Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Power to the people

Our republic was built largely through horse-trading over the past 2-plus centuries. Politics it seems has little to do with what's best for the country and the populace in general but more about what's best for my state back home. The recent health care debate is a prime example of how can I be bribed? Some of the payoffs are truly outrageous.

Politicians identify themselves with the Second Estate. They have privileges not known to the rest of us. They (Congress) has health care that is separate from the real world system. It's no wonder they can't agree on reform as they don't know what it's like to have to pay for a doctor. The same failings that led to the downfall of the nobility classes are the same failings of modern day politics.

Entrenched politicos have no basis in reality of those they represent. Every few years they come back home and shake hands and heads at the problems the common folk face and pledge to help. The only help they can offer is for them to get re-elected so they can live a soft life and run for re-election again in four years.

I would put it that Congress has not done anything of substance for nearly two decades. The system should work the same way the courts are set up. Each side strives to do their best and in the end justice prevails. But it doesn't work that way in the real world. The problems we face as a nation are the same ones we faced twenty years ago and many are only growing worse. Social Security is still in trouble as it's funds are systematically robbed for other purposes, the nation's debt is astronomically high, cities face a crumbling infrastructure and we still have the problem of being tied to energy sources we have no control over.

It's about time we either vote all politicians out of office and start over or only let them convene for four months a year as part-time servants of the people. That would give them about enough time to figure out where their offices are before they are forced to go home, get a real job and not do any more damage.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Christmas That Wasn't

At least, that's the way this year's Christmas seemed to me.

I left work on Christmas Eve just after noon, as the worker bees were told we could leave if our work was finished. Mine was, thankfully, as I was not certain I could get through the remainder of the day. I was flush, was chilled, very tired and sluggish, and was wondering how I could have contracted my second flu-like illness in six weeks. I managed to turn my usual 12-minute walk from office to car into an 18-minute "marathon" in the wind and cold. I did manage to get myself pointed in the right direction, and the car brought me home safely.

I slipped into bed just before 1:00 p.m., and, except for two restroom visits, I stayed there for 18 hours, until 9:00 a.m. Christmas morning. During the night it seemed to hurt everywhere whenever I moved, and The Missus said I was moaning and groaning whenever she checked on me. So, I missed Mass and the normal festivities at The In-Laws house, where lots of family gather around for food and fun. Handsome Son said it was just not the same without me there.

Thanks, Son!

Sadly, I was not the only person to feel the effects of the Christmas Eve Bug. Miss Texas, up for a visit along with Handsome Son, soon fell prey to the bug, and was delivered back to the manse for some rest & recuperation. During the night, she became a long-range victim of Montezuma's Revenge, and had a thoroughly miserable night. At one point she passed out and Handsome Son was unable to get her to respond at first, so the squad was called. They believed she was dehydrated and offered to transport her to the hospital, but she decided to pass. Two hours later, The Missus and Handsome Son took her to the ER anyway, and there she remained for about three hours. She came back, got sick immediately, and went to bed for about 8 hours, coming down long enough to open her gifts, and returning to bed to try to shake off the bug. This morning she was much better, but still only about 85-90% at best, but was still able to travel back to Texas.

Handsome Son, meanwhile, had started his version of the bug, and was thoroughly miserable as well, but he gutted out the flights back home to Texas.

We asked my wife's parents not to stop by yesterday, as they did not need to get a version of whatever we had.

In addition, I took my car in for work; and now Firestone is about $900.00 better off than I am.

I wanna do-over for Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Growing older is not getting old

As with everyone in life we see others on a daily basis and likely see what our future may hold. You walk down the street, drive down the road or see others as we mingle in the various activities of the populace. How much do we look at what's ahead?

Aging is the never ending story for us all. We will grow older and a little more frail with each passing year. But is growing older a license to grow old. I make this distinction; growing older is a natural step of life and nothing can be done about it but getting old is a completely different step. Getting old is many times a mind-set that should attempted to be overcome at all costs.

I come from a long line of 'gentlemen' on both sides of my family that seemed to face aging head-on. At least it looked like that to me in the days of my youth. I remember touches of gray turning to an all-white snowcap. I remember eyes that did not have the strength they once had but always kept a sparkle. I remember hands with many more wrinkles but still reached out to grab a nephew in play. These were the men I remember, alas I have only one remaining.

Whitecaps should remember the past but not be afraid to live in the now. With frailties comes hesitation. Beloved Father was never afraid to put his foot on the gas when getting on a freeway. Techno-challenged Sainted Mother challenged herself to learn to use a computer when it was a little more difficult. I see men daily that struggle to overcome a frailty but are not afraid to get through the day. But I also see others that place excuses in front of them as to why they can't do something. Overcoming this challenge is the first step to saying I won't get old. I may grow gray and become a little more frail but I won't take that step of making excuses.

My son has been given instructions to never, and I repeat never let me wear or be seen in those big plastic wrap-around sunglasses that blot out all light from the universe, or, let me wear velco shoes. If I can't tie my shoes or wear loafers, game over. (Let's see how I do in twenty years.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Give me more, bless you

Another article in the paper today explains that a local 'evangelist' needs to raise money by Dec 31st or aspects of their church will be in trouble. This ministry is well known and has grown substantially over the years to now include schools of various levels and a church that is more of a stadium than a house of worship.

Through the years there have been many evangelists come and go. I would gladly see most of them go. They are charlatans and snake-oil salesmen. They preach to those who are grasping hold of anything they can to make sense in their lives. Although not all are poor, many are. They have little and are continually asked to give, give, give. I take offense at the notion that EVERY 'sermon' must contain a give me money clause. It must be in 'sermon 101' of evangelical school.

All these men (mostly) seem to have several things in common. Most are middle aged white males with slicked back hair, several facelifts, a booming voice and the ability to make a sales pitch. They simply crank up the volume and shout 'GOOUUDD' as loud as they can and the disenfranchised come arunnin'.

I would hope that more would be able to see through these preachers as nothing more than used car salesmen who want someone else's money to support their lifestyles. Often what money they do say goes to charities is likely far off in another land where there is no accountability of the dollars. Why can't they use the money locally? What, no poor people around the corner?

They make me feel like I need to take a shower.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The 12th of Forever

The observance of anniversaries can be a peculiar thing. Whenever a "major" or "significant" event occurs, especially something that the media gets to talk about for days upon end, the countdown begins to when they can tell everyone about the first anniversary of such-and-such. Then, the "story" goes away until perhaps the 5th or 10th anniversary of the event, and only reappears (if deemed significant enough) on so-called "milestone" anniversaries such as the 25th, 40th, etc.

No one, other than perhaps those directly involved the the occurrence, marks the anniversaries in between, those unremarkable numbers such as the 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 11th, etc. that are just not "worthy" enough to generate buzz.

If the event is a happy one, only the milestone anniversaries get a numbered Hallmark card. If they are sad events, Hallmark is not an option.

Johnny Mathis had a hit song in the late 1950s entitled "The 12th of Never", in which he stated his love for another would last "until the 12th of Never, and that's a long, long, time."

For our family, this date could be called "The 12th of Forever", for it was on this date nine years ago that we cruelly and terribly lost our Dearest Kelley in a manner most foul.

Today is that "unremarkable" ninth anniversary of her death, though each day that passes is an "anniversary" of sorts for me. Despite the march of time and the ongoing "new normal" for us, she is always near to mind. The immediacy of the pain has lessened, but it never goes away. Dear Wife and I both often wonder what she would be doing now. We do know that she would be a devoted aunt to her nephew and niece, our grandchildren.

We have been pleased beyond measure that Wonderful Daughter and her husband are raising their children to know who their Aunt Kelley was, as WGGS#1 oft times points out her picture and tells us who it is. "Aunt Kelley is in heaven with Jesus", we are told.

Nine years ago she became Forever 18, which is why I think of that date as The 12th of Forever.

Requiescat in pace, Dearest Kelley.

We love you and miss you more each day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Yule Log

It is that time of year most of us love and love to hate; Christmas season is here! We think back to a time in our youths when Christmas was the most important thing. Although it was often cold outside snow eased the pain and chill. Decorations were aplenty everywhere you looked inside and out. The anticipation of presents was more than most of us could bare. And as we grow older things change.

I remember taking trips to see the lights around the city. Beloved Father would pile us in the '64 Chevy wagon and off we'd go. At that age we couldn't understand why people didn't put up decorations. I know now. It consumes the better part of the day, a precious day off from work taken up by what became a chore. Several years ago I gave up putting lights on the roof and found it is a much more enjoyable experience keeping them low. Simple and classic is a much more pleasing than gaudy and gregarious displays of blazing light. I remember back in the days of the 'energy crisis' there were many who went sans decor to save energy and it took several years to get back into the festivities for many. Christmas lights make everyone's street look better.

Our tree is our centerpiece. My Beloved and I invested in a ten-footer many years ago and it's beautiful when decorated. Ragin' Cage saw it, his first Christmas tree last week. It isn't difficult to make an eight month old's eyes go wide and his did as he saw it lit. I never saw the light of Christmas through my child's eyes. I look forward to seeing Christmas through the eyes of my grandson as he gets older. Christmas is for everyone, presents are for the children with tales of Santa and reindeer. If done properly the deeper meaning will come when it is time.

The season is filled with song and merriment. That being said there are several seasonal songs I can do without. The Christmas Shoes for one is too sad to hear in this season. I immediately turn it off. Nearly anything by Manheim Steamroller, something about the style just isn't for me. There is another song I hear each year that has something to do with a guy meeting an old girlfriend in a grocery store. It mentions the word Christmas once. I dislike it so much I didn't have the interest to look it up and see what it's called. And the 'feed the world song', there is no snow in Africa this Christmas. Well, there's no snow in Guam either, go figure! Lastly, I am so on the fence about the Charlie Brown Christmas song I have never made up my mind if I like it or hate it. My favorite is 'O Holy Night' with two current versions (Josh Groban and Celine Dion). It is the most beautiful song I know for the season.

I don't usually want much for Christmas. I have just about everything I could want. My Beloved and my family count for nearly everything. This year my list will include; peace on Earth, yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever: snow on Christmas day, watching the kids open presents, an Andrea Bocelli CD, warm socks and a nice bottle of 80 proof bourbon. Nothin' says Merry Christmas as well as being toasty inside.

I hope everyone enjoys the season. My favorite day, Christmas Eve is soon approaching. On that night, everything is ready and you can feel the anticipation in the air. Santa's coming.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright

The line is actually "Tyger tyger burning bright" from the poem "The Tyger" by William Blake.

At least, he was burning bright until a "minor" traffic accident broke the dam on what appears to be a duplicitous lifestyle at best, making him a target of the scandal rags and other media outlets. He stands to be one of the biggest hypocrites in recent public memory should the marital unfidelity allegations prove true; it remains to be seen how he will pay for it, both legally and financially, not to mention how this will affect his various endorsements. So far, his companies are standing by him, but as the alleged mistress total has now hit double digits that may change.

Even if you are not a golf fan, you are aware of Tiger Woods, from his endorsement contracts to his own brand, everything has contributed to The Image of Tiger Woods. That image may be tarnished beyond repair, even should he somehow put aside all these "distractions" and resume his assault on Jack Nicklaus' record of most "major" wins as well as attempting to set the record for most tournament victories in a career, which is also within reach. He has always said he wanted to be the best golfer ever, and indeed his talent is sufficient to pull off both those feats.

Unfortunately, for many fans of Tiger Woods, the bloom is now off the rose. Large numbers of people who have looked to him as a role model will stop being fans of Tiger Woods; whether or not they should have used him as a role model is entirely another issue. Will they stop buying his endorsed products, stop watching golf tournaments? The television people certainly hope not, and they must be very nervous to say the least.

Reactions to all this have run the gamut:
- leave his personal life out of this and just let him play golf
- everyone does it
- go Tiger! You da man!
- how could you do that?
- you have a beautiful wife and children (is it different if his family was ugly? apparently so)
- and, quite curiously, the black community, which has not been in his corner because he refuses to call himself black, and because he has married a white woman, now is ripping him not because he possibly cheated on his wife, but because all the women (so far) have been white! Maybe if he had played hide-the-salami with a few sistahs, they would be in his corner?

Who will want to be known in the future as "the next Tiger Woods"?

Regular Joe Sixpacks and their wives Betty Laundryqueen struggle with their marriages just as Tiger has; many others do not even think of putting themselves into a position where such temptations may occur, and go on quietly living their lives loving each other faithfully, as long as they both shall live.

MI, MO, MA,, ME, MT and the gang

Although I rarely send a letter to anyone using the vaunted postal service of these US of A's, I have often wondered who was the imbecile that decided the postal abbreviations for the various states. They are often difficult to remember for the lay-person who rarely needs to send a letter far off into the hinterlands.

Some are easy to remember and generally are the most often seen outside of 'postal world live' videos. NY, obviously followed by CA, and FL. Many others are evident as well, generally when they contain two words such as North Dakota, ND, South Dakota, SD and the like. Where this system falls completely apart is the lesser known states (unless you live there yourself) and virtually any state that begins with the letter M.

The various offenders are: Montana, Mississippi, Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts and Missouri. Their corresponding abbreviations are MT, MS, MI, ME, MN, MD, MA and MO. If you didn't know this don't feel stupid. I'm willing to bet most don't. I propose a foundation shaking change to the postal rules starting with the notations for these states.

Let Maine stay with ME. It is a little more unique than the others and no one sends mail there anyway. Maryland should become MY as no other M state has a Y. The same goes for Michigan, MG. Mississippi likewise would become MP as no other state has a P. The rest become a little more difficult as there are just too many N's, S's and I's in the names. Along those lines Missouri now becomes MR, Massachusetts should be like Maine and just stay as it is. Minnesota now becomes MS as Mississippi has vacated that designation. Montana might as well keep what they have as this state is cold and no one lives there but Ted Turner's buffalo anyway (and maybe some sheep).

But, if all else fails lets change the name of some of these states. There are just way too many that begin with the litter M. And don't even let me get started with the Marshall Islands

Sunday, December 6, 2009

We start bombing in five minutes

I read with a slight smile today about a new app for the iPhone. It is devoted to our late president Ronald Reagan. It is intended to be used as a teaching tool and give lessons on history. It includes quotes and such from his library.

I wonder how many will actually make use of this app? I foresee teachers and American history students looking into it but not as a widespread app. And for a very simple reason.

Most who use this type of device, the world of the all-encompassing app phone, have no knowledge of the environment from our fortieth president's heyday. The world was a very different place. There were two behemoths on the field of battle and everything done by one had a direct correlation to what the other might do. The decades of the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties were a global standoff between the US and USSR. Every move was calculated. Such a world no longer exists.

I recently began re-reading 'Red Storm Rising'. It is Tom Clancy's second book and involves a potential WWIII. It begins with a plot by Muslims against the Soviets drawing them into a desperate state plot. Fittingly it seems this has been a prelude to today's world of global strife. The book is very well written and takes me back to a time when the newspapers were a daily notebook of world events involving the Americans versus the Soviets. The world has certainly changed dramatically since then. I chuckle at the references to a 'telex', something not in existence today that was high-tech back in the day. Even the most sophisticated electronics available to the public back then pale in comparison to what is available on the market today.

I am sceptical that this app will ever get much use as it has no basis for today's social butterflies. However, I am most sure The Great Communicator would be proud.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

O Christmas tree! O Christmas tree!

Or: O tannenbaum! O tannenbaum!, to pay homage to our German ancestry.

My memory tells it thus:

When we were young children, the annual selection of the family Christmas tree was a simple process; we pestered Beloved Father and Sainted Mother about when would we get the tree, and about 2 weeks before Christmas we would pile into the Chevrolet (2 doors for 7 people!) for a trip to the tree farm. Actually, the tree farm was a lot at a corner sufficiently away from where we lived to seem like a trip to us. Beloved Father knew the owner of the lot, and his kids went to the same school we did; the lot's owner really did supply the trees from his family's tree farm.

While we would run up and down the rows of trees trying to pick out the "perfect" tree, Beloved Father would happily chat away with Mr Tree Farm before picking out the tree that he wanted. He always picked out a small Scotch Pine, complete with the requisite wooden "X" stand nailed into the bottom of the trunk. The tree would be roped to the roof of our car, and off home we would go.

Beloved Father further annoyed his brood by putting the tree in the basement for a week before Sainted Mother would allow us to get out the decorations and work our magic. The tree was always smaller than what we wanted, because Beloved Father would place it on a small table to raise it up off the floor, making it seem bigger than it really was. The younger we were the taller it seemed after it was set up. A white sheet would then be draped across the table and tree stand for that "snow" effect, as well as to hide the table.

Large colored bulbs would be strung on the boughs, and multitudes of ornaments would seemingly fill every open space, followed by a large dosing of icicles, or tinsel. A lit and decorated Christmas tree in an otherwise darkened room is still a stirring sight to me.

Eventually, modern technology invaded our lives, and Beloved Father and Sainted Mother went the artificial tree route for the remainder of their lives. It was still fun to decorate the tree, but the thrill of picking out a real tree was gone.

Fortunately for me, Wonderful Wife is not only a Christmas person, she favors a live tree in the family room. We also have 2 artificial trees in other rooms, but the live tree tradition still lives on in our home.

For many years our family has driven out into the country just outside of Granville, a quaint college town a fair distance away, and proceeds to Timbuk Tree Farm where we display our woodsmen skills by chopping down our tree. We make a day of it (several hours, anyway) with neices, nephews, and their children as well, everyone dressed for whatever the weather will bring. We have cut down trees in 70-degree temps, in freezing rain, inches of snow, and ground sloppy from cold rains. You can get out to the fields by walking or riding an old school bus or train car, both pulled by tractors. A platform is attached to the back of each for the erstwhile lumberjacks to pile their tress upon to be carried back to the lodge. There is a choice of Scotch Pine, Canaan Fir, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Concolor Fir, White Pine, Blue Spruce, and others, all variably priced.

After doing our Paul Bunyan impression, we enter the lodge to get our fill of snacks, visit with Mr and Mrs Santa Claus, take pictures, relax, and people watch.

All in all, a fun time is had by all, and new Christmas memories are made each year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Through the eyes of a child # 2

A telephone conversation from yesterday with World's Greatest Grandson #1:

ME: Do you have your cowboy boots on?
#1: (in his measured, contemplative tone) Umm...no.

ME: Do you have your tennis shoes on?
#1: No.

ME: Do you have your socks on?
#1: No...I just have my feet on, for walking.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Brass Dome

College football is all about tradition. From the Dome of Notre Dame to the Horseshoe at Ohio State to the Swamp in Florida. But that is a tradition that is an ever-changing landscape. As I left work last night (after my twelve hour day), I flipped on the radio in my truck. Just then, the AD at Notre Dame was announcing the firing of their head coach, Charlie Weis, aka the Big Catfish, (Tuna was already taken).

Even though being Catholic, the Domers were never my school to follow except for the one hour recap on Sunday morning. Beloved Father claimed they were the only school that played real football. He openly rooted against Ohio State but over the years I believe that was more to be a pain-in-the-butt to his children than an actual dislike for the Buckeyes. Every once-in-a-while you could catch him saying something nice during a game. Yes, it wasn't really true.

By the tone of the press conference last night you'd have thought Charlie Weis had died. 'But we must move forward', was the mantra. Charlie had helped strengthen the foundation to build upon. 'But we must move forward'. He sounded as though he felt sorry that he was forced to make the decision. Don't feel too bad for Charlie; you're about to also write him a check for somewhere between eight and twelve million dollas! He will be fine. Don't cry. Charlie doesn't have to work another day in his life if he doesn't want to. Within thirty days he will have a job for next year in the NFL. If you want to feel sorry for someone, feel sorry for the guy who loses his job that now will only get unemployment. Charlie has security, the other guy doesn't. The next time you fire a janitor or a grounds keeper write him a check for the next six years. That should make you feel better.

College football is now no more than just a business that earns the school prestige and finances all the other sports that don't make money, which is just about everything else.

I salute you Charlie. You had the number one academic football team in America. (But you're supposed to win games).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Food! Glorious food!

That is a brief quote from the musical, "Oliver", which became a movie in my youth.

And, to paraphrase Leslie Gore (use a search engine, youngsters!): It's my stomach and I'll put in it what I want to.

A sampling of some of my long-time favorites:
- steak, medium rare
- pot roast
- roast bests of various kinds: cattle, pigs, deer, fowl, rabbit, lamb
- red skin potatoes
- lumpy mashed potatoes
- green beans w/bacon or ham
- cheese
- glazed carrots
- pizza! especially cheese pizza
- ice cream
- Dr Pepper
- coco wheat
- oatmeal w/raisins
- oatmeal raisin cookies
- spaghetti
- my homemade chili
- my homemade applesauce
- goulash

SOME NICE THINGS I'VE MISSED (Frank Sinatra's "comeback" album)
Newer additions to my culinary repertoire:
- spicy foods
- occasional Chinese foods
- red wine vinaigrette on a meatball sub
- sundried tomato bagels
- Herr's red hot chips

GO AWAY, LITTLE GIRL (Steve Lawrence)
I have removed these items from my dietary wanderings, many because I ate way too many of them as a wee lad:
- tapioca pudding
- butterscotch pudding
- snickerdoodles
- circus peanuts
- coconut cream pie
- egg nog
- black licorice
- spice gumdrops
- no-bake cookies

I WILL SURVIVE (Gloria Gaynor)
Things I absolutely will not eat unless tied down and force-fed:
- salad
- potatoes au gratin
- scalloped potatoes
- liver
- sauerkraut
- stinky vegetables
- burnt popcorn
- shrimp, lobster, crab
- potato salad
- deviled eggs
- pickles
- three-bean salad
- pasta/macaroni salad

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hug a retailer day

I propose that tomorrow, the dreaded Black Friday should be renamed Hug a Retailer Day. I have been a retail manager for twenty-five years. With that comes all the trepidation and angst concerning the upcoming holiday shopping season. While others enjoy time off from work and regular weekends off, retailers like myself and those who serve in restaurants work even more hours than we normally do. That makes enjoying the holidays very difficult for us year in and year out.

And it's not just the hours in the day that matter. Many times it is like throwing grease on a fire. Stores are dealing with a tremendous spike in customer traffic. Most stores aren't built to handle the abuse that five times the normal customers can inflict. Stores are built for 'normal' traffic patterns. Hire more people? That can cause just as many problems as being understaffed. People who have only been on the job for two weeks just don't know how to help customers which leads to unhappy customers.

Shoppers in today's society want everything and they want it now. The stores that offer the best customer service and strive to do so are often the ones screamed at for giving the worst. A shopper will typically walk into a super-duper big box store and walk around for an hour without any store associate saying a word to them. Then, they get to stand in line for another thirty minutes while they wait to check out. After that you exchange a five word 'conversation' with your cashier and are out the door. Nothing says great customer service like never speaking to a store employee.

Then there is the other type of retail stores. Some are locally owned or are specialty retailers. These are the one who offer the really good customer service. They ask you questions about what you want, what you need and offer a smile while trying to help. Unfortunately that is too often returned with rude comments or angry stares from those who feel pressured to buy. Those of us in this retail world are actually trying to help you. We ask because we want you to return when the shopping world is normal again. Have you ever walked into an Old Navy three days before Christmas? That is the customer response they get, ransacked stores and rude customers. (And for the record, I don't work for Old Navy).

Retailers at store level work very hard to make your visit enjoyable and relaxing. We don't control the pricing, how many we were shipped or how fast other people bought them out before you got there. We are working people just like you. If I went into a non-retail business and behaved like many shoppers I would be arrested in less than five minutes.

So come on in, relax and enjoy the season. We'll help all we can and I'm willing to bet if you hug your retailer, I'll bet he hugs back!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Those you love to hate

As you can see, North of 50 has a strong dislike for michigan. So strong as to not let him capitalize the name of the state. It is the life of an ardent Buckeye. He also takes a particular dislike of a certain Boston baseball team, who in deference to him shall go nameless. Such is the strength of his dislike for rivals.

My first induction to rivalry was in grade school. I hailed from Christ the King. The fierce rival was the adjoining parish, St. Catharine. I played basketball in my younger years and they were the team to beat as they were the next strongest school. The rivalry was such that I know of family members (not mine) who would not speak to each other.

My next venture into rivalryhood involved my high school. Loath were we to respect the Watterson Eagles. They were evil incarnate. In my latter days in school that changed somewhat, or at least veered off course. A new school, St. Charles reopened after many years taking part of the student body that should have been ours. Nothing says 'what would Jesus do' more than Catholics who want to pummel the hell out of each other.

So, what makes a good rivalry and what makes a good rivalry great? A good rivalry develops over time. A great rivalry mixes in a small amount of loathing. It also can not be one-sided for long stretches of time. Some teams believe others to be their rivals because they repeatedly lose to them. That doesn't mean the rivalry is reciprocated. To be a true rival you must be a direct ongoing threat.

One of the greatest rivalries was the classic Army/Navy football game. Decades ago it was the premier rivalry in the United States due mostly to WWII. After the war and the decline of both schools as football powers it has lost it's status and prominence. It is now relegated to near obscurity. The most current version of the best rivalry belongs to Ohio State/michigan. Some outsiders will claim it is not and offer their version but most rivalries come and go. An example is Oklahoma/Nebraska football back in the seventies and eighties. It was much hyped but the schools now no longer play each other every year. Ah, but the 'Ten Year War' with Woody and Bo established it as the best rivalry in North America as rated by a sporting magazine (sorry, I don't remember which one).

I learned several years ago it's fun to be part of this type of feud as long as you're winning and it's all in good fun. But, when you lose and take it too seriously, it's a sad state of affairs. Good thing for us michigan still sucks!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

We still don't give a d*mn for...

the wHOLE state of michigan, the wHOLE state of michigan, the wHOLE state of michigan,

We don't give a d*mn for the wHOLE state of michigan,

We're from O-HI-O!

We're from O-HI-O!


We're from O-HI-O!


We don't give a d*mn for the wHOLE state of michigan,

We're from O-HI-O!

Go Bucks!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hey, what time is it?

I returned home from a visit to my mother-in-laws house with a slightly puzzled thought. As I stood in the kitchen getting a bottle for my grandson, because that's what real grandfathers do, I noticed all the clocks. She had a clock on the microwave, a clock hanging on the wall, a clock on the table by the television and a clock on the coffee pot. All this was in a space that couldn't hold half of an offensive line. I walked into the living room and she had a clock on the television and one on the cable tuner. That's a lot of clocks for someone in their seventies. What does she have to be on time for?

Then I returned home and looked at my kitchen. I have a clock on the stove, one in the microwave and one on the clock radio. From that same spot I can see into the family room and there is one on the cable box and a battery clock one shelf over. As I make my way into the dining room there is one built into the thermostat as it happens to be one that is programmable. Did I mention there was one on the laptop sitting in the family room, one in the phone in the kitchen and one on the coffee pot? That's nine clocks so far and I haven't even been in the living room where there is a clock that doesn't work and God only knows how many are on the gadgets in the den where the other computer equipment is.

I'm willing to bet that out of those no four have the same time. I'll bet if I go look upstairs in the bedroom areas there is at least one clock in each room and I'll bet two in at least two rooms. I know there is one in the garage and one or two in the basement and the only thing the basement is used for is storage and my workshop.

In an effort to help out with the global warming thing, forget about all the stuff plugged in that uses power even when it's not on. I'll bet if we unplug three-fourths of all the clocks we could ratchet that temperature thing back to about 1950 levels, or at least save an hour twice a year when daylight savings rolls around.

Did I mention I was wearing a watch?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's all about me

Do you ever wonder why famous folk feel they have to speak every five minutes? Geez...get a blog!

I don't begrudge how people make their money or the built-in advantages some people start out with in life. Some come from wealthy families and that in itself it a tremendous head-start on the rest of us. In those cases I would hope they use their advantage in a positive way. Others are strikingly beautiful or handsome when compared to the rest of the population. That as well is an advantage as the world favors those who are more attractive. If that advantage is not combined with other traits then all you have is another Paris Hilton. Hardly worth the print on page and just short of working in low-level porn. Life is not fair and we all need to take whatever advantages we have.

I've often said if it wasn't for ugly people like me no one would know how good looking you are. Therefore all the attractive people should owe me a quick thank you.

LeBron James has used his abilities to excel in sports. I don't follow NBA much. I know who the most talented players are and what teams they are on and being from the Midwest, I know LeBron. He is one who has tremendous built-in advantages. He is 6'7" tall, approximately 240 pounds with an athletic build. From all I can gather he is one of the truly 'nicer guys' in sports and has some 'smarts' to go along with his abilities.

In a recent quote section of the paper he was heard saying (in effect) if he focused all his energy and talent toward football he would be a very good player no matter what team he was on.

LeBron, if I was 7 foot and 340 pounds I could play against Shaq. I'm not, be quiet and go play basketball.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Marketing quandry?

Isn't the drug 'Flomax' named exactly opposite of what you want it to do?

Sunday, November 15, 2009


It's awesome; grabbing a rising wave out past the breakers, paddling in until you hit that sweet spot and the wave begins to break. You have just seconds to get up on the board, stand in front and ride it in. No, not that kind of surfing. I've never done that, been to Hawaii though and I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once (I think).

I'm talking about surfing channels on the telly. Everyone has their own way and what they look for. I don't actually watch much television, at least by myself. About the only time it is on is when My Beloved watches. I often am in the same room to sit together but she controls the remote. I don't mind because as often as not there is nothing that interests me coming from the box.

When it is my turn I have very defining patterns. My search starts in the lower bands and the 'broadcast' stations. Normally a quick click click click reveals nothing. The next parade flips though popular secondary stations such as TBS or similar that mostly rebroadcast movies. They are usually quickly plowed through. If I don't recognize the title a very quick synopsis judgment takes place; a poignant story of 'click', a telling coming of age 'click'. Both of those are an immediate death sentence and I won't even go to Lifetime or Hallmark unless it is Christmas time. There are, however two movies that will stop me in my tracks. War movies or aliens flicks you ask? Nothing takes the cake like a massive invasion or John Wayne or Robert Mitchum fighting the Germans. Anzio is one of my favorites but I haven't seen it in years. No. for some reason 'An American President' and 'Dave' always stops me fast. I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps it is my feminine side needing the comfort of a chick flick.

Then it is on to what I mostly settle on, the higher numbers of science channels, discovery channels and history channels and the military channel. I am prone to watching these types of shows and learning something new. Rarely do I watch much sports as I am often tuned to sports radio. On a day off that is what occupies my time as I fumble around the house doing chores and fixing things. Having speakers wired throughout our abode is great. I can amble from room to room and never miss a beat. You can't do that with television. My Beloved gets nervous each time she sees me with a new batch of wires in my hand. 'What the hell are you doing now' is the typical refrain. She gets even more nervous when I start adding electrical wires to things but that is another subject.

Perhaps some day I will evolve and watch different things on the telly. Perhaps not, or I might just rip it out completely and save a whole bunch of money in the process.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A day after Veteran's Day

On this day after Veteran's Day, I find myself contemplating our country's situation in the middle east, Afghanistan in particular. My initial thoughts are not to make any soldier in the US Armed Forces a veteran again. How best to do this? That is the question.

Foreign policy of any country needs to be a cohesive and unified process all over the globe. What happens in one area can easily affect the position somewhere else. Our world has truly 'shrunk' as knowledge of events is easily gained and information gathered in the global media age. Decades ago the only thing we knew was what was told to us through the evening news and newspapers. Much of what happened over-seas was deemed so far away by the average American it could never affect us. Well, times have changed and Afghanistan might as well be just down the block.

Our military after WWII was used to protect us and project power across the globe. Gone now is the main adversary of the USSR. It no longer exists. Russia is a shadow of what the Soviets once were but their power and influence is growing again. But to be a true power in the world means an economic power. Even as the US and the rest of the world struggle through this downturn, economic power is the true measure of strength around the globe.

I believe the US should withdraw from the middle east as an armed force with a caveat known to all. Declare that we will leave you alone if you leave us alone. As a measure to protect ourselves, let those governments know that we will interject force at a moments notice, at any time and any situation we deem immediately dangerous to the US. Then we will leave again, even if that means gone in a day. Your country may have whatever government you so choose as long as it does not endanger the US. With the unmeasurable amount of corruption in governments in that part of the world it is impossible to rebuild their countries by ourselves. It does not benefit the US to spend our dollars in those situations as it is obvious to all the money does not go where it is supposed to, nor does it deserve the loss of any more members of our military.

If those countries want our help to rebuild their world without all the internal conflicts we will gladly go back in and help. We can't be the world's police force any longer and frankly, you're just not worth the trouble.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

All of us owe a great debt of gratitude to those men and women who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States, from Revolutionary War days through the present day. Without their commitment and sacrifice this country would be radically different. They train and (if necessary) fight to keep our country safer and our way of life and our freedoms alive, despite the efforts of our enemies, both foreign and domestic, to bring us down.

Beloved Father was a volunteer, joining the Army shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although he rarely spoke about his time in the Army, he was proud to have done his duty. Those in The Greatest Generation helped to save the world, and then handed it off to their friends, children, and total strangers to keep it going.

If you know someone who has served or is serving in the military, please thank them for all they have done.

I will start by saying, "Thanks, Dad."

Remember to fly your flag as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Crime and punishments

From a newscast I was made aware of the Supreme Court hearing a case involving a juvenile who murdered a young girl. The juvenile is seventeen years old and was sentenced to life without parole. The appeal is on the grounds that the sentence is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment for someone of that age. The newscast stated the justices were sharply divided on this issue.

I have no such reservation. The legal definition(s) I have found for 'cruel and unusual' simply states it can be defined as punishment that is excessive compared to punishment measured against lesser crimes or crimes committed in other states. The biggest problem with our system is too much interpretation and misuse of definitions of words. The English terms cruel and unusual are easily defined. Look them up, they are in the dictionary.

A person sentenced to life in prison is not unusual as it is in fact, the norm in this society and in all states of the Union. In so much as being measured against a lesser crime, there is not one. Murder is the king of the hill. We're not talking about a ten year old whose brain is not fully developed. A person who is seventeen is in full command of his choices in life. He knows right from wrong. Someone younger than that can be legally emancipated from their parents. Again, able to choose the direction their own life takes. This person made a choice and therefore must live by the consequences. His sentence is neither cruel or unusual.

As my family has suffered through a situation similar in nature to this I believe I am fully able to offer an educated opinion on this subject. I would ask any of the Justices this; how would you feel if the girl was a member of your family? Sometimes being removed from a situation can cloud one's judgement just as much as being too involved. In this case being personally removed strips all the emotion away. Emotion can be a great barometer of right and wrong. It's often the only stable reality as legal rulings are often overturned and rehashed by someone twisting and turning words to fit their own definitions. It's not about his rights anymore but the safety of society. He gave up his rights when he committed the crime.

Lock him up and although you can't throw away the key (as it might cause someone to get their panties in a wad), bury it deep in the yard surrounded by angry dogs. It'll be there if it's really needed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Days of yore

I have always wondered why the best holidays fall into the coldest seasons of the year. Perhaps they are situated to help us get through the long, cold dark months, except of course if you live in Florida, Texas and the Land of Fruits and Nuts. Most of the rest of us must dwell in perpetual darkness to some extent. We start with Halloween then move to Thanksgiving and of course Christmas. Then it is on to New Years and finally St. Patrick's Day, a favorite of N of 50.

I think Thanksgiving always gets the short end of the stick when it comes to celebration. After the introductory lessons of grade school, pilgrims and paper turkeys, it's all about football and shopping the day after. I have let it be known to My Beloved that if the day ever comes that I find myself out of retail, don't ever ask me to shop the weekend after Thanksgiving. It's just not gonna' happen.

In my youth I believed Thanksgiving was always the sendoff to winter. Sunny and warm days are finally behind us and the only hope of fun was winter's first deep snow to play in. My beloved parents were not subscribers to 'Chef's' magazine or any such culinary endeavor but they always managed to put a great Thanksgiving feast together. More often than not 32EM would attend which made our little family complete.

Beloved Father usually handled most of the work on the main courses and Sainted Mother the side dishes or desserts. Usually the turkey was juicy although we had our share of slightly drier birds. The day always started out with the Macy's parade and often watching the original Miracle on 34th Street movie. (I don't think the later version ever compared). As the day wore on football became the dominant viewing option and as the years went by we would often sit two TVs next to each other to watch multiple games. After the main dinner early in the afternoon the day became a snack-fest. We were able to gobble up all the things we never had during most of the rest of the year. One of my favorites was dates rolled in powdered sugar. I always made the mistake of inhaling as it approached my mouth resulting in a coughing spell. Then it was down the hatch.

In the evening games usually came into play. My family is quite fond of Euchre and we would often play for hours at a time. The original game of Probe was also a hit for many years. We purchased a newer version (I don't remember why) but it was never the same. I think we graduated to Uno for a time before we all began to move away from the homestead and Thanksgiving was never the same.

We have all started our own traditions with our extended families through marriage and in-laws. After the death of my parents you 'can't go home again,' but it is still one of my favorite holidays with memories I will always treasure. (Especially N of 50 spilling his dinner on the living room rug causing a massive stain never to be removed. Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I survived Craigslist

Well, it was bound to happen at some time. I survived my first direct internet scam attempt this week. As I regularly have bouts of 'get-rid-of-it-itis', recently I posted my drafting table and a new chair on the wonderful world of Craigslist. I posted a picture and price and within hours I was contacted.

Please sir, take down your posting and I will send you your $250. I am satisfied just by the picture alone. Send me your name and mailing address so I can send you this CERTIFIED CHECK! OK I replied.
Sir, your check will be delivered today. You can contact me after you have cashed it and my mover will be by to get it. OK, I again replied.
I was getting dubious as in his email he stated he had a bad stammer and did not like to call people. I assumed his 'stammer' also happened at the keyboard as his English and typing skills suffered from the same ailment. I was beginning to wonder if he had relatives in Nigeria. Then it happened.

Please sir, my secretary made the check out for too much ($2500). Please cash it and send the balance to my mover in Texas and keep an extra $100 for your troubles. DING DING DING DING, and the claxons sound. I replied I don't care that your secretary is a moron, if you have a return address I will mail your check back to you. Our business is concluded.

I haven't heard from him again. It's amazing how many dirtbags are out there. Anyone want to buy a great old drafting table?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Toilet paper

Toilet paper used to come in just a 4-roll package in either single or two-ply, and in one "softness", read, little.

There was also the industrial strength abrasive tissue-thin single-ply that came in all public restrooms, hard on the tushie and a decidedly bad use of the forest it once was. I believe it was (literally) made from hardwood trees.

Nowadays, your grocer has shelves of all types of TP: soft, plush, ultra soft, with aloe and Vitamin D, weaves and ripples, unbleached, perfume-free, and who knows what else. And a regular 4-roll package just won't do, either. It is all about double rolls in packages of 6, 9, 12, 16 or more; they have even come up with mega-rolls that need an extender on your holder just to fit it in place.

Under the category of "too much information" is the now-familiar statement on many brands: "made from 100% post-consumer content".

I really do not want to know exactly what that means. I hope I am wrong, but (butt?)seriously, folks, re-cycled toilet paper?!?

As my Sainted Mother used to say, (in reference to something else) "You don't know where that has been!"

Actually, we do, and I really don't want any part of it!

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I am one to read the newspaper on a daily basis as my work schedule allows. A great deal of ink is devoted to politicians and what they have to say. It is by nature what their jobs entail, they speak out on a variety of issues. Much of that is solely for the purpose of getting elected again. It is what they do, it is who they are.

My family has been in the government business for most of my life. The difference is none has ever been a politician. Beloved Father was at one time in the sixties a Ward Committeeman, whatever that is (was). I'm sure N of 50 or The Mustache will let me know. Others have been the doers of government, the bureaucratic red tape as it were. Politicians are elected to the head office and then get re-elected and mostly move on.

The question that has been gnawing at me is this: what qualifies these elected officials to run the offices they have? One family member having invested many years in state government work has seen countless 'heads' come and go. But again, what qualifies them to run this bureaucracy? Most politicians are relatively intelligent but does that give them the expertise to run a state office? How much training does one need to oversee a state's Treasurer's Office or Secretary of State when three years ago they were on a city council? After two years in a four year stint they normally begin running for their next office which is viewed as a step up and the campaign begins again.

Are they really working in the best interests of us, those that elected them or are they just trying to get the next best job. If we really wanted efficient government agencies they should be run by someone who has experience and not 'rent-a-politician'. If newspapers want more to write about they should look deeper into operations of government and stop covering only the politicians.

By the results we get, it's obvious you really don't have to be qualified to run anything.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A tale of two

In life one does not always have control of the cards they are dealt. Often people must overcome tremendous odds to have any chance of success or to even bring their lives up to 'average numbers' as measured by the charts (depending on whose numbers you choose to believe). I believe most who work hard typically will overcome most obstacles. Life is not fair by any stretch of the imagination. It is the internal devices that drive most to succeed.

What frustrates the average person is someone who has built in advantages and does not make full use of them. And believe me, I'm a very typical and average person by the numbers; height, weight (cough), income and status. My siblings and I were blessed with parents that cared and loved us and gave us discipline and guidance. When we underperformed we were told about it in no uncertain terms. They didn't expect us to be perfect but they did expect effort. Those who succeed even with advantages should be looked to with some amount of respect for using those blessings to help those around them and/or make the world a better place.

As an example, let us take two 'imagined' characters. Let's call one, hhhmm, 'Paris', and let's call one 'Ivanka'. Now 'Paris' and 'Ivanka' both come from very well-to-do families with generational money. Both are celebrities and are in the news from time to time. Now, 'Paris', even after having attended prestigious schools most of her life is a flighty, air-headed bimbo who couldn't string together a sentence with multi-syllable words if you wrote them down for her. She has succeeded in making a name for herself by being the butt of jokes and making an 'interesting' video. Her opulent spending on unnecessary trinkets with no redeeming social value should do nothing but further her family's embarrassment. Unbelievably, that lifestyle has only grown her fame. She is famous only for having a famous name. 'Ivanka', with the same built-in advantages is educated, well-spoken, personable and possesses a high degree of business acumen. She sits on the board of companies, albeit a direct result of her lineage, but accounts for herself and is a polished individual. She is not flashy as celebrities go but has earned her own degree of success. There is a path laid out and a direction to follow. Obviously someone cared enough to intervene in her life.

In this star-watching, image conscious world who would you rather have your child emulate? If you want to be proud of your offspring the choice should be easy. Make them put away the glitter and the rhinestone purse and pick up a book lest they be bound to suffer the same fate.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Through the eyes of a child

Children are a great source of entertainment.

Granted, they are also annoying, aggravating, infuriating, hard-headed and contrary, but on the whole they can be lots of fun, if you let them just be children while you can.

Most of the entertainment value of a child comes from how their n=mind works, in hearing what they say as they begin to develop their thoughts and see how they perceive the world. Looking at something through the eyes of a child can be quite illuminating.

When Wonderful Daughter was 3 or so, she and I were sitting in a McDonald's (horrors! some consider that child abuse nowadays)watching traffic pass by on a busy street as we ate our meals. She exclaimed, to the amusement of those nearby, "Daddy! Look! That car is jumping over that truck!". Heads turned quickly to see a car on a hook being towed. Through the eyes of a child.

A few minutes later (and this being Christmastime) she turned to me while I was driving and said, "Daddy, watch out!". I told her OK, I would be careful, and thought no more of it. She repeated the same comment shortly thereafter, and again I reassured her. When we returned home I mentioned her comments to my wife, who told me that Wonderful Daughter wanted me to sing "Santa Claus is coming to town". When I expressed puzzlement, she started to sing, "You'd better watch out...". Through the eyes of a child.

Handsome Son was an active young lad, and often wore himself out playing. It was not an unusual request for him to come and ask us, "Can I go to bed now?", a request we never turned down!

Dearest Kelley was two or thereabouts when she was walking along the dock while we were on vacation, leaned over to peer into the water, and fell in fully clothed. I jumped in and managed to catch her as she came back up, and hauled her out. She was crying but we tried to tell her it was OK, she was safe. It turned out she was crying because not only were her clothes all wet, but she was afraid she had ruined her new tennis shoes!

I am having fun watching and listening to World's Greatest Grandson #1 (WGGS#1) as he tries to make sense of the world. And his sister, World's Greatest Granddaughter #1 (WGGD#1) just turned one, and she is striving mightily to catch up to him and do everything he does. She is jabbering away constantly, and one of these days real words will be coming out.

It is one of the great mysteries of life how a child's brain can process those weird sounds we call words, figure out how to approximately say them, refine it, and develop meaning and sentence structure. I wish I could say that process somehow worked for me as I attempted to learn French and Spanish, but, sadly, no.

WGGS#1 has always been a voluble child, doing such things as narrating his life as he acts it out. Something as simple as walking across the room would be a reason for commentary, as he would simply say, "Walking!" while he was doing so. Last week he was in the doctor's office ona sick visit for his sister. The doctor was wearing a michigan shirt, and Wonderful Daughter told WGGS#1 what the doctor was wearing. He promptly said, "Go Bucks!", which was probably the first time the doctor was schooled by an almost-three-year-old.

Last year we were eating at a local restaurant and, being a polite child, he kept saying "thank you" to the waiter whenever something was brought to the table. He was not getting any response, and stared at the waiter, who looked askance at him. Wonderful Daughter finally had to tell the waiter that WGGS#1 was waiting for him to reply, "you're welcome". He did so rather sheepishly.

Last week he was helping Mommy make pumpkin muffins. She turned on the mixer and heard: "Come on bowl! Let's rock it!" while spinning the bowl. "Wooooo!"

I am looking forward to hearing what he and his sister have to say as they grow. It should be quite fun!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

They call me Mizrahi

Well, actually they don't. I'm about the last person you would look to for fashion advise. My wardrobe consists of work uniforms, a drawer of tee shirts, a handful of golf style shirts, a few random sweaters for winter, three white dress shirts and one suit. Not much there but I tend to look respectable when I go out or travel. My shoes tend to have the same limitations; one black dress, two tennis (one of those pairs are reserved for workouts), two brown casual shoes and a black pair needed for work. Other than my work shoes that are new I likely haven't bought a pair of casual shoes in five years. They are however clean and polished as I take after my father and like the look of polished shoes. They're sort of snappy. Given all that I'm still two steps up on Graybeard in the fashion game.

My Beloved often says I look nice when we are to leave our abode. That usually makes me feel really good. This past week as we were traveling I surveyed the surrounding gate at the Philly airport. I noticed a middle-aged man standing in the Southwest Airlines lineup with his family. First was the wife wearing the current casual fashions and comfortable enough for traveling. Next came teen daughter who was suited similar to mom. And then, there he was; dad, decked out in his finest two dollar flip-flops, (at least he wasn't wearing socks), gray sweat pants cut off at the knee, and his crowning achievement, a white tee shirt. Not a stylish T mind you; underwear.

Now, I'm old enough to remember when traveling, specifically flying was thought to be an event and folk dressed the part. That however, is no longer the norm. Travel can be a rigorous affair and one needs to be comfortable but there is still no point in looking like a slob who just crawled our of bed. I'm surprised the daughter wasn't standing fifteen feet away sneering the whole time as teens are wont to do. And where was wife in this debacle? Any woman worth her salt should have turned husband back at the door and told him to put on something proper. I know mine would have as would Nof50's.

There is simply no excuse for being in public looking like a total slob. He has denigrated the men of the middle-aged world, the true icons of fashion. We sit on our perch, too old for the current head-gear fashions and saggy-ass jeans down to our knees and too young for black socks with white shoes and a white belt. I say to you, slob-guy: take pride in yourself or at least don't embarrass your family in public, unless they are just totally used to that by now.

And you thought I was Abe Vigoda.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I was saddened by an article I read this week calling President Bush a warmonger among other things during his time in office. Now, I am neither a Bush hater nor a broad Bush supporter. He had both failings and successes as president, but to call him a warmonger is just not accurate. Well, he put us in a war you say.

WWOD? Yes, what would Obama do? George Bush found himself in an unenviable position on September 11, 2001. The U.S. had just suffered it's most horrific loss of life on home soil since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It's amazing just how quickly our memories fade. This country was shocked and then outraged. The president did the only thing he could do, he struck out to defend this country. Would President Obama have acted differently? My guess is not substantially, and if he would have done nothing he would have opened this country up to sustained repeated attacks. You can't take a sucker-punch in the mouth and defend yourself by singing 'cum-by-ya' with your enemies.

It seems President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize simply because he was not George Bush. He is now hailed as changing the face of American politics and foreign policy. Applications for nominations were due two weeks after he assumed the office. At that point in time he had not affected policy in any way much less in a substantial way. It is a slap in the face to all the past recipients of that award to bestow it upon someone who has done nothing. He doesn't deserve it any more than I do. I could pen great passages of how this country should handle foreign policy and send them all over the world. But would that mean I actually accomplished something? In time he may establish himself as a leader to be hailed but at this point he has done nothing more than any other newly elected leader of any country.

The committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize has lessened the value of the honor and shown it has no true meaning on the world stage if indeed it ever had any meaning or value at all.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Open mouth, insert 3M

I have noticed over time how the culture has changed from generation to generation. Now I'm sure our parents said the same thing as I grew older and took my place in the world. But I think as we grow older we morph into our parents, we often take on their mannerisms and thought processes, retain many of the values that they held and to some extent become them to a degree.

But generations do change and social habits evolve for good or bad. One bad change is a lack of a filtering process when in public. I was in the hallway of a hospital today to visit my daughter. I was reading something on a bulletin board across from an occupied restroom when a girl walked past. She was either late teens or early twenties and on seeing the door to the restroom closed she blurted out "where am I supposed to poop?" Thanks for sharing but that's something I really didn't want to know.

I am by no means a prude or one to cringe at the mention of bodily functions but this young lady obviously has no personal filter between her brain and her mouth. I don't want to know everything everyone around me is thinking or feeling. As I work with the public I notice this on a regular basis hearing personal comments that have no need to be expressed in public. It's called 'keeping it internal' and 'manners' and it makes for a nicer world all around.

They are running tests on my daughter and she should be released within a day or so. And for the record, if I'm ever in the hospital I want the bed closest to the window. I want light and lots of it. I am a creature of the light. When it's time to turn off the lights I want to sleep looking out on the lights of the city not drawn behind a curtain in a death pall. The inner bed is so depressing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I am Abe Vigoda

We start our lives as smooth as my grandson's dimpled tuckus. We are pristine and flawless. As men, in our teens the sprinkling of hair begins to emerge and we consider ourselves now fit to be called a man. We pick up that razor for the first time and the transformation begins.

Now, I come from a rather hairy clan, although we don't feel the need to shave our backs. We have just enough manly mop to be masculine, debonair and handsome all at once. In the seventies, manly chest hair was it vogue. Yes, we were stylin'. Some of us could even get by with the seventies moustache. One of us still has it. (You know, the one that makes you look like a porn star). But, back then it was cool. I think only Tom Selleck can pull that one off now.

Then things changed. The population started growing hairless. Less and less men were seen with hair dappled across their chests. Then women began wanting that baby smoothness and the metrosexual began to evolve. But what about the rest of us?

We, simply grow older. We evolve with the times and stay combed, brushed and shaven. My personal lineage has always maintained a clean and neat appearance. It is something we have always had. Then, it happens.

As I slipped in front of the mirror the other night, a big hairy fur ball looked back. I had begun sprouting wild eyebrows. You know the kind, like a tamer version of Andy Rooney. I sighed, and three feet of nose hair blew in the wind. As I gasped and turned my head, I saw enough hair popping from my ears that I thought Greg Brady had moved in. My only saving grace was that it was white and couldn't be seen from afar. Hair was growing from places God never intended.

It was then I realized every man's shaking fear; I had become Abe Vigoda!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hello world, the next generation

Hello world; meet my grandson, "Ragin' Cage". He's a heart-breaker isn't he?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

(Simon and Garfunkel, in the song "Mrs. Robinson", from the film "The Graduate")

We know where Joe DiMaggio has gone; he's somewhere in the Great Beyond. If you do not know who Joe DiMaggio was, please check a nearby search engine. And even though almost everyone pronounced his name as "Di-MADGE-e-o", he preferred "Di-MAHHZZ-e-o".

This is not about the Yankee Clipper, however.

There are names we remember from our formative years that have gone the way of the buggy whip, consigned to the dustbin of history, most never to be heard of again, unlike Joe DiMaggio.

Whistle (pop), Omar Bread, Diamond Quality-Chekd Milk, Pennington Bread, Post Corn Flakes and Freeze-Dried Strawberries (yucky!), Mars Bars (now Snickers Almond), Chipos, Frosty Root Beer, Beeman's Gum (occasionally available in special promos), Fruit Stripe Gum (same), Teaberry Gum, Kellogg's Puffa Puffa Rice, Powerhouse (candy bar), Milkshake (same), Old Man Adams Sour Gum, Weidemann Beer, Burger Beer, Hudepohl Beer, Gambrinus Beer, Pure (still in existence in the South), Sohio (with Boron!), Texaco (the only gasoline in all 50 states!), Sinclair, Humble Oil (put a tiger in your tank! [now Exxon]), BBF, Burger Chef, Sister's Fried Chicken, Ohio Bell, Western Electric, Albers, and Lazarus.

Even the telephone exchanges had names: CLearbrook, CApitol, HIckory, BElmont, among others. Telephone numbers were recited as CL3-5459 and such, and it was not until the mid-to-late 60s that the names went by the wayside. Somehow, 253-5459 did not have the same "ring" to it.

What do YOU remember?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fantasy schmantasy

Since my earliest days I have always been a football fan. It started out with the Cleveland Browns just after Jim Brown retired. My earliest memory of a running back was Leroy Kelly who did more than a fair job of replacing perhaps the greatest running back in NFL history. At some point I moved onto the Minnesota Vikings and a watching interest in others.

As I entered high school the Buckeyes took over and I have been more of a college football fan every since. I suppose some of that had to do with my employment. No matter what, retail is a seven day a week job. Yes, that includes Saturday and Sunday and little or no holidays off. It is always something of a bother to watch the local newscast when they invariably tell us all to enjoy the holiday we are about to have off from work. Yea, right.

Anyway, something had to give in my football world. There is just too much to do to invest myself in both leagues. As the college world took hold there just wasn't much room left for the pros. At one point I likely went ten years without watching an entire half of a single pro game. I did watch the scores and the standings but I didn't have much of a vested interest. In the past few years that has begun to change but there is something in the way.

Unfortunately for me as I climbed back into the world of pro football, fantasy football has taken a strong hold. It would be easier to get back in touch with the pro game without fantasy. Often I get home from work and want to see the scores quickly. With fantasy football there's no way to do that. The crawl on the bottom of the screen takes twenty minutes to list the scores due to all the stats. Every Tom, Dick and Ochocinco has their numbers dragged past after each score. Every radio show has to have the stats for nearly every player that touched the ball.

I can't be the only one. Somewhere out there there has to be others who are so fed up with fantasy sports they just want to turn the whole thing off. Let me watch the games and the scores without all the other crap. If fantasy stats are so important give them their own channel and leave the rest of us alone.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Never bored, or, The simple joys of childhood imagination

One of the most common complaints a parent is likely to hear as their children grow is "I'm bored!"

With all of the things that are available to occupy a child's time these days it would seem amazing that a child would even know the meaning of the word. Unfortunately, they do.

I believe it points to a lack of imagination and/or creativity on the part of the child; creativity and imagination should be developed, stimulated and encouraged as much as possible.

I cannot recall ever telling my parents "I'm bored", and if I ever heard them from my children, it was quite rare.

When we were children we did most of our playing in the out-of-doors. We dressed for the weather and headed outside, barring thunderstorms or cold rains. In our early years (pre-March 1967, when we moved) we played mostly by ourselves or with each other from the family, as most of our friends from school lived many blocks away from us. I spent countless hours playing variations of baseball by myself, quite contentedly. I threw a rubber baseball against the front steps of our half-double, calling out the lineups of the teams, describing the plays as I made them, and keeping score of the games. If I was not throwing a ball against our steps, I was throwing it against the steps of the church next door, or against the wall of the apartment building behind us. That must have driven the occupants crazy, hearing a constant themp, thump, thump rattling the walls. The only time anyone complained was when a small child was taking a nap, so I had to stop for awhile.

Robert T and I played together quite often, with "foil baseball" being a constant. Foil baseball took place when we could not find a whiffle ball to use in the backyard, so I would tear off huge chunks of aluminum foil (see! imagination at work!), wad it up, and it became our baseball. I would again do the announcing of the lineups for both teams, a possible foreshadowing of my current-day soccer announcing duties. Little brother still harrumphs to this day that I would intentionally stick in a left-handed batter for him to switch to whenever the score got too close.

I declare here and now that it was only the purest of coincidences that that ever occurred.

Really. I swear. Cross my heart and hope to fly.

We could not use a rubber ball with the wooden bat in the backyard, for fear of destroying windows, but I did once manage to hit a Superball over the roof of the church next door from our home plate spot. I never did find that ball again.

Our backyard was small and entirely made of dirt. Rumor had it that the yard once held grass, and that our constant playing there wore it out. Since I do not recall any grass other than scattered bits along the edges, it must have been Graybeard and The Stache who wore out all the grass.

There was a small crushed gravel driveway next to our backyard that was part of the church property. It had a blue hue, and it was probably Sainted Mother who christened it The Bluepart. We played games there, many involving a ball, and games of Mother May I, Simon Says, one-on-one touch football (me vs Robert T), bike riding, tag, and cowboys & Indians. On the hottest of summer days we would drag the garden hose, put on trunks or old shorts, and happily spray each other, running around until exhaustion. We then would dry off, Sainted Mother would spread a bed sheet out on the living room floor, and we would take a nap.

If there was enough rain we would find popsicle sticks, place them in the street gutter, and watch them negotiate the "rapids" down toward the sewer. What fun! They became our sailboats, sans sail.

If the weather was not conducive to outdoor activities, I spent innumerable hours reading the Hardy Boys books, among others. We made "scribble pictures", in which we took a sheet of paper and rapidly drew a twisting line of inter-crossed circles, spheres, loops, whorls and unnamed shapes with a pencil, followed by taking a box of Crayola 64 crayons and coloring in each and every new loop with a different color. Why? I theorize that Sainted Mother taught us that as a way to keep us busy and quiet.

We would build forts with colored blocks and stick in our army men, cowboys, Indians, and other assorted figures, and then "fight" a brother or sister by shooting rubber bands at the opposing army. Any soldier who was knocked over was dead, but we, for some unknown reason, had to either hit a sniper (aka "laying-down guy") multiple times or flip him over with a shot for him to be dead.

We built model cars, planes, and ships painstakingly and lovingly, and later we would send them zooming down the long linoleum hallway where they would crash into each other, pieces flying everywhere, or else they would go tumbling down the stairs to further destruction. If there were not enough plastic models to use, we supplemented these demolition derbies with metal cars, to the detriment of the plastic models.

We had a dart board in the basement, and for a while we also had a BB gun and target. No eyes were put out during the course of these activities.

We made simple fold-up paper airplanes that we launched into the stratosphere (well, a few feet off the floor anyway), made snowmen, had snowball fights, rode our bicycles a couple of miles to play Little League baseball, ran around in the warmer rains, and generally had a delightful time using our imaginations and 4xercising, all without thinking about it. We simply played and had fun.

Despite the occasional intrusions of The Real World, we had a great time actually playing.

Ahh, those were the days!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Type, type, type, crash!

Recently, the city of Bexley Ohio, a suburb of Columbus instituted a new law that states while driving a vehicle the operator may not text, twitter, peruse the internet or any similar function. That is not the exact language of the law but you get the drift. Bexley has also made this a primary violation which means you do not have to have committed a different infraction such as speeding to be pulled over by our friends in blue. (If a city is completely surrounded by another is it a suburb or something else?)

I think that is outstanding! There are just too many people out there who think driving is the second task they should perform when they get behind the wheel of a car. In another highly executed and purely scientific study by yours truly, I surveyed my surrounding and fellow operators on my way to work over a period of two days. I counted drivers to 100 and tallied how many were performing some function while they were driving. Any guesses?

Nineteen drivers were doing something that took their attention away from the road. Most were on a cell phone, one obviously had an ipod in her hand, another was trying to either read or write on a paper tablet. That's nineteen percent or nearly one in five drivers that could at any time plow into you. (And then there is that idiot who is watching other drivers, that makes 20 of 101).

I did notice however that the majority of those who did something else while driving tended to be those on the highway. Those I observed on city streets were not as active at other things. That's comforting; those driving at the highest speeds are paying less attention. As a clarification to this obviously highly executed study it should be noted that about 90 percent of my travel to work involves freeway driving so the city thing may not be accurate.

Keep your eyes on the road folks and life won't be so stressful. There's just too many ***holes on the road who don't care if you live or die as long as they get where they are going as fast as they can.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Autumn is coming!

When you ask someone to name the seasons, the typical answer, at least in these environs, is "spring, summer, winter, fall". A friend of mine who is from Buffalo says there are two seasons up there, "winter, and July 4th". A recent caller to a national radio talk show declared there are also only two seasons in Houston (TX), "unbelievably hot and muggy", and "ungodly hot and muggy". Weather, it seems, is local, a corollary, perhaps to the famous saying that, "all politics is local."

I actually believe in our area there are five seasons: spring, summer, winter, fall, and Autumn.

Huh? Aren't "fall" and "Autumn" the same? In a word, No.

Autumn brings to mind the changes in the weather patterns, an end to what is normally hot and muggy conditions in July and August (although not much of that this year!), a slow cooling of the temperatures, the beginning of crisp, cooling breezes, the windows open at night for "great sleeping weather", the colors of the leaves as they change; high, wispy clouds under a bright but not overpowering sun, a last spurt of growth for the lawn before it settles down for a much needed slumber, late-blooming plants in the garden, the spectacular colors of earlier sunsets, and light jacket weather for football, campfires, and walks.

Fall, on the other hand, brings to mind the dropping of leaves from the trees; flowers and other plants dying back to the ground; wet, strong winds packing brown leaves into a mushy grass-killing mess on your lawn; your neighbors' leaves clogging up your gutters; dreary weather with gray skies, chilling rains, and bare-limbed trees.

Autumn is my favorite season, short though it is before the coming of fall.

Enjoy it while it lasts!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Out of touch...out of mind?

This one will be short and sweet. I am not one to just openly criticise another person for their views but this one I can't allow to pass easily. President Carter's recent statement calling Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst racist is totally unfounded. Although President Carter has achieved much in his lifetime, I believe he is out of touch with this country. He did not know what was 'going on' when he was president and he doesn't know what's 'going on' now.

Just go help someone build a house, Mr. President.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's just too cute!

Many years ago the cartoonist Charles Schultz ran a particular Peanuts strip about the birth of Rerun, Lucy and Linus' baby brother. Lucy shows a picture to all the other girls and their reaction is the same. "Cute" they all say. "Cute, cute, cute, cute, cute." Linus then turns to Snoopy and says something to the effect, "If they banned the word cute we'd all die."

Over the past few weeks I have inundated by the word cute. It has been used to describe everything from my nieces new twin baby boys to automobiles. My Beloved and I routinely watch remodeling shows and the like on HG TV and the various other channels. Several shows follow couples (or singles) looking to buy their first home or upgrade their current digs to another. They wander from home to home, room to room with women uttering the same word continually; cute!

Now, I am fortunate in my life to be around many intelligent women. They cover a wide range of ages and most have a fashionable sense of style. Yet, for some reason they are unable to get by this one word. Not everything can be cute. I would understand if it is a particular person that has fallen into this trap as we all have crutches in our vocabulary. But for nearly all women to have the same crutch is mystifying.

In my most humble way I beg of you all to find another way of describing everything from soup to nuts with the same word. Unless of course you are talking about me. (blush)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Three yards and a cloud of turf

As I am of this age, I cut my teeth on the football teachings of Woody and Bo. This is Big Ten country after all. Mind you, I didn't always agree with their offensive tactics but who am I to question legends of the game? They ruled the roost for many years and were respected around the country by those who matter in the football world. That being said, three yards and a cloud of dust still leaves fourth and one.

The Big Ten has had it's struggles in recent years and some of it is due to this outmoded thinking. There has been a gradual change to some extent over the years but there is still a good many coaches stuck in that philosophy. Even the Buckeye's current coach Jim Tressel (for whom I have tremendous respect) has stated you need to protect the ball and run it in cold weather here up north. Uh, no you don't coach.

I looked at the average weather patterns in Madison Wisconsin for the third week of November. Madison is the northern-most city in the conference. Actually, Minneapolis is slightly north of where the Badgers play but the Gophers play in a dome where weather doesn't matter, and many aren't sure you could call what they do football. Why the third week of November? Well, that is usually the last week the Big Ten plays a game. The average temperature for that Saturday is in the low forties. Hardly bone-chilling. You can't really count rain and wind because that happens even in the SEC.

I would guess in any given year there may, and I repeat, MAY be two games a year in the entire conference where cold plays into a game itself. It is more uncomfortable for fans sitting in a stadium than it is for players who are working up a good sweat. Woody used to say when you throw three things can happen and two of them are bad. Unfortunately our beloved Woody didn't realize the same thing is true for a running play.

I was happy to see the Buckeyes open up the attack and finally discover they have a tight end the first two weeks of this season. The most talented players today don't want to play three yards and a cloud of dust any more. To be successful you have to recruit successfully. You have to be the best to get the best. Besides, there is no dust in turf only little rubber pebbles that get in your eye.

O - H

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The King's Anglish

This morning as I readied myself in the bath to start my day, a 'thunk' hit my 'English' ear. Although I write as a side (novels) I am not a stickler for perfect grammar. I fully understand formal verses casual speaking and the various dialects and accents that are scattered across our land. However, there is one usage that thoroughly grates on my nerves; the incorrect pronunciation of the word 'the'.

For this demonstration I shall refer to these pronunciations as 'thee' and 'thuh'. I'm sure at this point North of 50 already knows where I'm heading although I do not know if it annoys him as it does myself. On the national morning news a couple was being interviewed as to a major story that had recently taken place. I could not see them but I could hear them clearly. Just listening to their voices I had conflicting signals to process. For much of the interview I guessed them to be fairly well educated and perhaps in their twenties. Each time I heard the 'thunk' my opinion of them strictly through their speech lessened slightly. Often how you are viewed in life situations depends on your speech and speech patterns.

Although no rule regarding the English language is absolute, at least as far as I know, there are several that are quite resolute, and one is the usage of the word 'the'. English is a language that flows if spoken properly and if a term sounds clunky it is most likely being used incorrectly. I was taught the word 'the' should be pronounced 'thee' when the word following begins with a vowel; thee apple, thee ostrich etc. 'The' should be pronounced 'thuh' when the following word begins with a consonant; thuh movie, thuh football, etc.

I find those who jumble this pronunciation tend to be younger and or speak with a dialect or heavy accent. Often those who are less educated always say 'thuh' and never use 'thee' no matter what the circumstance. I am not sure how it is taught in schools. In this matter I will differ to Baby Sis who is an educator herself and perhaps she can convince the English teachers in her school to address this before I die.

Thuh other option would be to simply let thuh ostriches run around eating all thuh footballs.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are you ready for some football?

It really began late last week, but the college football season is upon us, as is high school football and the NFL.

In our area the local tv stations all send out multiple crews to the highlight high school football games of the week, as well as to other less-hyped matchups, all in the endless quest for higher ratings, so they can charge more money for commercials, and make a larger profit.

And that is as it should be.

The stations devote quite a bit of Friday night newscast time to highlight these games, complete with the tv personality usually doing or saying something stupid on camera in front of a large mass of cheering teenagers pushing and shoving for face time on camera, just so the local ypkel can show how "cool" he is, I suppose. They show the game clips with narration, while simultaneously scrolling all the scores across the bottom of the screen. I never know if I should look for my team's score or watch the highlights if they are not my school's. At least on the ESPN networks you know the info will be repeated ad nauseum, so it is easier to watch the action and pick up the stats and stuff during lulls in the action. The local stations also occasionally misspell the name of a school, although my favorite local typo occurred during an interview "highlight" with then- OSU football coach John Cooper, whom the station kindly informed us that he had a name change, at least for a few seconds, as we were treated to "OSU Football Coach John Copper"

Before the advent of scrolling scores, the local sports anchors would read them all as fast as they could, and occasionally a newbie would mispronounce a school's name as well. Wehrle High School (pronounced "whirly") always was good for a laugh as the newcomer would struggle with it.

Central Ohio is a seething mass of Ohio State football followers/fanatics, and the lead story on most Friday nights at 11:00 p.m., barring a MAJOR story butting in, is the OSU game the next day. And it is the lead story on Saturday night's newscasts as well. Highlights are shown at the top of the news and again in the sports recap.

Radio is also big on the Buckeyes, although not as much as in the 1960s, when 4 or 5 local stations would each broadcast the game, complete with their own broadcast crew. Nowadays, one station has exclusive radio rights, but their main competitor bills itself as "The Best Buckeye Coverage", doing multiple call-in shows as well as pre-and-post game.

If you are living here and are not a Buckeye fan, life can be miserable, as "that's all you hear!"

My entire family is big on the football Buckeyes; I told Wonderful Daughter that I agreed to let her marry Eric the Tall because he was a big Buckeye fan, and it was a bonus that he was also a Steelers fan. Wonderful Daughter and her husband are raising their children properly, outfitting them in Buckeye gear on game days. Nothing says "OSU FAN" quite like a toddler and a small boy looking their OSU best and cheering on the team! Beloved Wife declares college football to be her favorite, and watches many games with me even when they do not involve the Buckeyes. Handsome Son is doing yeoman's work converting his fiancee, Miss Texas, to Buckeyedom, as well as ensuring she now cheers for all our mutual favorite teams. Robert T and his Beloved have hosted game night parties at Lake Saratoga, but we seem to lose those games when they host, so they may have to reconsider that option. Graybeard and The Stache are fans, but are more on the pessimistic side than the rest of us. My Mother In Law pulls out the section of the paper with the teams' rosters and follows the game on the tube with that in hand.

The NFL also exerts an influence on us, but to a lesser extent. My household is Steelers country, although Beloved Wife still has a degree of Cowboys follower in her. Wonderful Daughter's family is also a Steelers haven, thanks to her husband, and the afore-mentioned Miss Texas is being indoctrinated into Steelerdom by Handsome Son.

Robert T is somehow a Vikings fan without having been to Minnesota, and his neighbor, Mrs Doogles, is a Cowboys fan, but we suspect it really is more of a Tony Romo longing than an actual liking of the team.

Mrs North of 50 is kind enough to ask if the Steelers game will be shown locally each week, so we can plan our day's activities.

I love that woman!

Are you ready for some football now?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Humor me

A bit over 400 years ago, master wordsmith William Shakespeare penned the most hilarious piece of extended writing I have read, A Comedy of Errors. The plot revolves around twin brothers separated years ago, each of whom employs one of a set of twins for a servant, and the mistaken identity problems which inevitably result kept me in stitches the entire time I read the play.

I have read, more accurately attempted to read, a number of comedic books that have sold well, several by noted thriller writer Robert Ludlum, whose works I flew through until he wrote a few "The Road to..." books, none of which I found even remotely humorous, let alone funny. I read The Road to Gandolfo all the way through, and afterward wondered why I bothered. I tried another of his Road books later, and gave it up quickly.

My Darling Wife has maintained for years that I have a "strange" sense of humor. We laugh at many of the same things, but she just shakes her head at some of the things at which I laugh. To some extent, I put this down to "guy humor", things that guys laugh at that women do not; the Three Stooges, slapstick comedy, parodies, etc. Guys have a reputation for laughing at broad humor, things like punches to the groin, mainly because it is great that it happens tp someone else, while painfully remembering how bad it felt when it happened to us. That strikes many of us as funny. We can't help it, it is the way we are wired, I maintain.

We are more likely than women to laugh at stupid things, probably because deep down we can recall laughing uproariously at something similar while being at least slightly tipsy, back in the days when we did things like that.

I have long had an appreciation for British humor such as Monty Python's Flying Circus, which I watched for years on Sunday nights on our local PBS affiliate. For years I was able to recite the entire piece, "Penguin on top of the television set" sketch, which appeared on Monty Python's Previous Record after being performed on their show. Another favorite was "Are You Being Served?", a sitcom from the 70s about life in a department store. That setting sounds mundane, but the writers were very clever and almost always came up with excellent writing for their stories.

Puns have always been considered the lowest form of humor, but I disagree. One not only has to recognize the potential for a witticism as it occurs, but must also instantaneously come up with said witticism, and then communicate it to someone else, whereupon they usually groan, but do so with a bit of a smile. Around our house these became known as Daddy Jokes(c). You cannot plan a pun, it must be spontaneous.

In the 70s I had a number of comedy record albums (large vinyl cd-like things that you played on a stereo, youngsters) in my collection, featuring such luminaries as Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Hudson and Landry, and others. About three years ago I listened to them again, for the first time in over a decade. The Hudson and Landry albums were comedic sketches, and were very dated, offering little in their favor. The Carlin albums were a little better, more topical, but there was a big difference between his early (hilarious) material, and his later stuff, which mainly consisted of a series of angry rants tinged with humor. The Bill Cosby material was still classic stuff, and remains so today. His was observations on life's little ups and downs, and perspectives on life seen through the eyes of a child. Some of his comedy still brings tears of joy to my eyes.

We watch commercials during the Super Bowl hoping to see something memorable, usually funny, and often the commercials are better than the game itself. When I see commercials for tv comedies nowadays, I am amazed at how dull and stupid-sounding they seem to be. There is nothing there that makes me want to say "I want to watch that show!"

I laughed for years at the monologues from Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, the radio and tv comedy of Jack Benny and George Burns among others. I like Jay Leno's monologues, but David Letterman I guess I just don't get. He is not funny to me. He seems to think he's funny, at least on the show previews you see on CBS.

Too many so-called comedians confuse funny with raunchy, thinking that the more f-bombs and assorted foul language they can stick in a sentence, the funnier they are. Far from it, but people still pay good money to see them in concert.

What is funny to one person often leaves another with a puzzled look on their face, but, if you can find something to laugh about regularly, you will find this to be a better world.

Learn today, learn tomorrow and always

My beloved and I had the chance to babysit our grandson yesterday. It is always a fun time for us as we get to watch him explore the world around him. He is now slightly more than five months old; essentially a blank slate. We were outside on the deck and as 'Maw-Maw' (as she is affectionately monikered) was feeding the little whipper she noticed his eye caught a plane flying overhead. He watched it intently as he continued to suck, until it was out of view.

I thought that was fascinating. It then occurred to me, people are meant to learn. It's what they do from their earliest moments. Everything is new and unexplored. Their minds absorb every sight, sound and feeling. That may escape us because it is some time before they are able to organize themselves. First comes facial recognition of the parents as that is obvious as my son returns and my grandson just lights up. Then it is recognition for us and others that surround him on a daily basis. Then it is things to be explored.

As he is not yet crawling but is able to roll, I watched him study our golden retriever who was just out of reach. He stared intently as she just lay there letting the world go by. You could almost see his intent of wanting to explore; what is this big shaggy thing in front of me? I need to touch, I need to see, I need to learn. It is not something frightening, it is curiosity at it's purest.

At some point in our lives learning begins to take a back seat to everything else. I think it starts unfortunately in school as learning becomes a chore. It is the expected job of every child to go to school. It becomes a mandate. Hopefully, that gets pushed aside and each child finds a focus that will propel them through high school and beyond. But then comes making your way in the real world. Too often we are distracted by life and it's demands both personal and professional and we no longer take the time to learn. I'm not speaking necessarily of formal learning. Not everything needs to be done in a classroom or formalized setting. Opportunities abound. Pick up a book, read a newspaper or on-line article. Get your mind involved in something other than your daily routines.

It has been many years since I needed to work an algebra problem. I hadn't looked at a math book since my days in college. This past spring I drove to a used book store on my lunch and purchased an advanced mathematics book. My Beloved and our sassy little neighbor Mrs. Doogles both thought I was insane. "What are you going to do with that?" "I'm going to read it," I replied.

It is what we do, it is what we are. Never stop learning and never stop growing. When you give up you begin to wither, when you wither you lose hope. Hope and strength come from the mind and all the wonderful things within.