The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Boredom Sets in

Here it is Tuesday morning and I am bored silly. Ok, I am often silly and often bored but rarely both. The Hard Rock Cafe Hotel and Casino in Biloxi is a nice place. Poorly laid out but still nice.

You enter in the front if you want valet parking (free except for tip) or on the east end if you want to dent your own car and keep the tip for yourself. If you park yourself in the nice multi-tiered covered parking, you take the elevator down to the casino level (the first floor which is actually one floor above street level) and then cross over to the west side of the block long building to the registration desk. This is where you are told your room is not ready and it will be ready at the guaranteed time of 4 PM. (and not one minute before, they do not tell you). Continue west and turn south and you can walk the half block back to the casino. There, you can waste the hour or so until your room is ready at a rate of about $30 an hour on the slots, somewhat higher on the blackjack or roulette tables (unless you are lucky) and even higher at the craps tables (no one is lucky there).

When you finally get to your room, however, you will find it looks exactly like the pictures on the website. There was no distortion to make it look bigger than it actually is. The only drawback is there is no in-room mini-fridge. Well, there is but it is full of highly over-priced sodas and beer and wine.

The erupting coffee maker was a plus. I don't drink the in-room coffee (it's always too weak) but I do heat water in it to have an after dinner tea (green tea with honey and ginseng). Maybe it wouldn't have splashed out of the lid as it bubbled and boiled if there was a coffee packet in it. Quite entertaining.

I think there's a rule in resort areas regarding air conditioning. It says something like "Set the thermostat to slightly above freezing." I don't know about other people but I do not carry a jacket when heading to a resort by the Gulf coast in the summer. I should know better since I grew up in a south Florida and used to hang out at the hotels. I could use a sweater.

I am almost looking forward to the drive home. Almost. I am definitely looking forward to being home.

I did take a few pics this morning...

A little wood sculpture on US Hwy 90 using trees damaged by hurricane Katrina.

The view from the parking garage at the Hard Rock Cafe Casino.

The view from our window at the Hard Rock Cafe Hotel.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Still on The Road

Last night, I tried to take a shower to clean away the road from body and mind. I should have known better.

I have stayed in Hyatt Regencies in nice rooms where the maids leave a mint on your pillow after turning down your blanket. I have stayed in old, but well kept and appointed, hotels with huge rooms. I have stayed in hotels with tiny rooms where even non-claustrophobics would have issues. I have stayed in ratty little cabins in rustic places, cheap seedy hotels with indifferent desk clerks behind cages for protection, surprisingly nice little places that one didn't expect, and small chains and large. They all had one thing in common...

Showers designed for midgets little people. Look, I am not tall. I stand 5' 11" more or less. This is not tall, folks. So tell me why I have to bend over backwards, awkwardly leaning my head back to wash my hair? I shudder to think what my father had to tolerate as a 6'4" adult who traveled regularly as a salesman.

Do the people who build these motels and hotels think the average person is only 5' tall?

We traveled well today. A breakfast at a Village Inn got us started in a place called Milton or maybe Pace, it isn't clear. The food was acceptable and the coffee effective which all that matters. A pleasant ride along the Escambia River (which leads, not surprisingly, to Escambia Bay). I should have stopped and taken a picture or two. Beautiful homes, with one exception, lined the bluffs along the river. the one exception was a garish castle-like monstrosity. These were not inexpensive houses, why would anyone build a structure that blended a Moorish castle with pop art is beyond me.

And then we made it to Battleship Park. I took a few pictures but they didn't turn out so well. I am obviously not a photographer. I managed to get Faye to climb down and up ladders (that's what the Navy calls "stairs") from one end of the ship to the other. Well, not really. Only around the middle third of the ship. But we went all the way down to the engine room and back up, with a couple of side trips up and down and climbing in and out of one of the massive 16"-.45 gun mounts.

She's exhausted. Not enough to keep her from the slot machines here at the Hard Rock Cafe in Biloxi but tired nonetheless.

I slipped upstairs to the room to post this. She will never know. Nice rooms, by the way. Much nicer than I expected.

Tomorrow I will go play golf. It's cheaper than gambling.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On The Road to Biloxi

Ah, the first day on the road. We left home at noon and drove and drove and drove and drove until we almost reached Pensacola. I think we are just east of Pensacola. It's hard to tell because it is dark.

We traveled back in time. The clock in the car says it is an hour later than it is here. So, instead of driving for almost 9 hours, apparently only 8 have passed. It still feels like 9 hours, though.

Tomorrow we get up when we wake, go find breakfast, then head for Mobile and the battleship Alabama. Yes, I talked her into it. She has never been on a battleship.

This time, I will take more pictures... maybe better ones. I took none today. There wasn't much of interest. Same old roads, same old toll booths, same old trucks and cars and motorcycles dodging each other and heading for who knows where. We came upon an accident, though, so the dodging wasn't successful.

It appeared to involve a full size sedan, a compact car, and a semi. I did not see any damage to the semi so he may have just stopped to provide assistance. The compact car was rear ended, clearly. But high up, the back bumper appeared to be undamaged. The tail lights were crushed. The full size sedan was damaged in the back and th efront was crushed and embedded in the guardrail on the right side of the road, some 20 feet or so off the Interstate.

I have no idea what happened but it looked really bad for that sedan.

Drive careful, ok?

On the Road Again...

I will be out of the office for the next few days. This is not a license to play, I want to find there has been some serious reading of the blogs while I am gone. We must keep our productivity up.

Yes, it is time once again to take a little mini-vacation. From what, I am not sure. After all, being retired means I have no workplace to go to, no scheduled demands upon my time, no deadlines to meet, no boss (except Faye, of course), and no paycheck.

I will be doing much the same as I do at home. Play a little golf, lay around, sleep, eat and drink. Except I will be doing this in Biloxi, MS instead of Sebring, FL. I will also add in some gambling. At home, my gambling is confined to the stock market (and quite limited... I am no "day trader") but Biloxi offers some good old fashioned gambling; blackjack, poker, craps (the only game I think is suitably named), and slot machines.

Have you noticed that slot machines have no coin slots anymore? Now, you put paper money or tickets into those bill readers. They also have no handles to pull. Our grandchildren will wonder why they are called "on armed bandits" by their elders. Now, all you have to do is push a button (or touch a spot on the screen). The noise is all phony, emulating the old mechanical sounds the that used to emanate from the machines as the wheels spun and the lemons popped up. There is even an emulated sound of coins falling into the tray (which is nowhere to be found on the newest machines) when you win.

It is kind of sad.

To get to Biloxi, we merely head north until we hit the major east-west interstate and head west. It is extremely difficult to get lost. Along the way, we will be passing that battleship again, the USS Alabama, and I may convince Faye to explore with me this time. She might find it interesting since her father served on one and was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Or not... it does involve a lot of climbing up and down.

The weather appears to be good, according to the forecasts, so the trip should be smooth. Not counting the bad drivers. Or the pesky police.

I will try to post about our adventures. If we actually have any. And about any interesting things we run across on our trip.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hey! I'm Talking to You!

According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 75% of adults say Americans are getting ruder. I am not so sure. I think Americans have always been quite rude and I see no increase in that regard. Oddly, 10% say Americans are getting nicer while 15% aren't sure.

I have to disagree with that 10% and shake my head at that 15%. Why do we have so many that cannot get a clue? I mean, this is opinion and they have none. I might get a little rude with them. All they were asked to do is think about the interactions they have had with other Americans and form an opinion.

According to this report, 75% Say Americans Are Getting Ruder, there's a lot of rudeness out there and it is growing daily.

Contrary to popular belief, the rudest folks I have come into contact with have been those laid back Californians (L.A. area, northern Californians were generally nice). And, oddly enough, the friendliest I have met have been New Yorkers.

It's really all about who considers himself more important than anyone else. And we all know people like that. We may all feel that way occasionally. The truly rude feel that way all the time. We also refer to these people as celebrities.

And, to be fair, I don't mind a little rudeness now and then. Sometimes it is justified. People who are rude deserve a response in kind. I have often been quite willing to do that. I have had people be rude to me when I have perhaps stepped out of line. My skin is pretty thick, I can handle it.

However, I absolutely hate rudeness is when it is directed toward customers. I don't care how rude the customer gets, it is much better to treat him (or her) in a gentle manner. It will help reduce the tension, calm the customer, and de-escalate the situation. Or, failing that, drive the rude boor crazy. I especially like the latter.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Late Night Boredom

I am probably going to tick some people off today. so, let me apologize in advance. It's insincere, of course, but I feel I have to make that effort.

I don't watch late night television as a rule. I am usually in bed by the time the news comes on at 11. The local news is annoying and trivial and mostly about the area where the station is (some 80-100 miles away) so I got out of the habit of watching that a long time ago.

But last night I watched David Letterman's opening monologue. I have never been so unamused by a monologue in my life. Really. This is important because I have always found something to laugh at with even the worst comedian's routines. I mean, there is always something. Even if it's by accident; a slip of the tongue, a gaff of some sort, a heckle from the audience. Not for Letterman.

Dry, stale, mundane. Delivered without any pizzazz. He seemed to know it because he made several attempts to put the blame on someone else. He mused that his son had written the jokes. The audience wasn't roaring but they were laughing and clapping at the appropriate times. Why, I have no idea. I wasn't.

I wasn't even angry at the jokes because they were tasteless, rude, or counter to my political views. Some might have been but I have laughed at those kind of jokes in the past. These jokes simply fell flat. Yet the audience seemed happy.

I have had friends who loved this guy. I never understood why. A long time ago, when I was young and could would stay up late, I caught a couple of his shows with those friends. I was unimpressed even then.

It's not that I dislike talk shows or comedy. I like these things. Somewhat. Talk isn't my favorite type of show since they are mostly about whatever the guest is plugging. You know; new movie, new book, new album, whatever. It's all about promotion. But I can understand that and some guests are entertaining. Robin Williams, for example. I don't recall who the guests were last night but I wasn't interested. The monologue is supposed to prime you for the show.

I was primed for bed. Even though I wasn't tired.

Sad. Is this really entertainment? Or am I just unhip?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Wednesday

I have lived a few decades and have seen many changes. When I was a youngster, I lived in a house with locks that could be opened with something called a "skeleton key". This is a key that could be purchased at any 'Five and Dime' (Woolworth's). It would, I suspect open most side or back doors of any house in my little town. Yet we felt safe. Today, every external door of my house has deadbolt locks in addition to the door handle lock. And the town I live in is no bigger than the town I lived in as a child. The crime rate is no worse, I suspect.

A few days ago, I was watching The Day The Earth Stood Still, a classic science fiction movie made in 1951. In it, Michael Rennie, a complete stranger, comes to a boarding house looking for a room on the night that a alien from space goes missing from a hospital. At the house is a single mom, a widow, with a young son. The young widow is being courted and, the next day, is picked up by her boyfriend for a picnic. The young widow has no one to watch young Bobby and ends up turning him over to the stranger for the day.

In any review of the movie, this is overlooked.

Bobby, by the way, is played by Billy Gray. Who later portrays a pesky early teenager on Father Knows Best before his acting career petered out. And who went on to a career as a motorcycle racer of little renown before ending up hawking some kind of exercise device on the internet.

But I digress...

The focus is all on the distrust of others (in this case, primarily space aliens and the Russians) and how we are threatening the peace and safety of the galaxy (or the universe, it's not clear) by our "rudimentary" atomic weapons. The alien from the "wonderful", "peaceful" worlds who live under the threat of annihilation by a race of robots they themselves created is there to warn the earth that we will be annihilated if we venture beyond our atmosphere by developing atomic powered spaceships. The theme is we must learn to live together.

But I would like to get back to the concept I started with. Even in the early 50's, parents were warning their children not to talk to strangers. And, in that classic movie, the mother (presumably a good one) just sends her boy off with an adult who wandered in one night and who volunteers to watch her son so she can spend some time with her (it turns out later) becomes distrustful of the stranger and suspects he is the space alien.

The truly odd thing is that I never noticed this until I watched the movie for the umpteenth time the other day.

And I thought I was perceptive...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's the Little Things, I Tell You

I just got back from a visit to my local Buick dealer. If you recall, I mentioned yesterday that the door handle on my Buick Lucerne came loose. So the visit to the dealer was to get it repaired. Since the warranty had elapsed some months ago, I would have to bear the cost. And the cost might have been a bear to boot.

The cost of repair should have been about $260, parts and labor. The sevice writer looked into whether the cost could be reduced. And found it. The work was performed as an "out of warranty repair goodwill repair." I don't know what that means but the charge was referred to several times as a "deductible" so I am guessing it is some kind of insurance program.

I am happier than I would have been since the cost went down to $100. I am not happy that the repair had to be done at all, however. You see, I have had cars that were ten years old (and older) and none have had door handles come loose. Fail to work, yes. Need a little graphite injection to make the key/lock function properly, yes. But come loose in your hand and pull away from the door? No. Definitely no.

Obviously, the design and materials used were less than optimum quality. And this, a Lucerne, is supposed to be a quality vehicle.

But the problem is minor, even if the cost of repair is not. Overall, the quality of the car is excellent. It's these little things that get to me. Like the garage door opener feature button that broke a little over a year ago. It's just a button. Actually three buttons in a row on the headliner just above the middle of the windshield. I could have re-programmed it to a different button or gone back to the hand-held remote but the warranty was still good then and I saw no reason not to repair it. Or the pop-up drink holder in the `96 Century we once owned. Didn't even bother to get that fixed.

It's the little things that annoy us.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Might as well be the epitaph for GM.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Am Not Sure How Today Went

I got up well before sunrise. Being close to old and crotchety, being awake in the wee hours* is not unusual. And, throughout my life, I have shown a profound talent for waking up (as in wide awake) well before the alarm goes off so this was no surprise. Since I was going to play golf earlier than usual, I did not grumble too much... or too loudly since that would merely disturb Faye and that is not a good thing.

Anyway, it was 5:15 AM, almost a full hour before the alarm was due to make that incredibly horrible sound. So I laid there, pretending I could get back to sleep. Trying to fool myself into thinking I could get just a half hour more rest. I spent about a half hour doing that before getting up.

It is only a short 10 minute drive to the golf course. Leaving after my cup of coffee (an attempt to kill time), wending my way through the streets, and arriving while it is still dark. Finding the pro shop still locked up. I realize I could have waited a bit longer. No point in turning around. So I wait. And wait.

We played a Scramble today. This is where everyone tees off and everyone in the foursome play their next shot from the position of the best drive. You repeat this on each subsequent shot... including putts. This makes the game rather easy. The team gets the score as a single entity.

Maybe a little too easy. My team did well. We came in second. Good, eh? Well, there were only three teams. So maybe it wasn't such a great accomplishment.

Afterward, we all went to Pat's house (Pat is the ex-Marine and retired RE agent/broker) for a barbecue and free beer and soda. That part was definitely good. Especially the beer. And the jokes. And the beer.

But upon leaving, as I pulled the handle on my car door, the thing came loose. Pulled out of the door. Not entirely, just partially. Just the side that really needs to stay in place. That will have to be fixed. And, since the warranty is expired (of course it is!), I will have to pay the price for the rather poorly engineered design which uses inadequate parts.

I leave it to you... A good day or a bad day?

*wee hours - the various hours before dawn when you have to get up, stumble around in the dark (often stubbing your toe or banging your shin) trying to locate the bathroom so you can go wee.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday Musings

First, let me explain that I am not fully recovered from yesterday's golf outing. Or the dinner I ate at Bob Evans Restaurant last night. Maybe mostly the latter. After spending most of a (very!) hot day outside playing golf, I don't like to eat too much. And restaurants give us way too much food these days . So I order something called the "Savor Size", which the waitress says (in response to my obvious query) is about a half portion, of the grilled chicken and broccoli alfredo.

Well... It ain't no "half portion". More like two-thirds plus. My will power, wilted from a day in the sun, is weak but I manage to eat less than the whole thing. Followed by a slice of pumpkin pie (I said my will power was weak! Gimme a break here)

I have to admit I was tired and succumbed to a Brownie Bite or 3 and a small bowl of sherbet a few hours later too.

But I did sleep well last night.

Today, of course, will be spent catching up on all those things I didn't do over the last 5 days. Maybe I should rephrase that... yeah, change "catching up on" to "thinking about".

Since I retired, I don't seem to have a lot of ambition. Not that I had much before I retired (which explains my lack of renown and meager net worth), mind you, but you would think I would try to emulate a life form a bit higher than your average slug.

So, I'll do a bit of reading, catch a Saturday morning financial news show or two (to explain why my net worth is still meager in spite of my oh-so-clever investment strategies), maybe take a shot at finding out what broke that 42" plasma TV... if I can find the Phillips head screwdriver... and contemplate the next exciting week.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Golf Outing

There is a reason this is so late. I have an excuse. I was playing golf. I got up at Oh-Dark-Thirty this morning so I could travel 45 miles to pay someone to play in an open field with holes in it.


I got up at 5:10 AM. Sucked down some coffee, gathered the 2 or 3 wits I have left to my name, and drove a mile to where I met with a couple of other idiots and we headed for a place called Haines City. It was just turning light as we arrived at the Diamondback Golf Club. This is a beautiful place and the course is just wonderful.

Let me explain about the golf courses I usually play at. They're flat. The lower half of Florida is pretty much the same... You can stand on a stepladder and see for miles. I might be exaggerating just a touch, mind you, but it's essentially true. In any case, the courses around my little town are all devoid of any hilliness.

Not Diamondback, it's got some elevation and slopes. This is wonderful. Unfortunately, it also has trees. A lot of trees. Trees are what golf balls like to hide behind. It is a beautiful course in spite of those trees.

Diamondback is named that way because of a certain native creature. One of my golf partners thinks they lurk under every bush in an any patch of tall grass. I know better. It's more like under every 5th bush and grassy patch. So I don't worry as much. He also thinks you can protect yourself with a golf club. I know better than that also. I mean, c'mon... I have trouble hitting a golf ball and it doesn't even move. A snake has nothing to fear from me with a club in my hand. I may be Irish but I am no St. Patrick.

In truth, we saw no snakes at any time. We did, however, see trees.

We almost developed a new method of scoring based on the number of balls each player lost. It did seem to have a direct correlation to our traditional scores. Except as poorly as I scored, I only lost one ball. That ball was driven deep into a stand of woods. And bushes, and palmettos. Thick enough you couldn't see into it more than a few feet. Even I would suspect a snake or two in that area. So I didn't bother looking for that ball.

In spite of the trees, the hills, the sand traps, the lakes, the bushes and brambles and palmettos. We actually enjoyed ourselves.

And then it was yet another hour of driving home. I should fully recover by sometime tomorrow.

You can see why I question my sanity.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Human Puzzle

How did the cute little kid on the left become the grouchy old guy on the right?

Ever wonder how you came to be who you are? I mean, the kind of personality you have, the way you view the world around you, how you treat your friends (and enemies), and so on?

There are numerous studies and the issue has been heavily researched. The fight is always over Nature vs Nurture. The truth, and I think the research bears this out, is that it is a combination of the two. Therefore, the fight has been over which dominates the equation.

That, too, is silly. Neither dominates, neither is subordinate. It's a fluid equation. Take the simple math problem:


If we say C is anything other than 0 then whether A is greater than B is up for grabs. The same, I think, applies to the Nature vs Nurture issue. We may know what "C" is (who we are) but the value of "A" (Nature) and "B" (Nurture) remain unknown. Trying to determine those values is how psychiatrists and psychologists get rich.

And that is simply a blame game, anyway. Knowing which was more of a factor doesn't change anything about you. Besides, I think the influence of each varies throughout one's life.

Trust me. I have spent a good portion of my life trying to fix the blame for who I am on some one or some thing.

The problem is made even more complex when you consider that we eventually become self sufficient enough to influence our own end result. Now, that is truly a radical variable.

In the end, I suspect, we can only blame ourselves..

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Evolution or Devolution?

Sometimes I get the feeling I am living in a world of morons. But I do not wish to insult morons. As I have written before, among my morning routines is a sort of a "walkabout" though the news stories in Google News. Most online news articles have little "of interest" boxes where other story headlines are displayed. The LA Times, for instance, has a MOST VIEWED list on the right of their various story pages. On one this morning, I found this article...

-Study finds humans still evolving, and quickly-

So I clicked on it. You see, I find a lot of human science interesting. And evolutionary research particularly interesting. I will attribute that to being human and to being curious.

And then I am disappointed by what I find. You see, the kids I grew up with who had a stronger interest in science than I (aka, the nerds) always seemed smarter than me. Maybe they still are but those reporting on their accomplishments seem much less so.

For instance...

Among the fastest-evolving genes were those related to brain development, but the researchers aren't sure what made them so desirable, Hawks said.

A researcher couldn't figure out why brain power might be desireable in evolution? My first inclination here is to reread that as...

"I, the reporter, didn't understand why smart people might be extremely useful to have around."

But maybe I am wrong because...

"Nobody 10,000 years ago had blue eyes," Hawks said. "Why is it that blue-eyed people had a 5% advantage in reproducing compared to non-blue-eyed people? I have no idea."

I don't know... why didn't you ask Paul Newman or Frank Sinatra when they were alive?

We seem to be evolving away from common sense...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

There seems to be a proliferation of Judge shows on the TeeVee. Thirteen(!) of them, in fact, if the count is right at This Site. And I suspect it may be light. There could be some local Judge shows they don't know about.

Why this fascination by the public with the judicial system? People won't bother to spend an hour or two in a courtroom as a spectator. They do their best to avoid jury duty. They dread being called as a witness. But on the TV, in the safety and comfort of their homes, they seem to revel in the legal issues of others.

When I was a young lad, the only courtroom show on TV was Perry Mason. But, then, a show began that was called Divorce Court. It did not resemble the modern versions. It was more dignified. It was also amazing. At that time, divorces could be contested and marriages would continue if the court ruled so. Imagine that. A judge says "you have to stay married! You have insufficient cause to split up." After all, no bruises, no broken bones, no uncovered sexual liaisons, no criminal behavior... why should the marriage not remain inviolate?

We are much more enlightened today. Now you can get a divorce because the other person snores (are you listening, Pearl?). We have something called Irreconcilable Differences. I think that boils down to "we disagree". And I admit, that is the cause used to get my divorce from my first wife. Adultery, oddly, seems no longer to be a sufficient cause so something else was needed.

But this isn't about my divorce (a truly great story of pathos, passion, near violence, perfidy, and a bit of sloth to be told at some future time when the statute of limitations runs out), it's about legal shows on TV.

Why are they so popular? I think the answer is simple...

They make us feel smart.

Have you actually watched these shows? Most are basically small claims court cases. Petty little arguments over who pays for the dented fender, who repairs the fence the drunken neighbor knocked over, should the jilted girlfriend be allowed to keep the couch she bought when she leaves the guy occupying the (once happy) love nest with his new girlfriend (the tramp!) and so on...

The judge hears the stories from each side, complete with tossed insults and sarcastic barbs tossed back and forth, asks a few pointed questions which reveal even more silliness and misbehavior on the part of both plaintiff and defendant and then rules with common sense with which we, the audience, can all smugly agree.

Coming up tomorrow on Judge Judy:

Case 1 - Strong marijuana, sexual harassment, and goat water come into play when a make-up artist sues the director of an action film set in Antigua for lost wages.

Case 2 - A man is suing a former band mate of his daughter's friend for the return of his music equipment.

Now, this is entertainment. Without all the messy blood and body parts that used to strew the Coliseum back in the heady days of the Roman Empire.

Reserve a place on that sofa and start the popcorn a-poppin'!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday, Monday, Can't Trust That Day

Mondays are tough. One would think I would have something to write about after two days of leisure. But since I am entirely a man of leisure, those two days are just more of the same. Oh, I suppose I could write about the excitement of lounging on the sofa for two days watching old movies, a golf tournament (with a foregone conclusion), a football game (Dolphins lose... depressing), and some mindless other stuff. Ho hum.

I just summed up my weekend, didn't I?

Oh wait... I did read a little. And do some puzzles and played scrabble on my computer. Such an exciting life I lead.

And then dragging my tush out of bed to go humiliate myself on the golf course seemed just a fitting way to begin the week. But I didn't. Humiliate myself, that is. I actually played well.

Maybe laying about on the sofa is the key. I'll have to try that again next weekend.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday and Rain

It's a drizzly, gray day in Florida. Well, at least here in this part of Florida. Other parts may be sunny and bright. I don't know. Frankly, I don't care. Not that anything is wrong, mind you, just that that is the kind of mood that rainy days have on me. It's still warm but pleasant, my Vista weather gadget says it's 73F here but I suspect that isn't accurate. Feels more like 80 or so. The picture to the left is the area to the right and behind my house. It's empty lot and I hope it will stay that way for many years. It should and if I have my way, it will. I would hate to have someone build a house on it and stick a swing set in the back yard. Not that I have anything against children, just that I prefer to have them a little farther away. Or muzzled and on leashes.
 Rainy Saturdays are actually pleasant. Quiet, contemplative days when I can pretend to be thinking deep thoughts and musing on the events of the past week. Well, after I spent a good hour searching for the USB cable for my camera which I put somewhere where I wouldn't lose it and then it must have wandered off.
I finally found it, of course, in the box for the useless USB cable I had purchased for my outdated cellphone and whose software would not work on Vista (apparently) and for which there is no update. I suppose I should admit that it was I who put the wrong cable into that box... but I prefer to blame it on the gremlins that hang about near any computer and who misplace cables, wreak havoc with hard drives and generally make life miserable.
 All I can say is I am glad I had the innate wisdom (or rat-packedness) to not throw that box away thinking it contained the useless cable instead of the useful one.
This is how life goes when you advance into those golden years. Prepare yourself now. Get notebooks, learn to scribble legible notes that make sense (though I suppose that isn't possible since I never figured out how to do it), keep a small tape recorder or one of those digital reminder thingies about.
Or just pretend that searching for the things you misplaced is just another adventure in life.
Yeah, that's the ticket!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How I Spent The Day

 This is a short entry. I spent most of the day out of town. I took a drive down to Naples, which is about 130 miles or so from here, to visit my Aunt Gracie. Grace is a wonderful woman of 92 with most of her wits still intact. I have spoken of her before, I believe, so forgive me if you read about her already.

This picture is of Grace on her 92nd birthday. She is still as vibrant and sparkly-eyed as she was then.                                                 
I went down to see her because my Aunt Marie was concerned about her well being. You see, she is under the care of a Kitty, a nurse and old friend of Gracie's and her late husband, Norm. Kitty is fiercely protective of Gracie  and that can unnerve some people who are suspicious of those non-family members who take an active interest in the elderly. Kitty is a little quirky but then so are most of my own family so I have less of a concern about it. My main concern is that Gracie is well taken care of, that she is healthy, happy, and comfortable. And all that is as it should be.
 To get to Naples, I must travel over a variety of US highways and state highways in the back country of Florida. I get to drive through little towns like Venus and past Fish Eating Creek, through LaBelle, and then over to near the west coast of Florida where I find the other main Interstate (I-75). The back country of Florida is not the image most people have of this state. Most think of Florida and envision tropical beaches, neon lit nightclubs, and towering hotels. But most of Florida is citrus groves, farms, and cattle and horse ranches. It is mostly rural, dotted with beautiful lakes, tall pines, and oak trees. My next trip down that way, I will take my time and some pictures to show you. It is the Florida I love, though I admit to a strong infatuation with the glitter of the Southeast coastal region.
Gracie was a pioneer of sorts in Naples. When she and Norm moved there at the end of WWII (in which he served as a P-38 fighter pilot), it was a tiny little place, not really a city. Norm as the only veterinarian. They had planned to live in Ft. Myers, just up the coast a ways, but there was already a vet there and Norm did not want to interfere with his practice. They watched the town grow into a city. It is unrecognizable to me compared to what I saw of it in the mid to late 50's when it was a city but a tiny one and everyone seemed to know my aunt and uncle.
I hope everyone had as pleasant a day as I.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I was perusing the morning shows this morning and began musing... Normally, if I turn on the TV in the morning, I watch Fox & Friends a bit or America's Newsroom and then wander back to the computer to catch the financial disasters threatening my meager investments. But today I bounced around a little, just to see what the other news channels are talking about.

Some people don't like the Fox News Channel but they have some interesting shows and, I have found, they are presenting a different perspective than the rest of the cable news channels and certainly different than the ABC/CBS/NBC stuff.

Morning news is mostly fluff except on the cable news and financial channels. Even then, it's often fluff on the cable news channels with hard news interrupting now and then. If you like financial stuff, I highly recommend Bloomberg News in the morning.

I have some curiosity today, if you have a mind to comment, about what you watch and why.

You see, I watch news to find out things, to get a grasp of what is going on. But I don't like being spoon fed and I don't like being told what is right or wrong. I am not a big fan of fluff news (human interest stories and the like) though I will sit through them because, occasionally, they touch on how the hard news is affecting some people.

For instance, this morning there was a story about a man who was bumped off a Southwest Airlines flight due to his, uh, "size." You can watch the video of his interview here . What's odd about this is he was kicked off his return flight.

Now, I am not overweight and I am not happy when I am squeezed between two large-ish passengers on a flight but this struck me as rather odd. I mean, if he wasn't too big for the outbound flight, why was he suddenly too big to take the return one?

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Walk in the Park, a Hike in the Woods

On Mondays and Fridays, I engage in the most strenuous activity of my current, mostly sedate, life. I ride around in a golf cart and (often ineffectively) take swipes at a little white dimpled ball that threatens no one. I do not do this alone. No, an activity like this requires that I have comrades doing likewise so I do not feel like a lone figure of insanity and clumsiness.

 Let me introduce you to my fellow morons athletes.  But, first, a little background about the game. The game is simple. Advance a small white ball from point A (the "teeing ground") to point B (the "hole") by striking it with a device (the "club"), counting the number of strikes (as "strokes"). The number of strikes constitute the "score". This is repeated 18 times per round. The sum of the strikes for all 18 "holes" is the score for the round.

If you have watched a golf game on TV, you have an idea what the game is about. But that game only approximates what I and my associates play. The rules are the same (though we "fudge" on a few for expediency's sake), the goal is the same, but the form and the scores wildly differ. Also the clothing. The pros you see on TV are dapper and smartly dressed. We are, shall we say, less so. Golf is usually played in groups of 4, called "foursomes". Sometimes, these foursomes only have 3 players. Our golf "league" usually has 12 to 16 players at any one time during the summer, in the winter it might swell to 32 or more.

The players:

Joey is the "anchor" of our group. He is technically not in charge, nor did he organize it.  Still, Joey runs it more or less. Joey is a guy in his 70s, a robust, athletic, and fit man. He describes himself as 6'5" but is disguised as 5' 5".  While most of us wear shorts and polo shirts, Joey has a skin condition that requires he protect himself from the sun. So he wears long sleeve shirts, long pants, and gloves on both hands. If I did that, I would be carried off the course by the 6th hole with heatstroke. He is a funny guy, so he tells us, and tells us the same jokes repeatedly. Since he has enough of them, and we are all getting senile, we can laugh at them each time. Joey is always in the lead foursome.

Pat is the power hitter. He is a big Irish ex-Marine and former real estate broker. He can hit the ball almost as far as the pros do. His problem is one of direction. Playing in his group means visiting places on the course (or fairly near it) that you would not otherwise realize existed. It is a good thing he is good natured and has a healthy sense of humor. Otherwise, I might be dead, crumpled up somewhere in the denser rough of some golf course. He almost always plays out of the same cart as Joey.

Jack is the other first group player. Jack is an ex-Army colonel and my brother-in-law. The former a fact you cannot ignore due to the numerous decals on his Cadillac, the logo on his golf bag, and the style of the head covers on his clubs. Not to mention his hats. This means he barks orders and treats the rest of us as subordinates. He is a great guy to be around, however, unless he is playing badly. In which case, you might want to be at some other course. He is often located by the "blue cloud", as we call it. He is, after all, the most prolific of those who engage in profanity. He does not simply talk to his ball, he orders it around the course in much the same way a drill sergeant marches his recruits. On the other hand, he also has a decent sense of humor and does not mind a little teasing now and then. Golf humbles us all, it seems. He is a good player and plays a "draw" that any sane person would call a "hook". He never wears shorts. I suspect he is ashamed of his bony knees.

 And, then, there's me. I am the shortest hitter of the group. I blame that on the collision I had in 1990 where my little Mitsubishi Mirage found itself crumpled after a large Buick blocked its path. A story which will likely be told at another time. In truth, it is because I am not athletic. Never have been. I played Little League baseball only one season, at age 8, never played a full game and was relegated to right field when I did play. I also never got a hit, or walked, or even struck by a ball (except the one which hit me on the head while I played right field). I was the last kid picked for whatever sport. On rare occasions, I surprise myself and hit the ball well.

If not for golf, I would sit around doing little beyond tapping away at this computer or watching some documentary on TV 7 days a week rather than 5.

Some terminology of interest, perhaps:

Rules of Golf - The permissible things you can do to advance the ball, strictly adhered to in professional and sanctioned amateur events. Very loosely followed by the average golfer. These rules are determined by  the United States Golf Association (USGA) and are revised and published each year in a little book which is not carried by the average golfer, thereby allowing him to fudge as often as needed.

Slice - When a struck ball veers to the right (when struck by a right-handed player) in a shape resembling a banana.

Fade - A gentle and slight movement to right. Or what the average golfer calls what is actually a slice.

Draw - A gentle and slight movement of the ball from right to left.

Hook - A strong and large movement of the ball from right to left.

Duck hook - Even worse.

The rough - The less mowed area of the golf course, also including trees, bushes, snakes, rats, brambles, and the place most often visited by the average golfer.

The fairway - The well mowed area of the golf course between the teeing area and the green. This would be the area far to the left or right of the average golfer.

The teeing area - Where shots go astray.

The green - The tightly mowed area at the end of the fairway where the hole is to be found. It is sometimes fronted by the pond or lake where the ball will undoubtedly end up, most golfers will see it on the other side of the trees they are behind after hitting the ball from the  teeing area.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Another Monday, Another Ramble

Oh, I know it's a holiday. Not really in the true sense of the word because it has nothing to do with religion but few of our holidays do anymore. Labor Day is really about unions, not labor as in working. And labor unions have done some pretty good things for workers so I suppose it is fine to honor them in some way.

I once belonged to a union, the Communications Workers of America. I even wanted to be a union steward at one point.  That actually turned me against that union. I began to get a better look at how our local was run, I also got a better understanding of how unions operated. I have come to view unions in much the way I view government.

Being retired, I have nothing but days off now so holidays mean much less to me now except the occasional inconvenience of no mail, banks not open (ATMs tend to make up for that), and I can't watch my money disappear in the stock market. I would add that the government offices are shut down but that may not be such a bad thing.

In case anyone noticed other than me, I did not post yesterday. That will become routine, Sundays will have no post. I may extend that to Saturday also but I am not sure. It's not that I need a day off but I thought "why the heck not?" "Heck" might not have been the word used either, now that I think on it.

Another thing you might have noticed is the Comic Strip is not always there when you come to this site. There seems to be a problem with This is not a good thing. I like that page. Whenever I am unhappy or blue, I can go to that page and find something to chuckle about. Since I do not subscribe to a daily newspaper, I have no comics pages to peruse any other way.

I don't know about you but I don't like reading the paper anymore anyway. It's sad, in a way, because I know the newspaper business is shrinking, people are not buying them anymore. Too easy, and too convenient, to get our news via the web. But the newspapers didn't help themselves by using only a few press services. There just isn't that much difference between them anymore. Plus, there is little competition in the newspaper business since one paper usually ends up dominating a town.

When I was young, I had a paper route. I delivered the Miami News. It was an afternoon paper. It was eventually pushed out by its rival, the Miami Herald (which came out in the morning). It was common in the 50s and 60s for cities to have two or more papers. Even small cities. Now it is rare except for major cities and there isn't much difference between the ones that still survive. The perspective is pretty much the same, the slant is pretty much the same, and the reporting is all from wire services, for the most part.

The same has been happening with TV news. The major networks (ABC,NBC, CBS) are pretty much the same news format, the same reporting, the same perspective. Cable news is a bit better but not by much. The depth of the reporting is pretty much non-existent.

Good? Bad? Who knows? And that leads to "Who cares?"

I have a suggestion. Liven up your life, watch the stations that you think you disagree with. Yell at the TV from time to time. And then read a book. You'll thank me for it later.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thoughts of a Trenchcoat

 Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Four shots ripped through my groin and I was off on the biggest adventure of my life. [Max Shulman, Sleep till Noon]

I've always wanted to be a detective. Mostly a private investigator but I never made it. You see, the most successful ones (even in real life) were cops once and I didn't ever want to be a cop after the age of 6. Not that I had a bad experience with the police at that age, just that the idea left my child's brain and never really returned. And the wisdom of that exile was reinforced by experiences I had on Shore Patrol duty while in the Navy.

But being a detective... that always interested me. I am fascinated by murder mysteries, crime novels (and true crime stories), and the stories of crime I read in the media or see on TV news. I watch shows like CSI, NCIS, The Closer, et al. I read detective novels, watch detective movies (especially old ones like The Maltese Falcon). I think it is the curiosity in me. The attraction to puzzles.

The same emotions are involved in unraveling a jigsaw puzzle, or a solitaire game, or a murder mystery, or even a crossword puzzle. You follow the clues and, after awhile, a pattern emerges. You examine the emerging pattern and the resolution practically jumps out at you. A complex mathematical equation is like that. You take it apart, examine and solve the pieces, and put it all back together at the end. The best puzzle is one which is not easily solved, where the pattern is obscured (but not hidden).

 I never got to be a detective, of course, but I followed a path that I found to be similar. I was a troubleshooter. I would never have been happy doing anything else. I could never understand those that liked clerical work, or plugging away on an assembly line, or painted houses or laid carpet, or carpenters, construction workers. I mean, I understand the feeling that comes with hard work, or putting in a full day, there's a certain accomplishment involved. I saw that in my father.

But it was never for me. For me, it was always about solving the puzzle. Even when I dabbled in painting and drawing and photography, I approached it as a problem to be solved. Maybe that is why I was not so good at it.

Life is a puzzle, isn't it? The question is, do we want to solve it?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bookless Libraries?

Ok, we've talked about books before. I mean not just specific books (or genres) but books in general. How they are a part of my life. The holding of them, the smell of them, the feel of the pages on my thumb as I turn them. Like old friends, sitting there on the shelf waiting for someone to spend a few hours with them. How books are more than just teh stories and facts within them.

And then I get this link...

This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks - the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.
The school is moving to an electronic library. The odd thing is that they are paying higher than list prices for the E-readers they purchased for loan to students.

I am not opposed to progress but I am not so sure this is.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pearl, I will get you for this!

Pearl, whom I adored up until I read her blog post of 9/2/09, has inflicted a meme on me. I have no idea what I did to her to tick her off and that photo of me blogging in my underwear under a palm tree in my backyard is obviously photoshopped since I do not have a palm tree in my backyard. I don't actually have a backyard in my backyard and I have the variance approval to prove it. I will admit only to occasionally blogging in my underwear.... but never outdoors. It's too bloody hot.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, a meme. As you know, I do not approve of these things being mandatory. So I will not, as the meme instructs, inflict this on anyone else. Besides, they would then seek revenge and this would soon escalate, or deteriorate, into meme-tossing and random tagging and then none of us would get anything done. Especially me. I can get nothing done all on my own without all that pressure, thankyouverymuch.

I got lost again. Oh yeah... the meme says I should reveal 7 quirky things about myself that are evidenced in my blog. That is a tough assignment. First, because I do not have any quirkiness and, if I do, they are evidenced only because hackers have snuck in and changed my words.

1. I am pedantic. Obsessively so. Not enough to be an English teacher* (if I had the education), mind you, but still... You won't notice unless you read a post immediately after it is posted and then re-read it several times afterward spaced by an hour, 2 hours, and possibly a day. You will then notice the re-phrasing, the corrected typos and glaringly misspelled words that were emended. If you are also pedantic. Otherwise, you won't.

2. I read old books and watch old movies. I decided some years ago that I was born in the wrong decade. So I spend as much time as I can in the decades I should have been born in. You should see my zoot suit. And my buckskins and trapper gear.

3. I do, actually, always blog in my underwear. Sometimes I have clothes on over them, of course. I will still deny those pictures, however, Pearl.

4. My writing basically sucks but I know you are all too polite to actually tell me that so I have no incentive to improve. (That was not a license for certain people to immediately start criticizing me.. We both know who you are)

5. I am nostalgic. Even about things and times I have never experienced, or possibly want to.

6. I am Irish. That's not my fault. I blame my grandfather who wouldn't stay in Ireland after he met my (not yet then) grandmother. I have no idea if that is a quirk but I am running out of ideas.

7. I have only a few teeth left. You can laugh if you want but your turn will likely come. This matters only because I eat in front of the computer. Unlike a dog or cat, the computer does not look at me with soulful eyes and drool so I can do it without guilt. I am hopeful that isn't evidenced in this (or any other) blog.

Now, instead of assigning this to 7 other bloggers I will assign it to whoever wants to do it, has a computer, or reads this blog. That should cover just about all of my enemies and the one or two friends who hadn't abandoned me up till now.

I will not tell you how many times I have proofread this or how many changes/additions/corrections I have made so far...

(* My apologies, Cheri... I liked most of my English teachers)


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Want A Time Machine!

 I alluded to a desire to time travel the other day. There are a few periods I would love to visit.

I would like to spend some months in the post-Civil War days. Say, around 1880. I would likely want to travel out west to witness the expansion. Of course, I would have to put up with the lack of modern conveniences, like electric lighting, central air and heat, modern highways (and cars). Or indoor plumbing in most areas.  I could travel by train (steam locomotive) or by ship (though that would be lengthy without the Panama Canal) in relative comfort. I would most likely want to explore it by horseback.

The next period would be a mere twenty years later. The Turn of the Century. But this might be confined to the important cities of New York, Chicago, maybe London and Paris. Much smaller than they are now but filled with optimism and imagination, ready for the challenges of a new century.

I would then want to spend years (from, say, 1925 to 1945) in the US and travel between rural and urban areas. I think this period is the most interesting of all modern history. From boom to bust, through misery and war and great struggle.

Of course, if language was not an issue (as long as we are talking about the magic of time travel, we may as well toss in universal translators), I'd like to visit ancient Greece, Rome at the beginning of the first Millennium, not to mention pre-historic eras after the last Ice Age.

I can do this through books and movies, the imaginations and research of others, but to actually be there would be incredible.

If you read H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, you know I am not alone in that desire. I am sure many of the millions  who read that book (or saw the movies) have the same desire. I'd like to recommend another book, a sequel to Wells' called The Time Ships for those of you who also dream of time travel.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"You're not much of a gusher, are you, Mr. Marlowe?"

Reading a Raymond Chandler  Philip Marlowe novel is fun. But it leaves you speaking in short, clipped, phrases and complex sentences. You begin to speak out of the side of your mouth, mostly in a sort of tight monotone, without much emotion. Your similes are dark and oddly out of place. Like a gnarled oak in an orange grove.

They take place in Los Angeles, a coastal desert city. But it seems to rain. A lot. Much more than I recall when I lived there. But that was a different time. And I was a different person. I lived near a seedy section of Long Beach. It suited me. The rent was cheap and the landlady never bothered me. But rain was rare. And it was often colder than the Chamber of Commerce admitted.

Still, Chandler's Los Angeles is intriguing. If not honest. Maybe he got the fog right. There was a lot of fog, as I recall.

I like the style that Chandler used. Maybe that's why I like those old movies, especially in the film noire style, about detectives like Marlowe and Spade. Though I liked Powell and Loy in The Thin Man series, they were too light-hearted for a real detective story. The humor was not dark enough, the tough guys almost Runyonesque.

 If you really want to see fun in detective stories on screen, rent a copy of The Cheap Detective with Peter Falk.  Or, to get your fill, Murder by Death.

If want to experience (or re-experience, if you are old enough) Marlowe on the radio, try this link...

(I'd have embedded one but they run almost 30 minutes and include period commercials.)

But that's not the point of this writing. The point is about what happens to me when I watch movies or read books. I absorb the character. I become the character.

I am more subtle (and its mostly internalized) about it now but, as a child, I would visibly swagger after watching Errol Flynn swashbuckle his way through Captain Blood or forcibly stride out of the theater after witnessing John Wayne is some western. Nothing is more silly looking than a skinny little kid doing a poor imitation of the Duke, believe me.

About the only movies that didn't affect me that way were science fiction ones. I suppose love stories wouldn't have affected me either but I didn't go to those.

I suppose it's to be expected. Take the psyche of a person, subject it to larger than life characters in fascinating circumstances and stories for a couple of hours and you are bound to have some impact.

On a side note, I ran across the following story today...,0,669328.story

It's amazing what you can find on the Internet.