To Our Friends Down South

To Our American Friends:

As you know, we share a rather long border (8891 kilometers), but so far, no one has threatened to build a wall. Perhaps it is because we have a lot in common. Much of our population is just north of the border and has been used to American entertainment for the better part of a century. However, as much as we love our neighbor, we also like to think that we’ve managed to remain a bit more civilized and courteous. Perhaps it’s that Commonwealth bond that we’ve maintained with Great Britain. Mind you, we’re not stuffy—we like our back bacon and beer, and we’re not above adding “‘ay” to the end of a sentence.

In any case, given our commonality of entertainment, for nearly fifty years, we’ve been exporting actors and comedians to see if some of our more genteel habits might rub off. Here’s a partial list; please note that I did not include our younger contributions—you probably wouldn’t recognize them anyway. Here, therefore, is a sampling:

Michael J. Fox
Jim Carrey
Pamela Anderson (Not our best. Sorry.)
Rick Moranis
Martin Short
Mike Myers,
Dan Aykroyd
Eugene Levy
William Shatner
Donald Sutherland
Catherine O’Hara

So far it hasn’t helped.

Put another way, if you wish to get New Yorkers out of a swimming pool, you shout, “Everyone into the pool!” If you wish to get Californians out of the pool, shout, “Chemicals have been added to this water to kill harmful micro-organisms!” On the other hand, if you wish to get Canadians out of the pool you speak just loud enough so as to be heard, “Will everyone please leave the pool. Thank you.”

Sincerely,

Your friends in Canada

P.S. We are in no way responsible for Ted Cruz. We had no control over the actions of his parents. If you noticed, we handled the paperwork denouncing his Canadian citizenship with all do haste; we certainly did not wish for him to attempt to run for office up here.

Content vs. Quantity

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There’s a famous quotation attributed to various people, but the supposed authoritative sources credit to Blaise Pascal:

I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.

When I first started writing this blog I thought that my goal should be to write and post something every day. Of course, at the time, I had plenty of ideas—some worth sharing, some not. Good, bad, or indifferent, I posted them. Like the codfish, I laid 10,000 eggs hoping a few would hatch. Now, I try to limit myself to thoughts worth sharing. Iay—or may not—be succeeding.

I’m a science junkie. If it were 1955 or 1985 (or for that matter, 1895) I could have been Doc Brown in Back to the Future. The biggest difference is that he had a family fortune to support him while he experimented, while I’ve got a steady job (just as valuable, but less conducive to experimentation). Nevertheless, as kindred spirits, he in fiction and I in reality, we try to see what the next step might be. Which brings me to today’s issue.

Today there is a huge emphasis on STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math in the education biz, today—but there is no real commitment. It’s a lot of talk, but no real action. I’m not blaming the educators. God knows that I understand that there’s only so much you can do in guiding a teenager. However, among today’s teenagers, any interest in science is ridiculed. A student interested in STEM requires the commitment of the Maquis (that was the French Resistance in World War II); one must be willing to maintain a low—if not invisible—profile, only confide in a few trusted souls, and be willing to die a thousand deaths (of embarrassment) if discovered.

Kids today don’t realize that the person they call “nerd” today, will probably be called “boss” tomorrow.

In our effort to be politically correct and not impact anyone’s self-esteem we dare not put scientists, engineers, or mathematicians above athletes, gangstas, or “celebrities” who are famous for being famous. Personally, if I’m going to get my brain scrambled, I’d rather it happen in an experimental space craft rather than having repeated concussions playing football or via cocaine, meth, or whatever is the celebrity drug du jour.

Whatever happened to science fairs? High school science clubs? Achievement awards? When did it become shameful to be interested in science beyond the specific items included on the standardized test?

Think about it. To paraphrase Doc Brown, “Our future depends upon it.”

Wordthropology

[I really had a graphic to go right here. Really! But they keep “improving” WordPress so I can’t do the things I used to. I tried, changed its format, tried again, etc. Sorry!]

We accept that humans evolve, it seems like anything humans are involved with evolve as well. Look at tools and for that matter, breathable air. Such is the case with words.

What’s cool is now hot, or is it the other way around?

The most obvious change for a word is the meaning of “gay.” No sense exploring that any further.

“Homely” is an interesting word. It used to mean homie as in comforting and safe. A homely woman would make a good wife; now—I’ll stay out of that discussion.

Once upon a time we referred to fishermen as “anglers.” The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton was an important book that was the first something or other (according to the Dominican Nuns at my grade school). However, no one that I know grabs a rod, reel and a bucket of worms to go angling.

A young man might once have been referred to as “strapping”—that is, as Merriam Webster says, “having a vigorously strong constitution.” You or I might characterize such a person as, “Don’t p!$$ him off!”

The younger readers, if I have any, might now quote Katie Perry with “You’re up when you’re down.” We older folks might prefer the Beatles, “You say yes, I say No.”

In any case, words change their meanings over time. Might be a good thing to remember.

No Pretty Pictures

I often wish that my blogs would lend themselves to more pictures. I’m not a bad photographer, and some blogs are full of sunsets, beach scenes, Grand Lake up in the Rockies, or whatever. Mine—not so much.

I’ve been going through some physical therapy for some old injuries. The therapy has actually worked better than a variety of drugs that have been prescribed in the past. However, for it to work, I need to be consistent in my follow through. It struck me, that if there’s a common theme in life, that’s it.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice! Practice! Practice!

It’s true of music, physical fitness, painting, even math or science. (Do YOU remember how to solve a quadratic equation? We all learned how in high school.)

Calvin Coolidge was not one of our more noteworthy presidents, being known as “Silent Cal.” However, he did leave us with a great thought:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge
30th president of US (1872 – 1933)

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Open Letter to Magazine Publishers

I read. I read a lot. I’ve read a lot ever since I was a kid.

My kids, on the other hand, seem to prefer media that can be delivered via smartphone—podcasts, videos, cute kittens, pictures of someone else’s meal, and who knows what.

I subscribe to nearly a dozen magazines; my two kids who are still at home currently subscribe to one magazine—between them. I figure this is average, or possibly even above average..

Now that we have all that out of the way, here are some suggestions from those of us who actually pay for and read magazines:

  • Please use a font size that does not require an electron microscope to read.
  • When you MUST continue an article on one of the last pages, PLEASE make sure that the pages near it have visible page numbers. It seems like the last 20 percent of the pages in a magazine only have a few marked with page numbers.
  • We get it that you’re trying to be all stylish, modern and such, but trendy colors don’t work. Ten point grey type on beige backgrounds, or white type on undulating backgrounds don’t work. Contrast, such as white pages with jet black print works. (Wired magazine, did you read this? You can still have snazzy covers and illustrations to appeal to—–whoever likes the pictures more than the words.)

You notice that I’m not criticizing content. I may not agree with what other authors write, but we seem to have a lot of talented writers out there, which is a very positive sign. I paid the extra money when my cataracts were removed so that I would have 20-20 vision AND be able to read without glasses. Much of the time it works, but for some of the trendy printing I need a carbon-arc lamp for illumination and reading glasses—with an eye loupe handy for some sections.

Publishers, you might want to try to appeal to your audience. Just a thought.

Jason the Great

We’re not getting quite the storm that the Northeast is getting, but we do have some coastal flooding; not nearly as exciting or picture-worthy. Sorry about that, Superstorm Jason.

We did get a lot of rain; some came as slush, we had a few snowflakes, and in true storm fashion, we all got pretty wet. Since it’s winter, we also got cold. But then 28 years ago, at this time, I was in Antarctica, so “cold” is a relative term. Having said that, as I get older, my body says, “cold is cold.”

BREAKING NEWS!

Winter isn’t breaking news. Snow isn’t breaking news. Jason isn’t a catastrophe. It’s winter; however, already the daylight hours are getting longer. Most days (workdays, at least) I get out for my morning walk about 0430, so I can get my exercise before either my brain or my body knows what I’m doing. It’s nippy, but not impossible. True, I’m in Virginia, not Toledo, Cleveland, or Buffalo, where my intent would exceed my abilities. However, I notice that each day is a little brighter a little longer.

REAL BREAKING NEWS!

If, every day, I remember that it’s a little brighter a little longer, I tend to expect that everything else about that day will be just a little better. It seems that days tend not to choose the attitude, they wait for us to choose, so, when I hit the sack in about 30 minutes, I already know that tomorrow will be a little brighter, a little longer.

I wish you the same.

Mortality

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Glenn Frey

 

When John Lennon died, it was a senseless shooting. It was shocking, but it really didn’t affect me personally.

Freddie Mercury died of AIDS, which was pretty much a death sentence back in the early 90s. No one was surprised, given that Freddie Mercury was—Freddy Mercury.

Dan Peek from America died; I love their music, but have no idea what he even looked like.

David Bowie—I wasn’t a huge fan, but he was a little too close to my age when he died.

But Glenn Frey? That hits too close to home. I love listening to the Eagles, and have been known to play along with their CDs. My wife and I saw the Eagles perform, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I suspect he was a bit—shall we say—headstrong? Don Felder would probably agree with that. As Joe Walsh said, “It’s Don and Glenn’s band.” It won’t be the same, even if they try to keep things going. It’s yin without yang or heads without tails.

Plus it reminds many of us that no one lives forever.

But I will always enjoy Glenn’s music, and am glad that he left it behind for us to remember him by.