Thursday, December 29, 2011


It is customary, in our mass media, to conclude a calendar year with lists of what editors, writers, and other opinion-makers consider the year's biggest, best, most significant news events, movies, songs, or what have you.

That's sort of what I'm doing here. At the risk of appearing extraordinarily self-indulgent, I'm presenting a list of ten of my favorite LUNG posts of the past twelve months.

Note that I said ten of my favorite posts. They are not necessarily the best. They aren't necessarily any good at all. Only a few of them appear on the "Popular Posts" ranking, lower down on the right hand column of this thing.

For example, my list of ten does not include The Amazing Toilet. This little flick-of-the-wrist is, inexplicably, the most-read post on this entire blog.

Nor do I include the first Kennedy Assassination Jokes (though I do include its cousin), or even Last Look (which I'll admit to really liking a lot).

Instead, I'm presenting ten of the not-often-visited blog posts that I remain fond of. They are presented in no particular order.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Great Gobs of Snow

Great gobs of snow fell on my town overnight. Last night's weather forecast called for seven to twelve inches. We got at least that much.

I was out in it early, shoveling. I usually throw my back out when there is so much snow, but I paced myself and it only hurts a little. I may seek relief in a steaming tubbie.

Smart people are only going out if necessary. I ventured out (on foot) to pick up a few items without which we would perish. Took along the camera, saw this woman walking her dog. The snow doesn't look very deep. Take my word for it, it is!

I had been hoping to find stranded motorists cursing the snow gods while they spun their wheels. No such luck.

I haven't yet heard anyone say, "At least we'll have a white Christmas!" but it's only a matter of time. If nothing else, some reporter will say it on the news tonight, and in the paper tomorrow.

I didn't see any stranded motorists, but I did come across a snow plow clearing the parking lot at the grocery store I walked to.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Click Here

This link to The Hunger Site has been posted here before. It's worth posting it again.

Click on the above logo, visit The Hunger Site, click a button there, and someone gets fed for free.

There are actually a series of buttons you can click for various worthy causes. I try to click my way down the line every day.

It isn't just a holiday thing. But this is a good time for it, is it not?

(Look carefully: a few of the pages associated with The Hunger Site allow you to post stuff over to Facebook, so the potential for boosting traffic and feeding the hungry increases proportionally.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011


The following is something I have posted a couple of times.

"LUNG" is a rather curious name for a blog, is it not? Some time back I explained the name's origins. Now, with the end of 2011 closing in, I repeat that explanation.

It isn't likely anyone cares, but I thought I might briefly explain why this blog you're reading is called "Lung."

Once upon a time I was learning FrameMaker, which is desktop publishing software. As a learning exercise, I created a multi-column newsletter and named it Lung – a silly, whimsical, entirely meaningless name.

That name rolled around backbrain as I started fiddling with this blog. At first, I added "blue" to make it Blue Lung, which I thought sounded interesting.

Then I Googled "blue lung" to see if that phrase might be in use somewhere. Sure enough, "blue lung," according to the Urban Dictionary, is a condition affecting users of something called Adderall. This, apparently, is a strain of methamphetamine.

Thus edified, I reverted to "Lung."

Anal-retentive postscript: I did indeed learn FrameMaker, and got pretty good at it. I always preferred it to Word. It is superior in every way and I used it for years.

Then I bought a new computer, and  my version of Frame wouldn't run on it. No backwards compatibility. A new version of Frame was beyond my budget.

I had written virtually all my stuff in Frame, and faced the nightmarish prospect of converting hundreds of critical files to Word – that slightly more affordable lingua franca of the computer world. Wheee!

Microsoft Word. Bill Gates' cash cow. I'm stuck with it. I've learned it, and I've learned to live with it. I've even grown accustomed to it. I know it inside out. But I don't like it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Six Degrees of ... Something

Six degrees of separation is the idea that most of us, maybe all of us, are connected in one way or another by a mere six steps, or degrees.

I don't know how serious the notion is. To me, it's a parlor game. But it's fun to find odd connections.

Caryl Chessman in 1957
On May 2, 1960, Caryl Chessman was executed by the great state of California for crimes attributed to the "Red Light Bandit."

Chessman always maintained his innocence. But whoever he was, the Red Light Bandit was a bad guy: there's no doubt about that. He committed a series of rapes in the Los Angeles area in the late 1940s. His sobriquet is derived from his use of a red light (resembling a police light) to stop his victims, thereby gaining their trust for just long enough to begin his terrible deeds.

Yet as heinous as these crimes were, the Red Light Bandit committed no murders. It became a capital case under the "Little Lindbergh" law, which addresses kidnapping. The crimes were kidnappings because the victims were forced to move from one location (a car) to another location (another car).

Chessman survived twelve years on death row, and became a cause célèbre after penning an autobiography called Cell 2455 Death Row in the mid-fifties. The book became an international sensation and was translated into several languages.

I read Cell 2455 a long time ago. More recently I read a book about Chessman called When You Read This, They Will Have Killed Me. It was written by Alan Bisbort and published (by Carroll & Graf) in 2006. Overall, the book is okay. But the author is strangely unsympathetic to the Red Light Bandit's victims.

Now, about those six degrees.

For a time, Chessman was associated with ACLU attorney A.L. Wirin, who was involved in a legal battle to recover a Chessman manuscript seized by prison authorities. Wirin was a leading civil libertarian who has long since died. In spite of his liberal credentials, he argued in favor of the Warren Report in 1964, in a three-on-one debate against Mark Lane.

So, A.L. Wirin worked on behalf of Chessman, and in 1964 debated Mark Lane. In 1998 I met Mark Lane, and a few years later interviewed him.

Voila! In fewer than six degrees, I have linked myself to Caryl Chessman. But it's only a parlor game.

A journalist who once wrote about Chessman later became involved in the Kennedy assassination. Nerin Gun interviewed Chessman in San Quentin in 1955. Eight years later Gun wrote Red Roses from Texas, one of the earliest books about the Kennedy case. But I can't connect myself to that – at least, not in six degrees!