Saturday, 25 February 2012

How to Win a Pullet Surprise

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia. <ericshackle*>

Eighteen years ago, Professor Jerrold H. Zar composed a brilliant poem called Candidate for a Pullet Surprise (say the title aloud, and you'll get the pun). Here's the first verse:

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Since then, thousands of readers around the world have chuckled over the poem and emailed it to their friends. It may have been read more often than any of Shakespeare's poems, yet the author is virtually unknown.

The poem is a favourite on the internet. Scores of websites have copied the original words, or posted versions amended by various wits and halfwits. Some have retitled it as Owed to a Spell Checker or Spellbound. 

Many webmasters have added the words Author unknown, or Anon. One says Sauce unknown. It's a classic example of intellectual property being stolen on the Internet.
Here is the complete official version, published with the author's kind permission:

By Jerrold H. Zar
I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.
A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.
Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.
Bee fore a veiling checker's
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we're lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.
Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know fault's with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.
Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word's fare as hear.
To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw's are knot aloud.
Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.
Title suggested by Pamela Brown.
Based on opening lines suggested by Mark Eckman.

By the author's count, 127 of the 225 words of the poem are incorrect
(although all words are correctly spelt).
Published in the Journal of Irreproducible Results, Jan/Feb1994, page 13. Reprinted Vol. 45, No. 5/6, 2000, page 20.

Five years ago, Zar told us, "My poem continues to travel around the Internet, sometimes with attribution (and permission) and sometimes without.

"In addition, several authors have asked to include it in books they were preparing (on writing, editing, and the like)."

Zar's experience closely resembles that of another gifted comic poet, Gene Ziegler, the overlooked author of a "stolen" poem that's now best known as If Dr. Seuss Were a Technical Writer. 

In a remarkable string of coincidences, both poems were written in 1994, both authors were professors at US universities, and both their names begin with Z.

Back in 1994, Professor Gene Ziegler, an educator at New York's Cornell University who later became Dean of the American Graduate School of Management, an online business school in Nashville Tennessee, wrote a long and witty poem containing these ludicrous lilting lines:

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
And the bus is interrupted as a very last resort,
And the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort
Then the socket packet pocket has an error to report!

He says he composed it in an hour, after his four-year-old grandson and the boy's older brother had "significantly rearranged" the resources on his Macintosh.

"This poem has probably received more attention and circulation than anything I have ever written," he said.

"It was originally a gift to internet friends and was passed from person to person, and posted on newsgroups and web sites in several countries. It has since been published in NetGuide Magazine, March 95, and in the Seattle Times, August 13, 1995, and has generated more than 1000 fan messages and requests to post.

"Unfortunately, the internet being what it is, some scoundrel whose editing skills exceeded his or her ethical standards edited the poem, reduced it by half, removed my name, and recirculated it under the title If Dr. Seuss were a Technical Writer, attributed to the ever prolific 'Anonymous.'"

Dr. Zseuss, "the real Dr. Seuss impersonator" (Ziegler's alter ego) responded with "Hang the Information Highwayman!", a poetic appeal for respect for another's written words. It should be brought to the notice of all webmasters.

Writing programs and teachers' groups around the world often quote the two poems to teach internet publishing ethics.

Ziegler told us: "The original poem has been set to music twice, once by a rapper and in the second case made into a Gilbert & Sullivan-like opera by a music teacher in Bangkok, who had his students sing it at graduation.

"It's been made into a brass plaque and sold in a gift shop in Dallas, recited on an Australian talk show and for the closing moments of a Vancouver TV show, Data's Cafe."

A search of the internet shows that despite all that publicity, Ziegler has good reason to feel cranky and forgotten. When we googled his memorable phrase "socket packet pocket" we found about 231,000 references. We checked out some of the websites. In nearly every case, the original poem has been cut in half, and posted without the author's name.

Ziegler says on his webpage:

"When I first discovered what had happened to my original poem, I did a web search and found more than 200 copies of my poem posted, most of which were the edited and unattributed version.

"Over the years I have written to two score webmasters pointing them to the Clocktower site and asking them to remove the offending version. Most have been gracious and cooperative with my request.

"One woman scolded me for my claim and said that the true author was a close friend of hers and that I should be ashamed of myself for claiming her friend's work:-)

"I gave up trying to track down all of the forged postings because it was spreading faster than I could write, and have taken comfort in all of the fans who have seen and recognized my original work and who have taken the time to write to me and express their appreciation."

We found Zar's bio on the internet, and emailed him, seeking details of his original poem and asking if he was aware of this strange coincidence He replied:
Indeed, I have seen Gene Ziegler's poem more than once on the Internet!
I am aware that my poem has been distributed many, many times, via e-mail, at Web sites, and in printed newsletters and books, very often without attribution and in a badly altered form. As you note, my poem was published in 1994 (and republished "by popular demand" in 2000).
I recently retired from Northen Illinois University, where, after several years as a professor of biological sciences, I served for 18 years as Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research and Dean of the Graduate School. In the latter position I presided over 53 graduation ceremonies for master's- and doctoral-degree students.
At these events I and the University president were expected to deliver some inspirational remarks to the graduates as they went forth with their advanced degrees to improve the world in a variety of fields.
I soon evolved my remarks into something out of the ordinary, such as poetry with both comical and serious elements and a quasi-serious discourse on lessons from "The Wizard of Oz" that are pertinent to such graduates.
Shortly after my retirement, the University reformatted the undergraduate-student and graduate-student graduation ceremonies in a fashion that excluded the Dean of the Graduate School from making formal remarks to the assemblage. (The purported reason for this change was, in part, accommodation of the audiences in the available campus venues; but I do wonder if it was to prevent any future dean from presenting the kinds of literary offerings that I produced.)
Needless to say: I have NOT read aloud the spelling-checker poem; it rather loses its impact if it is not experienced visually!

Dr. Jerrold H Zar:

Dr. Gene Ziegler:

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Counting Sheep Will Help You Sleep

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.<ericshackle*>

For centuries people have lulled themselves to sleep by counting imaginary sheep. They may appear in a flock, or jumping through a hedge or fence.

You can count 1,2,3 and so on, but there are plenty of other ways to count them.
Close your eyes and count some sheep, and very soon you'll fall asleep, we were told as children. 

English-born Ian Scott-Parker, who now lives in Hurricane, Utah (US), can do that in one of the strangest languages we've ever heard.

"My father taught me to count yan, tan, tethera, methera, pimp, sethera, lethera, hovera, dovera, dic almost as soon as I had learned to count in the more common one, two, three," he told us. 

"Bumfit for fifteen was a great childhood favorite."

Ian, a sophisticated man of the world with refined tastes and wide-ranging interests, grew up in Cumbria, near the Scottish border. These days few if any people still speak the ancient dialect.

"There are traditional methods of counting sheep in many of the Lakeland dales, though none seem to still be in actual use," says an article on a Cumbrian website, The Countryside Museum. 

"Garnett in 1910 said even then that the method was almost obsolete and as for the names of the numbers, but few of the farmers remember them. 'Yan' is still used for 'one', but the others are only known as curiosities.

"Traditionally the shepherd counts to twenty, then he marks a stone or stick with a 'score' and starts again. The final total is given as so many score of sheep. The method seems to be common to old Cymric or Celtic areas although the words themselves have taken slightly different forms over the years."

The website displays a list of numerals in three ancient dialects - Keswick (Cumbria), Wensleydale (West Yorkshire) and Welsh.

Most of the number words are similar in all three dialects, but others are quite different. Nine, for instance is dovera in Keswick, horna in Wensleydale, and naw (pronounced now) in Wales.

Not everyone agrees that counting sheep can cure insomnia. It's too boring, according to two Oxford scientists.

Fifty people who had trouble getting to sleep were divided into three groups, which were asked to (a) count sheep (b) imagine a placid scene, such as a beach or waterfall or (c) act normally. The sheep counters took 20 minutes longer than usual to drop off.

After we wrote a piece on this subject six years ago, David Halperin, from Urim, Israel,
told us in an email that we should read a book called Ounce Dice Trice by Alastair Reid.

"The book lists different ways of counting to ten," he said. "Reid writes, 'If you get tired of counting one, two, three, make up your own numbers, as shepherds used to do when they had to count sheep day in, day out. You can try using these sets of words instead of numbers, when you have to count to ten.'

"There are 57 pages of this delightful nonsense, with equally delightful illustrations. My wife and I love it."

David told us "I have been a member of Kibbutz Urim for the past 50 years, and so have had many -- and varied -- jobs over the decades: lathe operator, physics and mathematics teacher, factory worker, bookkeeper... But for the last few of them I was a musicologist at Tel-Aviv University until my retirement eight years ago."

In the book Ounce, Dice, Trice, now sadly out of print, Alastair Reid, a Scottish-born author, poet and translator, cites these witty ways of counting to 10:
Ounce, dice, trice, quartz, quince, sago, serpent, oxygen, nitrogen, denim.
Instant, distant, tryst, catalyst, quest, sycamore, sophomore, oculist, novelist, dentist.

Archery, butchery, treachery, taproom, tomb, sermon, cinnamon, apron, nunnery, density.

Acreage, brokerage, cribbage, carthage, cage, sink, sentiment, ointment, nutmeg, doom.

He also suggests ways of naming the fingers, such as Tommy Thumbkins, Ettie Wilkson, Long Lauder (a distant relative of today's Laura Norder?), Davy Gravy, and Little Quee. 

He suggests that times of day should include daypeep, dimity, dewfall and owlcry.
"And if someone tells you something you don't believe, look at him steadily and say FIRKYDOODLE, FUDGE, or QUOZ."

The Random Pseudodictionary defines Firkytoodle: (n) Foreplay. Not my original word, but a wonderful word to say. Try it. Firkytoodle. Probably got it from Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary. Example: As in a song lyric: Momma don't 'low no firkytoodlin' 'round here.

The Countryside Museum:

Video, Counting Sheep:

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Aussie Kids Miss Out On Cicadas

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.<ericshackle*>

Shock, horror ... and sadness too. Aussie kids don't collect cicadas!

"Is that a Floury Baker or a Greengrocer?" I asked my great-grandson the other day.
He had no idea what I was talking about. Nor had his dad. So it seems that Aussie kids (well, some of them) no longer enjoy climbing gumtrees in search of these noisy insects.

When I went to school ages ago, me and me mates had a bonzer time climbing gumtrees and collecting cicadas with wonderful names: the fore-mentioned Floury Bakers and Greengrocers, Union Jacks, Black Princes. Cherry Noses, Double Drummers and Yellow Mondays.

"The drone of cicadas is one of Sydney's most recognisable sounds of summer," says  Dr. Max Moulds from The Australian Museum.

"It is thought that the sound produced by some communal species can act as a defence against predatory birds and some are even loud enough (120 decibels) to be painful to the human ear. Cicadas also often sing in chorus, which makes it more difficult for a predator to locate an individual.

"Only male cicadas sing. They do this in an attempt to find a mate. Different species have different songs to attract only their own kind.

"Adult cicadas have short lives, usually only a few weeks.Most of their lives are spent as nymphs underground. For some species this can be up to several years.

"Cicadas feed only on plant sap using their piercing, sucking mouthparts. [They] feed on a huge range of plants, including eucalypts and grasses. Birds, bats, spiders, wasps, ants, mantids and tree crickets all prey on cicadas."

Many people around the world enjoy the taste of cicadas. They've been eaten in Ancient Greece, China, Malaysia, Burma and Latin America.

Sydneysiders have differring views of cicadas. Keira (aged six) wrote on a forum page: "I have six pet cicadas. One of them is called Georgina. My other one is called George. One day a cicada flew on to my hand and on Sunday the 11th I found a cicada on the wooden chair."

But Susan whinged, "Is there any way to STOP the cicarda noise. Perhaps an ultrasonic noise or anything you could think of."

Why Don't We Eat More Insects:

Much more about cicadas:

Still more:

Sir David Attenborough video:

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Where Are The World's Largest Cities?

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.<ericshackle*>

Can you name the three cities with the greatest population? If you thought New York would be one of them, you would be wrong. It's only fourth.

The top three are Tokyo, Japan (32,450,000), Seoul, South Korea (20,550,000) and Mexico City, Mexico (20,450,000).

Next comes New York City, with 19,750,000 people, followed by Mumbai, India (19,200,000), Jakarta, Indonesia (18,900,000) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (18,850,000).

Seven other cities have populations of 15 million or more. They are:
Delhi, India - 18,680,000
Osaka/Kobe, Japan - 17,350,000
Shanghai, China - 16,650,000
Manila, Philippines - 16,300,000
Los Angeles, US - 15,250,000
Calcutta, India - 15,100,000
Moscow, Russia - 15,000,000

These figures were extracted from World Atlas. Here is their complete list:
1. Tokyo, Japan - 32,450,000
2. Seóul, South Korea - 20,550,000
3. Mexico City, Mexico - 20,450,000
4. New York City, USA - 19,750,000
5. Mumbai, India - 19,200,000
6. Jakarta, Indonesia - 18,900,000
7. Sáo Paulo, Brazil - 18,850,000
8. Delhi, India - 18,680,000
9. Osaka/Kobe, Japan - 17,350,000
10. Shanghai, China - 16,650,000
11. Manila, Philippines - 16,300,000
12. Los Angeles, US - 15,250,000
13. Calcutta, India - 15,100,000
14. Moscow, Russia- 15,000,000
15. Cairo, Egypt - 14,450,000
16. Lagos, Nigeria - 13,488,000
17. Buenos Aires, Argentina - 13,170,000
18. London, United Kingdom - 12,875,000
19. Beijing, China - 12,500,000
20. Karachi, Pakistan - 11,800,000
21. Dhaka, Bangladesh - 10,979,000
22. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 10,556,000
23. Tianjin, China - 10,239,000
24. Paris, France - 9,638,000
25. Istanbul, Turkey - 9,413,000
26. Lima, Peru - 7,443,000
27. Tehrãn, Iran - 7,380,000
28. Bangkok, Thailand - 7,221,000
29. Chicago, US - 6,945,000
30. Bogotá, Colombia - 6,834,000
31. Hyderabad, India - 6,833,000
32. Chennai, India - 6,639,000
33. Essen, Germany - 6,559,000
34. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - 6,424,519
35. Hangzhou, China - 6,389,000
36. Hong Kong, China - 6,097,000
37. Lahore, Pakistan - 6,030,000
38. Shenyang, China - 5,681,000
39. Changchun, China - 5,566,000
40. Bangalore, India - 5,544,000
41. Harbin, China - 5,475,000
42. Chengdu, China - 5,293,000
43. Santiago, Chile - 5,261,000
44. Guangzhou, China - 5,162,000
45. St. Petersburg, Russia- 5,132,000
46. Kinshasa, DRC - 5,068,000
47. Baghdãd, Iraq - 4,796,000
48. Jinan, China - 4,789,000
49. Houston, US - 4,750,000
50. Toronto, Canada - 4,657,000
51. Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) - 4,458,000
52. Alger, Algeria - 4,447,000
53. Philadelphia, US - 4,398,000
54. Qingdao, China - 4,376,000
55. Milano, Italy - 4,251,000
56. Pusan, South Korea - 4,239,000
57. Belo Horizonte, Brazil - 4,160,000
58. Almadabad, India - 4,154,000
59. Madrid, Spain - 4,072,000
60. San Francisco, USA - 4,051,000
61. Alexandria, Egypt - 3,995,000
62. Washington DC, US - 3,927,000
63. Wuhan, China - 3,918,000
64. Dallas, US - 3,912,000
65. Guadalajara, Mexico - 3,908,000
66. Chongging, China - 3,896,000
67. Medellin, Colombia - 3,831,000
68. Detroit, US - 3,785,000
69. Handan, China - 3,763,000
70. Frankfurt, Germany - 3,700,000
71. Porto Alegre, Brazil - 3,699,000
72. Hanoi, Vietnam - 3,678,000
73. Sydney, Australia - 3,665,000
74. Santo Domingo, Dom. Rep. - 3,601,000
75. Singapore, Singapore - 3,587,000
76. Casablanca, Morocco - 3,535,000
77. Katowice, Poland - 3,488,000
78. Pune, India - 3,485,000
79. Bangdung, Indonesia - 3,420,000
80. Monterrey, Mexico - 3,416,000
81. Montréal, Canada - 3,401,000
82. Nagoya, Japan - 3,377,000
83. Nanjing, China - 3,375,000
84. Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire - 3,359,000
85. Xi'an, China - 3,352,000
86. Berlin, Germany - 3,337,000
87. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - 3,328,000
88. Recife, Brazil - 3,307,000
89. Dusseldorf, Germany - 3,251,000
90. Ankara, Turkey - 3,190,000
91. Melbourne, Australia - 3,188,000
92. Salvador, Brazil - 3,180,000
93. Dalian, China - 3,153,000
94. Caracas, Venezuela - 3,153,000
95. Adis Abeba, Ethiopia - 3,112,000
96. Athina, Greece - 3,103,000
97. Cape Town, South Africa - 3,092,000
98. Koln, Germany - 3.067,000
99. Maputo, Mozambique - 3,017,000
100. Napoli, Italy - 3,012,000

By the time you read this, these figures will be out of date, since thousands of people move to most of the world's great cities every week.

World Atlas:

Video, Too Many People:

Video, World's Largest Cities:

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Harriette Leidich, Aged 99, World's Oldest Columnist

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.<ericshackle*

As former pin-up girl Margaret Caldwell, 105, of Mesquite, Nevada, no longer writes for the Desert Valley Times, her title of The World's Oldest Columnist goes to Harriette B. Leidich of North Bennington, Vermont.

Harriette, who is looking foward to celebrating her 100th birthday on April 19, has written a breezy column for Vermont's Bennington Banner for the last 16 years,

James Therrien, editor of the Bennington Banner, says, “Harriette has always been an amazing columist regardless of her age, one who rarely needs editing and who learned how to write and how to produce a newspaper back in the old days of lead type, early manual typewriters and many aspects only she could fully describe.

"She writes now on an infrequent basis, and just when we have begun to wonder if she is finally going to retire from journalism completely, a batch of two or three columns will come in, well written and interesting.”

Daughter of a Nebraska newspaperman, she began her column writing career at the age of 14. She worked because of “not being able to go to college” and has been in the business almost her entire life.

She married George A Lerrigo, amd then she and her husband bought a weekly newspaper in Overbrook, Kansas. During World War II she was a linotype operator in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

In Massachusetts, one of 10 states where she has lived, she had a mimeographing business and was editor of an award-winning newsletter for the League of Women Voters.

She writes her column on “an old trusty typewriter” from home, where she lives alone. “I had a computer installed,” she says, “but I just couldn’t grasp it.”

Owning the papers led to learning more of the business, Leidich said. "I learned the whole printing trade. I could put ads together, I could fill up the forms and run the Linotype and did the bookkeeping," she said. "We had one devil, one printer's devil [an apprentice], and he really was a big part of the organization. That was primitive. That was really, really primitive back then.

"When you own a newspaper you have to be the whole thing. You have to be the man on the street. You have to be whatever. You have to go to all the little town affairs," she added. "After five years my husband decided that it wasn't his thing. So, he went into health care."

Leidich would remain involved in publishing, though. She worked for another paper running the Linotype.

And over the years she would publish several different newsletters for various organizations. "I always had some little newsletter going somewhere," she said. "I've always been dibbling and dabbling in publishing."

It wasn't until 1995, when Leidich moved to North Bennington, that she began her Banner column. "I had another name for it, but [former Editor Robin Smith] chose "Senior Moments," and it stuck. I began sending in columns. They used all of them. They weren't very discerning then," Leidich said.

Leidich's column is typically a collection of several thoughts. And it is almost always focused on matters of interest to those in a small town. "I'll tell you, there's more stuff that goes on in a little town that people don't know about that's very important," she said.

"Maybe that's because I learned to be gentle as I got older. I probably was a very feisty person in that little country newspaper," she said.

It was Leidich's doctor who first began to wonder if she might be one of the oldest working columnists. It was her son, Charles Lerrigo, who then picked up the ball and took to the Internet to investigate. It wasn't long before the National Association of Newspaper Columnists was interested.

"It's exciting and yet it's kind of scary to have all this happen when I'm so old," Leidich said. "It just kind of mushroomed. The whole thing kind of mushroomed and I'm just blown away by it."

At 99, Leidich said she still uses a typewriter to put her thoughts on paper. "I don't have a computer."I had one put in when I moved here. I absolutely could not make it go through this head," she said.

Her son, George Lerrigo, says, “Living in a small town shelearned the ‘neighbor’s story’ is a news story and is constantly on the prowl for newsy items of a local nature.”

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists recently honored
Harriette with a gift membership.

President Ben Pollock said: “Harriette Leidich is an inspiration to aspiring columnists as well as to seasoned professionals who might be tempted to give up when the going gets tough. We are pleased to welcome her as our newest member.”

Pollock noted that Ms. Leidich “began her current column when she was about 84 years old.” He added: “Newspapering was in her family and she began as a young teen. 

"Her bio notes she worked outside the newsroom — in the next room over running a hot-lead Linotype but also working communications for non-profits like the League of Women Voters.

"The kind of career that 21st-century columnists and other journalists worry won’t be a true ‘career’ — a bit of this and that — is not new at all, and she proves it can be wonderful.”

Ms. Leidich is the author of “Awful Green Stuff and the Nakedness of Trees”, a collection of her writings, and “It’s a Slower Waltz: Memorable Days from a Long Life”, a personal memoir published in 2001. She also co-authored with her sons “Our Family Miracle”, an account of a stem cell transplant for Charlie, with George as the donor.

Any advice for younger columnists? “Get a good education and spend time doing what you like to do.”

She writes in a small room at the end of her home's main hallway. Pictures of Leidich and her family cover most of the space on the walls. 

A framed invitation to President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration is proudly displayed. She is awaiting a letter from the president on her 100th birthday. "He does that, you know," she said.

The columns are written spur-of-the moment, according to Leidich. Many are often written and then quickly scrapped. She said she tries to maintain a high standard for herself. In fact, several days ago she was up at 4 a.m., her typewriter clicking away.

"I just was schilling them out. I had four columns and I looked them over after I'd gone back to bed and slept on them. They were all ready for the trash," Leidich said. "I didn't think they were all that good. I kind of have to be inspired or have something come up that I want to pursue."

After so many years of writing, Leidich said she still has more to say. "I've been around a long time. I've seen a lot of changes. I've been lot of places. I've known a lot of people," she said, all of which helps her come up with new ideas.

She plans to keep writing. She is hoping to write a fourth book, too. She published her first book in her mid-80s. "Awful Green Stuff and the Nakedness of Trees" is a collection of her writing, including some Banner columns. from "It's a Slower Waltz: Memorable Days ong Life," is a memoir Leidich published in 2001.

"Our Family Miracle," was written with her two sons, Charles and George Lerrigo, about Charles' illness and George's bone marrow donation.

Leidich said she learned something new about publishing after writing the books. "You don't make any money. I didn't want to make money, I just wanted to make waves. I just wanted to publish a book," she said.

Leidich's said her fourth book will be about her second marriage. "That's still a wish. I have already given it a name. I had a second marriage and the marriage lasted 16 years. So, I want to write about the 16 years, which were a bonus," she said.

George Lerrigo said his mother has a gift that puts others at ease, allowing them to open up to her. She has used her skills as an interviewed to profile more than 100 members of their church, he said.

"She pretty well knows everybody in church because of that," he said. "She's great at getting you to tell your story."

Leidich said the profiles of her community members have been "very, very revealing." So far, nobody has complained about them.

"Sometimes people say things they don't really want to say, but I've never had anybody say, ‘Oh, please, don't print that.' But, today, I'm saying, ‘Oh, please, don't print that,'" Leidich said, with a laugh.

The NSNC extended an invitation to enter its annual column writing contest and attend the 2012 conference in Macon, Georgia, May 3-6.. Although she has traveled to all of the states except Alaska and Hawaii, she said she doubts she’ll be joining other conference attendees.

Here's a typical example of Harriette's writing, published on
February 7, 2009:

"I was excited the other day as I returned from a trip to town when alongside my car at a stoplight was a Smart car. I had seen them on TV but never around our area. I admit it seemed very small, but it pulled out smartly into traffic and continued on its way.  

"The driver of that car was beating the high cost of gas and seemed indifferent to my staring. Soon I noted other small cars and was almost ashamed of my blunderbus of a car, which was using so much gas to get me around on my errands.
"Little cars were lined up for taxi fares into the city and we were soon packed into one with our luggage and two other people. I knew then what a sardine must feel like as we were driven into Rome. 

"I could hardly believe and protested that we couldn't all get in that vehicle, but the driver packed us all in and deposited us at our hotel. We were a bit crumpled and out of breath but were ready to see Rome. 

"Little cars were being manufactured in Europe in the '60s, so why has it taken us so long to get to a cheaper way of transportation? "

Previous story:

Photo, Harriette Leidich: