The Wisdom Of Others

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

“There is very little difference in people but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude,” penned W. Clement Stone. Frequently we have found that there are profound truth in simple sentences or phrases composed by others. The following are some thoughts on life; some penned by the famous, some by the obscure.
“Nobody forgets where he buried the hatchet.”     ~Kin Hubbard
“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”
~Mark Twain
“A bore is a person who talks when you want him to listen.”
~Ambrose Bierce
“No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from.”
~Linus Van Peeble from Charles Schultz ‘Peanuts’
Time heals of wounds but “times wounds all heels” according to Jane Ace.
“I base my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.”     ~Gildna Radner
“The perils of duck hunting are great, especially for the duck.”     ~Walter Cronkite
“A retentive memory may be a good thing but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.”      ~Elbert Hubbard.
“Most of us grew up poor and didn’t know it. Today, if you are poor, the government never lets you forget it.”        ~Paul Harvey
“Always select the right sort of parents.”    ~George Ade
“Man does not live by words alone, although he sometimes must eat them.”              ~Adlai Stevenson
“The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines.”    ~Frank Lloyd Wright
There is even wisdom for our current White House administration:
“People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes.”    ~Abigail Van Buren
“The first quality of a good education is good manners.”    ~Hubert H. Humphrey
“If humility speaks for itself, it is gone.”    ~Rev. D.L. Moody
“When in doubt, tell the truth.”    ~Mark Twain

Frogs…In February?!?!?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

What a difference a few weeks make.
In January I needed jumper cables for a jump start because of the weather. In late February with the sun shining brightly and the thermometer outside the wilderness window almost bumping 70° the batteries in my mini-SUV and my psyche are re-charged and raring to go.
The daffodils planted in the valley and along the lane have greened up and there is rapid bud swell. Some of the soft maple trees are beginning to show some slight red on the branch tips as their buds prepare to swell as well. The ferns placed in the basement to overwinter are sending up curled tendrils of new growth well before their natural forest cousins have dared think of sending up green.
The spearmint sitting next to the basement ferns has greened up as well and there is lanky growth leaning into the sunlight.
Outside, as I pulled weeds that took over last year’s herb garden, I was pleasantly surprised to see chives already growing.
As if they were thumbing their noses at the early February groundhog, I heard spring peepers down by the lake more than a month before the spring solstice. And to beat all, dodged a few frogs on the roadway as I drove home from an evening meeting.
Frogs…in February…in Indiana?!?!?
I had some gleaned ear corn that I shelled and scattered for the turkeys down in the meadow. Though I think Emma the Great Pyrenees thinks deer and turkey are an invading force and she is constantly on patrol protecting her property and her humans…oh, and Willow the camouflaged cat.
Mother Nature’s critters seemed anxious to be out and welcome the warmer temperatures. A fly crawled along the dock and took flight when I reached down to see how active it really was. Not to be outdone by the fly, a cricket moved, albeit slowly, along the edge of the water. And the bluegill of the lake swam at the surface seeking a handout of fish food…which I obliged.
But the warm February weather doesn’t always bring out the good. A tiny tick was removed from Emma’s fur. And, alas, while enjoying the unseasonably warm weather from the back deck (while also enjoying a chilled adult beverage), I swatted a mosquito attempting to dine on me.
What with the warming temperatures…yes, I know it’s just February & there’s more cold weather a comin’ (and might already be here by the time you read this)…I have a bunch of chores planned: spread round some more fertilizer, get some wildlife planting seed in the ground for later turkey & deer browse, pull the weeds in the mulch pile to use for the raise bed gardens, cut up some downed trees for next season’s fireplace wood…
With all of that to do, I’m not sure when I will find time for work at the newspaper. Except to inspire a column or two.

Elected Leaders vs Media: It’s Historic

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Donald Trump’s combative relationship with what he calls “the dishonest media” is nothing new.
Politicians, elected officials, and bureaucrats have been complaining about the press since the very first days of our country.
Thomas Jefferson, our nation’s third president and the man who penned the Declaration of Independence, wrote in a letter to an early US Congressman, “I deplore … the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed and the malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them. As vehicles of information and a curb on our functionaries, they have rendered themselves useless by forfeiting all title to belief.”
Seven years earlier, Jefferson had written a letter to John Norvell, an aspiring journalist who went on to become the co-founder of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper,” Jefferson said. “Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day.”
By comparison, Trump’s criticism almost sounds tame. On his first full day in office, Trump told a crowd of CIA employees he had “a running war with the media.”
“They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth,” he said.
The fact is that presidents and journalists aren’t supposed to be friends. Jefferson said as much in 1787 in a letter to Edward Carrington, a delegate to the Continental Congress.
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people,” he wrote, “the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Journalists are the watchdogs on government. As Wilbur F. Storey, editor of the Chicago Times put it, “It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news, and raise hell.”
Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne gets at least partial credit for another old saying, that “a newspaper’s job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”.
Ken Paulson, then the editor of USA Today, wrote in May 2006 that the media’s role as a guardian of our freedoms had not always been embraced by the American public.
“After all,” he wrote, “politicians and public officials have stock speeches about media bias and favoritism, all in effect saying: ‘Ignore the barking. The watchdog is rabid’.”
The challenge for journalists, he said, is to keep at it.
“When we do our jobs the right way, striving every day to publish reports of integrity and balance, when we ask the tough questions, when we fight to keep the public’s business public and when we provide the kind of watchdog reporting that is the lifeblood of a democracy, we fulfill our promise to that first generation of Americans who believed that one of the best ways to guarantee a democracy was a free and vigorous press.”
That was true in Jefferson’s day, and it’s true today.
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Our thanks to Kelly Hawes, assistant editor of CNHI’s Indiana news service for the research.

Democrats Get Chance To Be The Adults

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Reason must resurface and prevail among the nation’s elected representatives.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate can take a significant step in leading the country toward reasonable governing, and away from chaos. Those senators can set an example of the steadiness, sorely needed in America right now, by resisting the understandable urge to obstruct the confirmation process for Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch.
They certainly should not just roll over. This is the chance to show the nation that there are adults in the room.
Those senators justifiably remain angered by their Republican colleagues’ disrespect for the authority of President Obama. The GOP denied any hearings on the president’s nomination of moderate, respected U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. The Republicans’ undemocratic behavior toward a president, elected overwhelmingly twice, left that seat empty for 293 days. That unprecedented refusal to perform their duties, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, exemplified their shameless obstruction during Obama’s eight years in office.
Tempting as it may be to deliver a payback, Democrats would do us, themselves, and the country well by taking the high road. By showing the statesmanship of Lee Hamilton and Richard Lugar.
As the minority party after November’s election of Donald Trump to the presidency, Democrats have a ripe opportunity. In just two weeks as president, Trump has proven his erratic decision-making, petulance and complete disinterest in listening to the needs of Americans who did not support him—the majority of those voting in November. While some Republicans in Congress have, rather meekly, questioned the constitutionality of Trump’s executive orders, most are tolerating him in hopes that he will deliver on their pet priorities.
The nation needs wisdom. The nation needs statesmanship. Senate Democrats should support the democratic process and let the confirmation hearings for Gorsuch’s nomination unfold in a timely fashion. His judicial track record contains areas of concern, which several senators have cited already. They should vigorously question Gorsuch on those topics during the hearings and vote their conscience. His legal qualifications merit thoughtful consideration and the senators should weigh those carefully, too.
But be very certain: questioning should not be construed as obstructing.
It is true that Obama, not Trump, should have been the president to appoint the justice to replace Scalia, who died a year ago. But gridlock and polarized politics have proliferated on Capitol Hill during the past quarter-century, and congressional Republicans’ behavior since 2009 has worsened the situation. They elevated their want for a conservative Supreme Court above the American system of democracy.
Democrats, by contrast, should exhibit respect for the process of representative government, fought for and won through high sacrifice. Gorsuch deserves a confirmation hearing with thorough vetting by the Senate.
The nation deserves sane, rational leadership at a moment when visible examples of that quality are in such small supply.
(The Tribune-Star contributed to this week’s column.)

It’s Made Out Of WHAT?!?!?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener
Knowledge is power but sometimes things are best left unknown. My ‘Bathroom Book Of Lists’ (and maybe THAT is more information than you want to know) listed how some frequently used foods are processed for human consumption.
Gelatin: Used as a thickener in foods like Jell-O and marshmallows, gelatin is collagen, the protein found in connective tissue. It is not made from horns and hooves, as is often thought. Pig and cattle bones and skin are broken down in hot water or acid and then dried, refined and purified into gelatin. For use as a thickener, gelatin is ground into granules or powder.
Imitation Crabmeat: Found most frequently at Chinese buffets, fake crabmeat is mainly fish, usually Pollock that is cleaned, minced, mixed with starch, salt, a bit of real crabmeat, egg white and flavoring. Then the mixture is ground into a paste, which is pressed into sheets and cooked. To give it that crabby look, the skeets are cut into thin strands and then colored. Then the genuine imitation faux crabmeat is cooked again and vacuum packed for your favorite restaurants to prepare.
Bologna: Supermarket bologna earns its ‘mystery meat’ reputation. The process begins with unused bits of beef, pork, and sometimes poultry. Which bits is the mystery. But the mystery bits get ground up and liquefied into a paste and a blend of secret spices are added. The pasty concoction is extruded into a casing, then boiled or smoked, sliced and packaged for your favorite sandwich or pickling for a masculine meaty treat with beer.
Evaporated and Condensed Milk: To extend the shelf life of milk, it is ‘evaporated’ through pasteurization by putting it in a pressure lower than atmospheric pressure (vacuum) container and then boiled. This vacuum evaporation process concentrates the milk to 30%-40% solids which delays the spoiling. Then it is homogenized to keep the cream from separating and sealed into cans. The difference between evaporated and condensed milk is that the later has lots of sugar added. Which makes it great for holiday candy making…if you can get past the fact that the former fresh milk from a cow may be a year old before you use it.
Jawbreakers: The main ingredient is granulated sugar. It is poured into a round kettle that rotates over heat. The second ingredient— liquid sugar— is added into the rotating heated kettle. It sticks to the granulated sugar and little balls of sweetness begin to form. More liquid sugar is added periodically over then next several days—sometimes up to 100 coats— into the rotating kettle. When the jawbreakers are near full size, color and flavor (such as cinnamon oil) are added. Finally the now hard sugar balls are spun with a foodgrade wax and placed into bags for your candy store or grocery’s shelf.
SPAM: Once short for SPiced hAM, only about 10% of the product is actually ham. The other 90% is pork shoulder, Hormel®, which has made Spam since the 1930’s says it’s short for Shoulder of Pork and hAM. The meat is ground, then dropped below freezing before secret spices are added along with sodium nitrite…a preservative that give the product its pick color. It is mixed in a machine with an airtight seal to keep the amount of water being released low. The uncooked mixture is plopped into cans which are sealed and then the entire can is cooked in hot water.
Over 122 million cans of Spam are sold every year.
After reading all of this, maybe you, like me, will conclude it is appropriate such information be found in a Bathroom Book of Lists.

Local ‘Alternative Facts’ You Likely Didn’t Know

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

An unusual concept came loudly into public view recently when senior White House advisor Kellyanne Conway said presidential press secretary Sean Spicer (gratefully no relation to Crothersville School Board president Bob Spicer) used “alternative facts” when he made not so slightly inaccurate claims about the size of the crowd at President Trump’s inauguration.
As a result, we have uncovered some alternative facts about Jackson and Scott County that the elitist, liberal, lying media (I guess that’s me) hasn’t been willing to report.
•Local fields and roads do not flood. It is the occasional, precipatory inspired act-of-God expansion of the borders of fisheraries. It is a method of natural irrigation to benefit farmers.
•There are no potholes in our roads. They are naturally occurring inverted speed bumps implemented to control travel time. They also serve as an economic development tool to improve the local economy of tire and suspension repair businesses.
•Pizza King and Dairy Queen both have soverign immunity from local regulations.
•Re-construction of the Shieldstown Covered Bridge is right on schedule, and always has been.
•Our area does not have a homeless problem. Business is so good in our downtowns that shoppers simply can’t all fit into the stores at the same time.
•If you think you see a protest, you are wrong! According to some of our area state representatives and senators, those people are merely walking for exercise.
•Birds surround our courthouses, town and city halls every day to participate in local democracy. What they leave on parked vehicles is public discourse.
•Despite what others may tell you, Jackson County was named for the deceased Hoosier icon Michael Jackson.
•Scott County was named for Scut Farkus, the neighborhood bully in the holiday classic ‘Christmas Story’ which was set in Indiana. Some people thought it was named for Randolph Scott or Scott McKain…but it’s not.
•It is not difficult to find a place to park at Wal-Mart; it’s simply a competitive exercise to help sharpen the driving skills of the motoring customers and to speed up slow moving Walmart customers.
The above are ‘alternative facts’ which means they are not facts at all so please don’t treat them as such.
Actually, “alternative facts” is nothing new. I sometimes used them in my youth—much to the chagrin of my parents—who, before the age of child abuse charges, showed me the error of my thinking.
And perhaps that is an answer to today’s alternative facts.
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“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”    ~Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan