Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 21st Birthday

A young man I work with is turning 21 on New Years Day, 2012, and so of course he is looking forward to his first legal drink as an "adult". This occasion got me thinking of my own 21st birthday, many years ago.

That landmark event occurred on a weeknight, I forget which one exactly, while I was in college at the University of Maine in Orono. Pat's Pizza was, and still is, a landmark in Orono (and now franchised in other Maine locales as well) so naturally that is where I headed to enjoy my first beer as a 21-year old. The bar was pretty much deserted when I arrived and the bar-tender brought me my beer without delay as he knew me from numerous previous, albeit illegal, visits.

No sooner had I settled back to celebrate my adulthood when two liquor inspectors, the bane of underage drinkers everywhere, came through the door and made a bee-line for my table. On any occasion previous to this night, I would have been mortified by this development, but happily I was in possession of a newly issued State of Maine ID which attested to my status as a full-fledged adult, entitled to all of the privileges thereto including the right to buy and consume alcoholic beverages. The Inspectors seemed mildly surprised when I produced valid authentication of the legality of my alcohol consumption, but they were polite and left the premises immediately after returning my ID (there being nobody else in the joint to hassle).

The bartender, having observed this drama from his vantage point only a short distance away, hurried over to my table and asked what I had produced for ID, since he had never asked for any on that or any of my numerous previous visits. When I showed him my State ID his relief was palpable, as he obviously thought I was drinking on a fake ID.

Never has a beer tasted as good or been as satisfying as that one at Pat's Pizza on 11/22/1967 did. So happy birthday, Nate. I hope your first legal drink, as you celebrate the New Year no less, is as memorable as mine was.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Baubles, bangles...

...and bright shiny beads." That's a lyric, maybe even the title, from an old song that I had long forgotten. I don't even know how long ago it was popular or why I know it. But tonight the memory of it came flooding back to me.

I'm not a huge jazz fan. I like most kinds of music but jazz has never been among my favorites, so tonight when I tuned into WMPG for some music to listen to while I relaxed with a glass of bourbon and a program featuring jazz came on, I considered listening to a cassette instead. But laziness prevailed and I left the radio on while I sat on the couch next to the wood stove and relaxed with my drink.

I was drifting in and out of conscious awareness of the music when I became aware of a recurring riff - I couldn't place the tune but I knew it was from a song that I had heard long ago. As I started to actively listen and focus on the melody words began to appear in my mind. "Baubles" came first, then "bangles" appeared, but for a long time the last part of the refrain eluded me. Then "gold colored beads' emerged from the depths of my mind, and yet it didn't seem quite right. So I relaxed and listened some more (the song that started this whole train of thought was long-since over) and just let my mind go with the flow and, lo and behold, "bright, shiny beads" appeared as clearly as if I had just heard the lyric today.

I love how the relaxed mind can retrieve pleasant, long-forgotten memories. And that jazz version of the song wasn't half bad - I'm glad I stay tuned.

Obama-Clinton 2012!

I'm excited! I just read an opinion piece by Robert Reich speculating, based on no inside information whatsoever, that the Democratic presidential ticket for 2012 might have Hillary Clinton as Obama's running-mate. Joe Biden, by this account would become Secretary of State, a position which he has apparently coveted for a long time. Stuff like this is why I love politics!

First, I think this would be a excellent choice to excite the Democratic base, which you have to admit has been pretty luke-warm toward Obama lately, and to bring a lot of Independent voter support to the ticket. Hillary inspires passion among her supporters and her detractors. The fervor of her supporters could re-energize the campaign and bring new excitement to the race. As to her detractors, let's face it most of them already hate Obama anyway so it wouldn't cost anything in terms of lost votes. So there's a substantial upside and not much to lose - I think it would be a winning combination.

Also, just imagine the apoplexy and outrage that having Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket would cause for Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the whole crowd over at Fox News! The Hillary-haters would be beside themselves at the prospect of having her back in presidential politics - the venom and vitriol that they would spew 24/7 is sure to be impressive in volume and intensity but it won't change a thing except maybe to expose them as the irrational ideological quacks that they are to any reasoning person who hasn't already figured it out. It could be fun.

Last, consider 2016 and beyond. If Hillary serves as Vice-President during Obama's second term and they don't totally screw things up, she'd be a shoe-in to be the Democratic nominee for the next election cycle and (I'm being optimistic here) she could be President from 2016 to to 2024! That would mean 16 years of Democratic presidential administrations and that's long enough to put in place programs that will ensure the social justice, equality of opportunity, and economic fairness that is the promise of America. Hey I can dream, can't I?

So say it with me: "Hill-a-ry, Hill-a-ry, Hill-a-ry".

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The BEST Health Care System

How often have you heard that we in America enjoy the BEST health care in the world, that our system of providing health care services is unsurpassed in efficiency and quality of care? It is so good, in fact, that it would be folly to make changes to try to improve it. But here's the thing: by all quantitative measures we do NOT enjoy the best health care; in fact in some areas we're not even near the top. So why do we keep hearing that it's the BEST.

It's easy to understand the answer if you keep one economic principle in mind: under our system of capitalism profits are good. By extension, more profits are better and maximum profits are BEST. Our current system of health care delivery and insurance provides maximum profits to the giant corporations that administer the system, so the system is in fact the BEST - for them. Any change that would diminish the bottom line has to be defeated. It really is just that simple.

So the next time you hear a representative of the "health care industry" or any of the politicians who do their bidding say, "Americans have the BEST health care in the world", remember what they mean by "BEST". Then ask them, "How can a system that's the most expensive in the world but produces results that are only mediocre when compared to those of other developed countries be called the BEST?" Then stand back because you are about to be inundated with bullshit.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Day After Christmas Holiday!

I have a lot of respect for public service workers at all levels of government. Since I am a retired federal employee with 32 years of public service of my own I guess you could fairly say that I am not an impartial judge, but I truly believe that government employees provide vital services that benefit all of us and I appreciate their efforts.

I'm also a taxpaying citizen and while I do not object to paying my taxes I want to be sure they are spent wisely and efficiently. And since I live on a "fixed" (but pretty generous) income supplemented by wages from a part-time job I am sensitive to the economic woes that we are currently experiencing. I'm all in favor of eliminating waste and fraud in government (and everywhere else) but I do not approve of drastically cutting or even eliminating programs that provide vital services, as seems to be in favor in some circles.

Having said that, I have a suggestion for a change that could save some money for government entities at all levels while having a negligible effect on the employees, and it is this: Eliminate the provision that closes government offices and gives employees a paid holiday on Monday when the actual holiday falls on the weekend. We the people would get an extra day of service at no extra expense and the employees would not have to work on the "real" holiday because they have the weekend off anyway!

Of course I was a beneficiary of the federal holiday provision for my entire career so I guess a charge of hypocrisy would not be unfair. But these seem to be dire economic times that call for some sacrifice from all quarters (Yes, I'm looking at you, 1%) and this would seem to be a reasonable contribution on the part of public service employees. Not only would this result in some (probably minuscule in relation to the overall problem) savings but it would help address the image of public servants as being under worked and overpaid. Surely it can't have escaped notice that about the only functions closed on this "holiday" are government services, and I think it's a fair question to ask, "If I have to work, why don't they?" (well, it wouldn't be fair for me to ask it, but you know what I mean).

So, "Happy Day After Christmas Holiday" government employees - now get to work!

Monday, December 19, 2011


Are you tired of your radio station? Sick of hearing the same songs over and over again? Well have I got a radio station for you!

WMPG is the radio station of the University of Southern Maine, with its studio on the Portland Campus. It calls itself "Southern Maine Community Radio" and that seems pretty accurate given that its signal, even after the recent "Power Up" campaign, is limited to a fairly small geographic area, i.e., "southern Maine".

If you are like me, you like all kinds of music from old-time rock and roll to red-hot smokin' blues, with some bluegrass and barn-dance music thrown in and maybe a little Indian "Bali-wood" movie score every now and then for variety. I like the occasional Irish song, too, and sometimes a Jewish folk-dance song hits the spot and who doesn't like Gospel music on a Sunday morning? Listening to WMPG is kind of like putting every song you ever wanted to hear on your Ipod and hitting "shuffle" - you're never sure what will play next but you know you'll like it.

And if you are tired of Rush Limbaugh's rants about what is wrong with the country, tune in to "Democracy Now" or "Free Speech Radio" for a while to get a new perspective on things - it will make you feel better, I promise.

You don't live in southern Maine, you say? No problem - you can listen to WMPG at WMPG.ORG. And if you do live in southern Maine tune them in at 90.9 or 104.1 on the FM dial - I guarantee that you will like what you hear. Tell them Dirigonzo sent you.

The Iraq War is over

So why don't I feel any better? And who won, I wonder.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The neighbors across the way

I've lived in the same house for 36 years - that's a very long time. During that time I've had lots of neighbors (and a few wives - but that's a subject for another time) come and go, mostly without any particular consequence to me. Today, though, the departure of my next-door neighbors of 11 years has left me a little sad.

I should explain that my house is situated in such a way as to provide almost total privacy from most neighboring homes, the exception being the house across the way where the departing family lived. I share a drive-way with that house and parts of my back yard, where I spend a lot of time, can be seen from the property so having good neighbors in that house is important to me. So far I have been extremely fortunate; in all the time I have lived in my house there have been only three different owners across the way, and they have all been what I would call good neighbors.

My definition of "good neighbors" is pretty basic. I'm a private person so I like to be left alone; neighbors who constantly stop in to visit annoy me, although if we run into one another in the driveway I don't mind chatting for a while. I have three dogs who spend a lot if time in the back yard, and if they see or hear someone next door they feel the need to bark at them; I realize this can be annoying, even to dog-lovers, so I try not to let it go on too long but still, a little tolerance is necessary. Likewise, if they have a dog who barks at me as I drive in or out of the driveway (Copper, I'm looking at you) I'm perfectly willing to tolerate it as the neighborly thing to do. Raucous late-night parties could be annoying, unless of course I'm invited - I probably won't go but being invited would make me feel better about the noise (but I hope they don't block the driveway). That's about it - if they'll tolerate me without complaining, I'll put up with them. But my dogs will still bark at them.

Rick and Tammy were pretty much perfect neighbors in every respect, and I grew very fond of them and their animals. I miss them already and I hope they do come back in two years, as they promised to do - but I'm not counting on it as they are young and have to go wherever opportunity takes them. In the meantime, I'll be waiting to see what my new neighbors are like. I sure hope they like dogs.

The Death Panels are here

During the dust-up over health care reform, opponents (that is to say every Republican in Congress)resorted to some pretty low tactics in their attempt to defeat the measure. Not the least of these was (mis)applying the term "Death Panels" to describe a perfectly reasonable provision which would have paid for "end of life" discussions with one's physician.

Sadly this tactic and others were largely successful with the result that the "offending" provision was dropped and the overall final bill that was passed was a mere skeleton of the type of reform that was really required to fix our dysfunctional health care system. Even that, of course, was too much for Republicans so now promising to repeal "Obamacare" has become a central issue for every Republican candidate for President (even, ironically, Mitt Romney).

Now the specter of "death panels" is again on the political horizon but this time it's not the Godless liberals who will create them; this time the Republican themselves, with the Tea Party leading the charge, will create the emergence of "death panels" in the form of budget-cutting legislative panels that reduce or eliminate funding for programs that are vital to the well-being of our neediest citizens.

As a prime illustration of how these "death panels" will come to be, Maine Governor Paul LePage has proposed drastic (I don't think "Draconian" is too strong a word) cuts to the budget of MaineCare, which provides health care insurance and services for the state's poorest residents. The probable effects on the program if the cuts are imposed are dire; it's certain that tens of thousands of Mainers, most of them elderly, disabled or dirt-poor, will lose their access to any health care (except by going to an emergency room). Inevitably some of these unfortunate souls will suffer an untimely, unnecessary demise for lack of proper medical care. The Legislature, if it passes the Governor's budget cuts, will be the literal "Death Panel" that ordained this result.

I'm not trying to say the we don't have a budget crisis, either at the Federal or State level, that needs to be addressed. But to address it strictly with budget
cuts that will cripple vital programs (yes, I consider health care to be a vital program) is unconscionable. Unless we consider sources of additional revenue (aka "higher taxes") to fund agencies that provide services critical to the well-being of those in need, then "the die is cast" and "Death Panels" will be the result.

Of course Republicans have taken a pledge (to a lobbyist, no less) not to raise taxes on anybody, ever, and they will fight against anyproposal that would increase revenue (unless it involves making even the poorest wage-earners pay some income tax)so I think it's fair to say that when the "Death Panels" emerge, they will own them - which is only fair since they created the concept. How can they live with themselves, I wonder?

"What goes around, comes around."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans Day 11.11.11

I've written here in the past about Veterans Day, lamenting that the holiday seems to have lost its significance for most Americans. Perhaps this year will be different due to the fortuitous symmetry of the date on which it falls.

11.11.11, can you imagine a more appropriate date for the holiday that was originally established as Armistice Day to mark the cease-fire that brought to an end the first world war, the "war to end all wars". That armistice was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, so 11.11.11 already has special significance for the meaning of the day.

People seem to love a date that can be expressed in terms of a single repeated digit and (correct me if I am wrong) this is the only one where the digit is repeated six times. 11.11.11 only comes around once every 100 years and this is the first occasion for it to be Veterans Day. The reason I think this same-digit palindromic date might make this Veterans Day special, other than pure superstition, is that the media love to make a big deal about stuff like that. And if the media talk it up people will pay attention - and maybe they'll pause for just a moment to remember what all the hoopla is supposed to be about: remembering and honoring our country's armed service members and veterans.

11.11.11 - the date is being hyped for all kinds of reasons, from commercial exploitation to predictions of supernatural events (really, I googled it) so if some of the hype results in increased attention to Veterans Day 2011, I am all for it.

So on 11.11.11 (at 11:11 AM, if you are a real fanatic about digits), do something to say "thank you" to our nation's service members (and their families, who also sacrifice) and veterans. Fly the Stars and Stripes, go to a parade, give blood (perfect for any occasion), hug someone in uniform, donate your time, services or money to any one of dozens of organizations that support the cause (head over to my web site Dirigonzo Speaks for suggestions), or just take a minute to reflect on the sacrifices large and small that these men and women made so that you and I can live in freedom. It's obvious what they have done for us, so the question is what are we going to do for them? A little show of appreciation on the one day a year set apart in their honor doesn't seem like a lot to ask.

Take care of it in the morning and you'll still have all afternoon to shop. Happy Veterans Day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The comics as an impetus for social action

"Pearls Before Swine" by Stephan Pastis was picked up by my local paper only recently and it has become one of my favorite comic strips. Pastis uses an unlikely menagerie as spokes-animals for his commentary on a variety of social and political issues. Rat and Goat are featured in the strip that appears above but others include Pig (and Pigita), crocodiles, zebras, and sometimes Pastis himself.

Today's strip caught my fancy because as a nascent blogger I can identify with Goat's frustration at learning that the only recognition that his blog garners is that it "sounds pretty boring". I mention this only because it got me thinking about earlier strips in the series, and I think I have had a revelation involving a current hot topic in current events: I'm pretty sure that Stephan Pastis is the creator of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Seriously.

A few months ago "Pearls Before Swine" featured a story line that highlighted the economic divide that separates the "haves" from the "have-nots" (the ninety-nine percent), and culminated with one of the characters (Rat, maybe) calling for an armed rebellion against the powers-that-be. While it was all presented in the context of a comic strip it was impossible to escape the conclusion that Pastis was addressing a serious issue, and that he really felt a rebellion (not necessarily armed) was needed to bring about the necessary change. (The story line ended with Pastis in Federal prison on charges of fomenting insurrection.)

OK, maybe the strip wasn't the sole reason for the OWS movement. but it certainly raised awareness of some of the issues that underlie the movement and suggested a possible means of redress. That didn't come from the news coverage or the op-ed page; the comics provided this bit of socio-political awareness. So that's my point: sometimes to really understand what's going on in the world and what we need to do about it, you don't need to read the news section, you need to read the comics.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On turning 65

Question: "What do you call a middle-age woman in a relationship with an older man? Answer: A nurse." (Ouch!)

I'm not sure where I heard or read that recently, but it definitely hit close to home for me. I have a penchant for younger (i.e., middle age) women and now that I am approaching age 65 I feel for the first time that I qualify as an "older man".

I'm thinking about this because recently I attended a seminar on signing up for Medicare (it still hurts to even think about this). There's nothing like the prospect of signing up for mandatory insurance for the elderly to make a person feel OLD.

Last year when I was on the brink of turning 64 I lamented getting older but I didn't feel like I was approaching old age, but that's changed as this birthday approaches. There's something about SIXTY-FIVE that just oozes "old age". It's the age we associate with retirement, collecting Social Security and enrolling in Medicare! That sure sounds like old age to me!

So here I am only 365 days older that I was a year ago, I'm in great health (i.e., no need for a "nurse" yet), I'm as fit as I have ever been and I certainly don't need those ubiquitous little blue pills that are so popular among men my age (and even younger, if the TV ads are to be believed). But even if I don't feel, look or act old, I know that "everyone" (i.e. middle-aged women) will THINK I'm old because I'm 65.

I guess I have some options, at least as far as trying to attract women is concerned. I could limit my interest to women closer to my own age, but that sounds pretty confining - I hate to restrict the possibilities to such a narrow field. I could maintain my current MO and hope to meet someone open-minded enough or desperate enough to have a relationship with a 65 year-old guy. Or, and this is the way I'm leaning, I can start lying about my age. I've been told I don't look any where near my age, so I think I could pull it off. Shave five, maybe ten years off my age and it's a whole new ball game. Of course I'll have to keep my Medicare card out of sight.

That's what is on my mind as I approach my next birthday. There are probably more pressing concerns with which I should be preoccupied, and I'm sure there are more interesting topics that I could write about, but a guy only turns 65 once (unless I wind up in a relationship with someone who thinks I'm 55) and I want to wallow in it.

Know any eligible nurses? I am not ready for my "Golden Years".

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dirigonzo's Place is One Year Old!

"So with that in mind, I'm going to offer up my observations, opinions and comments about life in general. I'm doing this mostly for my own amusement and entertainment but if you would like to follow along, that's fine, and I welcome any contributions, criticisms or critiques you may want to add."

That's a quote from my very first post, "Why I'm Here". Now that a full year has elapsed since I wrote that, it seems like a good time to look back and see how faithful I have been to my "mission".

First, the numbers: I have produced a total of 66 posts so I haven't been what one might call very prolific, but quality over quantity is always a good policy so that's my rationale for averaging only a little more than one post per week. Surprisingly (to me at least) there have been more than 750 "page views" from a worldwide audience, including Canada (hello, neighbors to the north, and thank you), Germany, Russia and Singapore(!). More surprising, perhaps shocking, is that this blog has 4 "followers", none of whom are, as far as I can determine, related to me by blood or marriage. So a special thanks to each of them, and also to anybody who has taken the time to comment on the posts. I really do appreciate your interest and your participation - I don't understand it but I appreciate it.

Topics have been random and varied; one post might lead a reader to believe this is a political blog and the next may read more like the personal rants of a man who has nothing particular to say and way too much time to say it. Some posts are reminiscences, some discuss current events and one or two are just plain wishful thinking. One good thing about blogging, as compared to having actual conversation, is that I don't have to worry about my audience getting bored and yawning in my face or making a lame excuse to walk away; I can talk about whatever is on my mind and as long as it entertains me, no problem. If it happens to entertain someone else too, all the better.

So as we embark on year two you can expect the same unpredictability, inconsistency and weirdness - this is how my mind works. And since I know that there is an audience out there, no matter how small, I invite you to jump in with your own random thoughts. I try to acknowledge every comment and if you want to debate a point, well that's OK too. Unless you're rude or wilfully ignorant (i.e., have your own "facts") in which case I'll probably just delete you in the interest of maintaining my blood pressure at a reasonable level.

If anyone were to ask me how long I will keep blogging I would answer the way I answer almost every "how long will you..." question - I'll keep doing it as long as I'm having fun. It's been fun for a year - let's see what the "terrible twos" bring.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Advice to the Lovelorn"

No, I'm not going to offer any advice here, to the lovelorn or anyone else. This is about those ubiquitous columns that seem to appear in every newspaper in the world (well, all the ones I've read anyway).

My earliest recollection of newspapers goes back to the mid-'50s, when the Bangor Daily News was delivered to our house every day except Sunday - there was no Sunday paper. I'm pretty sure that the first thing to attract my attention to the paper was the comics page - comics in those days were pretty much geared to younger readers. But the second feature to capture my interest was the advice columns. As I recall the BDN carried two columns, "Dear Abby" and "Ann Landers", side by side on the page next to the comics. Who doesn't love to read about other folks' problems?

In those early days the emphasis seemed to be on generic "relationship" issues, hence the "lovelorn" appellation. In those simpler, more innocent (on the surface, anyway) times, the "problems" were pretty blase and the advice was predictable but still it seemed a little scandalous that anyone would "air their dirty laundry" in public (anonymously, of course). Abby and Ann, who were twin sisters by the way, were very popular back in the day.

An example from my teenage experience will illustrate the type of advice the "lovelorn" might expect to receive: My first girl friend (you know what I mean) and I went steady (that's what young couples did then - "hooking up" hadn't been invented) for a year or more when I, heartless cad that I was, lost interest in the "relationship" and went in search of "greener pastures". And she did what any distraught young woman who had lost her boyfriend might do - she sought advice from Dear Abby (or maybe Ann Landers, I don't remember). And she received a reply which said something to the effect of, "Forget him and find somebody more interested - and more interesting (ouch)". Now that's the kind of advice she could have gotten from her big sister (that's another story) or her best friend or even her mother. Forget him and move on - how hard is that to figure out? But coming from Abby (or Ann) it had extra authority, and she seemed to enjoy showing it to me and "rubbing my face in it" (that's not the worst thing she did, but that's a story for my shrink).

The women who wrote as "Dear Abby" and "Ann Landers" both had long successful runs with their columns but they have both passed away. "Dear Abby" continues to appear in the daily paper, written by Jeanne Phillips, daughter of the original "Abby", and the advice is still what you would expect. I continue to read but without any expectation of there being anything but "the same old same old"; the times have changed over the last 50 years but apparently the problems - and advice - in "Dear Abby" have not.

A more recent arrival on the columnist scene has a different approach to advising the lovelorn and anybody else who submits their problems to her. Carolyn Hax column "Tell Me About It" offers the type of specific, no-nonsense guidance you might expect to get from a session with a $100/session therapist. The Washington Post, for whom she writes, describes her this way:

"Carolyn Hax's advice column is the standard of measurement for the genre. Since her explosion into syndication in 1998, Hax has revolutionized the advice column by giving in-depth, ruthlessly practical, sometimes controversial, often coffee-up-your-nose funny advice that also happens to be really good.

Hax has an uncanny ability to see through what people are saying to the real issue: who they are, what they're doing and why. Then, instead of telling readers what to do, she offers them new ways to think, so they can find for themselves the solutions that best meet their individual needs."

When I read Hax I frequently find myself thinking, "that's great advice, I can use that", or (more often), "I wish somebody had told me back when...". Honestly, there are things I would have done differently if there had been a Carolyn Hax to kick me in the ass when I needed it. Or maybe I wouldn't have listened (I'm not much on taking advice from anybody) but still the advice she offers makes much more sense in a practical way then any you will get from the other columns.

An example from today's column: a question from "Single parent, confused, and lonely" sought advice on reconciling with his ex-fiancee, and the reply started with this: "The Confused and lonely are doing all the talking, when the single parent in you is the one who needs to be heard." Now I have been "Single parent, confused, and lonely" and I'm telling you that reply, and the rest of the advice that follows, is spot on! She ends with this: "Treat this sequence for her return as nonnegotiable: Come back, get well, prove beneficial to kids, come home." That may seem obvious, but I'm telling you "confused and lonely" can make it hard to see. (As you may have guessed, this might have been helpful to me several years ago.)

These columns still appear on the page opposite the comics and I still read them; and I would miss them if they weren't there.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My "Occupy" Movement

First, I don't mean for this post to in any way trivialize the "Occupy Wall Street" movement or any of the supporting movements that have cropped up across the country - I totally agree with their cause and support their goal of giving voice to the "ninety-nine percent". But just as I didn't join in the protest marches of the '60s (I was not what you would call a "radical" then) I probably won't be taking to the streets any time soon to join the occupiers of Portland or Augusta; I will try to find a way to support them, though, even if it's only to write a strongly worded letter to the editor.

With that said, I have inadvertently started an "Occupy-like" action of my own on Blogger. Like the real world occupiers I am not certain of my message and I have no demands (not yet, anyway) but I know my cause (whatever it may be) is just. I have occupied the blog "Rex Parker Does the New York Times Crossword Puzzle" (RPDTNYTCP). I have long visited this place daily to read the host's write-up of the puzzle and his guests' comments (there are often 100 or more). Usually I leave a comment of my own, but since I am a "syndicated" solver, i.e. I do the puzzle 5 weeks after it was originally published, my comments go largely unread, which is a shame considering how witty and insightful they are (that was the wine talking).

Last month RPDTNYTCP celebrated its fifth birthday (anniversary?) and it occurred to me that it would be fun to go back to the posts from the early days of the blog to see how much had changed. I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to share it with modern-day Rexites (as I refer to his followers) by posting excerpts in the comments on the current (syndicated) puzzle. And so "RPDTNYTCP on this date five years ago" came into being and has become part of my daily "occupation" of Rex Parker's blog. And the response has been underwhelming.

Now I'm not seeking personal recognition or glory; just as with this blog, whether anyone reads it or not is immaterial as I write for my own amusement. What disappoints me, and I guess what I have decided to "protest" against, is the dearth of comments by other syndicated solvers. RPDTNYTCP has over 1400 followers and Rex has said that over one-half of his readers are from syndication-land so why, I wonder, do only a very few offer their comments on any given day?

It can be said, in fact it has been said many times, that there is very little new to be said about a puzzle that was published weeks earlier and that has been pretty much totally dissected by the "prime-timers" (those who comment when the puzzle originally appears in the NYT or, more likely, on-line). To which I say, "Phooey". Every solver, even those of us out in the hinterland (geographically and chronologically), has a solving experience and a point of view that is unique, and I for one would enjoy reading about more of them. The commentary added by the likes of @NotalwaysrightBill (whatever happened to him, anyway?), @RedValerian, @Spacecraft (and all the other "anonymice"), @WaxyinMontreal (there seems to be a burgeoning Canadian contigent), @Pippin and @Deb@RoomscapesDecor, to name just a few, is every bit as informative and interesting as those from 5 weeks earlier.

So I'm on a mission: to occupy the syndicated space of RPDTNYTCP by appearing daily to comment on the puzzle and to offer a peek into the early days of the blog. My hope is that just as the "prime-time" blog has grown and evolved the syndicated segment can, too. "We're more than one-half, we're more than one-half!" Well, maybe I need to come up with a better chant but you get the idea. If you do the NYT crossword puzzle, even if you only TRY to do it, get over to RPDTNYTCP and leave a comment, dammit!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Teenagers, technology and the comics

"Zits" by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman is a comic strip that I read regularly and enjoy very much. I mostly like it because the main character, Jeremy, is a typical teenager who reminds a great deal me of my sons when they were his age, and his parents' reactions to situations he creates mirror my own experience as a parent. Clearly the creators understand what it is to be like to be the parent of a teen in this day and age.

This week there were 3 consecutive strips that struck me as particularly applicable to two things about which I am really sensitive: growing old and being technologically challenged. The perspective that Jeremy brings to these topics puts the divide between teenagers and their parents in stark relief; we are growing "old" while they are growing "up" and the technological "generation gap" is, it seems, insurmountable. Check out the strips copied above to see what I mean.

These three strips all gave me that, "Yeah, that's what I mean!" kind of reaction. I mean, EVERYBODY my age needs reading glasses but NO teenager can possibly imagine what that's like, or that they will one day be in the same boat! And in my house nothing more starkly defines the technological difference between me and my sons then the telephone! I can remember when "cordless" was high tech and "wireless" was science fiction! My sons will probably never have a "land-line", and there may come a time when they only remember them from "the good old days".

So when I see Jeremy needling his dad about how obsolete the phone book has become, I can relate - to the dad, that is. In fact I just had a conversation with my younger son telling him to stop calling "411" every time he wants a phone number since those calls cost almost two bucks each (guess who pays the wireless bill), while the phone book is free. And when how to make a long-distance call has to be explained to a teenager ("You have to dial a "1" first...") and "nation-wide calling plans" have replaced even the concept of "long distance" for him, well I just don't see how we old folks are ever going to bridge that gap.

So there in the panels of a daily comic strip I confront experiences that occur in daily life in my reality. And seeing them there puts things back in perspective for me: my experiences/frustrations/joys are not uniquely mine - they are typical of parents of teenagers everywhere, and this gives me a better understanding of my own experience. And it helps me cope with situations that might otherwise drive me nuts - instead of getting all worked up over typical teenage (even though my younger is now 20) behavior, I just think about how Jeremy's parents might react if he did something similar. It's nice knowing that my incredulity at teenage behavior is not all that unusual. And if I can laugh at it in the comics then I can laugh at it in real life, too - and that seems a lot better than getting upset, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I live alone

Today has been a cold, blustery, wet and generally miserable day - the kind of day that reminds those of us who live near the 43rd parallel that Summer has shone its last rays on us and moved south for the winter. So faced with this bleak awareness I did what I often do in such depressing circumstances - I drew a tub full of very hot water and climbed in to soak. In my experience many worries and even some aches and pains will be dispelled by a good long soak.

I'm not sure how long I had been there, drifting in and out of that state of semi-awareness that hot water will induce, when I sensed a nearby presence - not a mystical sensation of an other-worldly being, no this was more along the lines of aroma of dog. So I popped open one eye and glanced over to see Buddy the Cocker Spaniel standing quietly next to the tub with his face only inches from mine, staring intently at me. This is not typical Buddy behavior; his usual MO when he wants something from me is to either bark loudly and repeatedly or lick me on the face, either of which he could easily have done. Buddy is not a starer so his restraint was surprising. And when he saw signs of life he blinked a couple of times, turned around and walked out, apparently satisfied that dinner would be served at the usual time after all.

I was just beginning to slip back into my euphoric state when the labs arrived, their presence loudly announced by the cries of Thor, the cat who thinks he's a dog. Apparently Buddy had failed to communicate my well-being to them so they came to check for themselves, and being retrievers their approach was much more scent-related. They subjected me to a thorough sniffing which apparently convinced them that I wasn't dead (my yelling at them to get out might have contributed to this conclusion) and they too left without any purpose to their visit other than to establish my ability to serve their next meal on time.

I tried to regain the peaceful, easy feeling I was having before the entire Brat Pack felt obliged to check on my well being but the moment was lost, and the water was cooling off, so not too much later I climbed out of the tub, which stirred much joy and celebration (i.e., barking) among the pack, as they apparently interpreted my emergence as a signal that it was dinner time (it was not, but I gave them a treat anyway, just for being so concerned about me).

So as I said, I live alone - but it's pretty hard to ever feel lonely.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The big red, white and blue van

Once a week I drive a van to take veterans to the Veterans' Medical Center. The van will hold up to 8 passengers but 3 or 4 is a typical load for my run. Most of the riders are my contemporaries, Vietnam-era veterans but other wars are represented, too. I have veterans of both Iraq wars (Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom I think are their official designations) and at least one who served in Afghanistan (I'm sure there will be lots more to come).

Today's run was a little unusual, and very special - I had 3 passengers, one served in WW II, one in Korea and the third one was in BOTH of those conflicts! The number of veterans like these is dwindling (but sadly being rapidly replaced by younger veterans of more recent wars) and I felt honored to have them riding with me.

The van itself is pretty recognizable. It's decorated with the Stars and Stripes and the huge DAV (Disabled American Veterans) logo on both sides and the hood is pretty hard to miss. So as we make our way through town or cruise down the highway it's pretty apparent who we are and often we get a reaction that can be the highlight of the trip. Pedestrians often smile and wave and we always smile and wave back; drivers will sometimes make a space for us to slip into traffic on busy road; children waiting for the school bus stare, their mothers blow us kisses; and on-coming cars flash their lights and wave. It truly is heartening to know that so many folks really do appreciate these veterans and the sacrifices they made for their country.

None of which prepared me for what happened today. As I waited at a red light on a busy 4-lane road a huge garbage truck pulled onto the road behind me and as he got closer to us he started blowing his horn long and loud, like maybe he had lost his brakes and was going to rear-end us right where we sat. All this horn-blowing cleared the lane next to him so he moved up beside us, still honking and tooting leaving me totally confused but still unable to move anywhere, if that was his intent. And as he pulled alongside the van so I could finally look up and see him, the driver was grinning ear-to-ear and giving us a big "thumbs up" as he went by. So I guess all the noise and hoopla was just his way of saying, "Thanks for your service". Did I mention that it was the highpoint of our day?

So if you ever encounter on of those big red, white and blue vans in your travels, or maybe even a passenger car with "Veteran" license plates, smile and wave - I guarantee you will make the occupants very happy.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dirigonzo's "Down and Dirty" Chili Con Carne

Chili is a guy thing - what man do you know who doesn't claim to have a great recipe for it? Even President Obama when asked if he cooked said he makes a great chili. So tonight as I enjoyed my latest batch of my own personal chili creation it occurred to me that I should share my secret recipe so that others who are as gastronomically challenged as I am might be able to produce a batch of perfectly respectable chili without actually knowing a lot about cooking.

First you should understand that for most of the last two decades I have been the single parent of two sons, now ages 26 and 20. So the primary requirements for anything I cook are: will they eat it?; is it reasonably nutritious?; and can it be ready in 30 minutes or less? Chili is almost the perfect food based on these criteria. Of course this doesn't allow for a lot of simmering and slow-cooking as the experts call for. "Quick and easy" are critical to a single parent so some elements of traditional gourmet cooking have to be sacrificed.

I can't tell you when I discovered it, but I stumbled upon a way to make a pretty good imitation of real chili that meets of all of my criteria as a parent. And now that my sons are grown and (more or less) on their own I still make it for myself occasionally, and I actually think it's pretty good. So now I'm going to share it with you, for what it's worth. Here's what you"ll need:

1/2 pound ground beef
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 jar salsa (I like Newman's Own Medium Chunky, but use you own favorite)
1 can tomato sauce

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet; drain the fat.

Add all other ingredients (and anything else that sounds good at the moment); stir and heat thoroughly.

That's it - serve right out of the frying pan. Add a salad (I buy the bagged variety) and a slice of garlic Texas Toast and you have a meal. And if your effete friends ask you about the recipe, tell them "It's a secret."

For a variation on the theme, add some elbow macaroni to the mix to produce "chile-mac" which is Alex' favorite. Enjoy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Nakedivity" (part 2)

It certainly defies the meteorological statistical data ("climate change", perhaps?) and it most definitely flies in the face of the image of the Maine climate as perceived by some people "from away" (yes, @Deb, I'm looking at you) but today, September 26, 2011, I sat on my pool deck, naked as a jaybird and basked in the glory of an early Fall day on the shores of Casco Bay. Life does not get any better than that. (Did I mention that there was beer?)

It was not entirely an idle pursuit - since I am in the process of closing the pool for the season I spent a few minutes putting away some of the pool furniture and accessories, including the colorful air mattress that been floating in the pool all summer. It was during this process that I discovered something that I think says a lot about our culture: the consumer warning printed in multiple languages on the bottom of the mattress. (What can I say? I had finished the crossword puzzle and the cryptoquote, and I was bored.)

The warning is printed in several languages, including some that I don't even recognize, but interestingly there are three English-language versions. The Australian warning is the most terse and seems perfectly adequate to me: "WARNING: USE ONLY UNDER COMPETENT SUPERVISION. What more do you need to say?

The British apparently require a bit more detail: WARNING: USE ONLY UNDER COMPETENT SUPERVISION. THERE ARE RISKS USING THIS PRODUCT AS A WATER CRAFT. PAY ATTENTION TO WINDS AND CURRENTS. NO PROTECTION AGAINST DROWNING! SWIMMERS ONLY! From my limited abilities in French, Spanish and German I think those warnings translate roughly the same as the British - maybe it's an EU thing.


Wow - and all this time I thought it was just something I could float on when I wanted to cool off. Who knew it could be so dangerous?

I suspect all of those warnings reflect the nature of the litigation that has been brought against manufacturers of these "devices" in the countries for which the warnings are provided. And I suspect that of all of those countries, the USA has the most highly developed "product-liability" litigation system (We're #1! We're #1!) It makes me proud to be an American.

But it was a truly spectacular day for "nakedivity" on the pool deck (did I mention that there was beer?).

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I haven't looked it up but I'm pretty sure "nakedivity" is not a word that's in the dictionary. But still I like it a lot - it was coined by a friend in response to the news that I had spent the afternoon of the autumnal equinox (that would be yesterday, as I write) sitting nude on the pool deck, doing the NYT crossword puzzle.

I am fortunate to have a back yard that is totally private, shielded from view by dense foliage and a six-foot stockade fence. Anyone wanting to see what's going on by my pool would really have to work at it and probably deserves whatever offense they may take at what they see. The pool is situated so that it gets full sun almost all day long so for a sun-lover like me it's a great place to spend some leisure time. And this summer since I essentially live alone for the first time in forever, I adopted a "bathing suit optional" policy for my time in or by the pool.

So yesterday when I arrived on the pool-deck fully clothed and intending to cover the pool for the winter, the allure of the warm sun and the prospect that there might be no more opportunities for sun-bathing until next spring proved irresistible. I ditched my ambitions to make preparations for winter, shed my clothes and revelled in the glory of an absolutely spectacular late summer/early fall day in Maine. Not only was I nude (it's not a pretty sight but fortunately I'm the only one who could see it) but I was totally free of any sense of obligation to be "productive" - I could cover the pool another day, this day was to be fully enjoyed for what it was, a rare perfect September day.

That is what "nakedivity" means - whether it is in the dictionary or not. It's not just the state of being unclothed, it's a state of mind. It's bound to be a long. cold winter here but the prospect of more nakedivity next summer will make the wait more bearable. Now if I could just figure out how to keep my tan from fading...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ACME Fan Club - part 2

Passion: n. - 3. a. Boundless enthusiasm. b. The object of such enthusiasm. (American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition - which I stole from the office a long time ago.)

Those who know me well could use lots of words to describe me, but "passionate" is probably not one of them. I have lots of interests and things I enjoy doing. but there's nothing for which I really feel "boundless enthusiasm". And as I think about most of my friends and acquaintances I can only think of one or two who I would say truly have a "passion" for anything. I am telling you this because today I discovered yet another reason to love Andrea Carla Michaels - she has a passion: words.

OK, I kind of knew that Andrea likes words and the things one can do with them from her interests: crossword puzzles, Scrabble, "Wheel of Fortune", and her occupation which is naming things. Clearly, she has a "thing" for words. But I didn't appreciate the depth of her interest until I watched a mini-documentary produced in connection with her recent school reunion. Andrea it seems has a bona fide passion for words.

Here's the video; judge for yourself:

Life in Black and White: Part I from Regina Rivard on Vimeo.

Seriously, how could anyone not love this woman?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Malt Shop Memories"

It's time for the Fall pledge drive on public TV and so PBS is airing another set of those extravagant productions intended to strike a chord with their prime demographic group, old people like me. Every year they trot out another selection of shows designed to evoke fond memories of life in the 1950s and '60s, when we were young and life was good. Their hope seems to be that we will enjoy remembering those times so much that we will make large contributions to PBS so we can relive those moments over and over, courtesy of the CDs and DVDs they will send us in appreciation of our generosity.

This year's variation on the musical theme is titled "Malt Shop Memories" and features the music of Fabian (you remember him, don't you?), Bobby Rydell, Maria Muldaur, The Drifters, Leslie Gore (It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...) and lots of others whose names I can't remember. It's the music that was on the juke box at Ray and Ola's Soda Shop, where I went to meet up with my friends every day after school in the early '60s. It was fun then and it was fun to hear it again on PBS last night, 50 years later.

But here's the thing - while I enjoyed the songs and the memories they evoked I know that was all in the very distant past and I can never go there again (I'm not sure that I would want to, either). I do not want to wallow in it over and over by watching a DVD of the show or listening to a multi-CD set of every song recorded during the era. So the "thank-you" gifts that PBS is offering in return for my generous contribution of $150 are meaningless to me. And if I really wanted a comprehensive collection of recordings from that time, Time-Life Records probably has a better compilation for less money, so no sale.

Another thing about the show that puts me off - it's an extravagant production that had to be very expensive to make, so it seems like a significant portion of any contributions it generates would have to be applied to the production costs. It reminds me of fund-raisers for fire fighters where only a small portion of the contributions go to the intended cause and most of the money goes to the fund-raising company. It's like a scam wrapped up in the respectability of the cause, and I don't like it. And that TJ What's-his-name guy who produces the shows for PBS really annoys me with his faux-appreciation of the music of the era - he tries way too hard to convince us that he's in it for his love of the music, not the money, and I ain't buying it.

The last reason I won't be sending any money to PBS for "Malt Shop Memories" is this: this show and all of the ones like it make me feel "old" - not just in years but in relevance and vitality. When the camera pans across the audience of mostly white 60-something geezers trying to clap in rhythm to the music, or shows a close-up of a performer who is clearly past his prime trying to recreate the appeal of his youth, I feel sad for them and sad for me. Those years are long gone and there's no sense in trying to recapture them or relive them - they belong in the past. Remember them, sure, but there's no going back.

PBS's other pitch is that these shows keep the music of our generation alive for future generations. Memo to PBS: future generations have there own music. Every day I tune my radio to WMPG, the station owned and operated by the University of Southern Maine. The DJs are all volunteers, mostly students, and they play music of every ilk and every age. You never know what you'll hear, but it's all good. Oldies, sure, but Rap, Hip-Hop, Bluegrass, Reggae, Irish, Blues, classic Rock, contemporary Rock, even Russian Rock - you name it, they play it! They are starting their fund-raising campaign ("Beg-a-thon") soon, and I will contribute generously because they make me feel good about the present, not long for the past.

I'll contribute to PBS, too, but I'll wait for a locally produced program to register my support. Last year I received tickets to the "Young@Heart" concert in Portland as my thank-you, and I loved it! The show was a celebration of old people who choose to live life to the fullest in the present, not yearn to regain their lost youth through "Malt Shop Memories". I want to be like them.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Obama is back!

I didn't want to, I didn't intend to, but I still did it - I watched the president's address to the joint session of congress about the economy and jobs in particular. I liked what I heard; here are my preliminary thoughts:

"American Jobs Act" (AJA) is a catchy name that neatly frames the debate - it's about jobs; are you for them, or against them?

Obama adeptly laid his proposal out in terms of ideas that have always enjoyed bipartisan support, including some that were originally advanced by Republicans. If you were for them then, why would you be against them now?

Tax cuts for employees and small businesses are an integral part of the package - who would oppose tax cuts for either of these groups; to put it another way (as the president did) who would support a tax INCREASE on them in these hard economic times.

Fairness should be a component of tax reform; EVERYBODY should pay their fair share and EVERYBODY should share in the sacrifice.

Veterans who fought for our freedoms should not have to fight for a job!

The next election is 14 months away - America cannot wait 14 months for something to happen to help the economy improve. "Pass this jobs act now!"

It's not a race to the bottom it's a race to the top, and America can win that race.

Obama may have been addressing the joint session of Congress but he was speaking directly to the American people, and he was saying what they wanted to hear. John Boehner, sitting directly behind the president and clearly visible during the entire speech, clearly knew this and appeared extremely uncomfortable for the duration of the address.

The president was speaking to the American people but more importantly he was speaking FOR the American people. He knows his proposals are supported by a majority of the people because they will benefit a majority of the people, and he made that distinction. Do you support the people, or don't you? It's a yes or no question. It was apparent that Boehner recognized the implications of this question.

Joe Biden stayed awake for the whole speech, so it must have been good!

There will be lots of analysis, spin, and commentary by a lot of pundits a whole lot smarter and more informed than me, but here's my take-away message from watching the president tonight: Obama is back, and he's ready to fight for his vision for what America can be, and to take on any one who gets in the way. He's going to take his message to the American people and I think that's a winning strategy for Obama, and for the nation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Corporate crony capitalism"

That phrase captures the essence of what is wrong in America today, and I wish I could claim credit for having coined it but I can't - that honor belongs to Sarah Palin, or more likely to one of her speech writers. Not only do I like the sound of the phrase (I always liked alliteration) but I think I actually agree with her point.

Now first, I have to say that I am writing this on the basis of a very brief piece in the paper about Palin's speech at a tea party rally in Indianola, IA - I did not hear the speech nor do I know the whole context of the remark. But in this age of 30second sound bites and echo chamber reporting maybe that's all I need to form an opinion that's at least as informed as the next guy's.

Apparently Palin's remarks were intended to chastise the president (no surprise there) and a "permanent political class" that she said has protected their powers and enriched themselves, their friends and their contributors at the expense of ordinary Americans and the country's well-being. Honestly, I cannot find much to disagree with there.

"There is a name for this," Palin said. "It's called corporate crony capitalism. It's not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and risk, No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts...and influence peddling and corporate welfare." (That's some pretty good speechifying, right there.)

So while I'm pretty certain that Palin and I would be at opposite poles when it comes to creating solutions, it seems I am actually in agreement with her (I expected a lightning bolt to strike me as I typed that) in identifying the problem - it's the "permanent political class", installed and financed by the plutocrats to maintain and protect the system that enables them to enhance their wealth and power at the expense of the rest of us.

Apart from the cool phraseology, a couple of other things about the speech (or what I read about it)strike me as significant. First, this is pure populist stuff designed to appeal to citizens of every political persuasion. With approval ratings of just about everybody in government in the single digit range, who's going to disagree with any criticism of the whole bunch? Second, and more significant I think, is that Palin didn't, as far as I can tell, exclude the current batch of Republicans currently seeking the presidential nomination from the ranks of "professional politicians of all stripes" who she said are all but destroying the country.

So what we seem to have is a political speech designed to appeal to the masses by railing against something that everybody, not just the tea party, loves to hate, while at the same time setting herself apart from every other aspiring candidate for president. Ironically, she seems to be staking out some of the same territory that Barack Obama claimed on his way to victory in the last presidential election. The newspaper account of the speech said, "she offered no fresh clues" as to whether she will seek the presidency in 2012 - I beg to differ, I think the clues are right there staring us in the face, and I predict she will run, and she may even win the Republican (tea party) nomination. And if she were to pick someone other than Michele Bachmann (can you imagine the cat-fights?) or Rick Perry (who'd wear the pants in that relationship?) as her running mate I can imagine a scenario (topic of a previous post) where she might pull it off.

I need a drink.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Analog man in a digital world

I'm not a very tech-savvy guy. My computer skills are pretty much limited to email, basic googling and writing this blog - that's it. I don't Tweet or do Facebook, uploading an image like the one above strains my capabilities, and creating a link to post a video here is something I have to figure out anew each time I want to try it.

It's the same with cell phones - I don't have a "smart phone". I just changed cell phone carriers (see Adios, AT&T) and my new phone makes calls - that's it, no internet, no multi-media capability, not even any texting; just calls. Oh, wait - it has a camera, but I don't know how to use it so I don't think that counts.

TV - same deal. My cable company is upgrading to a new all-digital format with a fancy new name (Xfinity, I think) and lots of new channels - more than I could watch in a lifetime - and all kinds of stuff I don't care about like movies on demand and video recording, yada yada yada. All of this new capability required the addition of a new box to make it all work, of course, so I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a try. Long story short, no way I could program the box to make it work so I took it back to the cable company, told them I didn't want it and asked what would happen if I just plugged the cable into the back of my TV without any box, and the answer surprised me. If I do that I will get the "basic" cable deal, which is to say my local stations, and that is all I ever wanted anyway - at a substantial savings over the expanded coverage afforded by the box. Strangely, none of the notices I received telling me that I urgently need to acquire a box to receive the new all-digital services mentioned this option. So "basic" cable is what I have - and I'd dump that if I didn't need a roof-top antenna to get the stations over the air (but that's an option I may look into again).

So I'm telling you all this because when I read the Dilbert cartoon strip posted above (at least I hope it's posted) I was reminded yet again as to just how far behind I am technologically speaking. Unlike Dilbert, I don't even have a laptop. Like I said, analog man... And I'm perfectly happy that way. (Now if I can just figure out how to publish this without losing everything...)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"All life is a concatenation of ephemeralities."

That was the "Quote of the day" in the local paper recently, attributed to American economist Alfred E. (no, not Newman) Kahn, and it sent me running to my handy Funk & Wagnalls (come on, surely you remember the recurring line from "Laugh-In") to see what it might mean.

It turns out that it translates (if a perfectly good English-language sentence needs translation) into something like, "All life (I got that part) is a series of connected transitory events" which seems to me to leave a lot of room for interpretation. Plus the fact that it was written by an economist doesn't help matters since I'm pretty sure they are trained to write in unintelligible gibberish anyway so no matter what they say it's impossible to prove them wrong (or right, I guess). Otherwise I don't see how there could be so many divergent views about what is wrong with the economy and how to fix it, all claiming to be the one true answer.

So how one interprets the phrase depends on a number of factors. Some would, I am sure, deny it's veracity due to their fatalist world-view that all events are preordained and so not transitory at all while others may deny the connectivity of all events in our lives. I'm sure there could be lively debate on philosophical, religious, scientific or cultural grounds and some would proclaim the phrase to be the central truism of the Universe while others would dismiss it as meaningless claptrap.

I prefer to view it as a statement of hope, full of promise that no matter what events are transpiring right now, in a life, in a nation or in the world, they are temporary and change will come. Optimist that I am, I choose to believe that change is more likely to improve a situation rather than make it worse, especially if we can affect the change to some degree through free-will, which I believe we can. It may take some effort but we can make things better. Hope, I think, is always more productive than despair and any decision based on hope is always better than one based on fear.

That's my view, anyway - aren't you glad you asked?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Redistribution of wealth

There are some who say (but I'm not sure they necessarily believe it) that taxes are a scheme to redistribute the nations wealth, taking from the (deserving) rich and giving to the (undeserving, bloodsucking) poor - kind of like Robin Hood on steroids. I do not subscribe to this theory.

First, taxes are, as has been frequently and famously said, what pay for our way of life. Quibble if you want with how high they should be or what programs we want to pay for with them, but there's just no avoiding the unpleasant truth that taxation is a necessary component of a free democratic society. To deny that truth or, worse, to portray them as something evil to be done away with at any cost is just plain ignorant and unpatriotic.

Second, there is a redistribution of wealth occurring in this country and is not due to taxes; it is the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the ultra-wealthy (can you say, "multi billionaire"?) I don't have the figures in front of me but they are readily available from any number of sources, and they are indisputable - American wealth by any measure is steadily flowing away from the poor and middle class and into the fortunes the economic top-tier. The thing about economic power is that once you have it, it gets easier and easier to use it in a way to amass even more wealth and power (it seems those terms are more and more synonymous in today's political climate) - "The rich get richer..." as it were.

I'm more worked up about this issue than usual due to two (kind of) unrelated articles I read in the business news today. The first headline that caught my attention was, "Luxury spending buoys Tiffany's to strong quarter". The article pointed out that Tiffany's stock surged 9.3% on the news while broader markets were up less than 2%. "Tiffany...has a customer base that leans heavily toward high-income consumers. Such shoppers tend to gravitate toward luxury goods." Now I'm not opposed to high-income earners buying luxury goods if they can afford them (apparently they can), but the second headline put the whole thing into a little different perspective for me.

"Economy grew only 1 percent in spring" is certainly not shocking or unexpected news in light of the difficulty it has been experiencing recently, but I found some of the details troubling in view Tiffany's success. First, that level of growth " not enough to make a noticeable dent in the unemployment rate. which was 9.1 percent in July." So those "no-income earners" who can't afford to shop anywhere will have no prospects for a brighter economic outlook in the near-term. "Consumers spent more on health care, insurance and financial services..." and, "People bought fewer long-lasting manufactured goods, such as autos and appliances." The bright spot cited in the article? - "Corporate profits rose faster than the previous quarter."

So, to recap: Luxury spending - up; corporate profits - up; consumer spending on health care - up; joblessness - also, up. So in light of this I would have to ask: Do you still think that taxes are the major villain causing the redistribution of wealth in this nation (and the world)? Really? Would it be such a bad thing to take just a little bit from the first two to improve the situation for the second two?

I'm not talking about "class warfare"; I'm talking about basic fairness. The system is rigged in favor of further concentrating wealth. We need to unrig it and I'm pretty sure taking a defiant, unyielding stand against any source of increased revenue is not helpful. "Taxes" are not the problem; "greed" is the problem.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How a Tea Party President Could Happen

The conventional wisdom among political pundits seems to be that a Tea Party Candidate such as Michele Bachmann has no chance of winning a general election. Today I read a piece by Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts celebrating the fact that more than half the American electorate now holds a negative view of the tea party movement, and their approval numbers have remained relatively stable, ranging from 31 percent to 38 percent. I take less comfort from these numbers than Mr. Pitts does.

One need look only as far as the most recent Maine gubernatorial election to see the danger posed. In 2010 the incumbent Democratic governor could not run for another term so the Democrats nominated a traditional party favorite, Libby Mitchell, to succeed him. The Republicans, on the other hand, passed over all of the "middle of the road" aspirants to nominate a Tea Party favorite, Paul LePage. And then a credible Independent candidate, Eliot Cutler, entered the field and the scene was set; what transpired could, I think, be a harbinger for the upcoming presidential election.

An impressive majority of the Maine electorate, 62%, voted against Lepage - unfortunately they were divided between Eliot (36%) and Mitchell (26%), so Lepage, with only 38% of the popular vote, won the election and is now our Governor. And 62%of the electorate hates him but that doesn't change the outcome.

Now I know that there are significant differences between a gubernatorial election and a presidential election, but there are still enough similarities in the current national political situation to concern me. The Tea Party has tremendous energy and enough support to make it a factor in the Republican party - maybe the dominant factor. President Obama seems unable to inspire even his base, much less attract independent voters whose support he so desperately needs to secure his reelection. He does not face any challengers from within the traditional Democratic party but there are rumblings of a third-party challenge, maybe from someone more progressive than Obama or possibly from a candidate with more appeal to the undecided "independents" who are lukewarm at best to Obama.

So there it is - we could be facing a presidential election that pits an incumbent president with low approval ratings ("It's the economy, stupid") against a Tea Party candidate supported by 30-something percent of the electorate, and an upstart candidate from a third party who would share the "anti-tea party" vote with Obama. Do the math: if the Tea Party garners 34% of the vote in any given state with the balance of the votes split evenly between Obama and another candidate, the Tea Party candidate would win at least some, maybe all, of that state's electoral votes. And that scenario could produce a "landslide" victory to a candidate supported by about a third of the national electorate.

If that prospect doesn't scare you, nothing will. It's also the basis for my latest "conspiracy theory" but that's a subject for another post.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Adios, AT & T

I've had AT&T for my wireless service for a very long time - since before they were AT&T, in fact. My cell phone says it's from Cingular, so I've had it for a while (obviously I don't upgrade every year or two like some folks do - I'd still have my old analog phone if it hadn't been rendered useless by the switch to all-digital technology). But now the time has come to move on.

The fact is, I was never thrilled with my AT&T service primarily due to poor signal strength in most of the areas I frequent. Dropped calls were pretty common and pockets of no service at all were not unheard of ("Can you hear me now?" No.) But still, my cell phone needs are pretty minimal (20 minutes of talk time is a big month for me) so I tolerated it. And every time I considered switching, something happened to make me renew my contract with them (most recently Alex' desire for an iPhone which at the time was available exclusively from AT&T).

Last week a remarkable confluence of events lined up to change the situation dramatically. The principal motivator was that the iPhone was starting to act strange and appeared to be on its last legs - clearly a replacement was going to be required. So I went on-line to check on the status of my contract with
AT&T and discovered that both lines were out of the two-year contract period! I was free to go anywhere I wanted to go.

So I went to Verizon - well, at least for Alex' phone. He decided he wanted a Droid phone and by all accounts Verizon had the best deals and the best network, so after a little research and some pretty good references, that's where we went. I signed up for a single line contract with voice, unlimited texts (very necessary for young people today) and 2GB of data for a little less than I was paying AT&T for two lines on a family plan.

And then, because my personal cell phone requirements are SO minimal, I went to US Cellular, bought a basic phone for $20.00 and signed up for a $10.00/month + $0.10/minute prepaid plan (no text, no data) to cover my needs. When I got it home I discovered I have no service at my house (even with AT&T I had one bar most of the time) but it seems to be OK everywhere else I am likely to travel, so I guess I'll keep it.

Last night I deleted all of the contacts and personal information in my old phone in preparation for recycling it and as I did, for a brief moment, I had a feeling of not regret exactly, but sadness. My relationship with AT&T lasted longer than most of my marriages so even though it wasn't always happy there was a certain comfort in the longevity, and I am sad to see it end.

So farewell, AT&T - we had our ups and downs but now it's time to move on. I know you'll do fine without me, and I'm sure as time goes by I'll forget the bad times and remember the good. Who knows, maybe some day down the road we'll hook up again. Until then, I wish you fair winds and following seas - in today's market you'll need all the help you can get!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Gospel According to Lady Gaga

I don't know much about Lady Gaga - the fact that I've even heard of her is testimony to the level of publicity, some might say notoriety, that she generates with her outlandish appearance and acts (a meat dress - really?) But I did have a chance to hear some serious remarks she made when she appeared in Maine last year to attend a rally in favor of the repeal of the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military. And you know what? - she impressed me as a pretty serious young woman who had something important to add to the debate.

Today I read that Lady Gaga is creating something of a buzz in traditional Christian circles. A column by Bill Gregory in yesterday's Portland Press Herald helped me understand better what I had seen in her. He wrote, "I...suffered generation shock at the sight and sound of her, but her message is age-old, the stuff of compassionate prophets and Jesus: "You have the right to be who you are. I'm here to tell you that I love you." ...Lady Gaga speaks the truth in drag. Her invitation to those who can hear her is grace-filled. It is a call from fear to faith."

Now I am not what you would call a religious person but I do believe that all individuals, every one of us, have the capacity to love and be loved for who we are, because of our differences not in spite of them. In Lady Gaga's words: "Believe! The truth of existence is that love exists specifically for you, you paradoxical child of the universe, like and unlike everyone else."

Lady Gaga's message of love and inclusiveness and the inherent worth of every individual seems to me to stand in stark contrast to the "values" being promoted by the Evangelical Christian and "social conservative" forces that seem to be dominating the political debate these days. These folks seems to feel that their beliefs should be universally accepted and that non-believers (infidels?) are going straight to Hell. They rail against anybody and anything that doesn't conform to what they see as "right". And they hate Lady Gaga.

Gregory writes that that the path that Lady Gaga invites us to follow, "...shapes lives of kindness, compassion, humility, courage - and it produces people willing to live for and learn from others as well as insisting on being themselves." So I guess if she feels the need to wear brassieres that shoot sparks to attract attention to her message, I am OK with that. She gives me hope that someday there will be a world where everyone can attain some level of, in Gregory's words, " and respect and some modicum of leverage on their world", and the understanding that others need and deserve these for themselves.

As Gospels go, I think we could do a lot worse.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Everything I never needed to know, I learned doing crossword puzzles

I've always thought of myself as a pretty smart guy, in a "technically proficient, know what I need to know" kind of way. Throughout my professional career I was the "subject-matter expert" on every aspect of knowledge required to perform my occupation; I was the "go-to" guy for my co-workers when they had a job-related question or problem. Being "smart" in this regard served me very well during my career and enabled me to advance and to garner the respect of my associates. And of course staying "smart" required constant growth to stay current so my education was continually on-going. But now I think maybe I'm not so smart, after all.

When I retired a few years ago, all of the "essential" knowledge that I had accumulated and that made me so "smart" in my professional life became totally irrelevant to me, unnecessary to my day to day living. Oh, I'm competent in most aspects of normal life - I'm reasonably well informed of current events and I can carry on a more or less intelligent conversation on a wide range of topics, but it's becoming painfully obvious that there are a whole host of things of which I am totally ignorant. This sad fact is made painfully obvious to me every day when I sit down to do the NY Times crossword puzzle.

These puzzles are marvelous, ingenious creations that require a broad range of knowledge on topics ranging from "The Simpsons" to Greek literature to quantum physics to solve - well, that or a lot of crosses and lucky guesses. So every day I come face to face with my ignorance and have to find a way to overcome it if I am to solve the puzzle. And the fact is, just about every day I am able to do that and in the process I learn something - some days I learn a whole lot!

So now I know things like the river that runs through Florence is the Arno; Painter Chagall's first name is Marc; a Yenta is a busybody; some herons fly with their necks retracted; the New Jersy hockey team is the Devils; Teslas are magnetic induction units and Euler is an eponymic mathematician; and a Kraken is a monster of Norse myth. And those are from puzzles early in the week; they get progressively more difficult each day!

I understand that I don't really need to know any of these things and I recognize that knowing them does not make me "smart" but it makes me feel better that each day I learn something that I did not know before (or maybe had long since forgotten); if nothing else it reminds me of how much I do NOT know which can be a pretty humbling experience - and humility is something which I definitely DO need to know.

Like I said, everything I never needed to know, I learned doing crossword puzzles but I've also learned a little about myself in the process and I think knowing one's own self is pretty important. And there's that humility thing...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jimmy Buffett, Ex-wives and Skinny-Dipping

Careful readers of these posts, if such a person exists, will have learned a little about me including two facts relevant to this post: I have been married a few times, and I'm a big fan of Jimmy Buffett. A confluence of recent events has me thinking about these two characteristics.

I can find a lot to like in just about any Jimmy Buffett song - the tune is always up-beat with a Caribbean flavor and the lyrics speak of a life and life-style that I would lead in a perfect world. But the world is not perfect and I am not Jimmy Buffett so I will have to be content listening to his music and imagining spending the rest of my days leading a life of leisure in Margaritaville. The song that is on my mind as I write is "A Pirate Looks at Forty", specifically this verse:

I go for younger women, lived with several awhile
Though I ran them away, they’d come back one day
Still could manage to smile
Just takes a while, just takes a while.

Which gets me to the events about to transpire this weekend. Ex-wife number three, a woman 20 years younger than me and the mother of my children is coming to visit for the weekend. And I have no idea what to expect. Of course she's coming to visit our younger son who still lives with me, not me, but still she's staying in my house and it will be pretty hard for us to totally avoid one another for the whole time she is here, so I'm a little anxious as to how it will all play out.

I do expect everything will be at least civil - time heals all wounds (and wounds all heals), as the saying goes and all the anger and acrimony that characterized the break-up has long since dissipated. So the question is, I guess, just how cordial will our time together be after all these years apart. She's single again and so am I so it seems like the possibilities are endless. She's come back, if only for a visit with her son, and I hope she can manage to smile.

Life is too short to harbor ill feelings against anyone so I sincerely hope her visit is a pleasant one for all concerned, and while I'm keeping my expectations low if she were to suggest a skinny-dip in the pool I certainly wouldn't say no! In fact I think I can guarantee that would make us both smile.

I began with Jimmy Buffett so I'll end with him. Here's some philosophy to help keep things in perspective:

"1. Never forget--"they" are always the enemy.
2. Just remember, assholes are born that way, and they usually don't change.
3. You don't want to go to jail.
4. When you start to take this job seriously, you're in trouble.
5. It takes no more time to see the good side of life than it takes to see the bad.
6. If you decide to run the ball, just count on fumbling and getting the shit knocked out of you a lot, but never forget how much fun it is just to be able to run the ball!"
— Jimmy Buffett (Tales from Margaritaville)

And now I believe I'll have another "Boat Drink". And turn the pool lights on.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Erland "Cappy" Quinn

A while ago I wrote in this space about a remarkable man I had met many years ago and I lamented that I could not remember his name. Well, the mind (or God, or something) works in remarkable ways. I tried to consciously remember the name for several days, running the alphabet, thinking of common names. looking in the phonebook but of course none of it worked.

Then one night, when I was in that netherland between wake and sleep a name came into my head - Earle Quinn. And I had the presence of mind (and a handy pen and pad of paper by my bedside just for such occasions) to write it down. When I was fully awake the next morning the name was completely lost to my memory but there it was indelibly written on my bedside note pad! But I knew it was not quite right, so I just left it there to consider further.

Days later as I was just waking up a thought came to me: not "Earle", but "Erlon" so I wrote that down by my original note. Today I decided to see what this all meant, so I fired up Google and went to work.

Turns out, my subconscious mind had it almost right - in fact the remarkable individual I encountered all those years ago was a gentleman by the name of Captain Erland Quinn. It also turns out, not surprisingly, that my experience with him was typical of how he treated people. Here's a quote from a brief biography published on the menu of Cappy's Chowder House, a restaurant in Camden so named in his honor:
Just who the heck is Cappy anyway?

Our customers always ask "Who is Cappy?" Cappy Quinn was old Maine stock, born and brought up on Eagle Island in Penobscot Bay. For many years, he was a familiar face around the Camden waterfront, always willing to give a helping hand to anyone in need. To us, he gave his love of the bay, of boats, and of life. Nothing gave us more pleasure than reminiscing with Cappy about the old days and old boats of Maine long gone. He taught us about pride, and we hope your experience here shows that.
They even had a picture of him and that's it at the top of this post.

Sadly, but I guess not surprisingly, Captain Quinn is no longer with us. He died on July 25, 1991, at age 90 so he lived a long and by all accounts very full life - no one can hope for more than that. And clearly he lives on in the hearts and memories of those he affected in life, including me.

I wish you fair winds and following seas Captain Erland Quinn - God bless you and the ship you sail on.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Syndication synchronicity

I'm addicted to the NY Times cross word puzzle - I do it every day (except Saturday). But I don't get the NY Times and I don't subscribe to the puzzle on-line, which means I have to solve the puzzle when it is published in "syndication". As a consequence the puzzles that I get in my local daily are ones that originally appeared five weeks earlier (except on Sunday, when it's only one week earlier - I have no idea why.)

Usually this time delay is not a problem, except maybe when the puzzle is published to coincide with a particular date or event such as some notable birthday or a holiday. For example, the "April Fool" puzzle published on, you guessed it, April first, is traditionally a puzzle with some neat twist in honor of the occasion, but if you are solving it on May 6 the significance of the publication date may elude you, thus complicating the solving process. But this is a minor inconvenience and usually being a "syndication-solver" is not a problem.

Except there is a blog, "Rex Parker does the NY Time Crossword Puzzle" to which I am also addicted. It's a wonderful site that adds immensely to the pleasure of doing the puzzle - and it helps make you a better solver, too! But of course Rex and all of the contributors to his blog solve in "real time" (which is to say, because they solve on-line, the night BEFORE the puzzle actually appears in the New York Times.) So by the time I, and all the other syndication-solvers arrive at the blog, the "prime-timers" (as I call them) have long since left the room and moved on to the future. Pretty much everything there is to say about the puzzle has been said so it can be hard to add a comment that means anything.

Recently someone posted a comment on Rex Parker's Facebook page that being a syndicated solver on the blog is like showing up late to a party and all that's left is some watery punch and a drunk passed out on the couch. Rex liked the metaphor and suggested that we syndi-solvers should have a NEW PARTY of our own when we arrive at the blog. That conjured up in my (admittedly sick) mind an image of a bunch of rowdies showing up for a party long after the invited guests had gone home and the host had retired. And that reminded me of a Jimmy Buffet song which may not be literally applicable, but I think it's close enough to describe what the party in syndication-land may look like - because we may not be on the "A-list", but damn, we still have fun! So here it is - judge for yourself. (Substitute "Rex Parker" for "Jimmy Buffet" and I think it works pretty well.)

Strange bedfellows

There are probably not many issues on which I would find myself in agreement with Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shiite cleric in Iraq who leads the opposition to the continued presence of U.S. Forces (note: "non-combat") in that country. But on one point I find myself in total agreement with his position: there should be NO extension of the deadline for the removal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. Period.

I'm getting pretty sick of watching the "Honor Roll" of U.S. Service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, aired nightly on PBS, "as their deaths are confirmed and pictures become available." (Six more tonight, as I write this.)

The "deadline" (irony noted) is January 1, 2012 - it should NOT be extended.

And then we can turn our attention to getting them out of Afghanistan, too (but I don't think al-Sadr cares about that).

Monday, July 4, 2011

The vagaries of Blogger as they relate to comments here

I've said from the outset that I am strictly an amateur when it comes to this whole blogging adventure, and today that point was driven home with a vengeance when I discovered that I don't even know how to leave a "comment" on my own blog. And apparently I am not the only one who has had difficulty in this regard.

Comments, until recently, were not a concern to me because there had been none and, frankly, I didn't expect any - so no comments, no problem. That changed recently when my dear (but distant) virtual friend ACME (the subject of an earlier post) notified me by email that she had read my blog and had left a comment! But alas, the comment never appeared, at least not on this blog - I suspect it lives on in some parallel universe created by Blogger for comments that it has decided for reasons of its own are not to be posted on the intended blog. And so ACME lost forever the opportunity to be remembered as my very *first* commenter - a man's recollections of his *first* are very special and I would have loved for it to be she, but I guess it was not meant to be.

Today Blogger notified that there was a new comment on one of my posts from a while back, so I clicked on it and there it was, a very nice and interesting comment from @Deb (who by the way recently signed on as a "Follower" to this blog.) She made some lovely points in response to what I had written in the post, and I wanted to reply and tell her how much I appreciated her comment (and to let her know that SHE was my *first*.)

I composed a comment of my own in reply to @Deb - it touched on a couple of points she had made and added some new thoughts on the topic at hand. All in all I think it was a pretty good comment, one she would have enjoyed reading (and this is a bourbon-free assessment) so I felt pretty good when I hit the "Publish" button - and then a weird thing happened: I got caught in an endless loop of "Sign in to Google" (I was already signed in) and "Captcha" - there was no way to get the comment to actually post (at least not on my blog - maybe it went somewhere else.) I'm no quitter, so I tried several times and in a couple of different ways to post my comment but they all met with failure. So @Deb, I'm glad you commented and I'm sorry Blogger won't let me reply directly with some of that "wit and wisdom" that I am famous (in my own mind, at least) for. I hope you'll keep reading and commenting when you feel like it, but please don't take it personally if I don't comment back.

And ACME, you weren't the *first*, but not for lack of trying, so I hope you'll come back again and try again someday - it's always a joy to hear from you.

Patriotism and the Fourth of July

The Cryptoquote that appeared in today's paper is (probably not accidentally) particularly apropos the holiday: "Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country." It's attributed to Calvin Coolidge. Now I don't know much about the Coolidge Presidency but I think that's a pretty good quote no matter what your politics are.

Lots of people call themselves "patriots" but my sense is that many of them define the label in terms that consider their own interests over those of the nation as a whole, and they generally deny application of the label to anyone whose views may differ from their own. I've expressed my own views on divisive politics in this space before so I won't belabor the point today.

The Coolidge quote is, I think, evocative of another more famous quote by a later president, JFK - the "Ask not what your country can do for you..." speech that was such a seminal moment for the young people of my generation (well, we used to be young, anyway.) Both men were expressing a simple yet critical axiom: the interests of the nation, i.e., We the People, are greater than the interests of any of the individual citizens (we the persons?) Simple but profound, I think.

So here's my hope: That on July 4, 2011, every citizen of these United States will find a way, even if it's a very small way, to be patriotic a la Coolidge and Kennedy. Just remembering why we have the holiday to begin with might be a good place to start.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It was the whiskey talking...

I don't "do" Facebook. Oh, I have a page that I created for reasons that I have forgotten but as a rule I pretty much stay away from it. But recently a blogger I follow, Rex Parker, set up a new FB page and invited his readers to check it out, so I did, and now I go to Facebook occasionally to see what's new on his page; I've even left a couple of comments on his wall (I think that's the right term) and "Liked" some comments from others, but as a rule I'm not a fan of Facebook.

I'm not at all sure why last night I decided it would be a good idea to see if I could find an old friend of mine on FB. And by "old friend" I mean a woman with whom I had a brief but very intense "relationship" about 30 years ago. We have not exchanged a word since we parted company (amicably)way back then and I have absolutely no reason to think that she even remembers me, never mind wants to hear from me out of the blue all these years later. But I typed her name into the search box anyway, just for the heck of it, and there she was, with a recent photo and everything!

Now I've located other old friends, acquaintances and distant relatives on the Internet lots of times, just to see where they were or what they had been up to since we lost touch but I have never been tempted to actually contact them. But last night sitting there looking at her picture and remembering our time together, that "Message" button just beckoned me to use it. And so, after considerable hesitation and maybe another few sips of bourbon, I clicked on it and composed a brief yet charming and witty message and after another hesitation, and possibly a couple more sips of bourbon, I hit the "Send" button, and the deed was done.

I didn't regret it immediately, in fact I felt quite pleased with myself for the rest of the evening, confident that she would be at least amused and possibly even glad to hear from me. It wasn't until this morning that I began to have doubts as to the wisdom of what I had done. I re-read the message I had sent and while it wasn't nearly as clever or amusing as I had imagined it to be, at least it wasn't lewd, crude or obnoxious. It certainly had the potential to be at least unwelcome and maybe irritating, depending on how she remembers me and our time together, and I began to regret sending it.

I even considered sending a second message to apologize for the first but I decided against it - one intrusion into her life was bad enough and I don't want to compound the offense with a second one, no matter how well intentioned it might be. Besides, she might have had a couple of drinks when she reads the message and maybe she will think it's charming and witty, and maybe she'll want to write back - hey, it could happen! (But I doubt it - I'm pretty sure that's the whiskey talking again.)

So now I have a new addition to my "Don't drink and..." list: Don't drink and cruise FB - it can be dangerous to your social health and you never know where an ill-conceived message is going to wind up.

At least I didn't include any photos!