17 June 2012

posted 14 Jun 2012, 22:00 by C S Paul

17 June 2012

Information Please


When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember well the polished old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother used to talk to it. 

Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person - her name was "Information Please" and there was nothing she did not know. "Information Please" could supply anybody's number and the correct time. My first personal experience with this genie-in the-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. 

Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there didn't seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway.

The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the foot stool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear. "Information Please," I said into the mouthpiece just above my head. A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear.


"I hurt my finger..." I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily enough now that I had an audience. 

"Isn't your mother home?" came the question. 

"Nobody's home but me." I blubbered. 

"Are you bleeding?" the voice asked. 

"No," I replied. "I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts." 

"Can you open your icebox?" she asked. I said I could. 

"Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger," said the voice.

After that, I called "Information Please" for everything. I asked her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math. She told me my pet chipmunk, that I had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts.

Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary died. I called "Information Please" and told her the sad story. She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was unconsoled. I asked her, "Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?"

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, "Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in." Somehow I felt better.

Another day I was on the telephone. "Information Please." 

"Information," said the now familiar voice. 

"How do you spell fix?" I asked. 

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When I was 9 years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much.

"Information Please" belonged in that old wooden box back home, and I somehow never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall.

As I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about half an hour or so between planes. I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, 

"Information, Please." Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well, 


I hadn't planned this but I heard myself saying, "Could you please tell me how to spell fix?" 

There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, "I guess your finger must have healed by now." 

I laughed. "So it's really still you," I said. "I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time."

"I wonder", she said, "if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls.

" I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.

"Please do," she said. "Just ask for Sally." 

Three months later I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered "Information." 

I asked for Sally. 

"Are you a friend?" She said. 

"Yes, a very old friend," I answered. 

"I'm sorry to have to tell you this, she said. Sally had been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago."

Before I could hang up she said, "Wait a minute. Did you say your name was Paul?" 


"Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. 

Let me read it to you." The note said, "Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He'll know what I mean."

I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant. 


by Lew Wallace

Part Three

In Italy, Greek pirate-ships have been looting Roman vessels in the Aegean Sea. The prefect Sejanus orders the Roman Quintus Arrius to take warships to combat the pirates. 

Judah is a galley slave rowing chained on one of the Roman warships. He had survived three hard years, fueled by his passion for vengeance. Arrius is impressed by Judah and finds out more about his life and his story. 

The ship is attacked by pirates and the ship is sunk. Judah uses a plank as a raft. Arrius surfaces besides him and the two of them hold on until a Roman ship appears and rescues them. They return to Misenum and Judah is adopted by the influential Arrius, becoming a Roman citizen.

Part three - 

The tribune, standing upon the helmsman's deck with the order of 
the duumvir open in his hand, spoke to the chief of the rowers.

"What force hast thou?"

"Of oarsmen, two hundred and fifty-two; ten supernumeraries.

"Making reliefs of--"


"And thy habit?"

"It has been to take off and put on every two hours."

The tribune mused a moment.

"The division is hard, and I will reform it, but not now. The oars 
may not rest day or night."

Then to the sailing-master he said,

"The wind is fair. Let the sail help the oars."

When the two thus addressed were gone, he turned to the chief pilot. (
Called rector.)

"What service hast thou had?"

"Two-and-thirty years."

"In what seas chiefly?"

"Between our Rome and the East."

"Thou art the man I would have chosen."

The tribune looked at his orders again.

"Past the Camponellan cape, the course will be to Messina. 
Beyond that, follow the bend of the Calabrian shore till Melito 
is on thy left, then-- Knowest thou the stars that govern in the 
Ionian Sea?"

"I know them well."

"Then from Melito course eastward for Cythera. The gods willing, 
I will not anchor until in the Bay of Antemona. The duty is urgent. 
I rely upon thee."

A prudent man was Arrius--prudent, and of the class which, 
while enriching the altars at Praeneste and Antium, was of 
opinion, nevertheless, that the favor of the blind goddess 
depended more upon the votary's care and judgment than upon 
his gifts and vows. All night as master of the feast he had sat 
at table drinking and playing; yet the odor of the sea returned 
him to the mood of the sailor, and he would not rest until he 
knew his ship. Knowledge leaves no room for chances. Having begun 
with the chief of the rowers, the sailing-master, and the pilot, 
in company with the other officers--the commander of the marines,
the keeper of the stores, the master of the machines, the overseer 
of the kitchen or fires--he passed through the several quarters.

Nothing escaped his inspection. When he was through, of the community c
rowded within the narrow walls he alone knew perfectly all there was 
of material preparation for the voyage and its possible incidents; 
and, finding the preparation complete, there was left him but one 
thing further--thorough knowledge of the personnel of his command.

As this was the most delicate and difficult part of his task, 
requiring much time, he set about it his own way.

At noon that day the galley was skimming the sea off Paestum. 
The wind was yet from the west, filling the sail to the master's 
content. The watches had been established. On the foredeck the 
altar had been set and sprinkled with salt and barley, and before 
it the tribune had offered solemn prayers to Jove and to Neptune 
and all the Oceanidae, and, with vows, poured the wine and burned
the incense. And now, the better to study his men, he was seated 
in the great cabin, a very martial figure.

The cabin, it should be stated, was the central compartment of the 
galley, in extent quite sixty-five by thirty feet, and lighted by 
three broad hatchways. A row of stanchions ran from end to end, 
supporting the roof, and near the centre the mast was visible, 
all bristling with axes and spears and javelins. To each hatchway 
there were double stairs descending right and left, with a pivotal
arrangement at the top to allow the lower ends to be hitched to 
the ceiling; and, as these were now raised, the compartment had 
the appearance of a skylighted hall.

The reader will understand readily that this was the heart of 
the ship, the home of all aboard--eating-room, sleeping-chamber, 
field of exercise, lounging-place off duty--uses made possible by 
the laws which reduced life there to minute details and a routine 
relentless as death.

At the after-end of the cabin there was a platform, reached by 
several steps. Upon it the chief of the rowers sat; in front of 
him a sounding-table, upon which, with a gavel, he beat time 
for the oarsmen; at his right a clepsydra, or water-clock, 
to measure the reliefs and watches. Above him, on a higher 
platform, well guarded by gilded railing, the tribune had his 
quarters, overlooking everything, and furnished with a couch, 
a table, and a cathedra, or chair, cushioned, and with arms and 
high back--articles which the imperial dispensation permitted of 
the utmost elegance.

Thus at ease, lounging in the great chair, swaying with the motion 
of the vessel, the military cloak half draping his tunic, sword in 
belt, Arrius kept watchful eye over his command, and was as closely 
watched by them. He saw critically everything in view, but dwelt 
longest upon the rowers. The reader would doubtless have done 
the same: only he would have looked with much sympathy, while, 
as is the habit with masters, the tribune's mind ran forward of 
what he saw, inquiring for results.

The spectacle was simple enough of itself. Along the sides of the 
cabin, fixed to the ship's timbers, were what at first appeared 
to be three rows of benches; a closer view, however, showed them 
a succession of rising banks, in each of which the second bench 
was behind and above the first one, and the third above and behind 
the second. 

To accommodate the sixty rowers on a side, the space 
devoted to them permitted nineteen banks separated by intervals of 
one yard, with a twentieth bank divided so that what would have 
been its upper seat or bench was directly above the lower seat 
of the first bank. The arrangement gave each rower when at work 
ample room, if he timed his movements with those of his associates, 
the principle being that of soldiers marching with cadenced step in 
close order. The arrangement also allowed a multiplication of banks, 
limited only by the length of the galley.

to be continued

Mean Mom

Written by Bobbie Pingaro (1967)

I had the meanest mother in the whole world. While other kids ate 
candy for breakfast, I had to have cereal, eggs or toast. When others had cokes and candy for lunch, I had to eat a sandwich. As you can guess, my supper was different than the other kids' also.
But at least, I wasn't alone in my sufferings. My sister and two 
brothers had the same mean mother as I did.

My mother insisted upon knowing where we were at all times. You'd think we were on a chain gang. She had to know who our friends were and where we were going. She insisted if we said we'd be gone an hour, that we be gone one hour or less--not one hour and one minute. I am nearly ashamed to admit it, but she actually struck us. Not once, but each time we had a mind of our own and did as we pleased. That poor belt was used more on our seats than it was to hold up Daddy's pants. Can you imagine someone actually hitting a child just because he disobeyed? Now you can begin to see how mean she really was.

We had to wear clean clothes and take a bath. The other kids always wore their clothes for days. We reached the height of insults because she made our clothes herself, just to save money. Why, oh why, did we have to have a mother who made us feel different from our friends?

The worst is yet to come. We had to be in bed by nine each night 
and up at eight the next morning. We couldn't sleep till noon like our friends. So while they slept-my mother actually had the nerve to break the child-labor law. She made us work. We had to wash dishes, make beds, learn to cook and all sorts of cruel things. I believe she laid awake at night thinking up mean things to do to us.

She always insisted upon us telling the truth, the whole truth and 
nothing but the truth, even if it killed us- and it nearly did.

By the time we were teen-agers, she was much wiser, and our life became even more unbearable. None of this tooting the horn of a car for us to come running. She embarrassed us to no end by making our dates and friends come to the door to get us. If I spent the night with a girlfriend, can you imagine she checked on me to see if I were really there. I never had the chance to elope to Mexico. That is if I'd had a boyfriend to elope with. I forgot to mention, while my friends were dating at the mature age of 12 and 13, my old fashioned mother refused to let me date until the age of 15 and 16. Fifteen, that is, if you dated only to go to a school function. And that was maybe twice a year.

Through the years, things didn't improve a bit. We could not lie 
in bed, "sick" like our friends did, and miss school. If our friends 
had a toe ache, a hang nail or serious ailment, they could stay home from school. Our marks in school had to be up to par. Our friends' report cards had beautiful colors on them, black for passing, red for failing. My mother being as different as she was, would settle for nothing less than ugly black marks.

As the years rolled by, first one and then the other of us was put 
to shame. We were graduated from high school. With our mother behind us, talking, hitting and demanding respect, none of us was allowed the pleasure of being a drop-out.

My mother was a complete failure as a mother. Out of four 
children, a couple of us attained some higher education. None of us have ever been arrested, divorced or beaten his mate. Each of my brothers served his time in the service of this country. And whom do we have to blame for the terrible way we turned out? You're right, our mean mother. Look at the things we missed. We never got to march in a protest parade, nor to take part in a riot, burn draft cards, and a million and one other things that our friends did.

She forced us to grow up into God-fearing, educated, honest adults. Using this as a ackground,
I am trying to raise my three 
children. I stand a little taller and I am filled with pride when my
children call me mean.

Because, you see, I thank God, 
He gave me the meanest mother in the whole world.

Did you Know ?

  • The term “smart money” refers to gamblers who have inside information or have arranged a fix, the gambling term for insuring the outcome of an event by illegal methods.
  • Small-time gamblers who place small bet in order to prolong the excitement of a game are called “dead fish” by game operators because the longer the playing time, the greater the chances of losing.
  • The term “Blue Chip” comes from the color of the poker chip with the highest value, blue.
  • Nessie, the Loch Ness monster is protected by the 1912 Protection of Animals Acts of Scotland. With good reason – Nessie is worth $40 million annually to Scottish tourism.
  • The world’s largest disco was held at the Buffalo Convention Centre, New York, 1979. 13,000 danced a place into the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • In August 1983, Peter Stewart of Birmingham, UK set a world record by disco dancing for 408 hours.
  • The US share of the world music market is 31.3%.

  • The Beatles holds the top spot of album sales in the US (106 million), followed by Garth Brooks second (92 million), Led Zeppelin (83 million), Elvis Presley (77 million), and the Eagles (65 million). Worldwide The Beatles sold more than 1 billion records.

  • Beethoven was the first composer who never had an official court position, thus the first known freelance musician. Born in 1770, he grew up poor, but published his first work at age 12. By age 20 he was famous. He often sold the same score to six or seven different publishers simultaneously, and demanded unreasonably large fees for the simplest work. He was short, stocky, dressed badly, didn’t like to bath, lived in squalor, used crude language, openly conducted affairs with married women, and had syphilis. Beethoven was deaf when he composed his Ninth Symphony.
  • Ireland has won the most Eurovision song contests (7 times).

Power of Positive Thinking

 by Norman Vincent Peale

Chapter 6 (continued)

Following is a technique consisting of six points which I 
have personally found of great helpfulness in reducing the 
tendency to fume and fret. I have suggested its use to 
countless people who practice it and find it of great value:

1. Sit relaxed in a chair. Completely yield yourself to the 
chair. Starting with your toes and proceeding to the top of 
your head, conceive of every portion of the body as relaxing. 
Affirm relaxation by saying, "My toes are relaxed—my
fingers—my facial muscles."

2. Think of your mind as the surface of a lake in a storm, 
tossed by waves and in tumult. But now the waves subside, 
and the surface of the lake is placid and unruffled.

3. Spend two or three minutes thinking of the most beautiful 
and peaceful scenes you have ever beheld, as, for example, a 
mountain at sunset, or a deep valley filled with the hush of 
early morning, or a woods at noonday, or moonlight upon
rippling waters. In memory relive these scenes.

4. Repeat slowly, quietly, bringing out the melody in each, a 
series of words which express quietness and peace, as, for 
example, (a) tranquillity (say it very deliberately and in a 
tranquil manner); (b) serenity; (c) quietness. Think of other
such words and repeat them.

5. Make a mental list of times in your life when you have 
been conscious of God's watchful care and recall how, when 
you were worried and anxious, He brought things out right 
and took care of you. Then recite aloud this line from an old 
hymn, "So long Thy power hath kept me, sure it STILL will 
lead me on."

6. Repeat the following, which has an amazing power to 
relax and quiet the mind: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect
peace, whose mind is stayed on thee." (Isaiah 26:3) Repeat 
this several times during the day, whenever you have a 
fraction of a moment. Repeat it aloud if possible, so that by 
the end of the day you will have said it many times.

Conceive of these words as active, vital substances 
permeating your mind, sending into every area of your 
thinking a healing balm. This is the best-known medicine for 
taking tension from the mind.

As you work with the techniques suggested in this chapter, 
the tendency to fume and fret will gradually be modified. In 
direct proportion to your progress the power heretofore 
drawn off by this unhappy habit will be felt in your increased
ability to meet life's responsibilities.

to be continued

Just for laughs

Smith goes to see his supervisor in the front office.

"Boss," he says, "we're doing some heavy house-cleaning at home tomorrow, and my wife needs me to help with the attic and the garage, moving and hauling stuff."

"We're short-handed, Smith" the boss replies. "I can't give you the day off."

"Thanks, boss," says Smith "I knew I could count on you!"


A woman went to the Post Office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. 

"What denomination?" asked the clerk. 

"Oh, good heavens! Have we come to this?" said the woman. "Well, give me 50 Baptist and 50 Catholic ones." 

The Flower Gift

-Author unknown

The Most Beautiful Flower

The park bench was deserted as I sat down to read Beneath the long, straggly branches of an old willow tree. Disillusioned by life with good reason to frown, For the world was intent on dragging me down.

And if that weren't enough to ruin my day, A young boy out of breath approached me, all tired from play. He stood right before me with his head tilted down And said with great excitement, "Look what I found!"

In his hand was a flower, and what a pitiful sight, With its petals all worn - not enough rain, or too little light. Wanting him to take his dead flower and go off to play, I faked a small smile and then shifted away.

But instead of retreating he sat next to my side And placed the flower to his nose and declared with surprise, "It sure smells pretty and it's beautiful, too. That's why I picked it; here, it's for you."

The weed before me was dying or dead. Not vibrant of colors, orange, yellow or red. But I knew I must take it, or he might never leave. So I reached for the flower, and replied, "Just what I need."

But instead of him placing the flower in my hand, He held it mid-air without reason or plan. It was then that I noticed for the very first time That weed-toting boy could not see: he was blind.

I heard my voice quiver, tears shone like the sun As I thanked him for picking the very best one. "You're welcome," he smiled, and then ran off to play, Unaware of the impact he'd had on my day.

I sat there and wondered how he managed to see A self-pitying woman beneath an old willow tree. How did he know of my self-indulged plight? Perhaps from his heart, he'd been blessed with true sight.

Through the eyes of a blind child, at last I could see The problem was not with the world; the problem was me. And for all of those times I myself had been blind, I vowed to see beauty, and appreciate every second that's mine.

And then I held that wilted flower up to my nose And breathed in the fragrance of a beautiful rose And smiled as that young boy, another weed in his hand About to change the life of an unsuspecting old man.