Sunday, February 28, 2010

If I could speak to you

As we travel down this road, we often just slip by others who we never have a chance, for whatever reasons, to get to know. It could be that person is of a different generation or a different religion or you just are in a different place as you pass them by, even if that different place overlaps for a time. How many do you look back upon and wish you had a chance to talk with them one more time. I don't mean sit and shoot the bull, but learn about and from them. What was their history, what makes that person who he/she was?

I lost one of those persons this past week as he passed away at age 88. He was older, in roughly the same generation as my parents. I met him on occasion but mostly I knew him from afar. His name is John Brown.

Now, Mr. Brown had a hold on me nearly from the start. He was one of those people you just say "there's something about him." He was tall and handsome and obviously took good care of himself. I remember him as having large hands and never once from any of my encounters with him did I ever see him without a smile on his face. He had a pleasant demeanor with always a kind word.

I learned several things from his obituary, one being his employment which explains his rather dapper appearance. He worked in customer service and sales which often takes a fairly thick skin. All the more wonder for his continual smile. He had a 'bearing' about him you don't see in most. I also discovered he was a retired Sergeant Major of the US Army. That position says much about anyone who holds it. It is respected by both enlisted and officer. When a Sergeant Major speaks, privates and generals alike listen.

Over the years I began to understand it took a tremendous person to impress my Sainted Mother. I do believe she was slightly infatuated with Mr. Brown. He exuded class and grace. In her last year he would stop in to see her. They may pray together or simply sit and talk. She died of cancer but in her last few months she always looked forward to his visits. He came under the guise of coming from the church but I think it was more than that. They were friends who shared a history of being the same age, living through the same turbulent times and sharing a love of their God. But, he was that type of fellow.

As I have grown older there are few I have run the same path with for a time that I would wish I could go back and have a conversation with. Often you hear the question posed, if you could talk to anyone in the world for thirty minutes, who would it be? Sadly for me, John Brown would be on my short list and now I will never have the opportunity back that I didn't take in life.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Saturday is wiener day

As a child, as I have said in the past, we didn't have much growing up and what we did have was simple. My parents did the best they could with what they had and as children, we didn't know we were poor. Often meals were a creative concoction of what they had they could work into a serviceable meal for seven. To this day many of my eating habits from those days have not died.

Saturdays were for simple meals. Beloved Father cooked little through the week and Sainted Mother had most of those duties. Let's just say she was 'fair to middlin' and let it go at that. She did her best and she loved us. I guess until you get older you don't have a valid basis of comparison. On the weekends Beloved Father had the supper duty. Saturdays were often goulash (which none of us can to this day duplicate, a sad thing indeed), hamburgers or sloppy joes. My normal afternoon lunch would usually consist of hot dogs, a habit I can't break to this day.

Unfortunately for me, the vaunted wiener has changed over the years. Many are just mushy and it has made me a very finicky hot dog eater. And wow have they soared in price. One brand was 6.49 for a twelve ounce package. That's nearly $8 per pound. Some steaks don't cost that much per pound. Come on guys, these are hot dogs! They are supposed to be cheap and simple. I'll take a simple firm dog over any of those spiced-up foot long mush pockets any day. I guess until it comes to the day I can't afford them any longer. And that may not be long down the road at the rate they're going.

Sunday was Beloved Father's masterpiece. He would sing to records in the kitchen overcooking some meats but generally giving us a dinner we couldn't wait for the rest of the week. For a guy who had no sense of smell he sure could season things. I'm not sure how he managed that. And then there was frozen salad, a treat to be had as often as possible.

A grand thanks to The Mustache for that treat at Christmas. It's been years. For the uninitiated, don't try it at home, it's not what you think.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A wave of a flag

The winter Olympics is upon us, a season I do like. We get to see sports we usually wouldn't watch no matter what. It also gives us time to get the vibe on other athletes from around the world and a bit of background. Another stirring moment is the national anthems played for the gold medal winners. Here in the States we usually only see those ceremonies for the Americans. One aspect I do like is to see the flags of other countries as they are hoisted.

There are many fewer countries in the winter games than the summer and many are from the older established elements of the world, Europe, Eurasia, Scandinavia and the like. As a rule, they tend to have some of the more boring flag designs. I'm sure not all countries had a Betsy Ross sitting around coming up with a fabulous design for her Napoleon. Most of the older flags are uninspired designs, often just three bands of color either horizontal or vertical (France, Italy etc.). Some I can't distinguish from one country to the next. All the Scandinavian countries use a version of an off-centered cross with varying colors. I had heard it was a St. George's cross. I don't know however if that is factual. It is however the central element of the flags of the United Kingdom (and virtually any country they ruled throughout their long history of colonization.

Some of the 'newer' countries have flags of much more interesting designs. As a major country Canada's flag is very new having come about in the sixties. I like it's design. And of course the US has a very unique and powerful design. (OK, so I'm a homer). Zambia and Zimbabwe have colorful and unique designs. They are however not in the winter games. Not much snow there I guess.

Surprisingly, the web site has a very neat page on world flags with a description of them. I was quite surprised. So if you ever want to know why the Isle of Man has three feet on it, its there.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Rege-meister

Although I am not one to follow 'celebrity', I do keep up with current events. I watch television (somewhat), news, sports and some entertainment shows. I do not follow anything in particular to a large degree. I usually 'get' what makes some people famous or why they are followed in a big way. That doesn't mean that person or their talents are necessarily for my tastes. The great thing about the world is the diversity of what interests people.

That being said, I simply don't get the 'Regis Philbin' celebrity status. I understand he appears daily on the same show. That keeps him in the public eye. Many are able to make a career out of that and pawn it on for other endeavors. Johnny Carson is one such that made a mega-career out of the Tonight Show. But what has Regis Philbin ever done? He has somehow managed to wiggle his way into becoming the host of multiple shows (Millionaire and his own) and periodically branches out to other endeavors. But I still don't get why. What is his appeal?

I 'googled' him and found a series of rather unimpressive stints and cameo appearances. He is also shown as a singer and entertainer. I've heard him sing. I'd rather not hear it again. He now seems to be a celebrity for no reason other than he is a celebrity. He works well with his co-host but leaves me flat for his efforts.

I wish him well and begrudge no one their wealth or earning power as long it is legit, but I just don't get the Rege-meister. Maybe Ryan Seacrest can explain it to me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

An open letter...

Dear Nobel Prize Committee:

I would like to take this time to submit for your consideration the nomination of United States President Albert Gore, Jr. as the next winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, the Nobel Prize for Science, and the Nobel Prize for Economics.

I am making this extraordinary triple nomination for President Gore's diligent work behind the scenes to personally undertake to solve the current Global Warming Crisis, and I believe he has spectacularly done just that.

I also want to note here that prior to President Gore's incredible achievement I was diametrically opposed to anything and everything that he has heretofore attempted to do to impose a solution upon us in order to resolve this crisis. I am now bowing to his superior intellect, and realize that I have been wrong about the man and what he has tried to do.

I wish to place President Gore's name in nomination for the Nobel Prize for Peace because he has saved Humanity from the terrors and devastation that would have been caused had the polar ice caps and glaciers all melted, and the sea levels risen to record levels.

I wish to place President Gore's name in nomination for the Nobel Prize for Science, as he has proven beyond all doubt his superior intellect by coming up with an ingenious yet simple solution to the Global Warming Crisis, thereby rendering useless all the studies previously completed that had proposed various remedies for solving Global Warming.

I wish to place President Gore's name in nomination for the Nobel Prize for Economics because he has saved all of Humanity untold billions of dollars in Global Warming combat measures, which will allow all of mankind to spend their money on other things instead of having to buy expensive and likely non-working products that would have done little to bring about an end to Global Warming.

The reactionary critics of President Gore have been clamoring: "Where is Algore during this crisis?" Oh ye of little faith! President Gore has been laboring secretly behind the scenes to bring about an end to the Global Warming Crisis, and has been able to convince Gaia* to send a series of powerful snowstorms to dramatically lower temperatures and provide more snow to build up the glaciers and polar ice caps to preserve them for The Children of Future Generations. That some of these glaciers appear to be starting to build up in the central, eastern, and southern states of our country, where they have not been present in possibly thousands of years, is a bit of a problem, but I am certain that President Gore will be able to solve that conundrum in due course.

I realize that Albert Gore, Jr. has yet to take office as President of the United States of America, but that wrong will certainly be righted soon as the Supreme Court of the United States of America unanimously votes to overturn their mistaken ruling that George W. Bush should have been named president. I would urge you, though, to use your enormous influence both within the United States and the United Nations to make certain President Gore assumes his rightful office as quickly as possible.

Respectfully yours,

North of 50

*I would have said "God", but President Gore and his friends only believe in "god", if at all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ah, the smell of paint stripper

Some time ago I was having a conversation with 'Uncle Terry'. He is a unique character that has an overabundance of love for his family and will go out of his way to do special things for them. Along with this he is a creator. By trade he is a self-taught cabinet maker and has done this for many years, actually has his own company. Some of his project designs I have seen are extraordinary, and the craftsmanship is top-flight.

We were up in New England on vacation in an old ski lodge hotel and we were discussing the nature of the hotel. He likes to start new and see his work come to life. That gave my pause to think about my own handiwork. Over the years I have built my share of things, decks, furniture and other creative works, but I have also restored the past glories of others. I think this is what I prefer.

Although starting from scratch with or without a blueprint has its fun side, my nature seems to be one of restoration. Too often things are cast aside and discarded because they have outlived their usefulness or are no longer trendy enough for the current world. I find great satisfaction in restoring pieces and giving them new life, bringing them into a new world. But not everything should be restored. Some pieces or buildings have a certain life span which should not be exceeded. Much of this comes from the fact that my skills have evolved from fixing things to save money.

There are many projects I would try if my talents or time permitted. Some things I just can't do. I would love to try my hand at restoring an old automobile but I lack the time, the funds and the expertise for such an endeavor. My current project (other than finishing the bathroom trim for My Beloved) is restoring an 80-some year old (I was told) piece of steel furniture. It is in need of striping and painting. The stripping has been started and is the winter project.

After that as the spring season begins, all the rest of the patio furniture has to be touched up. Never a dull moment for the handiman.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A few cross words

Last evening, Excellent Wife and I were watching Hyperbole 44 in between attempting to somewhat work the Sunday crossword puzzle, something that while challenging can be interesting and fun.

I had noticed a bothersome trend over a number of years away from the crossword puzzle style I grew up on, toward a hipper/(allegedly) cute approach that seeks to find out how clever the puzzle creator thinks he can be.

Whereas we used to see clues that would give a clue when requiring multiple words in the answer (3 words, for example), now we are left to wonder whether a seven letter answer needs one word or two (or more); one also cringes when the clue is given in the form of a question, as in the following real world example I recall from years ago, simply because it was the first time I encountered such a monstrosity: Get along with; Gary dined?

The answer was cooperate; (Gary) Cooper ate?

Yesterday's paper had a puzzle that was littered by a number of such "clues", among other horrors, enough so that we finally despaired of actually learning something or solving a worthwhile puzzle, and tossed it into the recycling bin.

Stretching your mind is one thing; stretching the bounds of credulity is quite another

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Duper

I am as big a sports fan as the average person. I prefer college football over the pros but I will watch a good game when it is on and I have the time. Today, I have the time. It is "Big Game Sunday". I can't say the other words because I might get a nasty letter from the NFL telling me to cease and desist for using their precious wording without permission. They get very picky on who uses their trade term for the most important game of their year. You would think they would want it blasted to the hilltops as long as it didn't appear on a T-shirt or other memorabilia they couldn't get the money for.

Year after year we are bludgeoned to death for two weeks with "the game" from all the sports media, news media, commercial hype (as well as commercial mania) and the obligatory footballs made in Ada, OH story. After forty plus years there isn't an angle they haven't covered ad nauseam. For those reasons I gave up listening and watching anything to do with "the game" years ago. Often I don't even watch much of the game itself. One year My Beloved and I took a long weekend out to Vegas for our wedding anniversary. I couldn't figure out why the casinos were so empty. Then, they exploded with people. It was "Big Game Sunday" and we didn't even realize we had booked our trip on this monumental day of days.

Enough already. Play the game so I can move on with my life. Sheesh!
(Colts win a close one)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Texas is as Texas is

As we grow older we bring our baggage along with us. Some is not so good, some good, some has no meaning right or wrong but are our own preconceived notions of what we expect. For our recent family outing to Austin, Texas I was quite surprised by what I discovered to be in-so-much fact.

Having spent little time in the Lone Star state, my own baggage pulled along the idea I would find a less diverse group populating the capital city of Austin. I am hopefully not so much a dullard to believe everyone would be in chaps, boots, a hat and a big shiny buckle. However to some extent, there was much less of 'Texas' on display than I would have imagined. Most of the cowboy way was on signage and showed little in the populace.

Other than a slight uptick in the Latino group and fewer African-Americans I could have just assumed I was still home in my midwest abode. Other than a propensity for many to say ya'll, most had little or no accent that plucked at my ear which was as well a slight surprise although most Texans do not consider themselves southerners. They are Texans. They don't need an accent.

Too often people and places define themselves by what they think they should be. I'm southern so I should like stock car racing and guns, or SoCal so I should be like, well, you know, like this. I was glad to see such a variety in Texas. It was a true melting pot. People didn't seem to define themselves by the region or my expectation of what I thought they should be.

I would hope most people strive to be something other than a narrowly defined optic of what others would have them be. A truly unique experience is having a conversation with a belt-buckle wearing cowboy who can speak to oceanography. Limit your mind and you limit your soul.

(And if you ever visit Austin a trip to Cannoli Joe's Italian restaurant is an absolute must. I was truly in heaven.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A quick catch-up

Hello again.

We spent an exhausting and exhilarating 5 days traveling to and fro, from home to Austin TX via Dallas, for our son's wedding.

Getting up at 3:45 a.m. should be banned by international treaty, especially when you have to travel across a good chunk of the country. Jet lag exists, no matter how much I try to live through it.

We made it to Austin, flying along with Wonderful Daughter and her family; the Perfect Grandchildren were very good on the flights, despite the 30-minute wait before the trip began, because we had to de-ice.

Last week, the weather in Austin was in the 70s for the weekend, and is projected to be in the 60s this coming weekend. Our Wedding Weekend weather was to be in the 50s.

They lied.

It was mostly overcast, windy, and not what we had hoped for. Wedding time actual temperature at the Austin-Bergstrom Airport was 35 degrees, notable because we were outdoors for this Blessed Event, and we also were way out in the countryside, miles and miles from A-B Airport, so it is quite possible that the actual temperature we experienced was below freezing. Thankfully, the wind we experienced during rehearsal the previous afternoon did not make its presence known on Wedding Evening.

Perfect Grandchildren, Wonderful Daughter, Eric the Tall, and yours truly were all members of the wedding party. Because of the change in plans that were made, it defaulted to me to be the Best Man, an honor which I was quite happy to oblige for Handsome Son and his chosen bride, Miss Texas.

I wonder if I need to refer to her now as Mrs Texas?

We had a very enjoyable time, and cannot wait to see the photographer's work. The outdoor evening torchlight ceremony on a high spot out in the country was beautiful, and I hope his effort did the setting justice.

We are very happy to have a new member of the family, and will have a party for them back here at some point in the warmer weather season.

The weather prognosticators had better get their act together and do it right for us for that one! They owe us!