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Archive for June, 2013

It’s quite possible that I am bordering on a weird lifestyle. You see, I don’t enjoy card games; never really have;, never really will. Perhaps it comes from getting into some poker games with friends while in college and leaving with little but my underwear. Or perhaps it’s having lost more than my fair share of cash playing cribbage with my friend, George. Are you getting the point?

Having said that, I will now contradict myself by telling you that I have become hooked on solitaire. It’s not funny so please stop laughing. This isn’t one of the exotic solitaire games of which it appears there must be close to 100 on my computer. It’s not spider or mahjong tiles or any of that only fancy stuff. This is just good old fashioned solitaire. I have become an….addict!

Before I retire for the evening, I check my e-mail – spam included – and then, for some unknown reason, I flip on a game of solitaire. Why do I do this? Here’s the kicker; I do it to determine how many minutes I can waste of my before going to bed! At the end of each losing hand – the gods are against me – there is a posted record of how many games played; how many won, and; how many seconds the last game required. I have begun keeping track of those seconds for that is time out of my life that I can never get back. Alan Lakein, the godfather of time management says, “Waste your time; waste your life.” He follows this up with, “Master your time; master your life.”

At one time in my wasted life my time management was so under control, it was ugly. That’s because I, today’s master time waster, was teaching workshops in time management. There was even an article on TM – as we in the trade called it – in an association magazine with my byline…how ‘bout that crap? Now I am retired, and I really don’t give a damn about managing my time correctly. As a consequence, I have now taken to seeing exactly how many seconds, minutes, or hours I can manage it incorrectly. Isn’t that a hoot?

Lest you believe I am a complete wastrel, it would probably be wise to tell you that this particular day has not been a complete waste. I have voted in a special election. I have visited an orthopedic surgeon who told me that yes; I have torn the calf muscle in my right leg, and that it will continue to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch for the next six weeks…”but you can go back to the gym whenever you want.” Go ahead; figure that one out. In addition, Juli and I have gone to the post office and to the local supermarket. I have also finished Dan Brown’s Inferno and even watched a bit of TV. Therefore, the day hasn’t been a complete waste of time. Now that it’s time to creep between the sheets, I confess my combined waste of solitaire time amounted to about 15 minutes. Just think, that’s a quarter of an hour of my whole life that I can never regain…ah, to hell with it. Could that quarter hour have been spent more productively? Who knows? Who really cares? It’s my life; if I want to waste it, I should feel free to do so. There, I said it and I’m glad.

I wish you hadn’t brought up the idea that I’m wasting my life. Do I tell you how to live?

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Is it me or are people treating others differently these days? A recent survey showed that 70 percent of Americans hate their jobs. In addition, the survey indicated that the disgruntled employees will go out of their way to sabotage the good work being done by those who are happy. Beyond that – if you can handle it – the bulk of these people say that their manager is to blame. I’m reminded somewhat of the line from the movie, Cool Hand Luke, where Paul Newman as Luke, smart-mouths the normally placid Captain, played by Strother Martin. The Captain beats the hell out of Luke and ends up stating, “What we have heah is a failure to communicate.”

I would venture to say that the art of communications is quickly become a lost one in the good old US of A. Okay, I agree that there are 11.2 million people in America who are unemployed. No two ways about it; that’s a problem. It was a problem with the man who delivered my pizza the other day. He is a graduate of MIT and has a law degree from Boston College. While he’s looking for a position in the legal profession, he’s not sitting on his ass; he’s out delivering pizza. The way he looks at it, every door to which he delivers is also a potential contact. He doesn’t leave his resume, although I’ll bet if I asked for one, he’d have it in his car.

If management today is by fear and intimidation, it’s no wonder people treat one another differently. How can you expect to be treated nicely, if an employee in the company with which you are in contact is so pissed that she doesn’t want to be where she is, much less having to deal with you. If the mechanic at the gas station gives you a dirty look because your car is in for an oil change, the look may not be for you but for the customer who preceded you; a fellow employee, his boss, his wife, or even his kids. I have been known, on rare occasions, to ask, “Who burned your toast this morning?” It’s never gotten me a punch in the mouth or a smartass return. It generally stops folks in their tracks because they know you’re not the source of their troubles. A smile usually comes out of it; not all the time, but better than 80 percent.

If managers are the problem, then their education is the problem. If their education is the problem, it’s up to the schools and colleges from which they graduate to change their managing models.  Bully management just is not acceptable in today’s society. Doctors began a program several years ago to improve the bedside manner of young physicians. It is a program considered to be critical in the medical profession. It’s no different from boss-employee relations. Are there some organizations where management by intimidation is encouraged? Of course there are, and these are the companies from which you want to run away. Employee satisfaction is based on three things: (1) the feeling that you are making a contribution to the success of the organization; (2) public recognition of your value to the company, and; (3) salary and benefits. Notice that salary and benefits is in the third position. This is critical because if you don’t feel that what you do is important, and if you aren’t told periodically that your contributions are appreciated, I don’t care how much money you’re making, you will not feel good about your job. I took a seven thousand dollar pay cut in 1978 to get into an environment that I knew would be better for me. My future boss said, “We can’t afford to hire you.” I responded with, “You can’t afford not to hire me.” Of course, the fact that I’d been out of work for three years made a bit of a difference, but what the hell! The last 20 years of my working life were great; the last ten were spectacular. I was blessed to work with and for people who understood how to manage; who knew when to recognize the contributions we were all making and when it was time to pick up the pace. In hindsight, I’m not all that certain this can be taught. It all comes down to developing an attitude that conveys to others that they want to be around you.

Life is too short to be filled with hatred for a place where you spend more of your waking hours than anywhere else. If you’re like many people today, you spend about three hours a day commuting. That’s 15 hours a week. Being charitable, you probably have a 50-hour work week [C’mon, we both know that you don’t get out on time all the time]. If you get eight hours of sleep a night, there goes another 56 hours. That adds up, my friend to 121 hours out of a 168-hour week. In effect, this means you have only 47 hours left; that’s not even a complete weekend. If 65 hours of your week is spent commuting and on the job, and you’re not happy, you had better make some changes or you are on your way to an early stop at the funeral home!

Many of my bosses are now long gone. Those who are alive, Sandra King and Bill Glavin…thanks for making my working career such a joy. We had great times and did great things. To the rest of you out there, find people who make work worthwhile. You’ll find that every other part of your life will also improve.

 

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Poor Paula Deen; The Food Network show which she’s had for sometime has been cancelled and now several of her other sponsors are either dropping her or considering to terminate their relations with her. If there was ever greater hypocrisy in this 21st Century, you’ll have to point it out to me. All of those who are climbing on the bandwagon to protest her use of the word, “nigger” over 30 years ago, are bringing hypocrisy to a new bloody level. When asked when she had used that word, she replied, “When a Black man came into the bank in which I was working and put a gun to my head…and probably when I was telling my husband that night.” Well, hell, Paula, it took a lot of brass balls to say it to the man’s face when you didn’t know if it might not enrage him enough to blow, “…yo white ass to hell ‘n gone.” I’ve had loaded guns pointed at me three times and I don’t think I uttered too many racial slurs at all!

Paula Deen was raised in the South. She, along with damn near every other white Southerner in the United States has used that word at one time or another. I enjoy hearing my Black friends and acquaintance sometimes yelling that word at each other. I can’t do it; I’m white and in these days of political correctness, I know my place. It’s fine if a Black person calls me whitey or paleface, but I guess the rules only run one way.

You cannot tell me that people at QVC and Kmart; executives at Kraft or even the top dogs at Smithfield Hams have never uttered some kind of racial slurs. They are not public figures. They are not the faces of their products. They do not have flowing silver locks or a Southern accent that at times makes them difficult to understand. No, their face has all of that and more, but thirty years ago, when they didn’t even know their “face,” their “face” did a nasty. Tsk, tsk, we just can’t abide that with all of our high and mighty standards. Here’s what a Smithfield spokesman had to say…”Smithfield condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind. Therefore, we are terminating our partnership with Paula Deen. Smithfield is determined to be an ethical food industry leader and it is important that our values and those of our spokespeople are properly aligned.”

CBS this morning with Charlie Rose, Nora O’Donnell, and Gayle King seemed terribly upset in reporting the story of Deen’s demise. Well, Charlie, you grew up in the South and Nora, you’re a Texas gal. Don’t lie now; just put your hand on the Bible and tell me that ‘n’ word isn’t in your vocabulary and that you’ve never used it. Gayle, you’re immune from this conversation, but I do hope that it’s a word you abhor as much as the rest of us.

This situation is of great importance to me because over 60 years ago, I used that word in anger to one of my closest friends. I haven’t forgiven myself yet. Hopefully, Leo Kennedy and I will meet in the next life and I’ll have the chance to offer a genuine apology. Guess I’d have to say that, like too many other 15-year olds, I didn’t have the brains I was born with.

It appears that ever since Ms. Deen announced that she had diabetes, she’s been fair game for the ‘dirt-diggers.’ And if the dirt-diggers want to get you, they will. This seems to be one of those cases where the mole hill is becoming Mount Everest, and the mountain has fallen on a lovely lady. Doesn’t it say in the Holy Bible, “Let him who is free from sin cast the first stone?”

Wouldn’t it be a grand gesture for Oprah Winfrey to invite Ms. Deen to bring her Southern Home Cooking show to Oprah’s network? Then, if her ratings don’t warrant the show’s continuation, fine. However, after this brouhaha,  I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t serve to improve the network’s ratings. As for you, Ms. Deen, isn’t it a shame that you told the truth. Oh, maybe that’s because you’re just an honest woman giving an honest interview. Think maybe there’s a lesson in there?

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A story

 “Are you abed?”

“No, I’m awake.”

“Where’s the wake?”

“No, I’m a wake; you know, alert.”

“You’re a lert? What’s a lert?”

“Never mind [idiot].” Can we just move ahead?”

“You want me to help you move a head? What the hell did you do?”

“@#$%&*, I was abed, asleep; now I’m awake and alert. I don’t mean to be abrupt, but perhaps you can accommodate me, your accomplice in whatever your arrangements your abilities are concocting?”

“I’m going to be your accomplice?”

“In what?”

“What?”

“Let us start over. Why did you call?”

“Over a bridge, there was an accident, you know, near the abyss and everyone’s abuzz about the sudden acceptance of the accolades given to Mr. Albertson.”

[I know I’ll regret asking} ‘Who is Mr. Albertson? Why is he acclaimed and abounding with accolades?

“You haven’t heard?”

[Click]

“I am in my own abode; I am tired; I am about to abrade that conversation from my mind; go abed and asleep, perhaps never to wake…again!”

[end of a story]

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America, in many ways, is a strange country. First and foremost, it is really huge. Heck, in California alone, you can go swimming in the morning and skiing in the afternoon. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration; you’d probably need to driver like the hammers of hell or take a plane to get from one destination to the other, but think about it; that’s just one of our 50 states. You can drive through all six New England states in the time it takes you to drive across Kansas, for example.  If you want to drive across the state of Florida, you can do it in three hours; on the other hand [you have five fingers; yeah, I know], it would take you 10-11 hours to drive across the states of Montana or Texas.

We are a nation founded in peace and yet, defined by violence. We have more people in prison than any other nation…and that includes China [I know what you’re thinking and it’s probably best not to go there]. We appear to go to war at the drop of a hat. If there’s trouble in any part of the world, Americans are there, fighting and dying to protect the rights of others.

We are a nation of laws, yet many of them go unenforced and if we were to enforce all of them, we might not have as many in prisons nor the controversy over gun control. We have mass murders, e.g., Virginia Tech, Newton, and Littleton and we cry for justice…for just about a month and a half and then things go back to normal.

We are a country of great but subtle humor. When the bald eagle was adopted as the national bird – it was the centerpiece of the Great Seal adopted on June 20, 1782 – there was one notable gentleman visibly, but almost humorously upset. The great Benjamin Franklin, statesman, raconteur, gastronome, and noted swordsman, wrote in part to his daughter, “For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour [sic] of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.” In the official history of the Great Seal by John D. MacArthur, Franklin goes on to say,  “I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.” While I will not go into detail here – do your own homework – I should also note that Franklin had some interesting ideas about the use of the rattlesnake as a national emblem for the fledgling colonies, mentioning in part the thirteen rattles being identical to the number of original colonies.

We are tuneless and tuneful nation. Ask anyone who has ever tried to sing the Stars Spangled Banner and they will tell you that, even if they can carry a tune, that song is a bitch to sing! The late Dr. Isaac Asimov, writer, scientist, Russian émigré, wrote, “I have a weakness – I am crazy, absolutely nuts, about our national anthem. The words are difficult, and the tune is almost impossible, but frequently when I’m taking a shower, I sing it with as much power and emotion as I can. It shakes me up every time.” How many native-born Americans would ever say or even think that about our national anthem. I printed out all four stanzas and attempted to sing them – behind a closed door out of respect for Juli’s ears – and I have to tell you, it is haunting. Conceived by a lawyer, Francis Scott Key, aboard a prison ship in Baltimore Harbor, during a war that we actually lost, and yet this song, a poem set to the music – “Anacreon in Heaven” – of the British whom we were fighting has endured.

I noted that we are also a ‘tuneful’ nation, and while some may favor Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Kenye West, Kenny Cheney, or Taylor Swift, as far as patriotic songs are concerned, I’ll stick with Katherine Lee Bates, a member of the Wellesley college faculty who, from the top of Pike’s Peak, wrote America the Beautiful. Every American is familiar with the first stanza, but few, I’m certain, are aware that the third stanza of this beautiful song recognizes the sacrifices made to keep us free. Let me quote: “O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life.”

Yes, we are strange, America and Americans. We will defend to the death the right to speak freely, but we will not pay women in the same manner we pay men. We have over 13 million illegal immigrants and we bitch that Americans can’t find jobs. Yep, we sure are strange, but ya know what, I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world for any price.

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We have a railroad bridge about a mile away from us. It’s a natural route home if we’ve been at the local food store. This bridge is over a main ‘cut through’ from a super [that’s a joke] highway – more about that later – to several communities south of us. In other words, the road gets a helluva lot of use. There is a problem or two with this bridge, the first being that the underpass barely allows to SUVs to pass; the second problem, and now we come to the crux of the situation, is that the underpass is ten feet, nine inches high. To someone driving a Ferrari, Maseratti,  Jaguar,  or Volkswagon Beetle, this may seem perfectly acceptable. Most who drive tractor-trailer, 18-wheel ‘big guys,’ this height deters them from attempting to pass under.

I just happen to be six foot, one. From my arm pit to my finger tips is another thirty-plus inches. There was a time when I could dunk a basketball…those days have been gone for decades. However, to give you some sense of the height of this underpass, in my prime I could probably have jumped to touch the ceiling. This sucker is low! School busses barely get under it. There is signage that begins nearly half a mile away that warns of the lowness of this bridge. Just before the bridge there is a side street without any obstructions that leads to a divided highway heading south. There are several alternatives to using this underpass out the wahzoo, but what do the idiots do? You guessed it. On a regular basis, they ignore all of the warnings about this bridge. Generally, it’s some idiot who just rented a box truck from Ryder or someone and who isn’t use to driving one of these vehicles. Stupid, yes, but in some far, far recesses of my mind, I can almost excuse this kind of mistake. However, when some [expletive deleted] driver of a flatbed doesn’t check the height of his load, he’s an idiot.

Earlier this week, a flatbed driver apparently forgot that the two panels of glass that he was carrying brought the height of his load up to about 12 feet.  Juli and I came upon this scene in time to see the embarrassed driver, what was left of the glass, and part of the frame that had been protecting the glass sticking out from under the bridge. This was not a pretty sight. Just think for a minute of what happened here; the driver, at best, will be held responsible for damage to his vehicle and the cargo regardless of insurance. He could lose his job. The company expecting the glass will probably be delayed in whatever it was they were going to do once the glass was installed. Ripples, ripples, ripples!

As if the accident this week wasn’t bad enough, today a trailer, and 18-wheel monster, peeled his roof almost completely off attempting to speed through this underpass. That’s the only possible excuse for the extent to which that roof was gone. What is wrong with these people; signs everywhere and disobeying them is getting to be epidemic.

The obvious answer is to raise the bridge and widen the underpass. The town has approached this possibility with the railroad. The railroad doesn’t seem all that interested. There’s a lot of truth to the railroad position; it would cost a great deal of money to begin raising the bed a minimum of a mile back on either side of this bridge, just to make it high enough for larger trucks and wide enough that vehicles could feel safer in passing under the bridge. The railroad position may well be luck the gun control and NRA people…No one’s been killed yet so why should we do anything. Then it will be well only a couple of people have been killed so far so why do anything. That seems to be the new thing in America…well; no kids have been killed yet so we don’t have to act. We now know that twenty is not a large enough number for our Congressional leaders, so maybe we have to wait until a school bus gets slammed going through the underpass and more than twenty kids get killed.

We have become a reactive nation. We wait until the shit hits the fan and then we moan and weep about it for a week or so, depending on the extent of the death toll; then it just all goes away. Oh wait, that’s not quite true. We act immediately if it appears that our rights to privacy may be getting invaded. We all think we’re so goddamned important that each and every one of us is being monitored. If that isn’t the biggest crock around, I’m not certain what is. Oh, wait just a pea-picking minute…I was monitored. You see, I write this blog and sometimes I really mouth off about our government, Congress, terrorism, and other buzz words, all in the same blog. If found in a certain order, I’m quite certain that an alert is issued somewhere at NSA, NTI, CIA, or some other acronym of which none of us have ever heard to read and study the piece in question. How do I know this? Well, it’s rather humorous; I generally get upwards of ten hits per day. Right after this one was posted, the tab that day was 70. I don’t know which nerve I hit, but it must have been a beaut!

Okay, we’ve come all the way from a railroad bridge that should have been repaired decades ago but wasn’t because an insufficient number of fatalities have occurred. We’ve traveled from that to gun control to privacy issues…and all in under a thousand words. Ain’t life grand? Enjoy!

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Time was when we would be singing, “Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine.” That, of course was several decades ago. Then it was, “Baby, Baby,” or something else symbolizing a new life in our lives. Now we’ve become more literary, and we’re thankful that when “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” it isn’t tolling for us.

It’s possible, I suppose, that we can mark certain periods of our lives with songs that have had a deep and lasting meaning to each of us. When Patti Page sang, “Old Cape Cod,” Joan and I would think about our days on Martha’s Vineyard as we celebrated our honeymoon. I will never hear that song without thinking of the afternoon’s we spent walking along South Beach or sitting at Harborside in Edgartown having a cocktail or two.

Everyone, I’m certain, has these moments. Take a second right now to think about the memories that certain songs have for you; go ahead…I’ll wait…

[…I’m waiting]

Fun, wasn’t it?

Maybe; or maybe it wasn’t fun for you. There are songs that conjure up memories of ‘other’ times in our lives. Whenever I hear, “A Nightingale Sang in Barclay Square,” a song that probably most of you have rarely, if ever, heard, I think of Joan’s death. I have no idea why except that it was one of her favorites. It’s not as if it was playing on a radio or anything like that. “Old Cape Cod” doesn’t do that; those memories will always be wonderful, glorious, and laughingly magical. Sinatra’s “My Funny Valentine” or Mel Torme’s version of “Mountain Greenery” will also bring a smile to my weary countenance.

Things are different today. I find it impossible to believe that young couples can have “their” song because songs today don’t seem to have much to say. I’m sorry, but, “Kill all the muthafuckin’ bitches, baby,” just doesn’t move my romantic nature. Perhaps, as in everything else, I just don’t understand today’s music. I’m exaggerating, of course, but I can’t think of one popular song that I’d be willing to get on stage to sing as I did some of the hits of yesteryear – usually after a couple of scotches. The more people sent drinks to the stage, the better I seemed to get…drunks are like that, ya know!

Today, Juli is my partner. I love her; not the way I loved Joan. You only know that kind of love once in your life. We love one another very much, but it’s a bit different. We don’t have a song; we both love pets. She loves to feed the wild turkeys that come around, and I love to watch. She loves to garden, and I love fresh fruit and vegetables – if you’ve never had homemade raspberry jam, you ain’t lived – and in addition, instead of having favorite songs, we enjoy similar TV shows. NCIS C and Criminal Minds are a couple of our favorites. We have our Kindles but we still like to turn the pages of a ‘real’ book every now and then.

It seems that while times change, it’s technology that governs what becomes “ours” as favorites in our lives. Early, very early, in my youth, I can remember sitting in front of the old Philco radio and listening to  The Shadow, Superman – man of steel; hell, that one’s coming back – The Green Hornet, The Phantom, and Crimebusters. All of those have become television shows of one kind or another. Isn’t it just amazing?

Can’t you picture the grandmothers and grandfathers of the future talking about their favorite Simpsons or South Park episode or about how much trouble Stewie got into in ‘that’ showing of Family Guy, and the grandkids looking at one another and rolling their eyes? Don’t laugh; it could happen.  The only thing the generations will have in common will be Star Trek; the New Galaxies or Star Wars 3429.

Doesn’t all of this make you wonder what the Pilgrims did? Naw, not even will I try to make something out of that one!

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