Sunday, July 31, 2011

Qwerty me

Recently in Indiana the school district in Indianapolis has begun considering a measure to stop the teaching of cursive writing. (For all you who are half asleep now, that is script). And they aren't the only ones out there. Most believe the future is learning keyboard skills and that cursive will have no place in the future. I compare that to a story on CBS Sunday Morning about a collector of fountain pens who has spent over one million dollars on his collection. I think those are laughingly at opposite ends of the spectrum.

I think what these districts fail to take into consideration is the amount of communication that takes place that has nothing to do with a keyboard. If I have to leave notes for my staff or managers I don't always have ready access to an electronic device. How then will they effectively communicate? There are many financial transactions in the real world that require you to write your name. A signature is cursive. I know, have someone sign your name for you and get a stamp made. That way if you are required to sign your name you can just whip out a stamp and...presto!

I think this practice is very short-sighted by any school district considering such a measure. Just because there is more use of keyboard in the real world doesn't mean there is no place in the culture for script. If Spanish were to be considered the second most prevalent language in the US does that mean we should abandon teaching English? Besides, have you ever actually tried to read what is typed out over a keyboard these days? The line between texting and tweeting and writing properly is so blurred that what I read from others is almost a hybrid language.

Besides, who would use all those expensive fountain pens?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sport of culture

I have never been a big fan of soccer, or football as it is called across the pond. The sport has never been in my blood since I neither grew up with it nor attended games for my children. Until the last few years I had no interest in the sport or much knowledge about its rules. North of 50 is quite the opposite as he even has a favorite Premier League team, Arsenal. I couldn't even tell you what city they are from (unless to my surprise there is a city named Arsenal).

The one thing I have discovered is the game is uniquely suited to the European tastes and culture. It is simply not American due to its nature. Huh, you say? Figure this. The Euro style is very laid back and from my vantage point not punctual. Americans are more of an in-your-face crowd with rigid rules. Soccer seems to have few if any rigid rules as even the time keeping is sort of ish-ish. American's favorite sport is US football and it has very rigid standards and time keeping. At the end of a soccer game the refs determine if they'll play a few extra minutes 'just because'. NFL fans would rip the place apart if that were to happen.

Europeans also seem to run helter-skelter about doing what ever it is they choose. Soccer seems to be the same way. The ball bounces back and forth and is kicked about with no outwardly discernible plays. Football is structured with signals, codes and highly diagrammed plays which must be executed to perfection for everything to go right.

I think the two games mirror their respective continents quite nicely and even the rest of the world as it is the number one sport across the globe. We as a people seem to function much differently than the rest of the world. Perhaps that's why we play differently. But I think if US football ever made it big in Europe, the Germans would likely kick everyone elses 'arsenals'.

Monday, July 25, 2011


I have now been in my role of distinguished grandfather and exulted Paw-Paw for slightly over two years. I have also had the pleasure of up close and personal observations of the Russian twins, Ivan and Sergetov. I have watched them grow and play and holler and cry and snuggle. And, I have come to a single, logical conclusion; parents and grandparents are the worst consumers in the world.

We strive to get everything we possibly can to get our children's children off to a good start in this world. Clothes are one thing and I relegate that duty solely to the women of the family. I can't tell an eighteen month onesy(?) from a toddler jumpsuit. They all look the same size to me. My Beloved often just stares at me in wonderment at my ineptitude.

However, the toys are my department and I am almost as inept in that area. It's not the toy itself or the intent on which I buy them, but how they are marketed to me. Picture the red and blue boxes they come in with a smiling child diligently and happily pushing whatever is inside. We think back to the times when we played as children running cars on the tracks and pushing them down the ramps just like the picture.

That is so misleading as to be comical. I have now watched Ragin Cage and the Russians doing everything with their toys but what is pictured on the box. The cars are thrown, stomped on and beat with any plastic stick or rod. The ramps are trampled underfoot like Godzilla in downtown Tokyo, and broken within hours. Every Lil Tikes plastic thing is rammed into walls and bounced off someones head.

So it is us who are the most gullible of the consumer groups, not the teens or the tweens or the yuppies or the Xs or Ys. It's time we empty-nesters looked into the mirror and said; "wow am I stupid!"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I'm melting, I'm melting

This afternoon recently retired North, international man of mystery and leisure and I took a stroll down a country lane. My Beloved had gone up to take a nap and Mrs. North was entertaining the Russian twins. That left us to ourselves on a wonderful and warm day down by the lake. Now, we don't live by a lake but he and the Mrs are on a vacation and we were just visiting. Retirement is so taxing he needed a vacation already.

We decided our stroll would take us along the outside property lines and down a newly paved asphalt road. Our conversation drifted from topic to topic as we went, gone nearly an hour and a half. Finally our subject turned to the weather and the heat the country has been under. Drivers would sometimes pass us and wave likely thinking we were nuts walking down the road in the middle of summer's heat. But, then we reflected on our lives and how we grew up. Our family had little money and until I was in my twenties, air conditioning was not a part of our lives. But somehow we survived.

I think most make way too much of weather trends including the current heat wave. Yes, certain groups should take care but my feeling is too many folk simply use the weather as an excuse to do nothing or simply to complain. The news and weather services make it sound as though anyone over the age of forty or under the age of ten will suffer heat stroke. Did everyone die each year before AC was invented? No. Did outside work come to a halt? No. Did children cease playing? No. Last Thursday I painted my deck in the sun on what was reported to be the hottest day of the year. I did it because it had to be done and that was my day off from work. I took the proper precautions and didn't die.

You too don't have to die every time the weather gets hot or cold. Sweating is a natural phenomenon and Dorothy didn't throw a bucket of water on you. You won't melt. Dress for it and stop being a crybaby.

Friday, July 22, 2011

That's a wrap

Yesterday I closed the book on my 34-year career of service to the people of the Great State of Ohio, as far as actually being in the office. My technical last day of "work" is next Friday, but I will be on vacation at that time, so yesterday was it.

Several people asked if I was staying the whole day. I said yes, why not? I still had work to do, for the final time. There are a number of people whom I will miss; the majority of them I won't, mainly because I had no interaction with them beyond saying "hi" in passing in the hallway, as our jobs did not intersect in any way.

Although I am prone to shed a tear at a moment's notice, I experienced no such yearnings to do so, and walked out clear-eyed and satisfied that I had done a good job during my time at the Treasury.

If you believe in omens, signs, or portents, then I am off to a good start: the song that came up on my ipod as I exited the building for the final employed time was "Everything's All Right" by Josh Turner.

I thought that was fitting, indeed. I can now begin my career as an International Gentleman of Leisure.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A political scrum

Listening to the debate on the debt ceiling is a fascinating exercise. It has become a game of political chicken. Who will blink first? Republicans don't want to raise taxes and some have called for a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget. Democrats want to raise taxes. Heck, Democrats always want to raise taxes. I can't think of a time in my adult life when that statement wasn't true. And where has it gotten us?

One lawmaker on the news yesterday (Democrat) said a constitutional amendment would be dead on arrival. He stated it was about leadership and the will to govern. Well, congress has failed in both of these. They failed five trillion dollars ago to show they had the moxy to do what is needed. Congress can neither lead nor get out of its own spending habits. The debt ceiling is a glass ceiling that can be shattered at any time and for any reason. It's time to paint the ceiling white so no one can see what is on the other side.

The financial house of cards we have built is no longer stable. There is no more money and true reform will not take place until congress realizes what they have been spending all these years is for a wish list and not a reality list. I can't afford to go to dinner and charge it every night hoping the bill gets lost in the mail and the government can't do it any longer either.

It's time for some real kahunas boys (and girls); lets get it done.

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's not that easy, being green

In the men's room at my office are four sinks for us to use for various hygienic purposes. Each of the four has a proximity sensor that activates when someone puts his hands within range, ostensibly inside the bowl, as the sensor is located at the back of the basin under the base of the faucet. The sensors are to help regulate the amount of water as well as being more hygienic than handles.

However, this is not always the case.

The first sink has had so many problems since it was upgraded that the sensor must be set on "I am so p.o.'d at having to re-do this **** sink again that I will make it really difficult to use!"

In order to activate this sink, you must place your hands as far back in the bowl as possible, in order to obtain a flow of water that lasts for, maybe, three seconds before it shuts itself off, even if your hands are in front of the sensor.

The second sink has a setting of "I will work when and how I want to!", as nothing can turn it on about half the time. When it does deign to work, it puts forth a 30-second stream of gushing water when you walk within two feet of the bowl. If you use this one immediately after the water has stopped, placing your hands in front of the sensor will not avail you. You must completely step away from the sink for at least 10 seconds, then place your hands back in the bowl, by which time you could have used one of the other sinks.

Sink number three is similar to number two, but with fewer problems. This one activates correctly but runs for 30 seconds even if you have withdrawn your hands.

The last one is the sink that formerly had the larger handles on it to accommodate use by handicapped persons. Its bowl is lower and closer than the others, making you bend lower to use it, in exchange for a weaker and cooler stream of water than the rest.

Whatever water "savings" we are supposed to be achieving with these contraptions is not what we were promised.

As Kermit the Frog and Frank Sinatra, among others, have sung, "It's not that easy, being green..."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Phone flash

Working around the homestead today, I heard a brief topic on the radio that I thought I would comment on. It had to do with the current trend of sexting or sending inappropriate pictures of yourself to someone else. Although this is something I would never do, what has become of the men of this country that feel they must 'show themselves' to others?

I'm not talking about the occasional oddball out there. I'm speaking of regular, normal guys. Heck, even the high profile men seen as celebrities or public professionals. What happened to the days of when men were men? I'm also not speaking to the gay community. Gays can be guys too! I'm not a fan of the flaunt it if you've got it rule. Some things just need to be kept private (so to speak).

Can you imagine the heroes of the past sexting with a cell phone? Somehow I can't see Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra, Clint Eastwood or John Wayne flashing others with their phones. I wouldn't do that now with my wife of twenty years. Come to think of it, I don't think I would want to be with a woman who thought that was cool or okay. Nothing says upstanding and someone with good judgement like sexting to a woman you just met thirty minutes ago. What a way to start a relationship.

Of course if your name is Wiener...hope you live up to the hype.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


As nearly all are aware, I am not one to usually judge another directly, or try not to simply on the way they appear. I have made misjudgements that way in the past and have tried to learn from them. As well, being in the retail game, every customer can be or is possibly unique in what they need and why they need it. That being said, one 'fashion statement' I just can't seem to get by are those who wear dreadlocks.

After thinking about it for some time I decided to research before I posted on this subject. Where did dreads come from and what do they mean? I had some suspicions but I thought I would confirm them. Most of what I thought I knew was true but there were also some deeper meanings to the style. And no, Wikipedia was not my source.

As I thought I had heard before, dreads go back to a spiritual symbolization in the Caribbean and have some Judeo-Christian roots. But to my surprise they can also be traced back further to India and still longer back (according to one source). However, they were made popular by Bob Marley back in the sixties/seventies when rock was king. Since then they have simply emerged as a fashion statement.

I guess my question is, a fashion statement to what? Are you a member of the 'I don't comb my hair' club of the month, or the I refuse to buy shampoo because it is poisoning the world club? Either way, I tend to find those infused with this style lacking in many other personal grooming habits. "Hey lady, I know of a leg-hair braiding salon down the street." Now to be fair, occasionally (VERY occasionally) I do run across someone who presents themselves as a professional person and who takes care of their dreads. Unfortunately they represent a minority of the dreadknot wearers. I would think they would want to attack the offenders with a razor and a hedge clipper for making them look bad, unless they were the token dread in a band.

But in general, I think dread wearers simply want to make a fashion statement by telling the world I am unkept and too lazy to do anything about it.

Next, middle-aged men who wear Croks. Come on guys, show some respect for yourselves.