Friday, August 29, 2014

'wasted on the way'

Look around me
I can see my life before me
Running rings around the way it used to be

I am older now
I have more than what I wanted
But I wish that I had started long before I did

And there's so much time to make up everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way
So much water moving underneath the bridge
Let the water come and carry us away

-- lyrics by Graham Nash of Crosby Stills & Nash.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

'----!', part 2

I've developed a thing for pistachio muffins at Dunn Brothers Coffee, which is just a hop-skip-and-jump from my office, and this is not a good thing to develop as I'm just about to start a new calorie-counting diet.  And then there's the strawberry-cheesequake blizzards at Dairy Queen, which I'm hoping will seem less appealing as cooler weather hits us.  I used to be better at self-control than I am now, and actually self-control was never my strong suit anyway.

Uh-oh. I just checked.  A strawberry-cheesequake blizzard has 530 calories and 21 grams of fat.  And that's for the small size (and who ever orders a small blizzard?)!

Even worse: The pistachio muffin at Dunn Bros. has 600 calories and 30 grams of fat.  Life just isn't at all fair.  This diet is gonna be tough.

Monday, August 25, 2014

giving up

This is a photo that I took this past spring, facing west across the street from our house.  I took that picture because I've been enamored with that tree you see in the center of the neighbor's yard -- in my opinion, the best tree anywhere in the neighborhood -- such a beautiful display of branches.  You should have seen it at sunset or even during the winter after a snowstorm.  Visitors would notice it and remark about how perfect it seemed.

Fast-forward to yesterday.  We were arriving home from up north at the cabin, and there on the street in front of us was that lovely tree, blocking traffic in its final act of being noticed.  It had fallen just a few minutes before.  We asked neighbors, what happened?  was there a storm?  a hard wind?  No, they said.  It had just fallen.  Given up.  Maybe it just couldn't face another Minnesota winter.  Maybe it wanted to go while it was still looking good, before it would ever look old and scraggly.  I'm just sad that, of all the many trees in the neighborhood, this was the one that went.  Life is like that sometimes.

the chainsaws take over

Sunday, August 24, 2014

from the cabin

At our friends' cabin on Mille Lacs Lake, the 2nd largest of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes, a lake so large you feel you are looking UP at the lake.  Can't see the other side, just a mountain of water.  An awesome getaway from the city.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

to the cabin

Ask a Twin Cities person during the summer what they'll be doing the next weekend and there's a good chance they will answer, "Oh, we're going up to the cabin."  Seems like everybody has a family cabin up North.  We don't and never will -- taking care of one house is enough -- but it's nice to have a friend who occasionally invites you up to their lake cabin for a weekend.  That's where we are headed today -- to our friends Howie and Doug's cabin up on Mille Lacs Lake.  Looking forward to getting out of the city and seeing their place.

Friday, August 22, 2014

instead of blogging,

I went with Tom and Ruthie to Dairy Queen and had a banana split.  Hey, it's summer and not for much longer.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

password madness

It seems like every week I have to come up with a new password for something and they tell you not to keep using the same password on all the sites that require passwords and not to make them too simple -- a mix of lower-case, upper-case, numbers, punctuation.... and you come up with amazingly beautiful and complex passwords and forget where you wrote them down and then you get a message that either the user name or password is incorrect -- so which one is it?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

thugs, self-promoters, etc.

I don't understand the looting thing in Ferguson, Missouri.  I understand people being pissed if a white cop, unprovoked, shot an unarmed black kid to death.  That deserves protests.  But what does smashing storefronts and stealing Nikes and microwaves have to do with it?  If you want to attack something, go trash the police station!  No guts?  Just greed?

Totally unrelated -- how sick are we of ice bucket challenges, which, truth be told, has very little to do with ALS and everything to do with grabbing some cheap attention?

Ok, that's it -- there is no "etc." today after all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

they're on the north shore

Jerry's long-time friend Tomoko is visiting us from Seattle for a few days.  Tomoko has been going through some hard times physically, and she and Jerry wanted to spend a few days hanging out.  She's always fun to have around and do things with.  And she brought me two Verdi opera CDs, Otello and Macbeth -- much appreciated.  She and her husband Norm are opera enthusiasts -- they take tour groups to opera events around the country.

So Tomoko and Jerry have spent the past couple days in Northern Minnesota, along the North Shore of Lake Superior, which is two or three hours north of us.  Tomoko hadn't been anywhere in Minnesota outside the Twin Cities, and it sounds like they're having a great time.  Tonight they are in Grand Marais, one of my favorite Minnesota towns, right on the lake.  If you haven't been up that way, give it a try, it's beautiful.  And that's it for my promotion of Minnesota tourism!

Monday, August 18, 2014

cats in space


My son Tom, at 32 already going through some rough stuff, on this Monday morning on his way to work fell on his front step and, fed up, texted me that he wanted to chuck it all and just go flying aimlessly into outer space, like Mini-Me did at the end of the movie Austin Powers 2.  He wants to take his cat along.  I asked if I could  come too.  No answer on that yet.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

we are stardust, we are golden, part 2


Well I came across a child of God, he was walking along the road
And I asked him tell where are you going, this he told me:
Well, I'm going down to Yasgur's farm, going to join in a rock and roll band.
Got to get back to the land, set my soul free.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Well, then can I walk beside you? I have come to lose the smog.
And I feel like I'm a cog in something turning.
And maybe it's the time of year, yes, and maybe it's the time of man.
And I don't know who I am but life is for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong,
And everywhere there was song and celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bombers jet planes riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies above our nation.

We are stardust, we are golden, caught in the devil's bargain,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

--  Lyrics by Joni Mitchell, who was not at Woodstock (although she was invited), but her boyfriend at the time was Graham Nash, of Crosby Stills & Nash, who did perform at Woodstock, which was happening 45 years ago this weekend.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

we are stardust, we are golden

It was August 1969, and, no, I wasn't at Woodstock.  I was wearing olive-drab Army fatigues in Germany, just wishing I had been at Woodstock -- in retrospect, of course, since I didn't know about it until it was over and done with.

There was a big spread about Woodstock in Life magazine the week after, and I remember reading about it and seeing the photos and thinking, How great.  That gathering was a defining moment for my generation.

In my office where I was a Company Clerk, the battalion First Sergeant -- a hard, crusty guy with an almost-shaved head -- was visiting one day and looking through the Life article and saying something to the effect of he wished he had been at Woodstock with a machine gun to shoot down all those dirty, long-haired hippies.  I can't bad-mouth the guy too much since he did me a major favor a couple months later, but I just sat there in awe that a guy could hate these young people for just having a good time and enjoying life and having a lot more hair than he did.  It was 1969, though, and the Generation Gap was in full swing.

But, sitting here exactly 45 years after that Woodstock weekend, a crusty guy myself now, I'm thinking about the things I would have hated about being about Woodstock:  the mud, the 400,000 people (some of whom had to be really annoying), the lack of food, the long lines at the port-a-potties, the massive traffic jams even getting there...   But -- to have seen Hendrix, Joplin, Cocker, etc., etc..... Ah yes, worth it all.

Friday, August 15, 2014

back before i avoided the name 'trump'

I get sentimental over weird things, but I'm really bummed about the financial downturn in Atlantic City, on the Jersey shore, just 30 miles west of my home town of Millville.

Atlantic City became a casino town in the late '70s, back when the only casino competition was several thousand miles away in Nevada, so Atlantic City had the whole East Coast to itself.  Now that there is so much gambling competition everywhere, the casinos in Atlantic City are dropping like flies.Out of twelve casino hotels, one has closed and three will close next month, including my former favorite, Trump Plaza.

Back in the mid-'80s, Trump Plaza was new and already in its prime, and that was where I introduced my mom, a very religious lady, to slot machines.  Despite her initial nervousness ("What if I win a jackpot and my picture is in the paper?!"), she was hooked immediately, which scandalized my dad (who feared that she would spend her all social security check there) and my brother Ron, who was a pretty conservative pastor at the time and gambling, of course, was a "sin".  Every time I was back in New Jersey, I'd take her and my sister Joan down to Trump Plaza, where we played (only a little) and then would walk across the boardwalk to Ocean One for a cheesesteak.  We had such fun, I still value those days in my memories as some of my best ever.

The last time I ever talked to my mom on the phone, April 4, 1987, the first word out of her mouth was "Showboat!"  There was a new casino hotel named Showboat in Atlantic City, and she was going there on one of those day bus trips on the 14th and was very excited.  It was destined, though, not to happen.  She died suddenly five days later, on the 9th, age 66, and the 14th turned out to be the day of her funeral.

Trump Plaza and Showboat both are closing next month.  Sad.  I'm sorry to see them go. But for me, I guess they were never quite the same after April 1987 anyway.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

another reason to live in a big city

The Economist came up with an interesting list of the 66 U.S. cities with populations of more than 250,000 people and ranked them from "most conservative" to "most liberal", and how did the Twin Cities do?  Not bad!  Minneapolis came in as 6th most liberal, with St. Paul not too far behind at #13 --  San Francisco #1 most liberal, with Mesa, Arizona most conservative, but even Mesa isn't nearly conservative as San Francisco is liberal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

might be on the edge of optimism, finally

“What day is it?"
"It's today," squeaked Piglet.
"My favorite day," said Pooh.”
A.A. Milne

“It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"And freezing."
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.”
A.A. Milne

“You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down”
Charles Chaplin

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.”
Dalai Lama XIV

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

robin williams, 1951 to 2014

The whole U.S.A. is sad today for the loss of a guy we thought we knew and yet didn't really know at all.  The guy on the screen was just acting. Suicide isn't painless after all.  In this case, the pain is widespread.

Monday, August 11, 2014

no news is good news

I was reading that 30% of adults now get their news from Facebook, which is really scary considering that most Facebook postings masked as news are garbage.

It's almost as bad as surveys that show that folks who depend on Fox News for information know less about what is really going on in the world than people who watch no news at all. Read here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

quotes i found after a few unfair days

“Life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all.”
William Goodman

“To expect life to treat you good is foolish as hoping a bull won't hit you because you are a vegetarian.”

"Do you truly believe that life is fair, Senor de la Vega?
-No, maestro, but I plan to do everything in my power to make it so.”
Isabel Allende

Saturday, August 9, 2014

hi-tech numbness on a saturday afternoon

what's next, anyway?

The only time to love Wifi is when it's working and working fast and not just endlessly spinning to the point where you just want to take your computer and smash it against the wall.  What the heck is Wifi anyway?  What sort of signals are flying through our air, and why do those invisible signals work sometimes and sometimes cause near-madness?

Friday, August 8, 2014

the militant in the mirror

I was having lunch, and the TVs in the restaurant were fixed on CNN, where monotonal Wolf Blitzer was droning on and the "Breaking news" caption at the bottom of the screen was something to the effect of "U.S. Dropping Bombs on Militants in Iraq".

We're doing airstrikes against the awful ISIS rebels, and nobody here will shed many tears for them (unless we are dropping bombs on innocents like Israel is doing in Gaza), but the word I get hung up on is "militants", which is now arbitrarily used as a synonym for "terrorists" or "the bad guys".

Definition of "militant": combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, and typically favoring extreme, violent, or confrontational methods.

So here is my question:  When the United States in 2003 invaded Iraq -- a country that had not provoked war but which had a nasty dictator who annoyed us -- were we the militants?

Incidentally, as it happened, that invasion and occupation made things even worse for the Iraqis and led directly to the formation of this ISIS mess.  Violence leads to more violence, does it not?
Tomorrow marks the 69th anniversary of the day that the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, killing 60,000-80,000 people, three days after dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, an act that had probably already ended  World War II, making the Nagasaki bombing punitive -- and thus terroristic or just overly militant?

My pacifist thoughts for the day.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

mid-summer sports update

The dog days of August are here, and we're all too sweaty to think about sports to any serious degree, but let's give it a swing.

Baseball:   It's the only major sport going on right now, and it's hard for me to work up a lot of interest since, first of all:  It's baseball, and second:  The only two teams that I have any interest in (the Philadelphia Phillies and the Minnesota Twins) are in last place in their respective divisions.  BUT, on the plus side, fellow Millville (NJ) guy, Mike Trout, with the Los Angeles Angels, is having another maybe-Most Valuable Player year, in addition to being voted the Most Valuable Player in last month's All Star Game, which was held here in Minneapolis.  Today is Mike's 23rd birthday, so, if he happens to stumble on my blog today (very likely, I'm sure), Happy Birthday, Mike!

Football:  Jean, a Facebook friend of mine, who happens to be a Minnesota Vikings fanatic, posted this morning:  "Only 2 days until preseason!" and I say "NOOOO!!"  because, as much as I love football, once football starts, suddenly it's Christmas, and I can't handle thinking about winter!  :-(

Soccer (the "other" football):  FIFA is long over, but the talk here is how to get a Major Soccer League expansion team here in Minnesota.

Basketball:  The season doesn't start until November, but it looks pretty definite that my beloved Minnesota Timberwolves will be losing Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Sad.

Spell-check:  Okay, spell-check isn't a sport, but I'm starting to notice which words spell-check doesn't recognize (at least on  In the above blurb, these words override spell-check:  Phillies, Millville, Los Angeles, NOOOO, FIFA, and Timberwolves.  Seriously?  Not even Los Angeles?  I think that spell-check needs some serious expansion!  My book is going to have way too many overrides.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

this is when i become old, part 3

You spend a few days in the north woods of California, and shaving just doesn't seem like the thing to do while you're there. Even though I've been home for almost a week, the morning shaving ritual still hasn't kicked in again yet, so I have this raggedy facial hair sprouting wildly, amazingly gray.  Every morning is a coin toss whether to give in and shave it off, but the idea of keeping it for a while is sort of growing on me.  I'm even embracing the gray, so maybe I am finally getting to the point of acknowledging the reality of my age.  Nancy H. here in the office says the appearance gives me the distinguished look of either a college professor or a writer.  Chris R. at the Legion says that I look like Eric Clapton.  I'll accept any of those choices.  I just can't let it get anywhere near ZZ Top or Duck Dynasty extremes.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

there is an attorney in downtown st. paul

There is fairness and there is the law, and the two concepts are not required to overlap.

There are people who believe that Midwesterners can be trusted to be honest and loyal, and on the other side there I am, believing otherwise.

There are vindictive people and there are non-vindictive people, and each trait has exceptions.

I thought it was common knowledge that you don't mess with a Jersey guy.  Apparently the word hasn't trickled down to the bottom of the cesspool.

Monday, August 4, 2014

just lilies today

outside the front door.  wish they lasted longer than they do.

some more lilies

OK OK, some zinnias too.  Here's to summer!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

getting too serious, clint!

We finally saw the movie version of Jersey Boys last night.  Still pondering.  I liked the Broadway stage version better.  It was more fun.  The movie was kind of dark, felt too much like a Goodfellas kind of movie, maybe, but it was directed by Clint Eastwood, a doddering old non-Jersey guy who talks to chairs, so maybe it was a reach for him.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

i should be writing about gaza

I try to keep this blog fairly light, but sometimes there are things on my mind that are far from light and it's hard to know how to balance.  Once in a while, I need to say how disgusted with the world I am -- in particular right now:  both sides in the fighting in Gaza;  the U.S. House of Representatives; the "stand your ground" gun nuts; and the people in the supposed name of "Christianity" who hate Obama and want him dead.  You can fill in the blanks:  you know where I stand on each of those issues.

Friday, August 1, 2014

what a person will do to avoid going to the laundromat

So we get home after 10 days on the road with all this dirty laundry, and our almost brand-new washing machine goes on the fritz and needs a part that, of course, the repair guy won't have til next Tuesday.

Neither of us has been in a laundromat since we were in our 20s and the prospect seems unappealing, so we're considering beating our clothes on a rock and hanging them on the clothesline.  Hey, we have the rocks (down by the creek) and we have the so far-unused clothesline, so why not?

Otherwise, it's cool to be home.

Added later:  We took the easy way out and bought enough new underwear to last until Tuesday.  :-)