Friday, November 30, 2012

november 30, 1978: vineland, new jersey

Some babies take a while to make their appearances and some just can't wait to be born.  My niece Ruthie was one of the latter.  She wouldn't even give her mom time to get to the hospital, being born right there at home while my brother was probably panicking and their dogs (Jenny and Bo?) barking away:  at least, that's how I picture the scene.

Some people just know how to make a dramatic entrance.

Happy birthday, Ruthie.... I hope you have a drama-free day and a few laughs too.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

once gold, there's no going back

My friend Todd left on vacation, and I use the term "vacation" very loosely, so let me tell you about this...

He flew from here today, Thursday, MSP, to Atlanta, where he changed planes to go to Los Angeles.  He'll visit his sister in LA briefly, then fly cross country to New York, where he'll stay, visiting a brother in Brooklyn, for exactly six hours.  Then he gets back on a plane and goes to Nashville to see his grandfather for a day or two, then back here to Minneapolis/St.Paul on Monday.

Now if you happen to be geographically challenged, get out a map and figure out how many miles that trip covers and how many hours on airplanes it would require.  It's a big country, dude.

And have you figured out why he did it?  Yep, you guessed it -- he needed that many miles to maintain his Gold Elite status on Delta Airlines for 2013!  And rather than thinking how crazy that was, I was thinking -- that's exactly the sort of thing I would have done!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

why 'happy hour' was invented

A crazy day -- One client meeting that went for three and a half hours followed immediately by another client meeting that lasted three hours.  Both were excellent meetings -- fun, even, but that kind of pace can wear on you.

A work week right before I'm leaving town is often crammed full of pressure and anxiety.. Same in the week right after I get back.

Referring to my trip next week, my co-worker Jeff to me over happy-hour martinis:  "Why do you like traveling down South?"  Me:  "Two reasons:  1) the food; and 2) being there makes me feel so intelligent!"

(It was the gin talking).

Monday, November 26, 2012

vows in a fetid swamp

There I was, in the hot summer of 1968, trudging through the swamps of central Louisiana, surrounded by bugs and armadilloes, weighed down for days with weapons and a heavy backpack, being trained to be a killing machine in the jungles of Vietnam (training which fortunately I never needed in the jungles of Germany).  Is it any wonder that I would stand there in a foxhole that I just dug and vow two things:  that I would never in my life return to the state of Louisiana and that I would never go camping?

For 44 years, I have kept those vows!

Until next week.  No, don't worry, I'm not going camping.  I'm flying into New Orleans, Louisiana, which I realize is a world away from Fort Polk but still has me struggling morally with that vow which was, I argue, made under extenuating circumstances.  Now I know how those Republican senators feel who are finally dumping Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

bonding moments with 007

Not to get overly mushy, but it was one of those best birthdays.  Last night was  a fun one with Jerry, Jon, Tom and Joan -- an excellent dinner followed by the new James Bond movie.  It's a Bond-year tradition that these guys indulge me with, new Bonds on my birthday.  I hope they all always look back fondly on our Bond Novembers like I do.

Skyfall, by the way, is a terrific movie, one of the best Bond films in years.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

fortunately, i'm not hexakosioihexekontahexaphobic

Desperate for rational thought, I was thinking, if I live another six hundred years, today is the day I would turn 666, the Number of the Beast, a number that freaks out some people with fear.  What I didn't realize is that there is a name for such people!

Friday, November 23, 2012

i hope you didn't go shopping today

I like this quote... Black Friday:  Only in America people trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.

BUT, if you couldn't resist a bargain, I hope you at least avoided that evil company Walmart, unless you were there not to shop, but to show support for the Walmart employees brave enough to finally be protesting their low wages and destructive management.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

pilgrimage to the mall

Definitions of the word "pilgrim":

From Wikipedia:  A pilgrim (from the Latin peregrinus) is a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place.

In American history:  The legendary, mostly mythical story of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, who came from England for religious freedom.  They did okay, except for the large percentage of them who died those first few years, and they shared that first Thanksgiving dinner with the native Americans, who had, willingly or not, shared their vast lands.

Today, Thanksgiving 2012:  Those who gobble down  their Thanksgiving dinner to rush to be first in line when the stores open on Black Friday.... and now, to their shame and to the abuse of their employees, some of those stores are even opening on Thanksgiving evening.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

4 eyes 2 drive

I've dreaded renewing my driver's license.this year.  The last time I renewed, four years ago, they let me squeak by on the vision test, although, truth be told, they probably should have flunked me then.  This year, no such luck.  It's not that I really mind wearing glasses to drive.  I just don't like being legally required to wear them.  And yes, I do know how lucky I've been to live this long with good vision.  That thought should make me feel less awful about physical deterioration (but it doesn't).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

generals and mistresses

How many generals do you think haven't had affairs at some point in their career?  Even General Dwight Eisenhower had a mistress during World War II.  I mean, let's face it:  they're away from home a lot, their wives usually aren't very exciting (compared to blowing people up, that is), and there are probably plenty of women with "Doing a general" on their Bucket Lists.

Petraeus?  Well, first of all, he could have done much better (and maybe he did), and second, I wish he would have instead been spending his spare time figuring a way to get us out of Afghanistan faster.

Monday, November 19, 2012

lincoln who?

My sister Joan and I went to see the new Steven Spielberg movie, Lincoln (starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln), and, being from a history-buff family, we both liked it.  But I'm thinking that today's average movie-goer, used to special effects, vampires, and  mindless sequels, would be wondering, "Who is this Lincoln guy?", "What's this Civil War they're talking about?  What country was that?", and "Do they give free popcorn refills at this theater?"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

he heads into gray predictability

I just drove Jerry to the airport.  He's flying to Seattle to spend some time with his friend Tomoko, who is just being released from the hospital to recover at home from serious surgery.

As we were driving, we kept commenting about what a perfect day it is, weather-wise, here in Minneapolis today... an unseasonal 57 degrees, sunny, pleasant... and it's supposed to stay nice through the Thanksgiving weekend.

Cool, huh?  Except for Jerry, who will be in Seattle!  The forecast for all week there is rain, gray, zero sun, the temperatures hovering around fifty; in other words, Seattle is living up perfectly to its image and reputation while Twin Citians bask in relative sunshine!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

here we go, a-christmas-carolling again

Thanksgiving is next week, then it's more than a month after that before Christmas is upon us.... or is Christmas already upon us?

I walked by Hans's desk at the office Friday, and he had Christmas music playing on his computer.  He didn't seem to think it was weird to be listening to Christmas music on November 16th.  I did.

I just got home from Mall of America.  It already feels like Christmas season there.

And A Christmas Carol, for the thirty-something year in a row, has begun at the Guthrie Theater and will play until Christmas.  It's a Twin Cities holiday tradition that I had seen two or three times before and saw again last night (thanks to tickets for me from the Guthrie).  Emma, James's friend, went with me, and I do have to say this year's version might be the best one that I've seen.

Just please don't wish me a Merry Christmas until at least the first of December.

Friday, November 16, 2012

goodbye to texas and twinkies

I never liked Twinkies, so it doesn't break my heart to hear that Hostess is closing down operations.

The state of Texas is more of a headache than it is worth (think:  george w. bush, the Dallas Cowboys), so the movement by some of the goofier residents of Texas to have their state secede from the United States, makes me chuckle.  Let 'em go!.. and they can take the rest of the red states with 'em!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

'old age isn't a battle'

"Old age isn't a battle.  Old age is a massacre."-- Philip Roth, Everyman (2006).

I am reading Philip Roth's most recent novel, Nemesis, and was sad to learn that it is his last.  At age 78, he has stopped writing.  He's had enough.

I haven't had enough though.  I have read almost every Philip Roth book that's been published, fiction and non-fiction, and he's been one of my favorite writers for a long time.  You may know some of his writings -- American Pastoral, The Human Stain, Portnoy's Complaint, and many more...  Some of his more recent books have dealt with aging and how helpless we are to stop the physical and mental agonies of the aging process.

He can retire satisfied with his accomplishments, but I'll selfishly miss his future works.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

just another reason to avoid boring pizza

If I were a person so desperate for pizza that I would ever order from the Papa John's pizza chain, this would be an excellent time to boycott.  The owner, who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, has announced that he is cutting back the hours of a bunch of employees in order to avoid new Obamacare rules for employers.  So, in other words, to spite Obama, he will do harm to his employees.  Why his people don't deserve adequate health insurance he doesn't say.  It's a shame that anybody needs a job so bad that they'd work for this creep.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

mid-autumn sports update

Basketball:  I've been to three Minnesota Timberwolves games so far, and the Wolves are somehow looking good (a record so far of 5-2) despite the fact that three or four of their best players are out with injuries for extended periods.  How long can they win before there aren't enough players left to man the court? The only undefeated team, the New York Knicks (4-0).  Some of the worst NBA records so far -- Detroit Pistons at 0-8 and Toronto at 1-6, the only Raptors win unfortunately coming against the Timberwolves.  :-(

Football:  I'm not feeling a lot of excitement about this season, maybe because the Vikings are just ranked a mediocre 14th (out of 32 teams), which is actually better than anyone expected, and the Eagles are ranked #24, way worse than anyone would have expected.  The top-ranked teams are all pretty unlikable:  Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears.  Ho-hum.

Baseball (even though baseball season is long over):  Millville boy Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels was named American League Rookie of the Year.  Yay!

Hockey:  The NHL is still on lock-out.  I never hear anybody talking about this.

Lacrosse:  Just kidding.

Monday, November 12, 2012

there aren't many perfect days

... and today certainly wasn't one of them.  But, when I think about it, I can't point to any imperfections in it.

Sure, the weather has turned chilly and it was slippery driving this morning... Sure, I had a busy day full of meetings that kept me from getting any real work done...

But my car didn't slide off the road.  I made it to the office.  I spent the day working with people that I really like.  I came home to a nice warm place.  Jerry had made dinner and baked apple pie.  I took a quick power nap before we ate.  It's quiet.  I feel good.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

as a veteran, i have earned the right to say this

It's Veterans Day, and for some reason Veterans Day is annoying me more than usual.  The pseudo-Thank-Yous just seem to be lip-service when they come from people who support unnecessary wars and then don't watch out for veterans after they've served.

The ways to thank veterans:  Don't let future veterans be sent off to fight offensive wars that we start for trumped-up reasons; hold politicians accountable for the lives they destroy; and take care of those who return from war, especially if they are injured -- mentally, physically or psychologically.  The care some of these wounded veterans receive is pathetic.

And do you know that one of four of the homeless people in this country are veterans?  And that unemployment rates for veterans are way higher than for the general population?  These are shameful facts, man.

Help and support are needed, not patronizing standing ovations by people who have no idea what they missed......

Saturday, November 10, 2012

the 'naked' guy in person

Somebody gave us tickets to see David Sedaris tonight at the State Theater.  You know him, David Sedaris?  He's a writer, "humorist", comedian.  A few years ago, I went on a brief David Sedaris kick, reading a couple of his books, Me Talk Pretty One Day and Naked, and was briefly smitten by them, until his little essays seemed to be all the same, formulaic, in an Andy Rooney sort of way (The answer might be to read one of his books and love it and don't read any more of them).

David Sedaris in person?  We'll know soon.  I'm hoping to get a few chuckles out of the evening, at least.

Friday, November 9, 2012

high in the rockies

One of the more amusing results of this week's election is that two states, Colorado and Washington, voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana.  How progressive of them!  Of course, pot is still illegal for federal purposes, so the vote might end up being meaningless and potheads in Denver or Seattle will continue to be criminals, but at least this might be a start to ending stupid drug laws.

If somebody had told members of my generation forty years ago that weed would still be illegal in the year 2012, we would have shaken our heads in disbelief, maybe giggled a little for no good reason, and passed around the water pipe.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

the mysterious, evil underwriter

Since mortgage rates are so low, Jerry and I decided to re-finance the condo.  We jumped through all kinds of hoops -- unnecessary hoops, I might add -- that the mortgage people threw at us.  We have good credit, the mortgage balance isn't a lot compared to our combined incomes...  It should have been a slam-dunk for these people.

But today we reached our breaking point.  They came back after all that, asking for one more thing -- something totally meaningless -- that "the underwriter" wants to see.  Well, that was one hoop too many.  It was obviously just meant to be harassment -- a let's-degrade-the-customer-since-we-can sort of thing.  So we said NO and withdrew our application.  It's their loss.  Nobody should have to put up with that kind of crap.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

and we don't even have to wait for florida

Ah, it's a lovely morning.....

Last night was one of my best Election Nights ever.  It was an evening to celebrate with friends, many moments of feeling proud...  Let's all hope that good things come from the happy results.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

it's a james bond november

One of the mysteries of Howard is that I -- a non-violent, easy-going guy -- am such a fan of the James Bond movies.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Bond movie, Dr. No.  I have the first 20 (out of 23 films altogether) on DVD, have seen all of them multiple times, and I have memories of when each film was brand new.  I have a book, The Essential Bond (thanks, Jon!), and Wikipedia, of course, that have me knowing more about the history of the Bond films than is normal.  For me, it's pure escapism: the stories themselves are often really silly.

I've been watching several of the old Bond movies on DVD the past few days, partly to escape commercial TV and partly to mentally prepare for the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, that comes out later this week.  To tell the truth, the newer releases haven't been as much fun as the old ones -- too serious, too Bourne-like -- but I of course wouldn't dream of missing it.  I hope that Jon and Tom go with me.  It's become part of the tradition.

Monday, November 5, 2012

2 philly boys and their dreams

(If you get an ad before this video starts, click to skip the ad).

I thought we could use an upbeat song today, so how about some Hall & Oates?  Daryl Hall & John Oates that is, from the year 1980.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

some of them even admit it

This is it:  my last mention of the election until after it's done.  I promise to make tomorrow's and Election Day's posts as far away from politics as I can make them.

And my last comment before the vote is to express my extreme disappointment that there is still so much racial hatred in this country.  A large percentage of Romney voters are not voting for Romney because they like what he says.  How could they?  His only vague economic "solutions" are to cut taxes even more and reduce government regulation even more.  These are the exact two causes of the Bush recession of 2008-2009.  And the Romney voters might say they like his position on social issues, even though his positions change every day depending on who he's talking to.  Let's face it:  There is nobody who likes Romney, except maybe his wife and kids, who have reaped the benefits of his capitalism-without-a-conscience history.  Even the conservatives don't like him.

But there are plenty of people who hate President Obama, and they might say, Oh, it's because he's a "socialist" (which he is not and which people who say that have no idea what socialism is anyway) or because he couldn't help create even more jobs than he did (thanks to the do-nothing/block-everything Republican Congress).  It's really because he is half black, and you know it and I know it.  As the world watches our election, I am embarrassed for us.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

without spanish or love

After a week of being worried about storms on the East Coast while at the same time being stressed and repulsed by election politics, I ended the week on an escapist note, by going to the Timberwolves season opener.  Sorry, faithful readers, it's basketball season again.

And the Wolves, fortunately playing the lowly Sacramento Kings, won the game, so we at least have one moment of being undefeated.  And they did it without the team's two marquee players, Kevin Love (with a broken hand) and Ricky Rubio (still recovering from last year's knee injury).

There are new players on the team, plus it's become an even more international team.  Besides my favorite player Rubio (from Barcelona, Spain), there is a team member from Montenegro and two from Russia.  Let's hope they and the rest of the team somehow all share the language of winning.

Friday, November 2, 2012

chronic civic anguish

Finally!  Most Republicans and Democrats are finding common ground!  And, no, I'm not talking about Superstorm Sandy bringing President Obama and Governor Christie together.  What I'm referring to is that here in the early days of November, we just want this rotten election to be over!  We are all to the point of feeling we will upchuck violently if we see even one more political ad on TV or get one more political phone call or receive one more piece of political junk mail.  And we look forward to it ending on Tuesday, Election Day.

Except, of course, that it won't really end.  Newly-elected congresspeople, instead of trying to work together to solve some problems, will immediately begin running for re-election in 2014, and whoever wants to run for President in 2016 will begin laying the groundwork, and political talking-heads will start talking about the next election right away.  It's no wonder so many people put their heads in the sand.  Something needs to change.  The problem is that the people who would need to change the system are the people who benefit from it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

finding an 'ick' factor in the red letters

Minnesota has a question on next week's ballot on whether to amend the state constitution to define "marriage" as only between a man and a woman.  Whatever.  The people who will vote for it are the people who find the idea of same-sex couples  "icky" and somehow a threat to their own 'idyllic' marriages.

What would be amusing -- if it weren't so pathetic -- is watching these people trying to say that same-sex marriage violates the principles of the Bible and then trying to find isolated, dark hidden passages to back them up (Like the racial segregationists used to do).  If I were a person who took the Bible literally, which of course I am not, I'd be sort of pissed that I couldn't find clear verses that back up my 'ick factor' prejudices.  Why, for instance, I'd be asking myself, if God hated homosexuality, didn't he squeeze it into the Ten Commandments?  Or why isn't there some anti-gay rhetoric in the New Testament red letters ("the words that Jesus spoke")?

Or here's another one:  If marriage is so sacred that it needs to be defined in the constitution, shouldn't it be against the law for divorced people to remarry?  Jesus was not shy about saying that's a No-no.  I guess that people in the voting booth, with their third of fourth spouse in the booth next to them, conveniently just don't find that quite as icky and therefore an affront to their hypocritical 'religious' beliefs.