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).