January 31, 2010

Nauru: Wealth from Bird Guano (Poop)



     It’s a joke.

     That’s what I thought when I read Joel Brinkley’s column on January 3, 2010. I thought he was writing satire about an imaginary country, Nauru, that became wealthy from bird poop.

     According to Brinkley, Nauru has known the best known the best of life, and the worst of life. Once it was once the second wealthiest nation on Earth, per capita. Today it’s among the poorest.

     Even though I thought he was joking, I went to the Internet to find out if a country named Nauru really existed.

     And I learned that Brinkley was not writing satire. There actually is a country named the Republic of Nauru. And it actually did make a fortune on bird poop. My research affirmed the statements in Brinkley’s column.

     Nauru is the smallest republic in the world, just eight square miles, and 80 percent of the territory is a forbidding, barren wasteland. Alone in the Pacific Ocean, on the equator northeast of Australia…*Brinkley wrote.

     The small, oval-shaped, western Pacific island is just 42 kilometers (26 mi.) south of the Equator. It is one of three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean–the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia.**

     And this tiny island nation did once boast the second-highest per capita GDP in the world, following Saudi Arabia. Its nominal per capita GDP exceeded (more…)

January 30, 2010

Replace Punxsutawney Phil with a ROBOT?




Cochran Cornell the Cantankerous Cockroach

     OK, so you haven’t heard from me for a while. Writer’s block. That’s what I suffer from. Just when I thought it was hopeless, I was injected with a jolt of verbal energy…just as you would be if someone suggested replacing all humans with robots.

     I’m so shocked!

     I had pulled myself out of my doldrums just enough to scoot over the local newspaper that my creator Carolyn was reading. And what did I spot? Why, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is campaigning to replace Punxsutawney Phil with a robot

     (Carolyn has this illustration for Punxsutawney Phil— . He is so cute as a Beany Baby that someone adopted him.)

     Who do those folks think they are? Personally, I think it’s just a publicity stunt. But if the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals manages to succeed in their quest to robotize my friend…well, fat chance of that…

     PETA claim that humans should treat Phil with compassion. That drew the ire of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, and drew battle lines with the thousands of people, perhaps millions worldwide, who rise early each February 2nd to find out what the near-future weather will be.

     When I heard PETA was campaigning for humans to be compassionate to Phil, I thought to myself, “Rubbish!” But to get the real scoop, I scooted off Carolyn’s newspaper onto the road. Fortunately, I was able to hitch a ride to Punxsutawney, not too far from Carolyn’s Pennsylvania home, in (more…)

January 29, 2010

Groundhogs and Punxsutawney Phil



     Don’t be surprised when the neighborhood groundhogs (doesn’t every neighborhood have one, two, three or four?)—thought long gone in the late fall, their burrows far too close to the house, backfilled—suddenly awake, emerge and begin foraging for fuel.

     Yes, all the signs are here—it will be an early spring.#

     However, the official word on whether it will be an early spring will not be made by the observations of Colin McNickle, journalist, but by Punxsutawney Phil. On Groundhog Day.

(To view illustration click on: )


Read the 2015 article: Groundhog Day Recipes & Pictures

NOTICE: As of January 15, 2015, CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS has moved to Carolyn’s Online Magazine. I invite you to visit the new site and to subscribe in the FOLLOW box in the upper right hand corner.

Additional reading: 11 Facts About Groundhog’s Day (Feb. 2)


     The sixth century. That’s how far back the roots of the Groundhog Day celebration extend.

     Groundhog Day is associated with Christianity’s Candlemas Day, the day that candles used throughout the year are blessed. It is the mid-point of winter, the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

     Groundhog Day as a modern event was inspired by an old Scottish couplet:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear

There’ll be two winters in the year.**

      Later, the Germans started trying to predict how much more winter they could expect based on the hibernation patterns of bears in February. In the 1700s, when the Germans settled in the United States, they switched from bears to groundhogs, for some unknown reason* After all, groundhogs have no interest in how long winter lasts, nor are they any interest in their shadows. Basically, they come out of hibernation for food (by February, hibernating groundhogs have lost up to half their body weight) and sex.  **

A clue might be found in the (more…)

January 26, 2010

Hats Make a Statement



If hats were bats, her closet would be a cave…

But hats are not bats, so what are the stats? 

A Twitter by Dmitri written for Carolyn

     I reached the intersection at the Greensburg (PA) Courthouse. There was a green light but no traffic. I hesitated, wanting to proceed across the road, but pedestrians can only legally cross the street when the white hand, a “permission to walk” light, was lit. I debated whether I should cross, “against the law.” And I recalled a ticket I received in Washington, D. C. once. It was a street divided by a cement island, and I didn’t realize that if the light changed, the pedestrian was to stop on the island until it turned green again. I hurriedly continued crossing, and was tagged by a police officer.

     I decided to wait for the walk light. Just then, a “young” man in a business suit reached the corner and stopped. He seemed familiar with the intersection. He noted my indecision and laughed before he informed me that he usually crosses Greensburg streets if there is no traffic, even without the walk light, but he waited at this intersection, because it could be hazardous—drivers weren’t considerate with pedestrians.

     Just then, a car rolled up to the corner, the driver’s blinker indicating his intention to turn right. But instead of continuing, he stopped and waved us across. 

     “That never happens,” the young man said, shaking his head in amazement and surprise.

     “But perhaps it’s the magic of a woman wearing (more…)

January 25, 2010

Update on the Rector and Export Post Office Suspensions



     NOTE: Below is the January 13, 2010, updated information on the Postal Regulatory Commission’s public inquiry, Docket No. P12010-1.

     Two Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, communities are experiencing a problem common to many communities across our country: the suspension of local United States Postal Services. Both the Rector Post Office and the Export Post Office were closed when their building landlords refused to renew the Postal Service lease.

     Rector’s post office was located in a front room of a private home on Rt. 381 for 107 ½ years before it closed on August 27, 2005. The current owner of the house, Ida Ankney Tenney, was unwilling to sign the required twenty-year lease. By signing the lease, the post office facility would remain on the premises even if the family decided to sell the home.

     Export’s Kennedy Avenue postal facility closed its doors on June 26, 2008, after the owner of the building in which it was located decided not to negotiate a new lease. Arthur Spagnol, who owned the building since 1962, claimed it was too expensive to make the renovations the Postal Service wanted.

     Betty Eichler, a retired postmaster involved with the national group, maintains that post offices can be closed only in the case of an emergency, such as a natural disaster.

     “It’s not right what they’re doing. The Postal Service, in order to get around the law, temporarily suspends an office,” Eichler said. “The people have no rights. There’s nobody they can appeal to. … All I want to do is make them do it the right way.”

     Export’s case has garnered national attention.

(To read the complete story, click on:

Post Office Closings in Rector and Export, Pennsylvania, Mirror a Larger Postal Service Problem

 Or )

      On November 9 the Postal Regulatory Commission in Washington initiated a (more…)

January 24, 2010

Blogging: Does it Have Value? Part 3



To receive E-mail notification of Carolyn’s Compositions posts, type your E-mail address in the Subscription box in the upper right hand column of this site. Your E-mail will not be publicized.

     Having evaluated the worth of blogging in the first two posts on BLOGGING: DOES IT HAVE VALUE? (links and  I will review Carolyn’s Compositions.


     On January 9, 2010, I published the 300th post on Carolyn’s Compositions, 142 of which were made in 2009.  Since its inception, the site has accrued 253 approved comments. A few comments were not approved—they were spam, jibberish, or advertisements—meaningless.

     The visitation to Carolyn’s Compositions has grown slowly since its inception in February 2008. A few readers are obviously from nationalities other than English, as confirmed by the fact that the site is translated into sometimes unidentifiable (by me) languages. Some of these may be from readers from other countries, definable by their confidential e-mail addresses. I do know that readers come from Sweden, Italy, Singapore, and possibly Jordan, France and India.

     WordPress continues to improve their host site. I appreciate one of their latest improvements, the addition of (more…)

January 22, 2010

Earthquakes in Maine?



     On January 12,2010, Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake that measured 7.0 on the Richter Scale. It was followed by some one hundred aftershocks, the worst of which, registered 6.1 and occurred on January 21.          Amidst the reports of the tragedy, I pondered what earthquake risks existed where I currently live: Southwestern Pennsylvania. I have a faint recall of minor tremors occurring one time while living in Slippery Rock (between 1969-1982). In 1998, while living in New Castle, a 5.2 magnitude earthquake hit Western Pennsylvania*. Of this, I recall people telling of their china closets and windows rattling.    Between fall 2006 and spring 2007, a sequence of earthquakes took place near the town of Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island on the coast of Maine**. We were traveling along our typical coastal route between Newport, Rhode Island and Lamoine Beach, Maine. I was a little bit nervous about it, but we went anyway. Below is the journal entry I wrote about being there at that time. 

     October 10, 2006: from the Ellsworth Public Library, in Ellsworth, Maine.

     Although I really wanted to travel to Lamoine, Maine, this visit was filled with trepidation and apprehension.

     While in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a town we always visited during our New England travels because it was my childhood hometown, my husband and I heard rumblings on news reports about an earthquake on Mount Desert Island—the location of Bar Harbor. The island is just across the Narrows, the strip of water separating Mount Desert Island from Maine’s mainland. Lamoine Beach, our final destination, is on the eastern end of the Narrows, where it borders onto Frenchman Bay.

     I thought about the California folks who routinely experience earthquakes, then about the Maine people for whom the natural phenomenon is not common. It couldn’t have been anything to be concerned about. There were no news reports about further earthquake events that (more…)

January 19, 2010

I’ll Play the Violin ‘Til the Day I die



Jordan T. Smith

     I started playing violin when I was ten years old. I was in fifth grade when I started. I didn’t know how to play—at first it was hard. I wanted to play because (more…)

January 17, 2010

January 15, 2010

Friend Traveling to Haiti is Needed in Relief Effort



How You Can Help

     Currently, according to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), it is neither safe nor possible for volunteers to go to Haiti.   

     (UPDATE: The head of UMCOR, who was in Haiti, died in the earthquake. I will post a link to this later.) 

     However, Claudette, a member of the Beanery Writers Group (Latrobe, PA),  travelled to Haiti on January 12, 2010, on a mission trip to teach women how to create a business so they could have an income.

     Four hours after her arrival a 7.0 earthquake struck. She (more…)

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at