Saturday, April 28, 2012

Read the ingredients!!!

Dufus woman “shocked” to learn Nutella “was full of sugar and fat.”

Ingredients: “Sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals, whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin, an artificial flavor.)

Nutrition facts: Two tablespoons – 200 calories, 100 fat calories … and so forth.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tom Hess, baseball player and traveler

While going through the roster of the 1892 Baltimore Orioles, a player’s age caught my attention. Thomas Hess, age 16.
Hess was not the youngest major league ballplayer. That distinction goes to Joe Nuxhall, who was 15 years and 11 months old on June 10, 1944, when he pitched 2/3 of an inning for the Cincinnati Reds.
Hess was about two months away from his 17th birthday when he started his only major league game on June 6, 1892. He went to bat two times. He did not get a hit, but he didn’t strike out, either.
Hess is an interesting character for reasons other than catching a major league game at 16.
For one thing, his name was not Tom Hess. He was born Thomas Joseph Heslin on Aug. 15, 1875, in Brooklyn. He died Dec. 15, 1945, in Albany, N.Y. Name changes by ballplayers were not unusual in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, Browns and Yankees pitcher Urban Shocker was born Urbain Jacques Shockcor in 1890.

Some changed names for simplicity, others for reasons unknown. For simplicity, Jack Shocker would make a greater impact than “Urban.” Tom Heslin’s parents might have changed the family name to Hess to make it more easily remembered.

The Orioles released Hess eight days after his one major league game. Hess was out of professional baseball for nine years, returning in 1901 with the Class C Albany Senators. In the next 10 years, Hess went from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Texas to Canada, playing on minor league teams from D League to AAA League – 1902 with Albany; 1903 with the Portland, Ore., Browns; Class D Waterloo Microbes and the Class A Sioux City Soos in 1904; Oskaloosa Quakers in 1905; renamed Sioux City Packers in 1906; Texas League’s Class C Galveston Sand Crabs in 1907; Class D Winston-Salem Twins and Class B Wikes-Barre Barons in 1908. In 1909 Hess was with the Class B Elmira Colonels. He did not play in 1910. In 1911, Hess was with the Class D Hamilton Kolts of the Canadian League, where he batted .293 and had three doubles and a triple among his 29 hits in 28 games.
Hess did not play professionally after 1911, but his time in Hamilton, Ontario, must have had an influence of a peculiar nature.

Sporting Life in 1916 reported that he enlisted ‘for overseas service’ with a battalion in Hamilton, ON. According to the Utica Herald-Dispatch of January 5, 1918:

"’Hess has been gassed, shell shocked and wounded severely on the right side, just above the hip. After going the round of ... hospitals in a vain attempt to recover from his shrapnel wound, Hess was released ... He was cited at the Battle of the Somme for unusual bravery... Tommy was a catcher popular with all the baseball bugs, game as they make 'em, and in the game for all he was worth.’"

Despite 10 screens of searches, I found nothing else on Hess.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dodging lions

“Oh, the hours I’ve spent inside the Coliseum, dodging lions and wasting time …” – Bob Dylan, ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece.’

Levon Helm of The Band died this week. The band’s version of ‘Masterpiece’ has more humanity than Dylan’s version.

My wife and I saw Dylan and The Band in Memphis in 1974. Maybe it was 1975. There was a lot of funny-smelling smoke in the coliseum and we couldn’t dodge all of it. When the first couple hundred began glowing, my wife said, “What’s that smell?” I told her. She said, “Really?” There is a first time for a lot of things and the end time for others.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Well, there was that slave ...

When doing some ancestry stuff – studying the 1840 census of Smith County Tennessee – I came across one of those things that goes against what I was always told: “Our people were too poor to own salves.” That statement indicates “our people” would have owned slaves, had they the means to buy other people. But they did not have the money, so none owned a slave or slaves.

Not so fast.

The 1840 Federal Census of Smith County Tennessee shows my great-great-great grandfather, George Merriman, and his wife, Nancy Walker Merriman, owned a male slave.

Now, that was a surprising fact to learn. However, the surprising fact of ownership does not bother me. I am not responsible for any action, moral or less than, done by any of my ancestors. I will not carry a sense of guilt for what dead white dudes did a long time ago.

But there is another aspect of George Merriman’s slave. The census record says the unnamed slave was “55 to 110 years old.” My guess is he was on the low side of that age bracket, but whichever, George most likely did not get as much work out of his slave as he would have from, say, a 35-year-old slave.

Of course, there is the question of affordability. In the 1840-1860 period, slaves increased tremendously in cost. Records from Red River County Texas show a prime slave was worth around $300 in the early 1840s. Personal property records of 1854 value, for tax purposes, a prime slave at $5,000.

I do not know how much money George and Nancy Walker had in 1840. George was a farmer, and if he and Nancy had any disposable or investment cash, the farm must have done quite well.

There is another, possible, reason George and Nancy had a slave in 1840. Some Southerners bought relatives from slavery.

I do not know if the 1840 unnamed slave was a relative, nor would I be overcome by any repulsion if he were.

I was thinking, though … If the slave was a relative, how much affirmative action protection have I missed? Would those three newspaper editors who fired me hesitated had they known I might have a black ancestor? Could I have received college scholarships by stating my whiteness misleading? Can I get two votes in elections, to make up for past discrimination? Where are my reparations?

I want my 40 acres and a mule!

Funny thing … Some people would be head-over-heels joyful if a census showed actual or even possible Indian ancestry. But most of those same people would be appalled to discover a dark ancestor, hiding in the woodpile or in plain sight.

I don’t care.

It is an interesting possibility, though, and one that needs more research.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cute, cuddly and numerous

“Scientists believe that half of the population of penguins in the Antarctic region has been depleted in the last 50 years due to the climate change. It is the species known as the Emperor Penguins that have seen the largest losses.”

(No date, but at the bottom of the web page is “Copyright 2009 Infoqis Publishing, Co.” Information is from the National Science Foundation – – aka, Your Tax Dollars At Work.)

Last 50 years, 50 percent of penguins dead, killed, wiped out because of global warming.

But wait! There’s more!

“ScienceDaily (Apr. 13, 2012) — A new study using satellite mapping technology reveals there are twice as many emperor penguins in Antarctica than previously thought.”

“Lead author and geographer Peter Fretwell at British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which is funded by the U.K.'s Natural Environment Research Council, explains, ‘We are delighted to be able to locate and identify such a large number of emperor penguins. We counted 595,000 birds, which is almost double the previous estimates of 270,000-350,000 birds. This is the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space.’"

So, if an actual head count shows twice as many as previously thought, but hand-wringers say half the Antarctic’s penguins had died from global warming, doesn’t that mean the overall numbers are the same for the past 50 years?

Northern Canada has 25,000 polar bears.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bonnie and Clyde

The mother of a young woman I dated in 1969 said, apropos of I don’t remember what, “You know, Bonnie and Clyde didn’t do half the things people accused them of doing. They were just young people in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

I didn’t make any kind of reply. There was nothing to say that would have changed her mind, and the young woman and I were in the early dating stage, meaning I really didn't want to anything that would have PO'd her parents.

Some things you just nod your head and continue the march.

I have never seen the movie Bonnie and Clyde. I will not see the movie, unless someone ties me to a chair and forces me to watch. I knew from other people’s comments and from trailers that the movie was historically inaccurate and it made heroes of two hot-blooded killers.

What I did not consider over the years was the liberal politics of the movie.

Ed Driscoll quotes Rick Perlstein, promoting his book Nixonland:

“My theory is that Bonnie and Clyde was the most important text of the New Left ... It made an argument about vitality and virtue vs. staidness and morality that was completely new, that resonated with young people in a way that made no sense to old people. Just the idea that the outlaws were the good guys and the bourgeois householders were the bad guys—you cannot underestimate [sic] how strange and fresh that was.”

Wait a minute, wait a minute. “Virtue” vs. “morality?” Perlstein should have studied at least a little political history before subectifying virtue and morality. Before the “important text of the New Left,” virtue and morality were the same.

Driscoll’s piece is good writing and good argument about an industry that has taken unto itself the determination of what we should believe, and the industry's definition of morality.

Driscoll’s piece is linked from maggiesfarm.

I don't remember why I wrote this

There was a longer story idea, something I intended to make longer. I forgot what the idea was.

The scene:

She walked from the carnage, backlit movielike, a pistol in each hand. Smoke drifted across the scene behind her, flames rose, and around her head was a red aura, maybe her own, maybe an illumination from the smoke and flames. Her aura was red at times, blue at times; never envy-green. Her hair was tight curls, long and dark, past her shoulders, a few strands across her face. She stopped when a couple of steps away. I saw then the slides of her pistols were locked back.

“You depleted?” I asked.

“Yep,” she said and she pushed the magazine release button on each Colt. Two long magazines fell onto the dusty ground. “You?”

“No.” I pulled two full magazines from a cargo pocket.

“Good,” she said.

I took her righthand pistol, put in the magazine and released the lock. The slide rammed home with that satisfying “Chunk.” I put the safety on, handed the pistol to her and then reloaded the other.

I said, “They’re seven-shot.”

She smiled as she put the pistols into open holsters on her belt. “They’ll do.” When I bent over and picked up the two empty magazines, she said, “You think we’ll need those?”

“Never can tell.” I put the magazines in a lower pocket on my tunic. “I apologize for not getting here sooner.”

“You’re here now.”


“I figured you had some trouble on the way.”


“I had to start without you,” she said.

“I know.”

“I don’t like starting without you.”

“I know. It’s a good thing you had the long mags, huh.”

“I would have taken their weapons,” she said. “They were using nine-mils for the most part. And …” she drew out the word. “A couple of shoulder-fired somethings I’d never seen before.”

“Death beams or ray guns?”

“Yes. Tech support will sort everything out.”

“They usually do.”

We stepped forward at the same time. She said, “You get the kids off to school?”

“That’s why I’m late. I’ve told the dumb … foxtrots not to keep you at the office, but …”

“They don’t listen.”

“No, they don’t.”

“That’s why they’re dumb foxtrots.”

“Yes,” I said. “Naomi has band practice after school today. Joab and Gideon have baseball practice. We’ll get back in time to get cleaned up and pick them up.”

“Maybe we’ll have time for a nap?”

“We’ll make time, ‘cause this old man gets cranky …”

“You think I don’t know?”

We held hands as we walked to the french doors that led to the stone patio and marble balustrade and the rose garden.

“Nice drawing room,” she said.

“Too bad it’s going up.”

“Not really,” she said.

“No.” I opened a door.

“Thank you.”

“Maybe the house doesn’t take on the evil aspects of its owner, but …”

She said, “Why take the chance?”

“They say you can tell a man and a woman have been married a long time if they finish each other’s sentences.”

“Somebody said ‘too long.’”


“I don’t know what that means.”

“Neither do I.”

The house went up when we were halfway down the one-hundred-meter-long gravel walkway. In keeping with her status and mine, not a single brick battered us, not a shard of glass got near. We felt only the heat from the flames.

She said, “I guess the techs won’t get to study the ray guns.”

Entering Florida

A good bit of northern Florida looks like parts of Northeast Texas -- same kinds of trees, same look to the pastures. I wonder if the land composition is the same?

One thing much different -- billboards for guns. Numerouser and numerouser here in Florida than in Texas. And Texas is considered a gun-owner-friendly state. Other similarities, neither state has a state income tax; both had a Bush as governor.

I mentioned the gun billboards to my daughter. She laughed and said, "It's the wild, wild West here."

About 15 years ago, my wife drove from Northeast Texas to Miami. "I was surprised at the corn," she said. "There were corn fields everywhere."

There are billboards advertising naked ladies, too. "Risk Cafe" and "Bare Necessities." And, Florida has an almost Texas-amount of cattle.

My wife and I decided the Sunshine State needs a new motto: Corn and Cattle, Guns and Whores.

Hey, it is the Wild, Wild West.