Author Archive

03 27th, 2010

Spring is here—cold, warm, dry, wet, overcast, and sunshine. Good morning all:

Wisdom of the Week

“We can be sure that the greatest hope for maintaining equilibrium in the face of any situation rests within ourselves” — Francis J. Braceland

True, whether paddling my kayak or seeing companies such as Caterpillar, AT&T, 3M scrambling to quickly restate their earnings massively downward; we’re all the ones that need to work to stay in balance. The earnings restatement is the other shoe dropping and points directly to the economic wreckage of congress’ shoddy, jerry-rigged (aka—doing a MacGyver) piece of legislation called the healthcare bill; Mr. Braceland hit the nail.

One more snipped on healthcare. What we just witnessed is the most perfect example of the proverbial “boiling frog” allegory. We’ll all be so hooked by the time the final deciphering of all that was jammed into 2500 pages that we won’t be able to jump out of the pot. Forty years ago the Federal government first stuck its finger into the student loan tub. Last week, sneaked in as a part of the Healthcare bill, the Feds have completely taken over student loans and taken any cost containment incentives out of the marketplace. It is not unreasonable to calculate that within the next forty years all of our healthcare will be run by government functionaries and edict. Anyone care to guess what’s next?

Regarding my weekly postings; my forced move to a new WordPress platform and migrating from my private domain onto Blogger via FTP is an utter disaster. As Blogger stated: “Bloggers who rely on our FTP service to publish their blog to their own domain had a rough week last week. In fact, it’s been a bumpy month or two. Let’s start with the most important comment on this state of affairs: this sucks, and we’re sorry.” Currently I am ready to differ with Mr. Braceland and start screaming for some help. I’ll give it one more day as a do-it-yourself project.

I was sitting for Vaioleti on Tuesday. After watching Sid the Science Kid we hit the toy corner. I was reading various letters carved on each side of some wooden blocks. This led to lining them up so that we could read and do a sing-songy ABC. At some point we came across a block that had a picture of an apple. I pointed and said “apple”, then found a couple of other apple examples. It was then that I realized that, very softly, Vai was also saying “ah-pel;” her very first two-syllable word. It was a thrilling moment!

Next week will be an exciting one. Tuesday some travel to Ocoee, FL starts. While Kirstin and Vince spend a long weekend in New York, Derek and Kellen will strive hard to give me back my youth. That last bit I got from a never ending stream of TV commercials dealing with something called “Natural Hormone Replacement.” I believe that my Derek and Kellen method will be infinitely more natural. We’ll have a blast!

Now, I best jump into the blog migration abyss.

Make it a great week everyone.



03 20th, 2010

Spring is here! Good morning all:

Wisdom of the Week—Spring special:

“the world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” — e.e. cummings

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!” — Robin Williams

Marcia is out of town. But, the only way you would notice that she is not here is, were you to peek through a window, that I am sitting in the family room, feet on the table, my fresh mug of morning coffee next to them, and a huge bag of pork rinds snuggled right here next to me (Marcia, if you happen to read this; just kidding, my feet are actually on the floor).

In the morning I can be amazingly slob-looking. Normally there is a little prodding that goes on, but as you can imagine, not today. However, even with prodding, it is very difficult for me to get around my oversized Ellen DeGeneres looking hairdo until about 10:00 o’clock when the nighttime tension leaves each of the various hair follicles and it all starts to flop down—so far it hasn’t flopped one bit.

Yesterday afternoon I was outside when my phone rang. It was a very cheery Marcia calling from pool side in Jackson Mississippi;”You sound out of breath” was about the first thing she said.

I’d been caught red handed. For years now I have carefully fostered my “I hate gardening” image. We live close to Appalachia, but no one has ever pointed out that I have a red neck. However, yesterday I was actually in the back yard. The weather was great and since there is rain in the forecast for tomorrow I thought I’d ‘tick’ off one of the projects I’d laid out for myself. Marcia had caught me in the midst of our 8’ high elephant grasses.

Have any of you had any experience with elephant grass? The stuff is wicked. During the first few minutes of cutting I had half a dozen ‘paper’ cuts from the dried leaves. This prompted digging out my heaviest duty work gloves and a long sleeved shirt. Conditions improved markedly afterwards. Still, the stems are tough as nails. Breathing in clouds of seeds wasn’t any joy either. This morning there are four jam-packed garbage cans and two leaf bags full of elephant grass remnants. My finicky neighbor nodded appreciatively.

If I were a bit gutsier I would have created a fire pit, invited the grandkids, and held a bonfire. Truth be told, I wanted Marcia to have a house to come back to. Earlier in the week the news showed how houses burn as nicely as does winter dried elephant grass.

Since Marcia was poolside I should have asked her about Ramundo the towel boy—I thought the better of going in that direction. What I did discover is that, in addition to a stop on the Natchez Trace, the ladies managed to visit seven (yes, read 7) Cracker Barrel restaurants/gift shops. This coming cabin season I suspect that we’ll have one peg-game or cow-udder mug for everyone. Maybe even a sock-monkey to hang as a good luck charm on the front of the Bunkie.

Can you imagine stopping every couple of hours for just one more “Sunrise Sampler”?

Staring at eleven today will be the Sweet Potato Queen parade, which is at the core of Marcia’s weekend getaway. She tells me that there are 900 ‘Queens’ in Jackson (probably a few more) so it should be a spectacle. The ladies had their ‘big hat’ luncheon—held at a nearby mall. I am not certain whether or not they had their bathrobe, slippers, and hat breakfast yet. I do know that last night was the all-out gala. I am hoping for pictures next week.

Thursday I did my regular baby sitting for Vaioleti while mom and dad head off for the gym. Vai had a cold and, while basically still in good spirits, looked pathetic. Chaffed cheeks and upper lip, hangdog eyes, and drippy nose, made all of us do one of those “oh poor baby” routines. I was invited to stay for dinner (thanks much guys). Since it is now officially Spring the neighborhood Dairy Queen had opened from its winter hiatus. We all took advantage and walked off our dinner by heading for the DQ. Vai was not so sick as to not enjoy a couple of spoonfuls of Tevita’s Blizzard.

Walking home the walk passes a small side street graced by a 15” wide wall. I lifted Vai to the top, and me holding her middle, her studying each step super carefully, she walked its full length. It’s amazing how big a deal it is for kids to do that sort of thing. Too much fun—runny nose and all!

Make it a great week everyone. Do stop to smell the roses daffodils and crocuses.



03 13th, 2010

Spring rain is in the air, good morning all:

Wisdom of the Week:

“The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to procure the greatest quantity of feathers with the least possible amount of hissing.” — Jean-Baptiste Colbert (Finance Minister to Louis XIV—known to be a teetotaler, icily cold, and humorless)

The runaway train wreck currently wreaking havoc throughout hallowed halls in Washington DC and this being the taxing season means that I am grateful I still have my morning coffee.

I have been writing our freshman Congressman urging him to change his position on the health care legislation. My one question is never answered; why is there proposed spending of an additional $1,000,000,000,000 on a program which is supposed to save money? It just doesn’t make sense. Actually, why does it cost anything at all?

To help visualize what a Trillion is – Texas is roughly 270,000 square miles. One trillion square miles would equal 3.7 million Texas size states. Or then this: the population of California is about 34 million. One trillion people would equal 29,500 Californias. One trillion seconds is longer than recorded history, about 32,000 years.

Yesterday Marcia informed me that on our news it was reported that he’d reversed his position.

I knew that there was a reason why, all of a sudden, I was seeing a sea of yellow and purple crocuses on my walks.

Rather than segue onto another subject, let’s stick with all things crazy. The Daily Beast evaluated the 57 largest cities in the nation for nuttiness. And guess what, the ‘Nati shimmied into the #1 spot! Really! Our town beat such perennial favorites as San Fran and Vegas. I believe that having one drunk shrink for every three over stressed and eccentric citizens is what swayed the judges—creating a public restroom guised as a ‘porta-potty’ which then opens into a sleek 10-staller didn’t hurt either. And, we mustn’t forget our beloved Passenger Pigeon Memorial Hut.

There is always a bit of a subtle competitive spirit between our town and Cleveland at the north end of the state. It’s a given that more German is spoken here and Polish up north, but it’s more than that. It is the warmish glow that while we won the craziness factor, they were declared as the most miserable city in the USA. Consequently, now you can become miserable and depressed up north and then move south when you become crazy enough; you never have to leave the State. Yup, something for the tourism board to focus on.

Last Sunday Dinah’s party was most excellent. Age three is the perfect age in that, for the first time, kids realize that the whole event is FOR THEM! Dinah just glowed. The house had become a party suite. A table full of foods. A helpful brother. A little toddler cousin, Vaioleti, who was awestruck by just how mature Dinah had become and how well she represents that whole wide world of a three year old.

I know that many of you are eagerly awaiting any word on whether or not my Royal Canadian Air Force 5BX exercise program is still a functioning part of my daily regimen. Yes it is. For the past two weeks it’s been a constant in my life. Delicate changes are happening. Actually, if I keep it up putting in the dock at the cabin will become a one person job. Okay, one person plus one more on an ATV—me.

Mentioning the cabin, Marcia and I noticed that the ice fishing shanties have been pulled to shore. At least they can’t be seen on camera. This means that spring can’t be far off; maybe seven or so weeks until I take a quick trip north to open the place up, air it out, and get it ready for summer. In the meantime, I should stick to my 5BX.

Wednesday Marcia leaves for her festivities in Mississippi. She’s been packed and now is just “fine tuning” it all. Shortly it’ll be a trip to Costco to make certain I will not wither and fade away while she is gone. What Marcia doesn’t realize is that I could head for Costco on a daily basis to grab their $1 polish sausage—the perfect “won’t wither away” food.

Make it a great week everyone. Remember to change your socks clocks tonight. Also, don’t wake up grumpy having lost that hour of sleep.



12 12th, 2009

From a winter’s snap returned ‘Nati, good morning all:

Wisdom of the Week:

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination” — John Lennon

The amazing happened this week. No, not the Tiger Woods debacle, the one where he turned from being a sleek hunting dog to a ‘birder’ to one sorry old beast who now just sits in a corner licking himself. But, first let me pour my mug. For, it was Alphonse Allais who said; that coffee is the beverage that puts one to sleep when not drank—and it is early.

This past week, the 10th to be exact, it was exactly one year ago that Vaioleti came home. Then 7-pounds 6-ounces she had spent three months plus in the neonatal intensive care unit at Good Samaritan hospital. At the NICU she demonstrated just how much of a combination of both patience and fight she had in her. She had entered the world at 26 weeks and weighed 1-pound 14-ounces. To put it into perspective, her torso was about the size of a Blackberry.

Thursday Adrianne took her in for her regularly scheduled checkup. Now, at a healthy 20-pounds and 7-ounces, she has caught up to where any other 15-month old tyke operates. In fact, in most of the measurable categories, she is in the middle of the pack. Plus, she is in love with life, is happy, and now that she is walking is driving Adrianne and Tevita ragged exploring everything.

Since much of our extended family reads this weekly post I want to thank all of you for your ongoing involvement in Vai’s saga. Your concern, care, love, and prayers have in no small part gotten her to this point. I’ll ask Vai to pick up her favorite Bengal’s orange “roaring” towel to frantically scream and wave it at you. She is very good at that.

Later today Marcia and I are heading over to my former employer’s Christmas party. Now that they don’t have to pay me any more they extended an invitation in appreciation. We, in turn, are taking Vaioleti along for a bit of ‘show-and-tell’. Actually there is more to it. Us taking Vai gives Adrianne and Tevita some free time to further organize for their trip and possibly see the new movie Invictus with its close-up of Tevita’s favorite sport, Rugby. Starting on Thursday and ending Saturday evening—the three of them are flying off to the south Pacific and Tonga.

It’s been three years since Tevita has seen his family, and his mom has never seen Vai. Then there is the Tongan tradition where it’s a ‘blow-out’ feast/party for the 1-year old (after which birthdays are minimally recognized); so this is now Vai’s time. From early reports family from all over the nation and even from New Zealand will travel to Tevita’s island of Okoa. Friends and neighbors will be part of the festivities—they are estimating over 200 people. A special birthday cake will be flown in from the capital (this is where the bakery is) and the pigs were bred months ago to provide for the requisite “Umu” (barbeques).

Delta with their horrible ‘pay-per-bag’ policy will be making out like a bandit (which they are) as Adrianne and Tevita are packing bags filled to bulging with gifts. At least their main carrier, Air Pacific, doesn’t nickel and dime you to oblivion. Anyway, to say that the little group is excited is an understatement.

The Chump!

A day ago the coach of the University Cincinnati Bearcats, head coach Brian Kelly, coughed up a hairball and in the clumsiest way possible informed the team that he was off to Notre Dame (a smallish private catholic school located in Indiana’s ‘snow-belt’ just outside South Bend).

Cincinnati, undefeated and the nation’s 3rd rated team, got whacked a broadside just as the players are preparing for the biggest game of their lives: the Sugar Bowl. I say clumsy, especially since just days earlier Kelly had informed the team he wasn’t leaving, “Cincinnati would not be just a stepping stone”. Looking back over the week Kelly masterfully ‘parsed’ (read: lied) his words—Bill Clinton could take lessons. He handled his decision to move in the most classless manner possible.

Oh I know that college sports is a mega-million dollar business and that people want to advance themselves. However, not being a house-man, let me say that it seems that the current crop of senior managers, in both sports and business life, want to ‘climb’ the easy way, roughshodily elbowing their way to the top. These days rarely does anyone see the likes of a “Bear” Bryant, coach of Alabama’s Crimson Tide and a Eddie Robinson who for 56 years was the head coach at historically black Grambling State University. Or the Green-Bay Packer’s Vince Lombardy, the UK Wildcats and their coach Adolf Rupp, and Penn State’s Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno; these all created their era, and their aura. Through time, dedication, and by strength of character they did both, establish a legacy and be true and honest on the way.

To my friends at Notre Dame, should you spot a letter to coach Kelly with a return address showing the New England Patriots pitch it immediately. I know it’s illegal, but do it anyway. If you don’t he’ll be on his way to Boston before you can refill your coffee. But, possibly by then his egomania will have surfaced and maybe that is exactly what you would want to happen.

I am somewhat afraid for I have never done this before, just moments ago I cast the terribleGerry Faust” hex on Brian Kelly.

Make it a great week everyone. Now its off to the Post Office before the line snakes out of the door and into the cold.



12 5th, 2009

From a winter’s cold ‘Nati, good morning all:

Wisdom of the Week:

“Beer: So much more than just a breakfast drink” — Whitstran Brewery sign

I loved it when I read that beer advertising sign. However, in reality it’s my morning java that does the trick—such as my steaming mug on this cold morning.

Wow, a late start this morning and a non-stop day staring at both Marcia and I. First, let me kick in Pandora for a little background music. I had occasionally been listening to as my internet radio channel. Last week when Vince and Kirstin visited they showed what they were doing with Pandora Internet Radio. Now I have several, tailored to my tastes, channels. Currently playing is music akin to the style of Leonard Cohen and U2, specifically, an old piece (1987) from the Silos’ Cuba. Great stuff.

Our Christmas spirit kicked into high gear last evening when a neighbor called asking whether or not we had any use for a pair of tickets for last evening’s Symphony. Since our social life is so amazingly packed, Marcia was all “damn right we can use them!” We had just enough time for each of us to throw on a scarf (it’s amazing what a jauntily hung scarf can do to doctor up clothes normally used to go shopping). Jaunty scarf and all we sat among the hoity-toity dab smack in the middle of the Orchestra section. Chopin and Elgar never sounded so good. Thanks much Michelle.

Parking was a bit more of an issue. As mentioned earlier we were in a bit of a rush so I threw the car into a self park a block from Music Hall. You know, the kind of place where you note your parking space and then stick dollar bills into a corresponding little slot on a large board. Carefully I folded three dollar bills into a little strip (so that now it was the thickness equivalent of nine dollar bills). Two-thirds of the way into the slot the whole business got jammed up. Other people must have had similar issues since they had a little “jam-it-in” tool hanging on a chain. After getting sore fingers using that little tool I started looking desperately for a (non existent) mallet stuck somewhere on that board. Eventually I set about to pull the wad of bills back out. Here is where the little built in grabber began its magic (this to prevent a desperate wino from getting too clever). Eventually I did get the dollar bills out—in various pieces. Getting the smaller segments into the slot proved much easier and the little jam-it-in tool actually worked.

With five minutes to spare, sweat wiped off my face, Marcia and I nonchalantly strolled into Music Hall. For that instant we looked like the Salahi’s crashing entering the White House.

Shortly we’ll begin folding and filling forty-plus lunch-sized paper bags in preparation for this evening’s neighborhood Luminary Stroll. Assuming everyone participates each home on the streets making up our neighborhood will have candles along their street fronts. It’s always a gorgeous sight.

At the same time, Adrianne and Tevita’s little town will have their holiday festivities kick off. Beside Santa coming to town, the celebrations will include horse-drawn carriage rides. I can see little Vaioleti now as her eyes take in this whole range of firsts.

At the trailing end several of our neighbors, including Marcia and I, will gather for hot soups and eats. Another neighbor will then kick off a backyard bonfire. Notice that we’re not using any cars in all of this. This is done on purpose for two reasons, first in case any adult beverage is served in quantity throughout the route. Secondly, not driving will be the carbon offset for the subsequent bonfire. I hope that the bonfire will be a two-story behemoth.

Okay, time to upload and get started.

Make it a great week everyone, be safe as you too gear up for the seasonal festivities.



11 28th, 2009

From a crisp ‘Nati, good morning all:

Wisdom of the Week:

“It must be an odd feeling to be thankful to nobody in particular. Christians in public institutions often see this odd thing happening on Thanksgiving Day. Everyone in the institution seems to be thankful ‘in general.’ It’s very strange. It’s a little like being married in general.” — Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (my philosophy professor from decades ago)

This is the first morning in days where the smell of brewing coffee is pure. No longer is it mixed with those of baking turkey, honey baked ham, chocolate chip cookie dough, or CoolWhip lite—and it is wonderful.

This whole week the patter of little feet has been echoing in every nook and cranny of the house; and that was just the pet rabbit – Snickers Briones. Add a gross of kids and a just-beginning-to-walk baby and the whole way of getting about changes dramatically. I now know why the old folk from my memory all had a “widow’s hump” aka the “Dowager’s Hump”, it stems from the fact that morning noon and night you have to stare down at your feet for fear of treading on a little something.

And the energy of kids; from the moment they get up it goes non-stop until an eventual crash; which occurs hours after my normal bed time. Actually, I was bound and determined to prove that I could keep up.

It started with the sweetest and most innocuous request; “Opa, do you want to play soccer?” Since I had survived playing Corn Hole, where corn-filled bags were thrown every which-way just so they could watch me grunt as I retrieved them, what else could go wrong?

I even remembered some most excellent moves from my active playing days. One in particular where I could cut short a rolling ball and reverse direction while kicking it with my non-dominant foot (now both the right and the left). Little Marin kicked and as luck would have it the ball left the yard and rolled into the street. This was my golden moment to revive memories of yore and use this moment as a teaching event.

I caught up to the ball and whipped around kicking at the same time. I have no memory of the other foot ever being stuck to the ground, this occurrence, I realized, was a first. Three or four very awkward lunging steps trying to regain a bit of balance proved fruitless—a laid splayed out in the gutter smelling sewer gasses at a very close range. Marcia informed me that I was a bit old to nurse skinned knees and a sore shoulder.

Jason, Vince, and I took Derek and Marin to a local wall climbing facility. Watching these two six year old kids clamber up a 45 foot sheer wall was awesome. Later on, when Jason and Vince also did the climb they confirmed that the upper body gets one major workout. To answer their dads sore bicep discussion the little guys then picked a wall with a jutted surface and repeated the climb.

That evening I asked Marin if his forearms were still hurting from all the climbing efforts. He gave me a strange look and then without any hesitation fired back; “Opa, I only have two arms.” Don’t you just love it? Aren’t these the best moments?

Yesterday the dads received an early Christmas gift and went to see the nationally (5th) ranked University of Cincinnati Bearcats whoop Illinois at Nippert stadium. Since the game was broadcast nationally I joined the moms and kids and watched in the comfort of our home where as much hot chocolate and pumpkin pie as we wanted was available at halftime. The instant messages which streamed in from the dads made reference to it being chilly—the rest of us hadn’t noticed. We all had a great time.

“Hectic” is defined as intense activity or confusion on one hand and flushed on the other. This week, as all our local gang joined Vince, Kirstin, Derek, and Kellen who drove in from Florida, our place was about as hectic as it gets. I want you to know that Marcia and I needed every bit of it. Life is too short and our current lifestyle is a bit too quiet. Thanks kids for giving us such a wonderful Thanksgiving week.

Make it a great week everyone. To Sandy, we’re glad that your surgery went well. Now that all that is behind you I am certain that George will fix you a leftover Turkey sandwich.



11 21st, 2009

From the Bengal’s Jungle, good morning all:

Quote of the Week:

“Enjoy a ‘Who Dey’ Latte today! It’s made with a bold front line of espresso, a steamed offense, and a dash of whoopass!” — Coffee Shout (a Twitter page)

Ouch! This morning I woke up due to a muscle cramp in my right calf. Luckily I came to my senses quickly enough to react and stretch my leg; so it’s not one of those “limp in the morning” style cramp. What it did do was snap me out of a very comfortable and very cozy sleep. Here it is 4:45 in the morning and my Windows XP is just ringing its start-up ditty. Bring on some coffee—oh wait, that’s my job.

I’ll be good and have a banana with my morning coffee; a combined caffeine ~ potassium jolt. Then here is a thought. Last evening Marcia was fixing something and was busily working at melting a lot of chocolate. My thinking is this, if that chocolate is still in its molten state I should be able to dunk my banana and do a caffeine, potassium, chocolate number—how good is that for breakfast?

Last weekend you would have ‘thunk’ that the local boys had won the Super Bowl. Twice this season the Bengals have beaten the defending champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the past decade, by this point in the season, the Bengals would collectively just lie on their backs and ask to have their bellies rubbed—then they would stay there and purr. It’s a different season.

The ‘Nati has hit the big time. Yesterday a new, close by, Nordstrom Rack store opened. For those of you unfamiliar this place is amazing. At least I am amazed; the ladies just seem to go gaga. Here is an example of why they go gaga; a Chloé ‘Heloise’ Leather Hobo designer purse which normally runs at a paltry $1,595.00 can be had for a song at their Rack store—think something like $850.00. How can anyone refuse such a deal; “I’ll have two of those please.”

In case you think I am blowing this way out of proportion, last night I actually watched TV news footage of cheering and swooning ladies almost trampling each other as the store ribbon was cut.

Marcia was going to be part of the opening day melee. She wasn’t!

Oh, it didn’t have anything to do with Nordstrom’s, it was due to the other event. See, the new Nordstrom Rack store is located in an upscale outdoor mall. Think of a horseshoe shaped strip mall with fancy lighting and flower boxes with hidden speakers all playing new age music. On the other side of the ‘horseshoe’ is Joseph-Beth Booksellers complete with Bistro and coffee shop. That very day, for the mid-day period, Joseph-Beth was home to one Sarah Palin—she of the “going rogue” fame.

Five hours prior to the book signing the line was already formed. Multiple police at each entrance ensured that traffic would be horrible and parking non-existent. For a few moments Marcia did entertain heading out and park on some side street. Yeah right, no one else thought of that one either.

In desperation Marcia resorted to some ho-hum last minute grocery shopping. She did see the Palin “going rogue” tour bus as it was heading out of town. Thinking back at Marcia describing her seeing that bus leave, I believe she did it using her best, albeit subtle, Tina Fey impersonation of Palin.

We’re (Marcia is) getting ready for next week’s invasion. Thanksgiving will mean us hosting a total of eight adults and five grandkids. Some of you will say something like; “that’s nothing, why I remember being at aunt Tilda’s house with 43 adults and 18 kids.” I don’t want to hear it; we’re both thrilled and will be overwhelmed by thirteen. We’ll have a blast celebrating family moments that are too few and too far between. This morning I am letting Marcia sleep in a bit prior to her starting another day of her rampaging through the house.

Tonight is the annual Balluminaria and we’re all heading out for this annual event. In sequence of who is most excited: Opa (me), Marin, Dinah, Vai, various parents, and Marcia. The weather will be great and just after dark 12 to 15 tethered hot air balloons, all positioned around a reflecting pond, will glow in the evening sky. Sprinkle in some food and maybe a Santa visit makes for a special time.

Make it a great week everyone. Those of you traveling this week do it safely—remember that you’re requiredvalued guests by those at the other end.

Happy Thanksgiving and Cheers,


11 14th, 2009

From the ‘Nati, good morning all:

Wisdom of the Week:

“I’m calling on Saskatche-whiners to unclench their frosty sphincters and let Americans on to their oval.” — comedian Stephen Colbert (Vancouver Olympic officials placed on the defense by U.S. comedian Stephen Colbert, who accused Canadians of cheating by preventing U.S. athletes from getting enough ice time on the Richmond, B.C., speedskating oval.)

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. With the whole gang getting together at our home, I am pumped. Especially so after Marcia vowed no more major holiday meal preparations were in her future—only said last year. Now she is happily and busily getting things ready makes the whole event extra special. Thus it’s with insouciance (word of the day) that I’m plugging in our little percolator for my morning java. I hope that my cheery demeanor will carry throughout the whole day.

Toronto was a great visit. Just let me get this one single, little itty bitty, troublesome, snippet out of the way—Toronto traffic lights, traffic gridlock, streetcars, and construction. Marcia would add something about a case of “male specific directional deficiency”, but that is a topic for future discussion.

What promised to be a delightful early Saturday evening dinner in, and sight-seeing of, Toronto’s downtown area became something else—a nightmare. That city, on an early Saturday evening, was total gridlock. Add to that the fact that I remember from my youth all sorts of Toronto street names; Steeles, Finch, Spedina, Eglington, Younge, Bloor—I just wasn’t quite sure how they all interconnected. We noted that half of those streets had major road construction and traffic tie-ups caused by their trolley streetcars. As if that wasn’t enough, the downtown area of Toronto has 2815 traffic lights—we crossed through every one of them. As a bonus, at 316 of these lights we sat for multiple cycles—2 through 6.

Marcia got grumpy.

We had a very quiet dinner close to the hotel.

Sunday was everything one could expect of a warmish fall day. We were eager to get checked out and head out. I had noted that our hotel bill had a DM Services-tax listed so naturally I asked the checkout clerk what this tax was for. Cheerily she replied it was a city “direct marketing” tax. This then led to my next question; “what then is the ‘DM Services-GST tax’ on the next line”, I asked? A General Services Tax taxing another tax; she had no answer. It reminds me a M.C Escher drawing, where the first thing that comes to mind is; “what’s wrong with this?” Don’t you just love it?

We left our “full service” Hilton or so we thought. As a parting shot my keycard wouldn’t open the parking-lot exit gate. The doorman apologized profusely, but claimed he had nothing to override the gate system. I stomped past several people standing at the check-in counter and slammed my card down. Apparently this happens with some regularity, for, without saying a word, no apology, no smile, I was quickly handed a replacement. This one worked.

Marcia and I thought the world of our stop at Niagara Falls. The sheer size and power is exactly what I remembered—amazing. Everyone should see this natural wonder on a fall day, streaming morning sun, and stroll through the soft rain generated by the massive spray. Truly, it was one of those moments where you feel glad to be alive.

At nine I have a meeting at the Police Academy so have to get organized. If this post seems slightly disjointed pardon me. Marcia, for some unknown reason, got up before six. Luckily the coffee was already brewed. She joined me in the family room where I was writing. Next thing I heard was something hard hitting the floor. It seems that Marcia took a sip and then put her cup down, missing the coffee table. I believe I should be excused for stopping my hunt-and-pecking to gawk for a bit.

Make it a great week everyone. Go Bearcats – 10 & 0 – best start in school history!



11 7th, 2009

From Mississauga, the business heart to Toronto, good morning all:

Wisdom Of This Health Care Bill debate Week:

“How come congressional leaders of both parties proclaim bold-faced lies only to have their press secretaries stand in front of the cameras and swear it’s the truth?”Mark Stevens, CEO of MSCO & author

Marcia just used the little Cuisinart in-room coffee maker to perk some very weak Italian LavAzza coffee. Furthermore, the room temperature is almost warmer than the final coffee product. Welcome to our waking up moments at a Hilton in Toronto.

Marcia and I drove here yesterday to enjoy the trade show and many seminars at the Cottage Life fall event. Cottage Life is a Canadian magazine with a special focus on the thousands of properties studding the myriad of lakes throughout the northern areas of this country. Later today we’ll learn all about such critical bits as Bat training and management, cabin cooking the French way, saving your septic system for under $15,000, and cold weather water survival in June—you get the drift.

My real interest is seeing what the various vendors bring to this party. I’ll be on the lookout for new and better ways to enjoy our little north-woods cabin.

We drove here via Detroit and then took the long and flat #401 highway; towns from my distant memories of when I lived in Canada whizzed by, Waterloo, Guelph, Kitchener, London, Stratford, and Ingersol. Marcia and I commented to each other that we had never seen such a police presence on a road. Minimally it had to be well in excess of 25 cruisers on the stretch we travelled. Additionally, many were covered with a huge layer of road grime all creating the perfect picture of being in an eastern European police state—which Canada is not. Bureaucratic yes, police state not.

On the way back home, tomorrow, we’ll head back via Niagara Falls and stop a spell to play the role of the tourist (which we are). It’s actually been about 30 years since I visited the area. We’ll see what I remember and what’s changed. I suppose that the Falls might have receded an eighth of an inch or so over this time period. What exactly is the rate of erosion?

Halloween was great. I have never seen such a continuous stream of people filling the side walks for two hours straight. Right in front of Tevita and Adrianne’s house even the police got into the action by stopping the cruiser, opening the trunk, and handing out pre-packed little bags of goodies. It was all too cool. While it was still light, I took little Vaioleti in her stroller to do some serious people watching; and she drank it all in. Clapping and smiling away she stayed totally oblivious to the fact that we never stopped to collect a single piece of candy. Adrianne, you can thank me any time.

During the front half of the week I spent a day in the Chicago area for a dinner meeting. All of that was worthwhile except for the fact that it’s a bit nutty to head up one day and race right back the very next morning. I did get a chance to ride one of the suburban Metro trains with the commuting crowd. Not a bad way to get to work, I think I could do that regularly (maybe not once the Chicago winter really kicks in though).

When we checked in yesterday we discovered that our room was already occupied. Since this place is a “full service” hotel—this is where every ‘service’ other than the mattress and pillow is charged for separately; parking, breakfast, WiFi, and you name it all becomes part of a long list and a little bit of a profit center. I negotiated continental breakfast coupons for our ‘deep disappointment.’ Therefore, now we’ll head down for our ‘free’ $17 continental breakfast consisting of coffee, juice, and not to forget, toast (whole wheat is probably extra). Don’t you just love it?

Make it a great week everyone.



10 31st, 2009

From the city, Good morning all:

Allhallows Eve Wisdom Of The Week:

“I’ll bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween.” — Charles Swartz

Dirk, what would you like this morning; eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog, adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing, for a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble? …… Nah, but thanks anyway …… I’ll just stick with my morning coffee.

Maybe I’ll drop a quick note to my friend Edmunds. I have always had a bit of an ‘affair’ with cars and has been my trusted friend throughout. Now it appears that the nursery school group in Washington doesn’t want me to trust Edmunds any more, and I am sorry for that. Since I have known Edmunds longer than the DC group, I’ll stick with Edmunds.

For those of you a bit out of the loop, here is the scoop. Edmunds did some research on a subject that they know well, cars. The result of their calculations being that the “Cash for Clunkers” program cost taxpayers $24,000 per car. Not only that, but that many buyers would have bought anyway, caused little new employment, and now is causing a current sales ‘dry’ spell since it accelerated the buying cycle. Washington went ballistic when the report came out. Oh well, so what’s new?

Here are some facts leading into this morning’s other “what’s new” department: the Declaration of Independence is 1337 words long and has successfully formed the backbone of our nation. One of the greatest messages given to our nation was the Gettysburg Address which managed to convey Lincoln’s thinking in a mere 272 words. The original draft of the 1935 Economic Security Act, which established the Social Security Administration was 64 pages. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – forbidding discrimination based on race and sex: 8 pages. The 19th amendment to the Constitution, giving Women the right to vote in 1920: 1 page. The Emancipation Proclamation, with which Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in 1863: 5 pages. And in 1787 the master document, the Constitution: 4 pages long. Do you see a pattern here?

Therefore, what’s new that demands the current “more is better” thinking? I am talking about the just released H.R.3200 – America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 coming in at a stunning 1990 pages – 4 full reams of paper – filled with legalese jargon and totally incomprehensible gobbledygook. For you skeptics, yes, I did try to actually read some of it on line. Pelosi tells us that H.R.3200 is landmark legislation. Really? When comparing to the above mentioned “landmark” documents H.R.3200 is pure “lardmark“; as the health conscious know, lard’s not good for anyone.”

I think I’ll make a few phone calls to the good folks whose paychecks are partially dependent on my tax contribution.

Last Sunday was a spectacular autumn day. Slightly crisp and oh so sunny (by coincidence this also describes many of the apples we picked). First was the 1-hour drive into the country side. To then be followed by a short hay wagon trek to the back section of the orchard. The smell of the fresh apples was the first to greet us. Not counting apples eaten right then and there, Marcia and I loaded our 35 pounds into the car.

That was Sunday. Monday, as an after dinner special, Marcia served up a warm batch of apple fritters. Let the eating begin! Actually, it’s well under way.

For the first time in at least two decades, tonight our house will be dark. We’re meeting up at Adrianne and Tevita’s home to enjoy Halloween. We’ve always had a run to our house from “trick or treaters”, now minimally double that for A & T. Add to this the fact that Vaioleti is celebrating her first masquerading event at home. They need help, and Marcia and I are to the rescue. I believe it will be Tevita and my duty to take little Vai around the neighborhood, not to beg for candy, but to look at the decorations. Their little town is filled with people who spend their waking hours plotting how best to add to their home decorations.

Marcia mentioned that one of our neighbors is dressing up like the President. Then when kids come to his door he’ll take away half of their candies and tell them that their ‘contribution’ will be given to kids who care not to trick or treat. Lessons might as well start when they’re young—agree? (It’s a joke folks)

Make it a great week everyone. Remember that tonight it’s “fall back” to standard time.