Wednesday, April 30, 2008
1. Provide a bit of potential humor in what has seemed like a humorless week in my life (well, this stuff makes me laugh anyway).
2. Provide some insight into my thinking while doing these postings (a process so dangerous that only the most foolish should attempt it).
3. Provide me the opportunity to assemble a posting with little or no effort (and doing things with little or no effort is one of things that I do best).
Since I have this reference source divided into (3) parts, the information shared here is likewise divided. Please enjoy this humble offering in the spirit of laziness with which it is offered:
There was no chemical fertilizer available during the 16th and 17th Century, only the natural fertilizer manure. Like any other bulk product of the time, it was predominantly shipped by water, and was shipped dry in order to reduce its shipping weight. During the shipping process however, water coming up from the bilges was often introduced to this product while being stored below decks, not only increasing its weight, but beginning again the natural fermentation process of decomposition. This fermentation process produces, as most know, methane gas; which then began to build up below decks in the hold of the ship. When sailors went down below decks to inspect the cargo with an oil lamp – BOOM! After several ships were lost because of this, manure began to be labeled Ship High In Transit, to keep it as far away from water exposure as possible. Thus did manure become SHIT. (I have to say that this one seems a little shaky to me, but even if it's not true, it's too good a story to pass up.)
Honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil.
The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time television was Fred and Wilma Flintstone.
MY WISDOM (wisdom being a relative term in this case)
The most dangerous single word in the English language is “Blasphemy”. It is a word of accusation that requires no proof and can carry the most terrible of consequences.
The level of intelligence, common sense, and good manners of a group of people often seems to have an inverse relationship to its numbers.
Life consists of a series of glorious successes and monumental failures. The trick is to be able to survive them both.
If you think that stealth technology is restricted to (or was invented by) the military, than you have never been a supervisor looking for an employee who just screwed up big time.
Confusion is always the most honest response. - Marty Indik
Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content. – Paul Valery
Experience comes from bad judgment.- Unknown
Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. - Malcolm Forbes
An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows. - Dwight D. Eisenhower
Just so you know, I may use this trick again from time to time to help conserve what little creativity and talent that I have. Have a great week!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
While I do not dispute the numbers of aging Americans, the number of doctors and nurse's aides, or even the average pay of $10.67 per hour, I submit to you that the Blade completely overlooks the true cause of the problem and implies an unacceptable solution.
The Problem, which the Blade skirts over quickly, is that doctors and nurses in geriatric care specialization get paid by and large by Medicare and Medicaid. These payments are fixed by the government and involve volumes of paperwork for the practitioners for proper reimbursement. The surprise therefore is not the shortage of practitioners, but that any would willingly work under government wage and price controls.
The Solution that the Blade seeks is: "Immediate action is urged to strengthen the work force in the long term." I don't know about you, but this sounds suspiciously like government intervention in increasing the number of practitioners.
Perhaps government subsidies for doctors going into geriatric care or a minimum wage for caregivers in this area of practice is required. Heck, maybe we can set quotas (governments are good at that) of the number of doctors and nurses who have to go into geriatric care.
Like most of our politicians, the Blade appears to believe that the answer to failed government intervention is more government intervention. As someone who is far too close to "care for the aged" than I would like to admit, I vehemently disagree and hope that realistic alternatives (not involving government) can be proposed and discussed before its too late.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Here we are again, continuing our seeming never ending journey of how to find the good candidate or office holder. Now a good candidate should be someone who would make a good leader (Why elect them otherwise?), so this time I would like on what it means to be a leader. Oh brother, this means we better go back again to the Merriam Webster dictionary to discover the meaning of the word "leader". (Will it never end?) A leader is:
A blank section at the beginning or end of a reel of film or recorded tape
Many political candidates could be considered to be the equivalent of a blank piece of tape (or an empty suit, take your pick), but I'm not sure that's who I should want to pick for the running of the country.
Something for guiding fish into a trap
The concept of guiding seems like a good one to me, except of course, if you're the fish. Many times I feel like candidates are attempting to lead me into a trap that they will spring on me after being elected, and that they believe that I am too dumb to see it coming. Some actually manage to fool me. Sorry, but I can't see this as a quality to be sought in a used car salesman, let alone a political candidate.
A first or principal performer of a group
This too has a certain ring of truth to it. The concept of candidate and performer has come up before in our research, and while actors have become politicians (and vise-versa), I would prefer someone who isn't "performing". While I believe that acting like a leader is important, I don't believe that it's the same thing as being one. I suspect that it isn't.
Well, political parties could be considered as teams, their candidates are the ones up front, and these are called "races" after all. But while this is clever as a word game, I'm not sure I want to play the ponies with the future of my government at stake. Besides, who decides who gets to do the placing? (... and when we are talking about political candidates are we placing horses or just their asses out front?)
A person who has commanding authority or influence
This probably comes as close to the truth we are looking for as anything, though it scares me. It seems to me to smack of the cult of personality in candidate selection. Again, this is something that we have seen time and time again in politics; and if this is our definition we should be afraid. Past journeys down this road have led to unpleasant destinations. (Napoleon and Hitler come to mind in the category of such mistakes.)
Man, I am really starting to wonder about this whole search. Every time we define a quality that should be admirable or necessary in a political candidate, we either can't define it in any meaningful way or the definitions that we can find are ones that we wouldn't care to have in a candidate. I am beginning to question my reasons for continuing this search.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I had an interesting conversation with my mother last night, and she regaled me with a quick story that I thought worth repeating ...
As some of you may remember from last fall, my father passed away right before Thanksgiving. His health had not been good for some time prior to his passing, and as a consequence my nephew Patrick has been mowing the yard with a riding lawnmower for the last few years, with my mother going around the edges and tight spots with a push mower. Well, spring hits KC well before it reaches the Great White North of Toledo and the grass was already in terrible need of a trim.
My mother did her part and Patrick came over to the house to take his normal role. Now the riding mower hadn't been run since leaf pick up in the fall, and Patrick was unsure of the proper choke setting to get it started after so long a period. He asked my mother, but basic mechanical is unfortunately not among the many talents that she has, and she had no advice to offer. Very soon however, the full-throated roar of the mower was heard. Patrick completed his task with remarkable alacrity and departed with very little to say for himself.
His haste to depart and lack of communication was explained a couple of days later, when my sister Maureen called to fill mom in. It seems as though Patrick, standing in the garage and scratching his head over the situation, clearly heard my father say, "Pull the choke out and start it". He did, and the mower immediately caught. Distressed over how he had reached the answer however, and fearing my mother's sensitivity to the solution to this dilemma he kept silent, only later confessing to his own parents after returning home.
Now my father was always a rather low-key individual, a true patriarch of the Higgins clan, and a master of all things mechanical. He was also someone who was known share that mechanical mastery with his offspring of every generation (often without being asked). So it seems only fitting (and hardly surprising) that he should find a way to make his presence felt when such a need arose.
As for my take on the story, knowing Patrick to be a young man of good quality and upright character, I take it on face value. If he believes it, then I believe it. I am likewise happy to know that my dad is out there somewhere keeping an eye on the rest of us. I for one, can use all of the help that I can get.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
(Hey now that I think about it, do you think that this non-stop anti-social behavior may account in some part for the difficulties that I have had in personal relationships over the years? Nah ...)
Books are still a huge part of my life, but as for TV, not so much any more. Somewhere over time, something in it has changed, has been lost, has in fact died; and it's imagination. That nation of my youth, where we had heroes and villains, good fighting evil, or at least cowboys fighting Indians has died.
Today instead we have shows about people people who fix up houses or are supposed random strangers living in one together, people who drive trucks over ice, people who catch crabs (no silly, the kind you eat), people who tattoo other people, people who model clothes (or want to), people who sing, or dance, or simply lose weight. We even have shows about people who are stranded on and island (without Gilligan) and people who cut down trees (without playing the Monty Python lumberjack song).
These are not shows with stories based on the lives of these kinds of people, with exciting plots written with a message or a point. They are just shows about what it's like to be these people. These shows are supposed to be anything but scripted, and it shows. No point is made, no lesson is learned, no higher moral purpose is served, and no great truth is revealed; but that's not the worst of it.
The worst is that no imagination has been shown or used in creating them. Even when it's not one of these so-called reality shows, it seems as though there is a complete lack of anything new in the world of the box. (I mean I like CSI and Law and Order as much as the next guy, but do we really need this many of them?)
What happened? We know that there are still talented people out there because so much is being produced in the way of good books. Good stories are still being told, great plots unfolding, and unforgettable characters are created; but not anywhere near a television studio. Is it just that cable has created too many options for anyone to deal with? Has the diversity of channels diluted the pool of talent out there to the point that it has no potency? Has evil Corporate America simply set aside good story telling to maximize profits? Have we their audience simply become so docile and brain dead that we no longer care, as long as something on the boob tube (watch yourself, this is a PG blog site) or flat panel?
The realization of this loss hit me like a childhood friend who has lapsed into a coma, slowly passing away before my eyes. There was so much promise here, so much of a future to look forward to; and now it seems that it has ended. It is terrible to watch such a death, or the death of anything in this world for that matter. Sadder still is to see one of Man's greatest abilities, the ability to imagine; and a technology of such great promise, television, coming to such an ignominious end.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
So many things are timing in our lives, and in my case this manifested itself in a book that I recently completed reading, "A Time For Truth" by William E. Simon, written in 1978. Mr. Simon was a Treasury Secretary under Nixon and Ford, and the Energy Czar during the oil crisis of 1973-74. The clear thinking that he brings to the subject of energy and the US economy both as it existed then, and as he saw it evolving some 30 years ago is astonishing, and makes the book well worth putting on your reading list.
More astonishing still in this book is the reference that he makes to a quote from one of my heroes, Winston Churchill. Being pushed out of office by the Socialists in England back in 1945, Mr. Churchill had some rather interesting insights on those who were taking power and where he saw it leading. These are thoughts that in the current debate over the potential coming to power of the social progressives of this country is worthy of now repeating:
With the current struggles in the US economy and the coming changing of the guard that will inevitably occur no matter which way the election goes, my hope is that these words bring pause in the headlong rush. Hope is always a good thing. Change, not always so much.
Government's role in this hope and change is a delicate and a dangerous one. Remember the inflation, unemployment, and chaos that Great Britain suffered for many years after World War II and which didn't truly end until Margaret Thatcher took the reigns of government. Take heed as you ask for government to take control of things and make it all right. And as always, be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
As you might expect during such a long history, there were many famous and infamous events that have occurred. Some were funny, others sad, and most are simply too numerous, ridiculous, and embarrassing to recount here (mostly the latter, if you must know). With the attendance of this conference down to abysmal levels this year, I had more more free time than I normally do (or wanted), and many opportunities to renew some of these past friendships during hours that I was supposed to working during the show (shhh, don't tell my lords and masters). We spent our time both catching up and recounting many of those numerous misadventures, chuckling over the ignorance and insanity which we had shown in those bygone days. When I woke up yesterday to fly home is when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had gotten old.
I was now one of those guys who spent most of their time discussing the misadventures of their misguided youth (and middle age for that matter) that I used to laugh at when I was younger. I was now one of those foolish fogies who, too old and tired now to commit further atrocities, found endless amusement in my own (and others) past abilities to commit social suicide in the presence of large audiences. I was now one of those guys who, no longer able to function as a practicing miscreant, I was forced to sit on the sidelines, comparing the antics going on around me to those dubious deeds of daring in the days of my youth.
The unexpected timing of this revelation has taken quite a toll on me. While realizing that I am no longer a child, I am not yet ready to accept the mantle of senior citizen. I freely admit that there is more of a past to my life than there will probably be a future, but I hadn't counted on getting old quite so soon. I always thought that I might still have one or two misdeeds yet to commit before hanging up my fool's cap for good. I believed that I still had the drive and know how to confirm my fellow mans' low opinion and expectations of me a time or two yet. I thought that I would have at least a few good years of immaturity left before having to settle into the senility that I know awaits me.
Confronted by the sorry facts however, I now realize that I may well be past my prime (which is a damned shame considering that I never really had one). Oh well boys and girls this is it, get the rockin' chair out cause grandpa's feeling the urge to just sit and rock for a spell. (Oh my God, I think I'm going to be sick...)
Saturday, April 12, 2008
This is a interesting definition, but I'm not sure that it means what it once did. If this is the definition that we are going to use (and I have to admit that it does have some value), I have to ask whether we are looking for sincerity of statement and purpose or merely the appearance of sincerity. I have to say that most of the time it doesn't seem to make any difference to anyone. In addition, I would ask that if we do want to make this distinction (and it is an important one), how are we to know the difference in these days of the speech writer, political operative, and the mainstream media having their way with us?
Fairness and straightforwardness of conduct
This seems a bit muddled as well. Quite frankly I didn't even know that straightforwardness was a word until I saw it there. Attaching this mouthful to the concept of conduct in an age that sees Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears as normal is simply bizarre. As for fairness, that word seems to have lost meaning long ago, especially in the arena of politics. Fairness is what the person using the word believes it to be, which usually means whatever provides their side with an advantage. I can't say that I find this laudable, admirable, or to be desired in a candidate.
Adherence to the facts
I like this one a lot, but what are the facts and how are we to judge adherence to them? Facts, like statistics, seem to be things that are interpreted to bolster preconceived notions these days, in politics and in life. The term often becomes meaningless when those "facts" are viewed through the lenses being used, either rose colored or jaded. Sometimes, it appears that we are even allowed to stretch the facts to make a point for the "greater good" (just ask Al Gore). If facts have little or no meaning, adhering to them would appear to be either impossible or pointless.
So here in our 2nd voyage of discovery for the desired traits of a political candidate or office holder, we sadly find that we are once again to be disappointed. Like character, it appears that the concept of honesty which we seek is to a great extent both ethereal and illusory. Deep down, we all seem to know what it should mean, but how to find or judge it today in a political candidate seems to escape us. If anyone has a suggestion out there, I'm certainly willing to listen to it. In the meantime, I'm not sure that I can say it any better than Billy Joel ...
"Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you."
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I realized today that my next two postings will be made while attending the national convention / trade show of the newspaper industry. This would not normally be anything of concern, except that this year the conference will be in the "Logic Free Zone" of Washington, DC. The parent organization of my industry felt that having it in the nation's capital would make a statement to the government.
(With attendance down for a number of reasons that I will not bore you with, I think it likely that the only statement made will be to show their current reduced state; but that's just me.)
The point here is that while I have already written these two postings, there is no telling what influence that this "Bermuda Triangle" of insanity and illogic may have in the last minute editing that I have been known to do to these pieces. While I was still breathing the free air of the Midwest, I felt that I should warn readers of the potential consequences of exposure to this environment. I vow to resist the atmosphere of socialism, solipsism, semantic non sequitur, and just plain silliness of this region as best I can.
(No I will not explain the previous sentence. You will just have to look these terms up and figure it out for yourselves.)
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
For those of you who are looking for a reasoned and articulate discussion of the 1898 book by Thomas Paine, you are destined once again for disappointment at my hands. I would like instead to talk a little bit about parents, children, and learning...
My children are older now, and two of them have families of their own. As well as the amusement this provides me as I watch them dealing with the problems of their own families, I find that I am learning a lot from listening to my children and that they may have truly reached the age of reason.
Now for those of you with children who have not reached this age of reason, this statement probably seems incredible; but it is true never the less. "Tim", you have to be saying to yourself (Which is something that you shouldn't do. Talking to people who are not there is considered madness. Talking to me, whether I am there or not, is simply bad judgment.), "what possible use can it be to speak to someone 7 years old? And while I am asking, how can children so young have children of their own?" The answer is not that we are some genetic misfits (well OK I am, but you're supposed to be polite and not notice), but that obviously you don't understand the concept of the age of reason, so let me explain.
For most children, the age of reason actually occurs not at 7 (as the Catholic Church taught me in my youth), but much later at age 25. By this time they have gone through the 5 stages of human development:
- Babies - those who are nothing but needy and cannot yet ask questions (which probably one of the reasons that they are considered to be so cute).
- Small children - those who know next to nothing and are constantly asking questions with no apparent rhyme or reason (and usually without read answers on the part of their elders) .
- Young children - those who know a little and only ask embarrassing questions, usually at inopportune times and in public places.
- Young adults - those who know everything and barely talk to you, let alone ask questions.
- Adults - those who having passed through childhood, are now both willing and capable of holding an intelligent conversation with you.
* I am moved when I listen to them talk about dealing with their children and admire them for the commitment of time and love that they bring to this most important of responsibilities, something they do far better than I ever did.
* I enjoy talking political philosophy and strategy with them, even though some lean a good bit left of my own politics. They make cogent arguments for their positions and some of their thinking causes me to re-evaluate my own.
* I am amazed when I hear them discuss the balance in their lives between their careers and their personal lives, a talent that I was never able to master when I was their age (and still seem to be mostly incapable of).
* I am intrigued when they discuss their mastery of today's technology, from text messaging to web surfing. Whether it is my son Sean who seems to be able to build a computer with the same apparent ease with which I used to be able to build a picture frame, or my daughter Laura who puts the elements of a web page together far easier than I manage to assemble these postings; their abilities surprise and delight me.
Maybe this is a 6th stage of human development, where the parent listens (a seemingly impossible task for me) and learns from the child. Maybe this is the part where I get to rest from providing answers that I'm not sure I ever had in the first place and let someone else take a crack at it. Maybe this is where I truly reach an Age of Reason, by realizing that I don't, and never did have a clue.
On the other hand, this might just a brief respite for someone my age as I master he intricacies of impending senility. Whatever the reason might be however, as I listen to the things that they now have to offer in the way of wisdom, I hope that this dog is not too old to learn a few new tricks.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
When did this happen to us? I mean no one used to love competing more than Americans, whether it was sports, game shows, or reality shows. It often seems in fact, that we can't get enough of it (have you looked at a TV schedule lately). When life leaves the confines of the TV set however, we seem to abandon that spirit of competition. This is especially true where the raising of our children is concerned.
- We create T-ball so that pitchers won't compete against batters and so that hitters can get hits and feel good about themselves.
- We eliminate Dodgeball from our schools as heartless, even in concept, to keep from hurting the feelings of those eliminated by the nature of the game.
- We eliminate gifted programs and grades from our schools, to avoid the hurt feelings caused by low academic performance.
- Teachers no longer use red pens or pencils to correct papers, as the harsh color might impact the student's self-esteem.
- We give trophies to everyone who competes in children's sports leagues, because "everyone is a winner" in some way.
... and what do we get when those kids grow up
- Employers must send their HR (Human Resource) staff to "sensitivity training" classes to learn how to maintain the self-esteem of this latest generation of employees.
- Employers can no longer give employees accurate reviews which might create negative self-esteem. Nor can they reprimand them for late arrival or sub-standard performance, lest they crush their fragile egos.
- Karaoke bars and "American Idol" feed these egos nightly, telling us that everyone is a star. (Then again, Bob Dylan was a star, and he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.)
- WE create a credit crisis in this country by telling everyone that they are good enough to own a big TV (HD, no less), a big car, and a big house, whether they have earned the money for these things or not.
This non-stop ego reinforcement has created generations of praise-crazed, ego-centric non-performers. These lotus eaters are young people raised on increasing doses of ego support, and who have over their lifetimes become addicted to it. Any reductions in either the frequency or the amount of this positive reinforcement fix causes acute withdrawal symptoms that run from mild melancholy to full-blown depression. Like the junkies that they have become, not only do they require increasing doses of this behavior to feed their habit, but they cannot tolerate anything that might get in the way of it, or in any way burst their self-esteem bubble.
Without bowing completely to the Theory of Evolution, I will tell you that I believe that only the strong survive. No matter how much the current child rearing process or our nanny state would like to protect us from life, sooner or later the realities of everyday existence must be dealt with. Believe me when I tell you that when given the chance to do so, Nature will find a way to thin the herd. If you want you or your kids to be one of the ones left standing in the end, you had better start training them to compete for the privilege (not right) of living. Think I'm kidding, check out this 60 Minutes story: http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=3486473nLet me leave you with a couple of thoughts:
- Have you ever noticed that mass murderers and sociopaths seem to have no self-esteem problems?
I'm just sayin' ...
- Many years ago Gilbert & Sullivan wrote something for the Broadway stage that is just as true today as it was then, "If everybody's somebody, then no one's anybody".
Friday, April 4, 2008
Well it has been made official today that the Michigan primary will not be held again, and it will be up to the Howard Dean and the Democratic Party as to whether any delegates from the state of Michigan will be seated at the convention in Denver.
Now I didn't vote in either primary in Ohio (I am registered Independent) and I'm not an expert in Democratic party politics, in spite of the fact that I grew up in Chicago, a city long known for the intrigue and machinations of this particular political party. I seem to remember however, that the whole point of moving the primary up was to have a greater impact on the decision as to who would be the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party for 2008.
So without attempting to interject any hint of smugness (right ...) at the way you are being treated by your own party, I have to ask ... How's that workin' out for you?
Thursday, April 3, 2008
"When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators."
"The mystery of government is not how Washington works, but how to make it stop."
"A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them."
"The U.S. Constitution is less than a quarter the length of the owner's manual for a 1998 Toyota Camry, and yet it has managed to keep 300 million or the world's most unruly, passionate, and energetic people safe, prosperous, and free."
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Now I hear a lot of talk about what rights people think that have and deserve. The right to a smoke-free environment, the right to affordable health care, the right to keep their house even if they can't make the payments on their mortgage. Well I have a few rights that I would like to see added to the list at this time of year:
- I have the right to not shovel any more snow.
- I have the right not to have to warm up my car in the morning to get the ice off of the windows.
- I have the right to see a weather forecast without seeing the words "Winter Storm Alert", or temperatures that are below freezing.
- I have the right to leave the house without three layers of clothing on.
- I have the right to see green on something other than people on St. Patrick's day.
- I have the right to put away my winter hats, coats, and gloves.
- I have the right to wear tee shirts and golf shirts without freezing my butt off.
- I have the right to open the windows of my residence without having to choose whether groceries or paying my heating bill are more important to me.
(Of course I still want all of my rights. I see no reason that some tiny, insignificant mistake like this should change that.)ril 4, 2008
It appears as though I am getting some of what I have demanded with sunshine and temperatures in the high 50's and low 60's for the weekend. Apparently all you have to do is rear up on your hind legs and bitch about your rights in this country to get what you want (yeh, right...). I may make up list of other things that I want as a right, just in case.