Saturday, December 15, 2007


I suppose it is a natural part of growing older, not that I have any personal experience with that mind you, that you begin to compare the world as you knew it when you were growing up with the world today. In most instances the former pretty much sucks compared to the latter. We heard our parents saying the same thing, probably much the same way they heard it from their parents. Oh, "the good old days"...

So what has changed between 1950 and 2007? Really. Technology for starters. Our family didn't have a television until I was in grade school. My first records (you remember, the things before CD's?) were 78 RPM and the size of dinner plates. My mom had to buy us a state-of-the-art phonograph player (you remember, the thing before iPods?) just so we could get Long-Playing, 33 1/3 RPM records the size of large dinner plates. Our telephones were big black things with a rotary "dial". My grandkids are so sick of hearing me talk about this stuff.

Speaking of telephones, remember the first "portable" phones? They were the size of World War II walkie-talkies. Maybe they were WW II walkie-talkies. Walkie-talkies? Think about it. Roll it around on your tongue. Who the hell came up with that name - the same people that brought us Teletubbies? Side note: what we think of as a walkie-talkie is more properly a handie-talkie and was patented by Motorola, the now-parent company of the small software outfit my son works for.

Okay, everyone knows 2007 technology kicks 1950 technology's butt. And that's okay with me as I sit in my easy chair with my wireless notebook in my lap writing (and spell-checking as I go) thoughts that my friends all over these United States of America will be able to read in just a matter of moments. Shortly I plan to take my current portable phone out of my pocket, flip up the cover which contains a one megapixel camera with 4x zoom, gaze lovingly at my son and grandchildren displayed in a small, tv-like screen, click on my calendar to see where I need to be today, pull up my personal phone directory and call one of my golfing buddies in Florida (hope he's not out on the course) and ask him how he likes his GPS-based range finder that can be mapped to any of over 10,000 golf courses in the world and is accurate to within a yard. Yes, I'll take 2007 technology.

But other things in the current world aren't going so well. Climate change, drought in the Southeast, fire ants, hurricanes - some things I don't have much control over. A senseless war in Iraq, a semi-sensible war in Afghanistan that no one seems to care about, plunging house prices, spiraling national debt, a government that is probably just more incompetent than corrupt - some things I might be able to do something about but it's going to be a hard row to hoe. Oh, please, don't get me started on ho, ho, ho's.

Then there's what's happening to our society. Kids that just don't give a f***. Adults that do give a f***, oftentimes when they shouldn't be (just ask soon-to-be-former Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison). And now eighty plus baseball players stand accused of using steroids. My, my, my, what is the world coming to?

Thomas Sowell writes Say It Ain't So, Joe in NRO and there's a lot of talk about the “black sox scandal,” the deliberate throwing of the 1919 World Series. But within that discussion this jumped out at me:
That was long before we became so sophisticated that we learned to come up with excuses for those who violate rules and additional excuses for those who refuse to impose penalties.
Can this be why kids just don't give a f*** and adults too frequently do? There are no penalties, no consequences. I know I wouldn't get away with behaving the way that many kids do in school today - I would have gotten the crap beaten out of me by my dad and my ears burned off by my mom. Today's parents threaten a lawsuit if the school admin threatens their poor, pampered offspring because the only time the parents see their children is when there is a disciplinary problem and because that is the only time the parents see their children and they want their "together time" to be pleasant and happy, they automatically defend them. It's nuts.

Sowell ends by saying:

There is still some lingering hope of sanity in the baseball writers’ refusal to vote Mark McGwire into the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite his tremendous career achievements. Keeping known rule-breakers out of Cooperstown would be a lot more effective deterrent than putting asterisks alongside their records, to be disregarded by those who are “non-judgmental.”

Unfortunately Senator George Mitchell’s report on steroid use in the major leagues and its recommendations are of the let-bygones-be-bygones approach that has spread the disregard of rules throughout the whole society, from student cheaters to career criminals.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

Quick, now. Who were the first settlers in America?

No, no. Besides the "Native" Americans.

The first to stay around for awhile. To plant. To Harvest. Dare I say it - procreate. Maybe even ferment a few hops?

Gimme me your best guess.

The Pilgrims, you say? Plymouth, Massachusetts? Late in 1620?

Not even close.

Even the English had established a colony in Jamestown (Virginia) in 1607 a full thirteen years earlier.

Having now spent some time in Florida, Pat and I now know that St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city, and the oldest port, in the continental United States, established in 1565, FIFTY-FIVE YEARS before the "Pilgrims". And, having just returned from Hilton Head, we now know that Beaufort (South Carolina) beat St. Augustine by three years but has not been "continuously occupied". Details, details...

However, I'm guessing that the average man on the street (not a woman, of course, they're much smarter), would say "Pilgrims", or maybe just "Pilgrim" if they've recently seen a John Wayne movie. Particularly at Thanksgiving our thoughts are all with the KU Jayhawks (tough one, guys)... oops, I mean, our thoughts are with those "Pilgrims" who celebrated, if not the first Thanksgiving, one of the first (the first perhaps being at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, in 1619). The "Pilgrims" made it a tradition, however, and so here we are today, fat, debauched (debauched?), and happy...

Things you may have known but have probably forgotten about the "Pilgrims":

- The people who would come to be known as the Pilgrims attempted to leave England in 1607, not for America, but for Amsterdam. They chartered a boat but it turned out to be a "sting" operation and all were arrested upon boarding.

- In a second departure attempt in the spring of 1608, arrangements were made with a Dutch merchant to pick up church members along the Humber estuary at Immingham near Grimsby, Lincolnshire. The men had boarded the ship, at which time the sailors spotted an armed contingent approaching. The ship quickly departed before the women and children could board; the stranded members were rounded up but then released without charges.

- In July 1620, after successfully establishing themselves in the Netherlands, the Pilgrims decided to give America a shot. They purchased two ships, the Speedwell (ever heard of that one?) and, (ta, da) the Mayflower. Soon after departing, the Speedwell crew reported that their ship was taking in water, so both ships were diverted to Dartmouth, Devon. There it was inspected for leaks and sealed, but a second attempt to depart also failed, bringing them only so far as Plymouth, Devon. It was decided that Speedwell was untrustworthy, and it was sold. It would later be learned that crew members had deliberately caused the ship to leak, allowing them to abandon their year-long commitments. The ship's master and some of the crew did transfer to the Mayflower for the trip to America.

- The reduced party finally sailed successfully on September 6, 1620. Initially the trip went smoothly, but under way they were met with strong winds and storms. One of these caused a main beam to crack, and although they were more than half the way to their destination, the possibility of turning back was considered. Using a "great iron screw" (probably a piece of house construction equipment) brought along by the colonists, they repaired the ship sufficiently to continue. One passenger, John Howland, was washed overboard in the storm but caught a rope and was rescued.

It's really a pretty fascinating story and you can read more here. For more on Thanksgiving, see here.

And so, in conclusion, I must say how very thankful I am for my wife, my life, my child, my grandchildren, my parents, my grandparents, the producer, the director, the writers, the stagehands... Uhhh. Got carried away there.

But this Thanksgiving I am probably most thankful that after ten days in ICU with a very, very nasty case of pneumonia, my brother is back home again and on the mend. Get well soon, bro...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cured In The Checkout Line?

Since the forecast is for snow later today, Pat and I headed for Price Chopper this morning to gather provisions for a possible snow-in. We needed some salmon ("Good Source of Omega 3") which although farm-raised (can't you just picture that in North Dakota?) was from Canada instead of South America ("Support Your Local Continent"), an unfrozen turkey for tomorrow, more beer and various and sundry (is that redundant?) other items.

Between the tuna and the toilet paper I passed a guy that look vaguely familiar. I tried to steal a longer look hoping it wasn't some complete stranger who might misconstrue my eye contact. Turns out he was stealing a longer look at me also, indicating the possibility we did in fact know one another.

I realized it was someone I had played golf with this last summer, and I guess he figured it out too since he smiled and we both said, "Hey, how ya doin'?". I even remembered his name since I had recently seen it in an e-letter from the golf course I work at during the summer. The guy's name was Jeff and he won the Senior Club Championship while we were away in Florida this fall. We passed and were on to our respective provisioning.

Between the bread and the beer I saw him again and stopped to congratulate him on winning the club championship. He asked if I was going to play in the Turkey Trot, the annual Thanksgiving golf tournament at Adams Pointe. I sadly told him, "No", and in fact had left my golf clubs in Florida due to some hand problems I was having. He asked what the problem was and I told him about the near constant pain across the backs of my hands and the tingling and slight numbness.

He said, "Are you a Christian?".

"What?", I replied.

"Are you a Christian?".

My senses primed for a joke.

None came.

Now, how does one answer a question like that while in the checkout line of the local grocery store?

The only way possible - tell the truth. "No", I said.

As was shortly clear to me, my answer to this question was merely of passing curiosity to Jeff. He grabbed my hands right there in the checkout line and began to pray: "God, remove the pain from these hands, in Jesus name, Amen", "Sweet Jesus, heal these hands and let them hurt no more. Amen".

Now let's get this straight. Jeff is about 6' 2" and is almost a scratch golfer (shoots right around par), and is an imposing figure, kinda like my friend G.R. I'll have to admit I felt a little sheepish. After a few more rounds of amens, Jeff asked if my pain had gone away. "Unfortunately, no", I replied.

"Well, since you do not have faith I'm doing this all with my faith, so it may take a little longer", he said, and he tried a few more hallelujahs. "Pain gone?", he asked. "Well, maybe a little", I fibbed. I hate to disappoint people. I know his heart is in the right place. What would you have me do?

I know, I know - tell the truth.

Well, excuse me all to pieces, but between not wanting to disappoint and the sheer shock of what was happening to me, I lied. And here I thought I was living just as good a life as G.R. only to discover that when under pressure I would (gasp) sin. Boy, I'm in trouble now.

I'll let you know how the hands feel tomorrow...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Searching & Waiting

Yes, I am searching.

And, I am waiting.

Like Lawrence Ferlinghetti...

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep through the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am seriously waiting
for Billy Graham and Elvis Presley
to exchange roles seriously
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am waiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder
(See here for more about Lawrence Ferlinghetti and a link to the complete poem.)

Actually, all I'd like is the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

And it is not 42.

I am searching for faith. And while I'm searching I am waiting. "I am waiting perpetually and forever a renaissance of wonder". I am inspired by my friends, my enemies, my parents, my wife, my child and my grandchildren. Oh, and Don Quixote, who was also a bit of a searcher and a dreamer:

It is the mission of each true knight...
His duty... nay, his privilege!
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go;
To right the unrightable wrong.

To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!

This is my Quest to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right
Without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause!

And I know, if I'll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest.

And the world will be better for this,
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars!
Now that is inspiring! "To reach the unreachable stars". Wow. But, what if "faith" is unfounded? What then? Perhaps it is just the "glorious quest". To "dream the impossible dream". That's what I hope to pursue in these postings.

And yet another dreamer...
Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

John Lennon, 1971
Now that I've broken probably every copyright possible (and perhaps a few that are impossible), I'll end this post. The search (and the wait) continues...

Happy Birthday, Craig!