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Here’s a puzzle for you.  If you fly a straight line from London Heathrow to Dallas/Fort-Worth, what’s the first state you come to?  (A) Virginia, (B) Montana, (C) Michigan, (D) Maine, (E) Massachusetts

I’m back from an exhilarating, yet all too short four days in London.  It’s astounding what cultural events go on in that city.  This week it was the London Philharmonic doing the Shostakovich Symphony #8, Kevin Spacey starring in Inherit the Wind, the Royal Opera with Rigoletto, and the Philharmonia doing our old favorite, the Mahler Second.  And those were all things I didn’t go to because I was at something better!  I heard the London Symphony on Tuesday, the Chicago Symphony on Wednesday and Thursday, and the English National Opera on Friday.  What a town to go broke in.  (Someone once told me that the only city with more than one world-class orchestra is London with five – the three mentioned above plus the Royal Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony).

Tom, Dale Clevenger (principal Horn in Chicago) was something of a disappointment.  He played soullessly and frankly a little out of tune.  And how is it that he gets an assistant for Brahms’ First, when you can’t hire one for Mahler?

While we were waiting to go through customs in Dallas, a few of us were amused to see a police beagle intently sniffing at an elderly lady’s bag.  The attached officer finally asked a curious question: “Ma’am do you have an apple in that bag?”  The bewildered and embarrassed lady replied, “No, but I do have quite a bit of chocolate.  Perhaps that’s what he smells.”  “No ma’am,” replied the officer, “an apple, perhaps down near the bottom somewhere?”  Sure enough, after some digging around the lady found a forgotten apple.  You’ve got to declare fruits that come into this country, and that little beagle was just keeping us safe from fruit invasion.  In 2007 when I told the customs officials that I had visited a British farm, they confiscated my tennis shoes for about 10 minutes.  When I got them back they were gleaming as if new.  Because of avian flu fears, they had been given a first class cleaning, courtesy of Homeland Security.

Gabe is working on a cool assignment for his science class.  I’d be interested to hear if you all have ideas on this, but he has two weeks to build a timekeeping device.  The device can’t use any electronics, and the most he can spend on materials is $10.  (Recycled bottles, etc. count as $0) It must accurately measure times of at least 30 seconds to within +/-2 seconds and fit into a 12″x12″x24″ space.  The other curious restriction is that while pendulums are legal, they entail a 20% penalty on your final score.

As a part of my application for a new life insurance policy, a friendly fellow named Oscar came to the house to give me a physical.  In the course of the exam we got talking about RyanCole, Gabe’s young friend who is battling leukemia.  Oscar says that encountering just one case like that can change your life.  He told how he once went to a buddy’s house complaining about his lupus.  “I’ve been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease,” countered the friend.  This friend declined very quickly and died in less than a year.  Oscar says he no longer complains about his lupus or anything else.

As part of the physical I had to get an EKG.  Oscar attached several electrodes to my chest and asked me to lie on the couch while he monitored a graph of my heart signals.  This part of the exam enthralled our two new kittens.  Rosie jumped up onto the back of the couch and carefully studied the wires hanging from my chest, preparing for a vicious pounce.  Sammie was mesmerized by the rolled paper flowing from the machine in Oscar’s hand.  How was I supposed to lie perfectly still for four minutes with all this feline activity going on above and around me?  I even had to avoid catching Oscar’s eye: he was about to burst out laughing as he tried to defend the paper ribbon from Sammie.  When the test finally came to a merciful conclusion we both laughed freely.  Oscar carefully unstuck the electrodes from my chest hair – ow, ow! – and it suddenly occurred to me what a compromising position I was in.  I wondered what Tina would think if she came home from her shopping trip to find me lying half naked on our most comfortable couch with a strange man bending over “tending” to me.  As it happened, I had just put my shirt back on when Tina did come home.  She came around the corner and greeted us with absolutely the most radiant smile.  “Pretty smile!” exclaimed Oscar.  What a curious first thing to say to someone, I thought – especially since I was thinking exactly the same thing.  Keep on smiling that beautiful smile, baby, and keep on smiling all of you out there too!

Have a nice week.

Answer: (C)

Mikal

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