Friday, November 30, 2007

Lights off Yakutat Bay

While sailing up the coast of Alaska, I often wondered about those lonely lights I’d see occasionally on the shore. Streetlights? Not likely. A cabin or house right by the shore? Quite possible. But definitely a sign of civilization and most likely at the end of a power line.

In the late-night semi-darkness of the Alaskan summer, you see shapes and your imagination takes over. Are those mountains or just clouds? Is that a whale or only a large log? Hard to tell.

Along the coastline, you see hills, trees, bays and that stray light or two. Then one is moving and you make out that it has running lights – it’s a boat of some size, but you can’t tell because in Alaska you see further than in the Lower 48.

Off in the distance are a lot of lights, like a lighted circus wagon or maybe a big lighted wedding cake. It’s another cruise ship heading toward you. Those who came to live here seeking peace, quiet and dark nights now have to put up with these large, brightly-lighted floating circus wagons (or so they must seem).

As the ships pass at a respectful distance, you think of the Titanic: all lighted up, going full speed into the darkness, headed for disaster. You know icebergs never go this far south from the glaciers north of us, but the sight is vivid. All you need is the ship’s band playing “Autumn,” or “Nearer, My God, To Thee” on deck.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Color Me Zero

The original blog for today was about seeing colors in numbers and letters. At the time, I did not know it had a neurological name and only affects 4% of the population. At this point, I am uncomfortable with the concept and have deleted the original post and most of the replies. No offense meant to the people who posted.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Words Fail Me

Yesterday was just one of those times: The idea was there, but the words, like dry snow, just weren’t packing. You know how you’d pick up a good handful of the stuff, but it just wouldn’t form into a good snowball? Pack it, open your hand and it all fell apart as if you never tried.

The words just wouldn’t come. I had the thought ok, knew what I wanted to say, but every time I picked up a handful of words, they didn’t pack into a sentence, much less a paragraph. I’d type them and they’d fall off the screen.

Some days, the well-crafted thoughts turn into well-crafted sentences and posts, other days they just collapse. Or: some days you’re the pigeon and some days you’re the statue.

So, while I was waiting for the creative part of me to get moving, I watched part of a program on nudity. Once again I have concluded that the vast majority of us look a whole lot better with clothes on. There is a brief period of time when we are exciting while stark naked, another brief period of time when we’re ok as long as nobody younger is around, then a real long time when it’s best that we are wearing something … maybe lots.

Then I noticed that the fellow who invented Gatorade died. I think he was the team physician for the U. of Florida Gators and that’s how it got its name. He realized what was being sweated out of the players and concocted a drink that would replace it. Stuff was pretty bad-tasting at first; he admitted he puked the first time he drank it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nisi Nobis Tunc Quibis

“If not us, then by whom.”

It’s similar to Mom’s response to a difficult, sometimes distasteful task: “Somebody has to do it.”

It’s the opposite of what you so often hear: “That’s not my problem.”

I don’t think that works. We are far too interconnected to simply blow off something, or somebody, because we don’t see it as our job or our problem. When we isolate ourselves like that, cutting us off from other people, we violate the social aspect of our humanity, the thing that has made us advance as a civilization.

We didn’t get where we are because we closed the curtains and said, “It’s not my problem.” Even competing news organizations will share the wealth, so to speak, and if one of our local tv stations is late on the scene, another will give it some videotape of the event for its nightly news. My turn today, your turn tomorrow.

Even if it’s something as mundane as a car on the side of the road, with its driver hailing anyone going by, the fact that we occupy this planet together is enough to have us say, “If not me, then by whom?” Ok, we can’t always stop and help, but so many of us have cell phones these days and can call for help. Even the Duff-Gordons of yesterday’s blog, in a lifeboat of their own, hoped that some ship would say, “If not us, then by whom?”

Monday, November 26, 2007

Equality In A Lifeboat

When there’s a bunch of you bobbing around in a lifeboat, miles from anywhere, the usual ideas of importance change a bit. The bank president who can’t row is demoted to bailing water, while the freckle-faced tomboy who can, and read the stars as well, is suddenly promoted to captain.

You see, you’re in the South Atlantic, about as south as you can get, when your little ship hits ice and sinks, as happened the other day. Suddenly, the only show of rank is, “can you get the job done?” It’s the equality of the lifeboat.

Usually; ideally. When the Titanic went down, one lifeboat became an exception: that which was populated by Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon, their secretary, seven crewmen and maybe two others. Twelve people in a lifeboat build for far more. “Shouldn’t we go back?” asked a sailor. “Oh, goodness no,” Lady Duff-Gordon replied, “we might be swamped by people trying to get in.” In the England of 1912, they probably felt no need to answer for their actions.

In the lifeboat, not a whole lot matters. House, car, bank account: useless at the moment. Friends in high places: useless. You have to trust that your ship’s signal for help has been heard, because you are sitting there absolutely helpless. You are alone in one of the worst places in the world.

It’s a good time and a good place to think about what’s really important to you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Our Father, Who Art In Radio

The local newspaper, where I moonlight, had a full page dedicated to Fr. Josef Murgas, a local priest-inventor who, back a hundred years, was very instrumental in the development of what was then called “wireless.” So involved, that a case can be made that he was one of the primary inventors of radio, more so than Marconi (who had the tendency to come over and visit then, returning home, “discovering” something Murgas had found here first).

The page’s major writer ran a bit short, so my editor called me and asked for a piece to fill the extra space. Naturally, I was happy to do it and, equally naturally, forgot all about it. A few days later, another call with a very short deadline; this time, I came through with the help of my gun-to-the-head fast writing skills.

The guy found that having wires in the ground, equal to the antenna above ground, would make the radio signal go a much greater distance than with none of this “counterpoise.” One side of the circuit going to a visible antenna, with the other side grounded to the transmitter case.

AM, FM and TV antennas work on this principle (whether sending or receiving), as do cell phones, two-way radios, Dish-TV and anything else that sends a signal through the air.

All this came from his lab about a mile up the street where I am writing this. He could have become one of the richest people in the country if he concentrated on patenting his inventions, but he was too good a parish priest, so he gave all the information away.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

It Went To Davey Jones' Locker

The m/v Explorer, what you might call a small cruise ship, hit some ice on Friday and sank near the South Shetland Islands, not far from Antarctica. It was designed for rough going, but not many ships can survive a good whack with thick ice.

It’s now in Davey Jones’ Locker, as the sailors of old called it. Where the name comes from is anyone’s guess and anyone’s explanation. St. David and the Bible’s Jonah who was not supposed to be on a ship that nearly sank and was tossed off? Maybe the Welsh sea god Dewi, plus the British sea deity Shoney?

It matters little where it came from; when you have gone to Davey Jones’ Locker, it’s all over. Luckily, the passengers and crew all survived hours in open lifeboats (cold open lifeboats) before being rescued; the ship was not so fortunate and went down on her beam end like, if you remember the pictures, the Andrea Doria.

There you are, pretty near the end of the world, just above the Antarctic Circle, in an area where there is no land to break up the ocean’s swells at 60 degrees south latitude (the opposite of Anchorage and halfway through Hudson Bay and the lower part of Greenland). You’re in an open boat and have been for four hours.

Then you see salvation. It’s going to be a long trip home and you won’t get there for a while, but at least you’re alive and will be in a warm ship in half an hour or less. Life could be worse – in fact, it just was. You have put a lot of things in perspective.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Rare Collectibles

Just got to wondering about people who were born during certain short-period events. They would be rare collectible people.

For instance: The number of people who have lived in part of three centuries. We’re running out of them fast. They’d have to be born on December 31, 1899 or earlier and still alive today. We have one here, who just celebrated her 108th birthday by popping a can of Coors. She has one every day and her birthday present was a case of the stuff.

Forget people who were born during Pope John Paul II’s reign; he hung on forever and people were procreating all over the place during that time. But what about Pope John Paul I? He only lasted a month. Relatively speaking, not that many people made their entrance during that short pontificate.

How about FDR’s fourth term? I don’t remember how long he lasted, but it couldn’t have been much of a time. I came during his third term and, altogether, he had more than 12 years in office during those three full terms, so I’m not unusual at all.

There could not have been many people born during the first moon landing. What would they be now? 38? Maybe NASA could have a publicity stunt to keep its warm and fuzzy image intact; get the word out to anyone who was born during those hours.

There are no prizes, but you do get a certain amount of bragging rights.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

For Why Shall We Offer Thanks On This Day?

For having been called out of nothingness into being. We did not exist and, at one point in history, we were created. Our faith tells us we will continue to live after our bodies have given up. This is the greatest gift of all.

We have a constant supply of 60-cycle, 125-volt electricity to run our gadgets, to keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer, to entertain us and allow us to stay informed. The world is no longer populated by sea monsters off the coast, or dragons further inland.

For the gift to reach out and either directly help someone, or to donate the means by which they can be aided. Perhaps these people, and their sad situations, were placed in our path for no other reason than to bring us out of ourselves and realize there are other people.

We have 48 connected states, each with its own government and set of laws. Yet, we can pass through them without having to stop and have our papers checked or being searched. You can’t go that far in Europe with no hassle and no passport.

Unless you’re really broke, the chances of going without a meal are remote. Even on a long trip, you are seldom more than half an hour –at most- from some restaurant. People complain that airplane meals are small or non-existent; yet, seldom are flights so long that you need to worry. Most of us could do with less, not more, food.

On this Day of Thanks, 2007, much could be better … but much could be worse.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Our Newspaper Published A Big Issue

T’was the night before Thanksgiving and the newspaper was so thick tonight, for delivery in the morning, that the inserts (normally just added to the paper) were in two separate bundles, instead of merely one. We had to clear the insert storage garage and we also had to get all the bundles made up and out at the carriers’ pickup spots in advance.

Back in the days when I delivered newspapers on my bike, with a large basket in front, the Saturday route was easy; the papers probably didn’t have twenty pages to them. Wednesday’s were heavy and I had to make two runs – usually so heavily loaded in front that my rear wheel was not touching the ground enough for the brakes to be effective.

I don’t think a paperboy, -girl or whatever could stack five of tonight’s edition in even those large bike baskets. Perhaps many of the papers are delivered by car, as this area gets rural very fast.

When I was doing my route, I had 92 customers ranging from nearly one end of our village to the other. There were only five of us and I think I was the second biggest. Had I been more ambitious, I probably could have bought the route next to mine on the west and added another 50, tops. You paid the current paperboy fifty cents for each customer you bought from him (the only “her” worked with her father out of a car and controlled quite a bit of the place, customers I wanted).

For some reason, I never “owned” my own street. Odd.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Cellar Full Of What??

Did I ever mention my friend who has a cellar filled with television cameras? Regular studio cameras that have run their life spans, 132 of them, which he tries to repair and get into working order. I’d love to have just one, although I don’t have the faintest idea where I’d keep it; they are fairly large and quite heavy. But 132 . . .

I met this lady in Vermont who collects salt and pepper shakers. Not the kind you see in diners, but the type with designs and those shaped like figurines; fancy stuff, five-and-dime stuff, yard sale stuff. She’s got them all over her house, but at least she doesn’t have tv cameras in her cellar.

There was an obituary in today’s paper for a middle-aged woman who “was an avid collector of Mickey Mouse memorabilia.” No one like me, who has Donald Duck stuff all over the place, has any right to laugh. But you won’t see that in my obit – if, that is, whoever survives me uses the notice that I wrote up for myself.

I’ve no problem with people who like to collect things, especially if the item is meaningful or fun. But I sometimes wonder, when I see some made-up coin or such in the Sunday color section with “start collecting this today!” if someone isn’t just creating a new category, rather than helping us find what will fill out the line we have.

I wonder about that guy and his cameras. We have chatted and he’s quite normal, a former broadcast engineer for ABC-TV. I’ll stick with the Donald Duck stuff.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Higher Els

We live in The Valley; to be precise, the Wyoming Valley. To have a valley, you need things higher than you, the higher elevations called (at least here) “the higher els.” I’m sure that phrase is used all over, but I haven’t lived all over and only know it from here.

Anyway, we’re having snow as I write this in the early morning hours of Monday. An inch or two in the Valley, possibly more than three inches in the Higher Els.

New York City had the El, but that was a railroad train of sorts, the above street level version of the subway. Third Avenue El, for one. I always thought it would be neat, as a train lover, to live next to it on the second or third floor, until I saw the “Blues Brothers” film and realized the trains in Chicago never stop passing your window.

Back to the local higher els. We have windmills on ours. Not the cute fat things you see in Dutch paintings with the big sail-like blades, but slim models with what look like large airplane propellers. They move fairly slowly and make electricity, each one supposedly enough to light the universe, or our planet or a thousand houses. I forget what the promise was, but I haven’t heard much except for plans to build another two dozen.

Also on the higher els are what the FCC and FAA call an antenna farm. All the local tv and most fm stations have their towers in one spot, making it easier for airplanes coming into or leaving the local airport. They are real Towers of Babel, high on the mountain, reaching up to communicate with the gods, or someone.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thnow! Thnow!

We had a kid next door to us who seemed to have a speech problem when he was young. “Seemed to” are the operative words here; I never was sure if it was real or just another one of his things.

Anyway, the white stuff would come down overnight for the first time and we’d hear this shout, “Thnow! Thnow!” After a while it was “Snow! Snow!” and life became that much duller on our street.

I guess I put up with it because he had a sandbox in the backyard and I’d never seen one before. Of course, when you live a block or so from a large beach, you don’t think in terms of a sandbox. You want to play in the sand? Take a three minute walk down the street and there’s all you want.

His parents, especially his R.N. mother, were somewhat (!) protective and the thought of him going down and playing in that dirty sand with all those horseshoe crabs and seaweed and who knows what . . . well, that wasn’t to be. A boy might get sick.

From what I’ve heard about allergies and stuff, it appears that our mother did it right: we never wore shoes in the summer, we played on the beach, got scraped by the sea shells, swam underwater and took in too much sea water. Never got sick. We were probably immune to everything by that time; we had been exposed to everything the ocean could throw at us, in small amounts, and while Johnny got ill, we went our way.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Grand Tour

When my body is no longer able to contain my spirit and I leave this planet for wherever life takes me (the place, for lack of a better word, we call “heaven”), I want to make the grand tour of the universe.

I was looking at a bright star the other night and thinking how nice it would be to travel past it, see where it is and what it looks like up close. Look back on our planet and how we fit in the solar system, as well as the galaxy and what it looks like. Maybe a quick trip over to the Andromeda galaxy, two million light-years away, a beautiful piece of work. Then out far enough to see our Local Group of galaxies, all 2,500 of them and, as I speed off for my personal judgement, a backward glance at the universe’s 300 billion galaxies.

What a flight!

We seldom think beyond ourselves, our town, state, country and occasionally planet. There’s an asteroid heading so close to us that it will pass between our planet and our communications satellites. That’s close. That’s too close. If, while it’s still out there, it gets bumped by another asteroid, just a little bump in the wrong spot, we won’t have to worry about the stock market, the price of gasoline, the economy or –for that matter- anything else.

Eventually, we all make The Trip and as for me, I’d love to see all the beauty of creation as I’m heading to where I’m going. Get your tickets now.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Eventually, It Gets Done

I had “Watch This Spot” as a title since Friday evening. Things got ahead of me but I did, indeed, intend to catch up way before this. I was picking up my room for something that got put off for a while (can’t I keep it cleaned all the time, you ask? No, I can’t; I really can’t … it’s just not in me).

It’s like those signs in vacant store fronts that say, “Opening Soon!” You wait and wait and, occasionally, the sign is down and it stays vacant. Or the sign stays there for a year.

I’ve nothing against Jesus, but if He said, “I am coming soon,” and it’s been 2,000 years, well, I do wish He’d speed it up a bit. That sign in the window is getting a bit dusty.

In the old “Mickey Finn” comic strip, there always seemed to be a vacant lot that showed up now and again. On the lot was a “For Sale” sign and I wondered if the cartoonist wanted to retire and this was a signal to the trade that the strip was up for the asking. Never did find out and I don’t know any cartoonists (well, one, but he’s an amateur) to ask.

Speaking of signs, I read an article by a fellow who deliberately wore a toothbrush mustache for a week just to see what peoples’ reactions would be. Many turned away from him when they saw it. He said that it is such a powerful symbol that simply drawing one on a person’s poster photo is a political statement. One inch of hair under your nose, he said, is a reminder of the evil that exists in this world.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Bring Back The Himmler"

A group has started a campaign to restore the local Himmler Theater, somewhat of a famous place out in the Back Mountain. You certainly won’t forget the name; that’s for sure. It’s not some sort of Nazi hangout, but a showplace opened around 1928 by Wesley Himmler until he sold it nearly 30 years later.

Lousy name to have during the war. The History Channel did a program about Adolf Hitler’s relatives who live in the U.S. under either in-law family names or assumed names. Again, not something you’d care to have on your mailbox. Some (many?) of them have chosen not to have children, so his DNA or something will be completely wiped out.

Funny thing about names: I heard a story, possibly true, about a preacher who went to Mexico and asked someone if he had met Jesus. The man pointed to the next block and said, “He lives there.” Every person had met Jesus. Took the preacher a bit before he realized that “Jesus” is a common first name down there.

Over in Indonesia, people have just one name. That’s it. No first name, middle name, confirmation name if you are Catholic and family name. I don’t know if there are exceptions for people living in big cities (Joe, son of John, as the Russians do), but they seem to handle it ok.

Catholics need to name their children after saints. Actually, we are named after relatives, friends and actors, just like everyone. As long as there’s some saint’s name in there it fills the law.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dead Man Walking

A friend of mine lost her very elderly husband seven months ago, to nobody’s surprise but hers. When you are over 90, have cancer and are obviously going downhill, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (as they say, although I don’t know what rocket scientists have to do with anything) to see what’s happening.

She thinks he’s still alive. Six feet under, but still alive and walking back from the cemetery to the house every night to sleep in their car. She thinks a good meal would help, get him back home and into some better clothes. “He looks so emaciated in the casket,” she tells me, after she has visited his grave, “I have to get him back home, fix him up.”

I realize people grieve in their own ways and on their own time lines, but most people I know –all of them- are sadly aware when their spouse’s earthly life has ended. One woman of my early youth kept her husband’s hat just where he left it when he came home each day after work; it was a nice reminder. Another took the occasion to remarry and continue on with what has turned out to be a very long life.

This is the first time I have met someone who so can’t let go that she has him coming out of his grave to sleep in the garage every night while she talks with him.

“Have you tried counseling yet?” goes nowhere, as she insists she is not crazy. She knows people think she’s nuts, she tells me, but if only she could get a good meal into her husband and get him out for a ride, they would see how good he can look.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Got Loads Done On Tuesday

Trouble is, I needed to do “x” things, but only had time for “x-1” things and writing this blog ended being the one I couldn’t get around to. See, it’s actually Wednesday afternoon and a dreary one at that, but the kind photographers like because colors become more vibrant. The tree across the street, for example, is bright as fire, looking for all the world like an elephant on its back shooting fireworks out of its upright gray trunk.

Days like this are made for kids to play in the attic. When I lived with my grandparents, we had a front attic, somewhat improved and a little bit furnished, enough to sleep, and a back attic with trunks and suitcases, some sort of box with an NRA (National Recovery Act, “We Do Our Part” blue eagle) sticker on it, and other odds and ends along with nooks and crannies.

Or the cellar. We had a coal bin there, along with a potting section for the large flower garden along the back edge of the property. I don’t remember what else, but that part of the place had its own peculiar smell and a slanted door at the top of the steps led out to the backyard and some tall flora (sunflowers?) as well as black-eyed susans. It, too, was a mysterious place on unsettled weather days.

There was always the front porch, a real covered spot where we could sit in the rocking chairs even during a rainstorm and watch the action. I recall it being nice-to-exciting sitting there in a drenching rain, dry as can be, watching the manhole cover bubbling up. For some reason, that was very exciting and the sign of a big downpour.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I've Got A Note On My Desk

It says, “Phone. xxx-1712.” Doesn’t say who to phone, just “phone.” And a number which, I assume, is in our area code. I’m not sure I really want to call it and find out who’s on the other end. I tried to search it on Google, but nothing comes up.

There’s another note here with two words, vertically: “Fever … Dream.” I rather doubt it has anything to do with nightly fantasies after a rise in body temperature. I’m a music columnist for the local newspaper and “Fever” is a song I might have thought of writing about; “dream” could be for “Dream A Little Dream of Me.”

Don’t know. They are two notes that mean nothing right now. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds these.

Will all of us with mysterious notes on our tables and desks please raise our hands? Ok; just as I thought. Every one of us have little scribblings that once meant something, that were important for a few minutes or a day. They’re still hanging around because we don’t dare throw them out – they may be something really important.

I have more things in my room that might be too important to throw away. They “might be” for several years now; I’ve never learned if I really need them, but I don’t want to get rid of something important enough that I’ve saved it for so long, even if I saved it just because it might be important. Ok, it doesn’t make much sense, if any, but maybe I can have a box labeled, “Never know why I kept these, but don’t toss them out.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day Sales Event

That’s what the ad on tv said: “Veterans Day Sales Event.” How about “Returning Heroes Who Saved Us From Speaking German and/or Japanese Sales Event”? Or, “Survivors Of Normandy Landing, Corregidor, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal Sales Event”?

I’d rather see something like, “Veterans, bring your discharge papers and get 25% off, as a sign of our appreciation.”

Presidents Day . . . good day for sales in a month that’s generally pretty dead. Ok, now name ten presidents. Martin Luther King; as one girl said, “He was a black guy, he did something.” Labor Day, and how do we celebrate labor? By ending summer, packing up the cottage, pulling in the boat, having one more barbecue. Even Cinco de Mayo, vastly more a U.S. holiday than Mexican, is more a sales event than a local battle celebration.

If we’re going to have the day off, we should be able to thoroughly identify the meaning of the holiday. Which presidents’ birthdays did we combine, and why did they rate a day each? Who was MLK, aside from “a black guy … he did something”?

There’s a reason we honor these people, and it’s not just so we can hang a sale on their 3-day weekend. I just wonder if we should automatically get the holiday if we can’t identify the person and be able to say something about them. We all know who Santa Claus and Jesus Christ are, regardless of our religion; the others … eh …

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nothing, Really

I can’t think of anything to write today. Well, actually I can; there are several topics in my mind that I’ve been bouncing around. But perhaps this is the day that I don’t do any real thinking.

Today is the Fallow Day. Good farmers will let a field lie fallow for one season, to give it recovery time. The Jewish tradition gives us a fallow day, one per week, a day of rest, which gives us a day of rest – which we seldom take advantage of.

Even Musak, that ever-flowing motivational background music service (which is how the company describes it) has several minutes of silence every so often. It is necessary to have “down time” even from music, to give us quietness in our lives.

Quietness. Yeah, quietness. As in, no noise: no radio, no television, no compact discs. It gives your mind time to sort things out and you’d be surprised how nice it can be when there are no sounds pouring in on you. It gives your mind time to digest your thoughts and concerns, which you can’t really do when you are continually taking in new information.

But we live in a culture of noise, as well as of sights. The “bottom third,” as tv people refer to where visual information is put, contains the “bug” or channel identification, a note about the next show, an upcoming program later that night or next week. You have a program, a “bug,” a promo and another promo, all pushing at you to watch. TMI, as they say; “Too Much Information.”

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Doors Of Heaven Are Closed Against Me

Well, ok, not the doors of heaven exactly, but one of my favorite message boards where I hang out. Somehow, it’s not accepting my user name and password – a disaster if ever there was one. You can’t just knock on the door and say, “I’ve forgotten my keys; let me in.” Nobody will notice you’re not there and go searching.

Fortunately, I had the address of someone who could help and she gave me a new password, so now I can get back in. She’s one of the administrators.

On my desk, I have a 3-ring notebook that contains, among other Internet things, two pages containing all the user names and passwords I need for various sites. I’ve seen too many people who could not access some needed place because they thought they would always remember how to get in.

I suppose we could keep, in the front of our minds, all sorts of information. Where our car keys are, the location of our cell phone, the house keys, and so on. But we don’t and probably don’t have to. We just need to have a place to keep them that does not change; a “here’s where it goes” spot, rather than just tossing them somewhere when we come in the door.

If I’m guessing right, that will save a lot of searching, a lot of frayed tempers and even more worry. Then, when your memory starts giving you trouble, you’ve already trained yourself with “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mom, Time Changes And Her Car Radio

Gray-haired old ladies learn something the rest of us fail to grasp: They don’t have to live up to others’ expectations. In fact, others can ram those expectations right up their … well … you know where.

Mom’s car radio, for one thing. She wasn’t too good at things mechanical and setting the clock was one of them. So, she should worry? Why spend time fussing over it and getting all nervous? She just let it be, mentally adding an hour in the summer, reading it straight out in the winter. And your problem is . . .?

“I’m the only person who drives this car, and usually the only person in it,” she would say, “and I can make the mental adjustment for the time of year.” So she went along, happy as a lark, not caring a whit.

Someone asked her why she didn’t dye her hair. “I’m a gray-haired old lady,” she said in reply, “and I’m going to stay that way.” Again, and your problem is . . .?

I don’t know what’s worse: placing our expectations on others, or living up to others’ expectations. I guess both are unhealthy. I know from experience that when someone has an agenda, they usually feel everybody ought to share it and can get quite upset to find such is not always the case. I’ve also seen the unhappiness on the part of others who, to be polite, do what others want. We only go around once; it might as well be on our own terms.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lake Effect

If you know what today’s title means, chances are good you lived near the Great Lakes at one time. “Lake Effect,” especially in the winter, works out in two ways: (a) A week-long light snowstorm which produces maybe an inch of snow, (b) A localized snowstorm which dumps the big stuff on you.

Localized, as in, “the eastern side of the lake.” The wind blows across the lake (one of the Greats) and any soot or dust in the air combines with evaporated water to make rain or snow on the other side. Maybe a lot of either, maybe a little; but it’s fairly constant.

Nobody else experiences it; a few miles away there is nothing. On the western side of the lake, nothing. It’s not even a storm, so the tv weather broadcasts will merely say, “Four inches of lake effect tomorrow afternoon.”

Storm or lake effect, you still have to shovel it the same way.

Everybody has a story.
Ann Taylor passed away in Denver recently at age 97. “As a 6-year-old, her father introduced her to flying in open two-seater biplanes. At 12 years of age her father hired a pilot to teach Ann to fly and despite the then all-male atmosphere of the age and a resentful teacher, Ann learned to fly and loved it. Ever the sportswoman, she started ski racing, acquiring the nickname Nose-dive Annie. In 1963, as one of the founders of Vail, she and her husband built one of the first ski chalets in the new town.”

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dog, The Pryor Hunter

“Dog, the Bounty Hunter” is off A&E, at least for a long time. He said a rather bad set of words about a black woman his son is dating. Called her an effing “n,” and left that message on the kid’s voicemail. Kid, ticked off, sold it to the National Enquirer.

Anybody using that kind of language should be dropped from tv appearances. I don’t think a private phone call really counts, but since it became public and Dog’s attitude was so clear, that makes a big difference.

Of course, if he were Richard Pryor, that would be on his Greatest Hits album, and Comedy Central would have him doing it on his next special. If not Pryor, then any number of black comedians I’ve heard in the recent past.

(bleep) (bleep) and (bleep). Speaking of comedians on tv . . . One of the crew on my radio show was talking about the “F” word. I mentioned that it’s defined as “a meaningless intensive.” That is, the word generally means nothing in itself (as we generally use it), but merely intensifies the word next to it. As in “hot,” “crazy,” “angry,” etc. He said that his father told him it’s a word you use when you’re not intelligent enough to think of something better.

Our language has 450,000 words, more or less; probably more. There are so many ways of putting them together so we can get a laugh, express anger, tell a story, entertain people. We certainly can do better than go for the cheap.

Monday, November 05, 2007

On Strike

The Writers’ Guild of America has begun its strike, affecting television’s late-night comedy shows and, when their scripts run out, the prime-time programs as well. The writers seem to have a legitimate gripe: their work is being sold on DVD, the Internet and who knows where else, yet the studios are getting the whole pie with no pieces for those who made it all possible.

So the $200,000/year writers are on the sidewalk, idling the $17 million Jay Leno and his peers, paid more and less, the prime-time actors and such.

But home, with expenses and (I suspect) no income are the camera operators, the make-up people, the off-camera announcers, the show runners, the stage managers, and all those people you see when you get a wide shot of the studio. They don’t make $200k/year, nor will they get an increase for DVD sales.

It’s probably not much different when the star of a show decides to do something else. As one crew member put it, “If you quit doing this, we’re all out of a job.” The lack of work for someone making a million dollars per episode isn’t bad at all; for someone who is pulling a regular salary, it can be a disaster.

If any trade craft decides to hit the bricks, do they take into account how their own gripe will affect others in the building? Not only are they out of work (read “$$”), but they don’t gain anything, no matter how the strike is settled. They only lose.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sunday Afternoon Musings

I’ve started to avoid the Eighth Street Bridge. Usually, when I’m on my way to church, that’s the one I choose to cross the river. The road up on this side is quiet with few traffic lights; I like that on a Sunday morning. But with an official safety rating of 2 out of 100, I figure, “You know, I could be sitting on the bottom of the river thinking how stupid it was to take something that’s ready to collapse.” So I cross on the North Street Bridge, also known as the Pierce Street Bridge, or the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge. Take your pick.

Speaking of churches, and not speaking of voting (which is coming up very quickly), I was coming out of Mass one day years ago when a politician glad-handed me. “Hi!” he smiled with great enthusiasm. “I’m (somebody or other) and I’m running for office.” I was not edified by his being at church or happy to shake his unfamiliar hand. “How come I never see you here any other time?” I asked loudly. Ok, maybe I should not have said that, but I really never did see him in church, or that church, any other time. I don’t like the idea of working the churches at election time.

Speaking of voting, our local city booster (although a gritty one who calls ‘em as he sees ‘em) has a photo of a campaign sign for a person he does not care for. It also has a cute little doggie in the photo. The cutsie doggie has his leg raised on the sign. If you hurry up before he changes the photo, it’s just above his blog entry listings at

Time for another mug of tea.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

It's Gettin' Dark Around Here

Curse thee, return to reality! Curse thee, early darkness so long avoided! Not only has the sun risen and set earlier than we’ve been accustomed to, but now we’ve been hit solid in the face with the return of Standard Time.

It would have been easier if we just let Mother Nature take her course: a minute or two darker in the morning, the same in the evening. But we jacked it up by a sudden hour in the Spring and then chopped it off just as suddenly in the Fall. For that, we pay.

Some years ago, we had a person from Uganda living with us. When it was autumn, he noticed the sun was setting more toward the south, and was worried. We casually told him it happens every year at this time: toward the south in the winter, toward the north in the summer. He never heard of such a thing.

“What happens where you live?” I asked.

“I live on the Equator. The sun comes up at 6:00 a.m. in the east,” he said, “and goes down at 6:00 p.m. in the west. It does not get dark so slowly in the evening like here; after about ten minutes, it is fully dark. It never changes.”

I told him about twilight when, in the summer, you can hang out after sunset as the sky slowly darkens, how the sun’s position in the sky changes over the course of the year, its rising and setting times maxing in late June and minimal in late December.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Where Did The Day Go?

Here I am again, writing past midnight; despite what the time stamp says, it’s actually early Saturday morning. Where did the day go? For that matter, where did the week go? And where did October go, not to mention the year?

You hear old people wondering where the years went. As my brother says, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper: the closer you are to the end, the quicker it unrolls.”

I like to use time efficiently, but I also like to waste it. No, “waste” is not the word. Enjoy, appreciate, savor. Sitting on the front porch with a friend and just hanging out. That’s not a waste, even if I have things to do. I can be efficient when I’m on the air doing my show, or adroitly zipping down the right streets to get me to my destination in the quickest way with the least tie-ups.

But I do hope, at the end of the day, week, or whatever time span you pick, that I’ve accomplished something. Maybe it’s work, could be maintaining a friendship, possibly even taking care of some project I like. Because, soon enough, there won’t be that much time left.

It’s like summer, when school’s out. In June, it seems as if we’ve got loads of time, but when we’re into the third week of August, the inevitable raises its head. I don’t think we get judged by how much we get done, but by how we used the time given us. We can’t put things off until the end, then suddenly find out it’s our personal December.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'd Like To

I’d like to catch a couple of lightning bugs (fireflies, or whatever else they are called) and have them as pets. There could be fewer things nicer than waking up at night and seeing these little flashing lights flying around your darkened room. Besides, they don’t bite, they don’t need a litter box and they don’t disturb the neighbors.

I’d like to have a day when I can clean my room and put everything where it belongs. There are piles on my floor, clothes on a couple of chairs in my bedroom, and some piles in my closet. I’ve some shirts that need buttons sewn on them, socks that need sorting, things that need identifying under my bed.

I’d like to have a day when I have absolutely no responsibilities at all. None. In three months that will happen; it’s called an eleven-day cruise. But I’d like it to happen once in a while here, as well.

I’d like to be an over-the-road bus driver (rather than a city bus driver). There is nothing quite like being at the wheel of a large bus rolling down the highway. Problem is, I hate traveling in anything that has wheels and I’m kinda woozy at the end of a trip.

I’d like to be truly bilingual. Right now, I can do sort of ok in Canadian French, which is probably pretty good in itself, seeing as how I seldom have the opportunity to use it. But it would be nice to babble along in it and, perhaps, pick up Spanish as well.

I have a Bucket List; always have. They're things to do before I kick the bucket. As I check them off, I'm always adding more.