Saturday, February 28, 2009
We're talking about adding an activity not removing one. In other words, it's not going to work if the habit I want to create is to not eat junk food. It's interesting, though, that when we add a positive activity to our lives we tend to automatically remove negative activities that were getting in the way of the positive ones.
My goal, for example, might be to run a marathon. The first habit I want to develop is increasing my daily exercise by, say, walking three miles a day. Eventually I would want to run those three miles. Along the way, I'm going to perhaps quit smoking or cut down on sweets because -- if the goal is important enough to me -- those behaviors will get in the way of the walking or the running and of the eventual marathon.
This is essential stuff because it's laying the foundation for reaching goals. When we achieve goals we feel great.
Which brings me to another important aspect of this project. Let's keep the goals and the activities positive, life affirming. If we were considering the goal of becoming a complete couch potato, we need to seriously reconsider that goal. Achieving it will not, trust me, improve the quality of our lives.
Part of the goal of witsendmagazine is to help us feel great.
Tomorrow's the day.
Let's go for it.
Before we announce our 21 day projects, let's take a moment to consider the task.
What's the goal? The first 21 day habit may and probably should be just a step in the journey.
For example, if my goal is to increase my level of physical fitness, it's just not going to work if I say that in 21 days I shall have made physical fitness a habit.
However, at the end of 21 days I may have made walking for 20 minutes a day a habit. Or using a piece of exercise equipment that for the past several years has been primarily a place for hanging wet towels. I might decide to take the towels off of it and use it for ten minutes a day.
So. Let's do some planning and thinking first.
What's the bigger goal?
What is one activity we can do every day for 21 days that will move us toward achieving that goal?
Larger Goal -- Daily Activity Toward That Goal
increased physical fitness -- walk 20 minutes
speak Spanish -- study from a Spanish textbook 30 minutes
organize the house -- choose one area (shelf, cabinet) and clean/organize it
read more books -- read 10 pages from any book
lose weight -- eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruit or vegetables
improved oral hygiene -- floss
At the end of 21 days I won't have become perfectly physically fit, I won't speak fluent Spanish, my house won't be completely organized, I won't have read all of the books in my library, I won't have returned to my ideal weight, and I won't be cavity free forever. However, I will be moving toward those goals because of the habits I have formed in those 21 days. Or at least that's the theory.
Today let's spend some time selecting the goal and the activity toward that goal. Just choose one activity. What we want here is success.
Tomorrow (March 1) we'll get started.
Friday, February 27, 2009
The new buzz is that it takes 21 days to turn a random behavior into a habit. Huh?
Okay. If I, say, walk around the block every day for 21 days on the twenty-second day walking around the block will have become a habit. That doesn't seem like very much time to me. Did brushing our teeth really change from forced nonsense to habit in just that length of time?
If that is the case, then imagine all of the wonderful things we can turn into automatic behaviors.
Exercise. Meditation. Study. Painting. Writing.
I'm going to give it a try. You can try along with me. By tomorrow I will have chosen something that I am willing to do everyday for the next three weeks. (Brushing your teeth doesn't count. Hopefully that turned into a habit long ago.) Tomorrow I'll let you know my choice. By March 20 that chosen behavior should be so ingrained into my daily activities that in order to stop it I'd have to come up with yet another plan.
Don't forget that our habits define us. Choose wisely. I'll try to do the same.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
This is the third time I've faded into retirement. The first two times, it didn't take. In fact, I've always been much better at working than retiring. I don't play golf or do leatherwork or putter around out in the shop like retirees are supposed to do.
What does it mean, for example, to putter around? Is this something you do with a golf putter or do you go around making motor sounds with your lips, like bddn, bddn, bddn? I just don't get it, to tell the truth.
Anyway, the two times I've tried to retire before, I got bored with retirement fairly quickly. I read the books I wanted to read, listened to the music I wanted to hear, cleaned the garage, walked myself back into shape. And then, the inevitable happed. I started reading the help-wanted ads -- just to see what was out there, I told myself. But before long I was back at it, chasing jobs.
And of course, before long I was back in the game, being productive, innovative, creative, all the things I've always been good at.
This time, though, it feels different. The tanking economy has made grant writing even more of a challenge than it used to be. Thanks to Bernie Madoff, Wall Street and the housing market, there's considerably less foundation money out there. And with so many people out of work, facing foreclosure, hunger and all the other social ills around these days, the competition among nonprofits for what's left is incredible.
And to tell the truth, I am sick of writing grant proposals. I used to be a newspaper reporter, and I got sick of that too after about 25 years. You do anything long enough, and you'll burn out on it. Even these blogs. Right now I enjoy it enough, but in a few years it could get old.
So I hung it up today as a nonprofit employee. Instead, starting Monday, I'm going back to work as a volunteer. Same nonprofit, same job -- just a new attitude.
We'll see how that works out.
2. Starbucks cupholders are now a zippy light green. Or, maybe that's for St. Patrick's Day.
3. Exhibition baseball started yesterday! Yankees and Mets both won. Dodgers, sadly, lost.
4. I thought I saw one tree with buds on it. However, I was going 60 mph in a bus on the New Jersey Turnpike, so I can't be sure.
5. The supermarkets have matzah stacked on pallets by the doors.
6. The golfers are back, winter jackets and all.
7. Everybody thinks it's colder than it was a month ago, and it's not; we're just worn out.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
They told us to drink a glass of red wine if we wanted to live long. Red wine it is, then.
The reasons for our Cabernet or Merlot are well documented. Numerous studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption helps protect against heart disease by raising HDL (good) cholesterol and reducing plaque accumulations in the arteries. Alcohol also has a mild anti-coagulating effect, keeping platelets from clumping together to form clots. Both can reduce risk of heart attack. Besides, drinking a glass of wine a day is a lot more fun than eating an apple in that same time span and since both keep the doctor away -- .
But wait. This just in.
I'm going to let the heart guys duke it out with the cancer guys. In the meantime, I've decided to enjoy my wine. I'll just eat an apple, too.
These days we can't be too careful.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
So I took off my wrist watch and put it in a drawer.
At first I yearned for time. I tried to remember which drawer contained my watch so I could sneak peeks at its dial. I became a nuisance to friends and strangers as I lifted their sleeves to determine whether or not they had time strapped to their wrists so I could get my urgently needed time of day fix. Gradually, though, I realized that since I was surrounded by time there was no real urgency to stock pile its accessibility. Time is everywhere. Everywhere we look we are reminded of its passage.
Besides, I always have my cell phone with me.
Today beyond my understanding or appreciation, my cell phone display changed time zones. For most of the day I lived as though I were in West Memphis, Arkansas. Having long ago completely forgotten at what time I'm supposed to arrive at work, I was only slightly alarmed when indications were that I pulled into the parking lot at ten this morning. That was late even by my standards. Throughout the entire day nothing much made sense and I couldn't determine whether I was late or early for meetings because they just never seemed to be happening at the time of my arrival. I ate lunch practically before I got to work. No one commented though I did get a few stares in the lunchroom. How terrific, I thought, that no one is using the microwave today. Hell, I could have cooked a pot roast in it and not one person would have been waiting for their turn.
I decided to finish up a few things and work a little late. When I left at my six in the evening I was astonished at the work ethic of my peers. They gave absolutely no indication that their day was even close to being over.
I went home anyway.
By this time I was so confused I thought we'd ended Wednesday instead of Tuesday. I sat down to watch Lost and looked at the time indicator on my cable box. Then I looked at my cell phone. As I was trying to reconcile the differences between the information provided by my cable box and that of my cell phone, the cell phone display corrected its little blip and set itself back two hours to Pacific Time.
I'm still not going to wear a wrist watch.
Why should I when I have days like today to prove that the marking of time is just our strange way of reminding ourselves that every moment, regardless of its zone, is precious.
I do wish, though, that while I was still in West Memphis I had stopped at that Cracker Barrel just this side of the Mississippi. A bunch of those little side dishes would have tasted pretty good. Especially after a day like today.
Monday, February 23, 2009
All of those things may be true. However, there's something about a daily newspaper that creates community.
Take The Toasted Bun, for example.
The Toasted Bun has been around for over fifty years. It's a dive of a coffee shop in Glendale, California. The walls aren't decorated with pictures of famous people but with pictures of regular customers. The place is always crowded with breakfast regulars. My picture isn't on the wall yet so apparently I'm not a regular. I go there often enough, though, to notice the sense of community centered around the morning paper.
Regulars who come in with their papers never leave with them. They don't just leave them on the table or counter, either. Oh, no.
Before those regulars even pay their tabs, they call out things like, "Who wants the sports section?" or "I got the front page here." Things like that.
Regulars sitting at the counter talk to each other about what they're reading in the morning paper. The only regulars who don't participate in this daily paper chatter routine are those who brought books to read.
Imagine what breakfast at The Toasted Bun would be like if there were no more daily papers. I just don't think the regulars would set up their laptops or offer views of whatever screen they had just pulled up on their Blackberries.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
You have your stories, too. We all do.
It's not the events of our lives that give us pleasure or pain. It's the stories we hold about those events.
Take rainy days, for example. My story is that rainy days are great. Your story may be that rainy days are horrible. My story calms. Your story doesn't.
On hot, dry Santa Ana type days I have a different story which neither calms nor inspires. I've chosen that summer story. It's hard to let go of stories we've held for so long.
We choose our stories.
My story is that we will recover from this current economic challenge. The media chooses to tell a different story.
We choose our stories. We also choose whether or not to believe the stories we hear and make them our own.
I'm choosing more and more to not listen to the stories of impending disaster and collapse and ruin.
My story is that classical music inspires more optimism than the onslaught of radio and television news.
I'm sticking to that story.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
All of that is fine. We need positive stuff around which to wrap our minds.
I don't care who wins the awards.
I've only seen one of the nominated movies and that's the one driving my question.
Perhaps I missed the subtleties of his performance.
Was Heath Ledger that good or is it just that he's that dead?
Help me out here because I don't get it.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Things happen. That's all.
For example, there are the Highway Patrol folk who do traffic breaks. All of a sudden a patrol car on a busy, fast moving freeway begins weaving back and forth across the lanes behaving for all the world like a random drunk driver. Cars slow. None dares to pass the erratically driving law enforcement officer. Traffic stops completely often just feet before an accident or a traffic hazard but sometimes just because members of the Highway Patrol need to practice these seemingly reckless out of control maneuvers somewhere and sometime. Once law enforcement gets into motion again so, too, do the dozens or sometimes hundreds of vehicles stopped by the traffic break.
Author Joan Didion in Play It As It Lays uses the Los Angeles freeways as methods of 'getting somewhere' and juxtaposes them against the notion that the only destination Maria seeks is 'nowhere'. Didion speaks of the sedated rhythm of freeways. In the desert, Maria has trouble following road signs. The gravity of the road doesn’t allow her the carefree motion madness of a freeway, although her travels are equally aimless whether they be via freeway or desert road.
The Pasadena Freeway (or the Arroyo Seco Parkway) was the first freeway in the Los Angeles freeway system. Getting on the Arroyo Seco is heart stopping and terrifying. The entrance ramps allow for about ten feet in which to go from entrance speed to freeway speed. In 1940, when that freeway opened, no one expected cars to go as fast as they do now. What was bucolic then is death defying now.
And still, every day, that freeway and all other Los Angeles freeways are clogged with drivers hoping for the best and knowing all the while that things happen.
Maybe that's why we Angelenos are so taken with the freeways.
Lots of things happen on them even when we're sitting still.
Large corporations are using these Pods because the executives believe it makes for happier and relaxed employees. Most people don't get a full 8 hours of sleep at night and aren't as productive as they could be. Those employers who have Sleep Pods available for their employees to use during lunch, find producion way up and accidents way down.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Instead of voting for the State budget as it is now written, I propose the citizens vote for:
1. Staying in bed one day a month thereby saving on gasoline, wear and tear on their car and
reducing traffic on the roads saving taxpayers money for road repair.
2. Shut off electricity one day a month thereby reducing the electricity bill. Light candles instead and be sure to keep matches nearby.
3. Go on a hunger strike one day a month. There's plenty of crab grass and weeds for fiber. Roses are especially delicious and they smell fragrant.
4. Kick cats and dogs out to fend for themselves one day a month. They're wild anyway and will probably love you even more if they can bring home their little prizes. Maybe they will bring home enough for a week thereby saving the expense of pet food.
I'm sure there is a lot more our citizens would rather vote for than the State budget. After all, the citizens would more than likely vote for the welfare of their community and not so likely to vote for the politicians' pockets.
The odd color and orbit are about the only newsworthy things about Lulin. The closest it will ever come to Earth is 38 million miles, so there's no danger of a world-destroying collision. This time, at least.
Lulin's greenish color is caused by carbon and cyanogen, a poisonous gas. The comet hails from the boondocks of the solar system, 18 trillion miles from earth, and it hasn't been close enough to the sun before to burn away its original gases.
That 18 trillion number is nearly twice the size of our rapidly growing national debt. Oh, but wait, that's another story too.
While all the planets and most other objects in the solar system circle the sun counterclockwise, Lulin has a clockwise orbit, flying backwards around the sun.
In that sense it is kind of like those who want to set aside the same-sex marriages that took place before Proposition 8.
But of course, that also is another story.
Hold that thought.
It is predicted that, because of the wide ranging impact of the collapsing economy, the divorce rate in California will rise alarmingly and dramatically. This prediction is of inexplicable but nevertheless great concern to the state and there is discussion about state financed ads promoting marriage. Other and perhaps more rooted in reality concerns have been expressed about whether or not state funds should be used to encourage people to either get married or stay married.
Hold that thought.
On March 5 the California State Supreme Court will hear arguments related to the passage of Proposition 8 and will decide within 90 days of that hearing whether or not to automatically divorce the 18,000 same sex couples married in the weeks after the Supreme Court declared same sex marriages legal.
How ironic is that?
Wait a second!
Perhaps I'm just being sarcastic because sarcasm, as we all know, is just bitter, cutting irony intended to taunt its target.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
We all have known for some time about hiding money from Uncle Sam to avoid taxes but, only those rich enough could ever hide their millions/billions.
Recently, the IRS discovered that UCB Swiss Bank took millions of covert dollars from U.S. citizens and was fined $780 million by the IRS. The government has ordered the Bank to expose those individuals. Will those names be revealed to the authorities? Will the public ever know who they were? Will penalties be made? ...or, are celebrities and the rich immune to the laws of the United States? This stands to be proven.
In a hauntingly prophetic moment, on August 24, 2006, Pluto got laid off when the International Astronomical Union presented its definition of a planet. Sadly, that definition excluded Pluto and the little guy was reclassified as a member of a new category called dwarf planet. Upon reclassification, Pluto was added to the list of minor planets and given the number 134340.
I guess we weren't paying attention back in 2006.
If Pluto, the darling of the solar system could get laid off, why on earth -- so to speak -- didn't we figure out that by January, 2009, 7.6% of the working people in this country would be jobless?
I'm still rooting for Pluto's return to the planetary line up. Hopefully when he does return he'll be able to keep his old #9 jersey. In the meantime, I understand he's in an employment readiness program trying to straighten out his orbit.
Once Pluto gets back on the job, I think things will straighten out for the rest of us, too.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
A billion days ago no one walked on the earth on two feet.
A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes at the rate our government is spending it.
Senator Landrieu of Louisiana is asking Congress for $250 billion. Just think, if you were one of the 484,674 residents you each would get $516,528. If you have one of the 188,251 homes, your home gets $1,329,787. A family of four would get $2,066,012. And don't forget, some 44 or more taxes didn't even exist 100 years ago - and - our nation was the most prosperous in the world.
What happened? Can you spell "politicians"?
Monday, February 16, 2009
The frantic near hysterical news casts this morning predicted at the very least torrents measuring in feet not inches.
What's this all about? Why must we be crazed with fear at all times? Or is it that life feels that frightening?
Here's a thought. Let's slow down and take a collective deep breath. Surely in each day there can be at least a moment or two of calm.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
It didn't appear that he'd had much practice at it. Kind of like I'd be if I had to ask someone for spare change as they walked to their car in front of Home Depot.
"Excuse me sir," he said. "Do you think you could help me with some gas money for that van over there so I can get back to Arkansas?"
I don't know if that actually was his van or if he'd ever been anywhere near Arkansas, and I didn't want to know what chain of events had led him to this circumstance, trying to beg money from strangers. But I felt a tug of sympathy for him.
Linda and I had just finished picking out hundreds of dollars worth of bathroom equipment for a remodeling project. Right then, while millions were suffering through job losses, foreclosures, bankruptcies and other problems, we had the good fortune of being able to think about doing some work on our house.
But the truth was, I didn't have any cash on me to give him. I could have given him my credit card or debit card, but that of course would have been crazy.
"I'm sorry, I don't have any money," I told him.
He nodded, with a "that's okay" smile. Perhaps it was relief. At least I hadn't snarled at him or threatened to tell the management.
If I were in his shoes -- and who knows that I won't be someday, the way things are going -- that's about the best I could hope for in that situation. Maybe people at least won't be nasty to me when I ask them for help.
We recently began posting a daily widget called 'Today In History'. On this day in 1933, the posting tells us, someone tried to kill President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This was new information to me about which I wanted to know more.
The following was released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U. S. Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts.
On February 15, 1933, Guiseppe Zangara attempted to kill Franklin Delano Roosevelt while the then President-elect was giving a speech in Miami, Florida. The United States Secret Service was responsible for the primary investigation and the FBI's role was mainly administrative in nature.
Zangara had lived in New Jersey since 1924, and had only been in Miami for a couple of months. According to the papers, "he was in Miami because it was warm and he was out of work. He had lost $200 on the dog races."
By chance, Zangara heard that FDR would be in Miami to give a speech. Three days before the shooting, Zangara purchased a 38 caliber pistol at a pawn shop. As Roosevelt finished a short speech at Bayside Park, Zangara fired five rounds from 25 feet. Roosevelt was completely untouched by the gunfire. Zangara was standing on a chair and lost his balance as he shot. Additionally, a bystander hit his arm. One bullet, however, struck Chicago's Mayor Anton Cermak who was shaking hands with Roosevelt at the time.
Zangara pled guilty five days later and was sentenced to 80 years in Raiford Prison.
Anton Cermak died from his wounds two weeks later. Zangara was immediately tried for his murder and found guilty. He was sentenced to the electric chair and executed on March 20.
Check out 'Today In History' in the right hand column.
Please note that the following must be posted very low on the refrigerator door at nose height.
Dear Dogs and Cats:
The dishes with the paw print are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note -- placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.
The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the goal. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.
I cannot buy anything bigger than a king size bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Dogs and Cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.
For the last time -- There is not a secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, and try to turn the knob or get your paws under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years. Canine and feline attendance is not required.
The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other dog's or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough.
To pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:
To All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit & Like to Complain About My/Our Pets:
1. They live here. You don't.
2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. (That's why they call it "fur"niture.)
3. I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
4. To you, it's an animal. To me, he/she is a member of the family who just happens to walk on all fours.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
This morning I drove to the Post Office. I wasn't thinking about the door saga of the night before. I was going to get my mail. The dime for the parking meter in hand, I closed my door. Let me say that differently. With dime in hand, I tried to close the door. I couldn't. Whatever failed mechanism had prevented my unlocking the door last night now prevented my even closing it. At least I didn't have to worry about locking or unlocking it.
I stared at my dime. I had been prepared to purchase seven minutes of time. Clearly right now was not the time for buying it.
I got in my Jeep, rolled the window down, and drove to -- you know this routine by now -- the garage at the bottom of the hill where I live.
First let me say that driving a Jeep with standard transmission while holding the door closed is not relaxing. And today was another one of those designated stupid driver days. I guess I got the memo, too. It's just that I couldn't think of any other way of getting the Jeep to Boris. I just don't carry that much duct tape with me.
Boris is by nature intense. He dropped everything to study my door. He tried locking and unlocking it. He tried closing it. After concluding that it was broken, he got a hammer, a chisel, and about a gallon of WD-40 oil.
He fixed it. Boris refuses to be undone by anything mechanical. When I asked him what had gone wrong with it, he shrugged his shoulders and repeated that it was broken.
"However," he concluded, "now it isn't."
That's Boris for you.
I returned to the Post Office, bought time with my dime, and got my mail.
The mail was all junk and went straight into the recycling bin. I'm glad, though, that I had enough time to spend some with Boris.
Friday, February 13, 2009
I propose a different spin on Valentine's Day. Show an outward appreciation to a friend who is always there for you no matter the circumstances. Tell someone they are special for who they are. Tell a child what's special about him or her. Hug your pets so they can feel the warmth of your love. Love Mother Nature - after all it's beauty is here for all to enjoy. I'm sure we can find love in many more places as well as within ourselves. Think about it. Do you have a love list? Do you have heartfelt love to share with those less fortunate than you? Do you realize how many loveless people there are in this world? A word of love or kindness can make all the difference. Let me hear your thoughts.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the Union armies had defeated the Confederate armies at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln left Gettysburg feeling like he had delivered a terrible speech to which no one listened.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
First off, a 10-year-old Sussex spaniel (that’s 70 in dog years) became the oldest dog to win Best In Show in the 133 year history of the Westminster Kennel Club's annual event.
This guy had a few things besides his age going against him. First, his name is Stump. What kind of a name is that for a show dog? Second, he almost died awhile back from some sort of mysterious illness. He was retired and came out of retirement for one more show. He had doubtless invested his money with Bernard Madoff and could no longer afford retirement. It's sad when a dog house goes into foreclosure. At any rate, Stump was retired and then he wasn't just like a lot of us. To top off all of the other strikes against him, Stump is a Sussex spaniel and that breed has never before won top dog at Westminster.
Not to be out done by a senior dog, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City today gave keys to the city to the crew of U. S. Airway's Flight 1549 for their heroism on the Hudson River.
Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger, III -- Age 58 years.
First Officer Jeffrey B. Skiles -- Age 49 years.
Flight Attendant Sheila Dail -- Age 57 years.
Flight Attendant Doreen Welsh -- Age 58 years.
Flight Attendant Donna Dent -- Age 51 years.
We are never too old to save lives, to win prizes, to go for our dreams, to live our passions, or to begin again.
Keep truckin' on!
When I heard it was closing, I had to go there. I hung around the Oscar Wilde in the 1970's when I was a clueless kid from Queens who didn't even know exactly what I was looking for. Today, I took the subway down to the Village at lunchtime. I wasn't alone. The Oscar Wilde was enjoying more business than many retail stores in New York. "We thought we were going to have to close at the end of February", the sales clerk said, "but since people heard we were closing, they're all coming in to buy something. We're probably going to make it to mid-March now. But two weeks ago, before we made the decision, there was a day when we only rang up two purchases all day". No business with a payroll to meet, shelves to stock and rent to pay is going to make it on that.
I bought two books and a DVD, and added $47 to the store's coffers. "Is there anything anyone can do?" another customer asked the store manager. "Only if a multimillionaire comes in and buys the building and the business" she said. I don't know if any multimillionaires read this blog. But if you do, please buy the Oscar Wilde Memorial Book Shop.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Chillicothe is a Shawnee Indian word meaning Big Town Where We Live or Our Big Home. The big chief, so to speak. of the Shawnee Nation could only come from the Chillicothe clan. The Shawnee language apparently had no word for sliced bread and so Chillicothe had to coin that name much later.
Chillicothe is the county seat of Livingston County, Missouri. At the moment of this writing, it's cloudy in Chillicothe and the temperature is 59 degrees. A quick glance through the Constitution-Tribune, Chillicothe's newspaper, tells us that today a Chillicothe man was sentenced to 65 years in prison after being found guilty of multiple drug charges.
It seems that Chillicothe is pretty much like any other town except, of course, for the fact that without it we'd all still be eating sandwiches on bread sliced without rhyme or reason.
We owe you one.
Monday, February 9, 2009
The horses are beautiful. They are well kept. They eat a well rounded diet of hay and oats and are exercised daily. There's a lot of upkeep for these horses - but - the main thing you can give them is your undivided time and love. With these two elements, you have a winning horse. Thanks to my sister-in-law, I've grown a deep love for these great creatures and will always be grateful to her for this new found love.
What will it be today? Fourteen degrees and the wind chill makes it minus two? Snow mixed with icy rain? I knew what I was headed for with winter in New York, but that doesn't make it any easier when you have to get out of bed and face it.
But this morning, Craig Allen of CBS had happy tidings. All this week, temperatures will be well above freezing. There will be a few rain showers, but nothing to speak of. On Wednesday, the high is expected to be 61 degrees. What happened? I have a theory.
You may have heard that, on Groundhog Day, New York's Mayor Bloomberg took a photo opportunity at the Staten Island Zoo with Charles G. Hogg, the zoo's resident groundhog. Mr. Hogg is known to his friends as Staten Island Chuck, but apparently, Mayor Bloomberg may not count himself among them. His Honor was playing a game with the groundhog, letting him nibble on a corncob and then jerking it out of Chuck's reach. Not finding this at all funny, Chuck gave up on the corncob and instead took a chunk out of the Mayor's finger, right through its glove. [The Family Dog applauded when he heard the story; he himself can't stand that kind of game.] Although the official U.S. groundhog, Punxatawny Phil, did see his shadow, dooming the nation to six more weeks of winter, Staten Island Chuck was too busy getting revenge upon his tormentor to even look, and so I think we in New York are in for an early spring. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Alas. Those idyllic times are on hiatus.
Rudolph Valentino Katz (named because he was such a lover boy) and Scraps (named because...well, never mind) are each on the outs with the other. I guess that can happen to any couple. Relationships, after all, are living things which must be nurtured and tended. What concerns me...no wait it doesn't concern me at all. What irritates me is that they wait until I've gone to bed to give voice to their on going issues. Caterwauling is, I believe, the clinical term for what goes on.
They yowl and chase each other in circles on the bed into which I have crawled only moments before. Bed. Let me see if I remember what the thing is for. Oh yes. That's the place for which we yearn during a stressful day. That's the place where we read and drift into night's sleep. That's the place with the pillows and the comforts as well as the comforters.
Not lately in my house.
Luckily neither Scraps nor Rudy has a particularly long attention span. The 'issue addressing' only lasts a few minutes. Whoever won that round chases the other off the bed and then the victor settles down to immediately snore. The round loser paces the floor for several more minutes and then pouts to a corner to also immediately snore.
It's a sad thing when relationships are on the skids. Especially couples who have been together as long as Scraps and Rudy. I'm confident that they will work things out. I saw an encouraging sign this morning when they both showed up for breakfast. Wait. They always both show up for breakfast.
I'm going to wait awhile longer before I insist they enter couples' counseling.
In the meantime, the fur is really flying around here.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
So it is that at least once a week my house fills with the smell of baking bread. And so it is that when I want bread, I get a bread knife and slice however much I want off of the now always present loaf. This morning as I was slicing I watched the knife controlled by my hand, mind you, begin a fairly thick slice at the top and finish the cut much thinner at the bottom.
That was when I realized the true meaning of the expression -- "This is the greatest thing since sliced bread." It's not about the bread. It's about the manner in which it is sliced. Specifically, the expression refers to machines doing a better job of slicing than you or I could ever manage. I'm not going to buy one nor do I even want one but a bread slicing machine clearly is a great thing.
Speaking of bread slicing machines, Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa, invented the first loaf-at-a-time bread slicing machine in 1928. Imagine the sandwiches before Otto's gift to the world. The first commercial use of the machine was by the Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri. Their product, "Kleen Maid Sliced Bread", was a success but not as big a success as that of a company in Battle Creek, Michigan. The Battle Creek folks advertised their sliced bread as, "the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped." Their motto leaves us thinking that the greatest thing before sliced bread was wrapped bread. While few now know of the food industries in Chillicothe, Missouri, Battle Creek has given us the Kellogg Company, Post Cereals, General Foods Corporation, and Kraft Foods.
Apparently a major flaw in Otto's bread slicing phenomena was that as soon as the loaf was in slices it fell to pieces. Enter St. Louis baker Gustav Papendick whose gift to the world was keeping the sliced loaf intact until it could be wrapped. His first attempts involved rubber bands and metal pins. Finally he created a cardboard tray into which the slices were placed. Then the loaf could be wrapped. This paved the way, of course, for bread wrapping machines and for Wonder Bread to, in 1930, sell wrapped, sliced bread on a national level.
Only after all of those things had happened could people start saying, "This is the greatest thing since sliced bread." Sadly, sliced bread can never be it's own greatest thing. Such is the tragedy of language.
An odd but not surprising historical note: On January 18, 1943, the United States government as part of a World War II cost cutting effort banned sliced bread. Public protest was so overwhelming that, on March 8, 1943, the ban was lifted. Prohibition's ban on alcohol lasted far longer than the ban on sliced bread.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
"They don't make engines like this anymore," Boris says though not in those exact words.
Don't get me wrong. I love cars. I can name a few hundred of them I would like to own.
Here's what I like more than the cars of my dreams -- zero monthly payments, annual Department of Motor Vehicle fees of less than sixty dollars, inexpensive automobile insurance, and never having to worry about scratches and dings.
When I really yearn to drive something with, say, a CD player or electronic windows or even automatic transmission I rent a car or borrow a friend's. The urge passes quickly.
One of these mornings I'll probably open my garage door to find a pile of rust where the Jeep used to be. Maybe my clip on dark glasses will be on top of the pile. That would be nice. Good clip ons are hard to find.
Until that happens, I really am driving the car of my dreams.
Friday, February 6, 2009
On March 5, 2009, the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a case brought before it by none other than Ken Starr. You remember him. He was the guy who submitted the Starr Report to Congress. His report opened the door for the impeachment of President Clinton.
It is expected that the court will hand down its decision within 90 days after the March 5 hearing. CourageCampaign.org is trying to rally support and interest in keeping those marriages and those lives intact. You might want to check out their web site.
The Courage Campaign asked its members to send pictures with simple messages for Starr and his folk to try and get him to notice that real people are involved here. Those pictures and messages inspired blogger Paul Delehanty to combine them with a Regina Spektor song "Fidelity".
And why, I ask myself every Wednesday night, do I put myself through this?
Nevertheless, you know where to find me next Wednesday evening. Just don't consider having a coherent conversation with me come Thursday morning.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
$159.00 will buy you a photo frame that can be uploaded with your pictures to a frame anywhere in the world. The subscription is $200.00 a year.
An easy bloom plant sensor can be purchased for $59.00 which is inserted into the soil of house plants for 24 hours up to 3 weeks. Simply insert the sensor into the computer to find out what the plant needs.
$200.00 will buy a pulse smart pen which takes special paper and digitizes to a computer. You can draw or write. If a piano is drawn, actual piano notes will be played. The pen also translates languages.
There's the world's smallest projector manufactured by Samsung. It's the size of a cell phone.
Then there's the indestructible phone which needs no carrier. This sells for $450.00.
These are only a few of the newest inventions which I thought would be worthwhile sharing.
Nadya Suleman is now the mother of fourteen children all under eight years of age. She lives with her parents. She is a single mother. She is 33 years old. The octuplets were conceived through in vitro fertilization. The babies were born at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Baldwin Park. Kaiser denies playing any part in the conceptions. Ms. Suleman's mother is quoted as saying that her daughter "is obsessed with children and wanted just one more girl". Other reports have quoted the grandmother as saying that she was filing for bankruptcy but decided to pay off her debts. It is reported that the grandfather plans on returning to the Middle East to earn money. Reporters have stated that the mother and presumably the children are MediCal (MediCaid) recipients. The mother was at one time studying to be a psychiatric technician.
Either we can't get enough to this story or the media just keeps hammering us with it whether we want it or not.
We now hear that networks and talk show hosts are battling over who gets the first pictures and the first interviews. The Times of London reported that the family wants two million dollars for interviews and commercial endorsements.
It was also reported that the mother now plans a career as a television childcare expert. She has been showered with book and TV offers and has hired publicist Joann Killen who says of her client that, "She's the most sought-after mom in the world right now."
The medical community is concerned about the ethics of implanting so many embryos especially in a woman who already had a house full of children. Those ethical concerns are appropriate. Oprah and Katie arm wrestling over who gets the first interview isn't.
And we need to stop salivating each time we hear the mention of this family. Why Ms. Suleman chose to try for just one more daughter with eight implanted embryos is beyond my ability to speculate. Now, however, she has fourteen children. The last word of that previous sentence is the key word. We're talking children here. They've already been born. They are here among us. They live.
Let's hope they can live with dignity and respect.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The Associated Press reports that officials in Sydney, Australia, caught a traveler with two live pigeons stuffed in his pants. They became suspicious after discovering two eggs in a vitamin container in his luggage. That, and perhaps the cooing sound they heard coming from his pants, caused them to take a closer look at the 23-year-old man.
The two pigeons were enclosed in padded envelopes and held in place on his legs by a pair of tights, officials said. They also found seeds in his moneybelt and an "undeclared eggplant," the AP said.
A friend who works for a newspaper in Texas had this comment: "This is the kind of story that made me decide to seek a career in journalism."
I'm sure the hope of someday blowing the lid off pigeon smuggling drew a lot of us into that profession.
The Vatican has demanded that a bishop who denied the Holocaust must recant his position before being fully readmitted into the Roman Catholic Church.
The Vatican also said in a statement Wednesday that Pope Benedict XVI didn't know about Bishop Richard Williamson's views when he agreed to lift his excommunication and that of three other ultraconservative bishops last week.
What the Associated Press didn't mention was the behind the scenes non-stop work of advocacy organizations such as the American Jewish Committee.
Safe guarding social justice is a full time job. It is frequently invisible and thankless. We live better lives because of those among us who do such work.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Well, yesterday, there was an earthquake in Morris Plains, New Jersey. In New Jersey. All right, it was a 2.9, but earthquakes in New Jersey? It has also been snowing all day. It's just not fair.
Don Mclean, like many of us, glories in hyperbole. Hyperbole has been around a long time. It's a literary device used to create emphasis. When it's not a literary device, it's just a shameless exaggeration.
I'm so hungry I could eat a horse. -- To date I've never gotten that hungry.
He's gotten as big as a barn. -- Few people have ever achieved the size of a barn.
I caught the biggest fish you've ever seen. -- I don't fish.
She's as dumb as a post. -- The inaccuracy of standardized intelligence tests for posts is well documented.
Even though the music did not actually die fifty years ago, the nation mourned.
On the other hand, The Cricketts still perform. After all these years, it has never occurred to them that Buddy Holly is dead. They lack a lead singer and perform as if they had one. In fact, they are the only live karaoke band around.
Now that is hyperbole.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Late in the fourth quarter, just after the dramatic pass-and-run touchdown by Larry Fitzgerald that put the Arizona Cardinals briefly ahead, someone inserted a 30-second snippet from an adult TV channel into the network feed going to Comcast customers.
It showed a man and woman. The woman undoes the man's pants, and he stands up and drops them, giving us a view of full-frontal male nudity.
And then he dances around.
I was watching the game with our daughter, Christina. Linda, my wife, was coming into the room with our 3-year-old granddaughter Cait. Christina is much quicker-thinking than I am, and at the first hint of what was coming she yelled at Linda to get Cait out of the room.
As a result, all Cait got out of the experience was a bit of confusion over why she was suddenly whisked away from everyone.
A spokeswoman for the cable company says Comcast is "mortified" about the whole thing and is thoroughly investigating the incident to find out how this happened.
You know how this goes. They will pinpoint some loophole in their system that allowed a disgruntled employee or hacker to break into the network feed. They will close the loophole, and express confidence that such a thing can never happen again.
Until it does happen again.
The problem is, our ability to tinker with our systems is constantly outpacing our ability to monitor and control our technology. From slapping a 30-second porn segment into a network feed to stealing 10 million credit card numbers, those of us who just want to watch a football game are constantly being outsmarted and victimized.
Unfortunately, we don't have any quick-witted mom to whisk us out of the room.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
that you held my babies
In your arms?
You said it was your greatest joy
to hold them close
and breathe them in,
to cradle their sweet life
and whisper love in their ears.
You blessed me
with stories filled with
Magic and miracles.
and tales of courage
Through the generations
you forever cuddle me
on the couch
made of sugar
I watch you in my dreams,
gently kissing me goodnight.
In the darkness you are illuminated
And through me.
Brushing the hair off my face
with the softness of your hands
I close my eyes.
You are dancing
Just for me.
Untethered by the air
In a swirling sparkle of mist
I hear you breathe sweetly
and I know
You are here