Offtheshelf's blog

The Great Recession Papers

Some a hundred years ago, during the first decade of the 21st century, there was an economic downturn called a recession.

Of course, this recession was back in the days before the Economic Stability Act of 2025 guaranteed that such economic downturns would never happen again, thus producing a national economy that could always be predicted twenty years out into the future with 100% certainty.

In recent days, economic archaeologists and scholars connected with the business department at Stoneycliff University released journals and papers they discovered which were written by people who survived the last Great Recession (2007 thru 2019). These journals and papers are now on exhibit in Washington, DC at the National Museum of Economics & Accounting located at the Smithsonian.

Here is an example of a journal entry, written on Sunday, October 3, 2010 by a John T. Sheedy, a hack writer and caricature artist who lived in what was once Massachusetts ... before that state along with the other New England states were annexed by New York during the State Consolidation Act of 2035, which brought our original 50 states down to 10 in order to improve economies of scale.

The following was written in longhand, using an instrument called a pen ... before pens and pencils were outlawed in the Writing Utensil Abolishment Act of 2040.

Researchers' comments are in bold.

    There is a feeling in the air today, a gray feeling, as autumn settles upon the rooftop and slinks along the weathered shingles and drifts down the chimney. There, within the darkness below, the change of season swirls about inside the cold hearth, touching each blackened brick, rattling the chamber's glass doors as if attempting to gain entrance.

    I strike the match and light the crumpled newspaper. Flames reach upwards, illuminating the hearth and chasing the darkness away. Twigs catch the flame, and then the larger sticks atop the twigs catch the flame, and eventually the split logs of oak and pine. Soon the hearth is crackling and snapping and hissing -- reborn, alive, awakened from its summer slumber.

    After a time, a burning log falls, causing flames to erupt in a momentary burst. Then the flames settle down into their previous steady rhythmic dance of gold and orange. The autumn afternoon wanes.

[Back in those days, people built fires in their homes as a source of heat and for ambiance ... in the days before government-issued subliminal mood lights were introduced with the Cheer-Up America Act of 2045.]


    We are in recession. Not only an economic recession, but a recession of the spirit. We are drifting backwards, sputtering, petering out, like a fire that has been left to die in a charred mess of ash and smoldering charcoal.

    As autumn arrives we are found hunkering down. Shutting our windows. Bolting our doors. Conserving our supplies. Surviving.

    Many are out of work. Those who do work are working two jobs, and are working six days a week to pay the bills. Those who own property have seen the value drop considerably, to the point where the mortgage amount now eclipses the property's value. Those who have investment and retirement funds have seen a sizable portion disappear. Those who have aspirations have seen those aspirations put on hold, for now.

    On a larger scale, cities, towns, communities find themselves cutting services to meet budget. Deciding between emergency services and public works and elder services and schools and libraries, pitting one against the other. Cutting here, laying off there.  Drifting backwards, sputtering, waning.

[In those days, people worked to earn money in order to pay for all the expenses of life. Of course, this was in the days before the Universal Wealth Care Act of 2052 made everyone a multi-millionaire.]


    Late afternoon. The wind picks up suddenly, pushing gray clouds along toward some distant horizon. I venture out the back door to retrieve more firewood. Back inside, I place the logs one by one upon the lazing flames, and watch, hypnotized, as those hungry flames slowly consume each log.

    Looking out my front door, gazing beyond the pumpkin on the step, I watch a squirrel hard at work burying an acorn in the grass in preparation for the winter months ahead.

    I close the door, stir the fire with my blackened poker, and then settle into a nearby chair, raising a glass to my lips.

    The evening arrives. The fire wanes.

[This was written in the days when people still thought squirrels were lowly rodents. Of course, it has since been revealed that squirrels are a higher extraterrestrial life form from the Rigel star system sent to earth long, long ago to study the evolution of mankind. Concluding that mankind was a hopeless species, and would not evolve any further, in 2066 the squirrels gathered up all their nuts and left the earth in their interstellar spacecraft, leaving the chipmunks in the charge of the planet.]   

Jack Sheedy

Flock Ten Science


"What happened to this song,

we once knew so well?"

- from "The Revealing Science of God" by Yes


Why flock? Why ten? Why science? All good questions.

Way back in February 2007 -- back in the good ol' days -- I posted a collection of my recent comments. Searching for an appropriate title, I settled on "A Flock of Comments," as in a flock of birds. I'm sure instead I could have used "herd" as in cows, or "school" as in fish, or "pod" as in whales, or "gaggle" as in geese, or "murder" as in crows, or "slew" as in slugs.

As for "ten," this is the tenth such "flock." 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. It's all very scientific.

Actually, ten is an interesting number. Our entire counting system is based on the number ten. It probably has something to do with the fact that Homo sapiens have ten fingers. Or that there are ten candlepins in a bowling lane. Like I said, it's all very scientific.

So, without further delay, "Flock of Comments - Ten."



In response to: Flock 9 from Outer Space

Three dimensions are so overrated. I'll stick with just the two, thank you very much. Isometric projections are so pretentious, don't you think? Don't want to be like Icarus, reaching for the sun, only to fall back to earth. As Ahab said, "We go round and round like yonder windlass." But I digest ... or rather ... digress. See what happens before I've had my first cup of coffee.


In response to: Non sequitur tyrannis

Note to self: In future blogs, to increase readership, avoid Latin titles.

Note to self: In future blogs, avoid quoting from 19th century poets.

Note to self: In future, avoid vague classical music references.

Note to self: And, avoid jokes about Greek mathematicians.

Note to self: And about English philosophers.

Note to self: And French physicists.

Note to self: And squirrels.

Note to self: And Death.


In response to: Non sequitur tyrannis

Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft wrote: "There is in the land of Mnar a vast still lake that is fed by no stream, and out of which no stream flows. Ten thousand years ago there stood by its shore the mighty city of Sarnath, but Sarnath stands there no more." - from the short story, "The Doom that Came to Sarnath."

Unfortunately, Sarnath fell victim to widespread foreclosures brought on by subprime mortgages.

Well, that and the great water lizard, Bokrug.


In response to: The Sleeping

To paraphrase Macbeth: It may be "tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted Devil," but closer to home, "tis I that fear painting my windows this fall."

Casting back -- I noticed that two years ago, in one of my blog entries (07/11/08), I quoted Shakespeare in reference to Hamlet, well, sort of: "To be, or not to be, that is the question, whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune ... or to take a job paying minimum wage, lousy benefits, and weekend and evening hours!"

Oh well, such is life. Speaking of life, let's conclude with Macbeth: "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more." Except on Facebook, that is.

Flourish. Exeunt omnes.


In response to: God Grief

At the Last Supper, Judas clearly leaves early to avoid paying. I think Jesus picked up the tab anyway, after all, how does one divide by 13 ... in the days before calculators, no less.

By the way, Peter was the big eater of the group. He had the soup and sandwich combo, which included a side order of coleslaw and a pickle. He wanted dessert, but Jesus balked, saying if he ate any more he'd get tired and fall asleep, and Jesus wanted Peter to sit up with him in the garden while he prayed. (We all know how that worked out.)


In response to: God Grief

The other day I was reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew - the Parable of the Sower (the story of the sower who scattered seeds on hard ground and they sprung up quickly but then died because they did not have good, deep roots, etc) when I began to consider my own garden. I've got cucumbers coming out of my ears -- I can't eat them fast enough. I'm putting cukes in my salads, cukes in my sandwiches, cukes in my breakfast cereal, heck, I even tried cukes in the blender with strawberry daiquiri mix and rum (Note to self: Don't ever try that again). Still, I have four more big, ripe cucumbers staring at me at this very moment. I wonder how they'd taste with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce? (Note to self: Stick with bananas.)


In response to: God Grief

Cucumber Update ... Six more cucumbers from the garden this morning. And about another dozen in the works. I ate a whole cuke last night for dessert. I just can't keep pace with production. I'm beginning to feel some serious cucumber stress. I need help. In fact, I need some serious professional help. Or at the very least, I need more mayonnaise.


In response to: God Grief

The other morning I was out on my daily walk in the neighborhood when I swear I smelled cucumbers. Last week, at the same spot, I smelled vinegar. If I smell mayonnaise today I'm going home to make myself a salad.

I remember reading how Tchaikovsky would take a walk for about an hour each afternoon and compose music in his head while he walked. Of course, Tchaikovsky also had a recurring fear that his head would fall off while conducting. I have a fear that my garden will produce a cucumber so magnificent that it will become self aware, will go on to college (on my tab, no less), and will then run for US Senate.


In response to: The Divan Comedy

Casting back to a Religious Studies course I took with a Prof. Onehill, Dante's "The Divine Comedy" consists of three parts:

I - Inferno (Hell - all 9 circles)

II - Purgatorio (Purgatory)

III - Paradiso (Heaven)

Interestingly, a hot toddy consists of three parts as well:

I - Hot water

II -Honey

III - Whisky

It is unclear which parts represent Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. On this matter, Prof. Onehill could offer me no assistance -- after all, he was a red wine drinker.

Jack Sheedy

Next time: The Merciful Demise of Thomas J. McSheey. Lemonade will be served.


Hurricane Earl Rips Cape

DENNIS, MA - September 4, 2010

Packing 150-mile per hour winds and dropping 12 inches of rain, Category 4 Hurricane Earl struck Cape Cod earlier today with a force not felt around these parts since the Great Hurricane of 1635, which according to the journal of Governor William Bradford, "...was ye one wicked, pissed-off storme."

The eye of Earl made landfall at the mouth of Bass River at exactly one minute past midnight, following the river up to the Bass River Bridge. It then took a right onto Route 28 and followed that route for about a quarter mile until it pulled over and asked a Mrs. Nesbit of West Dennis -- who happened to be out at that hour walking her incontinent dog, Mickey -- for directions to the nearest Chinese restaurant for some takeout.

After picking up an order of pork fried rice and eggrolls, Hurricane Earl traveled north up Route 134, crossed over to Main Street in South Dennis village, followed Main north to Old Bass River Road, and then turned left onto Mayfair Road. Meteorologists stated that this was a somewhat unconventional path for a hurricane to take, and that Earl should have stayed on Route 134 and taken a left at the lights near the police station, which would have been a more direct route.

Eventually Earl took a dirt pathway off Mayfair to Follins Pond and the summer cottage of a Mr. and Mrs. Doppler, with whom the hurricane is staying for the Labor Day weekend.

Jack Sheedy

The Divan Comedy

"Given the choice between spending all of eternity in Heaven or in Hell,

I would choose Hell - I hear the rent is cheaper, and utilities are included."

- Thomas J. McSheey (1899-1935), writer & theologian-wanna-be


Musical accompaniment: Mephisto Waltz by Franz Liszt (1811-1886)


In this entry, and in the next (if my typewriter ribbon holds out), I will present some final entries on the poet, playwright, essayist, pagan twig-arranger Thomas J. McSheey as my research comes to a conclusion toward producing his much awaited biography, The Lunatic Poet.

Until then, please enjoy Liszt's music...



Not long before he died, McSheey wrote a three-act play called "The Divan Comedy." Loosely based on Dante's "The Divine Comedy," all the action takes place around a divan positioned center stage where the actors congregate in a cocktail party setting to discuss the meaning of life, and the afterlife. The play ends abruptly when Thomas Aquinas spills a glass of red wine on the divan and it is taken away to be reupholstered.



In the spirit of Mussorgsky's tone poems "Pictures at an Exhibition," McSheey wrote a series of poems inspired by various works of Renaissance art depicting the Passion of Christ. He called his series "Pictures at a Crucifixion," with poems providing word pictures to works by such artists as Bellini, Giotto, and Raphael.

The following "ascending/descending" poem was written about one of his favorite Renaissance paintings, "Dead Christ" by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506).


I believe,

Spatially speaking,

I fear I am foreshortened,

As if my view a mere illusion,

Not unlike Mantegna's painting,

Lamentation over the Dead Christ,

Holes in feet and hands; body lying in state,

Two mourners at his side, weeping,

Realism, perspective, tempera,

Renaissance art, 15th century,

I fear I am foreshortened,

Spatially speaking,

I believe.


Finding no audience for his "Crucifixion" poetry series, he drank himself nearly to intoxication (which means he had a shot of whisky and a beer chaser), lit his pipe, and immediately began writing a one-act play about a family of squirrels entitled, "Nuts to You." This play turned out to be quite a success, garnering runner-up honors at the Berkshire Summer Stock Festival, losing out to a musical about a family of woodchucks.



At around the same time McSheey was in the process of writing a musical based on the exploits of an older gentleman he would see each day sitting on a bench in Boston Common. One July day he approached the man, only to be hit in the head with one of his shoes.

This knock on the head gave McSheey an idea. What exactly that idea was one cannot rightly say, for he shared the idea with no one, and all he wrote in his personal diary for that particular day was the following entry:

Walked in the Common this afternoon.

Old man on the bench hit me with his shoe again.

Gave me an idea...


Yet, days later in his notebook he scribbled these lyrics for a musical number he called "Autumn in July" (loosely based on the song "June in January"):


Upon an autumn breeze in July,

     Green leaves, departed,

Upon an autumn breeze in July,

     Tree, broken-hearted,

Within that autumn wind,

     Driven raindrops fell,

And upon that autumn wind,

     Scattered leaves dwell.


Other songs in the production included: "The Man on the Bench, " "A Shoe Upside the Head," and "Hey, That Guy Just Stole My Wallet!"

The show opened at the Pilgrim Theatre in Boston and closed after only one night -- not because it was poorly received by the audience and critics, but rather because the entire cast took the wrong subway train back to their hotel and were never heard from again.

Jack Sheedy


Note: In my next and final entry on the misunderstood New England poet, Thomas J. McSheey, I will be killing him off in artistic fashion, so please prepare yourself -- you may wish to invest $1.99 in a box of tissues. Yes, I know I've killed him off a number of times over the past few years, but this time it's for real. It's time to let him be and move on. So I can write about other things -- like squirrels. I swear, squirrels just crack me up! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah! Boy, that felt good -- I haven't laughed like that in years.    

God Grief

"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. That is, until everyone turned on their air conditioners all at the same time, overtaxing the power grid, and thus casting the universe into darkness. And God saw the lights were out, that it was not good, and exclaimed aloud ‘Good Grief!'" (Genesis 1:3-4, with Helps)


Working title: God Grief (aka Good Grief; aka A-men)

Graphic accompaniment: Stabat Mater by Pietro Perugino (1446-1523)

Musical accompaniment: Stabat Mater by Anton Dvorak (1841-1904)

Spirituous accompaniment: Strawberry Banana Daiquiri with rum (hey, it's summer)


Chapter 1

We have, within our power, the ability to understand the mind of God. It exists within our collective memory, casting back to the time of the very beginning, when the universe was young and we existed closer to the Creator.

Yet, over these past 13 billion years we have forgotten what we once knew.

We do know this, though: It all began with a bang, a big bang, a really big bang, and out of that big bang of creation came hydrogen. With gravity and time, hydrogen atoms assembled to form the birth clouds of stars. Suns formed under intense pressure and heat in which hydrogen atoms were fused into helium. With further pressure and heat, helium atoms combined to produce carbon. And carbon, drifting through space along the solar winds, produced us.

And what have we produced?

Well ... umm ... the strawberry banana daiquiri, for one thing.


Chapter 2

1: God created the laws of physics which, in turn, created the universe.

2: And the laws of physics that created the universe also created God.

3: God then created the universe based on those very same laws of physics.

4: God is, therefore, both the Creator and the created.

5:  In that sense, God created Himself.

6: The cause and the effect are interchangeable.

7: One brought about the other, and vice versa.

8:  Such logic is beyond our mortal scope of understanding.

9: In fact, it is enough to give a person a real throbbing headache.

10: Thankfully, God also created aspirin.



Chapter 3

And Jesus, arriving at the baseball game and taking his seat in the stands, said unto the crowd: "Let he who is without sin throw out the first pitch." (John 8:7 ... well, sort of)



Chapter 4

Interpolating Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22.

 1: And Jesus, seated at the upscale Parisian-style Jerusalem restaurant Le Dernier Diner (aka The Last Supper), said unto his disciples: "Take this bread and eat it ..."

2: "Wait! Hold on a second!" interrupted Judas, riffling through the bread basket. "They forgot the butter!"

3: "It's okay, Judas," said Jesus. "The butter is not important."

4: "Maybe not for you," blurted Judas.

5: "Judas, I'm simply using the bread to make a point - that this bread represents my body, which I am giving up for you"

6: "I don't care what it represents," said Judas, looking around the restaurant in search of the waiter. "I need to have butter with my bread."

7: "Judas, forget the butter..."

8: Judas, ignoring Jesus, turned and waved for the waiter to come over to the table.

9: "Garcon, du beurre pour notre pain, s'il vous plait," ordered Judas.

10: After a moment, the waiter returned with a small dish of beurre (butter).

11: "Merci beaucoup," said Judas somewhat sarcastically.

12: "Okay," said Jesus. "Let's begin again. Take this bread and eat it..."

13: "Boy," grumbled Judas aloud, interrupting Our Lord again. "You'd think at a fine restaurant like this we'd get butter with our bread!"

14: "Judas, don't you have someplace else you're supposed to be?" asked Jesus, somewhat annoyed, and motioning with his eyes to the door.

15: "Huh?"

16: "That little matter of 30 pieces of silver ... with the chief priests ... that betrayal thing you arranged," hinted Jesus, motioning again with his eyes toward the door.

 17: "Oh yeah, yeah, I forgot," said Judas, arising and walking swiftly toward the exit.

18: "Geez, I thought he'd never leave," muttered Jesus, shaking his head. "Now, back to the bread..."

19: "Excuse me. I'm sorry," interrupted Peter. "But do you think we could get some olive oil for dipping?"

20: "Good grief!" exclaimed Jesus.

Jack Sheedy

The Sleeping

"The sleeping and the dead

are but as pictures;

'tis the eye of childhood

that fears a painted devil."

-- Spoken by Lady Macbeth in the Scottish play, Act 2, Scene 2, by Shakespeare

-- Not to be confused with Laddie McBeth, who ran a drinking establishment in County Monaghan, Ireland, and who was known to announce near closing time: "The sleeping and the dead had better be out of my pub by 1 am or else I'll be calling the police!" 


Musical accompaniment: Symphony No. 6 (Pathetique) by Tchaikovsky


More random scribbles that never found their way into a blog ... until now ... Zzzzzz.....


There, Their, They're, Thayer

Writing. It involves words. Made up of letters. The right combination of letters. In the right positions. With the appropriate punctuation, if required.

Here is a handy listing of tricky words and definitions (courtesy of Webster) to reference whenever writing a letter to the editor, or commenting on a blog, or writing out a grocery list.


Feel free to cut out and place on refrigerator.

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

your / adj : of or relating to you or yourself

you're / : abbreviation of you are

yore / n : time past and esp. long past - usually used in the phrase of yore, as in Poe's poem, The Raven: "Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore / What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore / Meant in croaking 'Nevermore.'"


there / adj : in or at that place

there / pron : used as a function word to introduce a sentence

there / n : that place or position

their / adj : of or relating to them or themselves esp. as possessors

their / adj : his or her - used with an indefinite singular antecedent

they're / : abbreviation for they are

Thayer / Sylvanius 1785-1872; b. in Braintree, Mass.; American army officer & educator; considered the father of West Point


its / adj : of or relating to it or itself esp. as possessor

it's / : abbreviation of it is or it has

ITS / acronym for the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), which according to its website ( "is the leading advocate for technologies that improve the safety, security, and efficiency of the nation's surface transportation system."

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



The average American male lifespan is about 75 years. That being said, I liken life to the game of bingo.

For instance, bingo numbers run from B-1 to O-75, with 15 numbers per letter, as follows:

  • B-1 thru B-15 - Ages 1 thru 15. Youth.
  • I-16 thru I-30 - Teenage through early adult years.
  • N-31 thru N45 - Adult years toward middle age.
  • G-46 thru G-60 - Middle age toward maturity.
  • O-61 thru O-75 - Retirement toward end of life.

And like life, bingo can be cruel. For there you'll be, just one number away from a bingo, waiting for that one number to be called, waiting, waiting, waiting ... and then suddenly somebody from across the room yells "B-I-N-G-O!" thus stealing away your dream.

How typical!


Jack Sheedy, G-47

PS: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz...........

Non sequitur tyrannis

"Death is potential to that Man,

Who dies - and to his friend -

Beyond that - unconspicuous*

To Anyone but God."

-- Emily Dickinson


* Not really a word


Musical accompaniment: Mussorgsky's "Il vecchio castello"


Nel memoriam (Translation: In memoriam)

Off-the-Shelf was written by Jack Sheedy, the author of five books and of more than 500 published articles, a handful of which being somewhat coherent. He first began writing Off-the-Shelf in 2005, as he set off on a literary quest for God, the meaning of life, and for a shampoo with just the right pH balance.

Jack was a member of a writing team that was thrice recognized by the New England Press Association for editorial excellence - in 1995, 1999, and 2008. As a member of that team, Jack wrote all the adjectives and adverbs. He was also the only member of the team allowed to use the word "thrice."

Jack was listed in "Who's Who in Southeastern Massachusetts Writers" ... until it was determined that he did not write The Grapes of Wrath as initially claimed on his application form.

In his salad days (back when he was a vegetarian, that is) he appeared on Home & Garden Television and NPR radio, speaking about the history of the toothpick, and, in fact, was recently at work on a new book on that very subject when lightning struck a nearby tree, which then fell upon him. We'd like to tell his many devoted readers that he died instantly, but the truth is he suffered terribly for many hours, whimpering like a child and crying out for water -- with a twist of lemon -- until, amazingly, a second bolt of lightning hit a second nearby tree, which fell and, mercifully, put him out of his misery.

Fortunately, a family of squirrels living in the second tree escaped without injury.

Over the next few weeks we will present here some of his final non sequitur scribbles that never quite became complete blog entries. Interestingly, his final writings were done in Italian, as he was preparing for an upcoming trip to Naples (Naples, Florida, that is), but unfortunately he did not have a firm grasp of the language, which is severely hampering the translation process.

Chieftain scuba in antipasto par evenkeel in confetti.

We're sorry, that should be:

Chiediamo scusa in anticipo per eventuali incovenienti.

(Translation: We apologize in advance for any inconvenience.)

See what we mean.



Sic semper tyrannis:

It has always been said that when John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln he shouted in Latin, "Sic semper tyrannis!" which translates as "Thus always to tyrants!" or more commonly, "Death to tyrants!"

Yet, a team of paleontologists working at a dig site beneath Ford's Theatre recently unearthed prehistoric fossils to determine that instead Booth shouted "Sic semper tyrannosaurus!" which translates as "Death to the tyrannosaurus rex!"

Of course, Booth was 50 million years too late, as the T-rex went extinct during the Late Cretaceous period.



Murphy's Law, revised:

"If anything can go wrong, it will, and at the worst possible moment ... and it will typically involve a bottle of red wine, a white shirt, and a clumsy waitress."




NASA reports that methane gas has been discovered on the Saturn moon of Titan. Either this points to primordial life on the Saturnian satellite ... or else it points to a herd of flatulent cows living somewhere near the moon's equator.



Some "ig" definitions:

ig-ne-ous  \\ adj  : the state of being formed from molten magma

ig-no-rance  \\ n  : the state of being ignorant

ig-nite  \\ vb  : the state of being subjected to fire

ig-gy  \\ n  : the state of being Iggy Pop



Christmas list:


Dad.............................necktie CD

Foucault .....................pendulum





Next time, we will present some of Jack's final entries concerning his favorite 20th century New England writer, Thomas J. McSheey ... who, by the way, it has been proven did not write East of Eden as he had earlier claimed.


The Estate of Jack Sheedy

(Currently in probate)


Editor's note: Just so there is no confusion, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden were written by the great John Steinbeck. While The Grapes of Wrentham and East of Needham were written by the lunatic Thomas J. McSheey.

Flock 9 from Outer Space

They say you can't judge a book by its cover. How untrue!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What a load of rubbish!

They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. What a bunch of crap!

They say the Great Pyramid of Giza was built by aliens from outer space. Now, finally, that's something I can believe in!


Welcome to yet another haphazard arrangement of letters and words and sentences to form yet another half-baked blog entry under the heading, Off-the-Shelf, now concluding its fifth year of publication. And since I have, of late, been up to my eyeballs working on various writing projects ... and puttering around out in the garden ... I've got nothing.

Oh, sure, I've got some ideas, some kernels of blogs, but nothing worth posting. So I'll do what I normally do in such situations, I'll reprint some of my oh-so-witty comments. Yes, folks, I comment on my own blog entries. Yes, I realize it's sort of like talking to myself. Yes, I realize that's a bit odd. Yes ... yes ... I'm sorry, I've lost my train of thought. What were we talking about?

Before I begin with comments, though, I'd like to start off with quotes from some of my favorite books. And by favorite books, I mean I really like their covers.


Judge Danforth: "Hang them high over the town! Who weeps for these, weeps for corruption!"

- From "The Crucible," by Arthur Miller. Here, Judge Danforth is no doubt referring to hanging out clothing to dry on wash day in Salem, 1692.


Thomas More: "Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of the law, for my own safety's sake."

- From "A Man for All Seasons," by Robert Bolt. Thomas More is, of course, talking here about Massachusetts' mandatory seat belt law.


Gabriel: "Eight months ago! It seems like yesterday to me."

Bathsheba: "And to me as if it were years ago - long years, and I had been dead between."

- From "Far From the Madding Crowd," by Thomas Hardy. No doubt, Gabriel and Bathsheba are referring here to the long lines at the RMV.


And now, without further delay, I present for your consideration, Flock 9 (aka Flock of Comments - Part 9):


In response to: Bathroom Humor (In reference to repairing my toilet)
I keep forgetting Step 1: Turn off the water source, hence the recurring Three Stooges episode.

So, let's see, I'll go through the process step-by-step just to make sure I understand.

Step 1) First, turn off the water.
Step 2) Then, put hands in the tank of ice cold, rusty water.
Step 3) Next, remove the slimy innards ... gross!
Step 4) Finally, parade down to the hardware store with the slimy innards to seek assistance from those knowledgeable in the ways of plumbing.

Got it! Here goes ...
Damn, I forgot to do Step 1 again!


In response to: The Book of Census
As Mark Twain once said, "I can live two months on a good compliment."

Or as Euclid once said, "I can live two months on a good complement."

Or, as Pythagoras once said, "I can live two months on a good hypotenuse ... so long as it isn't overcooked and served in some fancy sauce."

To which Archimedes added, "And a glass of Merlot would be nice."

Tune in next time when Euclid announces he has discovered the obtuse angle, in another thrilling episode of "Great Moments in Geometry."


In response to: The Book of Census
The triangle is an amazing geometric shape, when you think about it. It has so many uses, and it's relatively cost effective because it only requires three sides versus, say, a square or a rectangle with four sides each. And in these tough economic times, any savings is a very good thing.

Of course, there are those who like to show off -- strutting around with their hexagons and octagons. It's just not right that some folks have six-sided and eight-sided shapes while others have to make the best with their meager three-sided triangles. But, I guess that's the way of the world. I suppose we should feel fortunate to have three sides ... after all, there are some poor souls with just a line segment. God bless them.


In response to: The Book of Census

Dear Diary,
Worked in the garden today. Put chicken wire around it. Which leads me to question - why is it called chicken wire? Are my tomatoes in danger of being eaten by poultry?

Dear Diary,
Had a dentist appointment today. Needed a filling, but fear the dentist put a small listening device inside my tooth. It's all part of a government plot. Haven't spoken a single word since. Some people may call me paranoid...wait, wait, I see chickens out in my garden!

Dear Diary,

Every morning, Monday thru Friday, my neighbor leaves his house at 7:30 and comes home at 6:00 pm. He says he works at a bank, but I know he's really involved in some top secret project involving aliens from outer space ... Ouch, my tooth aches from that damn implant! And the chickens are back!!

Dear Diary,
I feel a bit embarrassed admitting this, but - it turns out there was no listening device in my tooth, and my neighbor really is a banker, and there are no chickens in my garden after all - they're actually aliens from outer space.

Jack Sheedy

The Book of Census

Presented here is a brief history of census taking, down through the ages, as scripted in the pages of the Bible.


Pre-Census: Genesis

1:1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

1:2: And the earth was without form, and void...


The First Census

The very first census was taken by the Lord God on or about Day Seven as illustrated by the following Scripture, from the Book of Genesis, Chapters 2 and 4:


2:7: And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (1 male adult)

2:22: And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. (1 female adult)

4:1: And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain. (1 male child)

4:2: And she again bare his brother Abel. (1 male child)


So, God chiseled  the number "4" upon His census tablet and then looked up the road and down the road, and seeing no other houses, He said unto Himself, "Hey, that was easy."


The Second Census

After that first census, the next census was taken by Moses, just after the flight from Egypt, as documented in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 1, Verses 1-3:


1:1: And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,

1:2. Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls.

1:3. To which Moses replied, "You've got to be kidding me, right?! Hell, I don't even have a pencil on me!"


The Third Census

Perhaps the most popular census story in the Bible comes from the New Testament, in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, in which Joseph and Mary, "being great with child," journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted, because Joseph "was of the house and lineage of David," and males "all went to be taxed, every one into his own city."

Unfortunately, the census taker arrived at the manger just as the Three Wise Men were visiting, which caused quite a bit of confusion as he assumed the three men were living there as well. The Wise Men chuckled at the idea of them living in a manger, and then assured him that they were not residents of Bethlehem and were actually from a distant land.

Soon enough, everything was sorted out between the Wise Men and the census taker ... sorted out, that is, until immigration officials arrived on the scene demanding to see their visas, which the Three Wise Men could not produce, and thus they were taken into custody.

And the gold, frankincense, and myrrh were confiscated as contraband.


The Fourth Census

This fourth and final census was recently discovered by Vatican scholars researching the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 1. In that chapter, Verses 40-45 concern the miracle of Jesus cleansing a leper. But it seems there is more to the story of Jesus and the lepers of Galilee as depicted in the following lost Gospel of Mark 1:46-61...


1:46: And so, Jesus came to the house of the lepers, and knocked upon the door.

1:47: "Hello," came the answer from within.

1:48: "Hello, my name is Jesus of Nazareth," said our Lord.

1:49: "If you're a census taker, we've already been counted," came the reply.

1:50: "No, I am not a census taker. I have been traveling and was wondering if you have some food you might share."

1:51: "You're sure you're not a census taker?"

1:52: "I am sure," replied the Lord.

1:53: Silence from the other side of the door, and then, "Okay, you may share our food...but you realize we're lepers?"

1:54: "Yes, I am aware."

1:55: "Okay then, come on in," said the leper, opening the door.

1:56: "Thank you," said the Lord as he entered, and sat down upon the floor where a leper family was dining on Chinese take out.

1:57: "Are you not afraid to eat with us?" asked the leper. "We are all afflicted with the pestilence."

1:58: "I am not afraid," replied the Lord, as he took an eggroll and poured some tea.

1:59: When dinner was concluded, the Lord thanked his hosts, and then removed a papyrus scroll and a pen from his robe.

1:60: "So how many people live here?"

1:61: "Aha! You are a census taker!"


Jack Sheedy

Bathroom Humor

Musical accompaniment: Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakoff (aka Rimski-Korsakov) 1844-1908

The following item appeared a couple of days ago as my inaugural blog entry on the new Plymouth site. I provide it here 'cause I'm too damn lazy to write a new post for the Cape site:

Bathroom Humor 

Testing...One...Two...Three...Testing...Am I on?

Well, it looks like I'm up and running. Welcome to "Off-the-Shelf," a blog now some five years old, which looks at everything from the Big Bang to the present day. Of course, that's some 13 billion years, unless you're a strict Creationist, in which case it's more like 5,000 years back to "In the beginning God created the heaven and earth." (Gen 1:1) Either way, that's a long time. Longer, even, than waiting on queue at the RMV.

Mainly, for this initial blog entry, I just wanted to test the waters, to see if I know what the heck I'm doing on this newfangled blog posting program. After all, I'm not too good with technology. Heck, I still own an 8-track player. Cassette tapes are just too hi-tech for me.

Speaking of testing the waters, this morning I've been wrestling with my toilet. It hasn't been flushing properly. Or at all. So I took the top off the tank to have a look-see, and got sprayed in the face. It was like a Three Stooges routine. Apparently, something's not hooked up properly. So, I put the lid back on and ran for cover. I returned half an hour later with the solution: a piece of paper with the words "Do not use!!" written on it, which I taped to the seat. Problem solved.

Well, that's all for now. I have to run next door and see if I can use my neighbor's bathroom. I'd love to stick around and write some more ... but ... I gotta go!!



The following items, which were my own comments to my last blog, God, Death, and Mustard, should have been set aside to perhaps become a separate blog entry. Again, laziness.

I provide them here, for your consideration.



Technologically, I'm quite a bit behind the times, and in fact, I only discovered You Tube about a month ago. I still don't own a cell phone. I don't have any handheld gizmos, or small music devices that hold thousands of songs (Actually, I still listen to LP records). I can't even seem to work the mouse on my kids' laptop computers.

All this technology is simply not a part of the little world I've carved out for myself. Like Brian Wilson, I guess I just wasn't meant for these times. I would have fared better back in the 19th century. Of course, I probably would have thought Alexander Graham Bell's telephone was an instrument of the Devil. And that the steam engine was a bloody nuisance. On second thought, maybe the 18th century would have been more my speed.



Speaking of technology, there was a time when I was nearly on the cutting edge. Of course, that was some 30 years ago back in college. At that time, I actually took (and passed!) both a COBOL course and another course on computer logic and design.

I later turned my back on technology to become a Druid.

But, at this time, I wish to pass along greetings to my former classmates in the language we used to speak -- the language of bits and bytes. Here goes:


Dear Mates,
10110101 01000101 11001110 00010100 01101010 00111010 10010100 10101001 10010010 10100110 10000010 00101010 10010101 10001010 10001011 00101001 10010100 10010100 10001000 00101001 10110101 01000101 11001110 00010100 01101010 00111010 10010100 10101001 10010010 10100110 10000010 00101010 10010101 10001010 10001011 00101001 10010100 10010100 10001000 00101001 10110101 01000101 11001110 00010100 01101010 00111010 10010100 10101001 10010010 10100110 10000010 00101010 10010101 10001010 10001011 00101001 10010100 10010100 10001000 00101001 10010010 10100110 10000010 00101010
Jack, Class of '84



The Good Book saith quite a bit, and tends to repeat itself with similar themes and parallel stories. The story of the resurrection of Jesus is such an example. Let us not forget an earlier resurrection story, in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11, when Lazarus is also raised from the dead after "he had lain in the grave four days" (John 11:17) ... beating Jesus by at least 24 hours to hold the world record.



The Gospels tend to overlap one another with similar stories and variations on similar themes. Many of the parables of Jesus can be lumped into like themes, such as the parables of becoming "lost" -- like the parable of the lost sheep, and the lost coin, and even the parable of the Prodigal Son. These similarly-themed parables are meant to drive home the notion that in the eyes of God you are never truly lost.

On the other hand, if you lose your car keys you're on your own.



As for the Prodigal Son, he should not be confused with the Praedial Son, who was obsessed with the acquisition of land so he could build golf courses all across the Holy Land, including the beautiful 18-hole Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course and the extremely difficult Nazareth Country Club executive course (4200 yards, 59 par).

It was said that St. Peter was the longest driver of all the disciples, but was hopeless around the green.



More scribbles on Death, Vegetables, and Tea:


To paraphrase Dickinson:

"I've seen a Dying Eye,
Run round and round a room,
In search of car keys lost,
To make my car go zoom."


To paraphrase Mark Twain's comment about arriving and departing with Halley's comet:
"I came in with the First Quarter moon, in 1962, and I expect to go out with it."


To paraphrase a popular hymn:
"Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, to the vegetable stand,
Tomatoes tired, lettuce weak, cucumbers worn,
Through the store, through the night,
Lead me on to the cashier's light,
Bless my veggies, Precious Lord, locally grown."


Came across this story recently ... while researching my new book (due out this Fall ... what a shameless plug, huh?):

 "In 1835, a Mr. H from South Dennis, MA was accidentally buried alive. The error was discovered days later when his wife, while visiting the grave, heard a noise coming from the ground. Diggers exhumed Mr. H's casket to find him in remarkably good condition. Fortunately, he had been buried with tea and scones.

"When asked about his ordeal, Mr. H responded that he wasn't upset at all and actually enjoyed the rest. He did mention, though, that the tea was a bit tepid."


Jack Sheedy