Thursday 27 December 2012

Dicks and Their Churches Part Two

Richard, earl of Cornwall edition.

Richard, earl of Cornwall founded and paid for the building of Hailes Abbey in Gloucestershire, UK.

There is also a small parish church located next to the abbey, which is covered in medieval wall paintings that relate to Richard and his extended family.

Please enjoy! All photographs were taken by me back in 2006.

Hailes Parish Church

Floor Tiles

Heraldry relating to Richard's wives.

Hailes Abbey

Remains of the Abbey church where Richard was buried


Wednesday 19 December 2012

Dicky Bird

In my travels around the internet, sometimes I hear the phrase “dicky-bird.” I immediately thought, “is that a real bird? I hope not because all the other birds would make fun of it.” Well, it turns out that “dicky-birds” are real, but it’s not an official species name. So in honor of the coming holidays, in which many people will consume some sort of fowl, here’s some info on dicky birds.

According to the always-awesome Oxford English Dictionary, a dicky-bird (or dickey-bird) is “a little bird, such as a sparrow, robin, or canary-bird” in nursery rhyme or “familiar speech.” Dicky-bird is also cockney-rhyming slang for “word.” So instead of saying, “Word up, yo,” you could say “Dicky-bird up, yo.” I bet that would go over well.

According to the OED, dicky-bird appeared in print as early as 1781. It was used fairly frequently in the 1800s, but the dicky-bird entry has not been updated until 1895. I’m guessing the word might not be as common now, at least in its nursery rhyme form. But who knows?

Since dicky-bird can mean “robin,” this (of course) presents the question: is it a coincidence that the original Robin (of “Batman and” fame) was named Dick? It’s widely acknowledged that the Robin costume was inspired by the red-breasted robin (the bird) and Robin Hood. The red of the Robin costume comes from the bird, while the green chain-mail comes from Robin Hood (although people covered their legs a bit more back in the middle ages. I’m just saying.). Anyway, it’s a thought.

There are other dicky-birds out there. One Dickie Bird is an English international cricket umpire. Sadly, Dickie is a nickname that bears no relation to Bird’s real name – Harold Dennis Bird. Alas. I thought he was a Richard.

There is also a Dick Bird, an Anglican priest who died in 2010. Sadly, Richard was only his middle name: he was born Colin Richard Bateman Bird. Dick worked for many years in South Africa before returning to the United Kingdom. He ended his career as Archdeacon of Lambeth.

Finally, there are several Richard Birds out there. A selection for your perusal:

Richard Bird: British actor who lived from 1894-1986 (wow!) Alas, this Richard was originally named “George,” but changed his name after theatre buddies started calling him Dickie.

Richard Ely Bird: an American politician who lived from 1878 to 1955. This Richard was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but spent most of his life in Kansas. He was primarily a lawyer, but was elected to Congress for one term (1921-3). He was ushered into office on the coattails of Warren G. Harding (ha!). Richard spent the last years of his life in retirement in Long Beach, California, but his body was returned to Wichita, Kansas for burial.

Richard Bird: a British computer scientist. Born in 1943, this Richard is a professor at Oxford. He does fancy stuff with numbers, and even has a formula partially named after him (the Bird-Meertens Formalism, which has something to do with calculus and programming). Stay smart, Professor Richard Bird!

Richard Real Bird: there’s not much about him on Wikipedia, but Richard was once Chairman of the Crow Nation in Montana until he was convicted of embezzlement and fraud.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Richard Holiday Booze Bash

I can tell it’s the holiday season by the number of alcohol commercials I see on television. Every year, I learn about a new variety. A couple of years ago it was Drambuie, which had advertisements featuring a Scottish man jumping over rooftops. I remember the ad, although I still have never tasted the liquor. Anyway, in honor of holiday parties and all that jazzy, he’s some Richard-themed booze.

Richard Hennessy is the founder of the Hennessy cognac company, although he was originally a mercenary. An Irishman who served Louis XV in France, he founded his distillery on the land the king gave him as a reward. “Richard Hennessy” is also the “top end in the permanent Hennessy range,” selling for well over two thousand dollars on the Whisky Exchange website ( I’m guessing I’ll never taste any of this stuff!

And now some Dick drinks to perk up your holidays. Be sure to make them all stiff!

(all drink recipes courtesy of

A Little Dick’ll Do

1 serving

2 oz. George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey

3-5 splashes Mountain Dew

Pour the George Dickel into the glass. Top off with Mountain Dew, and serve.

Dickie Ward

1 serving

2 oz Scotch whisky
1 dash bitters
4 oz ginger ale
1 lime wedge

Pour the scotch, bitters, and ginger ale into a highball glass almost filled with ice cubes. Stir well and garnish with the lime wedge.

Hot Dick

1 serving

2 oz Bailey’s Irish Crème
2 oz Grand Marnier orange liqueur
4 oz espresso (hot)
1.5 oz whipped creme

Pour Bailey's and Grand Marnier into mug. Add espresso. Serve it hot with lots of cream and sprinkle with chocolate.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Richard Grayson Replies

Because Richard Grayson, author extraordinaire, is a cool cat, he generously consented to answer my stupid question: “How do you feel about being named Richard?”

He provided an awesome, long response. Here it is!

I am fine being named Richard.  It was very common among people I grew up with (born in the early 50s). I was once in a high school class of maybe 35 with three other Richards.  It was very common in my neighborhood among Jews and Italians, the two major ethnic groups.  In college, I had 4 or 5 friends named Richard: most, like me, were Richie, one was Dick.  It became less common among children in the 1970s; generally, it's considered that Nixon damaged the name, but I suspect it just started to sound like an older person's name, as names go in and out of fashion.  (For example, three of my great-grandfathers were named Jacob, Max, and Harry, which are popular names now but not for parents naming babies in the 1950s and 1960s because they seemed, to my parents, like old Jewish men's names [their grandfathers].  So my brothers named for Jacob and Max are Jonathan and Marc, after the Jewish tradition of naming only for dead people, and just using the Hebrew name and not the English name.  I am actually named for my great-great-aunt Rhoda, who was a chemist in the Soviet Union.)

I notice Richard is more popular among my college students again, though mostly among Hispanic (South and Central Americans especially) and Asian (Chinese, Korean) boys.  Cheney probably didn't kill it like Nixon did, because people thought of him as Dick, not Richard. But today, people have much more varied names.  I teach in NYC people from literally 60 or 70 countries, and I've lived in neighborhoods that are very Polish, Russian, Arab, Turkish, Chinese, Bukharian, Tibetan, Moldovan, Nigerian, Bangladeshi, Korean, Cambodian, etc.  So today people have all sorts of names.  In most of my college classes, I would say I probably have never before seen a third of the names in every class. The only Richard I have in a class this term is a Ryzsard.  (Pronounced “Richard.”)

My parents called me Richard, like everyone else in my family although they told me their originally intention was to call me Ricky.  I answer to anything -- Richie, Richard, Rich, Rick, Ricky -- but Dick.  The Robin character in Batman just made it worse, but I never associated myself with being called Dick.  It seemed like another name.  In school up to college and through the early 70s, I was always called Richie by friends.  My old friends call me Richie still, though some have switched to Richard.  I don't like anyone but the people I knew when I was in my childhood, teens or twenties -- old friends -- calling me Richie, and I now think of myself as Richard. I am an old man now.

It is a nondescript, semi-popular Anglo-Saxon name.”


Well, Richard is always going to be a mega-popular name on this blog! Huzzah!

Thank you again, Richard Grayson, for humoring me and answering my question. I really appreciate it.

Friday 30 November 2012

Rick Scott

Rick Scott (otherwise known as Richard Lynn Scott) is the governor of Florida. For my money, he is proof that it’s not Dicks you have to watch out for but Ricks. Rick Scott, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum. Hmmmm, I sense a pattern.

Anyway, Rick (who will turn 60 this Saturday, December 1) is a businessman and the current governor of Florida. He is originally from the Midwest: born in Bloomington, Indiana, he grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. Rick is largely a self-made man. His parents were not wealthy (his father was a truck driver and his mother a store clerk) and Rick joined the Navy and went to college on the G.I. Bill. Rick then attended law school and practiced law for several years in Texas. In the late 1980s, Rick and another man (Richard Rainwater) created Columbia Hospital Corporation and purchased some hospitals in El Paso. Finances turned around at those hospitals and things just got better from there. Columbia purchased more hospitals, even buying out corporations that already owned and managed whole strings of hospitals. In 1994, Columbia purchased the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). The company, Columbia/HCA, purchased more “chains” and by 1997 was “the world's largest health care provider with more than 340 hospitals, 130 surgery centers, and 550 home health locations in 38 states and two foreign countries”^  Wow.

But 1997 wasn’t all fun and games. The FBI, IRS, and Department of Health and Human Services began to investigate the company for fraud. The Board of Directors requested that Rick resign, which he did to the tune of a $9.88 million settlement and 10 million shares of stock (companies have that much stock to give to one person?). The stock was worth over $350 million.^ By 2002 the government’s case was wrapped up. Columbia/HCA (by then just going by HCA) paid over $2 billion in settlements, as penalty for overcharging the government on Medicare, making illegal deals, and a host of other fraudulent practices.   

But Rick persevered. He moved to Florida, started his own investment firm, and became a venture capitalist. He continued to dabble in the financial side of healthcare and has invested in pharmacies.

In 2010, Rick ran for governor in Florida as a Republican. Obviously, he won. His notable acts thus far include rejecting federal money to build high-speed railroads and signing a bill requiring welfare recipients to pass a drug test. He claimed a higher percentage of people on welfare use drugs than in the non-welfare-receiving population, but data has not proven this assertion true.^


But old Rick is on my shit list because of the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform. Rick established this group in May because he “has said he wants to run Florida’s education system more like a business.”* One of the recommendations of this fine group is that universities should charge differential tuition. In-state tuition would be kept constant for strategic major for three years; other majors (such as the humanities) would be subject to different (presumably increasing) tuition rates. Naturally the idea is that higher tuition would drive people away from humanities majors. That is lame.

Also lame is the amount of “research” this group apparently did.

Task force chairman Dale Brill, Florida Chamber Foundation president and Scott’s appointee to the group, said the recommendations were based on “logic,” rather than research into which degree programs have proven to be the most beneficial to individual students and state economies. Defining “strategic” and “non-strategic” programs ultimately will be the work of the state legislature, he said.”

I believe “logic” is code for assumptions.

Anyway, I knew back in high school that I wanted to major in history, and I would not have appreciated having to pay extra for the privilege. Forcing people into majors (and then jobs) they don’t want seems to be a recipe for disaster. Plus, shouldn’t we allow the free market to dictate things? If college students really want to avoid unemployment and/or earn high salaries, they will gravitate towards science-y majors. Don’t punish those of us who are prepared to earn less money in order to spend our lives doing what we truly love.