Monday, April 30, 2012

ellen and i are calling it quits

Sometime back when I started DVRing last year, the only other daytime show I recorded besides the Evening News was The Ellen Degeneres Show, and I don't really have a good answer to why, but for a while we would actually watch the show later that day, and it could be pretty entertaining.  It didn't take long for it to become very routine five days a week and we started viewing fewer times, and now I can't even remember the last time I actually watched the program.

But it kept recording every day, and I'd glance at the show's info to see who the guests were and then I'd delete, and I started realizing what a total waste of time most of these guests are.  I mean, do you really want to see Dancing With the Stars contestants being interviewed?  And how many times is she going to have those two little girls from England rapping Nicki Minaj songs?

So zap!..  Bye for now, Ellen.  You're officially not being recorded.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

warming up to coldplay, sort of

When James wants me to listen to some of his music, I'm wary and you would be too if you could hear what he usually plays, but I let him put the most recent Coldplay release in the car CD-player mostly because I was surprised that it could be a band that he likes.  I knew so little about Coldplay except that they are British, more or less "alternative rock", and that they are very popular with 20- and 30-somethings.  It's not at all James kind of music, or at least what I had in my head to be James kind of music.  Maybe he is moving beyond teenage pop.

Anyway, the Coldplay album isn't bad!  It's growing on me!  Maybe I'm moving beyond '60s teenage pop.  Or maybe we've just found some compromise music.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

'can i help who's next?'

Disregarding the questionable grammar, where did that new question get started and why does it always seem to be asked with an eye-roll?

We stopped at McDonald's, James and I, and I don't do McDonald's very often, but we had an appointment to see another apartment so we didn't have much time.  After we ordered and were waiting for our stuff, the guy behind the counter asked the next person without looking at him, "Can I help who's next?", and that customer was the only guy anywhere nearby!  Would it take that much effort to be a little flexible and ask, "May I help you, Sir?"

I realize it's just a fast-food joint, but when I see an employee being impersonal and lazy, I think several things:  "Wow, this guy really hates his job!", "Is he so jaded after waiting on thousands of McDonald's customers, some of whom are probably jerks, that he can't look anybody in the eye?", "Did this question get started at so many businesses because there were fights about who was next?"

I personally would rather see an occasional fistfight.  And I think that a job that you hated wouldn't seem so bad if you made the best of it and maybe pretended to like it and just smiled once in a while.

Friday, April 27, 2012

a place to crash

We're starting to help James find an apartment -- something an inner-city college student can afford, yet something not too scary.  It's an eye-opening experience.  The rental market has tightened up these days since fewer people can afford to buy a home, and I think some landlords are taking advantage of these kids.  It's easy to see how college graduates end up with so much debt by the time they're done with school.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Even though I haven't worked in downtown St. Paul in about nine years, I still have a safe-deposit box in one of the banks there that I visit hardly ever and who knows what is even in that safe-deposit box any more?  But I needed to drop a couple documents off, so I drove over there today around lunchtime.

Downtown St. Paul generally doesn't change too much, except that streets are currently all torn up making room for light-rail tracks.

But I must be changing -- or at least my signature is.  The safe-deposit lady made me sign the entry card again because my signature, sloppy and almost indecipherable, looked nothing like the signature on the card I signed when I first rented the box back in the 1980s, beautiful and legible.  When I signed the entry card the second time, it didn't look much better than the first attempt.  I think my right hand doesn't move as precisely as  it once did... Or is it my brain that has lost its edge?  It's no wonder I can't play the piano like I used to!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

brian and i are calling it quits

Ever since I gave up on CBS's Scott Pelley last summer, I've been watching The NBC News With Brian Williams, and. dammit, I just can't take it anymore.  I still DVR it but just can't bring myself to watch even one more day, so once I remember how to un-DVR it, I will.  Last week may have been the final straw when Brian kept leading off with the who-cares?-story about Obama's Secret Service guys who hired prostitutes.  Stories like this are apparently titillating to someone somewhere, but they are not real news stories!  There is a whole world out there to report on!  The formula for Brian's program is always the same:  An unimportant but overly-reported tidbit about airline pilots losing their cool or something similarly wasteful of air time; a report on outrageous but basically non-relevant words out of the mouth of a presidential candidate; a health update of either something else to fear or a possible new drug to sure some awful disease (followed by a commercial for one of the drug company sponsors); then ending with some heart-warming and schmaltzy bit about someone "making a difference."  I just can't spend any more time watching this drivel.

It's going to be a horrible election year anyway, so it might be a good year to skip the news altogether.  I'm certainly not going to switch over to Diane Sawyer on ABC!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

thoughts going through my head at a baseball game

Last night... Target Field, downtown Minneapolis.  The Minnesota Twins playing the Boston Red Sox.

--  "There sure a lot of Red Sox fans in Minnesota!"
--  "Considering that this bratwurst was seven bucks, it should be a lot better than this."
--  "Is James going to get that family history assignment done by Wednesday?"
--  "It's only the 4th inning??"
--  "How do people have season tickets for baseball?  I mean, there are something like eighty home games every season!  And a lot of these season-ticket holders have a long drive to get here -- I just had to walk seven blocks!"
--  "Baseball sure is a funny sport.  I mean, here we sit -- 30,000 people or so -- watching a little ball being thrown and batted around.  Plus it's being watched on TV!"
--  "I hardly know any of these players anymore.  There was a time when I was a kid and I knew every player on every team.  Of course, there were only 16 teams then instead of 30 and players didn't change teams every couple years."
--  "I wonder what Jerry is doing tonight."
--  "Minneapolis has a beautiful skyline. And these are great seats."
--  "I should spend some time in Boston."
--  "It's so hard to sit still and relax.  I think I'm not recovered from busy season yet."
--  "How is it that I have some people in my life who will vote for Mitt Romney?"
--  "It's only the 7th inning?  What if this game goes into extra innings?"

Monday, April 23, 2012

'nothing' 2day

From 1990, Sinead O'Connor singing her hit song "Nothing Compares 2 U", written by Prince.  Because of her almost-shaved head back at the time, Jon and Tom used to call her "Skinhead" O'Connor.

(remember to click on the little "x" if an ad pops up to make the ad go away)

My German reader(s) can tell me if the German translation is a good one.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

words from an iPad universe

Okay. I broke down and bought an iPad (whatever the newest version is) last night, and this is my first Apple/iPad post, and, as I was telling my friend Elke, if you see typos and weird punctuation, blame it on the iPad since I speak mostly Windows and not Apple. I admit that this thing has a lot of fun features, and, even though I tell myself that I'll use it for business, I know myself well enough to know better. If I start playing Angry Birds, though, take me out and shoot me.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

invasion of the condo people

Things change by the day, but it looks like Jerry and I will be putting our condo on the market this week.  The real estate market has changed for the better, and Jerry, the ultimate in real estate agents, thinks it is a opportune time to sell and come out fairly well financially.  Jerry is a pro at staging a property, so he will probably move back long enough for us to sell it, however long that takes -- which means that we have to live in a staged home for a while, anticipating showings at a moment's notice.  That's a pain, but I guess a person can used to anything ...

Meanwhile, James has started a search for his first apartment.  Changes and new addresses are coming for all of us.  The next adventure awaits...

Friday, April 20, 2012

procrastination and inherited traits

James has an important paper due for his American History class next Wednesday, and he is just barely getting started on it, which of course takes my memory back to the last-minute assignments I was doing back in college.  I'm sure that I never started on a big thing like that when it was first assigned, and I could have done so much better if I had.

This essay is supposed to be about his family history from 1860 to present, in sort of a story form selectively told.  James, of course, being a product of his generation, knows nothing about his family history.  So, here we come, his uncles to the rescue!  I emailed my brother Davy in China, Davy having done a geneology search on our family a few years ago.  Overnight, Davy sent us a bunch of info about two great-great-great-(not sure how many greats)grandfathers during the U.S. Civil War.  One was a recent immigrant from Ireland, enlisted in the Army, and died of starvation in the notorious Andersonville Confederate prisoner-of-war camp.  The other was a wild, hard-drinking, wife-abusing scoundrel who deserted the Army and did all kinds of nasty deeds during his lifetime.

But, if we fast-forward far enough, we are shirt-tail cousins of Teddy Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt.

I wish James would find this all as juicy and interesting as I do!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

it had a good beat and you could dance to it

Dick Clark died yesterday, and people have various frames-of-reference of him in their memories (New Year's, Pyramid, etc.), but if you were a teenager in the late '50s or early '60s, it was American Bandstand, particularly if you grew up in the shadow of Philadelphia, as I did.  The show was taped in Philly back in those years, and the routine for many kids was to watch it when you got home from school and you might even see a cousin or somebody you know from school dancing on camera.  That show gave a lot of singers their big break, thanks to Dick Clark, the man who for generations never seemed to age.  It was a good era.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

misspelling ecclesiastes

My Sunday School teachers of old would be ashamed of me for misspelling Ecclesiates in yesterday's post (thanks, Lee, Biblical scholar, for pointing that out!), but I just think it was due to carelessness and to my resistance to using Spell-check, and who knows if the word "ecclesiastes" is in Spell-check anyway?

After having it all drummed into my head for the first twenty years of my life, I bet I can still name the 66 books of the Bible in order.  Apparently spelling them is the problem.

Ecclesiastes?  Here is some Bible trivia for you:  The word means "teacher" or "preacher".  Like most books of the Bible, nobody knows who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes and when it was written, but some like to think it was written by King Solomon.  I say this:  If King Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines and the Queen of Sheba on the side, how would he have had the time to write any books?  And this guy was the wisest man who ever lived?  I mean, think how many of the wives and concubines would have PMS at any given time!  One thing is for sure:  He wouldn't be in favor of the "one man/one woman" version of what some people today think that marriage is defined as!

Speaking of Spell-check, here is a link to a funny poem about it:

The above post is an example of literary babbling.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

steak and vodka

To paraphrase Eccesiastes chapter 3:  There is a time to work and a time to play.

Here, on this tax-deadline day, ends my 34th busy season.  Not sure how many of these I have left in me.

Tonight, though, even though the thought of going to bed early has a sort of predictable appeal, we in the office will be heading out for an extended Happy Hour through downtown Minneapolis, followed by an obscenely decadent dinner at Manny's Steakhouse.

Tomorrow, back to reality and back to a normal 40-hour work week.... Hoping I can avoid a major hangover!   I have work to get done, and I have some serious personal decisions that an overloaded brain has made it relatively easy to ignore...

Monday, April 16, 2012

the '80s all in one room

If this were the mid-'80s, you would be hearing this song and seeing this video everywhere...

And if you watch, make sure to at least see it through Cyndi Lauper's brief solo at 2:51, the best part of the video.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

going down with the ship all over again

April 15, 1912.

A hundred years ago right now, the word was just starting to get out to the world that the unsinkable ship Titanic, on its maiden voyage, was lying at the bottom of the North Atlantic -- the end of a magnificent ship and 1514 souls, but the beginning of endless fascination with the story of how it could have happened and what it meant:  the tragedy and the romance, the rich and the poor, bravery and cowardice.

A good book to read on the topic:  A Night to Remember by Walter Lord.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

all in all, i'd rather be in Finland

I was just reading a sad article about Robin Gibb of the BeeGees, that he is in a coma and probably near death.  I posted about him on 11/21/11 ("hey there, Robin...") and his struggle with cancer, but then after that it looked like he may have won the battle.  Apparently not...  Our best thoughts are with Robin, a good man.

Yesterday I got to have a brief visit with my friend Mary W., visiting from Oregon.  She is one of my faithful blog readers and was touched by my recent post (4/9/12 -- "4/9/87 and every 4/9 thereafter") about my mom's sudden death 25 years ago.  We agreed that, as hard as it may be for family, that is way we would want to go.  Keep that in mind if I keel over one of these days.

Oh.... Mary thinks I should really go to Finland.  She's been there, and she loved it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

time well spent

photo by T. Charles Erickson
'Spent last night at the theater instead of at the office.  A wise choice.

The new play at the Guthrie is Time Stands Still, written by Donald Margulies.  It's a very up-to-date story about war-zone news reporters, particularly news photographers.  Sarah is the person behind the camera, returning home after being seriously injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, her lover/husband James a news writer.  Both characters accept yet also question their roles as chroniclers of horror.  The casting of Sarah and James and of their friends Richard and Mandy is perfect, and the set is amazing.  The Guthrie Theater has another impressive production.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

news update and then back to work

It's just another day, like no other but also like them all.

With all the news in the world, the big story today has been how appalled everyone is that some Democratic bigwig made an offhand comment that Ann Romney, wife of zillionaire Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had "never worked a day in her life."  I'm sure that what this person meant was that she had never had a job outside the house in her life, but of course everyone had to take offense that the implication was that being a mother is not work.  Ho-hum, this is news? This is an issue?

North Korea is shooting off primitive rockets and the world panics.

The guy who killed Trayvon Martin has been arrested.

Otherwise, what.  The Minnesota Twins have won two games in a row after losing their first four.  The Minnesota Timberwolves have lost seven games in a row and will lose their eighth in a row tonight.

Check back a year from now and see if anybody cares about any of these stories.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

marlin errors

The baseball team -- the Florida Marlins...

First of all, the plural of "marlin" is not "marlins" -- it's marlin!  It's like if you wanted to name a team after deer. You wouldn't call them the Deers! Did this team have to dumb down the name for Floridians?

But this week, something even more lame. I had to take a double-take when I read the articles about the five-day suspension of the Marlins' manager, Ozzie Guillen.  Ozzie, originally from Venezuela, said in a news interview that he loved and respected long-time Cuban President Fidel Castro.  This apparently is something you can't say in Florida where there are so many Cuban-Americans who hate Castro, and he probably shouldn't have said it for the good of the Marlin(s) franchise.  Maybe he should even have apologized or explained better what he meant.

But getting suspended for saying it??  What is it that these people don't like about Castro -- his repression of free speech??

This was a gutless move on the part of this misnamed team.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

momentarily considering a trip to HEL

The other day, I was fantasizing about getting on a plane to somewhere... the need to get away, did you ever feel it?  I browsed the Delta website and saw good fares to Helsinki (airport code HEL), Finland, and I would sort of like to visit Finland sometime so was tempted, but let me ask you this:  Why does it cost way less to fly to Helsinki than it does to go to Amsterdam, even though you have to fly through Amsterdam and change planes there to get to Helsinki?

I didn't make a reservation and slept on the idea and was over it the next day.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

somebody in russia is up to no good

Somebody in Russia keeps trying to spam me with comments to my posts, and Google is somehow savvy enough to know how to filter them so that you the readers never see them.  But I see them: they forward to my email.  They are usually links to who-knows-what, Viagra type sites, and, since they get filtered, I don't know what these people gain by doing this.  But they must have a reason.

Lately, in particular, there are two old posts that they keep focusing on.  Almost every day now I'm seeing their attempts to comment.  I can't help but be suspicious that I should stop it from happening, whatever it is.

So -- I've posted every day since 8/11/10, but I'm going to delete those two posts so that they can't keep doing their dirty deeds (if that's what they are).  The posts are:  "the snake stories" on 3/17/11 and "piano man" on 3/22/11.  I will get rid of them within the next two days, so if you want to go back and see them, now is the time.  And you Russian dudes, move on to something else.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

hopping down the bunny trail

Tomorrow is Easter, which Tom, my son, says is a "pointless holiday", and, if you are non-religious, that sort of makes sense.  Maybe it's just an excuse to get the family together.  I mean, are there really any kids who buy the notion of an Easter Bunny delivering eggs and candy?

"Here Comes Peter Cottontail" in this video is sung by the late Rosemary Clooney, a popular singer in the '50s who these days would be best known for being George Clooney's aunt.

Friday, April 6, 2012

helicoptering again

James's helicopter uncle still hovers.

But heck, what do you expect?  He had never flown all by himself before, and he's still such a young-looking (sometimes young-acting) 18-year-old, and he was really nervous about checking in and going through security with his carry-ons and such...

So of course I drove him to the airport instead of making him take the train and I stood there making motions to him ("take off your jacket", "take off your glasses") as he put things on the security conveyor belt and I stood there until he was well past the security checkpoint in case he had any problems.

But he apparently did fine and got on the plane to Philly and made it to New Jersey sometime this afternoon, and now he can be play the part of the college freshman, the working man, and the urban sophisticate triumphantly returning for a week in his home town with his friends and family.

And maybe next time I'll be able to let him take the train to the airport.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

injuries are causing me pain

I just don't know if I can go to any more Timberwolves game this year.  I might have to give all those tickets away.  It's just too painful to watch.

The season was so much fun.  Even when the Wolves were losing, they were fun and they were competitive.

Then Ricky Rubio was injured in early March and out for the season.  Now everybody else seems to be injured:  Ridnour, Berea, Beasley, Darko...  The rest of the players seem to be totally demoralized.  When you consider that there are only five players in the game at any one time, basketball teams are pretty fragile.

Since losing Rubio, the team has hardly won a game.  This week they lost to Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors, two pathetic teams.  I think I might have to stop banging my head against the wall and just be content with the memories of the first half of the season.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

nothing's rotten in Denmark

Trivia question:  What play is the sentence "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" from?

There apparently isn't much rotten in Denmark these days, as it turns out.  Jon forwarded to me the list of the ten happiest countries in the world, "happy" being based on responses to how satisfied people are with their present life and their predicted satisfaction with their future life, per Forbes magazine.  The happy countries:
1)  Denmark.
2)  Finland.
3)  Netherlands.
4)  Sweden.
5)  Ireland.
6)  Canada.
7)  Switzerland.
8)  New Zealand.
9)  Norway.
10)  Belgium.
(If you go back to my blog post on 8/18/10, you will  find Newsweek's list of the "best countries in the world", and the list isn't much different!).

Jon's comments:  "Be sure to point out that none of them are the US, and 8 of the 10 are in that horrible continent that has ruined itself with socialism" (-- more reasons to be proud of my left-leaning son!).  :-)
Trivia answer:  The quote is from Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Monday, April 2, 2012

before cat became yusuf

This is Cat Stevens singing his 1972 hit, Morning Has Broken.  In the late '70s, he converted and changed his name to Yusuf Islam.  His Cat Stevens' songs from the early- to mid-'70s still sound good.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

a day for which they predicted 80 degrees and sunny

It was a Sunday morning unlike what the weather people had been predicting all week. They had been saying 80 degrees and sunny, and all through the morning it never got any better than mid-40s and gloomy. Sometime after noon, the sun finally came out, and the temperatures maybe hit 65, which isn't bad but still felt like a letdown.  Maybe it was an April Fool's joke.  You know what jokesters those weather people are.

It was Palm Sunday and perhaps I should have gone to church anyway instead of being at the coffeeshop thinking bleak thoughts, but I have to admit I don't know why Palm Sunday is a big deal anyway.  Mary W., maybe you can explain that to me.