This year in New York City more than a million people will gather at Times Square to watch the ball drop signifying the arrival of the year 2005. Authorities have announced there will be "stepped-up" security. They plan to have snipers, with rifles, stationed on rooftops. I assume the snipers will somehow be in radio contact.

I can imagine one of the snipers calling his superior and the conversation might go like this:

"Chief, this is Harry."
"Okay Harry, what is it?"
"There's a guy on the roof of the building next to me and he looks suspicious."

"What do you mean suspicious?"
"He has a rifle. Do you want me to I shoot him?"

The Old Professor sends his best wishes for a terrific 2005 to all of you who have been kind enough to tolerate his prattling. And the rest of you also.



I must share this story with you.

This morning I was brushing my teeth with my ultrasonic toothbrush.
She came in and asked, "What does ultrasonic mean?"
With my mouth half full of toothbrush I replied, "Can't hear it".


I realize that wasn't a very precise definition of "ultrasonic" and it's also a variation on an old joke but it really happened this way and I laughed.



I grew up in a family where there were four children. Some may question the term, "grew up" but nonetheless, there were four of us and I happened to be the oldest. As in most families, Christmas was a rather special time and one we all look forward to eagerly.

We didn't have a fireplace, so our stockings were hung on the handrail of the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. We called it a banister and as children, our rule was that we could go to the stockings on the banister the first thing in the morning but we were to stay out of the area where the tree and the presents were. We also were given a second rule concerning when we could go to our stockings. The rule was "When the street lights go out".

I recall those restless nights when we would take turns getting out of bed, peering out the window and whispering, "The streetlights are still on.” Or someone might ask softly, "Have the streetlights gone out yet?"

Throughout my life this question has represented a time leading to some wonderful and magical happening. Sometimes I even look at things in my life today and ask the same question.

I think of Iraq and silently I ask, "Have the streetlights gone out yet?"



On December 19, 2004, CBS aired their regular 6O Minutes program and it featured an interview with Ricky Williams.

The interviewer was Mike Wallace.

If you don't follow professional football closely, you probably don't know that Ricky Williams was an outstanding running back for the Miami Dolphins. Last summer he decided to forgo a $5 million contract to go "find himself". One of several reasons he gave was that he doubted his ability to pass the compulsory drug test because he used marijuana.

The following is not verbatim but is pretty close to what happened.

Towards the end of the interview Mike Wallace asked, "Do you still smoked marijuana?"
Rickey easily admitted that he did.
Mike Wallace asked, "Do you do anything more than that?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean something more harmful than marijuana."
Rickey replied, "I use a little sugar sometimes."

On the behalf of all the other diabetics, I say, "Bravo, Ricky!"



When I was growing up our family always had a Christmas tree and it was always a beautiful tree. However, to my mind, it was always too short. I suppose it really wasn't too short but it always seemed as though it could have been two or three inches taller.

When I got to be of an age where I was working and had a little money, I approached my parents asking if they would allow me to buy the Christmas tree that year. They were delighted.

When it came time to purchase the tree I chose a day when my parents would not be home so that I could buy a real, full-sized tree and set up all by myself and surprise them with the perfect Christmas tree. I went to three different places before I found the tree that suited me. I tied it to the roof of the car and took it home.

The first problem arose when I tried to fit the tree into the stand, which was used to hold it upright. The trunk of the tree was too big so I needed to get a small ax and whittle the bottom of the trunk so it would fit into the holder. I then enlisted the aid of my sister and, together, we stood the tree upright. If I had been more careful I might have noticed the tree exceeded height of the room by three or four inches. This meant that as the tree was raised the top rubbed across the white ceiling leaving you rather unattractive green streak about two feet long.

It then became necessary to cut about 12 inches off the top of the tree because in addition to the excess tree there was a traditional star placed on top. Soon I had a rather weird looking tree with a good portion of the top cut off. This made it look like the first floor of a two-story tree and, by far, the strangest Christmas tree in town -- but it was bigger.

As the years went by I made several attempts to erase that green streak, including repainting the ceiling, but it always stubbornly remained. It always seemed to be a mocking reminder that sometimes perhaps my parents did know what they were doing and that being a bit conservative wasn't all that bad.



It's not my intention to promote any particular commercial enterprise on my blog. However, I've just had an experience that I would like to pass along to everyone in the hopes that perhaps it might catch on and eventually be a common thing.

There is on office supply store called Staples. They recently started a new policy regarding rebates. This morning I purchased an inexpensive printer and utilized the online rebate procedure and it was an easy and relaxing experience. Of course, I don't actually have the rebate yet.

This compares with an episode I had a week ago when I purchased my new monitor from Circuit City. It was necessary for me to complete and mail in two, not one but two, rebate forms complete with the IPC code printed on the box. Luckily I can use copies but in general, it seems to be a pain.

Not only that, a couple of months ago I submitted the rebate form for a different product and after eight weeks or so I received a very polite letter saying I didn't qualify as I had the wrong IPC code.

To my mind the whole idea of rebates is ludicrous. I wonder if it's possible to organize some sort of resistance to this nonsense. I know suggesting it to one of the sales clerks at Circuit City had no effect. I tried that.

If I owned a store it would seem a good idea to employ some young hot-shot to sit at a table and fill out these forms and send them in for my customers. I know I purchased the printer at Staples and the main reason for selecting that store was the Easy Rebate thing.

And before I leave the subject, if you accept the idea of rebates, can anyone explain why it takes "up to 12 weeks" to get the rebate? There are several ideas come to my mind. Wouldn't you like to use several thousand $50 rebates for about 12 weeks at no expense to you?

End of rant.

For today.



One of the things which has always mystified me is the Santa Claus hat. I wonder who designed that foolish looking piece of apparel. It must've been an elf.

Perhaps some part of the design functions as an image creator but its practical use has escaped me. Why is it pointed at the top? What does that white ball do? Is there a protocol that tells if the white ball should dangle on the right or on the left?

I have wondered if perhaps there is some socially accepted signal given off by wearing a white ball on the left or the right. Perhaps if it dangles on the left it would indicate the wearer was single and looking whereas, wearing the white ball dangling on the right would indicate that person is not available. I've seen many pictures of Santa Claus where he is wearing it on his right but I have no way of knowing if these are authentic photos or not.

It is fairly obvious that it should not be in the front, as it would obscure the view when driving a sleigh or any other vehicle.

I personally have found the white ball dangling at the back, on the nape of the neck, to be most annoying.

Maybe it has something to do with being worn at the North Pole most of the time. I understand it’s pretty cold up there and almost everything is frozen.

That must be it.

PS Please do not send me mail asking me to clean up the desk area behind me. I already have too many people telling me that already.



We live in California amongst some tall pine tree and last night it rained.

When you live amongst tall pine trees and it rains there usually is a mess.

This is after a rain last night, December 8, 2004

It seems that pine trees have many, many pine needles, which just wait for a rainstorm to fall onto our patio area. They also know when the patio has just been swept clean. It’s not that they only do it then; they try every once in awhile for no reason at all and often enlist the aid of a squirrel or two.

You may notice a rose bush growing which would seem to belie the fact that it is December.

We have about 80 rose bushes and this is the only one that doesn’t seem to get the word.
Maybe it thinks it’s a Christmas tree.
Not a bad one at that.



This is probably old hat but it was new to me.
Every once in awhile I see something that is clever and simple and I think, “I wish I had thought of that”

This is a plastic, 4-cup measuring cup, with a slanted side so there's no need to bend over or lift it up to see the exact amount in the cup.

It’s made by OXO and you can see the details here.

Okay, so it doesn’t exactly rank with the invention of the wheel, but it's a pretty good idea.



Whenever I read or hear of a person being described as kind or gentle, I think of my grandfather. He probably was one of the most soft-spoken human beings to ever grace this earth.
His name was Bernadotte Chisholm, though my grandmother always called him Bernard. He was my mother's father.

Grandpa Chisholm was a watchmaker by trade and I, as a boy, often observed him bent over his workstation, peering through a magnifier and using small tweezers to correct a problem on someone's watch. His bench, complete with a small watchmaker's lathe, was in the dining room of their apartment, in the days when they had an apartment.
In the 1930's the whole country was deep in a depression and my grandfather had been working at the Standard Time Company, makers of clocks for schools and businesses but, like millions of others, he lost his job. Inasmuch as there were no jobs and hence, no income for my grandparents, arrangements were made for them to move in with us. My father was a police officer with a generous heart and a steady income, so he
fixed up the attic of our house to be a livable place and my grandparents moved in, along with an uncle who had also lost his job at the same time.
It so happened that our house was adjacent to an empty lot, so my grandfather met with the lot’s owner and obtained permission to plant a vegetable garden there. The lot was fifty by one hundred feet and the lot’s owner was delighted to have someone see that it didn't become an eyesore.
Grandpa started to till the soil. There were no plows available so it was all painstakingly done with a spade, by hand. When it was about time to start the planting, the subject of fertilizer arose.
In those days garbage trucks came to our neighborhood and collected garbage. There were also trash trucks but they were on a different schedule and food-type garbage was kept separate from trash. After the garbage was collected each day, the truck would transport it to a pig farm out of town. There it was dumped as pig food.

My father knew the pig farmer and somehow managed to get a full truckload of pig manure delivered to the lot next door. It takes very little imagination to understand that the whole atmosphere in the neighborhood changed in a major way.
It didn't faze Grandpa who started to patiently work the pig manure into the soil and then plant the vegetable seeds. Eventually the odor went away and eventually plants began to appear. Each seedling that popped up received Grandpa's special attention and the garden thrived.
Every once in awhile a plant appeared that had not knowingly been planted. Most of the time no one had any idea what it was. But Grandpa gave the same loving care to these orphaned plants as he did to his own.
Finally, the plants began to mature and this often started a search to find out what vegetable it was. For example, no one in our family was familiar with the Acorn Squash, which they called Table Queen Squash. After it was determined to be edible, my mother set out to find out ways to cook it. The same held true for zucchini squash. That year we had all kinds of melons, peppers and varieties of tomatoes we had never seen before. There were yellow tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Italian tomatoes as well as several varieties of regular round tomatoes. Vegetable-wise, it was an exciting summer.
As these vegetables were harvested and put to use, the seeds were carefully saved for the next planting.

Long after the depression had ended and my grandparents had their own housing again, we still were eating delicious vegetables that were the offspring of those original, uninvited, vegetables that grew from the pig manure.
It seems to me that at least one of life's lessons might be hidden in there somewhere. Perhaps it's something like the realization that
from something as inherently ugly as pig manure, it's possible to get something beautiful and good if you exercise patience and kindness.
My Grandpa Chisholm did just that in all facets of his life.



In 1966 I purchased an electronic calculator for my school. It was a marvelous machine. It sat on my desk and was about the size of a small portable typewriter. Not only did it do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – it did square roots! The best part was it cost just under $1500.
At first I used to play with it a lot. For example, I calculated how long it would take to walk to the moon. At that time it was impossible to walk to the moon but I was intrigued by President Kennedy’s comment that, “In 10 years we will have a man walk to the moon.”
I found out it’s approximately 230,000 miles to the moon depending on which side you’re going to. But for my purposes I took my marvelous calculator and fed in the numbers to convert that to feet and then calculate and average walking time and found out it would take 6.5 years of continues walking, with no breaks, to get to the moon. I didn’t even need the square root function.
I was going to write to President Kennedy and explain that it shouldn’t take 10 years, as he had said, but only 6.5 years. Maybe 7 if the walker took time to look at the scenery.
Then I learned he had actually said, “walk on the moon”, not "to the moon" which, of course, changed the whole thing.
But nonetheless, I had a lot of fun doing it and where else can you get that kind of calculating power for only $1500. And, if anyone ever casually says, "I wonder how long would it take to walk to the moon.” I can come right back with "Oh, I'd guess about six and a half years." Since 1996 no one has done that but they might someday.

Keep wogging!