George P. Burdell

I was researching pranks because I thought I remembered a story of an Ivy League fraternity that put a horse or a pig through college by rotating attendance for tests and submitting term papers over four years. I do not know if I found my source or just another bogus student when I stumbled over the George P. Burdell running joke. Apparently Ed Smith mistakenly received two forms to Georgia Tech in 1927 and he filled out one for himself and another for George who went on to a more distinguished career than Ed. George has many degrees, he flew on twelve missions in World War II, was on the Board of Directors at Mad Magazine, and briefly led Time’s 2001 online poll for Person of the Year. A campus building at Georgia Tech is named after him. My Dad was a rambling wreck from Georgia Tech, so I am mystified why I never heard about this particular tradition. Maybe he did not want to give me any ideas or the impression this was acceptable. He was especially touchy after the investigation into who was signing Phil Rizzuto (former Yankee shortstop) into Boeing logbooks for long distance phone charges shortly after I was rehired by the Company in 1972.


Best of Marriages

Actors Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan recently split after nine years of marriage. Apparently no infidelity was involved. I only noticed because one source attributed the amicable separation to busy careers in different cities and a four year old child at home, adding: “It happens to the best of marriages.” Celebrities often have careers that cause distance and a four year old is always a complication. But successful actors like Tatum and Dewan also have more resources to relieve those same pressures. I know better than to criticize others for a marital split after nine years, especially when I know nothing about their circumstances. But trying to put this marriage into the category of the “best of marriages” seems a bit much. Length of time is not an infallible measure of success. You can certainly have a long miserable union. But best actor nominations are reserved for very few exceptional performances. Divorce was once considered a failure but I am more enlightened. I only propose downgrading the Tatum/Dewan marriage from “best” to merely “good.”


I was in Church on a recent Sunday and spotted a high school student a few pews in front of me. He was wearing a letterman’s jacket from my old high school. While daydreaming through the homily, I thought about going up to him after Mass and saying “Go Panthers!” while letting him know I was Class of 1965. Luckily I had time to calculate that approaching someone from the Class of 2018 would be like a geezer from the Class of 1912 doing that to me when I was a Senior. Of course that would have been unlikely because I never earned a letter to display (coaches discriminated against the uncoordinated back in the day). Having realized my initial impulse was not a good idea, I thought instead about passing on my wisdom and warning the young man that it would be creepy to approach a high school Senior on a similar mission in 2071 when he is 71. But since he was obviously a Jock, I was afraid he might not get the humor or the math. So I limped by him cloaked in the aroma of 1912.

Future Prayers

Unlike other scandals implicating politicians, you will not see the one about broken prayer promises being reported by the media. That is because so many newscasters and analysts have themselves shown up on the lists of those who have not kept promises to keep victims of tragedies in their prayers. Most everyone was caught off guard by the revelation that prayer promises could even be tracked. I was more surprised by how many adults pray daily (more than half) and weekly (over 70%). Apparently even non believers will pray for their own healing. Many people will also pray for close family members and very close friends. But prayers are not being registered for victims who are strangers anywhere near the proportion of promises made. Lip service is paid with expressions like, “You will be in our prayers” and “We will all be praying for you” but the speaker is too often found using “our” and “we” to delegate the actual praying to others. This may change now that prayer deficiencies are being exposed and indulgences are being repossessed. I actually give credit to those committing to pray, regardless of follow through, because the expressions quoted above are basically prayers themselves. We will all be praying for anyone injured while reading this Blog.

King of the County

Since I never satisfied my high school requirement to take Washington State history, I have recurring dreams that my diploma is revoked and the chain reaction claims my degrees and ruins my life. Missing that class also meant not knowing that King County was named after William Rufus King of Alabama. He was Vice President of the United States for 45 days in 1853. As far as I know, he never visited the state of Washington but another famous King spent three nights in Seattle in 1961. The common surname and the latter’s visit were convenient data points when a process was initiated in the 1980’s to change the county’s official namesake to Martin Luther King. Others like Billie Jean King, B.B. King, and King Kong were briefly considered but had no real connection to Alabama like William Rufus King (the slave owner) and Martin Luther King (the face of the Civil Rights movement). It took until 2005 to make the change official. It seems to reflect the perception of Seattle and King County as liberal. However, William Rufus King is widely regarded by biographers as being homosexual so his erasure could be considered a liberal step backwards. All I know for sure is that the namesake change would have failed if Putin and the NRA had opposed it.

Spare Words

Lao Tzu said, “The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.” Such a leaderĀ  accomplishes her task when the followers congratulate themselves that they did it all by themselves! That is why I never wanted to be a best leader. I did not want to be invisible and use my words “sparingly” as Tzu suggested. Fortunately, he offered more options: “…next best is a leader who is loved and praised.” Option two is the path for me. It clearly beats options one (invisible leader), three (feared leader), and four (despised leader) as far as I am concerned. Unfortunately, Tzu spent most of his 5000 Chinese characters in the Tao Te Ching trying to create best leaders. That is, if he even wrote the 81 chapters himself. I do not actually know what is written in the Tao Te Ching because I cannot read Chinese. Besides, I have the attention span of a moth in a forest fire. I would just give up and become a follower except I have been outed so many times as a horrible follower. I am also not good at listening so can only presume my bad following skills stem from my inability to use words sparingly.

Laughing Hyenas

I know someone with an amazing grasp on English, considering she started from scratch at age 14. She loves absorbing and using idioms. Recently she articulated the phrase “blessing in the sky” in a way that most people would use the words “blessing in disguise.” This reminded me of wonderful past discussions on idioms. She used to say “happy as a clown” for “happy as a clam.” It was the first time I had ever thought of the actual words. She was not easily convinced that a happy clam made any sense. I guessed that the clam opening resembled a long smile but could barely persuade myself that it made any more sense than “clown.” Well, except that clowns are often sad or scary. But that does not make a case for “clam.” Why not “happy as a hyena?” I realized that I learned so many expressions without ever understanding why the words created the idiom. Raining cats and dogs? Feeling under the weather? On the ball? Take with a grain of salt? I learned the overall meaning of all such expressions without any regard to the definition or order of the individual words. Maybe others answer all the “why” questions before adopting an idiom in their vocabulary. But apparently I am so lazy that I accept the incongruous without critical analysis. I am certain an expression describes people like me but I am not going to beat around the bush looking for it.

Jose Jimenez

Do our names push us toward certain jobs? A BBC article presents supporting evidence, citing examples of Bakers, Barbers, Butchers, and Painters who are over represented in those professions. Flaws abound in studies about this phenomenon. Most of it is too boring even for my Blog. I only read the article because my name, Geoffrey, was used as an example of people disproportionately linked to the geosciences, although the data is in dispute. Anecdotally, I have no interest in geoscience or even learning what it is. My son Dustin has an Environmental Geoscience degree and I wanted to name him Geoffrey but my wife exercised her veto power, so maybe that cancels my dissenting statistic. I would think it more likely that surnames like Butler, Farmer, Carpenter, Foreman, Mason, Miner, and Porter were bestowed on people in those jobs. They may have carried genes that predisposed them to those very professions. Perhaps this has a residual effect on later descendants as well. But how much should we care? I think all the people studying and arguing about this issue should transfer to the laboratory where others are working on curing cancer, even if none of them are named Cancer. The BBC article was authored by S.J. Velasquez. His name must be a derivative of Velasco, so surely he would have been better suited as a Jesuit priest dressed in black like a crow or a raven. Unfortunately for me, my maternal Grandpa Blog married Grandma Drivel.

Love Hate

Pete Carroll was my enemy when he coached football at the University of Southern California. Then he became my hero as coach of the Seattle Seahawks. I rooted against Donald Trump during his campaign for President and now I have to root for him to do good things. I used to hate dandruff and the thought of going bald. But according to my rate of hair loss calculations (learning quadratic equations really paid off), I will be bald in my 80’s and dandruff will be less of a problem. And I do want to make it to my 80’s, so now I am forced to eagerly look forward to baldness. I have seen people love each other enough to get married and then hate each other enough to go through a bitter divorce. The only constant seems to be my love for myself. And yet people hate that about me. It does not seem possible but history proves that I could one day love beets and hate Pete Carroll again.

Chicken Lips

Reading the Newsletter published by PCC Community Markets allows me to be frightened without having to pay a fortune to see a horror movie. The Newsletter is always full of food warnings and chemical scares. Recently PCC reported that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a warning not to kiss chickens. Normally I would skip such a bulletin but two of my close friends (both groomsmen in my wedding) raise chickens and my paternal grandparents were raised on farms. My wife and I are both part of the chicken family. She is a chick and I am chicken, so I am deeply rooted in the chicken subculture. I therefore feel obligated to notify my peeps that the CDC “estimates that 23 percent of the people who reported contracting salmonella from homegrown fowl either had recently kissed their chickens (7 percent) or snuggled them (16 percent).” Although this is personally disturbing to me on many different levels, I want to go on the record as supporting the rights of consenting chickens to form relationships of their choice. That ended the Blog until I read it to my daughter-in-law who loves PCC. Apparently she often kissed the chickens on her grandmother’s farm and thinks the only absurdity is exaggerating the health risks. Another example of me mocking a mainstream activity I am totally ignorant about!