When asked if this is possible, a leading astronomer was quoted as saying, "I've seen it happen before." Stay tuned.

Space Station - 3 Bedrooms, 1-1/2 Baths, Zero Gravity, Great Views! - The international space station -- that large, lumbering, multi-armed SkyLab-wannabe -- is nine years and who knows how many billions of dollars in the making ... and nobody seems to give a hoot. Heck, we've been to the moon. We've landed rovers on Mars. We've gone boldly where no man has gone before. (I'm sorry, I keep forgetting that Star Trek is only make-believe.) How excited can we possibly get about a space station going round and round and round the earth?!

The space station  is truly multinational - US, Russian, Canadian, Japanese, and some 11 European nations are represented (sort of like the staff at a fast food restaurant). Currently, the station is circling at 207 miles above the earth - which is its lowest orbit to date (Gee, I hope NASA knows it's losing altitude ... perhaps someone should shoot them a quick email). Anyway, nine years and billions and billions of dollars later - maybe it's time to get a new general contractor on the job.

Global Warming - Worldwide, this past winter was the warmest in human history. In fact, scientists believe it was the warmest winter since that winter that occurred about 50 million years ago just before the dinosaurs went extinct. Anyway, no need to worry. They've discovered ice on Mars (see above), which will be transported to Earth and dropped into the oceans of the world to bring down the average temperature. So see, Al Gore, one hand washes the other in this crazy solar system of ours! Inconvenient truth, my eye!

Californians to Vote Early - The State of California has moved up its presidential primary to the first week of February in 2008. Other states may move their dates up as well. In fact, it may be that by Valentine's Day we'll know the Democratic and Republican party nominees. Accordingly, plans are now in place to move up the presidential election from November to April, and the inauguration to Memorial Day. It has also been suggested that, to save time, voters use the 2008 ballot to also cast their vote for the 2012 presidential election while they're at it.

Jet Blue - The plagued airline has cancelled hundreds of flights due to the weather. The airline has also cancelled all of tonight's NHL hockey games, all of tomorrow's Spring Training baseball games, all of this weekend's March Madness basketball games, and K-12 at schools throughout the State of Maine until Wednesday of next week.

End of the World - A White House source has admitted that all the storms, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, and warmer-than-normal-temperatures we've been experiencing over the past few years do, in fact, point to the world ending by 2010. It is strongly suggested that if you encounter four horsemen wearing breastplates of iron and crowns of gold* you immediately contact the police ... and your local priest.

* See Book of Revelation, Chapter 9

Jack Sheedy  

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