Saturday, November 29, 2008

on greed and gluttony...

This subject from a fat guy who wants to win the lottery....

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that I have some very mixed feelings about. I love the family get together, ( even though mine is very small in recent years ) and I love the food. Too much food though, and one truly feels compelled to "have a little of everything." Why? Simply put, out of politeness. In my family, each dish of the dinner is made from scratch by a professional chef who just happens to be my father. Occasionally there are additional dishes made with equal care and attention to detail from other family members, and to skip items, for anything other than moral standing ( meaning you can skip the meat if you're a vegetarian ) is to insult the cooks who have labored long and hard over each course of your meal. From the peeling of the potatoes, to the basting of the bird, from the cooking of the pumpkins to the kneading of the pie shells, it's all done for "You!" The afternoon sitting in the livingroom, the smells from the kitchen making the stomach growl in anticipation of the big meal. The table is set with the good Corelle ware, and silver. Dinner is served and The plates are loaded up. Take a little bit of everything, but some extra of your favorites, and my personal favorites are the dressing and the cranberries. ( whole cranberries cooked in a sweet jelly that is made with cherry brandy! yummy!) By the time the main meal is done it's gonna be a bit of work to have some dessert. But what's Turkey day without Punkin pie? It's tradition!

So why so many different foods for one dumbass holiday? If you can set a decent table and serve a complete meal, what more needs to be done? Why must we gorge to the point that we feel sick afterwards? ( thank you I haven't done this in a few years, I know what you were thinking!) Is this a holdover behavior from the days when it was truly possible to run out of food over a long winter and we were programmed to eat hearty when it was available so that we might fatten up for the hard weather? Or is it simply tradition to see who can gain the most "turkey weight"? I know many otherwise sensible people who will gorge on a thanksgiving meal until they can barely walk without pain. As a lifelong overeater, even I don't do that with anything other than lasagna. ( me and garfield!) I'm, of course, joking, I don't eat anything like that anymore, in fact it has been years since I ate so much of anything that I was in pain. Uncomfortable, yes, pain, no! SO the Gluttony precedes the greed of "Black Friday."

Do you know why it's called "Black Friday?" It's not about the feeling of doom that most retail employees feel for this day, rather it is about the color of ink that the management of retail store hope to be able to use in the ledgers at the end of the day. It is said ( and I really have trouble believing it) that while most retail establishments run in the red ( losing money) for the large part of the year, the 4 week stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas bring the books into the black ( showing a profit ). If this is indeed the truth then it's a poor business model that they have been following. To depend on 4 weeks out of a year to bring your yearly sales into the black is insane. But it sure explains why they started pushing Christmas in September. Sad.

So that brings me to the real greed part of this thing, because on Black Friday this year a Wal-mart employee was trampled to death trying to control the crowd pushing through the door at opening. The full story is here. In the story an employee is quoted as saying that the crowd took the doors off of their hinges. This is stupidity at it's worst. The story even tells how these very same customers were refusing to leave the store when police closed it because of the death! Where is the sense of these people? The worst has finally happened, and now we have to see what comes of it. I think that store could be a little more cautious when advertising a "door buster" sale! Too many people take this a little too literally, but unfortunately the retail management has no morals and will continue to advertise such sales in hope of getting every descretionary dollar available from the public, as well as as many indescretionary dollars as possible too. Retail management has proven that they know this is a dangerous practice:

Hank Mullany, president of Wal-Mart's northeast division, said the company took extraordinary safety precautions.

"We expected a large crowd this morning and added additional internal security, additional third-party security, additional store associates and we worked closely with the Nassau County police," he said in a statement.

"We also erected barricades. Despite all of our precautions, this unfortunate event occurred."

I am about this close to opting out of Christmas. It has become far too gimme, gimme, gimme and lost it's love. As a person who is cursed with a December birthday I have a love hate relationship with Christmas to begin with, and this kind of things just makes it worse.

Now a pet peeve that has been on my mind a lot lately, GRAMMAR! the following is correct, "In an emergency...", while this is incorrect, "In a emergency...". The following is correct, "It would be a historic event." The following is incorrect, "It would be an historic event." If the word following the article begins with a vowel the article "an" is used, if the following word begins with a consonant the article "a" is used. A very simple rule that I have seen screwed up repeatedly of late and it is driving me insane!! ( and that's just a short walk to begin with. )

Friday, November 21, 2008

How much do you like music?

Music is one of those things in life that everyone has some saome opinion about, what is good and what is bad and what even constitutes "music" To a Mongolian Throat Singer, they make music, but to just about everyone else they make noise. Rock music is broken down into categories and someone can love one and hate another, there is glam rock, hair band, hard rock, classic rock, heavy metal, and accoustic. How many other categories depends on the strict definition you choose, but they are all a form of "Rock n Roll" Sometimes we lke a genre but dislike a particular performer in that genre, Me I can barely stand Guns and Roses and Kid Rock. My little brother on the other hand loves them both to death and loves to argue with me about their merits. Now Don't get me wrong, I don't say that they are not quite accomplished at what they do and how well they do it, I just don't like them. From both a personal and professional stand I have my reasons. THe funny thing is that I like such a wide variety of music that some people consider me to be an authority on the stuff, but truthfully I am only a barely conversant dilettante compared to some people. The more I learn about music the more I realize that I don't know, but I do know what I like.

In recent years I have found that I like to hear new versions of old songs. On Saturday mornings in Rochester there is a radio show, ( actually 2 of them!) that play truly different music, and I have really come to look forward to these shows. The one show opens every week with a different artists version of the song "Good Morning Little School Girl" I have been listening to these shows for a couple years and I can't say that I have heard the same version of this song twice. I have heard faithful blues renditions, rocking ,rockabilly versions, some that sounded like a lullaby, reggae, hiphop, one was even an instrumental played only on piano. And what I have found is that they are all cool. No matter how different it sounds from the first version I ever heard, they are all the same song from somebody else's perspective. So with this in mind I have kept my ears open to find different and cool versions of old familiar songs. Jewel doing "Sweet Home Alabama", amazing cover of a song that she can't even sing live because she doesn't know the words!! Funny isn't it? Billo Kirchen and "Hot Rod Lincoln Live" an 8 minute rendition of a 2 minute song, well worth it! Commander Codi's, Live version of "Hot Rod Lincoln" , it is his song after all! One that most people know, Eric Clapton's Accoustic version of "Layla" the great Derrick and the Dominos song that was originally a screaming guitar anthem. Accoustic versions of lots of songs, covers by well known artists, tributes, lots of variety. I have been working on a small collection of covers of Hall of Fame songs by Hall of Fame Artists. It's pretty cool to do the research and find out the origins of the songs and how they got to where they are. I have also found out that some artists put their songs out and then get tired of doing them that way, so they rewrite them and make them totally different songs. Not always better, but usually way better.

Music is what we want it to be, and some of us can make it. It's all about what you want to hear, and what you let yourself hear. Change can be good, and it may even open your mind.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No doubt!

Got me a shout out of the radidio Today!! I was doin' my thing in the new Wease Chatroom and low he asked who was in there and Lissow (new male sidekick) read off some names and Guess what? Shipping troll was right there in the list!!! cool or what? Nothing like supporting the stuff you enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why am I excited about a radio geek?

Yes, I'm happy to have Wease back on the air. Why? Because he is the iconic voice of Rochester for me. There are many other voices that could fit that bill, and I am sure that other people have this feeling about Dave Kane, or Dino, or Tom George, or Terri Clifford, or any hundred other radio personalities that we have come to know and love.

The truth is that unless we actually spend time with them, we really don't know these voices by anything else than what they say to us on any given day. If we listen long enough we have the chance to put together a cohesive memory of them as we imagine them, which depending upon how they do their job could be very close to correct, or simply a manifestation of their on-air persona. As listeners, we have no idea which is which. Sadly some people go for the persona, rather than actually finding out about the person. The truth is that I only know Wease anecdotally. I have listened to him on the radio for nearly 20 years, and I have seen him at various functions, and even spoken with him on the air on occasion, but I know that I don't know him. What I do know though, is this, he seems to live his life on the air, we the listeners, have listened as he has raised his children, fought with his various wives, courted and married the lovely and emotional Doreen. We have heard him argue politics, religion, and education. He has related in graphic detail his military history, as well as his half-dozen other occupations. We know how he used to moon his mother and wrap paper reams for his father the printer (and bookie!). We know about his RV experience, and his Harley years. We know about his cancer and all the treatments that he dealt with to get him past it. We listened as he has mentored and sent on to glory and fame, Stephanie Miller and Opie ( of Opie and Anthony), and lord knows how many others, BJ Shay, Rich Genzler, (sp?) there was a chick between The One Whose Name We May Not Mention, and Stephanie, but I can't for the life of me remember her name. He brought us Tom Mule, and Lumpy, and Billy D'Torre. He has hooked us on different music, like Lucinda Williams, Kelly Hunt, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and countless other bands and performers. Comedians of every flavor come to Rochester and sit in with Wease. Other stations are left hanging while they sit in the studio and shuck & jive with our Brother Wease. Bobby Slayton, Thea Vidal, the late Sam Kinison. If you can name the comedian you can just about guarantee that they have sat in with Wease. He dissed Pauly Shore!! How sweet was that!!

I discovered Wease by accident in the late 80's. I live in the gray area centered between 2 amazingly diverse cities,Buffalo and Rochester, NY, and within radio reach of Toronto, Canada. I have choices when it comes to radio listening, and as a kid I was good at exercising that choice. There was never any guessing what I would be listening to from one day to the next. French- Canadian Pop? yup. AM country station? yup. Rock-n-Roll? yup. Top 40 pop? yup. I listened to it all, from the sappy ballads to heavy metal, I just enjoyed the music. Sometime in the mid 80's my favorite Buffalo rock radio station went off the air and I was searching for a new favorite. I tried a couple stations but didn't care for their particular mix, which sounds odd since I listened to such a wide variety, but the truth is that I know what I want when I am looking for it! So anyway I found WCMF. They were great and I loved 'em, but in the mornings it seemed that the DJ talked a lot more than he played the music, and truthfully I always enjoyed what he was saying. I was still in high school at this time so I didn't have the opportunity to listen for hours at a time, but I began to tune it each day on my way to school. Then when I finally graduated I had a commute to work each day and in that hour I listened. I began to like the talk and not like the wait when the music was playing, I wanted to hear more of the stories and life of this raspy voice that filled my car every morning. Then I moved.

I moved to South Florida and was surround by a whole different radio environment, now I had salsa stations side by side with redneck country stations, and rock stations, and dance stations, and Spanish language stations and Cubano stations. Musically, I was in heaven, but as for a personality that really hooked me? Nope, the best I could do was Herman and McBean in the Morning. HACKS!! Third rate compared to my hometown hero, Wease! Fortunately my sojourn in S. Florida was short lived as I was hard pressed to find employment that would allow me to have both an apartment and food.

Back home I was happy to find the familiar voice ringing in my radio. I spent a few years working different jobs but the one constant was that I could count on being able to hear Wease while I worked, Painting houses, fixing RVs, delivering parts, or anything else that I did. Then I moved again. This time it was still in NY but way up north on the St. Regis Reservation. I was working in an Indian Casino. It was a fun job, but it didn't last, that was the year that Northern NY Blew up! I never met so many State Police in my life, and they are all pretty good guys over all. The chicks in uniform are HOT!! I don't know what it is about them broads with guns but man they trip my trigger! (intended!) SO I was in a Radio Wasteland, I was lucky to get a few local AM stations and one or two Canadian stations that reached us from Montreal. No contest, I missed Wease! Finally the time came when I headed south again and got back into the proper radio range!

Then I got the job at the bar. I worked until 2 am. Getting up early wasn't easy, but I did it. Not to listen to the radio, but because I was only working 2 nights a week at the bar so I still needed a day job to pay the bills, but while I was twisting a wrench on washing machines I could listen to Wease. Then I got to be full time at the bar. and I was happy to sleep every day until 11 am. You think that getting out of work every day, all wound up at 2 am, you could go right to sleep? Not likely. I was Happy if I was in bed by 4 am. So there was a 2 year stretch when I almost never got to hear Wease. Then I switched to the day shift at the bar, which meant that I didn't have to be at work until Noon! Yeah! Now I was up by 7 am everyday and listening until the end of the show. I was back! I was happy for a while until a certain argumentative know-it-all female sidekick started to get on my nerves. Had to turn off Wease. It was a few years until SHE was gone, then I came back.

The Sally Carpenter years had begun! YES!! I was happy because she was cool, and not judgmental, and SMART. I like smart, and the show was better than ever. The ratings were soaring and the show was smart, funny, topical, and relevant more than ever before. CBS owned the station and things were good. For the listeners at least.

Entercom ruined Rochester Radio. They bought the fastest car in town and slashed the tires and yanked the motor out. They took a station that was as close to perfect as modern radio can be and ruined it. Fired the midday guy, the evening guy, and the fill-in guy. Then they tossed their option on the morning guy. The new show lacked the edge of the original. Tommy and Bill tried to fill those huge shoes, but the corporate brass didn't give them the tools to do the job. Sally is in Philly doing the show by phone. No good. I tried, I really did, but I knew it wasn't what I wanted. Then the word came out that it would be back.

A new station, a new crew, and Wease is back on the air. Monday morning he returns for real. With a video feed, and a chat room. Truly, an interactive radio experience. There was a short run through on Saturday night, for two hours the world returned to almost normal. Of course the new crew was mostly quiet because the phones were nuts with everyone calling in good wishes for Wease. But they will come out of their shells soon. Lilly, and Jamie and the rest of the crew. Ditullio is back , Marshall Fine, Doug Emblege on the radio. Rochester will once again feel like home. or at least sound like it, when I can tune in that raspy, liberal, bastard, the world sounds just a little bit Righter.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rochester radio returns to What is't supposed to be!!

GOOD GOD IT"S FINALLY Here !!! Brother Wease is BACK on the air. Can't wait to hear that familiar rasp once again! I don't know how I survived the political season without him! Jumpin' up and down with anticipation.

Monday, November 10, 2008

At what cost, freedom?

I am an American, for good or for bad, It is where I was born and the language that I speak. I happen to understand and speak a few extra languages too, but my primary language is American English. And here I am implementing my 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech. BUT with every right that we are granted or promised, we must also promise to use these rights with some responsibility. As the 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, it is not meant to allow one to cause a stampede by screaming "fire!" in a crowded theater. This is a common example, and one that most people seem to understand. But let's look at this freedom from a different angle, where do we draw the line at the "right to know?"

In the last couple of decades the "investigative reporter" has become the great enlightener of our generation. They have exposed corruption and scandal in every quarter of government and business. They depend on the whistle blower and the confidential informant to get their stories and facts. They have done lots of good over the years, but at the same time, they may be responsible for much harm too. When exposing national security concerns to the public, is it truly wise to stress over and over again which ports are most susceptible to terrorist attack, or wouldn't it be more prudent to say simply that "certain ports" are still vulnerable? Let the bad guys do their own homework, and quit giving them easy directions. When I lived in Florida, the port of the city that I lived in was considered to be one of the easiest terrorist targets in the US. The local paper even published a study that they had carried out themselves Detailing the weaknesses of this port. Including the best targets, the police response times, the security holes and the best forms of attack. Why isn't this considered to be treason? "Here is your target, the best way to attack it, and the tools you need to do it!" Now it is truly my belief that one must be willing to sacrifice a certain amount of security in order to preserve freedom, but at the same time it seems that to simply hand out information to our enemies is foolish and irresponsible.

My personal favorite is the 2nd Amendment and the right to "...bear arms..." . This is a point of serious argument, both the pros and the cons, but the truth is that these debates can easily be argued as points of responsibility. The NRA (National Rifle Association for those who may not know) is a great argument for both sides of the fence. They are adamant that guns are everybody's right and there should never be a reason to give them up. They are against registration, or a gun census, and any restrictive legislation. To some extent I can agree with some of these points, but not all. What is the harm in a gun census? Unless you have something to hide, or you wish to do something illegal, you should have no reason to be afraid of your local law enforcement agency knowing how many guns you have in your home. Of course we all know that one or two can always be reported stolen, and kept in reserve when the "jackbooted thugs" come to collect your weapons. In Great Britain it is now illegal to keep a gun in a private home, they must be kept at a gun club, or a hunt club (or so I have read I can't say that this is truly a fact). But there are still illegal guns out in the streets. Not nearly as many as in the United States, but they are out there. I own shoot and carry pistols, rifles, and shotguns. In NY state in order to purchase a pistol one must have a "pistol Permit" and each county has different standards. My permit is a "carry/posses on premises" permit, and I am allowed by law to carry my pistol(s) anywhere that they are not expressly prohibited, and I generally do. Generally, but not always, and with consideration to where I am and who will be there. I exercise responsibility. I don't carry when there will be lots of children around, I don't carry when I will be drinking alcohol. I don't carry an exposed weapon into a convenience store. I have educated my nephews about guns, but when they are around I keep my guns out of reach and unloaded or even better, locked up. Why, because I wish to be responsible. I enjoy my freedoms and I wish to keep them and allow them to be passed on to following generations.

Guns and cars, 2 things that are more American than just about anything, while the liberals cry over and over how guns are killing so many people, they seem to barely take notice of the numbers racked up on America's highways.

Motor vehicles accidents account for more deaths than all natural disasters combined. In fact in the United States your chances of being injured in an motor vehicle accident is better than one in a thousand, in any one year.

If you wish to do the math, crime stats for murder can be found here. Yes, when weapons are involved Guns are the biggest offender, but they have to be employed by somebody, and most often are used With the intent to kill! Automobiles are killers by accident, by poor training and inexperience, by inattention, by bad weather, and who knows how many other reasons. But who ever heard of bad weather being the reason for a gun death? ( ok, ok, maybe a hunting accident, but be realistic...) Yet there is no big movement to outlaw Cars. ( Which BTW are NOT A Constitutional right! )

Many freedoms come with a cost, I will look at others in the future, but these 2 are on the surface recently.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

my favorite architecture part 1

When I was a kid, my grandparents owned an old farm in southern New York State, and on this farm were these two old barns. They are long gone, nothing more than bumps in the ground where they once stood, but the impression that they left on me persists. In the years since they were in my life, I have found that the old gambrel roofed barns capture both my attention and my imagination. They have a romantic quality in their appearance. when you drive down any country road north of the Mason Dixon, and east of the Mississippi, it is likely that you will see one of these barns either up close to the road you are traveling, or perhaps peeking out of the woods or over the fields. They dot the landscape reminding us that our country was built on the back of the family farm. As the family farm has died out, the barns are dieing too. But there are still many of them out there.

Over the years these old building have been adapted or lost, many have come to be landmarks for people trying to find their way to a friend's house, or remember their way to get to grandma's house. Some of these barns are still in use, maybe not for their original purpose, but for someone's workshop or garage. Many still get used to park the family's toys, the RV or the family
tractor. In some cases they are rented out for hay storage, or for a big corporate farmer to keep equipment near the local fields. But then, there are the cool cases where the old building has been remodeled completely inside to a real new use, such as a showroom for a furniture store, or the offices of a car dealership. Of course the landscape around them has changed along the way too, and that is the real interesting part sometimes.

I always find some surprises as I look around for these pieces of history. Each one, while similar in design, had it's own personality. different windows, pitches, peaks, and door arrangements are just a few of the individualities readily apparent to the casual viewer. Many times the form fit the function, often these barns were built in such a way that the front side was on high ground and the back side faced a hollow. This allowed for the easy entry of wagons loaded with hay into the storage area that was always the upper levels. While the hollow at the rear was perfect for pushing hay out into the feedlot for the livestock. In later years there was often one or two silos to accompany the barns, and it was not unusual for there to be a pair of barns, one for the work animals, usually horses, and one for the rest of the stock, the cows, sheep, chickens and goats. Often the Barns were the first buildings on the property, because they were the most important back in the old days. Once there was a place to work, then the house could be built.

One of the interesting things that I often notice is how these majestic behemoths have been incorporated into modern buildings. When a farm has grown rather than died, the original building has always remained in good shape, barring some disaster such as a fire or a tornado. So when the time comes to enlarge, the builders simply add on to the existing structure. I have had the opportunity to wander through some modern farms where the original Barn stands amid the additions it's gambreled peak rising like a lone mountain above the enameled metal of the newer additions. The ladders still attached to the beams in the hay loft so that the brave may climb to the highest window or loading door, and look out over all of the expansive roof. While below one is tested to find the original structure of hand-hewn beams that are now stripped of their planking to provide open space to move the herds or equipment. The rough cut supports standing side by side with the pressure treated lumber of today.

Look around if you can, and see the differences before they become too rare to compare. They are falling down everywhere, some already decayed to no more than a stone foundation. Their roofs are falling in, and their walls are bowing out, awaiting that fatal windstorm that will finally end their life. But what have they seen, and how many of them will last another century? Many of these grand buildings have seen more than a century already, and with care they may yet see another or even two more centuries. What history will they hold in that time, how many faces will they see? How many generations will have the chance to climb their supports, and swing from their ropes? How many sunsets and sunrises will be seen from their highest windows. How many children will be conceived in their hay lofts? As Americans we have a tendency to forget the past and only look to the future, but the past is often worth looking at, because it holds the keys to the future. There was a reason that our great grandparents built those buildings to last. Perhaps we will understand before it is too late and the last timberframe falls into a vine covered heap. Perhaps...

To be continued....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Season In the sun...

Yeah, I know the song, and I used to listen to it over and over on my dad's old turntable, I nearly wore out that old 45. Who remembers 45 rpm Records? show of hands! If you know what they are, then a 33 is easy to remember, but who really remembers the 78's? I loved the 78 setting to play the 45's because then they sounded like squirrels on meth!

But I digress, and since this is MY blog, I am allowed to digress, so there! THPPPP!!

My goal today was to wax philosophical about the seasons, I may even get poetic, but be sure it will have no rhyme scheme! Today was what is often referred to as a perfect Indian Summer day, the mercury climbed well up into the 70's which in western NY in November is unusual. Our normal temps at this time of year are usually in the 50's during the day, and at or below freezing at night. To have a day for t-shirt and shorts this time of year makes me wonder just what effect global warming is really going to have on our climate. Many of the experts claim that the northern hemisphere will slip into a new ice age when the great ocean currents stagnate, and until the oceans salinity returns to the correct levels and begin the convection again, we will remain an ice-locked area. Do you know what the great convection is? Look it up! it's the interconnected worldwide ocean current that moves the dense cold water from the poles down into the equatorial waters, and then the warm equatorial waters into the poles to cool. This current regulates the temperatures of the oceans and the atmosphere as well. With the melting of the Arctic, and Antarctic icecaps this current is slowing down and is truly in danger of completely stopping. When it does, the real climate change will begin. The northern hemisphere holds the bulk of the landmass of the planet. If you don't believe me look at a globe, and see how much land is north of the equator. Now see how much is below. I was right, huh? See, I payed attention in school. Well actually to the History and Science Channels! But anyways, what this means is that the heavy cold air from the north will not have a jet stream in the upper atmosphere to drag it around the planet and warm it up, nope, it will just settle and push itself south across the land and in the darkness of winter the snows will fall, and as the snow falls it will pile up. Without the jet stream to bring in the warm air from the southern latitudes the sun will not be able to warm the land and the snow just won't melt away. This is how an ice age starts. Each season the snow gets deeper until it forms a glacier, and on a continental scale it will once again resurface the planet. Those of us alive now will never live to see the glaciers, but there is a possibility that the youngest of us will see the everlasting winters. I feel sorry for them, because they will miss the real pleasure of the changing seasons.

We all have our favorite seasons, and some people search for the endless summer, or the endless winter. I have lived where there is no snow, and I didn't care for it. I have visited where there is no rain for long stretches of time, and I truly miss the occasional rainy day. A rainy season just isn't the same as a beautiful summer rain. I was born in the winter, and when I was a kid I knew that my birthday was getting close when I saw snow on the ground. With this in mind I actually remember a time when I would wake up every morning and look out the window to see if it had snowed! So what if I started after the 4th of July! I was 4 and had no grasp of a calendar yet. lol So in that respect I missied out on some interesting things while I was so caught up in waiting for winter. Now It's not so much of a problem.

Ever notice that the older you get the faster time seems to go by? It is truly a perception, because when you are five years old an year is 1/5 of your life, and month is 1/60. When you are 2o years old a year is now 1/20 of you life and a month is 1/24o. So carrying the ratios out, when you are 60, a year is like a month when you were 5!! Yikes!! and we wonder where the memory goes! it's not the memory that goes, but the perception of time that screws it all up

When your a kid you look forward to summer, when school was out and you had all day to do whatever you wanted, or at least all day after your chores were done. I loved to be out in the fields and the forests. I would climb trees and boulders, and explore the creeks and ponds around my home. Tracking deer in the woods, and picking wild blackberries and currants, and strawberries. Finding apple trees where there used to be farm houses, and getting a stomach ache from eating green apples and pears. I explored the hedge rows and hollows of every field within 5 miles of my house and I knew every fox and woodchuck burrow around. I knew where the deer went to drink, and I knew where the best place was to catch a fish, or a snapping turtle. SO much has changed since then that I would barely know where to start these days. But I still appreciate the summer, only now it is for a different reason. Now it is for the fresh vegetables from the farm stands, and the girls in their skimpy clothes. I appreciate the summer for the hours spent riding my motorcycle through the hills and valleys of my home state. I appreciate it for the long days when I can get out of work and still have hours of light left to go swimming or to putter around in my garden. The lazy Saturday afternoons, when the yard work is done and I get to sprawl out in my hammock under a shady tree and swing in the cool breeze. The Satruday afternoon parties when friends gather together with cold beer and loads of food cooked over the open fire, and eaten with gusto. The warm evenings with fireflies swarming in the trees, and the stars winking into view overhead. Watching the big fat full moon rise over the eastern horizon. knowing the familiar whine of mosquitos busily buzzing your ears while you are trying to cook a hot dog on a stick over the campfire. Sleeping in a tent listening to nature rustle in the leaves outside. hearing the giggles of the children playing jokes on their friends and parents. The smell of the air before a thunderstorm. The smell of the air after a thunderstorm. The smell of a dewy summer morning, and watching the sunrise, bright and clear, into that perfect cerulian, summer sky. These are the things that mean summer to me, and the things that make it special each and every time.

As summer slowly unwinds into autumn there are new sensations and memories to be made. The return of the great yellow monsters to the traffic patterns, school buses to slow down everyone and make you cautious again. The days are getting shorter, but the grass is still growing, so you have to work harder on the weekends because the grass still needs to be cut, and the garden needs tending and the harvest is really ramping up. The fields are slowly emptying of fresh produce. Gone are the fresh cucumbers and squash, and the pumpkins are showing their great orange tummys to the world. The hills are alive with color as the maples and beeches and oaks lose their summer green and show the flaming colors hidden underneath, like naughty girls flasing Victoria's Secret to the world! The smells of the occasional fire in the fireplace to chase the chill off in the morning. The smells of the autumn. The fresh and crisp mornings when you walk outside and see frost in the grass. Saturday night parties when you build the big bonfire to have a little warmth even though you are wearing a sweater or even a jacket. Watching the great harvesters bobbing and weaving along the byways and back roads going from field to field. Haversters running into the night seeing the lights moving through the fields like so many UFO's eating the corn and soybeans. The trucks loaded with corn groaning down the roads headed to the markets or the farms. Orchards with row after row of apple trees, their branches heavy and bent low with big juicy apples. Driving by the vineyards of wine country and smelling the grapes, the air so thick with the smell that you can almost taste the fruit. Leaves falling from the trees and making multi-colored drifts in yards and fields. Squirrels scampering around gathering nuts as quickly as they can, and hording them away in places where they hope to be able to find them in the dead of winter. The hedge rows turning crimson with the end of the sumac season. Seeing the geese in the air their great flying V's crossing the skys headed south for the winter. Honking noisily to announce to everyone their presence. Little twittering groups of other northern birds filling the trees for a day or two as they follow the geese, and the sun. Hunters and posted signs. Camo and blaze orange. Idiots with guns and bows out in the fields, too close to my home. Slowly the world goes from the bright vibrant colors of summer to the monochromatic hues of fall and winter.

Soon the days are too short, and the nights too long, and they are filled with wind and cold. But the house is cozy and the oven is pumping out hunger inducing smells, fresh bread, and cookies, stews and casseroles. The stovetop steaming with fresh soup and sauce. The windows fogged up from all the cooking. Too much temptation, no way to avoid eating all the tasty treats going into the holiday season. Still autumn right into December, by now there is regularly snow on the ground, and when you walk outside your shoes squishing in the snow and your breath is always a little cloud when you breath out. Thanksgiving is past and Christmas and New Years quickly approach, shopping for just the right gifts for everyone on the list. Wrapping presents and stashing them away where you hope they won't be discovered. The holidays themselves, each one full of traditions and family and friends. Christmas with the family, the gifts, and the laughter and the tears. The meal and the gathering and the noisy fun. The smells of the dinner cooking in the kitchen, the cookies and candies on the tables. New Years Eve gathers friends together, and the countdown to the New Year. Cheering and kissing and hugging, and congratulating, welcoming the beginning of another year with a champaign toast. The Rose Parade! The holidays are over and now it is the long slow climb out of winter. Plowing and shoveling snow until the January thaw. Brown slush filling parking lots and streets, then freezing again making it all rough like a furrowed field. The icy blast of February tempered by Valentines day, and the thoughts of love. The beginning of NASCAR season sitting in the living room while the winter rattles the windows, the TV filled with the warm Daytona sun, and the cars and teams filled with promise, gathered to start the season. Running out of space to push the snow . March and the hints of spring, in like a lion and out like a lamb. The growing daffodills and crocuses. Tulips poking out of the ground showing the world that they are awake and looking for the sun. Winter trying it's best to hold on, blowing it's icy breath across the land reminding us that it isn't gone yet. Snow on the Daffodils. April, the warming ground slowly giving life back to the grasses and the bulbs hidden beneath. The apricots and apple trees loaded with blossoms filling the air with their perfumes, along with the peaches pears and cherries. May and the fields are turned with the promise of the new season, The lilacs showing once again their fleeting beauty, filling the air with their sweet scent. June as the crops begin to poke eagerly from the ground, corn, soybeans, wheat, oats and everything else.The colors returning to the trees and the blossoms. The first cutting of hay piling up in the barns, and the promise of another summer filled with new promise and memories.

So to say that I feel sorry for those who don't experience the seasons is an understatement, but for many of them they are like the blind who have never seen. They have not a concept of what they are missing. Maybe someday they may give it a try.

Monday, November 3, 2008


The Master, Robert A. Heinlein once said, through his character Lazarus Long, " If you live in a society that votes, do so! If you don't have some one to vote for, you should have someone to vote against. If this doesn't work, find some well meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask who he supports, then vote the opposite. It satisfies your civic duty and you get to oppose someone you dislike. " Now I truly don't believe that this is the best philosophy, but I do believe that if you don't vote you have no legs to stand on when you don't like who wins. Since my 18th birthday I have only missed 2 election days. One because I was traveling and one because I completely forgot what day it was, ( and I was thinking about it all day while I worked!)

Now this leads me to a very important point that I would like to see addressed by our elected officials. I believe that election day should be moved to a weekend, be it Saturday or Sunday is no matter, but the other important point is this, It should also be a Mandatory Federal Holiday, meaning that NO business may be conducted while the polls are open. A system that works very well in most other democracies in the world. This means that no registered voter has an excuse other than being hospitalized or kidnapped. As the oldest democracy in the world we are faced with some of the lowest voter turnouts. Why? Because too many people think that either it doesn't affect them, or that their vote doesn't matter. This is often attributable to the television news. Exit polls are truly the most hurtful thing to a democracy, because people hear that so and so is in the lead or so far behind, and they guess that their vote won't make a difference. I say this from experience, because I have worked with people who have used this exact argument.

I believe in the Constitution and all of the rights and freedoms afforded us by this document, but I am a very firm believer that with these freedoms and rights comes a certain level of responsibility, that frankly hasn't been exercised in a few decades. The press has become worse than religious crusaders in dumping scandal and excess on the front page to be consumed with our morning cereal. The more seedy the story the bigger the typeface. Along with the rudeness of the pundits, and the ignorance of the populace in general, these things add up to cake and circuses. Some wise person many years ago said that," a democracy will stand until such time as the people realize that they have the power to vote themselves cake and circuses." For some reason I think it may have been Mark Twain, but I'm not sure. But the point that he was making is that people tend to vote in their own interest, rather than in the interest of the country as a whole. How human of us! The sad part is that Politicians have grabbed unto this fact with a vengance, and the pork barrel rolls happily along. This is the biggest problem with career politicians. This is why I truly believe that politicians should be picked just like jurors.

Now my second suggestion is to get rid of every type of voting machine, Touch screen, and punch card and go back to a simple #2 Pencil, and a sheet of paper. There are few democracies in the world that vote any other way. In the United States, every state has a different system, and there is no standard, except that they are all insecure. And since they are insecure they can't be fully trusted. A glass box with a slot in the top, and a voter with a paper ballot is the most trustable thing in the world. A simple column with a square box beside each name. A box for the party you wish to have your vote counted from, and an X in each appropriate box. It has worked for centuries, and as the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Our world is gonna change one way or the other. The best thing anyone can do is to educate themselves abot what and who they are voting for. ( or against!) but don't go simply by the rhetoric of the campaign, visit websites of the candidates, and the referendums, and read up on the issues. Don't fall for the Karl Rove Doctrine, which is that any lie repeated often enough will be taken as the truth. The best website to visit is they sift through all the crude and corruption and give you the truth from both sides of the fence. They are truly non-partisan and that is the best thing that one can hope for in a research organization.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

root for the suit!

Jerry Seinfeld used to talk about sports fans and how they didn't root for the particular player as much as they rooted for the uniform worn by the player, because, he said, whenever a player was traded he was instantly the enemy. Even a longtime player for your team became no more than an enemy combatant once he put on a different uniform. Very few sports fans continue to follow a player who is traded, at least in team sports. Race fans however are a different breed of fan, you see, we root for the driver, no matter the sponsor, team owner, car manufacturer, or any of the million other variables in the racing world. We pick a driver, for whatever reason, and unless they retire or do something completely stupid we tend to stick with them for years, through winning and losing, through the politics of the sport, and through changes in teams, numbers, and sponsors. Think about the merchandising alone, there are generally 4 major sponsors for every car. The Marquee sponsor who gets the major paint scheme for most of the season and covers more than75 percent of the cost of the season. Then there are the secondary sponsors, who cover specific races, or functions of the team. These sponsors get their primetime paint job for their specific races or functions. Now a REAL fan will simply HAVE to have all the versions of the car, the T-shirts with all the sponsors, the various models and other clothes and ballcaps and gods know what. When the driver changes teams he generally changes numbers and sponsors, so it starts all over again. Perfect Examples in recent years is Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin. Jr. left his father's company to go with a new company, leaving his old sponsor and number with DEI. He went from the red #8 Bud car, to the green & white #88 Amp Energy car. Mark Martin in the last 4 years has gone from the #6 Viagra car, to "retirement" to part time driving to back to a full schedule at DEI in the #8 Army car. All the while holding his fan base who have been buying his merchandise and keeping him in plenty of gas and peanuts. Isn't America a cool place?