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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One MILLION Dollars

So, this guy, who's from my home state, tried to deposit a one million dollar bill in a local bank. When the teller refused to open an account for him, he became abusive and they called the cops.

The United States has never issued a one million dollar bill, just for the blog record.

The two largest bills ever offered by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing were the hundred thousand dollar bill and the ten thousand dollar bill. The B.E.P. should not, by the by, not be confused with the Mint. The Mint does the coins. And has a lame gift shop.

Here's a picture of the 10K bill:

Know who's on that bill? What, you don't recognize him? Come on! Salmon P. Chase is a household name. Still not ringing a bell? He was one of the leaders of the Free Soil movement, Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. While I'm sure you're now all thinking, "oh, right HIM" here's another factoid. Chase Bank. Hokay.

You may do better with the 100K:

Wilson. As in Woodrow. It wasn't really a circulating bill, so much as it was a gold certificate, though William Jennings Bryan would have me note that it was issued (in 1934) after the gold standard was repealed. It was used for interagency exchanges of money and was orange on the reverse. Roosevelt (as in Franklin) was the man behind the 100K bill.

The 10k, really, was the biggest bill ever in circulation and featured pilgrims disembarking from the Mayflower on the reverse. The 5K bill featured James Madison and Washington resigning his Army commission. History on the money!

Nixon did away with all bills larger that $100 in 1969 to try to better control organized crime. That worked out really well for him (and us). I've long been a proponent of doing away with the $1 bill. We should use $1 coins. Oh and we should also eliminate the penny. I should stop mixing Mint issues and Engraving and Printing issues. Still, those are my money opinions and I'm standing by them. Also, we should go back to the silver standard.

Ok, maybe not, but I do like the idea of being able to go and demand silver somewhere. Hey--here's a five, gimme some silver!

When I was in college, I was friends with a number of economics majors. They contended, usually when a little drunk, that the great tragedy of my life would be not taking economics in college. (My dad sometimes contends I should have taken HOME economics in middle school. I wish I had taken typing.) My usual counter argument to the econ majors was that the tragedy of their lives was not taking philosophy. I still think I'm right, but I do wish I knew a little more about economics. Oh and there have been other tragedies more significant than my lack of economic understanding. Plus, I've read Marx and Engels. Doesn't that count for something?

I'll settle, for the moment, I guess, with knowing that there is no such thing as a million dollar bill. I wish I had a real one so I could but people I love the things they want. Lately, I've been wanting to exchange bills for another metal. Why wasn't there ever a titanium standard? I'd love to trade a slip of paper for two of these (one for me and one for my honey):

The problem is, people who sell the above want those plastic card things. I learned about that once, but have forgotten most of what I know. I seem to recall you have to use the regular money to pay back what you spent on the plastic dohickeys at some point. Like in graduate school, when I took out student loans, and was required to go to a meeting wherein the main message was "YOU HAVE TO PAY BACK YOUR LOANS." I sometimes misunderstand messages. For example, Honey and I went to see No Country for Old Men this weekend. As we were walking out of the theater, she said, "so the message of that movie is that everything is going to be ok." It was not the message I got. Maybe my college friends were right. I just reread the "Cross of Gold" speech and Bryan says nothing about titanium. I'm going to have to think on this. In the meantime, if anyone has any deep thoughts on economics or moving toward a titanium standard, please let me know.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bear Aware

The woman at the front desk handed me a sheet to initial and sign in various places. I wasn't buying a house, a car, or even a bicycle. No indeed. I was checking into a hotel. Why all the initialing? Most notably, I was certifying that everyone in my party was "bear aware." We had taken a trip for my Honey's transition into her next stage by traveling to our National Park. We've visited Sequoia on a number of occasions in our life together and have a deep affinity for the place. As we were walking around the "Big Trees Trail" yesterday, Honey said, "this is why California is so wonderful." Truth: spoken out loud.

Tree Aside:

That's the Grant tree. It was declared the "nation's Christmas tree" by Calvin Coolidge. Eh. Honey and I walked around the back side of it first. It's big, but not as pretty as I'd like. I prefer the Sentinel with its "average" size.

Back to the Bears:

My family wasn't much of a National Park kind of family. We visited a few, but the best ones are in the West. (You can deny the previous statement all you want, but denial has therapeutic value--discuss as needed with your therapist). My family did visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a couple of times. I recall very vividly that both times we saw bears.

Black bears (ursus americanus) are found in most of the large National Parks, including Great Smoky Mountain NP and Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP(s). They're not particularly aggressive bears, and rarely attack humans. Grizzly bears (ursus arctos horribilis), their larger cousins, are typically only found in four National Parks. And, no, the St. Louis Arch is not one of them. OK, fine, the arch (properly the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) is not an actual National Park. I just liked the idea of grizzly bears riding in that weird conveyance you use to get to the top of it.

The four Parks with grizzly bears are: Glacier, Yellowstone, Katmai, and Denali. Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska (2), for those of you keeping state score. Grizzly Bears will kill people. Black Bears can hurt people, if the people are stupid.

That's a black bear next to the trash can, by the way. They can be brown. Confusing, I admit. The real problem for the black bears, as it is with so much of modern life, is trash. Both times I saw bears in GSMNP as a child it was near a tumped over trash can.

Bears like human food trash. It doesn't distinguish them very much from dogs, now that I think about it. Until recently, many bears in many parks had learned that humans had food. Smart animals that they are; they figured that begging might get them some.

Yogi didn't help matters. Who wouldn't want to share a picnic with Yogi? Ok, I wouldn't, but some folks would.

Then Smokey was always hanging around telling us to prevent fires. He's a nice spokesanimal. Friendly bear spokesanimals are likely to produce friendly feelings about bears by park visitors.

Smokey isn't my favorite spokesanimal, though. As a person of a certain age, I feel more connection to his anti-litter buddy, Woodsy Owl. Recently redesigned (2006), Woodsy first appeared in the early 1970s. While he now urges, "Lend a Hand, Care for the Land," his original exhortation, "Give a hoot don't pollute" should bring a song about "dirty bird(s)" to the minds of many.

There are currently some licensed Woodsy pants available on ebay. It could be a new fashion trend. Think how good you'd look in Woodsy pants. The belt buckle, the weird length. Sigh.

Being bear aware dominates a lot of thinking and efforting at our National Park. The new movement at the National Parks is anti-Yogi, anti-cubs begging at woodie station wagons.

Not only did I have to certify that I was bear aware and that Honey was bear aware, we also had to remove things that might cause bear break-ins from our car. Food? Yep. Drinks? Yep. Also lotion, chapstick, lipstick, Purell. Really, anything with a scent had to be secreted away to our room. I can find no evidence that a bear ever tore apart a car for chapstick. They have torn apart cars for food. But chapstick? I'm not so sure.

Really, day visitors get left off the hook. They're told to keep "food out of sight." Staying overnight? Get that chapstick out of the car! Now.

I saw these signs all over the park. I don't want to be responsible for a dead bear. Not me. Nope. Nuh uh. I do like some of the advice the sign offers.

"Gather together and make noise by banging pots and pans."

Damn, we forgot to bring pots and pans. Are they required even when we don't camp?

"NEVER try to get items back from a bear."

Do you really mean that I shouldn't use my soft hand to hit the big bear on the head to get my chapstick back? It's MY chapstick. Who's going to buy me another stick? Also, if he takes my L'Occitane lotion, somebody is going to pay. I'm just saying.

"If you are afraid, back away and contact a ranger for help."

Mmm Kay. So, there will be a ranger nearby? Not just the pretty one in the booth an hour back where I paid my $20? That's super handy. Each bear has an assigned ranger. Thanks!

"You may see rangers using hazing techniques to chase bears away."

That is especially awesome. Do they shave their heads? Make them drink lots of beer? I do hope they get to join the fraternity afterwards.

Ok, snarky aside done. I do love the picture of the people.

Clearly one thing you should certainly do is make an "o" with your mouth. Honey and I practiced that all weekend. The problem for us, really, was who wanted which role. We had no pots or spoons, so neither could of us be the dad. I decided the best thing to do was consult the bear's ranger about what to do beyond the "o" mouth.

As we descended into the San Joaquin Valley and headed home yesterday, I thought about what I had learned. I learned a lot about sequoias, but not much about bears, really. I realize that the sequoias aren't going to break into my car, but think about if one of them fell on me. I'd be way more dead than if a bear took my lotion. It's unlikely that a sequoia would fall on me, I admit. Still I should have asked the pretty ranger how to protect myself from the unlikely. With all those sequoias, they're probably not able to have enough rangers to assign one to every tree. Standing near them, then, is a risk I must be willing to take. I'm nothing if not brave. And bear aware. I'm also very bear aware. So is Honey. I certified us.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Part of the story: Happy Birthday!

This is how this story begins:

I was a newish graduate student at a fine university in Southern California. Not the one with the good football team. The one with the good basketball team. I was helping a woman with her senior thesis. I met her through the lesbian rap group on campus. I encouraged her to present her senior thesis at a regional conference I was also going to attend. Academics present papers at conferences. It's a thing. And this woman thought she might want to go to graduate school.

I rode up to the conference with this woman and her girlfriend. I was a little intimidated by her girlfriend. She was sexy, had a shaved head, and rode a motorcycle. The girlfriend had a two door SUV and I, as the non couple person, rode in the back on the way to Davis, where the conference was to be held. On the way up, I bought a small packet of bite-sized Pecan Sandies. I dropped one and stepped on it. I didn't mean to. When the girlfriend saw this, she teased me. I thought she was mad. She wasn't.

This is part of the story too:

The senior thesis woman broke up with her girlfriend. The (now ex) girlfriend stopped by and left a note on my office door. Later that summer she gave me a large lemon that looked like a breast.

It looked more like a breast than that one does.  I loved that lemon because I loved the woman who gave it to me.  I didn't know that when she gave me the lemon.  I suspected, but I didn't know.

Later on this becomes part of the story:

The (now ex) girlfriend becomes my girlfriend. Because she knows I can, she often asks as we go to sleep at night, "will you tell me a story?" And I do tell her stories until she falls asleep.

Sometimes, when I say something innocuous (because I talk too much and say too much), she says to me, "that wasn't a very good story." She's right, when she says that. Not all stories can be good, but I should try harder to give her good stories.

So here's another piece of the story:

My honey starts a new chapter of her story today.

Here's the last part of the story for today:

When the former graduate student, now sometimes professor, often administrator woke up this morning, she saw her love asleep.  She made up a stupid song that she sang to her love in celebration of 40 years of life.  It was a silly song, that got sort of squeaky at the end.  She thought it was ok, though, because sometimes the story is about breast lemons and squeaky songs.


So, happy birthday, sweeties.  I can't wait to see how your story moves on from here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Born to (and a Shakespeare game)

Honey and I were watching "Everest: Beyond the Limit" the other night. The narrator noted that the Nepalese were born to climb the great mountains of their country. Their hearts are bigger. Their lungs are bigger. It reminded me (and I said out loud) of the piece that I read in the L.A. Times last week about Disneyland redesigning the "It's a Small World" ride. It seems that the boats keep bottoming out. Disneyland, not wanting to alienate its visitors, has refused to blame the expanding American (and non-American) waistlines on the problem. Instead they argue that years of fiberglass build-up on the boats and water channel have made the ride less functional. The problem, apparently, is so acute, that they've built a platform near the Canadian Mounties to help people out of the boats so the ride doesn't get held up too long. Listening to that song a few MORE times than the ride normally requires may be too much for people.

At any rate, I remarked, upon hearing the narration about the Nepalese, that Americans are born to bottom-out Small World boats. My Honey laughed. I like making my Honey laugh.

I liked this Shakespeare thing. It has nothing to do with what we're born to do. Still. Macbeth would have been way different with sporks.

William Shakespeare

Is this a spork which I see before me,
Its handle toward my hand?

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Workin' (or not)

I'm at home today because a nice fellow is outside working on our house. I'm also expecting another nice fellow to come by and talk about floors. The latter fellow has eight minutes left in the window he gave us. Contractors should say 9 when they mean 9, not "between 7 and 8" when they mean 9. That's true of everyone, really. I'm capable of showing up at 7pm when my class starts then. Should I choose to show up at 8:30, I should not be shocked by the absence of everyone else.

I brought work home with me to do, but, as yet, haven't done much with it. I know there are people who work well at home. I'm not one of them. Oh sure, I've checked e-mail and read a little. Only a little.

I also know people who do their own home improvement work. I admire them from afar. If I get to close, they might poke out my eye with a saw or something.

I admire the fortitude these folks have in doing their things. I also always find myself feeling odd about the circumstance of having work done on my house while I wile away the day dog-sitting the two canine-type freaks Honey and I brought into our lives.

I keep telling myself that since I'll be at home tomorrow, too, I'll get some of what I brought home done then.

It's a funny thing, this lack of motivation. I have lamented, in the past, my lack of time at home since I took on an administrative (rather than teaching) job at my fine institution of higher education. Honestly, though, I don't know what I got done once upon a time. Instead, as the day has gone on, I remember some connected moments. They have not been moments of great production. Eating some pasta, reading the paper. It's nice, I suppose. I find myself feeling at odds. Restless really.

My heart may be more restless than it used to be. I find that quite plausible. The problem, though, is how to calm the restless heart. Or at least how to get it to not beat up on itself for being restless.
The good news is that the work should be done tomorrow or Monday and we'll have two layers of dog gates, more patio next to our side door, and functional locks on all our exterior doors and the garage. Honey has suggested we invite our handyman to move in, which I'm inclined to do, as we're also in negotiation to have him rip out our carpeting, lay some tile, and fix us up with some fine faux wood laminate. "Only [we] will know it isn't wood!"

As for my restless heart, I just checked in with Newton (or Ike, as I like to call him), and he reports that it's likely to stay moving. At least for now.  So wave if you see it run by.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A small SkyMall thought

I am well aware that the SkyMall catalog is simply a distraction that the airlines provide me with on the plane. The companies that populate it are hoping I'll buy something.

Treecup and I once played a game on the way to a conference where we opened the SkyMall catalog. Here's how it worked. I'd open the book to a particular page and pick out the item I most thought she would want, even if it was a page full of NFL pool balls. There couldn't be anything less suited to Treecup than NFL pool balls. Then she picked out the thing she would buy on that page.   Then we'd switch and she'd try to guess my preferences.  (The answer couldn't be "nothing." In our imaginary SkyMall world, you had to buy something on every page. Delta and Hammacher Schlemmer would be so pleased. Them and the NFL pool ball people.) It was an amusing and interesting exercise in how well we knew one another.

My father travels a lot and when I ask him for gift suggestions, he is likely as not to come up with something from the SkyMall like a shower squeegee. I don't feel compelled to buy him the actual shower squeegee from the catalog, nor is he hoping for it. He just liked the idea of the shower squeegee. Thusly, he is now able to squeegee his shower at will.

Anyway, when I flew home on Wednesday, I noticed a product that made me sad in the SkyMall. Not sad like the anti-gay freaks protesting at soldiers funerals. Not that sad. Still.

Here it is:

It's described as:

"Safe laser beam toy keeps your cat entertained for hours on end, so you can do other things."

Ok, I will admit that our four (how did that happen?) pets always often sometimes drive me crazy. But they're our pets. I brought them (or helped bring them) into our home. I should play with them. If the cats like laser pointers (and boy, do they), I should wield said pointer and move it around for them. Really.  With my own hands.  Even though I hurt my shoulder the other day bench pressing my honey.  I have a left hand.  It has a wrist that works.

The "you don't have to play with you cat" laser thingy is yet another example of our continuing slide into desperation.

I should note that, as I wrote this, Biscuit had cornered Halo under my desk. Biscuit is now outside and I have tried to coax Halo out of her lair. I'm not sure where my laser pointer is, though. So she'll have to make do with my petting her should I be successful in the extraction.