Monthly Archives: May 2014

Growing

I’ve always envied growers. Builders can take a set of plans and make something, but with those same plans, what they build is always going to come out the same.

Growers, on the other hand, have to rely on faith. They plant something and then they wait.

Builders can speed up construction, but growers are at the mercy of those little seeds.

However, growers can see their efforts pay off a hundredfold.

My father was both a builder AND a grower. He built a cottage, an addition to our house and even a boat (on the front porch – a la Leroy Jethro Gibbs.) He always had a very bountiful home garden.

Not me.

For the first few years here, I had a garden, and although the yellow and zucchini squash didn’t make it, at least I had good tomatoes. However, 2 years ago even the tomatoes wouldn’t cooperate.

So I envy those who can grow fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers.

I can’t compete with them, so I think I’ll copy them in my own way.

I think I’ll concentrate on growing ideas.

That Was Then, This Is Now

I used to love Spencer’s Gifts – the penultimate shop for the young.

Blacklights? Yep. Weird and delightful decorations? They’ve got it covered.

When I was a kid, once we made our way past the dinosaurs, from time to time there was a clay tablet version of Spencer’s catalog in the mailbox.

Okay, I fibbed about the dinosaurs, but since this was before shopping malls Spencer’s was mainly a mail order house.

But then came the malls. I remember lusting over a Darth Vader helmet at Spencer’s back in the 1970s. Alas, it was almost forty bucks, well above my means at the time.

Yes, I’ve since acquired one – I think that’s why I get e-mail advertisements from Spencer’s.

I see the 20-something models portraying independence and hedonism in their ads, but I don’t criticize. Why?

Because when I was that age, that was exactly where I was – just not so photogenic.

Possibilities

In a world in which people hate and kill in the name of God, quoting Bible or Q’ran passages to justify their actions.

In a world in which we hold the person “who isn’t a doctor, but plays one on TV” to a higher level of esteem, and a lower level of responsibility than a real doctor.

It’s not the television advertisement; it’s not the political action committee; it’s not the laws and regulations which make a difference.

It’s the single parent. It’s the family praying together. It’s the neighbor.

It’s each of us. One at a time.

Just like a teacher long ago who said, “Come, follow me.”

How Do Other Writers Do It?

Tom Clancy THE Technothriller Author Courtesy NPR.org

Tom Clancy
THE Technothriller Author
Courtesy NPR.org

For about 20 years I wrote a humorous column for Administrative Radiology. I knew my characters, so when I had an idea, all I had to do was set the stage and the characters would take it from there. Before I sat at the keyboard, I would know what the story would be.

I began to wonder if thriller and mystery authors write the way I do, or if they use their own formula:

Chapter 1 – Bad special forces sneaking up on target.

Chapter 2 – Target under attack from victim’s perspective.

Chapter 3 – Bad guys get away with formula for methyl-ethyl-badstuff.

Chapter 4 – Hero, back in Washington, DC – introduced and brief background.

Do these authors know ahead of time to include a mention of the secret weapon/unknown relationship/unexpected weakness early in the story? Or, when writing chapter 75, do they have to go back and add it into an earlier portion of the book?

It really doesn’t matter – I’m guessing that they won’t tell us anyway.

Thoughts on Aging

Vito Corleone: I like to drink wine more than I used to.wine

Michael: It’s good for ya, Pop.

Vito Corleone: Anyway I’m drinkin’ more.

The Godfather

 

There should be a law that say that when you get grey hair and wrinkles, you should never, EVER find you have a zit.

Older eyes make life more interesting. For example, I saw a sign for “Guest of the week,” but at first glance thought it said “Ghost of the week.” I like my version better.

I’ve met important people and very important people. But I’ve never met those ultra-important people who get to make left turns from the middle lane, cut in front of others, or ignore stop signs.

I’m grateful that we have drugs to take care of the problems of aging so we can function at our best. However, with everyone using generics, it’s hard to keep track when this month’s refill for the oblong yellow pill is a round white one, as is the refill for the formerly round pink one.

At least the Cabernet is still liquid and the same shade of red.

 

 

Counsel for the Offensive

Raymond Burr  as  Perry Mason

Raymond Burr
as
Perry Mason

When I was young, I had aspirations of being a lawyer. This was, of course, based on my perception of lawyers on television, and mainly Perry Mason at that. For whatever reason (the grace of God?) my life took a different direction.

The law is a noble profession. All of us need lawyers from time to time. It’s good to have a guide in matters of property, wills, and other issues that are both important and complex when one enjoys the rule of law. In my Polish neighborhood, the lawyers offices were labeled “Adwokat” – or advocate. I like that.

Unfortunately, somewhere as a society we got in the habit of resolving all our problems by confrontation. Punching the other guy; drive by shootings; road rage. At least we don’t carry grudges for 300 years and plant IEDs – but I digress.

Today, the really successful lawyers are the hard-hitting litigators, with television ads saying, “Tell them we mean business,” or “Call me the hammer!”

However, I can’t help but think – if a lawyer represents a person who pours hot coffee in his lap, or falls through a skylight of the building he’s trying to burglarize. If a lawyer helps a guilty celebrity get off with community service, or a banker who pays bonuses from a taxpayer bailout be declared “too big to fail.” Or the rich kid who should be excused because of “Affluenza.”

Does this mean that the cream of the legal profession is focused on the survival of the stupid and the greedy?

Growing Up

SONY DSC

I have a grown son who’s married with wife, house, family, mortgage, and home repairs of his own.

When he was in high school, I knew he was taller than me because I had to buy progressively taller clothes. However, his coming of age still came as quite the shock.

You’d think I’d have learned.

My younger son is in high school, going through the same developmental process. He’s in the final stages of getting his driver’s license. Every day the mail brings an envelope from some college or another.

I’ve always impressed upon him the importance of critical thinking – WHY is this important? WHAT does this really mean?

Today he was helping me with some of my projects (after mowing the yard and several other major chores.)

“Why do you do this?” he asked.

“Why don’t you put this electronic keyboard in the music room?”

“Dad, shouldn’t you focus on fewer interests so you have time to devote to them?”

It’s not a monster that I’ve created, but a young man who evaluates data, arrives at a conclusion, and isn’t afraid to challenge an assumption or take a position based on logic.

Sometimes it challenges my comfort zone that I’ve spent over 60 years perfecting.

We’re taught, “What you sow, also will you reap.”

Thank you, God, as always You know better than I.

P.S. I’m insufferably proud.

Oh, Yeah?!

THE Smothers Brothers

THE Smothers Brothers

That was Tommy Smothers “snappy comeback.”

As I get older and wiser, things that used to drive me nuts now are able to be dealt with by an “Oh, yeah?!”

Things at work. Politicians. My kids.

I never knew that the Smothers Brothers were wise.

How scary is that?

P.S. Falla la lallah lallah lallah la lallah chirp! Chirp!

Boolean Illogic

 

George Boole – it’s all HIS fault! (And from the look on his face, I think he knows it!)

 

If Extra Large is a size bigger than large

AND

If Extra Spicy is even spicier than the food labeled “spicy”

THEN

Shouldn’t Extraordinary mean even more ordinary than regular ordinary?

!!!! BREAKING NEWS!!!!

(Or is it already broken?)

New Jersey Newsboys www.nj.com

New Jersey Newsboys
http://www.nj.com

The State Health Department has identified an “epidemic of apathy” among school children, and is seeking its cause. When questioned, school officials responded that they didn’t think it was any big deal, and frankly, they didn’t care.

A near riot broke out at the employment office as desperate job seekers trampled one another in their efforts to be hired by the weather TV channel as the person who stands outside in the hurricane and advises everyone to stay indoors.

Well known hacker group “Anymouse” today accidently hacked and launched a denial of service attack against their own computer servers. A spokesman explained, “We already hacked everybody else. What else could we do?”

Less Spam

In an effort to save time for all concerned, the Associated Spammers’ Society (ASS) has combined several items into a single message. I was able to obtain a sample.

Greetings:

I am an Ethiopian prince who has a very successful business that sells Viagra from Canada. I have a very large amount of paid orders, but I do not have a bank account in North America. I will share half my current and future profits and assign you the rights as my exclusive franchise licensing agent in the United States. All I ask is that you take out an additional mortgage (I’ve arrange for an amazingly low interest rate) and send the money to cover tax, title and dealer preparation charges. To show my sincerity, I will also send you your credit score and help you lose wait while building muscle for free.

So I may begin preparation of the paperwork, at your earliest opportunity, please send me your full name, social security number and your mother’s maiden name (for verification purposes.)

I know you’re a careful person, so I’ve included a full financial analysis. Merely open the attached file “trashdrivetrojan.exe” to read these documents.

I know today is a day you’ll never forget.

 

“How about spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans and spam?”

The End of the School Year

21st Century Odd Couple

21st Century Odd Couple

I was 20 years old and had just dropped out of college when Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out for Summer” was a hit. You have to love a song whose lyrics include “We can’t even think of a word that rhymes.” I could definitely identify.

Now, as school winds down for this year, I identify in a different way.

It’s time for my kids to perform the musical numbers their bands have been working on. There are parties and it’s time to catch up on the various odds and ends. It elevates a hectic schedule of driving and attending by a magnitude (which is why I haven’t written anything in the past few days.)

But good old Vincent Fournier – the man who created and portrays Alice Cooper and (with the help of the Amazing James Randi transformed stage illusions into rock and roll mayhem) – still represented a link to my own youth.

But wait!

Now Ke$ha and Alice have a common theme song in “School”?

(If you don’t know who Ke$ha is, ask you children, grandchildren, or a neighborhood teenager.)

Does this mean that my kids and I share a common musical anthem?

Heh heh heh.

As Alice sang, “Welcome to My Nightmare.”

Enjoy, kids. Before you know it, you’ll be hearing YOUR kids’ version of “School!”

Heh heh heh.

Leading Headlines Cause…

Byron MacGregor

Byron MacGregor

In their pathetic pursuit of eyeballs, the media, past and present try to suck us in with teasers. I still remember the 9:00 PM teasers for the 11:00 news on broadcast television years ago.

“A local politician is in big trouble after comments he made today. We’ll tell you who at 11!” (Psst! Politicians are always in trouble. So what?)

Now the internet news sources are begging us to look with links like:

“A day’s worth of sex…”

“You won’t believe what…”

Not to mention the everyday listing of:

“[Female name] rocks a bikini”

“[Female name] flaunts a bikini”

“[Female name] wears [Choose one] short/see through/plunging [Choose one] Dress/Shorts/Galoshes.”

At least back in the 60’s, you had Byron MacGregor on CKLW* reporting Detroit stories with a wonderful baritone voice, teasing with:

“Three people walked into a south side bar last night. Two came out feet first as the Motor City murder rate continues to climb!

“And the smoke-eaters were busy last night fighting a three alarm blaze.”

Always ending with, “This is Byron MacGregor. Twenty-twenty news.”

Some things are hard to top, even with all the modern technology.

 

*CKLW is actually a Canadian station in Windsor, Ontario (which is actually south of Detroit – check the map) but back then it was a Detroit rock and roll superstation.

One Thing Jefferson Had Right

“Architecture is my delight and putting up and pulling down one of my favorite amusements.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1809.

TJ

I may not be the architect that Jefferson was, nor able to afford wholesale changes of my home, but I do enjoy changing things, especially if it gives me the opportunity to learn.

I was moving some computers around, changing their functions so that in the event of bad weather, my weather station could stay on the air, independent of the power grid. I also wanted my ham radio computer to be assigned primarily to programs associated with high frequency radio bands, and my main computer focuses on programs for writing music.

This befuddled my kids. Why would I want to do this, and why would I want to do that?

We spend years of our childhood and teenage years with the opportunity to spend all day, Monday through Friday through most of the year learning. It’s a chore and a bore.

Then we get out of school, on our way through our careers and finally realize how much fun learning actually is. To try things. To put up and pull down, To do so just because. Just because it teaches us something.

That’s what makes life interesting.