Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A new moniker

I started out as a child. My family will remember this from a Bill Cosby album years ago. Funny! But what were you after that? Then I was a teenager. After that a twenty-something and then an adult (although there are those who will dispute that). My era did not have a name such as Gen-X or anything like it for the pre-adult phase. I was at the very end of the baby boom but have never considered myself part of that population.

I have discovered that as you age you take on differing roles. Wow, how enlightening you say. RT you are such a big thinker. The advancing years become more than just labels. It is a responsibility of where you are in life. A teenager is a teenager with no particular responsibility other than a propensity to annoy those around them. Twenty-somethings have no role other than to begin contributing to society, finding jobs, paying taxes and such. I guess with little life experience on their side, that is how a liberal is born and hopefully they grow out of it and into true conservative principles, but that is a separate blog to be explored.

My next roles are what I have become and will be for the rest of my days. I am a husband and father. My Beloved is the driving passion for me each day. When we married I became the proud papa of a rambunctious twelve-year old (Product of MT and RT). She is my daughter in every way, shape and form. True to that fact is she probably owes me money from something. Through her came a son-in-law who in every way has become my only son. As the decades pass your labels become who you are and it is your responsibility to live up to the best of those qualities. Sainted Mother is a perfect example of how we strive to live up to those values.

A new moniker has recently been thrust upon me. I have become a grandfather with as much trepidation as my son has in becoming a father. I see it in his eyes as he was asked to hold his son for the first time. The 'what if I break him look' came roaring across his face. I did not have that look as I have masterfully held infants for years. But now what? What does a grandpa do? My grandparents were already older when I was born and as such I do not have a long string of memories concerning them. Bertha was as well sainted and grandpa was scary. The first time I held my grandson that thought left me forever. My job is to sweep into whatever room the little whipper is in and demand he be given to me so I can hold him. Only My Beloved has a say in this matter.

My next burning question is, what shall be my true label, gramps, grandpa or the solemn Grandfather? I'm leaning toward grandfather as it sounds stately and demanding of respect, but I guess I'll answer to whatever an infant can utter.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I read, therefore I am

Not quite how Descartes was quoted, but it will suffice.

Beloved Father was always considered a "hands on" and "practical" man; he was not much of a book reader, rather he read news magazines and the local papers, whilst Sainted Mother was a reader, and carried the "very intelligent" tag gracefully but reluctantly. It was not something that was ever said to her, it was more understood as a fact of life.

She was a product of the generation that thought a wife should not earn more than her husband, so she gave up a promising career to take a lower paying job before taking many years away from the work force to stay at home and raise the brood, as did most back then. Wonderful Daughter is currently pursuing that same career path, to her eternal credit (and doing an outstanding job bearing that load); it is as much a labor of love as it is work, for all that.

Back to topic.

Once the magic of letters making words, then making sense, clicked in my brain, and I understood exactly what it was she was trying to teach me, I became a lifelong lover of words and books, and have read, quite literally, thousands of books. At one point I even maintained a list of books I had read, starting in high school, and continuing until a few years ago when I transferred the hand-written list to computer, and lost the list when the system crashed shortly thereafter. Naturally, I had pitched the list.

Today my list is shorter, and only contains an ever-changing list of (currently) about 160 books that I plan to read. This one is on computer, also, but is stored at WorldCat's website using one of their tools. This time I have kept the printed copy of what is on it.

Side note: I currently have cards to six library systems to aid my procurement efforts.

In the past I have had up to three books going at once, but nowadays I confine myself to one, unless the other is an audiobook. I also read while walking to and from the office, something I have done for about 20 years, and have noticed a few other venturesome souls doing the same recently.

I'm a trendsetter!

I draw the line at reading while driving, though.

All five of us children were readers, though RT was the least fond of it back in the day; now, he writes for others to read, although he is making his way through Sainted Mother's collection of Great Works (read: BORING!), most of which will likely put me to sleep.

Baby Sis read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series each year while working as a lifeguard; I always wondered if that was while on duty or on break, but she never said.

"Lifeguard! Johnny's in trouble!"

"All right, wait a sec until I can find a dry spot for my book!"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sunday, 1960s

Rose-tinged memories, imperfectly recalled through the fog and haze of the ever-circling years, tell me that the following took place at our home on most Sundays during the bulk of the decade of the 60s:

There was no need for an alarm clock, as Beloved Father would return from the 8:00 Mass to stir us from our peaceful slumbers with "Are you up yet?" hollered up the stairway and down the hall, long as it was. He was an usher at the 8:00 a.m. Mass; why there was a need for ushers is beyond me, as every week the same people sat in the same pews, and knew perfectly well where those same seats were! I suspect he was more of a collection-plate-passer, but usher sounds better.

I am certain Sainted Mother also awoke us from time to time, but I mainly recall Beloved Father doing so. Then it was down the stairs in our pajamas (pyjamas to our British cousins) to read the funny pages as we called them, and then back upstairs to dress for church, complete with the clip-on tie that was worn all week at school, unless you were able to make off with one of two bolo ties we had. Never a drop of liquid other than water nor any morsel of food was allowed to pass your lips until after you returned from Mass and performed the requisite taking of Holy Communion. I always suspected Beloved Father went to 8:00 a.m. Mass because he got hungry; there was an occasional 6:30 a.m. service which he and the designated paperboy would attend from time to time. I subbed a few times for Graybeard on his route, and the early Mass was great; you came home, ate breakfast, and went back to sleep!

Normally, at the apointed time, anyone who was still in need of joining the Mass-es would pile into the car (a one car family!) with Sainted Mother driving the roughly four blocks to church for the 10:00 Latin High Mass. I can still recall the sights and sounds of that idyllic time, it was in Latin which made it mysterious to me, even though I could pronounce the words to the responses. The power, majesty, and awe of a Latin High Mass was wonderful to behold. I miss it still.

Returning home after Mass uneventfully (except for once), we would change to regular clothes and do whatever kids did then, watch tv, do homework, play inside so as not to disturb the heathen Protestants who were attending their own church services at the first Lutheran then Baptist church that was literally (in spots) 4 feet from the north side of our half-double, now called a duplex, the type in which Handsome Son currently resides, as a matter of fact.

The most enduring memory of those Sundays was Beloved Father cooking the Sunday meal, and Mitch Miller or the Four Roses Society record albums (giant vinyl cds to you whippersnappers) on the stereo. There was also his favorite Big Bands from the Reader's Digest Big Band Collection.

The world's best baked chicken was a staple, the skin so thin and crackly but tasty, and the meat tender enough to almost fall off the bone. Mashed potatoes with gravy, a meatloaf perhaps, with the secret (to me) red sauce on the top, which turned out to be merely ketchup, and was the only time I ever ate the otherwise nasty red stuff; spaghetti was never, excuse me, NEVER! made for Sunday meals at our house. "It is NOT a Sunday dish!" A treat was "wine" for the kids on a special day. The wine was grape juice and 7-Up mixed together. We might even have frozen salad, that combination of fruit cocktail and cream cheese, blended and frozen (naturally) in metal ice cube trays with the handles that separated the squares. Yummy!

Outside play was permitted after the heathens went home, so I played many games of one-man baseball by tossing a rubber baseball against the steps of the house, or even against the steps of the next door church, pitching, fielding, and announcing the lineups to myself, and doing the play-by-play as well. Must have been early training for my current day side gig as a soccer p.a. man.

Even though we had winter, rain, and even snow when I was a kid (you know, we walked uphill both ways in the snow, etc.) I ever think of those days as always being sunny and warm. Must be the rose tinge I mentioned earlier.

Sunday evenings we gathered as a family to watch The Wonderful World of Disney, also called Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, or The FBI, or Bonanza, among others. Beloved Father cared naught for Ed Sullivan, so we did not watch his show, although I do recall seeing it exactly once, somehow.

Whatever we had for the evening meal was smaller, but almost nothing comes to mind; in winter oatmeal with raisins was often the fare. That remains one of my favorites to this day.

I am certain Graybeard, The Stache, RT and Baby Sis have recollections that are similar but different, which calls to mind that RT detests the old phrase "same difference", but that is what memories are made of, or, as the song says, "Memories Are Made of This".

Things I don't care about...nothing personal

As I have undertaken this endeavor my mind at times floods with things to write about. At other instances I can't think of a thing. Since I don't have a Facebook account (and most likely will never), I thought I would drop in my 'Playboy magazine' square. Come on, you know, that little box by the 'model' that says 'my turn-ons are', etc. That way you can claim you read the articles. This is just the part that says what I don't care about.

Twitter. ( I thought it was a vitamin deficiency)


Pro basketball.

Any sports preseason.

Soccer (sorry N of 50, just doesn't happen for me).

Monster car/truck anything.

Tractor pulls.

American Idol after the stupid people.

The Price is Right.

French films.

The Beatles

The British invasion (early 60's music; sorry lads across the pond)

Hallmark holidays


Public television

Community access channels

That's about all I can think of at the moment. I'm sure other things will come to mind.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Buckets and rims

Each year I enjoy the NCAA tournament and follow my bracket. If all goes well our beloved Buckeyes will advance up the ladder. We know it didn't happen this year, but I for one never expected it. They just aren't ready yet. Perhaps next year.

I do however wish I could watch good basketball. From the phrase those who can't do teach (for I am the poster child of white men can't jump) I am perplexed at the lack of ball knowledge displayed on the court. The games themselves are fun to watch but the skill level is abominable.

I blame the advent of the 3-pointer as the slippery slope that caused basketball to become nothing more than five guys playing one-on-one. 'Back in the day' there were things such as pressing, two point shots, three seconds, double-dribble (palming) and traveling. I can't remember the last time I saw a palming call or the like. Perhaps they changed the rules and I wasn't watching. I wish I had the athletic ability of those I watch but that is not the point.

There is currently a dead zone from the rim to the three point arc. You see either someone slamming the ball through or popping a shot from thirty. The art of the midrange jumper is lost. It's almost like players think a three second call is if you are inside the arc and not the lane. Pathetic. The 3-pointer is a low percentage shot and the best usually hit 35-40 percent. Unfortunately everyone thinks they can shoot it. They can't. I think scores would be higher if teams shot more deuces and less threes. I love an occasional three but every shot is now a three.

Big men have lost their art as well. I watch game after game where the only consistent shot made is a dunk. The techniques of the inside game are gone. There is no finesse or touch around the basket by today's centers. Most would rather go outside and shoot treys. Anyone who shoots either inside or out then just stands there watching the ball sail toward the goal. Everyone thinks they look great with their arm outstretched like MJ until the ball 'clunks' and the play is heading the other way. And that is in the middle of the first half. You don't get style points for missing a shot in the first half. Follow the shot, get the rebound and put it up or kick it out.

The coaches in my formative years would bench you if you threw half the bad passes I see during games. A cross-court pass was a death throw and with the athleticism of today's players it is sure to get picked off. Stupid pass by stupid players. Go help out and get to the ball.

There are bright spots in today's game. Players are more athletic and overall the potential skills are higher than in the past but many are premadonnas; they want to do it their way.

Learn the game; stay one more year to get better before moving on. You'll get your money then and probably a lot more. I don't begrudge anyone who is able to sign a great contract and take care of themselves and their families for the rest of their lives. But, don't strut around in front of the rest of us who are short and can't jump, it's just genetics, it's not my fault.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Madness of March

The Madness of March can take many forms. If you are involved in a basketball pick-em pool, you may find yourself chasing the jack, as you root for a team to win their game so they can advance and perhaps earn you that vital point that means you win the pool; conversely, you may also find yourself rooting for your favorite team to win (OSU, perhaps), knowing full well you picked against them in the pool. So, it is a wash; whomever wins you can get some satisfaction.

On the other hand, you must contemplate the unthinkable: picking a team to win that you really despise since you have seen how good they can be; oft times it is a consolation that their upset loss cost you big points in the pool, but you love the fact that they flat-out choked.

The Madness of March also invades other parts of our lives. The month of March, the coming of spring after a cold winter, and strange thought patterns all converged at various times in my younger life to produce mental meanderings that caused to me wonder: Why are we here? How can you go through life not wanting to be famous? Or rich? What is it I want to do? How will I look when I am old? How old is "old"?

I always had the questions running through my mind, and never gave a thought to how to answer said questions.

I am only certain, in my mind, of two of those: we are here to do the best we possibly can, to live and love and try to leave this world a better place, and I believe "old" begins at 85.

If you stop learning and living, "old" can begin a lot earlier than that. I hope to be able to tell you, when I get to 85, that "old" starts somewhere after that. I am planning on having my mid-life crisis at age 100, so maybe it starts then.

Ink and paper cuts

There is a near death on the horizon. It is sad as with any death that one must change their course and deal with it the best way one can. I speak of the impending demise of the newspaper. The newspaper you say? Too many of them you say? Old news you say? Perhaps.

America is deeply rooted in the fourth estate. Even the constitution provides for a free press unencumbered by the state. That of course is much broader than the current topic. I simply refer to the newspaper. It is ink on paper, smudgy and a little late. But it is how we have received our view of the world for the better part of my life (except for Walter Cronkite). My brothers and I all go back to having the first universal paying job of being a paperboy. We hopped on our bikes, jumped in the car, had our father drive us on Sunday before mass, all to deliver the paper.

I remember sitting in a shack after school, I think it was painted green, with North of 50 waiting on the paper truck to deliver our load. It would finally arrive and we would unload the truck, sort and count, pack up and go to our routes. Some had big satchels for carrying and walking from house to house, the canvass cutting into your shoulder. The only relief was as each paper was removed the load got lighter until you returned to your bike to load up again.

The internet and television are the two primary causes. The world now-a-days wants everything now, the news, emails, sports scores etc. Most can't wait for the paper tomorrow. I fully understand. The papers have been slow to embrace new technology or shed their old ways. I for one will miss them. Listening to the news on a breaking event is natural. You want to know what's going on.

I have tried periodically to have the web be my newspaper but it just isn't the same. It is hard to curl up with a good monitor in your chair. I prefer to spread the paper out on the counter or the dinner table and turn, page by page, scanning each sheet looking for something to catch my interest. A hot cup of joe only makes the moment more enjoyable. Whether it is an early summer day or winter's morning, a steaming brew just makes it. You can feel the rawness of the rag between your fingers. Often only the lick of a finger means the page can be turned. Not all of them will go away but many will and I will be there to say goodbye with a saddened tone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Things I can't explain

This blog is mostly about my thoughts on various subjects and those items we deal with in our everyday lives on which I may have an opinion. There are however, things in life I can't explain. This list is not all-inclusive and may be revisited at a later time.

Does the universe end at the last star?: If it's not then the universe what is it?

String theory.

Women and shoes: Sorry, I've got nothin' for this one.

New math: I had a conversation with Minuteman 76 on this who is two decades my junior( and much smarter than I) and I couldn't even define it. It was old math, then new math that I guess is now old math again and no one even speaks of it. I remember something about 'base 8'.

White guys who dress like black guys: If that's the African-American culture, fine. It's not your culture.

P shizl.. fizzle..dizzle...whatever, dude.

Women who dress like longshoremen.

Women body-builders: I wouldn't want to date someone who can kick my butt.

Why can't African nations have a stable government.

Why people think socialism works: It hasn't worked yet.

Why the French even bother with an army. (Have they won anything since the French-Indian War?)

Jerry Springer.

What was there before the 'Big Bang'?

Why can't you dangle a participle.

Why eco-friendly cars look like a dork designed them.

If the speed of light in a vacuum is constant (186,000 miles/sec), why isn't time constant?

How you can look at the intricacies of life and not believe in God.

Why does the sight of My Beloved take my breath away?: She always does!


At some time I may revisit this list when I think of other stumpers in life. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

See title, above.

Caid mille failte!

This day, March 17th, is now a national holiday in Ireland, celebrating the culture of the Irish people, complete with a week long festival held in Dublin (not Ohio) featuring parades, music, art, and plays.

The original idea behind St. Patrick's Day was to commemorate the life of said saint, the man who is credited with helping to firmly establish Christianity in Ireland. It was originally only a holy day for Irish Catholics.

March 17 was chosen as it was his date of death, in 461 A.D.

Note I said "A.D.", and not the ever-increasingly used "BCE", or, Before the Common Era, for those who despise religiosity in all its forms.

While there are certainly more revels leading up to the holiday than in the past in Ireland, there (fortunately) is no equivalent to the green beer driven Bacchanalia that has evolved here in the US.

Whether you are Irish by birth, ancestrally in part, or just like to wear green once a year, here's a hearty Happy St. Patrick's Day wish for you and yours!

And it is not St. Paddy's Day, either; many Irish consider "Paddy" to be stereotypical and untoward, although many Patricks are called Paddy.

Time for some Irish stew and soda bread!

Bushmills, Bailey's and Guinness are permitted, in moderation today.

Not certain why a certain university named for a French cathedral has taken Fighting Irish for the name of it's sports teams, however.


Oh how big a world it is.

As I read the newspaper this morning and again the woes of the financial system and AIG in particular, I am struck by the complexity and inter-connectivity of the world we live in. Unfortunately, we as laypersons have a hard time wrapping our minds around the shear size and volume of the issue. We go about our business and go to work, thankfully, or school or whatever impacts our daily lives and don't fully appreciate the scope of how big a world we live in. Politicians and economists can be seen on the news programs and financial shows and in ten minutes boil down problems to the simplest terms.

The problem for us that are not single-minded or focus-driven is we don't know the complexity of how businesses are interconnected. Take for instance GM. What would happen if GM shut it's doors for two months? Who would be impacted? Well, the employees you say. Yes, and many others. There are those that make the cars, take care of the line, the machinery, electrical systems, computer systems and the like. Also impacted are those that have contracted to keep the facilities in good repair. Now you are looking at painters, a different set of electricians and plumbers, HVAC techs, office systems etc. Add to this suppliers of all things deemed minor but that none of us could live without, everything from paper clips to toilet paper and the companies that supply those products. And GM has hundreds of facilities around the world, not just in the US and Canada. All these companies will feel the effects of a shutdown or severe slowdown. They in turn cut back on items they need and the hole just keeps getting bigger.

That is something most of us can understand. We can see the tangible items if front of us and it starts to make sense. How do you do that for financial items? AIG has insured brokerages and banks against losses and now must make payments to them based on contracts to cover their losses. That's what insurers do. To most of us financial instruments might as well be particle physics. We have little daily contact with them so their intricacies don't relate. The financial markets are so interconnected it is nearly impossible to unravel the chain of money as it weaves its way from one to another. It might be easier to unravel spider webs in a haunted house strand by strand.

Unfortunately for our political leaders, they must try to make us understand all of this. The problem is they don't understand it either. The complexity of these markets is so enormous that everyone specialises. The bailouts are put forth in a bill that fails to address, and could never address all the issues that will arise. (I won't even think of ranting on bonuses for anyone of failing companies here). If you aren't sure I'm correct consider this; why didn't any of the financial shows see the failings of the markets, financial institutions and brokerage houses et al coming? One or two persons in the financial world don't really count. Where was Warren Buffet when the little people needed him?

Next: Particle physics and the quantum end of the universe.
Oh, Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Manly men with manly ways

I heard of a survey that ranked the 50 largest cities as to which was the 'manliest'. They used some dubious criteria at best. That being said it often gives way to a good chuckle or two when reading these lists. I roll my eyes when a politician or civic leader then touts their town at being one of the best to live or work in based on these. Is yours a manly town or do you live in 'wussie-burg'? I don't remember the entire list but some of the top ten included St. Louis, Boston, Chicago and Detroit. Detroit? Come on. The only thing a city in flames means is they have more firemen.

Consider some of the criteria. How many trucks are sold in relation to cars, how many foreign cars sold, the percent of population that owns a gun, are there local sports teams, tracker pulls and the like. A city lost points if there were too many subscriptions to magazines such as 'Home and Garden' and that ilk. I wonder if Playboy subscriptions gave a 'rise' in the poll. I'm guessing San Fran didn't score well in that area. Too bad they didn't include all of the towns across this great country. If they did surely Dead Snake, Arkansas would truly be the manliest town with every citizen owning a gun, a truck and a dog and the local high school colors are camouflage.

The impetus of such studies always mystifies me. They are of no practical use and serve no purpose. It isn't even much for discussion. Perhaps you can get stimulus funding to do a study. That would be great for the economy. Given the time I could possibly come up with a set of criteria that would boost the bay cities up the scale.

Manly ways are not such juvenile things as trucks, sports and fishing. The measure of a true man is his dedication to his family, his work ethic and how well he treats others in life. Of course such lists do give rise to blogging and other such nonsense.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Peeved to meet you

Just a quick list of things I can do without:

Phone calls to a business where you leave a message asking for a return call that you never get

Same with e-mails

Typos in books allegedly edited by a professional editor

Windshield wipers that only streak or smear in your line of vision, no matter how you adjust your seat or posture

Toilet paper rolls with one sheet remaining for your use

"Free" offers that require a payment for shipping and handling; if you have to pay for it, it ain't free

Deejays who tell you the next 5 songs to be played; I prefer to be surprised

People who use the pronunciation "thuh" when it should be pronounced "thee"; e.g. "thuh only one". Sister Raymond would rap your head for that one.

"One of the only"; "only" is singular; "one of the few" is the correct usage

A sportscaster or reporter who talks about a team "starting" the season on a streak, such as 12-0 (in a 14 game season!), which begs the question, "When, exactly, does the 'start' of a season end?"

Saran Wrap

Billy Mayes

Paris Hilton et al

Pronouncing "nuclear" as "NEW-cyoo-ler"

Scrabble names (props to Robert T)

Sneezing; I would rather cough

Brent Musberger

A basketball is not a "rock" or a "pill", it is a basketball

Hallmark Hall of Fames presentations: they are all invariably a sappy story starring a Northern woman who attempts to portray a Southern woman, complete with a bad impression of a Southern accent. All of this can be determined by one viewing of a commercial for the show.

The Price is Right

Political commentators who tell you what you have just heard the president say

The opposition party's "response" to said speech that does not directly "respond" to anything he said

Supermarket "10 for 10" specials for products that you would need 10 lifetimes to use all 10 of

Government documents in a language other than English

"Political correctness" - that's YOUR politics, not mine

Those who take umbrage at something that was said when the person to whom the comment was directed either laughs or shrugs it off and declares it "no big deal"

The Wave

Renewable energy sources - there is no such thing

We're going green!

The PGA Tour without Tiger Woods

"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration" - why not? It's their job.


Global warming

Polls as news

It is more expensive to eat healthy than to not do so

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Laugh, it's funny

Life is hard at times and things don't always go as planned. God, in His (echoing North of 50, yes, His) infinite wisdom has given us a tremendous way to handle our problems. It is called a 'sense of humor'. It gives an outlet that lets us, for even the briefest of moments forget our troubles.

Perhaps a sense of humor is God's little joke on us. That being said, can you imagine a world without snickers and chuckles? Keeping that in perspective, there are sad events that happen every day in the world and nothing can take away the pain. I will be attending a funeral showing later today for a wonderful lady who lived a full life and is now parted from our world. She just celebrated her 90th birthday. The sadness that will be felt by her family is not to be trivialized.

Life is to be enjoyed whenever possible. Too often I am confronted or hear about those who are so serious about their position on a subject, their belief structure or anything else they can't find the humor is something. Growing up Catholic, my loving mother would nearly blow a gasket at some of the records my siblings and I listened to. George Carlin had a comedy bit about growing up Catholic that to this day nearly causes me pain from laughing. North of 50 would certainly agree. My mother hated that record. I don't know if Carlin was Catholic or not but it seems he must have been to know in-depth the quirky little rules and scenarios that can cause one to 'sin', even on their best behavior.

The world has become too 'politically correct'. No you shouldn't hurt someones feelings, don't make fun of other's points of view, or political sense, or religion or anything else. It creates divisiveness. I would disagree. It creates unity. Someone with a differing view can bring to light things you wouldn't see because your point of view is clouded by a belief structure. Humor creates unity and introspection. Some of the most content people I have ever seen have come from a comedy show. They are laughing and thinking about what they just heard. Laughing at yourself causes inspection of your beliefs and in yourself and in my view, a more positive world to live in.

Even my mother learned to laugh at Catholic jokes, although not very loudly.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Your opinion isn't mine

On my drive to work this fine Saturday morning I happened to tune the radio to an AM call-in show. The topics discussed are those of the listeners (callers) choosing. The host has very little to say. It is an open forum, one I usually do not enjoy. At that time of the morning there is very little else to listen to, myself not one for music every hour of the day. It would likely be a better listen if callers were limited to once per month or some such rule. Unfortunately it tends to be the same callers every week espousing the same subjects.

Why would that be such an issue, you say? It is the voice of the people! As I listened what came to mind was why I find it tedious. Call after call no matter the topic gave an opinion that was totally inflexible. The voices scream out black and white. My voice is unwavering and righteous. If your opinion is not mine we must be diametrically opposed and therefore you are wrong. Be it political or not, opinions of justice or rights, that one view seems to be their single focus.

Unfortunately I feel a sadness for them. The world and their issues are not so black and white. Almost nothing is, not even the color of one's skin. The world is shades of gray, dark to light and light to dark. No single view of an issue is correct be it religious, political, economical or other. The only real answer is a blend of all the right parts from each of us, yours, mine, your brother and your neighbor down the street.

The only true black and white question is...do you love the Yankees, or hate them. I'm a hater.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Randomness on The Road of Life, or, I have no idea where this will go today

Three Rings for the Elven Kings

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the dark shadows bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

--- J.R.R. Tolkien

Robert T memorized it years ago.

Ten Little Indians

Ten little Indian boys going out to dine
One choked his little self
Then there were nine

Nine little Indian boys staying up late
One overslept himself
Then there were eight

Eight little Indian boys traveling to Devon
One stayed there
Then there were seven

Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks
One chopped himself in half
Then there were six

Six little Indian boys playing with a hive
A bumblebee stung one
Then there were five

Five little Indian boys going into law
One got into Chancery
Then there were four

Four little Indian boys going out to sea
A red herring swallowed one
Then there were three

Three little Indian boys going to the zoo
A big bear hugged one
Then there were two

Two little Indian boys playing with a gun
One shot the other
Then there was one

One little Indian boy playing all alone
He went and hung himself
And then there were none

-- from And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie; the only book of hers I was able to get through.

Years ago I memorized that.

I recently recalled it to mind after at least 20 years lying dormant in the cobwebbed and dusty corners of my memory; I nailed it on the first try.


Much of our brain is filled with things that are not particularly "useful"; trivia, words to songs, partially correct recollections of our childhood, perhaps. And why are there some songs we know the words to that we cannot sing a capella, but give us the song on the radio and we sing along perfectly?

Childhood church memories of songs, excuse me: hymns, that we sang for years with feeling have morphed into versions that have been updated, with a nod to the times. No more are "thee" and "thou" permitted (in our church, anyway), and the new versions do not sound the same to my admittedly biased ear, which is why I sing the original words as I recall them whenever these updated versions are sung. Many references to "Him" or "His" are now changed over to "God"; while this is technically correct, it is as if they are trying to remove God's sex (you know, He is God the Father, after all). I sing the auld words softly so as not to disrupt those around me who do not know any better, and who might give me a strange look if they heard me. One of these days I may sit in a different pew, one with older folks, sing my version loudly, and see if I get weird looks or a knowing smile. They are also likely to pity me, thinking I am unable to change with the times.

Hey! I do take Communion by hand now! A particularly nasty head cold was the deciding factor in that change, and I was mildly surprised not to be struck down immediately thereon, as I did not consider myself worthy of taking the consecrated host in my grubby hands.

Growing up Catholic meant a Latin Mass until I was in 4th grade. The hymns were mostly in English, with an occasional Latin one thrown in for good measure, and the always popular Adeste Fidelis at Christmastime. I can still sing the first verse of that in my flawless Latin. I cannot sing further verses in Latin because I have never heard any further verses in Latin. Sadly, while I can recall the Agnus Dei, I cannot recall the Pater Noster. I may have to get myself to a Tridentine Mass one of these days.

Speaking of singing, Wonderful Daughter once remarked that I was the only person who could sing all parts of a choral arrangement.


THAT should give you an indication of my singing voice; I am a baritone one moment and a soprano the next, and all entirely off key. I am not tuneless (that's TUNE less, not CLUEless), but I will admit to being toneless. I do believe, however, that I am one of the world's greatest shower stall singers extant.

Wonderful Daughter received her excellent singing voice and musical abilities from Beautiful Wife, who was a choir member through high school.

(Me, I can play a pretty fair radio, and now even an Ipod! Speaking of which, some might say what is on mine is an "eclectic mix" [I regard "eclectic" as being a particularly pretentious word to describe someone who not only has no taste, but has no sense of style, either. That does not apply to me!]. I like what I like, why else would it be on there? My Ipod has country, 60's pop/rock ["oldies" to me and you], a few Big Band numbers, marching band tunes, Irish folk music, 50's and 60's folk and protest songs [You?!? Really?!?], what used to be labeled Easy Listening or Middle of the Road such as the Ames Brothers, Andy Williams or Barry Manilow; also the soundtrack to "Hello, Dolly!" [my Sophomore high school class musical], what is called "New Age" music by Mannheim Steamroller, and timeless classics from Sinatra. There are also likely other things I cannot recall, but that is it in a nutshell. I am up to 1350 songs, and I still have yet to transfer all my 45s, 33s and tapes!)

Sorry about the lengthy digression!

Anyway, to continue detailing the qualities of my children, Handsome Son got his athletic abilities from me, as well as his singing voice. He is not only a better athlete than I was (I did well enough, two Varsity letters in baseball, despite a certain ski mask playground basketball game), but he is also a far worse singer. So, he has exceeded me in both endeavors.

Dearest Kelley was a good mix of Beautiful Wife and myself, athleticism from me, and singing from her mother.

We miss her terribly.

As always, thanks for stopping by,

North of 50

On Lenten sacrafice

It is that time of year again when we of the Catholic faith humble ourselves and pick something we love to give up for Lent. It is always very difficult to choose something and as the years go by, the task seems to grow larger and more difficult. What is fitting for an adult is not so much for a child. Every child gives up the same thing until about the age of 14 or so; candy. Why candy? Because at the end of it all, that glorious day known as Easter we get gobs of it in a big basket filled with plastic colored straw. One useful strategy growing up was to give up something you didn't really like and that made it easier, until your parents found out and said no.

Over the years I have not been one to go to Mass as often as I should. Well, I practically never go if truth be told. I was one of the privileged ones growing up that was plucked out of school to serve Mass as an alter boy, and did so willingly for seven or eight years. I would accompany my father to eight-o-clock Mass on Sunday and invariably the server would not show up. My father, the dutiful usher would give me 'the nod' and I would slip back into the sacristy, suit up and accompany the priest out to the alter. It was a function I rather enjoyed although I'm not sure exactly why. If you want your parents to be proud of you, become an alter boy, sorry, or girl. We didn't have alter girls back in my day.

One of the fascinating things about 'serving' is being around a great deal of priests year in and year out. They are the true politicians of the religious world. They will shake your hand while you stand in line, all the while looking over your shoulder to see who is behind you. If I think hard I may be able to recall the names of three or four priests. Most are aloof and can't be bothered with young men scampering around to help them in their sacred daily tasks. Nuns however are another matter. If nuns weren't nuns they'd be Marines. Nuns are now and always have been the backbone of the Catholic church. They do the dirty work, have a charitable heart and look you in the eye when they speak to you; and that can be really, really scary! Without even trying I could rattle off the names of a dozen or so nuns. That is one fact I lament about the Church is the loss of nuns in the world.

Now that we are one full week into Lent, I better think of something to give up before Easter actually comes. Perhaps I can give up candy!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Going once, going twice

Well, it finally happened. The DOW has essentially lost half of it's wealth in the past year. Who'd a ever thunk it would fall below 7000? Isn't it amazing? This brings to light what I believe is a fundamental flaw in how our system works. We have an economy built on pure speculation.

What really caused the fall below 7000? Was it some unexpected news that scrambled the market once again? Who threw the traders into the pits and ordered sell, sell, sell? Then again, who actually bought anything? Think back to last summer when oil was at $150 per barrel. What changed then? Nothing. It was pure, unadulterated speculation. It drove the cost of oil and gas to record levels without so much as a hiccup in supply or processing.

Did some magical report of unemployment provide news they didn't see coming? I have listened and watched over the years as businesses made fundamentally poor decision after poor decision. Too often the health of a business has been sacrificed for the health of a stock price. It's all about what the investor craves; return on his investment. Cut back on this, make this cheaper, do with less staff because it is better on the bottom line. However, you must provide a better product and better customer service. I am all for cost control but at some point you start down a slippery slope from whence there is no return.

Why do you think there is no customer loyalty to virtually any business? It is more than just a matter of too many choices in the marketplace. I understand why customers surf the ads and ride from one business to the next. And, that lack of loyalty is just as evident in the big city as in the small towns of the heartland when a mega-giant shows up. Sure Walt, I'll be back, but ah, let me see what the mega-store has down the street. What does the investor have left when the business has failed do to decisions based solely on speculation, not good, solid business decisions?

This economy would be a sight better off if 'the experts' stopped making decisions for the rest of us with their wallet and started using their brains. Sure looks like retirement got a few years further down the pike.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

As it happens this blog was conceived on the night our new President gave his first speech to a joint session of Congress. Although this is not intended to be a blog of political statements, ahem, I thought I would chime in on this momentous occasion.

I did not cast a vote for the current resident in the White House. Don’t get me wrong, I wish him well in his endeavors. Whether I voted for him or not he is my President. I listened to the broadcast to better understand his structure. A few things came to mind as his speech unfolded.

Nancy Pelosi was like a Charlie-in-the-box (from the island of misfit toys) her arms continually flapping in all directions. All she needed was a sweater with a giant O and pom-poms. She was up and down so much she couldn’t have had a better workout if she had a Thighmaster under her table. I thought our Vice-President at one point was ready to reach over and slap her.

His ease of speaking on a large stage is numbing. I have not seen anyone as personable in that environment since our beloved Mr. Reagan. I understand how listeners are engulfed in what he says. The teleprompter might as well not have been there, he was at such ease.

That being said, and remember I am not an economist, I hope his plan of spending upwards of one (I’ll bet two) trillion dollars to create jobs and stimulate the economy, save banks and our efficient auto industry actually works to some extent. I want this country to succeed. How he plans to spend this much and then halve the deficit by the end of his first term is beyond me. Spending is just as much a norcotic as anything else. Once you start another set of shoes is in the next window. This country has been the driving hope for those who wish to be free for the past two hundred years. I also hope of all the folk out in USA-land, there are few Cro-Magnons dumb enough to believe the government will pay their mortgages and heating bills for the rest of their lives. There again, I’m figuring 15%.

This is the home of those who put their ‘noses to the grindstone’, so to speak; it’s actually very hard to get any work done in that position. But, you don’t get anywhere by waiting for a handout. That doesn’t mean everything will always work out in your favor, but you stand a better than average chance if you trust in yourself, get your ass off the couch and go for it. I have family members who have opened their own businesses and begun studying for a new career in their thirties and forties all the while raising a family. It may not be easy, but it can be done.

And just remember, it’s the ‘experts’ that got us into this mess in the first place. How could we screw it up any worse?

Memories of Paul Harvey

I woke up this fine, chilly but sunny Sunday morning to hear that broadcast legend Paul Harvey had passed away last night at age 90.

For those of us of an age, Paul Harvey was probably someone who had been on the radio before it was invented and likely would continue to be on the radio for all eternity, he had been around that long, it seemed.

I can recall hearing his morning updates at 8:30 a.m. and his noontime 15 minute broadcast on WTVN prior to my teenage years. His style was quirky, a rapid-fire staccato delivery with pauses at the strangest places, and his news items were filled with a few notable topics of the day, but mostly with amusing items about everyday people going about their everyday lives.

I knew he was married and totally devoted to his wife, Angel, who I did not know until a couple years ago was actually named Lynne. It also turns out that Lynne was a broadcast pioneer in her own right, being a producer and co-writer of his shows in the 50's and onward, at a time when women were scarce in those areas of broadcasting. The two of them have been inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. They sired a son, Pail Harvey, Jr., who did many of the fill-ins for his dad for years on The Rest of the Story programs, as well as being the chief researcher for those shows.

Paul Harvey was a very conservative man of whom it was said he was hopelessly out of touch with America after the sixties. It would appear that he was out of touch only with those who did not like his point of view, as he consistently had the most popular radio programs for years. I made it a point at work to tune into his noontime show even if it meant switching stations from something else.

There were times when he gave a vignette that just screamed "Urban Legend, Paul!", but it was amusing anyway. He once told us about a "Paul Harvey Dance" to be held in Hawaii; a "Paul Harvey Dance" being one in which "the band and the dancers can stop and start at any time they wish". He claimed to be puzzled by this, but everyone caught the glint of humor in his eye, even though he was on the radio.

Forty years on, I can still hear him do commercials for Kava: "The old-fashioned word for coffee was java, the new-fashioned word for coffee is Kava!" He was one of the few broadcasters who did commercial testimonials only for those products that he tested and used, and stood by those products for years.

Ill health forced him off the air temporarily a couple years ago, and he was off for several months as his wife ailed and passed away. When he returned recently, it was clear how devastated he was, but he rallied with his usual optimism and had resumed a part-time schedule, with fill-ins from a number of people. Unfortunately, a number of stations, WTVN included, had dropped his programs, citing the lack of his presence on them. I was not pleased with that, but understood the reasoning behind it, so I found paulharvey.com and began to listen on the internet.

To me, Paul Harvey was an iconic figure, a legend, and a warm and considerate man, from everything I have heard and read over the years. He will be sorely missed by me.