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Archive for the ‘Competition’ Category

You Tube, I curse you. I cast a spell on you that will drive you away from me forever. You have become my kryptonite, my Achilles heel, the bane of my existence. I have summoned the three witches of Macbeth to banish you forever from my presence. There…how’d that sound? Pretty good? Think it will work? Nah, you’re right. It’s too ingrained.

What has caused this outrage that’s not really an outrage? In a word, Juli. Let me go back a bit. Four years ago, she purchased a gingerbread house kit. She believed that I needed something to occupy my mind around the Holidays, something that would be new and different, creative and unique, calming and worthy of my talents (ha!). It sat on the kitchen table until sometime the following April when she finally put the damned thing…who knows where, but she did put it. A year later, it appeared once more on the kitchen table, this time with bags of confectioner’s sugar, all sorts of candy decorations, including Necco wafers, smarties, gum drops, those red and white peppermint swirly things, and candy canes…along with the bags of sugar. ”Okay,” said I, “To placate your injured feelings of last year, I shall give it a go.” Let me say right here and now that gingerbread houses can be a colossal pain in the butt! They can, however, also be a great deal of fun and bring enjoyment…no matter how you mess them up. Trust me, my first effort at creating a gingerbread house was not, in my personal opinion, a success. My companion, however, thought it lovely enough to be displayed on the mantel over the fireplace. I did notice that it made its way into the trash very shortly after the holidays, so I get the feeling that “lovely” was just to stroke the old man’s ego.

As I have said, putting together and decorating gingerbread houses can be fun, and over the past two years, my skills have increased (eh) to a degree that I now look forward (well, almost) to the time when I can sit at the kitchen table and attempt some form of creativity (stop laughing).

Gingerbread houses, I swear, come in all shapes, sizes, and most importantly, they come in different levels of quality. Without mentioning retail outlets by name, let me just say that you can buy the really scrawny gingerbread houses that seem to crack and bust up into crumbs with the first layer of frosting to those that are so solid, it could be the house of Rosina Leckermaul – she’s the witch in the 1892 Hansel and Gretel opera (see how educational I can be?). We have not yet reached the point of making our own gingerbread. I will be bone dust in my grave before I allow that to be a part of this process. Therefore, we seek out the sturdiest and only the best quality pre-fab gingerbread houses available. Last year, we stumbled on the epitome, I believe, when we shopped at Wegman’s. No fancy boxes; no inside, lengthy pamphlets on how one should (must, in some cases) adorn one’s gingerbread houses; just the plain four sides and two roof pieces, shrink-wrapped on a plain cardboard slice, the “here-it-is-do-what- you damn-well-please-with-it-holiday-house.”

Yes, I know we haven’t gotten to the You Tube curse yet…just hold your horses. This year, Juli suggested that it might be a good idea if I were to decorate not one, but three gingerbread houses, one for us and one for each of the children who live reasonably near us. “You’re kidding, right?” I responded. “Oh, no, I think they’d love it,” she retorted, although I do believe I caught a glimpse of something sinister in one of her twinkling eyes. Being the suspicious character I am, I decided to push. “Why are you suggesting this?” I asked, and she finally had to admit that she had viewed a You Tube video the evening before that dealt with decorating gingerbread houses, and, of course, she insisted that I watch “at least a minute or two of it.” There are certain things that you learn as you age. One of those things is that when your partner, companion, spouse, whatever, suggests that you watch anything that you know you’ve already been snookered into being a part of, you do it…or else. The confectioner who was decorating this particular gingerbread house just happened to be a lady in Canada…I will never trust a Canadian again! I think she may have been professionally trained as a gingerbread-house-decorator. The swirls of icing, the cutting of the gum drops, the manner in which she worked with food coloring and food pencils and a whole pile of decorating utensils that I didn’t even know existed, made that gingerbread house a work of art suitable for a museum. “You want me to do that?” I practically screamed. “Don’t worry,” I was told, “we have all of those icing tips and the other things.” I didn’t dare ask where the hell we had acquired these things. I’d been had, screwed, routed, beaten in battle, and whatever other expressions of defeat you may wish to attribute to the old man. Four years ago, I won the battle; today, I lost the war. I have now watched approximately six hours of gingerbread-house-decoration-videos-on-You-Tube. The number of houses I will decorate has grown to four – the next door neighbors just have to have one – and, frankly, I’m laughing my ass off, just thinking about the fun I’m going to have.

I no longer agonize over untangling Christmas tree lights only to entangle them as I’m putting them on the tree. I no longer spend hours over which ornaments to place where, so that when the kids come over, they will see “their” ornaments in a prominent position on the tree. I no longer help to decorate the mantle with Christmas greenery, so therefore, I am relegated to gingerbread house duty, and watching to learn “how the professionals do it.” Lest you believe that I am still an amateur, I want you to know that I have already decided on how a couple of the roofs will be decorated this year. One will have a thatched roof of mini-shredded wheats, the frosted kind, of course, to depict snow. A second will consist of layered Necco wafers, and aw damn, I’m beginning to sound like an interior decorator. Curse you, You Tube, I’m going back to watch a football game!

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Choices…What an interesting word. Are you aware that the average adult makes 35,000 choices in a single day? That’s right; you read that correctly…35,000. Heck, we make 226.7 choices just about the food we’re going to eat in a single day. By contrast, children make only about 3,000 choices in a day. Much of the research, particularly about the food, was done at Cornell University, which is appropriate considering they have one of the best schools of hotel management in the country.

But…once more I digress, only to be pulled back to the subject at hand; in this case, “choices.” I’m willing to bet that without half trying, you could list 1,000 choices you make in a day. Consider your clothing, your mode of transportation, your job, your career, the television you may or may not watch, and of course let us not forget about the food you choose…or not. I suppose we could add the choices you make about what to do on the computer or, if you use a smart phone…oy, let’s not get started on those choices

I’d like to consider myself as a pretty average adult. Stop laughing right now! Okay, so I’m a bit older than average. Maybe I’m a bit taller than average even with my age-diminished-height. I could also be thought of as a bit heavier than average – although I have just lost 25 pounds, with 25 more to go. But here are some of the choices I have to make first thing in the morning: Gym clothing or street clothes; water or fruit juice; a protein bar or some fruit; go to the gym or not; if not, what will we be doing today and how do I dress for it; if going to the gym, is the battery charged on my I-pod or should I charge it while I’m getting ready to go. I could go on and on and on and I haven’t even been to the gym yet! Geez, all these choices, most of which we make without even considering that we are doing so. Are you getting my drift here?

If you remember Newton’s Third Law…”For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” then you will, perhaps, understand why we make those 35,000 choices each and every day. Making a single choice influences so many other choices that they quickly add up, and the number doesn’t appear quite as large as it initially did.

Along the line we may make some choices that don’t affect us at the time but that have a huge impact on us later. My decision to smoke for 51 years of my life has now resulted in emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a result, my choices of exercise are quite limited. On the other hand, my choice not to get involved in any criminal activities – yes, it was a choice – means that I didn’t have any kind of a record that would have prevented me from getting a security clearance or pursuing any number of professions.

Are there choices that I made that perhaps I should not have? Absolutely. Let me cite college as an example. In my undergraduate years, I never took the classroom all that seriously. That was a choice that, in hindsight, was about as dumb as I had to have been. Don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful collegiate experiences. They just weren’t in the classroom. By the time I got to graduate school I was married, had a full-time job, and truly recognized the value of higher education. To this day, however, I look back at my undergraduate days with some regret.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you for a few moments. What choices did you make today? Were they choices that affected only you or were the effects felt by others? Were the effects on others positive or negative? Did your choices affect the choices made by others? The choices you make as an individual, ie, breakfast, clothing, etcetera, these only affect you. Supposing, however, that you are the head of a small or even large organization. Every choice you make may affect the lives of hundreds or even thousands of others. The choices you make compound over a lifetime and lead to who, what, and where you are. Your choices define you, and they define how others view you. This latter may not concern you at all, but you’d be wise to consider it. Let us return to you as leader, president, CEO, or whatever title you wish to hold. Your choices now become decisions and those decisions always affect the choices and actions of others. So how do you make those decisions? Do you go with the first choice that is offered and to hell with the consequences? Do you make the choice to go with what will please the majority, even though it may have long-term negative consequences? Or do you carefully weigh what is good for the organization, the employees, the community, and a host of others that will be affected by this one decision that is made up of complex choices?

It’s at this point that you begin to think, “Damn, I never looked at my choices this way,” or words to that effect. Our simple choices that only affect us are one thing, but when your choice has a ripple effect (damn, there’s that word again), well, that’s when things become complicated. If you’re on the top rung of the ladder, the choices you make cannot be made impulsively. Every single factor must be weighed. It doesn’t become a breakfast choice or a clothing choice, or the choice of a television program to be watched. Your choice becomes your decision. Can you live with it?

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“Well, then, why don’t you write a travel piece?”

“A what?” I asked.

“Oh, you know, a piece about where you’ve been and what you’ve seen; the fascinating sights, restaurants, museums, and so forth?”

“You talkin’ to me?” I queried.

“Well…sure…” he replied, now growing a bit hesitant.

“The places I’ve been; the fascinating sights, restaurants, museums, and so forth?” I said, looking quizzically at this person I thought I had known for over 50 years…and actually turning around to see if he might be speaking to a complete stranger behind me.

“I DON’T TRAVEL,” I screamed as though speaking with a dolt, adding, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT?”

That brought the conversation and companionship to a rather rapid close as he stormed off, waving his hands in the air in an “I give up; what the hell’s the use,” fashion. This, by the by, is not the first, nor will it, in all probability, be the last time one of our conversations has ended in such a manner, ie, with one of us throwing our hands in the air – why do we do that, anyway – and trudging away.

So, here I am, stuck with a blank page on the computer, still in a quandary over with what to fill this clean white sheet of screen. “Why write anything?” you ask.

“Well, writing is what keeps my sanity intact, what remains of it that is.” I enjoy writing. Actually, I enjoy writing pieces that make people think…one way or the other. They agree or disagree with my postulations, and it doesn’t matter a damn to me which way they go. As a matter of fact, I prefer it when people violently disagree with me – well, not violently perhaps, but you know what I mean – and they respond with their own clearly stated – most of the time – positions.

My options are limited. To write about any of the five presidential wannabee’s merely gets my blood boiling since there’s not one who is worthy of the highest office in the land. Seriously, think about it: Trump wants to build walls, allow his cronies to do anything they damn well please, up to and including criminal behavior. He wants to make abortion a crime and he hasn’t a clue about foreign policy. Ted Cruz wants to carpet-bomb the Middle East and tough tomatoes for anyone in the way. The way he’s talking, all Muslims would wind up in WWII-like ghettos. John Kasich and Bernie Sanders would each get eaten alive by Congressional foes, and that brings us to Hillary. Sooner or later, she will be indicted for something. I liken Hillary to John Gotti…she’s the Teflon pol to whom nothing seems to stick; Whitewater didn’t stick; Benghazi didn’t stick; e-mail messages aren’t sticking so far. Not a damned thing seems to stick. Ergo, who is going to run the country? As Felix the Cat (for those who remember) might say, eeeeeeeeek!

So politics is out. Perhaps I should write about Senate Bill 524…it’s a pisser! It’s called the “Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016,” and its purpose is to “authorize the Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use.” What, we’re now making the Attorney General find a new way to fight the drug war. I guess we’ve given up trying to fight the cocaine war. It appears that Congress, in its investigative role, has found that, “The abuse of heroin and prescription opioid painkillers is having a devastating effect on public health and safety in communities across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths now surpass traffic accidents in the number of deaths caused by injury in the United States. In 2014, an average of more than 120 people in the United States died from drug overdoses every day.” My reaction to this is that it’s a great way to reduce the gene pool! Who are these 120 people who have chosen to die by drug overdose?  The circle of Kumbaya singing, well-meaning-but-wearing-rose-colored-glasses crowd will call me harsh, but that’s okay, because these 120 will not breed and they will not vote. Let them die and then let’s go after the doctors who prescribed a 20 or 30 day prescription for Percocet, oxycodone, OxyContin, or hydrocodone. I have had nearly 20 surgeries in my life, and I believe I’ve taken one Percocet pill. Did the surgeries hurt? You bet your butt they did? Were they as painful as some others might be? No! However, if doctors don’t warn patients about the addictiveness of these pills, the docs aren’t doing their job. Why did some of these addicts turn to heroin? Because (a) it can be cheaper than some of the prescription medication; (b) they couldn’t find another doctor who would authorize the pills; and (c) heroin worked better and faster. As a consequence of all this, Congress now wants to play nursemaid to people who don’t have the intelligence or desire not to become drug addicts. Sorry, that’s not where I want my tax dollars spent.

But, Congress responds, “According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (“NIDA”), the number of prescriptions for opioids increased from approximately 76,000,000 in 1991 to nearly 207,000,000 in 2013, and the United States is the biggest consumer of opioids globally, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone and 81 percent for oxycodone.” And “Opioid pain relievers are the most widely misused or abused controlled prescription drugs (CPD) and are involved in most CPD-related overdose incidents. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (“DAWN”), the estimated number of emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of prescription opiates or opioids increased by 112 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 84,671 to 179,787.

Feel free to give me reason after reason for drug addiction in this country, but don’t tell me; please don’t tell me that I have to be part of a legally-adopted payment plan to help junkies rid themselves of an addiction.

Perhaps I should have written that travel piece after all…here goes. I’ve driven and flown from Massachusetts to LA and to Florida. I’ve driven the northern route which is New York State through Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, etc., and I came back the southern route through Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, etc. Our son was married in a hillside chapel in Tennessee, so I’ve been to Gatlinburg, and driven over the Smokey Mountains into North Carolina. My travel has been limited to the United States, parts of Canada, and four unforgettable trips to Bermuda. Unlike many other people, I have not been to Europe or any exotic locales. I’d like to have seen the pyramids, but I have a thing about suicide bombers or kneeling in an orange robe and a drugged stupor while some jerk removes my head from the rest of me. Could I be more expansive about my travels? Certainly, but this little essay is now approaching 1,200 words – go ahead and count, ya damned fool – and my fingers are getting tired. Hope you enjoyed the tirade and that you’ll return again soon.

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                             Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.                                                                                           Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s rather difficult to take issue with the longest serving first lady of the United States and, without question, the most politically active and decisive woman ever to be in the White House. However, the quote above is one with which I must disagree in that it is often the ideas of great minds that sets in motion events that, if not disruptive to the nation as a whole, can certainly prove disruptive to thousands of others within our nation itself.

Perhaps the most recent idea that had to have come from some reasonably great minds is the General Motors debacle over the problems with their automobiles.  For example, can you possibly believe the Rick Wagoner who chaired GM from 2000 – 2009 did not know about the problems with the 1.3 million cars that were built between 2003 and 2007? He was chairman and CEO and this was kept hidden from him? Puh-lease, give me a break? So, what happened after he had milked GM for $63.3 million during his tenure, excluding a $10 million retirement package, and was finally forced to resign by the White House? Another of GM’S ‘old boy network, Fritz Henderson took the reigns – well, at least for eight months he held onto them. The Board forced him out and put the Chairman, Ed Whitacre, in his place in a move that shocked the automotive industry…can you say, “Old boy network continues?” Oh, and by the by, still no action on faulty cars that have been rolling off the assembly line. Daniel Ackerson, another GM board member succeeded Whitacre with an eye to improving GM profits.

There’s a pattern forming here that should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense. The emphasis was in turning the company around without bothering to examine how this was being accomplished. Bottom line became more important than quality of product.

It is solely my opinion that the men of General Motors, finally realizing just how badly they had messed up, even while bringing the company out of bankruptcy, decided they needed a sacrificial lamb on whom they could lay all of the product problems that were plaguing the company. Welcome to the head of the class Mary Barra, Chief of Product Development, to which I say, “Just put your head right on this block My Queen, Dear Antoinette; it will only hurt the first time!”

It may be wrong of me to believe this, but it’s the way my mind works. I’m betting that all of these men from the old boy’s network intentionally through Mary Barra into the number one position solely so that she will take the heat for their errors. Guess what, boys, Mrs. Barra has more guts and more courage than any of you, because she will stand up and admit that GM really messed up between the years 2003 and 2012, and that her job is to make it right. She will also resolve that nothing like this will ever happen again on her watch…and it won’t.

Now that the secrets are no longer, perhaps it’s time that the White House stepped in once more and revoked the $10 million retirement package given to Rick Wagoner. Perhaps liens on his assets to the tune of that retirement compensation could be used to partially compensate the families who lost members due to the failure of those GM vehicles. New research is saying that it is no longer just 12 people who lost their lives and the number may climb to over 300. Perhaps liens should also be place on those who succeeded Wagoner up to time that Barra took over. Will all of this bring back the family members who lost their lives? Will this bring “closure” to the families? Lord but I hate that word, “closure.” There is no such thing because closure would mean having daughters, sons, mothers, and fathers back as living, breathing, laughing, and loving members of families, and that’s just not going to happen.

I’ve seen your videos Mrs. Barra. You’ve been kind to your predecessors, but as you have noted, you’re not just the first woman to head a major automotive giant; you’re a family person, a mother of four, and someone who knows what this loss really means. No one is asking you to micromanage, but everyone is asking that you become more involved than your predecessors about the day-to-day operations and engineering designs. I’m certain you have the ideas about which Mrs. Roosevelt has spoken. You bring to the table much broader experience than the boardroom boys. Let me put it another way: I think you’ve a hell of a lot smarter, tougher, and more empathetic to the consumer than your recent predecessors. Go get ‘em, Mary; give ’em hell!

 

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“I cried because I had no hat till I saw a man who had no coat.
I cried because I had no coat till I saw a man who had no shirt.
I cried because I had no shirt till I saw a man who had no socks,
I cried because I had no socks till I saw a man who had no shoes.
I cried because I had no shoes till I saw a man who had no feet.
I cried because I had no feet till I saw a man who had no legs.
I cried because I had no legs till I saw a man who had no life.”

The author of this poem, to be best of my research and knowledge, is unknown. Some say that it’s somewhere in the Holy Bible, although no one seems to be able to find it. Others attest that it is an ancient Persian Proverb, and there is research to support that thinking. Attribution to a single author, however, is sadly lacking. Whatever and whoever may be responsible for this aphorism, it is something with which each and every person should identify.

I’d love to have a larger pension; then I talk with someone whose IRA was stolen by this crook or that, and now they have damn near nothing. I’d love to be able to go someplace warm in the winter; then I hear about people who have lost their homes to foreclosure or to tornadoes. I’d love to get a new car, and then I see the people who don’t have cars and rely on public transportation. I’d love a lot of things, but I read that proverb and think, “You really are one lucky son-of-a-gun; you have three children who are successful; you have nine wonderful grandchildren; you have a roof over your head, reasonably good health, and twice you have been blessed by women who love you and whom you love. What the hell more could you want out of your life? Go ahead and die tomorrow ‘cause it doesn’t get much better than this.”

Lately, the Boston news media have been covering the situation of David Ortiz, the designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox. Ortiz was a great acquisition from the Minnesota Twins when the Red Sox traded for him. He has been a wonderful addition to the roster and certainly has, in part, been responsible for the success of the team over the past few years. Ortiz, however, has a bit of a problem. It seems that a $12.5 million dollar a year contract is not enough money for Ortiz to stay in Boston. He wants the Red Sox to either ante up or he’ll go where the money is. Ortiz is 37-years old, and in major league baseball parlance, that’s getting near the end of a career. Ortiz’s net worth is $45 million; that sure seems to me to be enough to put his three kids through college; to buy a few homes here and there; and  still have a couple of bucks left to buy a new car or two each year. If, per chance, you don’t agree that Ortiz should be making much more money than he is, you are, in his own words, a “hater.”

On the one hand, Ortiz says that he loves Boston, that it’s his city, that he loves playing baseball here; after the Marathon Bombing last April, Ortiz addressed the Fenway faithful, saying in part, “This is our fucking city. And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.” That it came from the heart, there can be no doubt; that he went on to have a great season, there can be no doubt; that his contribution to the 2013 World Series Championship, there can be no doubt, but David, I have some words for you…”You didn’t do it alone; I can’t begin to name every other player, but each one contributed in some way to that World Series win.” Twelve point five million dollars a year is a lot of money for anyone to be making, particularly when there are so many who are making less than twelve thousand dollars per year. Yes, Ortiz, like any professional athlete, can suffer a career-ending injury at any time, but with a current net worth such as his, there should not be a problem.

Should Boston allow Ortiz to go elsewhere? No, no, this is a case where John Henry and company should ante up. Ortiz means a great deal to this city, but to be really great, both sides should come together before the start of the season in a sensible fashion. That means that Ortiz stops publicly speaking about his salary and that the Red Sox make a fair and equitable offer that will allow him to finish his career at Fenway Park.

Perhaps I’m wrong to pick on David; in fact, I’m not really picking on him. He just happens to be the most public figure on the greed scale at the moment. I was talking with Ted Williams years ago. We were walking across the campus at Babson while his son was speaking with folks in the Admission Office. We talked about a lot of things, but I remember Ted saying how much he loved playing baseball. “Where else can you have a job that is playing a kids’ game every day, outdoors in the sun, and they pay you money for doing it?” he asked…or words that were certainly very close to that. I later heard some line like that in a movie and it reminded me of Williams.

Times have changed since the Williams days. I’m not certain that there isn’t more pressure to build that bank account because who knows what’s around the corner; what the economy is going to do; what climate change may hold for us. It’s a “Get it while you can” mentality and that may be fine, but what’s enough? How much is too much? What do we do to help those with nothing? Better yet, how do we help those who have given their body parts on our behalf…the men and women who have defended our country and paid for it so dearly? We may cry because we only feel deprived; how about those who have actually been deprived?

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It’s no longer enjoyable to give or receive Christmas presents.

Like you, I think, I’m not crazy about Christmas promotions that begin sometime in late September. Also like you, I recognize that need for merchants to sell goods, make a profit, even create jobs to help keep the economy growing, but I truly believe pushing some of this crap that you never see advertised at any other time of year is just plain tacky, tacky, tacky. For example, when else do you find ‘Clapper’ ads being pushed so hard, or the plush animals with all of their pockets? Want to drink fizzy flavored water, buy the stream dream or whatever the hell they’re calling it this year? I must admit that Chia Pets don’t appear to be big this year, but energizer bunnies are getting another shot in the arm.

This year, Christmas ads are vying with health care promotions; thus, it would appear making it unnecessary for writers to develop scripts too complicated. While there may be rules and regulations regarding how many minutes of advertising can be crammed into an hour of programming, I get the gut feeling that those rules are suspended between Halloween and the Super Bowl.

The one market that has yet to be tapped by the advertising agencies or the manufacturers is the over 70 group. Since some are saying the, “Seventy is the new fifty,” there must be a Christmas market there somewhere.  You can’t really sell them a “year’s supply of…” anything because while you’re preaching youth to these folks, the fact of the matter is they could go anytime…and they know it. Since so many seniors are computer literate, selling board games (a) isn’t particularly profitable and (b) can easily be found as an “app” somewhere. Pushing a Nook or a Kindle also becomes a complex issue when dealing with seniors, most of whom will tell you they “…like the smell of paper and ink” that a book gives them, and what do you say in a thirty-second spot to counter that one. Gift cards are great but for how much? Is the degree of importance measured by the amount of a Walmart card? Not only is it a gift card – which shows just how little you think of me” – but to what store…”you know I never shop there” – which means you’re just going to regift the card anyway. Understand something very, very clearly: When you are searching for a gift for a senior citizen, there is a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that you will screw up!

I sort of came to an agreement with my three kids years ago, after they were married and had children of their own…I won’t give to them and they don’t give to me. I will give only to the grandchildren and because I have no idea what they like – our ages being as separated as they are – I give money. Obviously, it can never be enough but I figure that’s their problem, not mine. If I have a rough year, they have a rough Christmas…my answer to their downturned-little-mouths is a very silent, “tough shit; get over it!”  I say that the agreement to give or not with the children versus grandchildren only, because the kids will sometimes try, but then, they don’t know my tastes, nor do they know that I really don’t need anything. I’d rather they put what money they spend on me into reducing their mortgage or buying something extra, like a good steak, for their refrigerator…”I don’t friggin’ need anything.” That’s not to say I have everything I want. Sure, I’d love the winter home in Boca or the Grand Caymans. The jet to get me there and back would also be nice, but who the hell is kidding whom. At my age, I like my bed at home; I don’t like flying anymore; and Boca in the winter is just as bad as it is in the summer – it’s God’s waiting room and who wanted to be reminded?

When Joan was alive, I would give a gift in her name to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It was her favorite charity. If you asked her why, she wouldn’t have been able to give you a good reason, but she loved what they were doing. She may have seen a story on television or something that impressed her. To me she would give a gift in my name to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to help benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center. I have lost so many friends and family to that insidious disease that anything that can be done to find a cure makes me happy.

Christmas is a great Holiday. It’s also a great Holy Day. Sure, scholars can prove six ways to Sunday that Christ was not born on December 25th. I don’t care; that’s the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of Christian’s Lord and Savior. My rabbi next door and my Jewish friends at the gym all wish me a Merry Christmas and, tomorrow being the first day, I will wish them a Happy Chanukah. Our faiths may differ but I’d like to believe we all have faith. My prayers may be a bit longer around the Christmas Holiday, but that’s not to say that my faith is weaker throughout the rest of the year. It seems at Christmas I just like to spend a little more time talking to the Big Boss. Gifts don’t seem as important as prayers that He somehow help to unscrew this screwed up world.

My gift to myself is to watch White Christmas and a few other movies on that day. It’s a day when I cry some because Joan is no longer here to celebrate with me; and I cry some because I have a wonderful woman with whom to celebrate the holiday. I’m a pretty lucky guy when it comes right down to it. I pray that you feel lucky too.

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We are entering – once more – the season of insanity.

Thursday, November 28th is the fourth Thursday of this month and, by tradition, a day on which we celebrate Thanksgiving.  Defined, it is often referred to as “…an annual national holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal including turkey. The holiday commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621.” Well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. George Washington named Friday, November 26th, 1789 as a day of “public Thanksgivin,” and until Lincoln, every President made a declaration of when Thanksgiving should be celebrated. The Sixteenth President declared that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. That was fine until…

…In 1933 and again in 1939, November had five Thursdays. In ’33, some retailers asked President Roosevelt if he would move the celebration back a week indicating…”You will appreciate the importance that an additional week incorporated in this great holiday season will have upon the distribution activities of the entire United States and the added impetus that will be given thereby to the efforts of the administration and the N.R.A.1 to increase employment and purchasing power.” Roosevelt declined but in 1939, he did relent and move the celebration back a week. It was until 1941 that a Congressional declaration set aside the fourth Thursday in November as the official date for Thanksgiving. Two things become clear here: (1) Retailers pushing for more shopping time between Thanksgiving and Christmas isn’t a new thing; it’s been going on since the nation was coming out of The Great Depression, and (2) Congress has been sticking their fingers in the pie as far back as 1941 [the pie, of course, being mince or pumpkin].

Today, retailers are even more aggressive in their approach to relieve consumers of the contents of their wallets, and while most appear to desire green, any color will do if it happens to be plastic. The Friday following our day of thanks for the bounty that we, in some cases, have is known by many names, among them “retailer-salivation-day,” “come-on-suckers-and-bring-your-cash-day” “Ooh-have-I-got-a-deal-for-you-day,” and by its more acceptable terminology, “Black Friday.” This term has been applied because it is supposed to be the biggest shopping day of the year, and the one that will put retailers firmly in the black. Saturday is now being named “small-business-Saturday.” Thanksgiving, the day when families are supposed to be gathered around the harvest table and giving thanks is now being called “Brown Thursday.” It would appear that some retailers’ greed exceeds their consideration for family togetherness and therefore, their doors will be open on this national holiday. Woe befalls the employee who calls in sick or declines to work this day. Managers and supervisors need only remind them of the seven point three unemployment rate in the country or some other bullshit story, and they will be at work.

I don’t shop on Black Friday and I can tell you right now that I sure as hell will not be shopping on Brown Thursday. Next thing you know, we’ll have mauve Monday, taupe Tuesday, and Wisteria Wednesday…and those will be before Brown Thursday. This year, the day after Christmas is going to be renamed “Take Back Thursday” while “Find Bargains Friday” will follow.

I’m happy that our economy is on the rebound. I’m delighted that the Dow finally broke sixteen thousand. I’m pleased as hell that the United States is no longer dependent on foreign oil. I’m happy as a clam at high tide that I have a roof over my head, heat in the house, a new ‘smart’ television set, a car – albeit thirteen years old – in the garage, and a new puppy that is already housebroken. I’m even more delighted that I have a wonderful partner with whom to share all of these things plus all of the joys of the holiday. The pup was an early Christmas present to her and Widget has already brought great joy to both of us.

However, I’m mad as a son-of-a-bitch at the greedy bastards who have decided to open their doors on November 28th and who have pressured their workers to come in. I’m madder yet at the idiots who will elect to go shopping on that day. If you are one of them at least have the courtesy to apologize to the sales person who is ringing up your purchases. But, for cripes sake, don’t wish them a “Happy Thanksgiving!”

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