Friday, July 24, 2009

Country Music at the White House

Get ready for a celebration of country music at the White House.

Next Tuesday, President Obama and his wife, Michelle, will continue their efforts to promote American music by showcasing country music stars Brad Paisley, Alison Krauss and Union Station in an evening concert in the executive mansion.

The musicians will also participate in an educational workshop where 120 middle and high school students from across the country will learn the craft of songwriting, focusing on country music genres such as bluegrass, honky tonk and rockabilly.

The Obamas highlighted jazz in the first round of this White House music series in a program that included five members of the Marsalis family and the clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera. They expect to focus on classical music in the fall.

The Caucus (reprint)
July 15, 2009, 4:07 pm
Celebrating Country at the White House
By Rachel L. Swarns

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quiz for Folks Who Know Everything

1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?

3. Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?

4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?

5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?

6. Only three words in standard English begin with the letters 'dw' and they are all common words. Name two of them.

7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least
half of them?

8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.

9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter 'S.'

Answers To Quiz:

1. The one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends. Boxing

2. North American landmark constantly moving backward: Niagara Falls
(The rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.)

3. Only two vegetables that can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons . . Asparagus and rhubarb.

4. The fruit with its seeds on the outside . Strawberry.

5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bottle? It grew inside the bottle
(The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place
on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.)

6. Three English words beginning with dw:
Dwarf, dwell and dwindle.

7. Fourteen punctuation marks in English grammar.
Period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation point, quotation marks, brackets, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses.

8. The only vegetable or fruit never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form but fresh Lettuce.

9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet beginning with 'S'. Shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Scandal at Burr Oak

Cemetery workers made $300K in gravedigging scheme

ALSIP, Ill. - Four former employees accused of digging up bodies and reselling plots at a historic black cemetery near Chicago made about $300,000 in a scheme believed to have stretched back at least four years, authorities said Friday.

Three gravediggers and a manager at the Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip are accused of unearthing hundreds of corpses and either dumping some in a weeded, desolate area near the cemetery or double-stacking others in graves. The cemetery is the burial place of civil rights-era lynching victim Emmett Till and blues singers Willie Dixon and Dinah Washington.

While Till's grave site was not disturbed, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said investigators found his original iconic glass-topped casket rusting in a shack at the cemetery.

The 14-year-old Chicagoan was killed in 1955 after reportedly whistling at a white woman during a visit to his uncle's house in Mississippi. Nearly 100,000 people visited the casket during a four-day public viewing in Chicago, and images of his battered body helped spark the civil rights movement.

When Till was exhumed in 2005 during an investigation of his death, he was reburied in a new casket. The original casket was supposed to be kept for a planned memorial to Till.

Thousands of families have come to the cemetery since Thursday looking for answers about their loved ones, authorities said. Hundreds of relatives, some clutching maps of the 150-acre site, were seen at the cemetery Friday.

Dart said officials have assisted the families in locating relatives' plots, and family members have reported at least 30 cases of disturbed graves and missing headstones.

The sheriff said two burials planned for Thursday also have gone wrong - with one person initially buried in the wrong plot and another whose plot was already occupied by someone else's body.

"This is a heartless act, these graveyard robbers," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Friday. Jackson called on the cemetery's Arizona-based owner, Perpetua Inc., to answer for the conditions.

The Illinois official who regulates cemeteries said Friday that the process of revoking the cemetery's license has been started. Comptroller Daniel Hynes also said Friday his office is investigating whether the money that families paid for future cemetery needs is still safely held in a trust.

The cemetery is owned by Perpetua Holdings of Illinois. Hynes said the company is cooperating with authorities, but the horrible problems at Burr Oak justify revoking the license.

Perpetua started the investigation by calling Cook County authorities to report alleged financial wrongdoing and issued a statement Thursday that the company is cooperating with investigators.

The suspects, all of whom are black, were identified as Carolyn Towns, 49, Keith Nicks, 45, and Terrence Nicks, 39 - all of Chicago - and Maurice Dailey, 61, of Robbins. They each have been charged with one count of dismembering a human body, a felony.

Bond was set at $250,000 for Towns, the cemetery's manager, and at $200,000 for the other three.

Authorities said Towns also pocketed donations she elicited for a Till memorial museum. She has not been charged in connection with those allegations. Court documents show she was fired from the cemetery in late May amid allegations of financial wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney's office said Towns is being represented by a private attorney, but she did not know the attorney's name. The Cook County public defender's office said it had not yet assigned attorneys to the other three cases.

(information reprinted from e-mail from a friend)
Original article By DON BABWIN Associated Press Writer

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ginny Weasley Comes of Age

Have you checked out Ginny Weasley lately? You'll have another chance to check her out when "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" hits the screen next week.

For those of you who don't know who Ginny Weasley is, let's review a bit of her biography. Ginevra 'Ginny' Weasley is a character in the Harry Potter series. Ginny appears in every novel and actress Bonnie Wright plays Ginny in every movie.

Ginny is the younger sister of Ron Weasley and a close friend of Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. She is the youngest of the Weasley children (Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, and Ron are the others) and the only girl. Often lauded for her powerful magical ability, Ginny is also known for her feisty and stubborn demeanor, sarcastic sense of humor, and unwavering popularity. Her Hogwarts career started off with a bang as the young girl was manipulated and hypnotized into becoming Lord Voldemort's pawn in his plan for rebirth, but Voldemort was thwarted when Harry came to her rescue deep within the Chamber of Secrets.

Later in the series, Ginny becomes the main love interest of Harry. She has always had strong romantic feelings for Harry, ever since she first saw him at age 10. Harry didn't realize how he truly felt about her until age 16, and it was then that the two of them fell in love. During Harry's quest to destroy Voldemort's horcruxes, Ginny was one of, if not the driving force that kept him going. It was very obvious that Harry was deeply in love with her.

Ginny has always been around and might have blended in with the woodwork, but all that's about to change. The character and the actress who plays her has turned into a real beauty and is ready to take her rightful place at Harry's side.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Harry Potter Quiz Two

Here are the answers to the second Harry Potter Quiz posted June 26, 2009. The questions are repeated for those who missed the original posting, with the answers following below.

1. When the Prime Minister of Muggles first met the Minister of Magic, how did
Fudge convince him that he was not a hoax?

2. Tom Riddle visited Hephzibah Smith to make a second offer on what item?
a. Helga Hufflepuff’s cup
b. Salazar Slytherin’s locket
c. A Goblin-made silver goblet
d. Goblin made armor

3. What did Kreacher give Harry for Christmas?
a. Worms
b. Grubs
c. Weevels
d. Maggots

4. What did Snape consider Dumbledore’s greatest weakness?

5. What was Harry’s first destination after leaving Privet Dr. with Dumbledore?

6. Who was the Hogwarts School Librarian?

7. Who was the Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain and Fleur Delacourt’s Yule Ball

8. What did Mr. Weasley call his wife when they were alone together?

9. Which of the following would not be found in Fred & George’s Joke Shop?
a. Smart Answer Quills
b. Boomeranging Booms
c. Patented Daydream Charms
d. Edible Dark Marks

10. Whose Bludger knocked Harry out of the match with Hufflepuff?

11. The Fountain of Magical Brethren features five golden statues. Name the images
the statues depict.

12. The entrance to the Ministry of Magic headquarters is a red telephone box.
What number must be dialed to gain entry?

13. Cho Chang belonged to Hufflepuff. True or False

14. Name the Black family house elf.

15 What was the address of the Order of the Phoenix Headquarters?

16. Which spell creates magical barrier that will deflect hexes thrown at the

17. Name the wizard was assassinated by a Devil's Snare plant.

18. What was the nickname for Bill Weasley’s fiancĂ©?

19. Who was Severus Snape's mother?

20. Who is head of the "Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office"?


1. Turned a weasel into a tea pot

2. a. Helga Hufflepuff’s cup

3. d. Maggots

4. Trusting others

5. Horace Slughorn's temporary home in Budleigh Baddenton

6. Madam Irma Pince

7. Roger Davies

8. Mobbly marbles

9. Edible Dark Marks

10. Dobby enchanted the Bludger

11. Wizard, Witch, Centaur, Goblin, House Elf

12. 62442 (Magic)

13. False (Ravenclaw)

14. Kreacher

15. 12 Grimmauld Place

16. Shield Charm (Protego)

17. Boderick Bode

18. Phlegm

19. Ellen Prince

20. Arthur Weasley

Monday, July 6, 2009

Handbags: A Hidden Health Hazard

Have you ever noticed women who set their handbags on public toilet floors, then go directly to their dining tables and set it on the table?

It's not always the 'restaurant food' that causes stomach distress. Sometimes 'what you don't know will hurt you'!

Read on............ ...
Mom got so upset when guests came in the door and plopped their handbags down on the counter where she was cooking or setting up food. She always said that handbags are really dirty, because of where they have been..

It's something just about every woman carries with them. While we may know what's inside our handbags, do you have any idea what's on the outside? Women carry handbags everywhere; from the office to public toilets to the floor of the car. Most women won't be caught without their handbags, but did you ever stop to think about where your handbag goes during the day..

'I drive a school bus, so my handbag has been on the floor of the bus a lot,' says one woman. 'On the floor of my car, and on the floor of public toilets.'
'I put my handbag in grocery shopping carts and on the floor of the toilet,' says another woman 'and of course in my home which should be clean.'

We decided to find out if handbags harbor a lot of bacteria. We learned how to test them at Nelson Laboratories in Salt Lake , and then we set out to test the average woman's handbag.

Most women told us they didn't stop to think about what was on the bottom of their handbag. Most said at home they usually set their handbags on top of kitchen tables and counters where food is prepared.

Most of the ladies we talked to told us they wouldn't be surprised if their handbags were at least a little bit dirty.

It turns out handbags are so surprisingly dirty, even the microbiologist who tested them was shocked.

Microbiologist Amy Karen of Nelson Labs says nearly all of the handbags tested were not only high in bacteria, but high in harmful kinds of bacteria. Pseudomonas can cause eye infections, staphylococcus aurous can cause serious skin infections, and salmonella and ecoli found on the handbags could make people very sick.

In one sampling, four of five handbags tested positive for salmonella, and that's not the worst of it.. 'There is fecal contamination on the handbags' says Amy.

Leather or vinyl handbags tended to be cleaner than cloth handbags, and lifestyle seemed to play a role. People with kids tended to have dirtier handbags than those without, with one exception.

The handbag of one single woman who frequented nightclubs had one of the worst contaminations of all. 'Some type of feces, or possibly vomit' says Amy.

So the moral of this story is that your handbag won't kill you, but it does have the potential to make you very sick if you keep it on places where you eat.

Use hooks to hang your handbag at home and in toilets, and don't put it on your desk, a restaurant table, or on your kitchen countertop.

Experts say you should think of your handbag the same way you would a pair of shoes. 'If you think about putting a pair of shoes on your countertops, that's the same thing you're doing when you put your handbag on the countertops. '

Your handbag has gone where individuals before you have walked, sat, sneezed, coughed, spat, urinated, emptied bowels, etc!

Do you really want to bring that home with you?
The microbiologists at Nelson also said cleaning a handbag will help. Wash cloth handbags and use leather cleaner to clean the bottom of leather handbags.

Source: Saw this in an e-mail and thought it was worth sharing.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Remembering Chicago: Riverview Park

Remember When...Chicago, IL
Riverview Park

Riverview Amusement Park is one remembered by many. Riverview stands out in many peoples’ memories for the good times they had there. During its 64 years in existence it was said to entertain over 200,000,000 people.

The 74 acres bordered by Western and Belmont avenues, the Chicago River, and Lane Tech High School were known affectionately as "Riverview" to at least three generations of Chicagoans from as early as 1904 to as recent as 1967. Riverview Amusement Park was (sometimes disputably) billed as "The World’s Largest Amusement Park" throughout its 64-year popularity. For some people a trip to Riverview was a familiar weekend excursion, but for most people who went there, a trip to Riverview was a significant memory not soon forgotten.

The park had many milestones that added to its popularity. A 70-horse carousel was installed in 1908. In 1926, the park marked the addition of "The Bobs" roller coaster. "The Bobs" was an 11-car coaster with an 85-foot drop, long billed as the most fearsome roller coaster in the country, as well as the fastest on record. It was the most popular ride at Riverview throughout its existence.

Riverview played important roles during Prohibition, the Depression, World War II, and the baby boom of the fifties and sixties. In the age of "The Raging Bull" and "The Viper," "The Bobs" and "The Chute-the-Chutes" would seem out of place and belonging to another age. As society looks for more daring risks, technology must follow. Despite being in the shadow of the increasingly technological aspects of today’s amusement park entertainment, Riverview remains a vital part of Chicago’s history for its important social impact on the city. It allowed people of different ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds to interact with each other in an otherwise ethnically segregated city.

Here's some history I didn't know. The movement of more and more African Americans to Chicago heightened racial tension at Riverview during the 1940’s. One of the midway games that started out as a "Dunk the Bozo the Clown" game in which contestants threw balls at a target that would release a man into a tank of water turned into "Dunk the Nig**r" during the 1940’s. African American men were hired to sit in the tanks and taunt white passersby, who often would throw the balls at the African American in the tank rather than at the target. The title of the game was later changed to the more politically correct "African Dip" and was eventually closed in the late 1950’s after much pressure from the NAACP. By the time the game closed, "the men who lost their jobs were reportedly making over three hundred dollars a week in what was considered to be the highest-grossing concession in Riverview’s history."

The game left a lasting effect, as well. It allowed ethnically diverse Chicagoans to define themselves as "white" and to develop a sense of racial solidarity that "obscured the particulars of their own ethnic backgrounds." This development served to further segregate the city. Fights sprang up more frequently at Riverview after this, and by the 1960’s Riverview required its own police force.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. A LaSalle Street investment firm purchased the park on October 3, 1967 for an estimated 6.5 million dollars and promptly demolished. Only the Merry-go-Round and several smaller souvenirs were saved. After storage in Galena, Illinois, the Merry-go-Round was purchased in 1971 and is now in Atlanta at Six Flags Over Georgia. The distortion mirrors from Aladdin’s Castle fun house are reportedly at a dance club in Palatine. The area that was once Riverview is now home to a DeVry Institute of Technology, a police station, and a shopping center.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Haitian on the Titanic

There was a Haitian family on the Titanic.
Imagine one knew. Like most of history, people of color were often excluded or forgotten.

His uncle was President of Haiti!

Joseph Phillippe Lemercier Laroche, a Haitian, is thought to have been the only black passenger on the Titanic. He died in the sinking, but his wife and children were saved, possibly in lifeboat 14. Laroche was born in Cap Haitian, Haiti , on May 26, 1889.

In the blockbuster film Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio's role could have easily been played by a Black man and it would have been historically accurate. In fact, the life story of Haitian native Joseph Phillippe Lemercier Laroche is far more intriguing than the movie's lead character, but no one knew of his existence until recently.

The silence about the stranger-than-fiction life story of the Titanic's only Black passenger astonishes noted Titanic historian Judith Geller, author of Titanic: Women and Children First, who said, "It is strange that nowhere in the copious 1912 press descriptions of the ship and the interviews with the survivors was the presence of a Black family among the passengers ever mentioned."

The story of this interracial family was not known until 2000, three years after the movie's release, when the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry and the Titanic Historical Society revealed the information as part of a Titanic exhibit.

Joseph Laroche was born into a powerful family. His uncle, Dessalines M. Cincinnatus Leconte, was the president of Haiti . When Joseph Phillippe Lemercier was fifteen, he left Haiti to study engineering in Beauvais , France . Several years later, he met Juliette Lafargue, the 22- year-old daughter of a local wine seller. The two eventually married.

Despite having an engineering degree, Joseph's skin color left him unable to find employment in France. The Laroches decided to return to Haiti and booked second-class reservations on the Titanic. After the ship struck an iceberg, Joseph loaded his wife and children onto a lifeboat and he went down with the ship.

His body was never recovered.

Shortly before Christmas of that year, Juliette Laroche gave birth to their son, Joseph Laroche Jr.

Juliette never remarried.