Saturday, February 22, 2014

Last Place

By Julie Rahm

A ten-member Fantasy Football league in Omaha, Nebraska has a unique twist. He who finishes last gets tattooed! The intent of the loser’s tattoo is to make the fantasy footballers play as hard as humanly possible every week. The fear of getting tattooed is a tremendous motivator. League members devote large amounts of time to reading scouting reports. They do extensive research on their players. The smallest details of a player’s potential performance are scrutinized. The difference between getting tattooed, or not tattooed, might be a dropped pass or an inadvertent injury to a key player. The young men who participate in this tattoo league are “over-the-top” involved. Nobody wants to sport a losing tattoo for the rest of their lives. And, to make finishing last even more punishing, the winner gets to choose the loser’s tattoo! To say the tattoos are heinous is an understatement. The losing tattoos are quite large and awful. The one bright spot for the last place finisher is that he gets to place the tattoo on his body. Most try to conceal the heinous body art within their underwear. Still, these reminders of a last place finish will be with these men even in their graves! (Yikes!)

Ironically, in 2010 the founder of the league, “Spud” Mann lost. He now sports the loser’s tattoo on his upper thigh. It is a sparkly-horned, red-mane unicorn leaping to kick a football over a rainbow. A little red heart adorns the unicorn's haunch. Beneath the fanciful scene, Mann's thigh reads, “FANTASY LOSER”.

Mann will wear this tattoo his whole life. As for explaining it to a potential future wife, he said, “If a unicorn on my leg is a reason you wouldn't want to be around me, there's probably other problems.” Of course, there is regret. Mann wishes he would have had Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on his team. “For the rest of my life,” Mann said, “I'm going to look down at the tattoo and say, I should've drafted Vick.”

This year's Tattoo League winner designed the perfect pop culture tattoo that would make any loser miserable. The losing tattoo is fantasy expert Matthew Berry's face on Miley Cyrus' body swinging on a wrecking ball made in the image of Jay Leno's face. Miley Cyrus is holding a sign that reads “Fantasy Twerker Loser”. Twerker is crossed out. Yes, it is as disturbing as it sounds! Grown men! Some with college degrees! Anyway, I tell you about the last place finisher in the tattoo league so I can tell you about this “last”.
This is my last column in Pamlico News, at least for a while. I have enjoyed writing and greatly appreciate all the accolades. However, after three plus years of required weekly creativity, I’d like a respite. My thanks go out to editor, Maureen. She has been super-accommodating and simply wonderful. Thank you readers! And, as always, you can find me through my web site at and

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sweep Streets

“I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life’s blueprint? Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint. Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint. I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint.

Number one in your life’s blueprint should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life—what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, ‘If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.’

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

So, have you figured it out? The above is from a speech that was given by MLK to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967, six months before his assassination. It is little known but one of my favorites.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


By Julie Rahm

My husband, John spent most of his Marine Corps career as a pilot in Harrier squadrons. As you may know, Harriers are jets that hover like helicopters. Harriers have the capability to hover because they do not have exhaust tail pipes like conventional jets. Harrier tail pipes are actually four moveable nozzles that are mounted two on each side of the jet. The nozzles are rotated down for hovering and pointed aft for forward flight. Anyway, Harriers are very demanding to fly. Only pilots with exceptional skills are chosen to fly Harriers. There are very few Harrier pilots. They all know one another. As a result, squadron pilots form very close fraternities. The bond between these men is real and unique. To perpetuate these bonds, often there are squadron rituals that unite the men into a singleness of purpose. One of these squadron rituals sticks in my mind. It was the “Bites” game.

The premise of the “Bites” game was if one of your fellow pilots called (yelled) “bites” before you called “no bites”, the “bites” caller got a bite of your lunch sandwich. Some pilots did not bother to pack their own lunch. They feasted on others sandwiches! It was important to call out “no bites” before you opened your lunch. Failure to preempt a “bites” call with a “no bites” call always resulted in a lost portion of sandwich. As time went by, the game progressed. It grew beyond the squadron building. There were “bites” calls at fast food restaurants. There were “bites” calls while food shopping. The bites were not small. Mostly, sandwiches were crammed into mouths to get the most for the one “called” bite. The game got crazy. What if two people called “bites” at the same time? Controversy was the by product. How many times could bites be called? For how long was a “no bites” call good? The game needed some structure. So, in military fashion, the pilots formulated the rules for the Bites game. Here is short version of the rules.

The Bites game could only be played from official sunrise to official sunset. A “no bites” call was good until official sunset. The game could only be played in the squadron building. The operations duty officer, who executed the flight schedule, was the witness for all “no bites” calls. As a protective measure, one could call no bites under the awning, before entering the squadron building. And lastly, the Officer of the Day was the sole arbiter of any dispute. As you ponder this…

These are grown men in their twenties. All have college degrees! All but a few had some post-undergraduate education! It is difficult to comprehend why twenty-six men would promulgate this sandwich poaching behavior. John still calls “no bites” when he carries a sandwich into a room! So, I tell you about the Bites game in order to tell you this.

It does not matter. Some things just are. Because, every puzzle need not be solved!

Saturday, January 4, 2014


By Julie Rahm

Many words in the English language have multiple meanings. Our different uses of the same word make English difficult to learn. As a consequence of context, English has many rules that dictate proper use of a word. Take the word “even”...

When “even” is used as an adjective it means flat, smooth or uniform. Also as an adjective, “even” can mean unbroken or undamaged. As a comparative adjective “even” would be “evener”. And as a superlative adjective “even” would be “evenest”. Although, “evener” and “evenest” may be correct, they are awkward to speak and seldom used.

In mathematics, “even” is equal (number, amount or value), the same, identical, like, alike, similar, comparable or parallel. “Even” could be in the same plane, in the same line or level. Or, “even” could mean tied, drawn, square or balanced! “Even” means exactly equal to a round number, not having any fractions or divisible by two without a remainder!

In sports, “even” usually means equally balanced or equal for each opponent, usually for a score. Are you still with me? However, in casual conversation, “even” is most often used as an intensive.

An intensive is used with comparative adjectives and adverbs. Intensives imply a greater degree or extent. For example, when my husband John fell off the pier (see my column, Pamlico News, December 7, 2011), he was wet but “even” more embarrassed. Intensives can be used to indicate something that is unexpected. For example, John did not “even” consider the possibility of falling in the water. Following the same example, “even” can mean at the same time. “Even” as I watched, John fell in the water! Also, “even” means to a degree that extends fully. “Even” the big splash surprised John as he hit the water. Also as an intensive “even” could be exact or precise. It was “even” as I said John was going to fall in the water.

I would be remiss by not mentioning “even” as an idiom. For examples, keep on an “even” keel. Do not worry about getting “even” with him. And, we hope to break “even”. Had enough of “even”? “Even” though all this is interesting, I must get to the point.

So, I tell you all about the word “even” to tell you this. In successful relationships, there is “evenness”. Whether relationships are personal or business, where there is unevenness there is struggle. And, where there is evenness, success comes with ease. Unevenness primarily stems from wrong thinking and misperception. A common reason for unevenness is lack of consideration for another person or visa versa. Or, you may think you’re better than someone, or they’re better than you are. At work, although a management hierarchy is modeled, evenness can be alive and well. When all involved have consideration for each other, feel strongly in their roles, and eliminate jealousy, the “evenness” in the environment produces self-motivation. No books, tapes or talks are required!

If your family or organization struggles with unevenness, contact me for solutions through

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Euphorbia Pulcherrima

By Julie Rahm

Euphorbia pulcherrima is a culturally and commercially important plant species of the spurge family. The plant is indigenous to Mexico and Central America. Have you guessed correctly? The plant derives its common name from Joel Roberts Poinsett. Poinsett was the first United States Minister to Mexico. He introduced the plant into the United States in the year 1825.

Poinsettias are actually shrubs or small trees. As you may know, the plant bears dark green leaves that can measure from two to six inches in length. The colored leaves, most often flaming red, can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white or marbled. The colored leaves are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colors. The colors in the leaves are created through photoperiodism. They require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least 5 days in a row) to change color.

The association of poinsettias with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico. Legend tells of a girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday. The child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson "blossoms" sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. Later in the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus. Enter Albert Ecke.

Albert Ecke emigrated from Germany to Los Angeles in 1900. There he opened a dairy and orchard. He became intrigued by the plant and sold them from street stands. His son, Paul Ecke developed a grafting technique. But, it was the third generation of Eckes, Paul Ecke, Jr. who was responsible for advancing the association between the plant and Christmas. Besides changing the market from mature plants shipped by rail to cuttings sent by air, he sent free plants to television stations for them to display on air from Thanksgiving to Christmas. He also appeared on television programs like The Tonight Show and Bob Hope's Christmas specials to promote the plants. Until the 1990s, the Ecke family had a virtual monopoly on poinsettias owing to a technique that made their plants much more attractive. The Eckes produced a fuller, more compact plant by grafting two varieties of poinsettia together. A poinsettia left to grow on its own will naturally take an open, somewhat weedy look. But, the Eckes' technique made it possible to get every seedling to branch, resulting in a bushier plant. In the 1990s, a university researcher discovered and published the method previously known only to the Eckes. As a result, competitors using low-cost labor in Latin America have entered the business. Still, the Ecke’s poinsettias serve about 70-percent of the domestic market and 50-percent of the worldwide market. Now you know. May the poinsettias make you smile this season. And, may your Christmas be merry and bright!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Over Torque

By Julie Rahm

My husband, John, is the king of over-tight. He over tightens everything. From pickle jars to oil filters, John will apply one last turn making most anything impossible to remove. Last week, John decided to fix a long-standing plumbing problem in our sailboat. Water pressure at the galley sink was low. The reduced flow was more of an annoyance than a problem. However, with the help of a friend, (name withheld to protect the innocent) John disconnected the water line and cleaned out some hard water scale that had clogged the connection.

It was a good fix until it was time to reconnect the line. The king of torque over tightened the connection and cracked the threaded male portion of the fitting adaptor. A gorilla would have a difficult time over tightening this adaptor to the point of failure. But, John cracked this adaptor with a few grunts and minimal effort. (impressive really) After a trip to the hardware store, a new fitting adaptor was installed. However, (déjà vu) when John tightened the stainless braided line (from the faucet) to the new fitting adaptor, the nut mysteriously cracked. John contends the nut was sub-standard Chinese metal. Maybe so, but now we needed a new braided stainless line down from the faucet. The nuts on these faucets are permanent and cannot be replaced.

And what did we learn next? The braided stainless line cannot be replaced! The lines are permanently attached to the underside of the faucet. We need a whole new faucet! And, because it is in a boat, John could not reach in behind the sink to remove the faucet. We have to enter the space through the engine compartment, which means removing part of a wall (bulkhead)! Perhaps to scare me, there was discussion about sawing through the cabinets to get at this faucet. The word calamity came to mind as the low water pressure issue was turning into major plumbing and carpentry. Anyway, the engine room the wall (and insulation) was removed allowing us access to faucet, which we promptly removed. We found a suitable replacement. After a word of caution about the torque, John installed the new faucet with only one minor hiccup.

Before tightening down the faucet, to detect any leaks, John decided to connect all the fittings. Well, there were no leaks. However, in order to install the threaded ring to the underside of the faucet, all the water lines must be run through the ring to seat it up against the underside of the sink! There was some technical language when John realized he had to disconnect all the lines in order to route them through the ring. Anyway, we can laugh about it now. So, I tell you this story to tell you this.

Do not over torque your life. Forcing too many “turns” in your relationships and finances can result in “cracks”. Instead of attacking a problem, choose the solution. And, may your Christmas season be exactly as you desire.

Friday, December 6, 2013


By Julie Rahm

Last week’s robbery of the First Citizens Bank in Oriental has obliged me to write about Bonnie and Clyde. When it comes to robbing banks, the manufactured Bonnie and Clyde folklore is hard to surpass. As you may know, Clyde Chestnut Barrow was born in Texas on March 24, 1909 near the town of Telico just south of Dallas. He was the fifth of seven children from a poor farming family. His family moved to the urban slum known as West Dallas in the early 1920s to escape their life as impoverished farmers. The Barrows spent their first months in West Dallas living under their wagon! Clyde was first arrested in 1926 after running when police confronted him over a rental car he had failed to return on time. His second arrest for possession of stolen turkeys came shortly after. Despite having legitimate jobs during the period 1927 through 1929, he also cracked safes, robbed stores and stole cars. After sequential arrests in 1928 and 1929, he was sent to Eastham Prison Farm in April 1930. While in prison, Barrow beat to death another inmate who had sexually assaulted him. It was Clyde Barrow's first killing. Paroled in February 1932, Barrow emerged from Eastham a hardened and bitter criminal. His sister Marie said "Something awful sure must have happened to him in prison, because he wasn't the same person when he got out." A fellow inmate said he watched Clyde Barrow "change from a schoolboy to a rattlesnake."

Another rattlesnake, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born on October 1, 1910 in Rowena, Texas. She was the second of three children. Her father, Charles Parker, a bricklayer, died when Bonnie was four. Her mother moved with the children to her parents' home in Cement City, an industrial suburb of Dallas, where she found work as a seamstress. Bonnie Parker was one of the best students in her high school, winning top prizes in spelling, writing, and public speaking. As an adult, she found expression in poetry.

Bonnie Parker first met Clyde Barrow in January 1932 at a friend's house. Bonnie was out of work and was staying in West Dallas to assist a female friend with a broken arm. Clyde dropped by the girl's house while Bonnie was in the kitchen making hot chocolate. When they met, both were smitten immediately; most believe Bonnie joined Clyde because she was in love. Bonnie remained a loyal companion as the pair carried out their crime spree and awaited the violent deaths they viewed as inevitable.

Though known today for his dozen bank robberies, Barrow, in fact, preferred to rob small stores and rural gas stations. The Barrow gang killed at least nine police officers and several civilians. The couple themselves were eventually ambushed and killed in North Louisiana by law officers. The parish coroner’s report listed seventeen gunshot wounds on Clyde’s body and twenty-six on Bonnie’s, which was an appropriate ending for both rattlesnakes. So my message this week is don’t become a rattlesnake!
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