Saturday, June 30, 2012

this post deserves no title

I'm sitting here in the living room with Mary, Joan, Jerry, Jon and Tom, and the day is coming to a close and I haven 't been blogged yet today, so here goes...

I tried to get Jon to be my guest blogger for the day, but he says, "What would I ever blog about?", so you're not going to get a Jon blog post today.  If ever there is a person that should have his own blog, it's Jon... We can hope.

Kristin and Joan at Starbucks, 6.26.12.
Joan wants to know if I wrote a follow-up post to her Kristin Chenoweth sighting (my June 26th post, "Mary Arrives, Joan Buys") to let you know that Kristin mentioned her to the crowd during the concert later that night: "I got this iced tea at Starbucks in St. Paul, and I met the nicest lady there who bought my my oatmeal and tea.  Thank you, Joan!"...  And the next day Kristin even mentioned Joan on Twitter.

Mary is making strawberry shortcake.  Jerry grilled burgers for dinner.  Tom, as usual, is playing a game on his iPhone.

And now you have the picture.... More action tomorrow.

Friday, June 29, 2012

after jumping the couch

Cruise on Oprah's show
Other than his acting roles, Tom Cruise is mostly known for being a Scientologist and for jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey's couch a few years ago to emphasize how much he loved Katie Holmes, whom he was just about to marry.  He is also known for being very anti-psychiatry and for being, well, a little weird.

In his case, a little counseling may have done him some good, or maybe Katie finally wised up, but they just announced today that they're getting divorced.  Oh, poor broken-hearted Tom.  After making a fool of himself on that couch, the marriage flopped, almost as badly as his latest movie (Rock of Ages) is flopping.  Although it won't be easy to make it happen, with any luck the next wife might even be shorter than he is.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

news you can't trust

This morning, I attended a half-day seminar on "iPad: An Effective Business Tool."  Most of the 46 people in the class had our iPads with us.

It was well known ahead of time that the Supreme Court's ruling on the Obama health care law would be announced at 9 a.m., so soon after 9 several of us were iPadding news sites.  I logged on to, where the headline announced that the law had been struck down.  I was disappointed by that breaking news.  If I had logged on to (which of course I wouldn't do), I would have seen a similar headline.  Others in the class were getting a different stories on other sites -- that the law had actually been upheld! We on the CNN site thought that we had the right story... After all -- this is CNN!

Wrong.  CNN and Fox News both blew it.  I'm sure they corrected themselves a few minutes later, but there for a while we iPadders didn't know who to believe.  Who should we be relying on for accurate news in the future?  -- Perez Hilton??

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

the sound of the piano

One of the best things about having my sister Mary visit is that she plays my piano a lot while she's here.  She is playing as I write this, and it sounds good after being under-utilized most of the time, especially now that James has moved on to his own place.

I bought my piano -- a Steinway baby grand -- new in 1998.  I happened to be in a music store a couple nights ago and noticed that a new version of the particular model of Steinway that I own now costs twice as much as what I paid in 1998, so I guess mine was a pretty good investment -- IF I would just play it more often!  Note to myself:  My piano shouldn't just take up space.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mary arrives, Joan buys

Jerry, Mary, & me last year
One of the best parts of last year was when my sister Mary stayed with us for three weeks last summer.... and now she's coming back!  As I write this, her plane is in the air, bringing her from New Jersey to hang out with us until Bastille Day!

Meanwhile across town in St. Paul, my sister Joan ran into Kristin Chenoweth late this afternoon at Starbucks (If you don't know who Kristin Chenoweth is, well, that's what Google is for).  "I'm going to your concert tonight, and I'm buying your coffee for you!" Joan told Kristin, and she did -- plus oatmeal and an egg salad sandwich!  Joan was thrilled and now is looking forward to the concert even more than she already was.  Have fun, Joan and Ruthie.  Stop over at our place after the concert, Mary will be here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

firefox vs. internet explorer

Statistics can say anything, or they can be totally meaningless.

I do sometimes take a look at the statistics for this blog, and I am noticing that in the past week, 39% of pageviews came from people using the Firefox browser vs. 29% from people using Internet Explorer (15% Safari, 10% Chrome, etc.).  On my PCs and my laptop, I've never used anything but Internet Explorer... Can anybody give me some idea why they think Firefox might be better?  (Faster? -- IE is already fast)

Other stats:  86 views from Russia this past week, 42 from Germany.  The Germany number I believe, but why is Russia in second place after the U.S.?  I still think some Russian hackers might be up to no good.

Windows was the #1 operating system of my viewers, Linux #2, Macintosh #3.  I've figured out that it's the Russians using Linux (whatever that is).

Statistics can be endlessly fascinating, or they can be dull as dirt.  Thanks for sticking with me.  спасибо to all you Russians.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

they're sorry they're late

This has been Twin Cities Gay Pride Weekend, and today was the day of the Pride Parade.  It was fun as usual, about 150,000 people attending and/or marching, including our Governor (Dayton) and our two U.S. Senators (Klobuchar and Franken), and is a two-hour parade of various groups, organizations, music, churches, corporations and lots of miscellaneous.

Every year it's about the same, except that each year it gets bigger, and for me a highlight this time was a group of marchers under a banner of "Mormons for Equality", or something like that.  There are Mormons that are fighting the teaching of their very politically-conservative church!  I had read an article about that recently too, that some enlightened Mormons are risking excommunication by speaking out for equal rights.  I find this very encouraging, like some sort of turning point, that good people will in the long run select love over hate.  Several of the Mormon marchers were carrying signs saying "Sorry we're late!"  They may be late, but they are sooner than expected.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Howard's gardening hints

Jon, 6.22.2012
I live in a condo, and the advantage of being in a condo is that you generally don't have to do any outside maintenance -- snow shoveling or yard work, that kind of stuff.  Our condo is one of only two in a building of a couple hundred units that has an outdoor patio, which is one reason we bought this unit, but a downside is that we need to keep it presentable-looking, and this year it has been suffering from benign neglect.  Jon, my son the garden-freak, couldn't stand to see our patio with only one plant and a six or seven empty pots any longer, so my Father's Day gift from him was a trip to the garden center to buy some plants.

So, after an evening last night of buying and planting with Jon, I have these tips to all of you reluctant gardeners:

-- Be a procrastinator.  By this time of June, everything is 50% off, maybe more, and everything is picked over enough that your choices are somewhat limited, which makes your decisions much easier:  Less to choose from!
--  Since everything is 50% off, you can stress variety and buy some plants that you think might not make it, and if they croak you'll only be out of 50% of your money.
--  Get to know my son Jon.  He has become quite the amateur landscape designer.  If you don't have a Jon in your life and you are unmotivated, then you might be staring at empty pots all summer.
--  Your yard will look so much better if you do it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

me, a member of the press?

Guthrie photo, "Roman Holiday"
The Guthrie Theater generously provided me with tickets to two shows this week (for being a blogger, as you recall), the first being a new musical stage adaptation of the '50s Audrey Hepburn film, Roman Holiday, with all the music being Cole Porter songs.  It's a fun summer show, light and never dull, and who wouldn't like Cole Porter?, so if you get a chance and are somewhere local, give it a try.

Then last night I attended (with my sister Joan) a show up in the Dowling Studio stage of the Guthrie.  It's called Anytown, a dance production set to the music of mostly Bruce Springsteen.

When I went to the will-call window last night to pick up those tickets, they sent me to the "Media Area".  When those people at that table gave me the tickets, they told me to let the ushers in the Dowling know that I'm a "member of the press" and there would be special seating for us.

Hey, how about that?.. I'm a member of the press.  And I guess that means that all of my fellow bloggers are members of the press too, so if you have an active blog, you now have a new designation.  Congrats.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

more midnight-sun stuff

Photo by Elke!
The midnight sun off the coast of northern Germany might not be quite as bright as it up there in Scandinavia ("Norwegians are nutcases that night!" Elke tells me), but it's near enough to the Arctic Circle to still be remarkable, and northern Germany doesn't have the mosquitoes!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

in nine months, it will be spring again

Midnight sun in Alta, Norway
Right about now, here in the Central Zone of the United States, on 20 June, it is becoming Summer 2012.  Although not quite as great as Spring is, Summer is a great time of year, especially if you ignore the excessive heat and the bugs.

This is, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, sunlight-wise.  For those in the Arctic Circle, it's also "White Nights", the time of the Midnight Sun, when it never gets quite dark.

For several years now, I'm been thinking it would be fun to be in Scandinavia for White Nights, maybe Finland.  Recently, though, I found out that June is when mosquitoes hit Finland big time (did you know that Finland is notorious for its mosquitoes?), and I can't picture me sitting outside at daylight/midnight, drinking wine and swatting mosquitoes, so I have dropped that from my Bucket List.

Anyway, to all my readers, I hope you have a fun, beautiful Summer.  Believe me, it will go fast, find ways to enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

if it's tuesday, he must be in belgium

Remind me to never fly standby.  Jerry was a bit of wreck yesterday, not knowing if he'd get on one of the flights to Amsterdam or not.  Apparently he made it and is probably in Brugges, Belgium by now or on a train heading there.  A few days in Europe would feel good right now -- just without the standby thing.

Incidentally, if you scroll down the left side of my blog page to the photos, find the one that says "Jerry"... That is Jerry in Brugges, when he and I were there several years ago.. It's a beautiful old city.

Monday, June 18, 2012

what day is it, anyway?

I did a blog post a little while ago thinking it was June 20th and the first day of summer, so when I realized my idiot mistake, I had to delete it.... We still have another day of spring...

It was a lovely post too.. I'll try to recreate it in a couple days.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

neither snow nor rock

Jon and Tom do make it a point of spending time with me on Father's Day, and I'm grateful that they are such attentive sons.

We felt like we should actually do something today and thought about going to a movie -- either Snow White and the Huntsman or Rock of Ages, but after we had lunch both movies had weird starting times and left us with too much time beforehand.  We stopped at Best Buy to kill some of that time, and I spent some money, and by then we realized we didn't want to really see the movies, at least not today, so we went over to their house and just hung out, which turned out to be better than either movie, I'm sure.  Got to see some of their Ireland photos too.  Thanks, guys.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

IV detachment in the free world

If you're a hospital patient as you read this, then this post might not be for you.

I was just thinking, last year at this time I was in the hospital.  It was a week of surgery, blood draws, IVs, repetitive meals, bad daytime TV, naps every few minutes, and confinement....

So, for all of us not in the hospital right now, I say, I hope we all appreciate the freedom!

And, if you are in a hospital bed, first of all, congrats on bringing your laptop with you and for having decent hospital Wifi, but mostly, get well and get back to the world where you belong.  :-)

Friday, June 15, 2012

he's going to Belgium, we think

As you know, Jerry is back under this same roof and our status is a bit undefinable (if we even have a status), but I thought you'd like to know that he is going to Bruges, Belgium next week for a few days.  A friend of his gave him a Delta pass, which means flying cheap but being on standby, which might be a fairly uncertain position to be in flying to Europe in June, but I hope he gets a seat somehow.

He's going to Bruges because a friend of his, Laura (who visited us last year), an artist, is there studying for a month and he wants to visit her.  She seems to be enjoying her time in Bruges (it's a beautiful city) and has started a blog about her stay there, which you may find interesting (or not)... here's a link:  Laura's Bruges journal   (You know I like to encourage new bloggers)...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

get them out of there

OK, that is way more than enough.

I was just reading that a soldier from the Minneapolis suburbs was killed in combat in Afghanistan yesterday, becoming the 2000th fatality in the horribly-named Operation Enduring Freedom mission.  He was just 21 years old, newly married in March... sounds like he was a great kid.

Why are kids still dying in that war?  Whether that war in Afghanistan should ever have ever been waged will be eternally debated, but, regardless, it should have been done a long time ago.  Bring them all home, and don't let another war like that one -- futile and endless -- ever start again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

crushed ice in his orange crush

"Now why did I put ice in this?" Jon asked as he was drinking his Orange Crush. "Why do people put ice in soda anyway?  The soda is already cold, and the ice just gets in the way and is annoying. And, when it starts to melt, it dilutes the soda."

We were at Broadway Pizza, the one in St. Anthony, for lunch today.

Of course he is just recently back from Europe, where they hardly ever put ice in their glasses of soda.

We do talk about other things besides things like ice in soda; otherwise, we would be a continuous Seinfeld episode.  I did get to hear a little about the trip to Ireland and about his next big trip:  two weeks in Austria in September.  And we talked about what to do this Sunday -- Father's Day.

It's cool to have two sons who are such world travelers, but it sure is nice to have them home too.  Whoops, I just got corny.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

the phillies are in town

More baseball, can you believe it?

But here's the deal... The Philadelphia Phillies are in town to play the Twins the next three nights, and the Phillies, being a National League team, only come to Minnesota every few years (the Twins are in the American League), so we native South Jerseyans, most of whom are eternally loyal to the Phillies, need to take advantage of the opportunities.

I'm going to at least two of three games (wearing Phillies gear, of course), tonight with my sister Joan and my nephew-in-law Ryan and tomorrow night with James.

Of course, the games themselves won't matter.  Both the Twins and the Phillies are having a bad year, both in last place in their respective divisions.

Monday, June 11, 2012

replace what doesn't work

Why is it that I sometimes sit on the sidelines and watch my life passing by me, a spectator instead of a participant?

I go through these periods of seeming to not ever wake up and take charge of myself... I have just gone through one of those essentially self-destructive phases, maybe for two months running... letting life happen, being reactive instead of proactive...

Then I snap out of it.

Some undefined something happened just a day or two ago -- the phase of the moon? -- and I'm out of that stupid inertia and am kicking myself for having wasted two months.... Gotta make up for lost time.  It's decision time.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

the theater isn't dead, you just aren't paying attention

If you are reading this as I post it, I bet you're not at this moment watching the Tony Awards -- the annual Broadway award show.  Unless you're Ruthie or Joan.  Or me.

Well, if you're not watching, you should be. It's always a good show, even if you're not a theater person.  And, if you're not a theater person, the show might at least tempt you to see an occasional play or musical.

Neal Patrick Harris is back as host of the show, and he's the best, so that's as it should be.

Meanwhile, out there in the real world, it was a hot, windy, muggy day here in Minnesota today, and days like that always whip up some scary, violent weather, and today is no exception. The Tonys keep getting interrupted with thunderstorm warnings creeping along the bottom of the screen.

If you're in your basement taking shelter from a tornado, then you're excused.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

on his own... well, more or less

James is all moved into his apartment... At 19, this is his first place of his own.  It's small but cute, and he is putting his own James touch on it (A poster of New York City will hang on that blank wall behind him, and the lampshade is a picture of Tokyo).

..And his helicopter uncles?  We're just across Loring Park from him, a quick walk, but he has become remarkably independent considering that he has been out of high school just a year ago this month.  We consider the James Project to be a success, yet the chopper engines are still running...

Friday, June 8, 2012

we could be sailing

Elke and I have been close friends for ten years now, mostly by frequent emails but also in person a couple times.  She knows me better than almost anyone else does.  She and her husband Peter, who was once abducted by aliens (but that's another story), live on the north coast of Germany, and Jerry and I have visted them twice.  Peter's passion in life is sailing (he is a retired fisherman), and he has taken us out sailing on their boat, the first time of which didn't set well with me because we had just had eels and beer before heading out onto the rough North Sea.

Elke and Peter have been on a chilly extended voyage the past several weeks, north of Germany and Denmark (and not making it as far as Finland -- just like me!), and she has been sending me a few photos as she travels.  This one amused me, as it catches Elke enjoying some beer and feasting on a bird.  She has told me multiple times that she only likes to eat meat that she sees grow up, but I guess when you're out of the seas, you can handle eel for only so long and you make do.  Safe travels, Elke... 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

a millville boy becomes an angel

It's not often that a guy from my hometown in South Jersey makes the big leagues,  but it has happened.  Mike Trout, born and raised in Millville, is with baseball's Los Angeles Angels (formerly the Anaheim Angels, formerly the California Angels, formerly the Los Angeles Angels) and is having a terrific season.  At this point, according to ESPN, Mike leads American League rookies in four major offensive categories including batting average and on-base percentage, and, if he continues at this pace, he has a good shot at being named Rookie of the Year.  Wishing him the best.  Hail hail to old Millville.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

june 6, 1968: fort bragg, north carolina

One of the reasons that I let myself be drafted, and in retrospective it seems extremely naive, is that Bobby Kennedy was running for President, and I figured that he would be elected and end the Vietnam War quickly.  It was while I was in basic training that Senator Kennedy was assassinated.  Our platoon commander had this way of telling us that Bobby had died:  "Two down, one to go!" (meaning the Kennedy brothers).  Me, I was devastated, and I wonder to this day how history could have been different.  Of all of the assassinations of the '60s, this was the one I felt most deeply.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

june 1914: Downer, New Jersey

There used to be a little hamlet named Downer in Gloucester County of Southern New Jersey -- apparently it's not there anymore -- and my dad was born there 98 years ago today, the eighth of ten children.  It occurred to me that I occasionally in my blog posts mention my mother, who was born 92 years ago yesterday, but maybe never my father.  Maybe because my dad was harder to know than my mom was.

It's hard to picture what my dad would have been like at age 98 -- or my mom at 92, for that matter.  Dad died at 75, Mom at 66.  Dad always lived in South Jersey, lived in the same house for the last 50 years of his life, worked in the same glass factory for 44 years (an accomplishment he was very proud of).  He served in the Army in the Pacific during World War II in a medic unit, which was why he loved the TV show M*A*S*H so much, but he never talked about the war.

He fathered six children, of which I was the first.  He was a kind, gentle man, but if he lost his temper, watch out ("the Dixon rage", we call it and which all of us have when we are pushed past a certain limit).  He was devoted to my mom, and he never was the same after she died so suddenly.  He died two years after she did.

Sometimes I feel bad that I didn't spend more one-on-one time with him -- a downside of being in a large family.  And I wish his grandchildren and great-grandchildren could have known him. He's on my mind today.

Monday, June 4, 2012

the silliest song of all

Yesterday, Tom and I were listening in the car to SiriusXM '80s channel.  They were counting down the Top 40 songs from this week in 1986, and there were some okay songs on the list, but the #1 song was Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love Of All", which is a bit of a silly song ("Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all [?!?!]").  What's funny is that after that, Tom and I couldn't get the song out of our heads.  Tom was texting me all evening that it was still stuck there, although he admitted that, considering some of the alternatives, maybe that wasn't the worst song in the world to be stuck with.

I thought about putting it here as my Monday video, but I just can't make myself do it.  First, it's a goofy song, and, more importantly, it has a 15-second commercial before it starts... But, if you'd like to hear it, here's the link: The Greatest Love of All.

Fair warning, though:  it's catchy, in its own way.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

what can you say about a brother who loved the Beatles?

Today should have been my brother Ronnie's 62nd birthday.  He's been gone from us for a year now, and we miss him.

So to remember him, we have the strawberries, we have the Bisquick, it will be a strawberry-shortcake day, a Ronnie tradition.  And here is one of his favorite Beatles songs, "Let It Be" -- the pre-Phil Spector version (as Ronnie would have wanted it)... :-)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

the James countdown

James can start moving into his new apartment on Tuesday, and he's excited, and I'm excited for him but at the same time feeling a little wistful about him leaving..  He'll just be on the other side of the park, not far away at all, but I guess "I've grown accustomed to his face", as Henry Higgins might say.  He  needs to at least come back often to play the piano, which he is getting quite good at, by the way.

Meanwhile, the condo stays on the market.  I wonder who moves next and when.

Friday, June 1, 2012

my horoscope for today

"If you're being offered a grim or simply uninspiring array of choices, refuse to choose.  Walk out.  There are better choices somewhere else."

Wow.  What if I were to take that to heart?