Category Archives: Culture

Legacy

I recently read an article on the Internet (so it must be true) that advised me that I, like most other people, will never leave a legacy.

I disagree. My legacy will never be recognized with a monument, a historical marker, or a street named after me. My legacy won’t be required reading, in fact it will never show up in any book. It won’t even show up in Trivial Pursuit.

I don’t care.

The legacy I want to leave includes people who achieved more than they knew they could because I helped them realize their potential.

People who knew I would always treat them with respect.

People who understood my values, not because of any pontification, but because of my day-to-day behavior.

That’s the legacy I want to leave.

Newspapers

I am one of those Luddites who still enjoys reading via pigment on cellulose (i.e., ink and paper). Several times in the past, I subscribed to more than one newspaper–usually a local paper, then another from the main city of the metropolitan area. I wanted the local news, but also the regional news.

How did I choose the newspaper? The local paper was geographic while the metropolitan newspaper was based on the funnies.

van halen

Why? Because if a newspaper treats the funnies as important, they will treat everything else they print as important. It’s kind of like Van Halen (and I RARELY get to compare myself to Van Halen in any way, shape or form). Van Halen specified in their contracts with their performance venues that there would be M&Ms in the dressing room, but all the brown M&Ms would be removed.

While it initially sounds like a 20th century ridiculous prima donna demand, there was a method to their madness. If, when they got to the site, the M&M requirement was met, they felt that they could safely assume that the other requirements were met. If there were brown M&Ms, they knew that there was sloppiness on other issues, like how safe and sturdy the stage was, security, and other real world issues. The M&Ms were like the canary in the mine shaft–an early warning system.

But I digress.

My local paper, The Virginian-Pilot (now owned by Tribune Publishing*) has continued to shrink over the past few years. The newspaper has gotten thinner, the lower quality newsprint pis allowed more space today than a year ago? The obituaries. You’d think that they would not want to feature how their readers are dying off, but since they’re all paid obituaries . . . .

Why do I like real newspapers? First, I’ll take a newspaper into situations such as rain, a bath tub, etc. where I would never take my computer or tablet. Second, it just feels more reliable. How many times, when reading online, do you see updates every few minutes. They don’t have to be accurate because they can always correct errers errors. Newspapers should (and I hope–I HOPE) do more fact checking before they publish because they can’t do updates.

I’ll have more to say, the next time I can sit down and write this blog.

 

 

 

*Tribune Publishing Company (formerly Tronc, Inc.) is an American newspaper print and online media publishing company based in Chicago, Illinois. The company’s portfolio includes the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, the Hartford Courant, additional titles in Pennsylvania and Virginia, syndication operations, and websites.

 

Win a House!

St. Jude’s Research Hospital for Children has a very clever method for raising money. Why? Because they do not charge patients for services.

Danny Thomas, the 1950’s television star, was born Amos Jacobs back in Toledo, Ohio (my hometown). He prayed that God would point him to the career God intended. He promised to build a hospital if God answered. God answered. The hospital is St. Jude’s.

Please note that Danny Thomas did not ask for success, only to be pointed in the right direction.

St. Jude’s prime fundraiser, at least around here, is to raffle off a house at $100 per ticket. Apparently, the house is constructed with each trade or contractor contributing their time, effort, and materials. The winner  gets a house and the money goes to the hospital to help the kids.

However, as nice as the house is, St. Jude could possibly double their money if they wanted to. The current house being built here has four bedrooms and three bathrooms–perfect for a young family. However, for this year we did not buy a ticket because we’re trying to downsize.

As we many,, many, many Baby Boomers age, maybe a second house raffle for a single floor ranch would be attractive. I know I’d buy a ticket (or two or three).

Oh, and build it somewhere without covenants, conditions, and restrictions. I don’t want Gladys Kravits isn’t a neighbor. (If you don’t get the reference, you wouldn’t be interested in a single floor ranch.)

It Shouldn’t Be Complicated

In my ongoing effort to needlessly complain about modern life, may I present the next chapter —- the bathroom.

Like everybody (or, at least, almost everybody) else my parents managed to teach me how to properly deal with my personal effluvia before I went to college. At home, it was the porcelain toilet (or as Archie Bunker would say, “terlet”) with the seat adapter for small derrieres, the little step, etc. I figured I was golden.

My father bought a small, swampy piece of land near Lake Erie and built a cottage. He built a boat–a great story for another time–which was tied up out front (COOL!). However, the cottage was originally one room, ergo, no indoor plumbing. However, my aunt and uncle, who had built a year-round house next door graciously let us use their outhouse (EWWWWW!). That was almost enough for me to backslide–but I didn’t. Things putted along normally through the 1950s, 1960’s and into the 1970’s.

I forget what the original reason was, but in the 1970s, there was a huge move to save water. People would put a brick into the tank on the back of their toilets to reduce the amount of water per flush. The mantra was “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” When visiting someone, it was awkward–do you flush, or not?

Things settled back in, briefly, then high-tech public restrooms became de rigeuer. Self flushing toilets–which scared the you-know-what out of youngsters when the toilet kept flushing as they sat there.

Then, automatic faucets, automatic soap dispensers, automatic towels, and automatic doors took over. The problem is that no two bathrooms are alike, hence I find myself holding my hands under a faucet with a handle or trying to find the handle on an automatic faucet. It’s the same for soap, towels, etc.

If there’s one bodily function that should not be intimidating—you get the idea.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to, you know.

Facebook–Say What?

Among many others

Moderators for YouTube must now sign a document acknowledging that they might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder by reviewing YouTube posts.

Excuse me?

When a website creates stress similar to a combat experience, it’s time to just stop and ask ourselves what the hell we’re doing. We expected Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites to be an opportunity to share ideas. Now, at best, they share thousands of pictures people take of themselves or pictures of their latest meal. At worst–they post images so disturbing that they can cause PTSD. Something is wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

I have a better idea. Make it a policy that postings are hateful, disgusting, or otherwise inappropriate for polite society, the social media site will respect their First Amendment rights, so long as they include their (verified) name, address,cell phone number, photo, and e-mail.

Decent people have no use for a coward.

Life Is Too Complicated

In order to ignore the brouhaha–or is it a kerfuffle–that dominates the news, I will focus my blogs on the curves that life throws at us normal people. Let’s start with parking.

When I started to drive, except for the shopping centers (now called strip malls–or that now outdated?) parking was on the street. In order to park, you had to parallel park. Parallel, as in parallel to the curb.

Parallel parking was part of the drivers license AND the part that everyone feared. It isn’t really all that hard, and on very rare occasions I still get to use my parallel parking skills.

However, things got more complicated. Besides parking spots near the door reserved for the handicapped (logical) and pregnant mothers (also quite logical), there are now reserved spots for customers who are there to pick up an order, employee of the year/month/week/day/hour, etc. In some cases, standard parking is in the next county.

I suspect, but can’t prove that the lines defining parking spots have been moved closer. In any case, many cars–especially SUVs and pickup trucks– occupy every last inch within the lines. This is fine, until you park next to one and try to open your door. I guess that’s why so many vehicles have sunroofs.

Then there’s the final straw–large vehicles with rearview mirrors that significantly extend from the truck body. On a rainy or snowy day, it is possible–although unlikely–to find a good parking spot. This does not necessarily mean that the walk to the door is short. Instead, it is often necessary to walk a circuitous path in order to find a space between cars with enough room to walk without the risk of decapitation by the interlocking mirrors.

Clear Title

Sometimes, in our effort to remain relevant, we change simple, explanatory terms to ones that are less so. For example, when people reach middle age and there are hormonal changes, we now call it menopause. First, it’s not a pause; when we pause, we usually start up again. Second, a lot more happens to the female body than the lack of menstruation.

In my parents’ day, they referred to it as “change of life,” which in my opinion is a much better description. Everything seems to change–muscle mass, skin tone, libido, moisture in the mucosa, hair color, energy level, hot flashes, etc., etc., etc.

Menopause sounds more clinical even though the name refers to only one symptom. In reality, pretty much everything is different.

Men may not have the same physiological catalyst or the hot flashes, but life changes for them as well–muscle mass, skin tone, libido, energy level, etc.

I think the old title worked better.

Hide and Seek

Courtesy, the Punchbowl.net

Like most others, as I get older, I regularly suffer from CRS*. I’m not yet to the point where I can hide my own Easter Eggs, but I do find that I’ll walk into a room and wonder, “Why did I come here?”

I’ve decided that instead of complaining, I’ll make a game of it. For example, when I open the refrigerator door with the intent of getting a particular item, often I forget. I scan the shelves, hoping to remind myself what it was that I wanted.

It’s kind of like playing the childhood game of “I Spy,” only I get to play both the person who is looking for the item and the one who selected it.

It’s actually not that much fun, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

 

*Can’t Remember Shit Stuff”

Christmas Thoughts

This blog is written from the perspective of a Christian, with no intended slight to my friends and readers of other faiths.

It’s highly likely that Jesus was not born on December 25th. In fact, we have no evidence as to what His birthday might be. Early Christians were not historians and shared their thoughts to convey the theological message rather than to chronicle events as journalists. Many, if not most, early Christians expected Jesus to return during their lifetime, so they saw little reason to record an accurate history.

It’s only fair that we don’t know Jesus exact birthday. Those who came before His birth didn’t know when He would come, so it puts all of us in the same boat.

Did Christians co-opt a midwinter pagan festival? Probably. I think it was an early form of ecumenism. The word gospel means “Good News,” and shutting down peoples’ holidays would not be perceived as good news. Instead, additional content was added to the existing event.

So in that same spirit, enjoy a wonderful Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or any other holiday you can find between now and New Years.

Oh, and here’s another interesting fact about Christmas. Many people take offense at it being referred to as Xmas and see it as removing Christ from Christmas. Actually the X is not an X. It is the Greek letter chi, the first letter of the Greek word Christos–Christ.

Christos

Christos

 

The Quirky Brain

Courtesy US Army

The human brain is a wonderful creation, able to provide understanding, to critically evaluate ideas in order to separate fact from fiction, and even convey emotions. It does, however, have its flaws.

Our brains try to make order out of  chaos, but in the process often make chaos into–well–other chaos. A few examples:

  • People complain about how a lost item is always in the last place they look. Naturally this is true; when one finds what they were looking for, they stop looking.
  • When an overwhelming tragedy occurs, we try to find a reason. If we cannot find one, we make one up. It makes no sense that President John F. Kennedy was killed by one wacko acting alone. There MUST be a better reason–a conspiracy that is being covered up. This is a more satisfying answer, even if not necessarily true.
  • We prefer to hear people propose simple answers to every problem, even incredibly complex ones. If the solution begins with, “All you have to do is just . . . .” it must be a good solution.

 

When in Doubt–History

I love history–but you probably knew that. History, at least as taught, is imperfect because of two reasons:

  1. History is written by the winners, and it some times takes a century or more mitigate such bias.
  2. Much of the blood, sweat, tears, excitement, and intrigue gets removed, leaving only names and dates. Boring!!!

So here are some historical “facts” that I found interesting. I call them “facts” because we believe them to be true, but frequently,  as more research is done, we have to revise our understanding in light of additional evidence.

The “facts” I share are of no particular significance. I just find them interesting.

  • Creases in pants were once considered the opposite of fashionable. The upper crust had clothes custom tailored while those of less wealth purchased “off-the-shelf,” pre-made clothing. The crease indicated that the garment had sat on a shelf for a long time.
  • The term “an officer and a gentleman” refers to the fact that the elites were entitled to and enjoyed preferential treatment, including being assigned the senior positions on a ship. The “men,” on the other hand were commoners, often assigned to ships after being kidnapped. More than a few sailors started out at the pub enjoying free drinks but woke up, not only with a hangover, but also on board a ship at sea.
  • There is a legend that when the Emperor Charlemagne died, he was interred in a tomb sitting on a throne wearing a crown, holding a scepter, with his hand on his sword. Grave robbers, intending to steal the valuables with which he was interred, entered the tomb. They claimed that the seated body of Charlemagne began to draw the sword from its sheath. They did not stick around to find out what happened next.

Politics As Usual

I actually do try not to pick sides as the brouhaha in Washington, DC continues.

Remember that very old riddle?

Q: How can you tell when politicians are lying?
A: Their lips are moving.

I’m old enough to have watched (and, believe it or not, still remember) the Watergate hearings. That was when Earl Landgrebe (R, Indiana) said: “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I’m going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.”

Try to imagine the members of Congress as scientists debating a mathematical theorem.

“2 + 2 = 5, and don’t try to convince me otherwise!”

“No, it’s 6 and your mother wears combat boots!”*

Never mind, it takes more imagination than I can muster.

 

* Actually, not at all unusual these days–Ladies, thank you for your service.

Real-Life Rey

With the new Star Wars coming out in about a week, there is a lot of excitement. While there has always been excitement before each new episode, The Rise of Skywalker is expected to answer a lot of questions about Rey, the nobody from nowhere who became the main protagonist (i.e., “hero” without any gender issues) of a beloved story.

We are drawn to stories in which a reluctant and unlikely hero takes on an impossible challenge–it must be hard-coded into our psyche. We see this fascination in both history and legend—David in the Bible, Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Ring, and most recently, Rey. Wired Magazine commented that Rey is not only a role model hero for young women, but inspires young men as well. That’s not really surprising, given her courage and commitment.

What is common among all these (and similar) tales is that they feature a person who commits to something that they view as important—more important than themselves. Maybe we all wish that we would find some cause so compelling that we would commit ourselves totally .

There are about 8 billion people on earth; nearly 200 sovereign states; millions of corporations, businesses, churches and other organizations. Do they present us with the real-life Reys? Not so much.

However, thank God, we have at least one.

Greta Thunberg on Twitter: "“Now I Am Speaking to the ...

 

Christmas Parade

Parades are fun.

There are parades for many reasons–patriotic, historical, or, just for the hell of it. In New Orleans, if there is nothing special about a particular day, that alone is a reason for a parade, party, and—well, you know.

Cheyenne, Wyoming has four parades during the week of “Frontier Days”. The parade route zig zags through its downtown. With horse-drawn wagons, horse drawn floats, and horses with riders, the zigs and zags are on purpose; when a horse gets spooked, it tends to run in the direction it’s facing without turning. The zigs and zags are to provide a place for horses to go without anyone getting in the way and being hurt.

Christmas, of course, is a great time for parades. Every city, town, and village seems to have its own take how parades should be conducted. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Santa’s sleigh was drawn by eight giant (not tiny) crawfish–not crayfish, not crawdads, but crawfish (and them’s good eatin’).

Where I live now, the Christmas parade is an event, and the tradition is for people to stake out their preferred locations. To most people, this means showing up early and grabbing your spot. Here, however, people set up their chairs (often complete with stuffed teddy bears)—not on the day before the parade. Some claim their spots a week before the parade. The hard core stake their claim two weeks before the parade, complete with bent coat hangers to anchor the chairs and zip ties to keep the stuffed toys in place.

The best part is that everyone loves it. No one takes offense.

It’s kind of magic.

I like that.

 

Social Media

I apologize for not responding to friend requests for Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I like sharing ideas, but the blog is a forum I can (somewhat, allegedly) control. If someone leaves a comment, I do not sell or share anyone’s information with anyone else.

Other social media platforms? Not so much.

So why do I not reply?

Okay. Let me explain. (I tried to do this as a knock-knock joke, but failed).

Q: “What’s the difference between a colonoscopy and Facebook?”

A: “Both involve more information than you would ever share, but your colonoscopy is protected by HIPAA privacy protection; Facebook will share anything with anybody,” n’est-ce pas?

Life Support

Generally, I try to blog about things that are interesting and–as far as I can tell–either based on facts OR obviously fictitious for entertainment value. This does not mean that I attempt to remain ignorant about other issues such as race, sex, politics, etc. I just try to keep my nonfactual opinions on such issues to myself.

I read a great deal, although less than I would like due to time constraints. I enjoy some science fiction, which is really philosophy with space ships and aliens. I enjoy biographies of important historical people because it gives me hope when I see that great men and women were imperfect yet achieved great things.*

I read a lot of technical material because no one rises in righteous indignation to protest Ohms law. Electricity performs in a given way—change one of the variables and the result changes predictably. I like facts. Opinions and commentary, spin and gas-lighting are not facts, no matter how many times they are repeated.

Recently, I read a post by Erik Lind on Quora.com that posited, “The Internet is like life support for propaganda. . . ”

It made me think.

 

*Stan Lee used this model in 1962 when he wrote the story of nerdy, neurotic, unpopular Peter Parker being transformed into Spiderman. Peter’s first use of his new power was to attempt to make money, which inadvertently resulted in the death of his Uncle Ben.

Then and Now

Thanksgiving is 0ver–the table has been cleared and the dishes washed. Everyone is complaining (bragging?) about being sleepy. I’m willing to back my words up with action and actually doze off.  (Oh the extent that we’ll reach to prove our points).

Holidays make me reminisce about how things were done in my youth. The food hasn’t changed much and we are still using my grandmothers trivets. They have been broken, carefully repaired, and kept in circulation.

The biggest changes? In my youth there were three networks and at least two of them were showing football on Thanksgiving. Everyone tended to watch the same game and critique it among themselves.

Today, there are a gazillion channels (give or take), but as soon as one person leaves the table, everybody else immediately grab their smartphones. There is no need to discuss what they are watching because everyone is probably watching something different.

Houses have certainly changed. My parents’ and grandparents’ homes still had  a flip up metal door that connected the outside to a room in the basement that had a built-in ramp. That room,was called the coal room  and the ramp, a coal chute. Our furnace had been designed as a coal fired furnace but had been converted to natural gas, so we never had the coal truck back up to the house and dump a load of coal down the coal chute.

However, the most Thanksgivingy thing were the stoves. Almost everybody had updated their kitchens, which invariably included a new stove. The old stove was moved to the basement and connected to the gas line. For big family get togethers, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, both stoves were in full operation. Items that took longer, such as the turkey were cooked down in the basement oven while the foods that needed more frequent attention were cooked upstairs.

Things change, though. We had ham instead of turkey (by majority vote) and we used the kitchen stove to cook everything, because we don’t have a backup stove in the basement. This shortfall was caused, at least in part, by the fact that our house does not have a basement.

Nature’s Majesty Is Better at a Distance

Wild animals are majestic. They are beautiful.

I lived in Wyoming, and I admit, the antelope were awesome—until you saw them up close. Like humans, they were—to say the least—imperfect. Their fur tended to hang in clumps and they smelled, well, nasty. There was a golf course at F. E. Warren Air Force Base and the antelope enjoyed standing in the middle of the course because: a) they knew they could not be molested, and; b) they loved to show humans who was in charge.

Okay, let’s make it more inclusive. Seagulls look almost like something a poet would have described at a distance. Have you seen them up close? They are sea-going pigeons. Attractive? Not so much.

Then, there are the magnificent, imperious Canadian Geese

Or, as I often refer to them, rats with feathers.

Although they are picturesque, they leave a trail of green fecal matter anywhere within 2 ¾ miles of their presence. They attack anyone who comes near them, block traffic while the flock slowly strolls across a street. With the global warming that supposedly isn’t happening, they no longer migrate as far as they once did. In some cases, such as here in Virginia, they’ve become a year-round fixture.

I recently saw a vehicle that belonged to a “Canadian Goose management company.” A quick search on the internet brought up quite a few companies that advertise that they will remove the geese from parks, parking lots, private property, etc.

It’s about time.

Next, we need protection from those incorrigible chipmunks!

Thoughts on DC

I recently spent some time in our nation’s capital. I hate the traffic, so I usually rely on the Metro, taxis, or Uber. This time I decided to walk to various places and take in the sights and think of weird things:

Washington, DC tries to discourage driving, so many people use scooters, bicycles, and skateboards to get around. Naturally, there are also joggers. However, in the residential areas there are a lot of brick sidewalks, which tend to be uneven. Was this by accident, a cruel joke, or a business move by orthopedic surgeons?

Television coverage of the district includes lots of people yelling and screaming at one another. However, when walking, people rarely greet anyone they don’t know. On the other hand, when driving, they LOVE using their car horns. I guess it reminds them of yelling and screaming.

There are quaint row houses, with many of them being quite old. We stayed in one (AirBnB) during a family trip, and they are quite nice albeit expensive. It was amazing how many were being gutted and the whole interior rebuilt–not just remodeled. I guess if you can afford to buy one, you can afford to hollow out the inside and completely rebuild

As nice as those homes are, I noticed that many have bars on the doors and windows. The bars could be for security, or maybe the bars are to help the politicians who live in them feel right at home

Bait and Switch

Once upon a time, the Internet was lauded as a forum for intelligent discussion, but like most things, it soon became primarily focused on enriching a few people. I have nothing against commerce, but it seems that many websites will stoop at nothing to get you to click on one of their links. To whit:

The Fed dropped mortgage rates? No. They adjust the prime rate, which may affect mortgage rates. but they don’t directly control mortgage rates.

 

Let’s stop in mid -sentence to see if viewers will click. After all, Trump and the Washington Post are usually totally simpatic0.

 

It seems that there’s shock and surprise about where every movie / television / music performer lives–or that they don’t look like they did 30 years ago. Oh, and  what’s Lawyers Blvd got to do with Meg Ryan?

 

Do you think that maybe, possibly there might have been just a tiny bit of Photoshopping involved? Not much, just a smidge?

Then there’s this poor girl. When I travel, I see her being arrested in every city I visit. She must be innocent, or they wouldn’t let her out to be arrested again and again.

So much for intelligent exchange of ideas.