Friday, December 30, 2016

Let's talk about Christmas Loot

Here's what I got for Christmas:

1. Very weird, spider-like device  which holds my iPad at the perfect angle for reading, even and especially when I am enjoying my recliner. This present was purchased by my wife specifically to prevent me from hurting my neck since she is tired of hearing me whine and moan about it. So, this was a selfish gift. . .meant to make her life easier, not mine!

2. The only weakness in my palatial new library is the fact that my desk sits in the middle of the room and therefore I have no way to employ a lamp since to do so would require an electric chord running across the carpet to the plug in the wall, not only an aesthetic disaster, but a safety hazard. So, I got this beautifully sleek black lacquer battery operated lamp which responds to my touch with not one but three intensity levels of soft white light.

3. In keeping with the theme of my continually decrepit and declining body, this amazing massage machine from Brookstone is the perfect gift for any fifty something man in your life. Although it has been universally panned by both dogs in the house because of its jerky motions and low whining sound, I love the thing. I can choose not only intensity level but what type of massage I desire...tapping or shiatsu.

4. Every year I ask for a cool hat and every year I get nothin'. But this year, I got two!!

5. No Christmas would be complete without. . .toys. I prefer those that I can use to annoy the girls at work. This handy rubber band gun, (with ammo clip) and remote controlled rat will do nicely.

Remember, that Christmas isn't about stuff. And just because I got clearly cooler stuff than you did does not change that fact!

Human Nature in the Real World

It's remarkable how territorial are living things. Having two large dogs in the house this past week has been a case study in this phenomenon. When Lucy is on our bed and Jackson tries to join her up there, Lucy is transformed into this very unfamiliar snarling beast. Apparently, our bed is her space, and woe be unto the dog, no matter how lovable and well-intentioned, who dares invade it. Jackson, on the other hand, can be sitting serenely on the sofa between Jon and Kaitlin perfectly chilled and content, but if Lucy shows the slightest interest in joining them up there, Jackson perks upright and will have none of it, as if to say, "These are my people, my sofa!"

On a strangely related note, I have grown weary of the French having invaded and overrun my blog. At first it was interesting, and a little flattering, suddenly thousands of readers from a foreign country inflating my pageview numbers. But after a month and with a new record for pageviews (over 10,000 and counting in December), I have started to resent it. Who are these Frenchmen suddenly interested in the ramblings of low level American blogger who doesn't even like croissants? Are they really people or some computer hacking algorithm run amok?

The point is, dogs and people have a powerful sense of personal space and a strong, innate desire to maintain its integrity. So do nations. This is the reason why I am a strict non-interventionist when it comes to foreign policy. Every time something horrible happens anywhere in the world, there's a constituency in this country for an active, robust response. This response usually involves the use of the American military. Some photojournalist takes a picture of a dying child in Aleppo and suddenly there's a hashtag movement on Facebook demanding we do something. Some African tribal genocide breaks out in the Congo somewhere and people start clamoring for us to stop it.

But, how would we feel if the Russians or the French felt so moved to send a contingent of special forces parachuting into Chicago to put an end to the death and destruction that has plagued that beleaguered city for the last four years. I mean, enough is enough, right? How long can the civilized world stand by and watch a once great city destroy itself? The fact is, we would be enraged at such a presumptuous provocation and rightly so.

Listen, I'm no pacifist. If a country attacks us, the US, I'd be the first to demand our military defend us without mercy. But short of that, short of a direct threat to my country, I'm for staying the heck out of the rest of the world's business. Let the Syrians take care of Syria. Let the Europeans be responsible for Europe. Let the Russians mind Russia. We've got our own problems.

But Doug, but Doug, you say. The Syrian government is murdering its own people!! Yes, they are, and it's a crying shame. There's a boatload of evil in the world. The Venezuelans will soon be starving, many in Bangladesh are impossibly poor, tribal wars featuring unimaginable brutality are raging all over the continent of Africa. Should we go rescue them too? And if we do, are you prepared to obligate the United States government to the twenty year commitment of men, money and material it will take to keep the peace in each of these places? And who will bear the cost of such an opperation? The American taxpayer. You onboard for an across the board tax increase of say 25% to cover all this do-goodery? Yeah, I didn't think so.

So, my advice for His Orangeness on his first day on the job? Resist the siren call of the Empire Hawks. Let's mind our own business for a change.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas 2016 or "It's 2016, What Did You Expect?"

Christmas is a big deal in my house, primarily because it's one of two times each year where both of our kids come home at the same time. For Pam, having our kids home is her Christmas. So, what happened over the last three days will enter into the official record as reason number 2,345,631 why life isn't fair.

Late last week my wife started having cold symptoms. She immediately started taking over the counter medicines and calling on her vast resources of internal fortitude to fight the thing off before the kids got here. I've seen her do this before, steel herself against an approaching illness until some big important event had passed, then collapse in a heap after the last guest leaves. But this time, it wasn't to be. On Christmas morning, she was as sick as I have ever seen her in our nearly 35 years together. She literally could not get out of the bed. It was at this point when my daughter and her husband flipped a switch and turned into the reincarnation of Ozzie and Harriet.

There was much left to do to prepare for the big day. I still had to pick up Patrick at the airport, there was a ham to cook, a giant Greek salad to prepare, and some fancy frosting to make and spread on a gingerbread cake that Pam had prepared for the dessert table at Linda's. Meanwhile, I was upstairs trying to help Pam out of the bed so I could take her to Patient First. She was white as a ghost, weak, queasy and bitterly disappointed. I had briefed the kids on what needed to be done, relaying Pam's suggestion to forget about making the frosting since it was complicated and difficult to get right. At this point Jon pops into the room to inform us that he had looked at the recipe and not to worry...I've got this. By the time I got Pam downstairs and into the car, Kaitlin was slicing up the vegetables for the salad like it was her job. I had followed the directions for cooking the ham with my usual only passing relationship with the facts, thrown the thing in the oven and hoped for the best.

Patient First wasn't very crowded, thankfully so they took Pam straight back. Immediately, the dopey doctor diagnosed her with that catch-all, go-to diagnosis for anyone who comes in with cold symptoms in the winter...bronchitis. Z-Pak was passed out along with a cough suppressant. When we got back to the house, Jon had made good on his frosting boast. . .the cake looked beautiful. The Greek salad would have made Zeus proud, and they were in the process of cleaning the kitchen.

Then, I got Pam back in bed and rushed over to the airport to pick up my son. By the time I returned, the ham was out of the oven, all the presents and food had been packed into the car and we were all ready to head over to Linda's. . . without Pam. Yes, my wife spent all of Christmas Day in bed feeling like the ghost of Christmas past.

The next day, our story takes a positive turn. We had planned for December 26 to be our Christmas Day. Pam woke up feeling much better. She was able to get out of bed, move around like a normal person, and enjoy most of the day. She still felt like someone with a cold, but not like a person with the flu from hell. We had our day together and it was fabulous. I was starting to believe we were past the worst of it. Incorrect.

Yesterday, Pam was back to looking like an extra in Revenge of the Zombie Apocalypse. By 9:30 the two of us were at the WestCreek ER. The doctor there, a real doctor, could not have been nicer or more thorough. He very much doubted the bronchitis diagnosis of our doc-in-a-box quack, calling it a virus instead. What had made her symptoms so much worse on the alternating days might have been the cough medicine she had taken on those days. She might have been having a reaction to the medicine, who knows?  Regardless, Pam's last day with her kids was spent at a hospital.

By yesterday evening, Jon and Kaitlin had left for Maryland to visit his family, and I had taken Patrick to the airport and put him on a plane to Nashville. So, Pam got one day with the kids and two days sick as a dog in bed. Nice.

So, Christmas 2016 won't be making many appearances in any future Christmas highlight reels. On
the other hand, we had one really nice day and it's not like anyone has cancer or anything. Pam will eventually recover, and we will find a way to laugh about all of this one day.

2016. Psshhtt!!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Silent Night, Bloody Night

"48 shot, 11 killed over the Christmas weekend in Chicago."

"Fights break out at malls across United States."

"Massive brawls, food-court fights played out at over a dozen malls from New Jersey to Colorado."

It would appear that there isn't much Peace on Earth, and very little Good Will Toward Men out there this year. This isn't Trump. This has nothing to do with Obama or Clinton. This isn't politics. This is a people who have lost our way. To read these stories, to watch the jumpy videos, to hear the unhinged madness is to be profoundly embarrassed for my country. It's as if the emptiness that follows materialism produces the very worst in us. After the presents, after the pile of gifts has been opened, there's a giant "is this all there is?" moment released throughout the land. And this is the result. . .violence, rage, and ultimately. . .death. Silent Night, bloody night. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

ZICAM, baby!!

Yesterday morning about this time I felt as if I had swallowed a box of razor blades. I drank coffee, and popped three Advil and hoped for the best. After a full house cleaning, I started feeling the first wave of achiness that usually accompanies the worst colds. At that point I was resigned to my fate. . .  a Christmas cold.

But then, just like in all of those horrible Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, I received my Christmas miracle! No, I did not suddenly meet and fall in love with a beautiful single mother and her adorably precocious child just in time to rescue her from being evicted by her evil Scrooge of an absentee landlord who actually turned out to be her long lost father. Nope. On the advice of my wife and sister, I went to the store and bought some ZICAM.  Beginning at noon, I placed a dissolvable cherry flavored pill on my tongue every three hours until bedtime. Actually, although the bottle assured me that the pills were cherry flavored, in reality this could be true only if the cherries in question had first been soaked in sour milk and three week old cabbage in a giant pot with the old dirty sneakers of the Harlem Globetrotters. . . but that's not important now. . . what's important is the fact that my throat feels perfectly normal, I no longer ache, and I am ready for Christmas!!

On a completely unrelated note, my blog just set an all time record for page views in a single month (7291), even though there are eight more days left. Vive la France!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Car Trouble. Merry Christmas to me!

Nothing quite gets you in the mood to celebrate the birth of our Lord like car trouble. Pam walks in the door yesterday after a trip out to see her mother with news of a whining noise coming from her car, the volume of which increased with the speed of the vehicle. Driving around Short Pump it was hardly noticeable, she explained, but when she got up to cruising speed on 295 the offending noise became loud and troubling. Maybe I should look into it, she suggested. So today, I'll be driving it into Axselle's and hoping for the best.

Her car is a 2006(?) Chrysler Pacifica with a mere 122,000 miles on the odometer. It's been a great ride and has given us very little trouble. We aren't big car people. I drive a 2008 Cadillac CTS with 85,000 miles on it. Before that, I drove a Chrysler Sebring convertible until it literally blew up in the parking lot of my office after 190,000 miles of service. I only bought Pam her Pacifica after her previous car bit the dust on a trip to Nashville eight years ago. Yeah, we kinda drive 'em till they drop around here. Hopefully the Pacifica will survive whatever is wrong with her. I really hate to buy cars. Worst. Investment. Ever.

On a side note, my wife put up a beautiful Christmas tree in my library. She decorated it in gold and silver, with ornaments that accent the room. It's gorgeous and I love it. But, there's a problem. She's got the thing hooked up to one of those automatic timer things. It cuts on at exactly 7 am, and shuts down at midnight or something. The thing is. . . every single time the thing switches itself on it scares the crap out of me. I'm sitting at my desk reading and all of a sudden I hear a buzzy snap and light jumps out of the corner. It startles me every time!! You'de think I would get used to it by now. I'm not sure what this has to do with car trouble, but, it's my blog and I can write about anything I choose.

They held the Electoral College vote yesterday and Hillary lost AGAIN!!!! That poor woman. This is getting embarrassing.

See what I mean? My blog. Any topic I want!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Battle Stations, Everybody!

Ok ladies and gentlemen, the week of Christmas is finally here. It's time to brace yourself, brew some strong coffee and gird those loins. There's some major work left to do at the Dunnevant house and only a few days left to do it. A short list:

1. Wrap presents. Our dining room looks like an Amazon warehouse after a conveyor belt malfunction. Boxes strewn about everywhere with piles of large plastic shopping bags littering the floor. Pam assures me that the piles are not haphazard. There is a plan, a method to the chaos. I will not question my wife on this matter. It is December the 19th and I only look like an idiot.

2. Christmas baking. I'm not talking about the romanticized Hollywood version where grandma makes sugar cookies while the grandkids look on with enraptured fascination. No, no. . .at the Dunnevant house its more like a shift change at the Little Debbie plant where management has just announced a production contest whereby whichever crew pumps out 50,000 Christmas Tree Cakes in the next hour gets to keep their jobs. Pumpkin bread and molasses crinkles have to made people and woe be unto anyone who gets in my wife's way. My job? Grab dirty pots and pans and wash them without being asked for once!

3. Set up the Christmas village. Ok, what's wrong with this picture?

I'll tell you what's wrong. Everything. That's what! Three houses have no one home since the lights are out. There's no snow, no Christmas lights, no kids frolicking in the front yards having a snowball fight. There are even Fall leaves in the trees for crying out loud!! If I didn't know better, I would swear this was a Jewish neighborhood where everyone had left town to winter in Miami! This will not do. The Christmasification of the fireplace insert community must begin at once! This will involve several trips to the garage and attic to fetch the winter improvements from their hiding places, and my wife standing on a kitchen chair assembling it all with a perfectionist architect's eye for detail. Her suburban renewal project will be complete roughly 8 hours later.

4. Jackson-proofing the house. In a couple of days my daughter, her husband and their awesome dog, Jackson will arrive. This means that the kid wing of our house must be properly prepared. Every square inch must be cleaned, vacuumed, and fluffed. Barricades must be erected throughout the house to better accommodate pet traffic flow. All dog feces must be gathered from the back yard to make room for the deluge to come. All knickknackery at swinging tail level must be raised to higher ground. Then, and only then then will our house be ready for this guy.

5. Social calendar event planning schedule syncing. It's not easy getting everyone in our large and rambling family on the same page during the Christmas season. But Pam will get it done. All of us will get Google-doc invitations to the various engagements for the week. There's the Christmas Eve-Eve service at Hope, the Christmas Eve service at Grove, the dinner reservation at a restaurant to be named later at some time between 7:15 and 9:00 on one of those nights. We have to pick up Patrick at the airport at noon on Christmas Day and be at Linda's by 2:00 for lunch and presents, then at Russ and VI's by 7:00 in the evening for dessert and more presents.

Feliz Navidad.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

How Many Frenchmen Does It Take To. . ?

The Tempest has been overrun by...the French. 

About a month ago I started noticing an odd spike in visitor traffic from France. This happens from time to time, for reasons that escape me, suddenly I'll get 25 pageviews from Norway or someplace. Sometimes it can be traced back to some crack I made in a past blog about, oh, I don't know. . .how ugly the Norwegian Olympic uniforms look and some defensive guy in Oslo does a Google search and bam!! But this French thing is different. For the past week I've had more pageviews from France than any country including the United States. So, I have started going back through recent posts trying to figure out what has attracted all of this Gallic attention.

As my kids will tell you, I'm not above throwing shade on other countries by rolling out the occasional xenophobic joke. Of course, the French are a target rich environment for such humor what with their perfumes, cheeses, and taste for. . . how shall I say. . .the effeminate. Maybe I had used that great old joke about the advertisement which appeared in a NRA magazine describing a French infantry rifle from WWII for sale.."In mint condition. Never been fired. Only thrown down twice!" Or maybe I had made some crack about their lack of athletic prowess..."What do you call a Frenchman in the knockout stages of the World Cup? A referee." Or maybe I had cast aspirations on the French character with that old classic, "Why wasn't Jesus born in France? Couldn't find three wise men or a virgin" But no, I have searched my recent blogs in vain for anti-French references. So, why in the name of Joan of Ark has my blog been viewed over 3000 times by Frenchmen in the last month?

It's probably some robo-phishing scammy sort of thing. The Tempest was quite popular with the Russians a while back, but after a few months it faded. Nothing like this French thing though. It's kinda creepy and I'm not sure why. I mean, I've got nothing against the French. They loaned us Lafayette, after all. . . and there's the whole Statue of Liberty thing. And, who doesn't like French Fries? Still, when I see all of these French pageviews of any blog I write that has anything to do with Trump, it gives me pause.

Ok, more. What happens when a Frenchmen jumps off a bridge in Paris? He is declared in Seine.

Friday, December 16, 2016

My 2016 Photograph

Here's an interesting challenge for this frigid Friday morning. What one photograph would you pick to summarize the year 2016?

Now that virtually everyone carries smart phones around, we all take a million pictures. I'm old enough to remember being very judicious about picture taking. You would only take pictures of the really important stuff of life. Then you would take the rolls to the drug store to have them developed. Several days later and at considerable expense you would get them back only to discover that half of them were either out of focus or over exposed. It was always a crapshoot. Now, it's all a digital miracle where each picture is instant and photoshopped to make you look ten years younger. But. . . if you had to pick one, just one from your 2016 pile to immortalized your year, which would it be? For me it's easy. . .

No pictures of Trump or Clinton. No photographs of stuff. This is the one for me. It's the moment that I will remember thirty years from now if I am still living. It's the feeling, really. I'm at peace with my world. The day was sunny bright. It was mid-morning. I was fishing. Lucy was fascinated by it all. Up the hill behind me, Pam was probably sitting on the porch drinking her coffee, reading a book, when she glanced up and saw us down on the dock. The fact that she thought to take this picture tells you everything you need to know about her. She knows me, knows what makes me happy, understands the power of the quiet moment and appreciates those moments and the eternal power they possess. So, she took a second to snap this picture, to capture it all.

I didn't see it until much later, after we had returned home. It was an incredible moment. The adjustment back to our real life had not been going well when I first saw it and for one glorious minute, I was transported back to that magical moment from that magical month in Maine. I smiled. I smile every time I look at it. This is the thing I will recall about 2016 when I have grown too old to walk around outside without a shirt. . . the beautiful feeling of peace and contentment in the warm sun on that dock in July, 2016.

What about you? What's your picture? Share it with me. I'd love to see.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How About You?

 I'm holding my loved ones a bit closer this Christmas. How about you?

- I flip through a slideshow of photographs of the victims of Sandy Hook on the fourth anniversary of their murders, see the precious, shining faces upturned and full of mischief and try to imagine the pain and emptiness felt by their parents.

- I watch a video and read the story of the people in Aleppo, the barbaric, wholesale slaughter being inflicted on that ancient city. I try to imagine what the suffering is like. I ponder the despair and simply cannot fathom it from the comfort and ease of my fine library.

- I hear the story from a colleague about one of his clients, 62 years old, suddenly stricken with cancer, dead in six months. The loss changes my friend, rearranges his priorities. Why kill yourself working and saving for some distant retirement when all of this can be taken from us in an instant?

- I think about my friend, about my age, whose beautiful and spirited wife fell ill after their return from a Greek vacation. A doctor's visit revealed cancer, tumors everywhere. I see the pictures of the radiation treatments beginning, with chemo to follow, their lives turned upside down in the blink of an eye. I try to imagine what must be going through my friend's mind and I simply cannot because thus far in life I have not had to endure such a thing.

So, I plan on holding my loved ones a bit closer this Christmas. How about you?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Surviving Trump

Another day, and my Facebook feed is once again filled with the horrified screeds of my liberal friends, predicting all manner of cataclysms about to befall us at the dawn of the Trump administration. It's like reading The Guardian in the days leading up to the Brexit vote, only more unhinged. If my friends are to be believed, my country is about to be plunged into the dystopian abyss. In the terrifying days to come we should expect the four horsemen of the apocalypse to storm into every city, town and hamlet throughout the Republic, bespoiling our drinking water, polluting our air, going house to house dragging illegal immigrants through the streets behind them, all the while forcing every recently married gay couple to return all of their wedding presents. While we're all distracted by this spectacle, Trump will appoint some knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing evangelical to the Supreme Court, force every foreign dignitary visiting Washington to stay at his Hotel, and shutter the offices of The New York Times, CNN and MSNBC. And all of this on day one of his administration, angels and ministers of grace protect us from what he has planned for day two!!

In their defense, most of the folks most worried about Trump are of an age where their only memory of a modern President is Obama, who most of the time, especially between his election and first inauguration, was lavished with unvarnished praise by the press. They've never experienced a truly adversarial press openly hostile to a President, elect or otherwise. Those of us a bit older are used to it, having seen similar treatment of both Ronald Reagan and George Bush. I remember quite well the horror stories from the New York Times about the catastrophies to come after the American people rejected their choice, Jimmy Carter for a mere, B actor. Yep, we were headed straight for hell and whatever happened was our own damned fault for rejecting their advice!! With the election of Obama in 2008 we were congratulated for ushering in a post-racial America. All would be sweetness and light now that we had ushered in the new progressive century!

But now, suddenly, just like that. . .the press has rediscovered it's roll as truth speaker to power. No longer will they cheerlead the new President. Now it's time for war. The Fourth Estate no longer has much of an appetite for long, loving puff pieces about the incoming chief executive. The Atlantic will probably not run any sappy love poems to our new Messiah.

Granted, Trump makes it easy for them. For an angry, rejected press he is a target-rich environment. My personal optimism level for the success of his presidency lies somewhere between skeptical and resigned. As I have written a million times, I am convinced that the man is the most ill-suited for the Presidency by way of temperament and experience of any other in my lifetime. So why am I not as hysterically terrified as my liberal friends? It's simple.

Having lived 58 years in America has its advantages. For one thing, long ago I was disabused of the notion that any single man, any single President had the power to bend this unruly country to his will.  Our founders were, in fact, geniuses in this regard. Presidents are confounded at every turn, much to the frustration of his partisans. There's the Machiavellian quagmire of Congress. There's the stubborn, entrenched bureaucratic engine that powers government at the various departments, agencies and bureaus. Their employees are neither republican or democrat. . .they all belong to the government party and they have never lost an election! They survive every administration, and Trump's will be no different. There are the lifetime appointed judges sprinkled throughout the judiciary who will be hostile to him. Even our most masterful Presidents, like FDR and Reagan, were only able to ram through parts of their agenda. Ours is often an unwieldy beast of a government, unresponsive and plodding. When your guy loses, this is a great and mighty comfort.

So, to my liberal friends, let not your hearts be troubled. We will survive Trump. And when we do, how about we finally give my fellow Virginian, James Madison his due?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

So Geeked!!!

Huge day yesterday. Almost finished my Christmas shopping, and booked a cabin for our Maine 2017 adventure. To celebrate, Pam made homemade clam chowder for dinner. While I am getting excited about Christmas, words simply cannot express how geeked out I am about Maine.

Our first extended Maine vacation was last year on Hobbs Pond. Four weeks. We had never stayed more than ten days before. It was fabulous, so much so that we decided that we would go the extended route forevermore. This year it will be only three weeks because 2017 is also the year of the Dunnevant/Roop/Schwartz biennial beach week at the Outer Banks and. . . well, I have to work at some point.

The place we chose is called Loon Landing. It sits at the water's edge of a lake we haven't visited yet called Quantabacook. It's about 20-25 minutes from Camden, so a bit further inland. Since this year we won't be having the kids joining us, we didn't need such a big house. This one has room for six, but is much smaller. The cool thing though is the fact that the main house by the lake (the deck is five steps from the water), is where the master bedroom is, while the guest rooms are in a guest cottage about 100 feet behind. Lucy is going to love this place since it features a ten foot wide sandy beach, a rarity in Maine, which provides easy walk-in access to the water. Although, knowing her, she will probably insist on running down the dock and jumping in since that's way more fun!

Once we picked out Loon Landing, it took us an hour to decide between two options for when! It would have to be either June 9-30 or September 8-29. This is where my wife's amazing eye for detail made an appearance. Somehow she found some site that published the daily temperatures of the area for every single day for the past three years. Immediately, she started spreadsheeted the thing in her head:

Pam: Ok, in 2015 for the three weeks in question, for the June option there were 14 days in the 70's in June and only 13 in September. In 2016, those numbers were flipped. However, the low temperatures for June were a bit lower than for September. As far as rain is concerned....

This went on for quite a while as I stared at her, mouth agape in wonderment. Ultimately, we chose the September option. It won't be as crowded, and if it's been a hot summer and it's a cool September in Maine, maybe we will be tired of the heat and won't mind it so much. On the other hand, there was a day last year in September where the fine folks in Camden, Maine were treated to a rare day in the 90's. So, it's a crapshoot.

I am already anticipating a potential problem. The first week in October at Loon Landing is wide open. . .

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Right Stuff

I was only four years old when he became famous by orbiting the Earth in Friendship 7. I remember nothing about it. But later in elementary school, I would learn about John Glenn courtesy of a Weekly Reader article. Along with millions of my fellow grade schoolers, I became obsessed with this hero and determined that I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. Eventually my desire for a career of space travel waned, but my admiration of John Glenn remained. Yesterday came word that the great man had passed away at age 95.

When I was in college, I was introduced to someone who would become one of my favorite writers, Tom Wolfe, by his great novel, The Right Stuff. I read the thing twice. There he was again, front and center. . .John Glenn, hero. He ran for President in 1984. It didn't work out. Accomplished, gallant, heroic, intelligent John Glenn, Marine Fighter pilot in WWII and Korea with 59 combat missions to his credit, insanely brave test pilot, first American to orbit the planet and only then becoming a U.S. Senator, lost to Walter Mondale, a waxy career politician with a history of accomplishing absolutely nothing, proving that politics doesn't reward virtue.

John Glenn was a throwback to what the founders imagined public servants would be. After a life of accomplishment, uncommon valor, and character proven by the crucible of life, a man(or woman) would then proceed to dedicate the last chapters of their lives to serving the republic by going to Washington to bring their proven talents to bear solving the nation's problems. No longer. Now, the preferred path seems to be, go to law school, get a job working as an aid for some congressman for a couple of years, then maybe take a couple more years hacking for some lobbyist so you can check the private sector box off the old resume, then cash in your chips with the party by running for Congress, all before your 35th birthday. The Wrong Stuff.

A few years ago I read a biography of the greatest hitter who ever lived, Ted Williams.  The Splendid Splinter didn't come off well. Although a gifted athlete, Williams was a classic jerk. Even though I knew this about him, it was still disappointing to have it confirmed. But, in the book I learned that when Williams was flying combat missions in Korea, he served as the wing man for. . . John Glenn.

From the time I was a 5th grader until yesterday, John Glenn has never disappointed.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A President Who Tweets

I haven't had much to say of late about politics in general or Trump in particular. It's not because nothing of interest has happened but rather because I'm not sure what to say. How does one respond to a President-Elect who tweets? The whole scene right now is in many ways incomprehensible to me, there being no precedent for it. Can you imagine what would have happened if Franklin Roosevelt had Twitter??..."I will crush the Imperial Navy of Japan and repay the yellow, shanty-eyed nips for this dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor, this I can promise you. Sad."

Although our soon to be President has done plenty that I disagree with, and even more that baffles me, he has done one thing that I LOVED. When he tweeted out his public shaming of Boeing for the cost overruns on Air Force One, I was jubilant. Let me explain.

Now, I am fully aware that whenever His Orangeness spouts numbers, one always has to take it with a pound of salt, and maybe in this case he didn't have all the facts. Stunned, I know! However, I cannot possible describe for you the visceral joy it brought me to hear somebody, anybody in Washington finally actually LOOK AT A BILL AND QUESTION IT!!!!!! When the government buys anything, it always ends up costing ten times what the projections were. It's like inefficiency and incompetence are baked into the cake. (See: $30,000 toilets, Pentagon). Say what you will about Trump, but the man has a knack for bringing huge complicated projects in on time and under budget, (It helps when your bribe and favor currying budget is large and liquid). Still, if this guy finally puts an end to the bloated, featherbedding, bill padding ripoff that is government contracting, he will have done this republic a huge favor and we will be forever in his debt.

Of course, that assumes we still have a republic by the time he's through. . .but that's a subject for another day. But, for me, the Boeing tweet has been the high water mark of his bizarre first month as President-Elect, with the selection of Mad Dog Mattis as Secretary of Defense a close second. Literally everything else has been a cross between The Twilight Zone and Celebrity Apprentice.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Its a Wonderful Life. . .a review.

Watched It's a Wonderful Life for the fiftieth time last night after a day of tree decorating. Just a few random observations about this classic film:

1. Early on life wasn't so wonderful for twelve year old George Bailey as we see him working for the local pharmacist (hello child labor!), and getting slapped around by his drunk boss (assault and battery).

2. On the bright side, how tough could life have been for a kid growing up in a town that had such an awesome frozen pond to slide around on with a shovel for a sled??

3. How great was Lionel Barrymore as Potter? Best line? After George gives that passionate defense of the Building and Loan and its role as lender of last resort of the lower classes to the board of directors, Barrymore bellows, "Sentimental hogwash!!!"

4. This is the sort of film that all the smart kids in your film studies class hated. I can just hear some patchy bearded guy wearing a beret and sporting a Che Guevara t-shirt opining,"This film was a disaster for the ethos of urban life what with the horrible precedent set by Bailey Park!! Besides, Pottersville was a far more diverse and culturally interesting place!"

5. When Donna Reed, wearing only a bath robe with the moonlight shining on her face is asked by George Bailey how old she is. . .who on earth believes that she is 18??

6. Everytime I watch this movie I wait for it, the epic tight shot of George and Mary sharing the telephone as they talk with Sam Wainright from New York. He's trying to get George in on the ground floor of plastics, but no one can take their eyes off of George and Mary actually falling in love before our eyes. I'm not sure Hollywood has ever produced a sexier, more evocative scene before or since.

7. Favorite line of the film for me comes after the suicide attempt at the bridge when they are drying out around the wood stove. Clarence reminds George that they don't have any need for money in heaven. George deadpans, "Yeah? Well, it comes in pretty handy down here!"

But, as wonderful and enjoyable as this picture is, once again, I wasn't around for the credits. First of all, I know how it ends but mostly, Frank Capra needed a better editor. Way. Too. Long. Pam asked a rhetorical question as we watched, "I wonder why nobody has ever made a remake of this movie?"  The answer is, people from Hollywood today much prefer Pottersville to Bedford Falls. So, if any big shot producers from tinsel town ever happen to stumble onto this blog. . .PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't remake this film!!!!!!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My Assistant

Long time readers know of my unfortunate past history of making people cry over the telephone. As I have matured over the years I have shown great improvement in this area. It's actually been years since some home office service flunky has provoked me into a sharp-tongued, sarcasm filled rage, I'm proud to say. With age has come some measure of restraint. Not so with my highly skilled, no nonsense administrative assistant, whose name I will withhold, (but her initials are Kristin Reihl).

Yesterday it was time to place my yearly order with Harry and David. I send out thank you gifts to my best and most loyal clients, and also a few family members. I turned over this always frustrating job to Kristin because that's essentially what I do...anything unpleasant winds up on her desk. Why she continues to stay in my employ is a mystery. Anyway, I walked into her office while she was thirty minutes in to this task and she had already dispatched two female incompetents, and was now mixing it up with a male manager. He was getting both barrels:

Kristin: You're not giving me an answer, I need an answer! Why, if It says free freaking shipping are you charging me $10.34 for shipping? What about my problem do you not understand??

I slowly backed out of her office supremely grateful that I don't work at Harry and David. Thirty minutes later I cautiously returned when I saw that she was no longer on the phone. Her back was to me but she somehow sensed that I had entered:

Kristin: Do not say anything to me right now or I will say something mean to you!

Once again, I backed away. Kristin is a redhead. You know what they say about redheads. . .when they warn you that they might be mean to you, they're not messing around. I scampered back to my office. Ultimately, the order was placed sans the offending shipping charges. No doubt, several service employees with barely understandable accents were in tears at Harry and David headquarters. Kristin had still not calmed down completely..."It was like talking to complete idiots!!"

So, a few minutes after she left, I also headed to the parking lot to leave. She always parks right beside my car. This is what I found:

Yep. This is her briefcase containing her laptop computer and other valuables sitting innocently on the pavement. I took a picture and texted it to her with this carefully worded comment: " Hey sunshine, forget something?" Luckily, she hadn't driven all the way home but had stopped at Trader 
Joe's. Of course, all was well. . . But now I had a very valuable photograph and an embarrassing story to tell at her expense. I then told her a bald face lie: " I promise not to put this picture on Facebook and I probably won't write a blog about it."

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Carrier Deal

Let me begin this blogpost with an apology to any of you who hate economics. I do too, actually. But, every once in a while something happens which forces me, kicking and screaming, to examine the murky world of tax and spending policy, subjects about which I am certainly no expert. So, much of what follows may sound contradictory. Welcome to the counter intuitive Fun House ride at the Washington DC fair!

The big story yesterday was Trump "saving 1000 jobs" at an Indiana Carrier factory, jobs that had been slated for outsourcing to Mexico. There was the President-Elect standing in front of jubilant Carrier employees, already making good on campaign promises, fifty full days before taking office. Details of the deal he made with Carrier were not released, but tax relief of some kind was offered to the company as an inducement to keep the jobs stateside, no doubt. Thus began a firestorm of thoughts and feelings inside my head. First, it's almost impossible not to be happy for the men and women whose jobs got saved. Imagine how terrible it would be to be entering the Christmas season knowing that you were headed for the unemployment line in January? So, lots of happy thoughts. But then I start thinking about...the deal. Reports were that tax incentives worth nearly $800 per job were given to Carrier. Here's where the murky starts.

Our nation has both a unbalanced budget problem and a national debt problem. That means that the $800 in taxes per saved job not paid by Carrier will either have to be paid for by someone else or will simply make both of the aforementioned problems worse. The someone else in my last sentence might end up being Carrier's competitors like Trane, York, or Bryant. I wonder how those three companies felt hearing the news that their number one competitor just got wheelbarrow's full of cash from the government? I suppose the lost revenue from this deal could be made up by simply cutting spending by the exact amount of the lost revenue...but who am I kidding? That conservatives would be hailing this as some sort of victory for America is odd since what it looks like to me is government putting its awkward thumb on the scales, the very definition of crony capitalism. Many of the same conservatives gleeful over this deal were furious when Obama did the same thing for Solyndra. Granted, Carrier is a profitable company which makes stuff people actually want to buy, whereas Solyndra did neither, but the principle is the same.

Soon another head scratcher will come to pass. When Trump announces his infrastructure stimulus plan, I assume that conservative Republicans will approve the plan no matter how much new debt it piles on top of the 20 trillion we already have. Suddenly, government spending money it first has to borrow will be ok again. My son will once again ask me why the national debt is such an awful thing since, "nobody on either side is talking about it." And I will be left with nothing to say except, at some point 20 trillion dollars in debt has to be serviced and you keep adding to it and one day it's going to wipe you out. To which, big government types counter with, "Oh yeah???" as they crank up the money printing machine at Treasury.

It's not that I want jobs to go to Mexico or anyplace else for that matter. But how is it a good thing to bribe someone to do something with money you don't have? And where does the bribing stop? If you decide as a country to erect barriers to the free flow of capital, you ultimately wind up with...Cuba, right?

But, what do I know?