Thursday, August 10, 2017

Pencil and paper

It's that time of year again, the kiddies are going back to school. With my line of work during the daylight hours, it has been something I've been intimately involved with for many years. This year however, I got to do something new.

I'm on the other end of the school supply list! And it sucks! Yup, the shoe is on the other foot.

How did this thing we call school lists get so out of control? In the past as a parent, My Beloved handled all this stuff. That was her duty to fulfill. I never had little little kids around. I got the joy of parenthood with a teenager. By then, yeah, they're fairly self sufficient. That's not happening this year. Ragin' Cage has a school list about a foot long and I was in charge of getting it filled.

Here's my questions, why the hell does a kid need three styles of markers? Highlighters, permanent and washable? What the heck is that all about? We also have two styles of pencils, colored and regular #2. And not just any #2. It had to be 12, Ticonderoga presharpened pencils. Hey, isn't that why God made pencil sharpeners? Why the hell do we have to have presharpened?

Okay, this is where I go into flashback mode. Back in my day ... Yeah, that's right. We needed a pencil, a pen, a notebook and that was it. If your parents had a few extra dollars you got to have a book bag to carry it all in. I never had a new book bag. All I had was an old, army green duffle bag. It looked like army surplus to a little third grader. It wasn't pretty but it got the job done. They have these things now that are stretchy book covers. You guessed it. I covered all my books with paper bags cut to size from the grocery store. (Try finding a grocery sack these days).

I get it. Times change; things evolve and yes, many teachers have a tough job and use their own money to buy supplies for their classrooms. It get it, but sometimes evolution gets it wrong.

Oh, and he has to have headphones too ... really?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A nod

I think at my age, and others of my ilk, my personal habits are rather entrenched. It's not like as I close in on the end of my fifth decade I really want to change a lot of things about myself. Fifty-nine years of doing the same things is relaxing...well, mostly.

I have recently discovered a break that many tell me they do often. Myself? Never, unless I was sick. I'm generally always on my feet doing something from the time I get up to the time I finally decide I've had enough and need to go to bed.

I've discovered the wonderful world of naps!

True! I've never been a napper, except perhaps when I was a small lad bouncing on Sainted Mother's lap. Since I have no memory of those events I just assume they really didn't happen. I have always viewed napping as unproductive; a waste of time. I have things to do and I don't see that changing any time in the future.

Then, a funny thing happened. I had a couple minor medical procedures this past year and I was forced to sit around for two or more weeks at a time. Well, with at least one of them I could sit, if you get my drift. There isn't much to do when you're immobile. Napping just kind of happened. I figured heck, I'll be back to my old self in no time.

As I headed back to work I would get home exhausted. The moment I would sit down in my favorite chair, my head would begin to nod just like it did when I was listening to boring homilies at 8 o'clock mass on Sunday mornings. Those times I was left in the pew at the back of the church by Beloved Father, the nods came fast and furious. Unfortunately for me I was often the victim of an altar boy not showing up and Beloved Father would step away from his usher duties and I would get 'the thumb'. That meant a trip back to the sacristy where I would don the black and white shrouds. One can't fall asleep on the alter in the middle of a round church.

 But I digress.

Something has changed and perhaps it is age which I have been putting off as long as I can. Coming home from work these days means being tired from work and the drive home. Plopping down in my leather chair is just an extension of trying not to fall asleep on the way home. Perhaps it is all the work that comes with moving to a new house and the work that comes with it while one juggles the rest of their day. In the past when I have had a rare nap I always felt groggy. That has all changed. For the first time in my life after a nap I feel refreshed.

I must now look at what is to come, a slowing down, a change of pace, or perhaps just thinking I need less on my plate.

Hahahahahahahaha ..... I'm a retail manager in real life ... that's not likely happening soon!

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Music is something that was around me as a child. I listened to my parents records and as I grew older I listened on and off to the playlist of the day on the radio but was never enthralled by too many artists. Brother Anonymous and Baby Sis took piano lessons for a time and I followed along for a short year. They said I had 'the touch' but it was something that I never followed up on. As I grew older, I rarely listened to music. It had no pull on me.

Then a funny thing happened. Well, not 'ha ha' funny. More along the lines of peculiar in a sad sort of way funny. The senior voice of this blog, North of 50 became ill. At the time we did not know the extent of his illness. With that in mind, I began to search the great world of the www for a recording of Danny Boy. With our Irish heritage, it was a favorite of his. My plan was to have Baby Sis make a recording singing 'Donny Boy'. She has a lovely singing voice and I had planned to give it to him on St. Patrick's Day. Unfortunately, his illness took a quick turn and we were not able to fulfill the plan.

But during my search for a memorable 'Danny Boy', I stumbled across an absolutely phenomenal rendition of the song by a group I'd never heard of. Celtic Woman. I sat listening to this rendition for nearly an hour playing it over and over again. Somehow, this made a fundamental imprint and reawakened a desire to listen. With Youtube the search for discover was easy and the sounds of music was reawakened within my soul.

But it was not just any music. It was lyrical melodies with clear notes and tones that touched the heavens. So much of modern music now seems to be just noise. At the time of his passing, for some reason country music entered the picture. I'm still not sure how as I had never listened to country my entire life. For the next two years my car radio almost never left the local country station. However the pull of Celtic Woman continued. As I would write across my keyboard in the late evenings, their angelic voices surrounded my thoughts. It was soothing. For the first time in my life, music was alive for me. As of late, mixed along with Celtic harmonies the classics have come alive. A week ago I wrote to the symphonies of Vivaldi, something that would never have happened even a year ago.

If you follow me, you might occasionally see a posting link to some of my favorite Celtic Woman songs and videos when the group was only a few years old. Their members have changed, cycled through as the women have grown and gone on to their own singing careers. However, I shall be eternally indebted to their early years as they have reawakened something I never realized I had lost.

And I am eternally thankful.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Opinion news

When I was a kid, okay, older than a kid also, people got their news primarily two ways. They either read the newspaper or watched the evening news. It was known as the news cycle. Many got their news both ways. In my early years, my family subscribed to both the morning and evening papers. Looking back on it all, I'm not sure how my parents found the time to read it all, but they did.

Now, with the advent of twenty-four hour, nine-hundred channel televisions, and an internet that never sleeps, news is everywhere. Well, that is what all that programming would like you to think. All that coverage isn't really news. Back in the day, when the speaker sort of 'went off topic' you would see a notice on the television screen that this was the anchor's commentary or opinion. You know what you don't see any longer? Those words on the screen.

All these alphabet channels with their twenty-four hour programming aren't really news channels. They are opinion shows. The vast majority of MSNBC, FNC, CNBC, etc. type channels simply give their slant to the news. Although it may give some of its audience a new slant to think about, most need to keep in mind the stories are extremely bias toward the hosts or moderators opinions. The facts they provide are facts as they see them.

I think most people could save themselves a lot of aggravation if they simply stayed away from most of these opinion shows. Is Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh really in the business of news, or are they in the business of making news about themselves?

My guess is the latter.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Have we lost our way?

I watched an interesting segment on 60 Minutes this evening. I know, geez old timer. When did your father's viewing habits kick in? Hey, at least I'm not watching FBI (with Efrem Zimbalist Jr.). We all change over time, our viewing habits as well as other things. We get older and with that age comes a new perspective. Sometimes you just need to hear a point of view you haven't considered before.

Now the segment didn't really give me a new perspective, however at some point it did give me pause to consider how I view this nations foreign policy when it comes to war. The 60 Minutes episode was an interview with Ben Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor of the Neuremberg trials. He recounted his prosecution of Nazi war criminals who systematically hunted down Jewish people who lived all over Eastern Europe. Mr. Ferencz is now ninety-seven years old. He has made it his mission to crusade against war. He is still active and highly respected in the international law community (as reported by CBS News).

In listening to him speak I was struck by why we fought this war and the war before that. In those times the United States largely kept to itself in international matters. We were a country that was prone to isolationism. WWI was largely a political war. It was about ideologies. It was about aggression of one civilized country against others.  WWII was political, but it was also very different. By the end of the war in Europe, it had become clear that it was more than just a war of ideology. It was a war of saving humanity from ourselves.

The next wars became nothing more than one ideology against another. It was communism versus democracy, at least our version of democracy. It played out without the thought of humanity. We have lost our way. We have pitted one puppet insurgent against another with little thought to the long view of the world. We have wrapped our short term interests around our flag and told ourselves we're doing it for the innocents. Yet nothing can be further from the truth.

It's time the United States looks to its past and the greatest moments of our history. We were the saviors, not because our politics were right, it was because our hearts were right, our passion for life was strong. We chose humanity over tyranny because no one else could. The internal struggles of nations should no longer be our concern. Only when those struggles are imposed on innocents that can't defend themselves should we step in and then only in the gravest of situations.

The world has always been a violent place. It is time we no longer commit ourselves to infighting when one dictator or petty warlord wishes to overthrow another. We must let others play their own games of death. It is not our game to play. The army doesn't get involved when one guy shoots another at the corner of Fifth and Main. We should no longer be the police of the world. Does a change in government in Syria, Sudan, Congo, or Kazakhstan really alter our world? Hardly.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Boys of summer

The weather warms and the dust swirls upon a once empty lot covered with dirt. But the dirt field is empty no longer. It is filled with the boys of summer. And I do mean, boys of summer.

With the coming of spring, I have been lured back to the ruddy infields and weed-infused green outfields of baseball diamonds strewn around the Midwest. I grew up on such a field where North of 50 and I learned the great American past time. I learned to throw against concrete steps and learned to catch as that ball came screaming back at me. You could trace how well I learned by how each month I had fewer and fewer bruises on my legs.

We played pickup at an overgrown diamond three doors down from our home. Our 'home field' even had its own backstop, a real one that arched overhead. North of 50 had an incredible pitching arm. I watched him break a batting helmet of a poor little neighborhood boy with his fastball. It was all an accident, but it made you stop and think about going up against him. He took that arm into high school and did pretty well  from the mound.

My journey renewed itself this month and the memories came flooding back as I watched seven and eight year old boys, little boys, boys who learned to wear baseball caps the proper way, learned to strap a belt through a uniform pants and learned to pound the plate with their bat. Then they held the bat up high and waited for their first pitch.

The dust filled the air as the breezes blew across the chilled infield. But smells it is said, trigger some of the strongest memories. My grandson, Ragin Cage is learning to hold his glove, catch a fly and a grounder and swing a bat, hopefully at something other than a post or a tree. I see the excitement in his eyes as he now has teammates.

I remember those days, those times in my life when all I could think about was finding enough kids to play some pickup. The only this missing these days is the crack of a wooden bat. 'Ting', just doesn't do it for me, if you get my meaning.

Bottom of the third ... who's up coach?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A brief excerpt from Ghost Fleet

My current work in progress, book two of a science fiction series has taken much longer to write that I've intended. Life as such tends to get in the way of the best of intentions. I have however had a resurgence in writing time in the last couple months. Still, not the time I wish I had. 

I would like to offer the following brief excerpt of Ghost Fleet, book two of the Home World Series. I hope to have Ghost Fleet out  by mid-summer. After that, a return to book three of the Last Elf Prophecy Series, Awakening of Lillestrom.


The main science lab was in the midst of a cycle change. The bustle of crew coming and going, exchanging information and data was nothing short of a near-deafening event. Andren knew if need be she could lock herself away in Danson’s office and get away from the commotion. But that was not much of a desired option these days. Before she met Frank, the solitude would have been welcomed as well as the companionship. She had grown close to Danson. They were more than just friends, they were good friends. She had grown accustomed to the sound of his voice, his slightly self deprecating nature, and his presence when he was in the lab. She turned at the sound of Danson’s voice behind her rising above the din. The only warmth she now felt within the lab, the one place she had called her sanctuary, was the porcelain teacup nearly glued to her hand.
Danson pointed toward his office and immediately turned left. She watched him disappear through the doorway, his lab coat billowing out at the sides. She inhaled deeply knowing she now wanted no part of this discussion no matter how routine it was. She told herself that’s all it would be, a routine change of cycle. She set her cup down in its familiar place, stood and pressed her hands against her white coat reminding herself she was a scientist, a professional. She strode forward with all the confidence she could muster and stepped into his office.
 “Nothing much to report sir,” Andren began as she stepped up to his small desk.
“Sir is it now?” Danson lowered his eyes to his desk before glancing back up. “Is this what we’ve come to Andren? Sir?”
“We need to keep it professional Danson.”
“We’ve always kept it professional. At least I thought we did.”
“I have a report, if you’d like to hear it.” She looked down at her notes and began to fire off her summary. Danson stared blankly at her without hearing a thing she said. After three minutes, she dropped her papers on the desk and looked up.
“That’s it?”
“That’s the cycle report of the main lab, yes.”
“You’ve changed Andren. You used to be dedicated to your craft. Now, it almost seems secondary to …”
“To what? To Frank? Don’t be so petty Danson. My work hasn’t suffered, only my time spent with you. I’ve come alive for the first time in years. I see things outside of this lab. I see my life in a different context.”
“But this is a time of war!” Danson’s face hardened.
“It’s always war Danson. Don’t you understand that? It’s been war for ten years, and for ten years I’ve put my career first. And what did it get me? It got me stuck on a starship in a hideous white lab coat sailing through the Void on a suicide mission.” She slammed her hand down on the desk. “Where is my time Danson? What’s in it for me?”
“Your service to this ship, Lieutenant!”
“That’s just not good enough any more,” she shouted as she rubbed her stinging palms together. “Maybe it’s about time you see the same thing.” She took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment. “My time is no longer yours, it’s mine,” she said quietly. Andren pressed her hands against her sides and turned heading toward the door. “Will that be all?” she asked, and walked out with no answer from Danson.